Articles: Cooling
 

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Performance Tests

Like in our previous review, we do not put duplicate fans in the charts to make the latter easier to read. These are the Enermax T.B.SILENCE PWM (it’s identical to the ordinary version), LEPA Casino 4C and Vortex (LPVX12P), Nanoxia FX EVO 120 PWM 1500 (it is the same as the Nanoxia FX EVO 120 IFC 1600 but has a somewhat lower rated speed), the two junior models of the Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM series and the SilverStone SST-AP121-L (which is a copy of its highlight-less cousin).

The first diagram helps compare the fans in terms of noisiness. The lower the graph, the quieter the fan is.

The expectedly high noise level of the high-speed fans from Scythe and Koolance can be easily noted. The unpleasant surprise is the Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8 which is noisier in its speed range than the thick 38mm Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 and has a nonlinear correlation between speed and noise. The same problem plagues the SilverStone SST-AP121 fans but they are quieter than the Cooler Master. The Enermax T.B.SILENCE, Zalman ZM-SF3 and the two Prolimatech Vortex 12 models aren’t good in terms of noisiness, either. In the latter pair, the blue fan is considerably quieter than the highlighted red version. We noticed the difference in the material of the frame between these two models, so it must be the reason for the difference in noisiness.

The Corsair SP120 can be praised among the high-quality fans. It is superior to the others in performance and even beats its cousin Corsair AF120, which is only average in performance. The three Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM models, GELID Wing 12PL, Noctua NF-F12 PWM and NZXT FN 120LB are all good and comparable to each other.

We can also view an enlarged fragment of the diagram up to 36 dBA (after which the noise becomes uncomfortable). The Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184, Koolance FAN-12025HBK and the two senior Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM models are not included since their noise is never lower than 36 dBA.

In fact, this diagram only serves to better illustrate what we’ve said above.

Next go two diagrams that show the correlation between noise and air flow. The lower the graph, the less noise and the more air flow the fan produces.

The Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM fans are ahead among the high-speed products, beating the two Koolance fans and the NZXT. The Corsair SP120 is superior among the medium-speed models, but the Corsair AF120 isn't far behind. The GELID Wing 12PL, Noctua NF-F12 PWM and SilverStone SST-AP121 are good, too. The Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8 is poor again, its original multi-blade impeller not doing very well. The Enermax T.B.SILENCE, Zalman ZM-SF3 and Spire Air Force 120 LED are on the losing side in this test, too. The rest of the fans deliver average performance.

Now let’s take a look at a comparative diagram that shows the peak air flow of the tested fans.

So, if you need the strongest air flow possible, you should choose the Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 or one of the two senior Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM models. The Koolance FAN-12025HBK, the junior Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM, NZXT FN 120LB and, rather unexpectedly, Corsair SP120 High Performance Edition can produce a strong air flow, too. The other models are much inferior to them in peak air flow.

We don’t think that the air flow at the subjectively comfortable noise level of 36 dBA is an important parameter for such fans, but anyway we want to show you these numbers:

We’ve got a clear winner here: Corsair SP120 High Performance Edition. The extremely low noise level helps this model produce an impressive air flow at 36 dBA. It is followed by a group of nine fans from Corsair, Scythe, SilverStone, GELID, Noctua, Zalman and Nanoxia. The worst fans in this test are the Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8, Spire Air Force 120 LED and Prolimatech Red Vortex 12 LED.

The peak power consumption of each fan is shown in the next diagram:

When it comes to power consumption, the Noctua NF-F12 PWM, SilverStone SST-AP121, both Corsairs, Nanoxia, SilverStone, LEPA Vortex and Zalman ZM-F3 FDB are the most economical. The Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM 5400 RPM and Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 need up to 12 watts.

The next diagram shows the startup voltage of each fan:

The Enermax T.B.SILENCE and Zalman ZM-SF3 didn’t do well in our air flow and noise tests but they can start up at a lower voltage: 2.7 volts only. Over a dozen fans can start at up to 5 volts. 7 volts are only needed by the three models from LEPA.

And the final diagram helps compare the recommended prices of the fans covered in this review.

The Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12 makes up for its mediocre performance with the lowest price among the tested fans. $10 can buy you a LEPA Vortex, Swiftech Helix-120, Koolance FAN-12025HBK, Zalman ZM-F3 FDB or a Prolimatech Red Vortex 12 LED. We guess that’s an acceptable price for a 120mm fan. The most expensive products are the Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184, three Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM variants, GELID Wing 12PL, LEPA Casino 4C, and Noctua NF-F12 PWM. The remaining 14 models can be bought for $14 to 17.

 
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