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Thread: Radiator frontal area chart

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    Radiator frontal area chart

    I've made simple comparision of radiator frontal area. Just a basic data, but if put everything in one place, can lead to interesting conclusions.
    What is important to read these numbers:
    frontal area =/= surface area
    These values are not the same, but if we assume we compare radiators within same class (same thickness, same fpi (fins per inch density), same type and build quality (ideally same manufacturer), they can scale accordingly.
    Another factor is flow rate, caused by radiator restrictions. This also changes with radiator size, but often wider radiators have lower restrictions (better), at least if we consider conventional radiator type (not rad with tubes like mo-ra series).
    Final thing are fans, there is lack of good tests of larger fans. What we know today, is that 120mm fans have best parameters, and best 120mm fans (especially to use with radiators where static pressure is deciding factor) outperform 140mm fans. But these differences are not that dramatic, and each new fan model that appears on market can change it. Same goes for larger fans 180mm, and 200mm, we can assume they are slightly worse than equal area of 120mm fans, but it depends on quality. At the moment nobody knows, that for example gentle typhoons (one of the best 120mm fans in terms of pressure/noise ratio) beat all most popular 180mm fans. We can only guess here, but even if it does, it only gives some edge to 120mm fans, that has to be taken into consideration.

    So taking all these factors into account, and some more, such as - larger rads due to different amount of water canals, are not exactly a scaled version of smaller ones, so water behaves differently inside these rads, that can cause difference in performance.
    But if we assume we compare radiators considering all previously mentioned points, same brand, same thickness, same fpi, a decent quality fans, we can use this graph to give us at least some idea about how performance will scale.
    There is lot of variables that can change it, so don't treat this as performance chart. It should be used carefully, always including other factors impacting radiator performance.

    I use 120x120mm radiator as reference, since it is most common type.






    Conclusions:

    1. 3x120 (360) radiator has only ~10% higher frontal area than 2x140 (280)
    2. 3x140 (420) radiator has about same frontal surface (2% more) as more popular 4x120 (480), which is 60cm longer, making it difficult to fit on top of many popular cases
    3. 180mm radiators have much better frontal area than 120 (125%) and 140 (65%) rads
    4. Single 180mm radiator has larger frontal surface than 240 (2x120) by 12,5%
    5. 2x180 radiator, that can fit in several popular cases, is only length of regular 360, but has frontal area of four and a half 120mm rads (50% more than 360, 12,5% more than 480)
    6. 3x180mm radiator beats king of conventional (long) radiators, 560mm (4x140), in terms of frontal area, by 24%.
    7. single 200mm radiator, has frontal surface area close to a 360 (missing 8%), and is slitghly better than 280 (2x140)
    8. Large square external radiators 9x140 (1260), have 36% higher frontal surface area than 9x120 (just like single 120mm vs 140mm), thus if external seems to be worth it (size does not matter that much), even used with four 200mm fans, over classic 9x120 used with 4x180mm fans. Frontal surface gain for a 9x140mm over 9x120mm is more than one extra 360 radiator.
    Last edited by aerial; 11-29-2011 at 11:56 PM.

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    The larger rads might have a larger surface area but they all so have larger dead spots and wasted surface area ... ever considered that in you conclusion ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlwood37 View Post
    The larger rads might have a larger surface area but they all so have larger dead spots and wasted surface area ... ever considered that in you conclusion ...
    Which is why you use a shroud. A 140mm radiator w/ a 120mm fan + adapter/shroud = ultimate performance.

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    Yeh but this is why all these charts (btw no offence by this) mean nothing at all. There just useless in real world environments.

    They give a expected idea but they dont take into account the following

    1) Dead spots
    2) Fin density
    3) Tubs in the rads
    4) Flow rates
    5) if there copper, brass or ali
    6) fan speeds
    7) amount of metal used

    i could go on forever but over all the chart means nothing esp when we getting a 3 x 120mm rad to perform close to a 4 x 120mm. Its theory that's all and a badly made 4 x 140mm rad can under perform a decent made 3 x 120mm rad and the same goes for some of these external rads as well.

    e.g in theory these thermal fin rads sound good on paper but in reality they suck big time. All look at the size of them there HUGE .....
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlwood37 View Post
    Yeh but this is why all these charts (btw no offence by this) mean nothing at all. There just useless in real world environments.

    They give a expected idea but they dont take into account the following

    1) Dead spots
    2) Fin density
    3) Tubs in the rads
    4) Flow rates
    5) if there copper, brass or ali
    6) fan speeds
    7) amount of metal used

    i could go on forever but over all the chart means nothing esp when we getting a 3 x 120mm rad to perform close to a 4 x 120mm. Its theory that's all and a badly made 4 x 140mm rad can under perform a decent made 3 x 120mm rad and the same goes for some of these external rads as well.

    e.g in theory these thermal fin rads sound good on paper but in reality they suck big time. All look at the size of them there HUGE .....
    You are missing that radiator performance is limited predominantly by the volumetric heat capacity of air. The only way to fix that is by allowing more area to inlet cold fresh air. While details of fin density etc can optimize slightly for specific fan powers those details are relatively small gains in comparison..the frontal area which this chart does represent extremely well is the single most important characteristic if comparing similar folded fin designs.

    While extremely simplified it is good information understanding the limitations and helps make sense of the results we have seen on larger core rads. It also gives you perspective on width factors. I would like to see the same chart with the same fan but ultra wide. It wouldn't be quite as dramatic but it would still be an interesting look at possible performance gains.

    Bottom line frontal area which this chart represents is the #1 performance characteristic. I bet you will be surprised how accurate it actually is and why the 420 sized rads shrouded for 360 fans perform like 420 sized radiators...no big surprise.

    The finned tube designs are simply other manufacturers attempting an alternative manufacturing process to conventional folded fin types soldered inplace. Finned tube can be constructed using common machine tooling where folded fin conventional rads require rare and very specialized equipment. You can't compare because round tubes are inefficient at heat transfer and the air surface area is too small. The automotive industry has been developing the technology long before water cooling ever became and pretty well perfected it. All water cooling did was format to fit Pc fans and did some minor optimizations for our lower fan powers and need for silence. For high speed fans you can still go out and grab a cheap automotive heater core and get very good results with proper shrounding and strong fans. Unfortunately watercooling today is more mainstream and generally only the extreme modders and craftsmen are willing to build custom shrouds for the fun of it but thats another topic..

    Anyhow, I would say the chart is extremely useful and much more relevant than every other characteristic you can compare dimensionally or physically without testing and splitting hairs in accurate test conditions.

    The only thing I would add is to consider fan options. 120mm fans are far more developed and refined than larger sizes but that doesn't stop you from shrouding 120s to fit larger cores.

    While the details are important in optimizing a given core size, the core size of most 120mm rads are not fully optimized in size to fit all available case applications and would net you larger gains over the little stuff. I do think there are historical standards now on the 15mm 120mm fan spacing, but width is an opportunity being overlooked and the chart helps convey that a bit.
    Last edited by Martinm210; 11-28-2011 at 11:41 PM.

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    BTW, this chart doesn't really account for irregularities in rad build .. eg. how does rad frontal area changes with different fan spacing (TC PAs with old fan spacing), or what one can gain if makes rad wider then fan (common design feature of HWLabs). Chart covers just rough fan_size ^ 2 * section_count.
    Though probably at the end all that matters - rad real world performance anyway, and even if guys like Martin may suggest some new paths to explore (eg. his mentioned elsewhere much wider rads for common sized fans) will it actually make it to vendors or China? - btw, i'm all for this, this seems rather promising seeing performance of aquacomputer's hybrid 140/120 rad performance tested @ skinneelab. It just needs to be since the beginning intentionally designed as 120mm fan rad, just wider one. - as in rad length should be cut down even for such rads.

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    As for the radiator type, there is plenty of examples, where one manufacturer makes all sorts of radiators, with exact same technology, same materials, same FPI, and exact same surface scaling (magicool, phobya, they make all types of 120mm, 140mm, magicool also makes 180mm, and both make square large external rads, same technology as smaller, not like mo-ra with fin tube). So I think within same manufacturer, comparision is much safer.

    When it comes to "dead" area covered by fan motor, without shroud. This scales exactly the same with shroudless 120mm radiators. Still surface gain scales exactly the same, both rad types (small and larger) are crippled equally by this issue. Also various tests show, that thanks to that built-in shrouds in rads, adding one doesn't make that muich of a difference. Third party shroud if for someone who really wants to squeeze most of his radiator, even if it is very minor gain.
    I agree that little things matter here, like for example PA rad fan spacing, that adds some extra surface, or fact that some rads are bit wider (sr-1), or fact that rads have some sort of shroud built-in, and it differes depending on manufacturer (that can also impact performance).
    Last edited by aerial; 11-28-2011 at 11:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mlwood37 View Post
    Yeh but this is why all these charts (btw no offence by this) mean nothing at all. There just useless in real world environments.

    They give a expected idea but they dont take into account the following

    1) Dead spots
    2) Fin density
    3) Tubs in the rads
    4) Flow rates
    5) if there copper, brass or ali
    6) fan speeds
    7) amount of metal used

    i could go on forever but over all the chart means nothing esp when we getting a 3 x 120mm rad to perform close to a 4 x 120mm. Its theory that's all and a badly made 4 x 140mm rad can under perform a decent made 3 x 120mm rad and the same goes for some of these external rads as well.

    e.g in theory these thermal fin rads sound good on paper but in reality they suck big time. All look at the size of them there HUGE .....
    I long hypothesized that total tubing surface area would be the big performance maker, however most of the testing I've seen in the last few year suggest that radiators group together in performance by how much fan-able surface area they have.

    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/...adiator-tested!
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/...ns-Big-Roundup

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    this chart is flawed sorry to say.

    Reason is the surface area changes greatly with fin density of the radiator your looking at, as well as how thick it is, and how nonrestrictive the rad is. Its not just surface area in the efficency sake of a rad... its a fine tuning of fin density, meshed with flow, with the proper thickness for fan penetration..

    And all the radiator in your class have off fin desintiy which means they will perform on a completely different scale...

    You cant dumb radiators down to size... we've preached this a long time ago.... you said in your first post ignoring these values, when the plane fact is these values are extremely important.


    Quote Originally Posted by Martinm210 View Post
    Anyhow, I would say the chart is extremely useful and much more relevant than every other characteristic you can compare dimensionally or physically without testing and splitting hairs in accurate test conditions.
    no its not... because if u take a GTX, and rank it with a RX, you will see COMPLETELY different values on the fan specs for each.

    Martin... how did u let this slip by?

    OP no offense.. but ur not thinking this out in completely thermodynamics, your dumbing it down, which u cant do.
    Because in the game of thermo:

    1. you must always play the game.
    2. You can never beat the game.
    3. you can NEVER cheat the game.

    Your trying to cheat thermo by ignoring the efficiency point on each of the radiators.
    Last edited by NaeKuh; 11-29-2011 at 10:43 AM.
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    As I said, compare rads within same manufacturer, same series. Obviously comparing mo-ra radiator, to hwlabs GTX and to SR1, and maybe to some slim one, does not make any sense, nobody said it does.
    But if user is considering using shrounds (thus exact same fans), and wonders if to pick for example 140mm SR1 vs 120mm SR1, this can help. Selection is even higher if you look at magicool offer, where there is plenty of radiator models with exact same fpi and thickness, but different surface area.
    This is aimed for people who already decided on what type (brand, fin density, thickness) of rad to pick, and what sort of fans they use, but they wonder about surface area.
    Imo what is even more interesting, some rads gain so much thanks to greater surface area, than they are worth considering, even if you ignore all mentioned above factors, even comparing different fpi and flow restriction. If you see that there is rad of same length but two times higher surface area, there is no way that slightly better fan selection or more optimal fpi will make it a winner. Example is 2x180 rad that has same length as a 360. The difference is so devastating in surface area, that all other factors combined can't change it.
    Last edited by aerial; 11-29-2011 at 10:57 AM.

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    there is no simular 120 rad vs a 180mm rad vs a 200mm rad vs 140mm rad. You cant even scale the fans on these rads because i have told people MANY TIMES ON THIS FORUM the flaws in oversized rads due to the efficiency sake of the fans being used....

    ALL THESE RADS HAVE DIFFERENT DENSITYS AND DIFFERENT FANS SO YOUR NEVER GOING TO GET A EVEN BALLPARK COMPARISON.

    Your graph is very hypothetical.... meaning ur under so many assumptions you cant assume any of it is true..

    Once martin wakes up to what im saying, he will add on.. but martin really wasnt thinking in his reply.


    In short i am telling you, that you can not start walking with your left foot, yet you keep telling me its only the beginning and i will change to the right foot..
    The fact is.. the moment u start from the left foot, you messed up...

    This is why testing / reviewing / whatever you wish to do in the future, is a very tough cookie.
    You need to be accurate, or you will get proven wrong, and wrong again, because your foundation is all messed up.

    Take it from a EX-Reviewer / Sponsored person.... accuracy is important.. more so then assumption.
    Last edited by NaeKuh; 11-29-2011 at 11:05 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martinm210 View Post
    You are missing that radiator performance is limited predominantly by the volumetric heat capacity of air. The only way to fix that is by allowing more area to inlet cold fresh air. While details of fin density etc can optimize slightly for specific fan powers those details are relatively small gains in comparison..the frontal area which this chart does represent extremely well is the single most important characteristic if comparing similar folded fin designs.

    While extremely simplified it is good information understanding the limitations and helps make sense of the results we have seen on larger core rads. It also gives you perspective on width factors. I would like to see the same chart with the same fan but ultra wide. It wouldn't be quite as dramatic but it would still be an interesting look at possible performance gains.
    Quote Originally Posted by aerial View Post
    Important note: surface area is not everything when it comes to radiator performance, there is several different additional factors, such as fpi (fins per inch), thickness of radiator, build quality, flow restriction, quality of fans, static pressure, air flow, ect.
    But if we compare radiators in similar environment (given we have similar fans), surface area seems to be crucial parameter that determines final performance.
    NaeKuh, you're skimming posts again. The OP and Martin understand that there will be differences in manufacturers. This guide is a starting point or a consideration point, and after this chart one should move on to the intricacies of each considered radiator to determine which, if any, they should use for their given application or upgrade.
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    Quote Originally Posted by defect9 View Post
    NaeKuh, you're skimming posts again. The OP and Martin understand that there will be differences in manufacturers. This guide is a starting point or a consideration point, and after this chart one should move on to the intricacies of each considered radiator to determine which, if any, they should use for their given application or upgrade.
    no i am not... look at his graph..

    FOR CHRIST SAKE!

    Tell me is there a

    GT 120mm? yes
    GT 140mm? No
    GT 180mm? again no
    GT 200mm? again no..

    Does a 120mm yate perform scaled as a yate 140mm? again no..
    Does ANY oversized fan perform near scale as a high performance 120mm fan?? AGAIN NO..


    So for christ sake what CFM values u using on the rads when you cant even do that....

    dont u remember my arguement on why a 140mm rad is pointless when you have crap fans vs a 120mm rad with an awesome fan?



    Dont TEACH WRONG INFO... LATELY this forum has turned BAD.. im not kidding...
    Why do you think a LOT of the original VETS dont post... because sometimes we want to just face palm.

    Wait for martin to wake up and reply... he will see what point im making... YOU CANT SCALE DIFFERENT SIZE RADS unless its by SAME VENDOR AND SAME CLASS.

    You can Scale a RX120 -> 480... however YOU CAN NOT SCALE a RX120 -> 140 -> 180 -> 200mm
    Last edited by NaeKuh; 11-29-2011 at 11:15 AM.
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    I am aware there are differences between fans, but from the test I've seen, they are not that big, to be really a crucial factor here. The fact that nobody tested 180mm fans properly doesn't mean they don't exist, or at least are not comparable to decent 120mm ones. I really don't see how larger fan has to be so much worse than several smaller fans equivalent, even without a shroud.
    As for density, there is plenty of examples of different size radiators with exact same FPI.

    You can Scale a RX120 -> 480... however YOU CAN NOT SCALE a RX120 -> 140 -> 180 -> 200mm
    If you compare rads with same fpi, similar thinkess and similar effective fan parameters, you can easily compare it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aerial View Post
    I am aware there are differences between fans, but from the test I've seen, they are not that big, to be really a crucial factor here. T
    and this is where u lost your entire credibility...

    :\

    show me where you see it not being important... because u just cheated thermo.
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    To me you lose your credibility ignoring half of what wrote in all my previous posts.
    Instead of googling examples, maybe enlight me what magical force makes a larger fan worse performer than very similar (ideally same manufacturer) high quality smaller (120mm) fan (scaled to same effective surface ofc).
    The argument that 120mm fan selection is better than any other size is valid, but it's been long enough that other sizes of fans are getting there as well, there is plenty of brands and models. Assuming quality non-120mm fans don't exist is basically where I disagree. And it seems to be only argument here - less >120mm fan models on market = they have to be worse. Wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NaeKuh View Post
    Because in the game of thermo:

    1. you must always play the game.
    2. You can never beat the game.
    3. you can NEVER cheat the game.
    yay..I've always loved bringing thermo into the discussion.. if you don't play the game you might as well not believe in gravity..
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    Also there is one thing I forgot to mention. Larger fans means we use overall less fans, that is not without impact on noise levels (motor noise).
    That really seems to be one of main issues here, the way to reduce amount of fans. In really high end systems, we get our powerful water cooling, in some big MM case, but at the end of the day, we end up with 30 fans.. It can be best of the best, bout amount of spinning motors just adds up. In extreme cases we can largely reduce amount of used fans, even at cost of some performance. In case of square 4x180 rad for examp,e trading 9 120mm fans for 4, seems like good deal, if you seek for quiet setup.

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    Naekuh is right - however as a rough guide the graph its useable.

    Anyone looking for good accuracy in estimation would be taking into account their case layout, airflow, noise tolerance, flow rate - millions of factors. Not everyone takes it that far though, everyone has to start somewhere and as a resource for beginners to watercooling or anyone not treating this as a hobby (obsession?) this is well and truly worthwhile. WC is just plain complicated when you actually look into it - not everyone does though. To the majority of people its just plumbing and a heatsink. Its only an inquisitive (bored?) mind that will question how things work, most are content that it simply works. Its only when you've taken that initial step that you will care enough about how it works to want to spend all your money making it work better. Same goes for any hobby .

    For anyone who cant be bothered reading all that, it says learn to walk before you try to run.

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    ok this is my last post..

    The Efficiency in a radiator is not just messured by size.

    You can have all the size you want, it wont matter if your not getting the required air though the rad.

    The required air though each rad is set on its thickness with relationship to its fin density. (these are 2 important things u completely ignored).
    The Penitration of the fan is on a relationship of Static Pressure which the fan can put out in the given field.
    This Value is a highly variable value because no 2 fans of different sizes are ever the same.... your ballpark ignoring real life values, and substituting them with imaginary numbers which we will never see.
    The effiency of the radiator is also looked at flow... The more flow you have, the better holding capacity of water you have.. and it was messured with the heat ranges we use, 1-1.5gpm is the prime spot..

    So you just ignored these 4 important points and lumped all radiators only based on size...

    Well, then how about the odd balls like the monsta? or the Aqua Computers Rad tower... how would they fit? The thing is THEY DONT, because your model is not accurate yet you included them in your model.

    Anyhow im done with this post.. if u refuse to listen to where ur going wrong... then there is no point in trying to show you the right path.

    Quote Originally Posted by relttem View Post
    yay..I've always loved bringing thermo into the discussion.. if you don't play the game you might as well not believe in gravity..
    Lulz.. why is it that EVERYONE ignores Thermo?

    Quote Originally Posted by aerial View Post
    And it seems to be only argument here - less >120mm fan models on market = they have to be worse. Wrong.
    lulz so you just joined the forum, and your speaking to the point where ur discrediting all the fan testing vapor has done on this forum.

    NICE... now u just majorly killed your credibility by going against vapor.

    Vapor aka Eric, spent MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY HOURS showing us how important fans are and how different they are...
    You just spat in his face saying its not important.

    What your saying is 120mm fans all share the same curve when VAPOR showed us NO:


    Quote Originally Posted by PiLsY View Post
    Naekuh is right - however as a rough guide the graph its useable.
    Dude im trying to help him be a better reviewer with more accuracy so less people who come in here and read get confused..

    His model is messed up... its not usable unless ur looking at same CLASS....
    He messed it up by going into the oversized radiators.

    120 + 240 + 360 + 480 can be lumped together.... im not agrueing this if you hold the same maker and same model.

    120 + 140 + 180 + 200 can NEVER be lumped together because we can NEVER get the fans equal to the 120mm side.. EVER.
    Last edited by NaeKuh; 11-29-2011 at 12:01 PM.
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    You continuing to ignore what I actually wrote in my posts, so I really don't mind if it is your last post.

    1. thickness - as I said multiple times, this chart is to compare rads with same thickness (in case it wasn't obvious) and same FPI (same restriction for fan)
    2. wider radiators are usually less restrictive, if compared within same brand (same type, just more surface)
    3. there are quality >120mm fans, and it is always possible to use shroud with matrix of your beloved GTs if you think they outclass everything else that much, for some reason

    Anyway, main goal of this thread was just quick roundup of rad surface, simple calculation, because most people just don't realize how rapidly surface scales up with fan size, mainly because fans are named by radiator length. Especially for people who search a way to reduce amount of fans used in their setups.

  22. #22
    Chasing After Diety
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerial View Post
    You continuing to ignore what I actually wrote in my posts, so I really don't mind if it is your last post.

    1. thickness - as I said multiple times, this chart is to compare rads with same thickness (in case it wasn't obvious) and same FPI (same restriction for fan)
    2. wider radiators are usually less restrictive, if compared within same brand (same type, just more surface)
    3. there are quality >120mm fans, and it is always possible to use shroud with matrix of your beloved GTs if you think they outclass everything else that much, for some reason
    And your here telling us we can assume a 120mm rad = 140mm rad = 180mm rad = 200mm rad..

    I am telling you IMPOSSIBLE, yet you keep telling me and us, PRETEND.

    WHATS THE POINT IN PRETENDING IF ITS NEVER GOING TO EXIST?
    Last edited by NaeKuh; 11-29-2011 at 12:05 PM.
    Nadeshiko: i7 990 12GB DDR3 eVGA Classified *In Testing... Jealous? *
    Miyuki: W3580 6GB DDR3 P6T-Dlx
    Lind: Dual Gainestown 3.07
    Sammy: Dual Yonah Sossoman cheerleader. *Sammy-> Lind.*

    [12:37] skinnee: quit helping me procrastinate block reviews, you asshat. :p
    [12:38] Naekuh: i love watching u get the firing squad on XS
    Its my fault.. and no im not sorry about it either.

  23. #23
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    If you take all I wrote into equation, the differences you are talking about are minimal (in my opinion), yout are blowing it out of proportions.
    This is where we disagree. There are no tests that I am aware of, that would show how large is that difference, and who is right (or rather how much either of us is wrong).

  24. #24
    Chasing After Diety
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerial View Post
    If you take all I wrote into equation, the differences you are talking about are minimal (in my opinion), yout are blowing it out of proportions.
    This is where we disagree. There are no tests that I am aware of, that would show how large is that difference, and who is right (or rather how much either of us is wrong).
    lulz so i dont hold any credibility on this forum?

    Man i love new members.. dont u all?

    Your obviously new to this hobby... But lets say some of the lc toys you get to play with are my innovations to this hobby thanks to the sponsorships i have had with many of the sponsors here.


    Thats it.. im done with this post.... if you guys think its merit then so be it...
    Nadeshiko: i7 990 12GB DDR3 eVGA Classified *In Testing... Jealous? *
    Miyuki: W3580 6GB DDR3 P6T-Dlx
    Lind: Dual Gainestown 3.07
    Sammy: Dual Yonah Sossoman cheerleader. *Sammy-> Lind.*

    [12:37] skinnee: quit helping me procrastinate block reviews, you asshat. :p
    [12:38] Naekuh: i love watching u get the firing squad on XS
    Its my fault.. and no im not sorry about it either.

  25. #25
    Xtreme Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    397
    So you are right because you have more posts and older account? :/
    I waited for this argument.
    Let's eot.
    Last edited by aerial; 11-29-2011 at 01:16 PM.

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