Fan Roundup #6: Scythe, Noiseblocker, Antec, Nexus, Thermalright

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Anyone who has read more than a few SPCR articles knows about the Nexus 120 fan. It has been our reference 120mm fan for many years, and it remains our reference for continuity's sake. I use the term reference in the sense of a known benchmark against which others can be compared, not as "the best"... although the Nexus 120 was a very quiet fan when introduced, it provides a surprising level of cooling even at very low RPM, and it is always a contender for top quiet 120mm fan. It is included in this roundup to establish a marker in this new test methodology.

Much of the description of the Nexus 120 comes from our first formal review of it, back in 2006 and from the Nexus web site. As far as we know, the fan has not undergone any changes other than open flange corners instead of the earlier closed (and less versatile) corners.

The geometry of the four struts is good, the 7 forward-swept, thin-edge fins intersecting with them in mostly perpendicular angles, which helps prevent tonality.

Published Specifications: Nexus D12SL-12
Brand Nexus Power Rating 0.30A max.
Manufacturer Yate Loon Airflow Rating 36.87 CFM
Model Number D12SL-12 RPM Rating 1,000 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 18 dB(A)*
Bearing Type Sleeve Header Type 3-pin & Molex
Hub Size 1.58" Starting Voltage 7V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Weight 123 grams
Fan Mounts 4 pcs Ultra-Soft silicone Number of Samples 4
Our thanks to EndPCNoise for supplying these samples.

This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2's auto-analysis of the Nexus 120 fan.

SPCR Test Results: Nexus 120
°C Rise
Airflow in/out (FPM)
Airflow in feet per minute are given for both sides of the fan, as the exhaust side always provide much higher flow, due to its much higher turbulence. In the past, we multiplied FPM by the area of the fan's blades to obtain CFM.

The Nexus 120mm fan is very popular among regular SPCR readers, and for good reason. The combination of a decent noise level at maximum speed, a smooth, low frequency noise character, and its ability to be inaudible at lower voltages make it a favorite. It has been our reference for heatsink tests for ages, and it has repeatedly outshone stock fans on even very pricey CPU coolers, especially at reduced speed.

The claimed 18 dBA SPL was confirmed in our lab, and the cooling performance was a 22°C rise over ambient. Even with only a 200 RPM drop from maximum speed, the noise level dropped to just 14 [email protected], below the ambient level in most environments, and typically inaudible. Yet the cooling effect on our test rig dropped by only 2°C. Slowing it to 700 RPM provides only a 2 dBA improve in noise at another 2°C cooling cost, which many users will happily accept. The start voltage is cited as 7V; it does not consistently start at 5V (550 RPM) and there isn't much need to run it so slow, and the noise improvement is inaudible in 99% of applications, and the cost in cooling power is high.

The noise character is low in frequency, and smooth. A word of caution: Much of the low frequency noise is present as vibration as well as sound and can cause sympathetic resonance if it is hard-mounted. At lower fan speeds, the vibration is so low that this is not a concern, but those using the fan at maximum speed may find soft-mounting with silicone grommets helpful.

Sample variance seemed high, and not all samples we heard sounded as good as the best. One sample we heard just seemed to be louder overall without any identifiable change in noise character, while another had a slight ticking that marred the smoothness of the noise. Other users have also reported some problem samples with ticking. The difference is not large, and at some speeds it may be insignificant, but it is enough to be noticeable in a very quiet system. Typical retail pricing is $10~12.

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