Noctua NF-F12 Focused Flow 120mm Fan
(4.5 star rating)
Noctua has a unique new fan available that we will be reviewing today - the Noctua NF-F12 Focused Flow 120mm fan. Rather than just being quieter, this fan focuses on improving aerodynamics and turbulence to be more effective at a quiet acoustic level. Featuring very unique guide vanes at varying spacing intervals, Noctua promises both less turbulent air being forced over your cooler, as well as spreading the airflow noise over various frequency ranges to create a broader “white noise” that is less objectionable to the ear. We'll test it as both a traditional case exhaust fan as well as a cooler fan on a heat pipe tower. So, is it just marketing hype, or does it actually perform?
This is the only fan I've ever seen with fold out flaps on the packaging to explain the offerings. I never even imagined it possible. The back of this package has 2 fold outs that not only brag, but explain what this fan has over its competitors. I'm not an aerodynamics engineer, but it was interesting to read. All the science talk doesn't mean much if the device isn't of good quality though.
The NF-F12 is a standard size 120mm x 120mm x 25mm fan. However instead of 4 thin square arms on the back, this fan features 11 “stator guide vanes” that are angled with “vortex control notches” molded into them. The fan also features rubber vibration reduction pads on all four corners on each side, as well as the included 4 rubber anti-vibration mounting posts. The power cables are all wrapped in rubber sleeves, leaving a well finished and professional look. Everything included is of high quality construction and stylishly designed.
|NF-F12 Box||NF-F12 with accessories|
As a case fan, installation was quite easy. The fan can be installed with the included screwed, or using the recommended approach of anti-vibration rubber standoffs. This is the method I used for installation. A screwdriver was required to remove the stock fan, but absolutely nothing is required for installing the fan with the standoffs. Simply slide them through the case mounting holes and then through the fan mounting holes, and pull until they snap into place. As a CPU fan, Noctua recommends using your coolers mounting system. Mine uses wire clips, so this was again tool free. Fortunately, since rubber pads are included for all corners of the fan, some vibration resistance is still included in this installation method.
Features and Specifications
- Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
- Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
- Bearings: Noctua SSO version 2
- MTBF: >150,000h
- Power Consumption: 0.6W
- Max Speed (without LNA, with LNA): 1500RPM, 1200RPM
- Min Speed (without LNA, with LNA): 300RPM, 300RPM
- Noise Level (without LNA, with LNA): 22.4dBA, 18.6dBA
- Airflow (without LNA, with LNA): 93.4m3/h (54.97 CFM), 74.3m3/h (43.73 CFM)
- Static Pressure (without LNA, with LNA): 2.61mmH2O, 1.83mmH2O
|Front view||Rear view|
- Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
- Case: Cooler Master Elite 371
- CPU: AMD PhenomII X4 940 Black Edition 3.0Ghz (Deneb, 125W)
- Previous Heatsink (baseline): GELID GX-7
- Memory: 4GB Corsair DDR2
- Motherboard: MSI DKA790GX
- Graphics: XFX GeForce 9800 GT 512MB
- Power Supply: Antec 550 Neo HE
- Hard Drives: 1x Maxtor DiamondMax 160GB 7200rpm 2x Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB 7200rpm
|Installed in case||Installed on heatsink|
Cooling Performance Testing
The most relevant portion of this measurement is how much heat is removed. For temperature monitoring, I used the hardware sensors on my motherboard, CPU, and GPU to measure system, CPU, and GPU temperatures at idle and under load with both the stock 120mm fan and the new Noctua NF-F12.
For the case test, I tried to generate heat throughout the system. The original fan here is a common Cooler Master 120mm fan (A12025-12CB-3BN-F1) that came with the case. I ran Batman: Arkham City through benchmark mode. All settings in the game were maxed out at 1920x1200 resolution and DirectX 11 features enabled on the GeForce GTX 560 and full hardware PhysX processing on the secondary GeForce 9800GT. The reported temperatures are indicated in the table below. The differences between the two fans are not significant, but they are consistently cooler with the Noctua.
For the heat sink test, I used Prime95's In Place FFT for about 15 minutes until temperatures stabilized. Although I was originally running the GELID GX-7 in a dual fan configuration, the second fan was removed for this test comparison point. In this case, we see no real difference in the performance. However, the Noctua fan is running at 22.4 dBA max, pushing 54.97 CFM, while the GELID fan runs at up to 26.8dBA pushing 75.6CFM. Seeing that the Noctua fan holds it's own against this slightly louder fan that is pushing roughly 37% more air suggests that maybe the air flow and turbulence discussed on the package wasn't purely hype.
On a side by side, open air comparison, the Noctua NF-F12 was quieter than most of the fans I compared it to. In the volume comparison line up was a Dynex 120mm fan from Best Buy, rated at 38.5dBA. There was no question which fan was quieter, however at 73.7CFM, the Dynex fan does move more air. Another 120mm fan I had lying around was an Aero Cool 120mm Silver Lightning fan. At 26.58dBA, this fan move 65CFM, which is again more than the Noctua. The Evercool 12 Plus Green Fan (previously reviewed) was the quietest by a very subtle amount. It is rated only at less than 23dBA and no volume rating is provided. It is however a 14cm fan spinning at only 1200RPM. I think the Noctua NF-F12 kept its promise in volume.
Once installed into a case, the difference is more noticeable. As a case fan, the NF-F12 was compared against a Cooler Master A12025-12CB-3BN-F1, the stock fan included with many Cooler Master cases, include the test bed Elite 371. This fan, rated at 19.8dBA and 44.03CFM, is the closest comparison I had to the Noctua fan. Using the Low Noise Adapter, the Noctua is right on par with the specs from the Cooler Master fan. Where it did appear to win was in installation, where I did not use the Low Noise Adapter. The Noctua fan maintained no discernible difference when mounted on the included rubber posts, however temperatures were lowered by about 1 C across the board.
Noctua NF-F12 PWM Focused Flow Fan
The Noctua NF-F12 is a well designed 120mm fan. The unique Noctua color combination makes this fan stand out nicely in the case. The vibration reducing rubber corner guards and mounting stand offs really seem to help bring down the noise out of the case. The noise difference is more noticeable after this fan is installed than it is side by side, which I attribute to these subtle but important details. Sipping power at just over half a watt, and including a Low Noise Adapter, this fan would be just as well suited for an energy efficient and practically silent HTPC as it would in a high end gaming rig. It's proven ability to hold its own against fans pushing significantly more air appear to backup the fact that engineering and aerodynamics matter. At an online price around $25, this isn't a cheap fan for a throw away system. However, if you take pride in your computer and want quiet and style without sacrificing performance, this fan is well worth the money.
Pros: Quiet operation, shock absorbers work well; excellent cooling performance.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5