120mm Fan Roundup: Scythe, 1stPlayer, Reeven, Phanteks

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120mm Fan Roundup: Scythe, 1stPlayer, Reeven, Phanteks

October 24, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Phanteks PH-F120MP
Reeven Euros
Scythe Slip Stream 120 DB 1stPlayer SteamPunk Pro
Phanteks Scythe 1stPlayer
Street Price
€17.50 (MSRP)
US$12 US$33

This is a roundup of five 120 mm fans from both well respected and lesser known manufacturers. From fairly well known brand Phanteks comes the PH-F120MP, described as a radiator fan, with a high static pressure design differing greatly from the fans Phanteks ships with their heatsinks. The Scythe Slip Stream (aka Kaze-Jyuni) is one of our favorite fan lines of all time and the 120 dB is a follow-up using the exact same design but with ball instead sleeve bearings. Reeven's Euros is as low key as it's manufacturer, with little detail aside from the use of fluid bearings by Sony. China-based 1stPlayer has the most interesting fan we've seen in a while in the SteamPunk Pro as it has a modular design and an odd frame.

The fans.

The following is a summary of our current fan testing methodology; for more information as to our reasoning behind all this, it's described in great detail in this fan roundup.


Our test setup.
  • i7-1366 CPU die simulator with embedded T-type Thermocouple wire -- A generous contribution from Thermalright. It can handle up to 150W, but its heat distribution is somewhat more even than a typical CPU. The main thing is that it gets hot enough, with extreme consistency, and there are no worries about a CPU or motherboard breaking down.
  • Thermalright Archon heatsink -- It's a good performer like most Thermalright CPU heatsinks, and it can fit very large fans. It is also quite responsive to the size of fan used due to its big mating surface area for the fan. Given the same RPM, for example, a 140mm fan always results in lower temperature than a 120mm fan. For a fan test platform, this is as it should be.
  • Mastech 6030D DC Regulated Power supply, 0-64V/3A -- It heats up the CPU die simulator with power up to 137W.
  • For fan speed control, Fan Xpert 2 utility in Asus P8Z77-V Pro motherboard -- A great board to work with to test fans. You'll appreciate the detailed data summary it generates. It also incorporates a voltage regulation circuit for its non-CPU 4-pin headers, which allows 3-pin non-PWM fans to be analyzed using its auto-tune function, and to run the entire test on the fan when appropriate. It has too conservative a definition of "safe starting speed", which prevents many 3-pin fans from running at very low (but still safe) speeds.
  • Kanomax 6803 Vane Anemometer -- ±1% accuracy rating, which is believable. This is by far the most accurate of the handful that we've acquired over the years. Ironically, it is used not as a primary tool, however, but a secondary one as we're not concerned about airflow per se, but its thermal effects in a cooling system.
  • Mannix DT8852 Dual Input Thermometer (K, J or T Thermocouple input) -- Supposedly 0.1% accurate. This is to monitor the temperature of the CPU die and the ambient air ~6" in front of the fan intake
  • Guangzhou Landtek Instruments Scroboscope DT2350P (primary tachometer) -- This is supposed to be accurate to 0.1%.
  • Laser digital tachometer by Neiko Tools USA (alternate tachometer) -- This is supposed to have 0.05% accuracy, but I don't trust it as much as the strobe, it requires a reflective tape to be stuck on a blade, often gives false readings (like 9687 RPM when measuring a fan spinning at ~700 RPM)) and doesn't work well with light colored fins.
  • SPCR hemi-anechoic chamber and audio analysis system.


Our die simulator is heated up to maximum capacity with the Archon heatsink in place; the heatsink hasn't been removed since we started using this test setup. Fans are strapped on the heatsink and run at a variety of predetermined speeds. We record airflow, noise, and temperature rise (the difference between ambient temperature and the temperature of the object under thermal load). Better cooling results in lower temperature rise; worse cooling results in higher temperature rise. In this case, the ambient is the temperature of the air six inches in front of the fan, and the thermal load temperature is that of the CPU die simulator.

The fans are tested at top speed and 1500, 1100, 900, 700, and 550 RPM if possible (most fans can hit at least three or four of these speeds, giving us a nice cross-section for comparison). Long experience has shown that neither noise nor cooling is affected by changes in fan speed that are lower than ~50 RPM. We do not sweat to hit the target speeds exactly, but they are usually better than 50 RPM within target, as measured by the stroboscope.

Using RPM as the controlled variable has an important, practical advantage: For most computer users, RPM is the fan/cooling data that is most readily accessible, and controllable. Almost every fan in computerland these days offers RPM data output, and every motherboard has the ability to monitor it. If you set the speed of your selected fan at one of our test points, you know exactly what noise level (within a decibel or so) will obtain. There are many ways to adjust fan speed as most motherboards are equipped with speed controllers for their fan headers, and monitor fan speeds for any standard 3-pin fans or 4-pin PWM fans, and the RPM can be displayed right on the desktop using any number of fan and/or thermal utilities.

Phanteks PH-F120MP

The earlier tested 140 mm Phanteks PH-F140HP, was phenomenal. It produced excellent temperatures at low measured noise levels, and the subjective acoustic quality was superb. Currently, Phanteks has three 120 mm models, two of which use a similar design. The third, the PH-F120MP, is described as a radiator fan and utilizes fewer blades with bigger surface areas to increase static pressure. Such a formula is supposed to be better suited for pushing air through material with greater impedance such as a typical radiator or a heatsink with densely-packed fins. However, fans designed in this fashion also tend to be louder which may mitigate any performance advantage.

The PH-F120MP ships with just a set of standard black fan screws. Considering the lack of accessories, the box and plastic tray used to house the fan are much larger than necessary.

Intake side.

Exhaust side.
Specifications: Phanteks PH-F120MP
Manufacturer Phanteks Power Rating 2.4 W
Model Number PH-F120MP Airflow Rating 53.3 CFM
Bearing Type Updraft Floating Balance Speed Rating 500 ~ 1800 RPM
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Noise Rating 25 dBA
Hub Size 42 mm Header Type 4-pin
Blade Diameter 112 mm Fan Mounts Screws
Cable Length 50 cm Weight 160 g
Starting Voltage 4.0~4.5 V Number of Samples 6
Corner Type Closed Retail Availability Yes
Additional accessories: none.

The Phanteks PH-F120MP is a 1800 RPM PWM model that can be described as dense. It's a hefty 160 grams and is equipped with a fairly big motor, broad blades with small gaps in-between them, and a solid-looking frame with closed corners and damping material around the mounting holes. The blades are lightly curved and have pronounced ridges along the outer edges pointing outward on the intake side of the fan. Phanteks claims that the large hub reduces the effects of resonance and improves rotational stability while the blades produce a "downdraft vortex" that channels greater amounts of air and reduces turbulence across the blade surface.

We sampled three of the six fans provided by Phanteks and found there was little variance in their acoustics. They sounded very similar at 900 RPM and above, though at lower speeds, one fan had noticeably hum. One of the other two samples was utilized for testing.

Fan Xpert 2's fan speed analysis of the Phanteks PH-F120MP.
SPCR Test Results: Phanteks PH-F120MP
Fan Speed (RPM)
Thermal Rise (°C)
Airflow in/out (FPM)

According to Fan Xpert 2, the speed bottoms out at around 500 RPM on PWM control which is right in line with Phanteks' specifications. Its speed range allows for noise levels ranging from an almost inaudible 13 [email protected] to a plainly audible 27 [email protected] Interestingly, the fan measures quieter at 900 RPM than at 700 RPM due to a shift in frequency balance. At low speeds, performance is dismal, but improves at 900 RPM and above. The airflow numbers are below average for a 120 mm model.

Acoustic analysis of the Phanteks PH-F120MP.

The noise emitted by the PH-F120MP is tonal at all speeds. At 550 RPM, it produces a low, dry-sounding hum which continues throughout most of its range. Generally, the pitch of this ~380 Hz tone increases with speed except around 900 RPM where it regresses, unexpectedly creating a less annoying output. At about 1000 RPM, the previous acoustics come back in full force and multiple strong tones appear together. At 1100 RPM, the fan starts to buzz and become turbulent as well, adding more complexity to the sound. In short, the acoustics are an absolute mess and a complete reverse of the PH-F140HP.

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