135-150mm Fan Roundup: Talking to the Wind

We are going to check out thirteen large fans that have come out in the last 18 months. Performance improvements, new technologies and special features will all be discussed in our extensive review.

by Sergey Lepilov
10/12/2012 | 05:56 AM

We carried out our last roundup test of 140mm fans over 2 years ago. Unlike CPUs or GPUs, fans do not change rapidly, being simpler devices that leave little room for engineering ingenuity. Yet new models come out regularly and their developers try to not just vary their packaging and color scheme but also introduce some new technologies to improve their service life, air flow and noise level specs. They do not always succeed, though, as we will see today in our tests of 13 new fans from nine brands.

 

We’ve got at least two samples of each fan model. The noise level was measured for each sample and the air flow, for only one sample, according to the same method as in our previous review except that we didn't test the fans together with coolers’ heatsinks because this data didn’t prove to be too valuable after all. First, let's take a look at each fan, its specifications and features. The testing participants are listed in alphabetical order.

Technical Specifications

We’ll emphasize the key features of the fans in their descriptions, but for their full specs you can refer to the following table:

We can only add that the impeller of each fan rotates counterclockwise.

Testing Participants

Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition

First goes the AF140 Quiet Edition from Corsair. It is shipped in a large cardboard box with a plastic window that provides a good view of the fan.

The product’s model name, rotation speed and noise level are all indicated on the front of the box. On the back you can find product specs, key features and a photo of two 120mm fans from the same series. Included with the fan are two booklets, two changeable rings of different colors, mounting screws, and a cable with step-down resistor.

The fan is manufactured in China, costs $19 and has a 2-year warranty. The Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition measures 140x104x25 millimeters. It looks very attractive:

 

There’s a red ring around the plastic frame, making this fan quite a lively sight. The ring can be replaced with the included white or blue one.

As for technicalities, the Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition has a large 11-blade impeller with a diameter of 131 mm. The motor is 42 mm in diameter. The impeller is fastened on four spokes, three of which are 5 mm wide. The cable spoke is 8 mm.

The impeller blades are curved like a wind-blown sail and get broader towards the frame. The edges of the blades are neatly rounded off.

The interior of the frame is perfectly smooth. The fan is immaculately sleek so that none of its components might produce any unwanted noise.

The silicone inserts in the mounting holes help make the fan quieter, too.

The Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition has a rated speed of 1150 RPM at a voltage of 12 volts, but you can reduce it to 750 RPM by means of the included cable with step-down resistor. At the maximum speed the fan can produce an air flow of 67.8 CFM and a static pressure of 0.84 millimeters of water. The noise level is specified to be 24 dBA. The Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition is the lightest model among all the fans in this review. It weighs a mere 98 grams.

The sticker on the fan shows you information about the fan’s operating voltage and current.

The AF140 Quiet Edition runs on a fluid dynamic bearing whose service life is not declared. Its 295mm-long cable ends in a 3-pin connector.

GlacialStars IceWind 14025

GlacialStars is a daughter brand of the well-known GlacialTech. The IceWind 14025 measures 140x140x25 mm and weighs 121 g. It comes without any packaging or accessories – just the fan itself sporting its glossy impeller and frame:

 

The impeller is 128 mm in diameter and has 11 blades with sharp edges. The interior of the frame with two characteristic ribs can often be seen in different fans and the GlacialStars IceWind 14025 is no exception.

The manufacturer doesn’t mention any special technologies but you can hardly expect any from a $3 fan made in China.

The rotation speed is constant at 1000 RPM but the manufacturer specifies a rather large range for this parameter to vary in (±250 RPM). The air flow is 51.3 CFM, which is the lowest level among all our fans at this speed. The specified static pressure of 0.90 millimeters of water is higher than that of the above-discussed Corsair. The noise level is declared to be 25.6 dBA.

The service life of the sleeve bearing is 30,000 hours or 3.4 years of continuous operation. The electrical parameters of the fan are typical of its class: 12 volts, 0.18 amperes, 2.16 watts.

The fan doesn’t support PWM-based regulation. It can be connected with a 3-wire cable to a mainboard’s fan connector or a PSU’s PATA power connector.

The cable is 350 mm long. The product has a 1-year warranty.

LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P)

A new name on the PC component market, LEPA has been producing computer cases, power supplies, peripherals and fans since 2011. We’ll take a look at the VORTEX (LPVX14P) model today.

The fan is packed into a small cardboard box with a transparent front, so you can see the impeller.

Product specs and key features are listed on the back of the box. An adapter cable and self-tipping screws are included with the fan.

The VORTEX (LPVX14P) is manufactured in China and costs $16, which is quite a lot for a newly-created brand. The warranty period is 1 year.

The 7-blade 127mm impeller is shaped similarly to the Xigmatek XLF-F1253 but has longer and larger blades due to the larger form-factor.

 

The fan owes its original appearance to the grid on its back whose spokes are curved into the opposite direction relative to the impeller's movement. This results in a focused air flow as demonstrated by the manufacturer in the following clip:

The speed of the fan is PWM-regulated automatically in a range of 600 to 1200 RPM. The manufacturer declares an air flow of 32.1 to 62.7 CFM at 15 to 20 dBA of noise.

The bearing type is undisclosed in the specs but its service life of 50,000 hours implies a fluid dynamic bearing or a sleeve bearing with an extended service life.

The motor is only 47 mm in diameter, which isn't large for a 140mm fan. The fan’s model name, voltage and current are indicated on the sticker.

The sleeved cable is long at 480 mm. It has a short adapter to plug into a PATA power connector.

Nanoxia FX EVO 140mm IFC

Being always well-represented in our fan tests, Nanoxia offers the FX EVO 140mm IFC model today. The packaging is designed in the company's traditional style. It is an acid-green box with cutouts.

The text on the box provides detailed product-related information including its 10-year warranty and a graph of its speed/voltage correlation. The fan comes with a speed controller designed as a bracket for the back panel of a computer case, silicone pins, self-tipping screws and a user guide.

The Nanoxia FX EVO 140mm IFC is manufactured in China and costs $19. That’s quite expensive.

Compared to the Nanoxia DX14, the FX EVO has a lot of differences. Instead of seven broad blades, the impeller now has nine blades which are narrower but curved in a more aggressive way.

 

The diameter of the detachable impeller hasn’t changed much. It is 131 mm, as compared to the predecessor's 132 mm. The weight has been reduced from 140 to 122 grams. Nanoxia fans still use makrolon blades which are durable and water-resistant.

The frame hasn’t changed except that there are no bushings in the mounting holes.

The interior of the frame has two ribs. The maximum speed of the fans is 1000 and 1500 RPM. You can regulate it with the included rheobus. The bottom limit is 390 RPM for the junior model and 680 RPM for the senior model. The rest of the specs can be seen in the table above. Nanoxia offers the same models with PWM-based regulation, too.

The fans run on exclusive Nano Engineered Bearings whose service life has been improved from 80,000 to a fantastic 150,000 RPM. The precision-balanced ECO motor makes the fans economical even at the maximum speed. The junior model is declared to consume 0.96 watts while the senior should consume no more than 3 watts at 1500 RPM.

The 44mm motors have stickers with model names:

 

Each model has a startup voltage of 3.5 volts. The 3-wire sleeved cable is 410 mm long.

NZXT FN 140RB and FX 140LB

Next go two fans from NZXT: FN 140RB and FX 140LB. Designed in the same way, their packaging differs in color.

The fan’s impeller can be examined through the oval window in the front of the box. Key product specs are listed below. You can refer to the back of the box for detailed specs in four languages. Each fan is accompanied by a power adapter for a PATA connector, self-tipping screws and four silicone pins.

Designed in Los Angeles, California, the fans are manufactured in China. They cost $14 for the FN 140RB model and $19 for the FX 140LB. The warranty is 2 years long.

These two 140mm fans from NZXT are almost identical visually. The faster model (on the right) has a somewhat darker impeller and a different sticker. Otherwise, we can find no difference.

The 9-blade impeller is 133 mm in diameter. It is the largest diameter among the 140mm fans included into this review. Broadening out towards the ends, the blades have a long and sharp outer edge and a clearly defined angle of attack.

The frame is perfectly ordinary with two ribs on the interior surface and bushings in the mounting holes. The fans weigh 138 and 168 grams.

The NZXT FN 140RB has a constant speed of 1300 RPM whereas the faster NZXT FX 140LB can vary its speed from 1000 to 2000 RPM basing on a 3-way switch. The air flow, noise and static pressure specs are typical for such speeds. You can learn them from the specs table at the beginning of our review.

The NZXT fans both have the same diameter of the motor. It is only 39 mm. Its sticker reports you the bearing type and electrical specs.

 

The junior model is specified to consume 2.88 watts at 0.24 amperes while the senior model needs 1.56 to 6.6 watts at 0.13 to 0.55 amperes. The startup voltage of the fans is not declared. The service life of the improved rifle bearings is 40,000 hours. The sleeved cables are about half a meter long.

NZXT FZ-140 and FZ-140 LED

The next two models – FZ-140 and FZ-140 LED – are also manufactured by NZXT. Their packaging is designed in a slightly different way.

As opposed to the previous pair, the FZ-140 and FZ-140 LED are only accompanied by a power adapter and mounting screws.

The country of origin is China; the warranty is 2 years long. The model without highlighting costs $16 while the highlighted model is $21.

Despite the same form-factor of 140x140x25 mm as the previous pair, these are completely different products both in the shape of their 130mm impellers and in the design of their frames.

The 13 flat blades get narrower at the base and have thick ends. The interior of the frame is smooth and lacks any ribs. Take note of the cutouts at the edge of the frame where the air goes in and out.

The manufacturer doesn’t reveal their purpose, but we can suppose that they serve to reduce the noise somehow. Unlike the unhighlighted version, the models with orange and green highlighting have a translucent impeller but their specs are perfectly the same: 1000 RPM, an unexpectedly high air flow (for the specified speed) of 83.6 CFM, a static pressure of 0.81 of water, and a noise level of 24.5 dBA.

The motor is only 40 millimeters in diameter. Its sticker tells you the type of the bearing, the product's model name and electrical specs.

The improved sleeve bearing is expected to serve for 40,000 hours or 4.6 years continuously. The peak power consumption of the unhighlighted version is 1.8 watts. Its highlighted cousin needs up to 2.65 watts. The 3-wire sleeved cable is 500 mm long.

Phanteks PH-F140TS

Phanteks PH-F140TS fans may be familiar to you from our tests of the Phanteks PH-TC14P? super-cooler. The latter's fans are also available as standalone products shipped in this large cardboard packaging:

This product’s specs seem to be the most detailed among all the fans in this review.

The fan and accessories are served on a translucent plastic tray with two compartments:

Included with the fan are two adapters with resistors for speed reduction, a power adapter for a PATA connector, a steel bracket to fasten the fan on the back panel of a computer case, silicone dampers, screws and pins:

Designed in Europe, the fan is manufactured in China. It costs $22 and has a 5-year warranty.

The 140mm Phanteks PH-F140TS is available in five colors: with black, blue, orange, red and white impeller. We’ve got the two latter versions of the fan.

The impeller with notched blades looks original. Referred to as Maelström Vortex Booster technology, this is expected to reduce turbulence and noise. The resulting fins lie in different planes:

The interior of the frame is almost perfectly smooth while the motor is only 36 mm in diameter.

The rated speed of the fan is 1200 RPM, producing an air flow of 78.1 CFM at a static pressure of 1.21 of water and 19 dBA of noise. Using the included adapters, you can step the voltage down from 12 to 9 or 7.5 volts and decrease the rotation speed to 900 or 750 RPM, respectively, with a corresponding reduction in the rest of the parameters.

The fans run on an original Updraft Floating Balance bearing which features an additional balancing ring and a specified service life of 150,000 hours (over 17 years of continuous operation!). Instead of a paper sticker, there is a steel plaque on the fan’s motor with carved-out names of the manufacturer and product, the official website address, and the electrical parameters.

The fan needs no more than 1.8 watts of power at 0.15 amperes. The startup voltage is not declared in the specs. The sleeved 3-pin cable is 400 mm long.

SilverStone AP141

The next product in our review is the SilverStone AP141 fan which is shipped in a small cardboard box with a small cutout in one of its sides:

Like most other products boxes in this review, the SilverStone one is quite informative. It contains a power adapter for 5, 7 and 12 volts, four silicone pins and four self-tipping screws.

The fan is manufactured in China and costs $23. Its warranty is only 1 year long.

The SilverStone AP141 looks similar in design to the above-discussed LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P):

 

First of all, we mean the air-focusing grid design, which SilverStone first introduced to the PC market back in 2010.  The SilverStone has a 4mm larger impeller and a 3mm smaller motor than the LEPA fan though.  The frame is also different, having a smoother interior surface.

SilverStone also has a video clip demonstrating the focused air flow at the fan's output that they have been showing since 2010:

As you can see, the operation principle and the result with resistance added is similar to the LEPA fan in a different environment.

The SilverStone AP141 can be regulated with the included cable and works at one of three speeds: 700, 1000 or 1500 RPM. The air flow is declared to be 28.3, 41.1 and 64.3 CFM at 18, 20.9 and 30.1 dBA of noise. The static pressure isn't high at only 0.39, 0.73 and 1.55 of water in the three speed modes.

The fan runs on a fluid dynamic bearing with a declared service life of 50,000 hours or 5.7 years of nonstop operation. The sticker on it contains information about its maker, model name, voltage and current.

The peak power consumption is specified to be 2.64 watts. The cable is 500 mm long.

 

Thermalright TY-150

Almost two years after the highly successful TY-140 Thermalright rolls out two models of larger diameters: TY-150 and TY-170. We’ll test the former today.

Thermalright doesn’t try to attract the customer with eye-catching product packaging. The TY-150 is shipped in a plain cardboard box with a small cutout that lets you check out the sticker on the fan's motor.

You can learn key product features and technical specs on the back of the box. The fan comes with no accessories. Manufactured in China, it costs about $15. The warranty period is 2 years.

As its name suggests, the TY-150 is just a slightly larger version of the TY-140 with seven broad greenish-colored blades and a brown frame.

 

Indeed, the form-factor is now 170x150x26.5 mm, which makes it the largest model in this review. The fan weighs 175 grams.

The impeller is 142 mm in diameter, which is about 10 mm larger than the impellers of the other fans. There's a 3mm gap between the impeller and the frame.

The TY-150 supports PWM-based regulation and its speed can be varied from 500 to 1100 RPM. The air flow is declared to be within 38.2 to 84.2 CFM. The noise level is 17 to 21 dBA. Thermalright doesn’t specify the static pressure parameter for its fans.

The motor is 42 mm in diameter, which isn’t much for such a large impeller. Its sticker informs you of the fan’s model name, voltage, current and country of origin.

The fan has a peak power draw of 2.4 watts. The service life of its dual ball bearing is not declared. The 4-wire sleeved cable is short at only 295 mm.

Zalman ZM-F4

The last fan we’re about to test comes from Zalman. It is a recently released ZM-F4 model. It is packed in a plastic blister wrap with a paper insert.

The Zalman ZM-F4 is shipped together with four silicone pins and a resistor cable.

The fan is manufactured in China. It costs $5 and has a 1-year warranty.

Unlike the other models, the Zalman ZM-F4 measures 135x135x25 mm although it doesn’t look smaller than the others.

 

The 11-blade impeller is 128 mm in diameter, which is almost as large as impellers of full-size 140mm fans. The blades are curved aggressively and have sharp edges and thick ends.

The nominal fan rotation speed is 1300 RPM, but it can be lowered to 900 RPM using the enclosed resistor. The air flow and static pressure aren’t mentioned among the fan specifications, and the declared noise level shouldn’t exceed 26 and 18 dBA for each operational mode respectively.

The stator with 47 mm diameter (the largest of all tested fans) has a sticker with the fan model, voltage and current as well as the bearing type:

The Zalman ZM-F4 runs on an improved sleeve bearing with a specified service life of 50,000 hours or 5.7 years of continuous operation. The maximum power consumption of the fan is not expected to be higher than 3.36 watts. The cable is 390 mm long.

 

Performance

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

The noise graph of the Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition goes lower than the others. This fan seems to be the most comfortable subjectively as well. The SilverStone AP141, Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC (both versions), NZXT FN 140RB and Zalman ZM-F4 are close to the leader in terms of noisiness, but the SilverStone is subjectively the noisiest of the four due to its focusing grid the air has to pass through. Well, the LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P) has the same air-focusing grid as the SilverStone but makes more noise. The noisiest fans are the NZXT FZ-140 LED and the Phanteks PH-F140TS.

We can also view an enlarged fragment of the diagram up to 36 dBA (after which the noise becomes uncomfortable).

It is now clear that the fans differ more than they seem to in the first version of the diagram. The difference may be as large as 5 dBA at the same speed. This can be heard quite distinctly.

Next goes a diagram that shows the correlation between noise and air flow. The lower the graph, the less noise and the more air flow the fan produces.

The best fan in the previous diagram, Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition, is now joined by the big Thermalright TY-150, so size seems to matter when it comes to fans. The Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC (in both versions), NZXT FN 140RB and Zalman ZM-F4 perform well again. The NZXT FX 140LB graph serves as the watershed between higher- and lower-quality products. The fans whose graphs go higher in the diagram are not good in terms of air flow/noise level. These are the NZXT FZ-140 LED, Phanteks PH-F140TS and LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P):

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

The high-speed NZXT FX 140LB enjoys a large lead. Working at 1970 RPM, it generates an air flow of 46.9 CFM (as measured by our method), which is almost 1.4 times as high as the second-best result shown by the Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC 1500 at 1430 RPM. The latter is closely followed by the SilverStone AP141 working at the same speed and producing somewhat less noise. Next go the unexciting Thermalright TY-150 at 1060 RPM and the LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P), noisy at its maximum 1270 RPM. And then we see a tight group of products from the Zalman ZM-F4 to the GlacialStars IceWind 14025 in which the Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition is the quietest. Having the lowest speeds, the Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC 1000 and two NZXT FZ-140 fans are the worst in this test. By the way, the latter model has a very high specified air flow, but our tests do not agree with that.

So we know how much air flow the fans can produce, but from a practical standpoint it is more important to check out their air flow at the subjectively comfortable noise level of 36 dBA. Here are the results:

The Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition at 910 RPM is ahead thanks to its very low noise level. It is closely followed by the big Thermalright TY-150 at 740 RPM and the two Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC fans at 870 RPM. There are several other models with a good balance between speed and noise including the NZXT FN 140RB, SilverStone AP141, Zalman ZM-F4 and NZXT FX 140LB. The cheap GlacialStars IceWind 14025 at 820 RPM separates them from the worst and noisiest fans: LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P), NZXT FZ-140 and Phanteks PH-F140TS.

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

The Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition is not only the lightest and the quietest fan in this review but also the most economical in terms of power consumption. At the maximum speed of 1120 RPM it needs no more than 1 watt, which is the best result here. The Thermalright TY-150 with its sleeve bearing and the Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC 1000 with its nano bearing are impressively economical as well, requiring no more than 1.1 watts. The LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P) and the cheap Zalman ZM-F4 need but little power, too. The most voracious fans are the high-speed models NZXT FX 140LB and Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC 1500.

The next diagram shows the startup voltage of each fan:

The Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC 1500 and the SilverStone AP141 can start up at less than 3 volts. The rest of the models fit within a range of 3 to 5 volts with the exception of the Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition, Thermalright TY-150 and LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P). The latter even needs as much as 7 volts to start up.

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

Interestingly, one Thermalright TY-150 costs as much as three Zalman ZM-F4 or as many as five GlacialStars IceWind 14025 fans. And the TY-150 isn’t even the most expensive of these fans. By the way, the most expensive fans were not the best ones in our tests.

Conclusion

Let’s start with the more common products. According to our tests, the least remarkable results belong to LEPA VORTEX (LPVX14P), Phanteks PH-F140TS and two NZXT FZ-140 fans (with and without highlighting). Unfortunately, these fans aren’t that quiet and do not produce strong air flow or offer a well-balanced combination of the two. Moreover, these four fans are also quite expensive. Someone may like the focused air flow of the LEPA VORTEX, others will be pleased at the elegant highlighting of the NZXT FZ-140 LED or the “shark fins” of the blades and the record-breaking service life of the bearing in the Phanteks PH-F140TS, but we have to recommend checking out other models if low noise and strong air flow are of higher priority for you.

The middle group looks much better. It includes mainstream products like the NZXT FX 140LB, SilverStone AP141, Zalman ZM-F4 and GlacialStars IceWind 14025. The first of them should be given credit for delivering the highest air flow and, possibly, the highest static pressure among all the fans in this roundup. The SilverStone AP141, which has the original focused air-flow design that the LEPA VORTEX later followed, is superior to the LEPA fan in every aspect, but it is also the most expensive of all the fans. The Zalman ZM-F4 and GlacialStars IceWind 14025, on the contrary, kill the competition with their low price, suggesting that a good fan doesn’t have to cost a lot.

The leading group consists of the two Nanoxia FX EVO 140 IFC fans, the big Thermalright TY-150 and the NZXT FN 140RB. Each of them is quiet and delivers a stronger air flow than the previous models. Moreover, the Nanoxia fans, priced at an average level, offer a 10-year warranty, a speed controller, and a detachable water-resistant impeller made of makrolon. The big Thermalright TY-150 can hardly be used as a system fan, but will perfectly match large heatsinks of CPU coolers. And the NZXT FN 140RB is simply a high-quality and relatively affordable fan.

The only product that stands out in our today’s test session is the Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition. This is the absolute best fan of all tested today! At only 98 grams, the elegant fan from Corsair has the best noise/air flow ratio, which is the most important parameter in our opinion. Moreover, this model starts up at 5.5 volts and consumes less than 1 watt at the maximum speed. It is equipped with vibration-absorbing mounts and has interchangeable colored rings to ideally match the interior of your computer case. Unfortunately, the MTBF of its fluid dynamic bearing is not disclosed while the cable is not very long (295 mm). PWM-based speed regulation could also be welcome. Anyway, these minor things definitely cannot affect our decision to award Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition with our Editor’s Choice title:

This is only the first roundup that opens a series of article on cooling fan. We’re already cooking another roundup of new 120mm fans. Stay tuned!