Fans from Noctua & Corsair at Computex 2012

Cooling | The Silent Front
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The other interesting fan development I saw at Computex came from a most unlikely source, Corsair of memory — and more recently, PSU and case — fame. This Silicon Valley company has been expanding and diversifying steadily since its first Seasonic-made PSUs splashed back in 2006. The biggest surprise for me at their usual big Grand Hyatt suite in Taipei last week was a new line of fans. Yes, Corsair also has an exciting high end series of new PSUs made by Flextronics using DSP technology for astonishing precision and noise/ripple performance as well as a truly accurate Window utility reporting and monitoring of all power functions, but fans? This was completely unexpected.

This is a shot of the unique power monitoring utility provided with Corsair's new AX1200i PSU with DSP technology.

AX1200i in retail boxes, and one visible through a windowed sidepanel installed in the demo system at Computex

George Makris, who has led the development of Corsair's PSUs and cases, was also instrumental in the new fan project. We talked about the challenges of measuring fan performance, and I told him how we'd finally given up on trying to measure airflow or pressure at SPCR, after years of efforts with home-brew and relatively simple tools. We just couldn't afford one of those massive multi-thousand testers that the fan manufacturers use. George laughed and agreed it was tough, and said fan makers had told them not to even bother trying to measure anything without one. (All this echoed the previous chat I'd had with another fan maker, who bemoaned the amateur fan assessment efforts of many tech web sites who base their judgements on a single measurement from a $60 fan anemometer bought off eBay: "You sweat and experiment and modify and fine-tune for a year, and samples go out, and it gets sloughed off by this simplistic judgement, 'This one measures 10% higher CFM than the other, 2 thumbs up!' and then you see the responses of readers who thank the writer for clarifying, and... ohhh, it can be very frustrating!") George's response was, well, if we're going start doing fans, we better get one of those testers... which is how Corsair ended up acquiring a $40,000 fan testing machine that they built a quiet room around. I've described such machines before, and given my interest, it should come as no surprise that I'm already scheduling a trip and visit to Corsair for a first-hand look (and report) at their new fan tester and quiet room.

The quiet room, George admitted, isn't the quietest, it measures ~19 dBA ambient (SPCR's chamber, in contrast, measures 10~11 dBA), but it's low enough to get a good handle on sound levels of most enthusiast fans at full speed. Speaking with George for just half an hour, it was obvious that his — and by extension, Corsair's — expertise and knowledge about fans had grown exponentially since the last time we chatted, perhaps a year ago. That alone was enough for me to feel optimistic about the new fans Corsair first introduced in May, a little over a month ago.

The new Corsair fans all share the same unique design.

The Corsair fans are divided into two groups: AF for Air Flow and SP for Static Pressure. AF series fans "are designed to intake cool air into, and exhaust hot air out of, modern PCs." SP fans, on the other hand, "deliver focused air pressure in situations where air needs to be blown through a restricted space making them ideal for cooling radiators and heatsinks." This is the first time that I've seen fans so clearly designed and identified for their purpose. It makes sense, as there's always a tradeoff between noise, airflow and pressure for any axial fan designer. As in so many cases, you can usually optimize for two but not all three. All the fans feature rubber corner mounts to reduce vibration. There are five models in all, three in the AF series and two 12cm models in the SP series. The slower speed models look most promising for SPCR readers:

  • AF120 at 21 dBA, 1100 RPM, 40 CFM and 0.5 mm/H20 SP
  • AF140 at 24 dBA, 1150 RPM, 67 CFM and 0.84 mm/H20 SP
  • SP120 for 23 dBA, 1450 RPM, 38 CFM and 1.29 mm/H20 SP

If these fans scale down nicely as speed is reduced, they could be very nice for super silent PCs. We'll see soon enough when samples come in.

Discuss this news in the SPCR forums.

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