First 140 mm Fan Roundup: Noctua, Phanteks, Xigmatek

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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

  • Noctua NF-P14 FLX
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (13 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (17~18 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (23~24 dBA@1m)
    — 1,200 RPM (26 dBA@1m)
  • Noctua NF-A14 FLX
    — 700 RPM (11~12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (14~15 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (19 dBA@1m)
    — 1,300 RPM (24 dBA@1m)
  • Noctua NF-A15 PWM
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (15 dBA@1m)
    — 1100 RPM (19~20 dBA@1m)
    — 1,250 RPM (23 dBA@1m)
  • Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (16~17 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (22 dBA@1m)
    — 1,300 RPM (26~27 dBA@1m)
  • Xigmatek XAF-F1453
    — 550 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (16~17 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (19 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (24~25 dBA@1m)
    — 1,200 RPM (28 dBA@1m)
  • Xigmatek XLF-F1453
    — 550 RPM (13 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (15 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (21~22 dBA@1m)
    — 1,000 RPM (24~25 dBA@1m)

COMPARISONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

To compare the test results collected, the following table has been assembled indicating the temperature rise each fan produced at noise levels of 22 dBA@1m and below. The fans have been arranged loosely from best to worst from top to bottom.

120/140 mm Fan Comparison: Thermal Rise (°C)
SPL (dBA @1m)
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
         
19
       
22
25
Noctua NF-A14 FLX
     
18
     
20
   
23
 
Noctua NF-A15 PWM
   
18
       
20
   
23
 
Noiseblocker B12-2
           
20
20
   
23
28
Noctua NF-P14 FLX
       
21
       
23
 
27
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-12
                   
24
27
Noiseblocker M12-S1
                   
25
29
Corsair AF120 Quiet
         
20
   
23
 
26
30
Corsair AF120 Performance
       
20
   
23
   
26
 
Thermalright TR-TY150
 
20
         
23
   
25
 
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-14
   
19
     
22
   
24
27
 
Xigmatek XAF-F1453
     
20
 
22
       
26
 
Nexus Real Silent
       
22
     
24
 
26
33
Xigmatek XLF-F1453
19
           
21
 
26
   
Noiseblocker B12-PS
19
     
21
     
24
 
28
30
Corsair SP120 Quiet
   
21
         
22
24
29
32
be quiet! Silent Wings 2
       
22
     
25
 
27
34
Noiseblocker M12-S2
23
               
25
29
33
Antec TrueQuiet 120
 
23
 
24
       
26
 
29
34
Noiseblocker M12-P
         
22
   
25
 
31
 
GELID Wing 12
         
22
   
26
     
Antec TrueQuiet 120 Pro
 
23
 
24
       
27
 
30
35
Antec TwoCool 120
         
22
 
26
   
31
34
SilverStone AP123
   
24
       
27
   
31
 
140 mm+ models in yellow.
Green box indicates a win, blue box indicates second place.

In our last 120 mm fan roundup we lamented the fact that many of the best sounding fans faltered in our thermal test, posing our readership with a vexing question: Which is more important, acoustics or cooling performance? For this first batch of 140 mm fans, there is no such dilemma.

The Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS is the clear winner in every respect. It edged out the new Noctuas every step of the way, delivering the best overall results of any fan we've tested thus far. To top it off, it had cleanest, smoothest sound of all the new fans in this roundup. If we had to start from scratch, this might be our new reference model.

Our current 140 mm reference fan, the Noctua NF-P14 FLX held its own against the newcomers. It didn't cool quite as well as its successors but its acoustic character is still amongst the best you can find in a 140 mm model. For many, the new models' improvement in cooling ability isn't substantial enough to offset the superior sound of the older model. The fact this model has been discontinued is a shame — if you want one, get it now while you can.

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM and NF-A14 FLX followed close behind the Phanteks in our thermal performance test. The A15 has a smoother acoustic profile than the A14 but both sound fairly good to the ears. However, they share the misfortune of living in the shadow of the P14. The A15 and A14 have a rougher, muddier sound and neither is worthy of being a true successor.

The Xigmatek XAF-F1453 and XLF-F1453 were underwhelming, competing with and getting beaten by many of the smaller 120 mm models from previous roundups. The straight-bladed XLF's acoustics are passable; that is to say its undesirable characteristics can be easily hidden, damped by a case side panel or blurred when combined with the noise from other components. The XAF is a more difficult beast to mask at it develops a strong, distinct tone at lower speeds. While we don't recommend either fan, the XAF should probably be actively avoided.

Great thanks to Thermalright for sponsoring the CPU thermal simulator and the heatsink and fan samples. Thanks also to the fan sample suppliers: Noctua, Phanteks, and Xigmatek.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Fan Roundup #7: Antec, be quiet!, Corsair, GELID, Noiseblocker, SilverStone
Fan Roundup #6: Scythe, Noiseblocker, Antec, Nexus, Thermalright
Fan Roundup #5: Attack of the 120 Scythes
Fan Test System, SPCR 2010
Fan Test Methodology V.3
Anatomy of the Silent Fan
SPCR's Recommended Fans

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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