Case Fans: Noctua NF-P12 120mm

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noctua_nf_p12_2Having tried the Noctua NT-H1 TIM, we were very excited to be offered the chance of testing the Noctua NF-P12 120mm fan.  There are various reasons for purchasing aftermarket fans, in most cases though they are used to increase cooling and therefore the stability of the system or to simply replace noisy fans.

The Noctua NF-P12 at first glance (aprt from the colour scheme) doesn't appear greatly different to other fans, however on closer inspection it becomes clearer why this fan is so innovative: there are more fan blades (9 in total)  for greater airflow at lower speeds, and each fan blade has Vortex-Control Notches (VCNs) which are staggered between blades.  The purpose of the VCNs is to create different vortex patterns (and therefore acoustic frequencies) for each fan blade and therefore smooth out the actual frequencies to create a more pleasant noise than a standard fan.

noctua_nf_p12_1Internally the fan sports the Noctua SSO-bearing which Noctua's test show to surpass all other bearings (sleeve and double ball bearing) in both quietness and longevity, and the Smooth Commutation Drive (SC-Drive) that reportedly reduces torque variations and improves  For more detailed information on these features please visit the Noctua website.

Installation of the Noctua NF-P12 is straight forward, either using the included mounting screws or alternatively Noctua provides rubber mounting pegs that insulate the case from the fan to prevent any vibration.  We tested both methods and to be honest found little difference in vibrational noise (none was heard!) in our Antec 1200 test rig.  However, it is perceptible that in cheaper cases the rubber pegs would have helped reduce noise and it highlights just how far Noctua go to ensure a successful installation.

noctua_nf_p12_3Connection of the fan to power can either be directly through a fan header, or via either the Low Noise Adaptor (LNA), Ultra-Low Noise Adaptor (ULNA) or a standard Molex adaptor.  The LNA and ULNA adaptors lower the current to the fan and therefore reduce fan speeds and noise.

In order to give some sort of comparison, we compared the Noctua NF-P12 fan against one of the Antec 120mm Tri-Cool fans installed in our test rig (Antec pride themselves on their "Quiet Technology").  Across the board, using all three speed settings of the Antec Tri-Cool fan and leaving the NF-P12 without power adaptors, the NF-P12 sounded to us much quieter than the Antec Fan.  This made us go away and look at the specs of both fans and this is what we found:

Antec Tri-Cool Noctua NF-P12
RPM 1200 1600 2000 900 1100 1300
Airflow (cubic meters / min) 1.1 1.6 2.3 1.1 1.3 1.5
dB(A) 25 28 30 12.6 16.9 19.8

Whilst the maximum airflow of the Antec Tri-Cool can't be matched by the Noctua (and it is unlikely to need to), the top speed setting of the Noctua NF-P12 (1300rpm) has an airflow equivalent to that of the Antec fan at 1600rpm and is significantly quieter (~8dB(A)).

In summary this must surely make the NF-P12 the quietest 120mm fan on the market with a good airflow to boot.  Significantly outperforming the Antec Tri-Cool in our test rig surprised us and we can only recommend this Rolls-Royce of fans, especially considering it has a 6 year guarantee.