- Created on 29 April 2009
Aftermarket fans for PC cases are widely available, however the improvements that they bring to a system build can vary greatly. It is well worth the time and effort in researching the latest developments and specifications of fans in order to obtain the best fan for your purposes and qualities such as acoustical noise, airflow and static pressure are all important when considering your purchase. One of the best manufacturers (in our opinion) is Noctua and we were very happy to be offered the chance to review the latest addition to their range, the Noctua NF-S12B the successor to the very popular NF-S12.
The Noctua NF-S12B is aimed for use as a case fan, either as a replacement or addition to an existing system, in comparison to the Noctua NF-P12 (reviewed here) which acheives a higher static pressure and is therefore more suited to use as a CPU cooler. It is nice to see that Noctua put this much effort into the design of their fans, with two distinct design paths for their different uses.
The NF-S12B fan itself has the recognisable Noctua colour scheme (brown/beige) and the fan looks similar to the original NF-S12 fan, however the improvements are in the fine details. The main improvement in the fan design resides within the blade tips, which have been bevelled. This apparent small change creates an increase of more than 10% more airflow (increased to 100.6 m3/hr) and static pressure (increased to 1.31 mm H2O) at a reduced fan speed of 1200rpm (compared to the NF-S12 of 1300rpm) whilst reducing the acoustical noise of the fan by 1 dB (For more details about the blade design click here). The NF-S12B fan incorporates the second iteration of the "Smooth Commutation Drive" (SCD2) which further reduces the noise of the fan rotation. As with the original the fan is built around the self-stabilising oil-pressure bearing (SSO bearing) utilised by the majority of Noctua fans which has proven to give the best results amongst bearing types in terms of quietness and longevity. The SSO bearing relies upon repulsive magnetic forces to maintain moving parts away from each other and therefore reduce friction and noise (For more details on the SSO bearing click here).
The Noctua NF-S12B is very simple to fit using either the supplied screws, or the rubber fan gromets (vibration compensators) that apparently reduce the transfer of vibrational noise from the fan to the case. In practice we couldn't tell the difference between the methods using our test rig which utilises the Antec Twelve Hundred case. However in cheaper or lighter built cases it is quite possible that the rubber mounting gromets would help reduce any vibration between the fan and the case.
Also included with the fan are the "Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor" (ULNA) and the "Low-Noise-Adaptor"(LNA) which limit the fan speeds for low acoustical noise output. For extremely quiet systems these adaptors lower the fan speeds so that noise output is way below ambient (6.2dB at 600rpm, and 10.6dB at 600rpm respectively), however, most people will be happy with the fan running at full speed which was virtually inaudible in our test rig (18.1dB). The fan in our tests substantially outperformed the Antec Tri-Cool fans and even the NF-P12 fan that we previously tested (click here to read our review), giving much quieter running at equivalent fan speeds and airflows.
We would definitely recommend the Noctua NF-S12B fan if you want to replace noiser fans and/or improve airflow through the case where it provides truly excellent airflow to noise ratio with the fan being almost inaudible even at its highest running speeds. Unlike other brands Noctua provides an industry leading 6 year warranty with their fans ensuring that the fan will most likely outlast at least one system if not two. Although it isn't the cheapest fan (~£18) we feel that it is definitely worth the money.
Amazon: Noctua NF-S12B