Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H80
Power Supply Corsair CX500
Enclosure BitFenix Prodigy with 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro intake @ 5V

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

So why use a closed enclosure, and a Mini-ITX one no doubt? As it turns out, my experience in testing Origin's Chronos LAN box suggested that this might actually be ideal. Removing the middle drive cage allows for a straight shot between the Prodigy's intake and the radiator fan, allowing us the opportunity to test how quietly and efficiently the fans can run in a closed system with no real acoustic baffling, while the 200mm Spectre Pro attenuated to 5V runs both quietly enough to not significantly impact results while providing enough airflow to ensure the radiator fans can do their job. Using a larger enclosure felt like it might complicate things with too many variables; the small and wonderfully efficient BitFenix Prodigy felt perfect for the job.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Finally, for the closed-loop cooler we used Corsair's H80. Our own testing proved this was a solid performer and fairly representative of 120mm closed-loop units. The H80 includes a thick, beefy 120mm radiator as well as having dual fan headers built into the waterblock that run non-PWM fans at a constant 12V. I elected against testing in a push-pull configuration, though, to isolate individual fan performance; test results are in a push configuration only.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded; since the block runs the fans at a constant 12V, the only fan that changes speed (and thus noise) is the stock H80 fan, so the noise level for that fan is recorded again during the Prime95 run.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the H80, the SP120 fans, and CX500 power supply.
  • Thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the Air Penetrator AP121 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Prodigy enclosure and Spectre Pro 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to CoolerMaster for providing us with the Excalibur and Turbine Master 120mm fans.
  • Thank you to Noctua for providing us with the NF-F12 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to be quiet! for providing us with the Silent Wings 2 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 3
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  • landerf - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Look at enermax 120mm fans on newegg. Plenty of batwing fans and some pwm options. I'd look too at the non-batwing TB fans. Their noise-performance ratio seems even better. I replaced my gentle typhoons with them because I've decided I can't take the ball bearing noise.

    Speaking of still no GTs? Surprised you don't have them laying around. Seems like everybody has one by now.
    Reply
  • Udit - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Could you add the Gentle Typhoon 1850rpm to the test please? Reply
  • Naviblue - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I second this, where is the REAL King of the hill at on the charts? At least let us make a comparison to these other fans... Everyone knows Gentle Typhoons are benchmark! Reply
  • Earthmonger - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You two are kidding, right? That wouldn't be fair at all. This article is intended for tourists, not enthusiasts. Including an enthusiast fan like the GTs in this.. test.. would be plain silly. If you want real testing, this isn't the place for it. Hell, this test doesn't even mention bearing types. Reply
  • DarkStryke - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Yeah, don't include one of the best performers when you can hawk a load of mediocre overpriced junk instead!

    Good reasoning there bud.
    Reply
  • lbeyak - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I must third this. From my research the Gentle Typhoons are basically the best 120 mm fans on the market. They are the ones I bought for my personal build. Reply
  • Sea Shadow - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Amateurs, the Gentle Typhoon is child's play. If you want to see a real enthusiast fan go look up Delta or Panaflo. 100-250CFM+ with pressures ranging from 10-30mm+. I use a set of 3 Delta AFB 1212VHE fans for my watercooling loop (which readily double the specs of the "best" gentle typhoon). At 5 volts they are livable and have no trouble forcing the air through the entirety of my case, heatercore and all! Ahh, makes me miss the old days of overclocking my opty 165....

    Anyways, I enjoyed the review. It is nice to see what the rest of the market is doing.
    Reply
  • iamkyle - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    This man speaks the truth.

    Panasonic and Delta Electronics have been putting fans in computers since all before most of you were born.

    If they're good enough for IBM XT's, YOU CAN BET they are good enough for a modern rig.
    Reply
  • Earthmonger - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    When I think of the "best balance between thermal performance and acoustics", neither Panasonic nor Delta come to mind. Those are fans with an exclusive focus on performance, and a blatant disregard for acoustics.

    This test may lack a lot of relevant data, but at least the GTs are in proper context here.
    Reply
  • lyeoh - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Whaaat? Sorry I can't hear you! Reply

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