by Sergey Lepilov
12/13/2012 | 10:15 AM
In the second part of our massive 120mm fan roundup we will cover 27 models from 15 companies from all around the world. These fans have a rated speed of over 1350 RPM, sometimes much higher. We will discuss quiet entry-level products as well as high-speed monsters that can blow everything out of the way. Let's now have a look at each of the fans in alphabetical order.
The technical specifications of all testing participants are summed up in the following table:
The Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8 comes in a blister wrap with a paper insert inside.
The fan’s specs and key features are listed on the back of the insert. In the top part of the packaging there is a plastic cap for the fan’s motor, four silicone pins, a PATA power adapter, silicone spacers and four self-tipping screws.
The fan is manufactured in China, costs $16 and has a 1-year warranty. At only 110 grams, the Turbine Master MACH1.8 looks unusual with its semi-frameless impeller that has as many as 16 blades.
With the impeller and frame shaped like that, the fan should have some advantage in terms of air flow compared to classic 120mm fans as it can take additional air in from the sides of the blades. Cooler Master talks about that in the next slide:
With as many as 16 blades, the impeller allows Cooler Master to claim an air flow of 80.3 CFM at a speed of 1800 RPM (compare this, for example, to 62.7 CFM at 2350 RPM specified by Corsair for its 120mm fan).
That said, the diameter of this fan’s impeller is only 111 mm while its motor is 40 mm in diameter. The static pressure is specified to be 1.96 mm of water. The noise level is 30.5 dBA.
The key electrical specs are indicated on its sticker:
The fan’s barometric ball bearing has a specified service life of 100,000 hours (or over 10 years of continuous operation). The impeller can be easily taken off for cleaning or a look at the fan’s motor:
The Turbine Master MACH1.8 has rather high power requirements for a fan of its class: 0.5 amperes and 4.6 watts. According to our measurements, it consumes no more than 3.4 watts, but that's quite high anyway. The 3-wire cable is about half a meter long.
The Corsair AF120 Performance Edition is going to carry on the glorious traditions of Corsair fans. The dual packaging contains two identical fans inside:
The packaging is very informative, telling you the product’s model name, rotation speed, noise level and other characteristics together with descriptions of key features.
The fans are shipped with a brief user manual, a promo booklet, two interchangeable colored rings, mounting screws, and a cable with step-down resistor.
Manufactured in China, the product costs $29.95 for a dual-fan kit. The fan is also available individually for $17. This includes the 2-year warranty provided for all Corsair fans.
We can remind you that Corsair’s AF series is developed specifically for computer cases and features an impeller with nine flat and narrow blades.
The impeller and motor are 112 and 43 mm in diameter, respectively. The interior of the frame is flat.
The Performance Edition has a rated speed of 1650 RPM but you can lower it to 1100 RPM by means of the included resistor cable. At the maximum speed the fan produces an air flow of 63.5 CFM, static pressure of 1.1 mm of water and 30 dBA of noise. The silicone inserts in the corners of the frame are supposed to reduce vibrations and noise.
Like all Corsair fans, the AF120 Performance Edition runs on a fluid dynamic bearing with unspecified service life. Its sticker provides information about the manufacturer, voltage, electric current and country of origin.
At 0.33 amperes, the fan is supposed to consume no more than 3.96 watts of power. The startup voltage is specified to be 7 volts and the cable is 300 mm long. The weight of the Corsair AF120 Performance Edition is 145 grams.
Here’s yet another high-speed fan from Corsair. The SP120 High Performance Edition is shipped in Corsair’s dual packaging, too.
The design of the packaging hasn’t changed except that the color scheme includes blue instead of red. The accessories are the same, too:
The price is $29.95 for a two-piece pack or $17 for a single fan. The product is manufactured in China and has a 2-year warranty.
The impeller’s seven broad blades make this model completely different from the rest of the participating fans.
As you can learn from our previous review, the SP120 is designed for high static pressure. That's why it is equipped with large and almost flat blades with thick ends.
The impeller is 112 mm, just like the previous fan’s, but the motor is 4 mm larger (47 mm). At 2350 RPM the SP120 is inferior to the AF120 in terms of air flow (62.7 CFM) but its static pressure is almost thrice as high (3.1 mm of water).
Running on the same bearing and having a higher speed than the AF120 Performance Edition, the SP120 High Performance Edition has lower power requirements: 0.25 amperes and 3 watts.
The startup voltage is 7 volts. The 3-wire cable is 300 mm long.
The Enermax T.B.SILENCE is packaged like the above-discussed Cooler Master.
You can see its model name and icons denoting the fan’s key features on the front side of the paper insert. Detailed specs are listed on the back.
The fan comes together with a PATA power adapter, screws and a piece of dual-sided scotch for the speed controller.
The Enermax T.B.SILENCE is manufactured in China and costs $14. Its warranty period is 1 year.
The fan looks really beautiful with its perforated black glossy frame and 9-blade impeller with matte plump blades.
It is the lightest fan in this review at only 102 grams.
Designed in Enermax’s exclusive Batwing style, the impeller is 110 mm in diameter. The motor is 41 mm. The interior of the frame is perforated with the letters “Enermax”. Besides aesthetics, this solution helps improve the air flow by allowing the air to come in through the side holes.
The rotation speed of the Enermax T.B.SILENCE can be regulated manually from 800 to 1500 RPM to change its air flow from 37.6 to 71.3 CFM and static pressure from 0.72 to 1.68 mm of water. The specified noise level is 10 dBA (obviously, at the minimum speed).
There’s a lot of useful information on the motor’s sticker.
Besides the electrical specs (12 V, 0.3 A, 3.6 W), we can note the bearing type. The Twister is a patented design Enermax has been using for over 3 years. It combines the long service life of ball bearings (100,000 hours according to the specs) with the low noise level of sleeve bearings.
The startup voltage is not specified but we will measure it ourselves. The cable is long at 490 mm.
Enermax offers a PWM-regulated version of the T.B.SILENCE fan. Its packaging differs in the color of the paper insert:
There’s of course no speed controller inside while the rest of the accessories are the same.
The PWM version doesn’t differ externally from the ordinary Enermax T.B.SILENCE. The impeller and frame are identical.
The top speed is identical, too. It is 1500 RPM. The bottom speed of the PWM version is lower at 500 RPM. Therefore the minimum noise is only 8 instead of 10 dBA. There are no other differences except the part number on the sticker and the somewhat higher power consumption.
The impeller is detachable, like with the ordinary Enermax T.B.SILENCE.
After taking it off, you can see neat coils and two capacitors.
There are bonding pads for LEDs on the PCB. Enermax’s highlighted fans must be based on this platform, too.
The sleeved cable is 490 mm long. The retail price of the Enermax T.B.SILENCE PWM is $15.
The GELID WING 12 PL is packed into a robust plastic box with an individual compartment for its accessories. The text on the paper insert tells you about nano bearings, PWM regulation and highlighting. There's also a list of product specs there.
The accessories include screws, short silicone pins and a sticker with company logo.
Like most other fans in this review, the GELID WING 12 PL is manufactured in China. It is rather expensive at $22. The warranty period is 3 years.
The GELID WING 12 PL has a nice color of the translucent impeller but the latter is even visually smaller than the impellers of the fans we’ve already discussed.
Indeed, the 9-blade impeller is 109 mm in diameter. The motor is also small at 39 mm. The fan weighs 121 grams.
The tips of the blades are curved:
This helps reduce turbulence in the area between the blades and the frame and thus reduce noise. Moreover, GELID claims that such blades produce a higher static pressure. Indeed, the fan is specified to have a static pressure of 2.66 mm of water at the top speed of 1800 RPM. This is much higher than the static pressure of the Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8 at the same speed, for example. The peak air flow is 75.6 CFM while the noise level is supposed to be no higher than 26.8 dBA. The fan supports PWM-based speed regulation. Its bottom speed is 600 RPM.
The fan’s nanoflux bearing uses cutting-edge composite materials with minimum abrasiveness, so it has a long service life of 100,000 hours and works quietly. The GELID WING 12 PL isn’t special in terms of its power requirements, though: 5.4 watts at 0.45 amperes.
The sleeved cable is about half a meter long.
The four LEDs make the GELID WING 12 PL even more beautiful.
Koolance Inc. is known as a manufacturer of liquid cooling systems and related components. Among the latter there is the 120mm Koolance FAN-12025HBK. It is shipped as OEM product without any packaging or accessories.
The Koolance FAN-12025HBK looks ordinary with its black frame and glossy black 7-blade impeller:
Its form-factor is 120x120x25 mm and its weight is 143 grams. It is manufactured in China and costs $10. Its warranty period is 1 year.
The broad blades have a big angle of attack and a sharp front edge. The interior surface of the frame is beveled, but the edges are somewhat smoothed out.
There are bushings in the corners of the frame, so you won’t be able to fasten the fan using the openings on the interior surface. The impeller and motor are 113 and 43 mm in diameter, respectively.
The Koolance FAN-12025HBK has a constant speed of 2600 RPM and it cannot be regulated in any way. The specs promise an air flow of 107.6 CFM and a static pressure of as high as 5.4 mm of water at 32.8 dBA of noise.
The Koolance FAN-12025HBK runs on a conventional dual ball bearing. Although without any newfangled nano technologies, it is likely to serve for a long time. The specs do not declare its service life, however. As for electrical parameters, the fan needs 3.36 watts of power at 0.28 amperes.
The cable is about half a meter long. There is no PATA power adapter in the box. That’s all we can tell you about this model.
If the previous fan from Koolance isn’t powerful enough for you, you may be pleased with the FAN-12038HBK-184 model.
The packaging of the Chinese sample of this Koolance fan is a simple plastic pack with a warning against messing around with its blades and a 3-wire cable which is actually part of the fan itself.
The Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 is the only model in this review to be 38 mm thick. It is a heavy thing with a mass of 364 grams, a 112mm impeller and a 60mm motor.
The 11 blades aren’t 38 mm thick, though. In fact, the impeller is only half the total thickness: 19 mm. The other half is taken up by the fixed reverse blades which rectify the air flow:
It is necessary because the air flow has to be focused on the object being cooled considering the high peak speed of the fan (4000 RPM). The Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 is specified to have a record-breaking air flow of 183.5 CFM. Even the higher-speed Scythe cannot do that, at least according to its specs. The rest of the key features are appropriate, too: a static pressure of 20.4 mm of water and a noise level of 59 dBA.
Koolance uses a dual ball bearing in this model, too. The electrical specs are impressive: over 2 amperes and 24 watts!
The Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184 offers no means of speed regulation. Its cable is 500 mm long.
LEPA is represented in this review with four new fans. First goes the 70D (LP70D12R) model. Its compact cardboard box has a large plastic window through which you can view the impeller. The product’s key features are also mentioned there.
Detailed specs are listed on the back. The fan is shipped together with mounting screws and a PATA power adapter for a 12V, 7V or 5V source.
The fan is manufactured in China and costs about $10. The warranty period is 1 year.
The LEPA 70D is very light at only 107 grams. It has the classic design of a 120mm fan: a black plastic frame and a dark-gray 7-blade 111mm impeller.
LEPA engineers must have taken it easy with the 70D, developing an absolutely unremarkable product.
The rated speed is 1600 RPM but you can lower it with the adapter to 1200 or 900 RPM by connecting to 7V and 5V sources, respectively. The peak air flow is specified to be 64.5 CFM at 24 dBA of noise and a static pressure of 1.9 mm of water. These parameters change when the fan is connected via the adapter as listed in the table above.
The plain-looking LEPA 70D can boast one special feature. It is the original self-lubricating Barometric Oil-less bearing with low rolling resistance and a long service life of 100,000 hours. One more feature of the fan is that it is capable of functioning at ambient temperatures up to 70°C. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s useful for a PC or not.
The motor is 40 mm in diameter. You can learn its manufacturer name, model number, electrical specs and country of origin from its sticker.
The peak power consumption of the LEPA 70D is 3 watts at 0.25 amperes. It is average in terms of power requirements.
The impeller can be taken off for cleaning and lubricating as necessary.
The electric motor is nothing special but it’s good to see two capacitors here.
The flat 3-wire cable is 500 mm long.
The LEPA CASINO 4C (LPVC4C12P) is completely different from the LEPA 70D in its type and purpose but comes in the same packaging, excepting the text.
Included with the fan are four self-tipping screws and a PATA power adapter. There is also a highlight switch attached to the fan.
The LEPA Casino 4C is the most expensive LEPA in this test, priced at $20. Its country of origin and warranty are the same as those of the LEPA 70D but it looks completely different:
The transparent 7-blade impeller looks as if it is made of glass. Coupled with the slim frame that has a back mesh to rectify the air flow, it makes this fan very beautiful. There is a line of LEDs on the interior surface of the frame.
They are as many as 36: nine LEDs of each color (blue, red, green and white).
So, the operating fan is quite a view thanks to the multicolored highlighting:
The attached switch allows choosing one of five highlight modes or turning the highlighting off altogether. Here is an illustration:
As for its technical specs, the LEPA Casino 4C is PWM-regulated in a speed range of 600 to 1600 RPM, producing an air flow of 24.9 to 63.9 CFM, a static pressure of 0.66 to 2.18 mm of water, and 15 to 25 dBA of noise. The fan has a peak power draw of 4.8 watts, but it doesn’t matter considering how beautiful its highlighting is. The impeller and motor are 111 and 40 mm in diameter, respectively. The weight of the fan is 126 grams.
The sleeved 4-wire cable is 490 mm long. The cable of the highlight switch is the same length.
LEPA offers one more highlighted fan which is called Casino. It has the same packaging as the previous model:
The fan is identical to the LEPA Casino 4C externally and has the same dimensions:
It is only by the sticker that we can identify the model.
The difference is that the highlighting is only one color (blue). It still has 5 operation modes, though, and can be turned off.
The operating fan is perhaps even more beautiful than the multicolored LEPA Casino 4C:
Well, that’s a matter of personal taste, of course. We can add that this model consumes 1 watt less than the Casino 4C and costs $4 less (i.e. $16).
LEPA’s last model in this review is called Vortex (LPVX12P).
The accessories are the same as included with the Casino:
There’s a minimum of external differences here: no LEDs on the interior surface while the impeller is the same color as the frame.
The highlight-less Vortex is supposed to consume 2.4 watts, which is only half the power consumption of the Casino 4C.
That’s all the differences we can point out. The rotation speed and other parameters are identical to the other two Casinos. The price of this model is $14.
Here’s Nanoxia’s FX EVO 120 IFC 1600. Its packaging may already be familiar to you as we’ve been testing fans from this series in three consecutive reviews already:
The fan is shipped together with silicone pins, self-tipping screws, and a speed controller designed as a back-panel mounting bracket.
The fan is rather inexpensive at $15. It is manufactured in China and comes with a 10-year warranty. Its weight is only 103 grams and its 7-blade impeller is 113 mm in diameter.
The FX EVO 120 IFC 1600 is actually no different visually from its series mates.
But its peak speed is higher at 1600 RPM. Consequently, the peak air flow is 60.3 CFM, the static pressure is 1.45 mm of water, and the noise level is 20.3 dBA. The FX EVO 120 IFC 1600 has all the features of other Nanoxia fans such as makrolon blades, durable nano bearings, ECO motor with low startup voltage and others.
The 40mm motor has a sticker with product and manufacturer information.
The fan consumes no more than 1.56 watts. The 430mm sleeved cable is long enough to reach to any point on the mainboard or to a speed controller like the included one.
The Nanoxia FX EVO 120 PWM 1500 has a smaller box than the previous model and comes without a speed controller.
The controller isn’t necessary because the fan supports PWM-based speed regulation. The accessories include screws and silicone pins.
The FX EVO 120 PWM 1500 looks like the rest of the company’s modern fans, so we won’t overload this review with identical photos. We can only tell you that the speed of this model varies from 500 to 1500 RPM. The air flow changes from 24.2 to 58.5 CFM, the static pressure is 0.45 to 1.41 mm of water, and the noise level is 9.3 to 18 dBA. Despite the small difference from the FX EVO 120 IFC 1600 in top speed, this model should be considerably more economical: 0.96 instead of 1.56 watts. We’ll check this out in practical tests shortly.
In our previous reviews of Nanoxia fans we didn't tell you that they have a detachable impeller. Now we can show you that:
We can see neat coils, capacitors and silicone impeller lubricant here.
That’s all about Nanoxia fans, now we can move on to the next brand.
The Noctua NF-F12 PWM is surely the most technologically advanced fan in this review. A detailed description of its technologies would be too long for this review, so we’ll try to give you just the basic facts here.
The packaging is a cardboard box with a flip-back cover which reveals a small window.
The cover unfolds like a booklet, telling the customer everything about the fan.
Inside the cardboard box there is additional plastic packaging with compartments for the fan and its accessories.
The Noctua NF-F12 PWM comes with three cables including a Y-shaped splitter, four silicone pins and four self-tipping screws.
The fan costs $19 and has a 6-year warranty.
Noctua stays true to its design principles, so the new fan follows the same color scheme as the company’s previous products. The beige frame with brown corners and impeller may be a questionable solution in terms of aesthetics but the fan is unmistakable among other models.
The NF-F12 PWM is indeed a new product which is considerably different from Noctua’s previous NF-S12B and NF-P12 products. Its impeller is something in-between the impellers of the mentioned fans and features seven broad blades with a sharp front edge and a thick end.
It is 113 mm in diameter. The 41mm motor is fastened on 11 broad spokes that are placed at an angle to the air flow and have notches on the exterior edge.
This solution is meant to make the air flow more focused and increase the fan’s static pressure.
The Noctua NF-F12 PWM has an impressive specified static pressure indeed. It is 2.61 mm of water at a speed of 1500 RPM, which is much higher than the specified static pressure of the faster models in this review. The picture below shows the advantage of the NF-F12 PWM over the NH-U12P:
The blades of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM are installed at an angle relative to the motor (31 to 37 degrees) in order to reduce noise.
This helps make the sound of the fan more uniform and comfortable for the ear.
Another unique solution implemented in the Noctua NF-F12 PWM is called Inner Surface Microstructures. It refers to the triangular incisions on the interior of the frame.
It helps reduce the turbulence between the blades and the frame, lowering noise and increasing air flow.
Besides the soft silicone corners that help reduce vibrations, the frame has three cutouts in that area which is also slanted.
This solution is called Stepped Inlet Design and it helps increase the air flow by increasing the turbulence at the input.
The air flow is declared to be 55 CFM at 1500 RPM. If the fan is connected via the resistor and its speed is lowered to 1200 RPM, the air flow is 43.7 CFM. The Noctua NF-F12 PWM is expected to produce 9.3 to 18 dBA of noise.
Besides the abovementioned technologies, we can tell you that the fan runs on a second-version Self-Stabilising Oil-pressure bearing.
The optimization refers to the reduced distance between the fan axis and the magnet so that the magnetic field is stronger. The motor is still covered with a metallic plaque rather than paper or film sticker as with the other products.
The bearing is expected to last longer thanks to its metallic shell.
The Noctua NF-F12 PWM has a specified service life of 150,000 hours or over 17 years. Its motor is economic, consuming no more than 0.6 watts at the maximum speed. The sleeved cables are about half a meter long.
NZXT is represented in this review with one model, FX 120LB, which is packed into a small cardboard box with an oval cutout:
Besides the fan, the box contains four silicone pins, screws and a PATA power adapter.
Manufactured in China, the NZXT FX 120LB costs $14 and comes with a 2-year warranty.
The 120mm NZXT differs from the other fans in having large gaps between the impeller blades. There are a total of seven narrow blades that stand 15 mm apart at the base and 20 mm apart at the ends.
The impeller is 111 mm in diameter. The motor is 44 mm. The fan weighs 159 grams.
The NZXT FX 120LB is free from any technical innovations. As for visual features, we can note the smoothed-out ribs on the interior of the frame.
Using the small switch on the fan’s cable, you can choose one of three speeds from 1000 to 2600 RPM. The specifications are as follows: air flow of 35.8 to 96 CFM, static pressure of 0.75 to 4.80 mm of water, and noise level of 22 to 36.5 dBA.
The bearing type is indicated as Liquid State in the specs but the fan’s own sticker calls it differently:
Anyway, the bearing is expected to last for at least 35,000 hours, which isn’t much for such a high-speed model. The specified power consumption at the maximum speed is 3.6 watts. The startup voltage is not declared. The fan’s flat 3-wire cable is 500 mm long.
We’ve managed to get a rather rare product for this review: Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12. It is shipped in a cardboard box:
The cutout in the front of the packaging lets you see the fan’s blades. The speed of the fan is indicated on the packaging. Detailed specs are listed on the back. The fan is shipped together with a PATA power adapter, four self-tipping screws, and a short cable with a step-down resistor.
The Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12 is manufactured in China and costs a mere $7. Its warranty lasts 1 year.
The fan looks ordinary, yet quite attractive. The blue 7-blade impeller is in contrast with the black frame.
There’s nothing extraordinary about the Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12 from a technological point of view. Its impeller and motor are 111 and 45 mm in diameter, respectively. Its weight is 135 grams.
The blades are short and thick with a small angle of attack and a rounded front edge. The interior of the frame has two bevels.
The surface of the impeller blades is rough to the touch but we don’t know if this has any technical purpose. The fan has a rated speed of 1600 RPM but you can slow it down to 1200 RPM by means of the included resistor cable. At the maximum speed the fan produces an air flow of 72.7 CFM at 29.1 dBA of noise. The static pressure is not specified.
The paper sticker on the motor tells you the bearing type and electrical specs.
The Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12 is supposed to consume no more than 2.2 watts of power at 0.18 amperes. The service life of the bearing is not specified but it can hardly be higher than 30,000 hours. The cable is short at only 230 mm.
The second Prolimatech in this review is called Red Vortex 12 LED. Its box is identical to the previous model’s, except for the color.
The accessories, country of origin and warranty period are the same as those of the previous fan but the price is $10.
The Red Vortex 12 LED has the same size and specs as its blue cousin but is made of different plastic, so it is lighter at 109 grams. The dark translucent frame is harmoniously combined with the red translucent impeller.
As opposed to its blue cousin, the Red Vortex 12 LED has a plastic sticker instead of paper:
There are four red-colored LEDs in the corners of the frame.
The highlighting is very bright.
Compared to its blue cousin, the Red Vortex 12 LED consumes more power (3.6 watts) but the other specs are identical. However, running a little ahead, we can tell you that the actual performance of the Red Vortex 12 LED differs due to the different materials.
We’re already familiar with Scythe’s Gentle Typhoon series. Today, this Japanese firm is represented in our review with three high-speed Gentle Typhoon High RPM models.
Scythe traditionally ships its fans packed into transparent blister wraps with a paper insert inside.
This packaging is more robust than cardboard and also allows examining the fan without taking it out of the box. Technical specs are also listed on the packaging, though.
The fans come with a minimum of accessories: four self-tipping screws and a fixed cable.
According to the packaging, these fans, like the majority of products in this review, are manufactured in China. However, Indonesia is mentioned on the fans’ own stickers. Each of the three models costs $23. The warranty period is 2 years.
The high-speed versions differ from ordinary Gentle Typhoons in having a black frame and a black impeller with additional stiffening ring.
There are no visual changes otherwise. The blades are long and curved. The interior of the frame is smooth.
The 7-blade impeller is 109 mm in diameter whereas the motor is 52 mm in diameter. The weight is 216 grams.
The Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM series features impressively high speeds. The junior model has a rated speed of 3000 RPM whereas the medium and senior models are as fast as 4250 and 5400 RPM. The specified air flow is 83, 116.5 and 150.1 CFM. Of course, noise is not a priority with such fans but Scythe specifies it at 36.5, 44.0 and 50.5 dBA. The static pressure is not declared, unfortunately. We are curious to know how high it might be at such speeds.
The impeller is reinforced with a ring that goes near the ends of the blades:
The bearing hasn’t changed. It is still a manually-balanced dual ball bearing with a guaranteed service life of 100,000 hours (or over 11 years of continuous operation). The sticker on the motor provides information about the fan model, electrical specs and country of origin.
The power consumption is high. The junior model needs 2.64 watts, the medium model needs 6.72 watts and the senior model, as much as 13.7 watts! That’s why the fan is only connected to a PATA power connector. There is a separate cable for speed monitoring. Each cable is 300 mm long.
The SilverStone SST-AP121 is packaged into a cardboard box with a window in its front:
Specifications and a drawing of the fan’s key feature can be found on the back.
The accessories include a PATA connector for 5 or 7V source, screws and silicone pins.
The fan is manufactured in China and costs $15. The warranty period is 2 years.
The SilverStone SST-AP121 is quite an unusual view. Its impeller has seven very broad translucent blades with a small angle of attack.
The blades seem to spread out along the air-focusing grid at the back. The impeller is 110 mm in diameter. The motor is 45 mm. The weight of the fan is 180 grams.
We can also note such details as the thick ends of the blades, the rounded-off edges and the flat interior of the frame. SilverStone engineers seem to have tried to reduce the noise of the fan as much as possible.
We already know how the focusing grid works from our tests of the 140mm SilverStone AP141, but here's a video to illustrate the key principle once again:
The fan has the following specs: 1500 RPM, 35.4 CFM (the air flow is very low compared to the other fans at that speed), 1.71 mm of water and 22.4 dBA. It lacks PWM-based regulation. You can only change its speed by connecting the fan to a 5V or 7V source using the included PATA power adapter.
The informative sticker covers a fluid dynamic bearing with a rated service life of 50,000 hours.
The startup voltage is 5 volts. At its default 12 volts the SilverStone SST-AP121 is supposed to consume about 4 watts of power. The sleeved cable is about half a meter long.
SilverStone’s second model, SST-AP121-L, is a copy of the previous one but with added highlighting. The packaging and accessories are identical:
The fan has a silvery frame and an air-focusing grid. Its impeller is translucent:
Its specs are identical to those of the SilverStone SST-AP121, including power consumption, although the highlighting should have affected the latter parameter.
The highlighting is green in color and looks most attractive thanks to the back grid.
The Spire Air Force 120 LED (SP12025N7L4-B-PWM) is quite an interesting product, although there's nothing special about it in terms of packaging. The fan is shipped in a cardboard box covered with exhaustive information about its features.
The fan comes without any accessories save for a sleeved 4-pin cable.
Manufactured in China, it has a 5-year warranty and a recommended price of $15.
The Spire Air Force 120 LED looks quite attractive. The translucent frame and impeller contrast with the blue silicone corners.
The fan is rather light (133 grams) and elegant. The impeller is 110 mm in diameter whereas the motor is rather small: only 41 mm in diameter.
The interior of the frame is flat. The company’s website address can be read from the outer surface of the frame.
The saber-shaped blades expand towards the ends and have a sharp front edge. Thanks to PWM-based regulation, the Spire Air Force 120 LED can rotate at 600 to 1500 RPM, producing an air flow of 62.4 CFM and a static pressure of 1.76 mm of water. Its noise varies from 10 to 22 dBA.
The silicone corner inserts are yet another special feature of this model:
Serving the same purpose as silicone pins, they are meant to reduce vibrations and noise. The inserts can be easily removed and put back in place.
The fan runs on a nano bearing which seems to be some kind of a fluid dynamic bearing. We can only learn its service life from its specs: 70,000 hours or almost 8 years of continuous operation.
At the maximum speed the Spire Air Force 120 LED can consume 1.44 watts at 0.18 amperes. The startup voltage is not specified.
There are four blue LEDs in the corners of the frame. The highlighting isn’t bright and looks very cute.
The cable is 300 mm long.
Swiftech specializes in producing components for liquid cooling systems but has one 120mm fan in its product range. It is called Helix 120. According to the official press-release, the fan is optimized for liquid cooling systems and is capable of producing a higher pressure compared to ordinary fans.
The compact white box provides exhaustive information about the fan, including its specifications.
There are no accessories except for mounting screws.
Manufactured in China, the fan costs $9.95. The warranty period is 1 year.
The Swiftech Helix 120 measures 120x120x25 mm; its weight is 159 grams. The white 9-blade impeller contrasts with the black frame.
The crescent-shaped blades are long, thick at the ends and have a sharp front edge. The interior of the frame is flat.
The rims of the interior surface are rounded off. The impeller is 108 mm in diameter; the motor is 41 mm in diameter.
The Swiftech Helix 120 has no kind of regulation, so its speed is constant at 1800 RPM. The fan can produce a static pressure of 2.29 mm of water and an air flow of 55 CFM. The correlation between these two parameters is illustrated by the following chart:
As for its acoustic specs, the noise level is 33 dBA at the maximum speed. Swiftech suggests that this fan is preferable to the Scythe Gentle Typhoon or the RDM1225S in this respect.
The Swiftech Helix 120 runs on a Z-axis sleeve bearing which is something in between ordinary sleeve bearings and fluid dynamic bearings. It has a groove that allows the lubricating liquid to circulate, improving the service life. So, the specified service life of the bearing is 60,000 hours or almost 7 years of continuous operation. The electrical specs are quite interesting for the rated speed: 0.16 amperes, a low power draw of only 1.92 watts and a startup voltage of 7 volts. The 3-wire cable is 450 mm long.
The Korean firm Zalman is represented with two models in this review. The first of them is ZM-F3 FDB and it comes packed in a plastic blister wrap. The paper insert provides some product-related information on the back.
Besides the fan, the box contains four silicone pins and a cable with step-down resistor.
Zalman’s products are mostly manufactured in China. The ZM-F3 FDB is no exception. It has a 2-year warranty and costs about $10.
As opposed to the inexpensive ZM-F3, the new ZM-F3 FDB features a translucent impeller with seven broad and thick blades:
Its motor is secured on three thin 4mm spokes and one 9mm cable spoke. The impeller is 112 mm in diameter whereas the motor is 41 mm. The weight of the fan is 129 g.
The frame with two bevels on the interior surface is perfectly ordinary.
Thus, this fan isn’t exceptional in any way. It only features a fluid dynamic bearing with a service life of 150,000 hours. The lubricant moves along microchannels on the bearing’s shaft, ensuring a longer service life than with ordinary sleeve bearings.
Zalman also promises a low level of noise: 18 to 23 dBA at 1000 to 1500 RPM. Air flow and static pressure are not listed in the product specs.
The fan’s sticker provides information about the electrical parameters:
The peak power consumption is 2.4 watts. The startup voltage is not declared in the specs but we’ll measure it ourselves. The cable is 400 mm long.
The packaging of the ZM-SF3 is identical to the previous model’s, but the information on the paper insert is different.
The accessories are the same, too. The price is somewhat higher as the Zalman ZM-SF3 costs $14.
The fan is white except for the silicone corners and the stickers:
The impeller is 109 mm in diameter. The motor is 40 mm. The weight is 118 g. The interior surface of the frame is flat, with a barely noticeable rib along its center.
The fan features so-called Shark’s Fin Blades:
These fins are meant to structure the air flow, lower its turbulence and reduce the noise level. We’ve seen this solution in some fans from Noctua and other brands.
The Zalman ZM-SF3 also features an improved EverLasting Quiet bearing with a guaranteed service life of 150,000 hours thanks to nano-composite materials and reduced friction.
The fan rotates at 1500 RPM but you can lower its speed to 900 RPM by means of the included resistor, quieting it down from 23 to 18 dBA.
Interestingly, the information on the sticker suggests that the Zalman ZM-SF3 consumes twice as much power as the ZM-F3 FDB: 4.8 and 2.4 watts, respectively.
The 3-wire cable is 385 mm long.
Now that we’ve taken a look at each fan, let’s move on to practical 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.
Summing up our tests, we can categorize the fans into four groups. The first group includes high-speed models which are meant for efficient cooling regardless of noise. These are the Koolance FAN-12038HBK-184, Koolance FAN-12025HBK, three Scythe Gentle Typhoon High RPM models, and the NZXT FN 120LB. The senior Scythe features a better air flow/noise ratio than the thick 38mm Koolance. On the other hand, the difference between 76.5 and 69.3 dBA isn't large, and you're going to have a lot of noise in both cases.
The second group includes products which are rather poor in performance. The Cooler Master Turbine Master MACH1.8, for example, seems to have no benefits from its technical innovations such as the original impeller. The Spire Air Force 120 LED, Prolimatech Red Vortex 12 LED, Enermax T.B.SILENCE and Zalman ZM-SF3 also belong with this group. Their high noise and mediocre air flow make them a poor choice.
The third group of fans includes products with mainstream specs. There’s nothing extraordinary about them, yet we can’t find any serious flaws, either. This group includes the Prolimatech Blue Vortex 12, the unstable but presumably long-lasting Zalman ZM-F3 FDB, the two colorful LEPA Casino variants, the LEPA 70D capable of working at ambient temperatures up to 70°C, the perfectly ordinary LEPA Vortex with an air-focusing grid, and the Swiftech Helix-120 which is optimized for liquid cooling systems. One of these fans is going to be a good choice if you can’t find any product from the leading group.
And the leading group includes the GELID Wing 12PL, Noctua NF-F12 PWM, two SilverStone SST-AP121 models with air-focusing grids, two Nanoxia FX EVO 120 IFC models, Corsair AF120 Performance Edition and, of course, Corsair SP120 High Performance Edition. Each of these eight products is going to produce a stronger air flow at a lower level of noise compared to ordinary fans. They also feature a long service life and various extra features such as speed regulators, vibration-absorbing elements, interchangeable colored rings or beautiful highlighting. Interestingly, the two fans from Nanoxia are the most affordable here, although the company has never been noted to produce inexpensive products.
That said we are proud to award Noctua NF-F12 PWM and both Nanoxia FX EVO 120 IFC models with our Recommended Buy title:
As for the best fan in this roundup, we'd choose the Corsair SP120 High Performance Edition. It is worthy of joining the ranks of such remarkable products as the Noiseblocker, be quiet! SilentWings and Scythe Kama Flow 2. The new fan from Corsair is undoubtedly our Editor's Choice: