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Thread: 26 120mm Fans Tested and Compared

  1. #1
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    Talking 26 120mm Fans Tested and Compared

    Howdy all....this is long awaited and long delayed....but I'm very excited to be able to finally put up the finished version today!

    First off, I'd like to talk about the market, objectives, methods, and use of these results.

    1) The fan market is an interesting one....there are at least a hundred different 120mm fans to choose from, all with different color, noise, CFM, pressure, lighting and radiator characteristics. Theoretically, there should be a different fan for every use....and a different fan for everybody's setup.

    There's an issue with it though....manufacturers lie about fan performance ratings. Well, unless you test, you can't confirm that, but let's say that some fans have ratings that just seem 'too good.' How has the community dealt with this? User experience and rationale....there is one rating which is typically very accurate as it can be easily measured by users: RPM.

    Through the user experience, the community (well, XS at least) has settled in on a few favorite fans. Is this justified? Well, as you'll see, not all fans are created equally.


    2) Well, since some fans are just blatantly mis-rated, and others seem just 'too good,' I became very interested in the true performance of fans, on a consistent and reliable platform. I looked around the internet, and while there had a been a few reviews out there...they were either too focused on silence for my liking, and/or fell short on technique and results.

    I hunted down proper hardware to test a fan's CFM output and dB measurements. After gathering the testing equipment, I formed a methodology that would provide extremely consistent and telling results.


    3) To measure CFM, I purchased an anemometer that could accurately measure the 120mm equivalent of ~2CFM all the way up to ~350CFM. Rather than just put the anemometer up to the fan and draw a conclusion based on air moved at the hub (which is almost useless), I have shrouded the entire area between the anemometer and the fan. This is to ensure that all airflow is measured, not just the airflow at the hub or another part of the fan. On top of that, because air coming out of a fan, in addition to having forward momentum, has rotational momentum, I have the fan pull air through the measurement setup. Initial results, compared to trusted ratings (Delta, Panaflo, Yate Loon) were EXTREMELY accurate. CFM testing was done at 1V increments between 4V and 12V when possible. Minimum running voltage was also tested. This test is to test the validity of manufacturer ratings and also CFM pushing capabilities as a case fan.

    To measure the restricted CFM, I fastened a Swiftech MCR120 radiator between the fan and the measurement setup. This would put a consistent restriction on the fans, and because it was also a commonly used radiator, it allows us to draw conclusions which fans are best for a typical radiator setup for watercoolers, especially those using a shroud to reduce effects of the hub. Restricted CFM was tested at 1V increments between 4V and 12V when possible. Minimum running voltage results were extrapolated from 4V results.

    To measure decibel ratings, I fastened the fan on an exhaust hole on a case and positioned my decibel meter 12cm away from center of the fan. It was angled from the side such that it would not suffer from any buffeting. The dB meter is isolated from any external vibration through bubble wrap. dB readings are used throughout the comparison and are measured from 4V to 12V, as well as minimum running voltage.

    To measure CPU tempurature, I used Thermaltake Big Typhoon VX on a Celeron D and P5W DH configuration clocked at 3.6GHz and 1.63V (loaded). This setup was used because the TTBT can easily mount ANY 120mm fan, responds well to increased airflow, and because it is a very good cooler also capable of keeping the Celeron stable with very low airflow. The Celeron D was used because it runs extremely hot yet can also run at extremely high temperatures stably (87C loaded was the highest temperature I saw, and it was stable). Speedfan and OCCT were used to load, measure and record temperatures. A UEI DT200 was used to measure ambient tempuratures. WCG was run as an 'idle state' in order to prevent the processor from cooling down too much, allowing me to use a shorter (8 minutes rather than 30) load time to assess performance. If a processor did NOT cool down at the completion of the 8 minutes of load, the test was repeated until it did (always the next try). The maximum temperature readout was used as loaded temp. Ambient temperature was subtracted and gives use a dT, the basis for determining which fan is ideal for CPU cooling. This test was done because restricted CFM alone cannot be used to determine fan performance cooling a CPU due to varying hub sizes and air dispersion patterns. The test was performed at 12V, 9V, 7V and 5V when possible on every fan.

    4) Having tested the methodology multiple times and having tested each fan at least twice, I am extremely confident these results are accurate, repeatable and revealing. This allows me to test fans later and obtain results that are directly comparable. This is key.

    There may seem to be results that, especially with the use of lines connecting the points, seem out of line and I recognize them as well....they are repeatable results and I'm not 100% why fans sometimes behave like that

    There are also some fans that have extremely long 'lines' connecting the points. This is because these fans do not scale linearly with voltage (most fans do). In these cases, the manufacturer supplies a small rheobus to change the fan's supplied voltage. The rheobus is specially designed for the fan and typically only varies the supplied voltage between ~8.5V and 12V. This ensures the voltage cannot go too low to prevent startup. Anyway, long story short....with these fans, at around 9.5V, the RPMs suddenly drop off almost completely.....this provides both a silent and high-CFM fan in one setup (though not simultaneously). Because I test at 1V increments, often times a fan will be powerful at 10V and then at 9V will be spinning slowly and due to the organization of results, that results in very separated scatter points for those fans. Testing at intermediate voltages with a resistor or user-supplied rheobus is EXTEMELY difficult due to the exactness needed in pinpointing voltage levels. It was therefore not done.

    I supply a set of graphs with 'adjusted dB' that can be roughly used to judge whether or not a fan manufacturer is honest about their ratings. These are non-scientific....just a simple linear adjustment of measured dB determined from a group of trusted manufacturer ratings (Delta, high-speed Panaflos, Yate Loon). It in no way changes the results, just the scale they are on. I would put their 1meter accuracy at around 95%.

    Hopefully they can be used to put perspective on the dB readings in the scale we are all used to dealing with.

    n.b., yes, I realize there are some issues with some of the later graph's titles and axis titles....I'll fix them later, they are minor though

    EDIT: I would also like to have a big shout out to member Baenwort who provided many of these fans for testing, it would only be a fraction of the 26 if he hadn't lent me part of his collection.
    Last edited by Vapor; 03-20-2007 at 03:42 AM.

  2. #2
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    What will be in this post is voltage v. CFM 'curve,' size, flanging, subjective noise opinions, minimum running voltage, and anything else that you may need to know about the fan Working on it slowly after frustratingly losing it....

    Yate Loon SL
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: closed
    Subjective Noise: overall very quiet, undervolts nicely. No weird noises when undervolted or on PWM.
    Minimum running voltage: 2.5V
    Notes: very inexpensive fan....hard to argue with.


    Thermaltake Silent Wheel 130mm
    Size: 120x120x25, though the frame is extra large, taking up 130x130x25
    Flanging: one-sided
    Subjective Noise: overall very quiet but makes a low click at all voltages, mostly audible only when undervolted....happens with both a resistor-only setup and PWM. Somewhat high pitched all things considered.
    Minimum running voltage: 2.6V
    Notes: has the same motor and rotor as the TTBT stock fan. Open sides and large housing restrict its use.


    Scythe heatsink stock fan
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: open
    Subjective Noise: has a constant low hum....not noticable in a case. Otherwise very quiet
    Minimum running voltage: 2.5V
    Notes: Has a blue RPM sense wire....kinda cool


    Thermaltake Big Typhoon stock fan
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: closed
    Subjective Noise: quiet, but kinda high pitched compared to other fans.
    Minimum running voltage: 2.5V
    Notes: nothing really...


    Lian Li non-ADDA fan
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: open
    Subjective Noise: progressive voltage scaling, no extraneous noise on a resistor. With PWM, it makes a LOUD click when throttled....avoid using on PWM as much as possible.
    Minimum running voltage: 2.5V
    Notes: Never actually gets silent...:-/ I'll be honest and say I don't like this fan much.


    Noctua 1200
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: open
    Subjective Noise: Quite quiet. What noise there is is actually a lower pitched noise than a typical fan, which helps make it 'seem' quieter than it is as well....
    Minimum running voltage: 2.75V
    Notes: Quiet only buys so much when the blade design is grossly inefficient.


    Silverstone FN121
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: closed
    Subjective Noise: Extremely quiet. No extraneous noises....very impressive acousitically. Also dead silent at 7V (only fan to claim that in the first batch).
    Minimum running voltage: 2.7V
    Notes: Loses a step against the Yate with radiator CFM....but CPU temps are also much better than the Yate. This is my pick for the best low speed fan if your budget can afford it.


    Akasa Amber
    Size: 120x120x25
    Flanging: open
    Subjective Noise: makes a low groan at all voltages....doesn't exactly undervolt as well as the competition.
    Minimum running voltage: 3.69V
    Notes: Color scheme may be attactive to some.
    Last edited by Vapor; 03-21-2007 at 06:18 AM.

  3. #3
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    Without further adieu, results

    OPEN AIR

    CFM vs. dB

    Low speed fans (<60CFM at 12V) in open air:


    Medium speed fans (60CFM to 87CFM at 12V) in open air:


    High speed fans (>87CFM at 12V) in open air:


    Same sets, with the adjusted dB ratings:




    I take the best of each group, and put them on the same 'All Stars' graph for....well.....look at the graphs


  4. #4
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    Restricted airflow (radiator) setup
    CFM vs. dB

    Measured dB:







    Adjusted dB:







    Same five 'All Stars' on the radiator:



  5. #5
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    CPU Temperature tests!
    dT vs. dB

    Measured dB:







    Adjusted dB:







    Same five 'All Stars' (although the Yate Loon doesn't do very well in this test, it's still an All Star from the original tests and for the price).



  6. #6
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    Hey Vapor ! Great job and thanks for all the effort !

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    Thanks for comparation
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  8. #8
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    Wow amazing dude! Thanks

  9. #9
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    great work Vapor! Now I just have to order some golfballs
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  10. #10
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    This is much appreciated Vapor, great work. I vote sticky

    again....great work
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  11. #11
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    this is awesome Thanks!

  12. #12
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    For those of us who trust others to draw a conclusion from that data, the best fans are? and the best fans for radiators are?

  13. #13
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    Wow.. GREAT round up Vapor!

    Wish you tested a Delta 1212VHE though, my staple high speed fan

    What I found interesting:

    M1A ratings were off by over 3db! Thats double the noise I had a feeling they under rated...

    The sharkoons and papst low speeds when undervolted pwn yates. The sharkoons are a bit better but they get louder when you move up to higher speeds. Also I have no idea where to buy them

    http://www.pcextreme.com/catalog/sku/fan-166.html

    I think that's my new radiator fan
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  14. #14
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    great charts!!

    wish they sell golfball fans in the us

  15. #15
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    Thanks all

    I have a Delta 1212VHE actually....the connector is some weird 4pin quasimolex that plugs into nothing I've ever seen before.....it was scrapped last second because well, it was a PITA to run. I also have a 172x172x40 Pelko here to test soon....I can probably make a new connector for the VHE and test that with it.

    I was also very surprised as the misrating of the Panaflo L1 and M1s....considering the H1 and U1s are practically spot on. I guess even they succumb to marketing pressures :-/

    Yeah, it does seem the Sharkoon and the ebmpapst do very well, they were black sheep in a way....didn't even notice that they beat out the Yate until I graphed it out

    They can be both be found at www.performance-pcs.com for USA folk

    Another name for the Golfball fans is Silent Eagle. Comes in 1000RPM and 2000RPM varieties.
    Last edited by Vapor; 03-20-2007 at 12:40 PM.

  16. #16
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    My fat Delta rules them all baby. Bring on the ear plugs and 220 CFM!

  17. #17
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    I love that fan

    Light blue line in all the high speed fan graphs that just owns everything when it comes to raw performance....not even THAT loud all things considered....

    Also, I'd like to point out that the Delta 1212EHE suffered on the CPU test because its 11 (or 13, I forget) diffuser blades block a fairly significant amount of (HSF) radiator area....or at least that's the only rationale I can think of.

  18. #18
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    Very nice review!

    But what about the Antec Tricool 120mm?

  19. #19
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    Er nevermind, in the middle of the radiator tests you have a "high speed in open air" labeled one that is the same graph as the high speed on radiator one.

    http://www.sidewindercomputers.com/de12tfexhisp.html

    Also that should be the best Much higher pressure than the counter rotating model.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichelinGuy View Post
    Very nice review!

    But what about the Antec Tricool 120mm?
    Didn't test it...lots of requests for it though, I'll see what I can do to get it in next batch

    Quote Originally Posted by afireinside View Post
    Er nevermind, in the middle of the radiator tests you have a "high speed in open air" labeled one that is the same graph as the high speed on radiator one.
    Yeah, I know....put a disclaimer somewhere in that REALLY long post....happened when my VM crashed and didn't notice it until after I made the post, sorry.

    I also want to try the new PFB Delta series....more blades, fewer diffusers, different blade geometry, same RPM, slightly more pressure....but fwiw, pressure isn't the whole story as the counter rotating Delta may not have the best 'pressure' but that's because the air dispersion pattern is VERY spread out, unlike the TFB and PFB series. Not sure what that means for us, but the counter-rotating was hands down the best on the radiator and the CPU, even at the same CFM levels as the TFB.
    Last edited by Vapor; 03-20-2007 at 01:03 PM.

  21. #21
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    Awesome work! Long awaited is right, I'm sure it must feel great to finally post this.

    Pabst has been well known in the industry for a quite a while, so it doesn't come as that great of a surprise, but you've shown us that we shouldn't be forgetting about them.

    Sharkoon...never heard of them till now.

    In any case, I'm sure this will be an eyeopener for just about everyone that reads it one way or another, and should prove to be an indispensable resource.

  22. #22
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    vapñor you are missing a great fan in your wonderful list....


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    YOU want to FIGHT CANCER OR AIDS join us at WCG and help to have a better FUTURE

  23. #23
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    Shouldn't the last graph of the Adjusted DB be 1M instead of 12cm?
    I see a few graphs like that.

    Just a small error.

    Or is it supposed to be like that.

  24. #24
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    vapor i love you man, so it looks like the noctua fans fell right out of the box at the beginning after all, so looks like ill be picking up 4 sharkoon golfball 2000's

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speederlander View Post
    My fat Delta rules them all baby. Bring on the ear plugs and 220 CFM!
    hahahah yeah i've got the 190CFM hehehe....crazy airflow


    Vapor great effort

    i have a fan fetish too....love it

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