Recommended Fans

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THE QUIET FAN LIST

SPCR's recommended fan list is divided into four sections, one for each common fan size: 80mm, 92mm, 120mm and 140mm or larger. Most fans in these tables have been tested by SPCR and found to be of the highest standard. Some previously recommended fans, such as the Scythe Kama Flow, have been removed because they are discontinued.

The summary data here should be mostly self-evident. Under RPM is listed the lowest consistent start speed, and the maximum speed (at 12V). Under SPL is cited the measured noise in dBA@1m at those lowest and highest speeds. Finally, under Cooling is shown the actual measured temperature rise (in °C) at a measured SPL. This data is drawn from the new test system; at this point, there's only one roundup (Fan Roundup #6) where the new test system was used. Where the data is accompanied by an asterisk (*), it is the manufacturer's specification (for fans we haven't officially tested).

With the Cooling data, the ideal is for both numbers to be low: Low temperature rise and low SPL. You will note that the SPL is not the same for all the fans, though it is mostly between 12 and 16 dBA. That is because the SPL is not the test reference — specific RPM points are the references. It would be more convenient here to have some preset reference SPL like 15 dBA@1m, but this is not easy to do because SPL is much harder to use as a reference, you cannot "dial it in" like you can voltage or RPM, it is a derivative of the fan speed. Then there is the further issue of which SPL point? With very slow, quiet fans, the SPL barely exceeds 12 dBA, and with some higher speed fans, the minimum SPL might be as high as 17 dBA. So accept the info as it is — a summary of cooling performance vs noise — and for full details, read the reviews!

Recommended 14cm (& bigger) Fans
Fan Model
(linked to review)
Manufacturer
Bearing Type
RPM
SPL
dBA@1m
Cooling
??
??
370~1000
11~26
+23°/15dBA
An unusual large PWM fan from Therlmaright, Taiwan's longest-lived performance heatsink maker. Meant for use on a heatsink with a big interface between fan and fin stack, the TY150 isn't quiet at full speed but gets much better as speed is reduced. Starts consistently at 37% PWM power. Works beautifully on a big heatsink like Thermalright's own Archon SB-E. Added Sept 2012
Phanteks PH-F140TS
??
UFB
650~1350
14~32
n/a
Not officially tested, except in the context of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE Dual Fan CPU Heatsink, for which it is the official stock fan. Hype-rich as usual, but this 14cm fan has merit, sounds smooth and offers decent cooling. Should work fine as a case fan as well. Added Sept 2012
Noctua NH-C14
??
SSO
610~1130
12~27
n/a
Like the Phanteks, this Noctua has not been officially tested except with Noctua's own coolers. It's a decently quiet fan though not the last word in either acousitcs or cooling performance, and a bit pricey. Added Sept 2012
Antec TrueQuiet 140
??
sleeve
500/800*
9.8~20*
n/a
Not officially tested, but similar in acoustics to TQ 120, very quiet though not the best CPU cooler, better for case cooling Soft corner insets (probably borrowed from the NB M series) keep vibration away, 2-speed switch is useful. Good availability & modest pricing put it on our list. Added Sept 2012

 

Recommended 12cm Fans
Fan Model
(linked to review)
Manufacturer
Bearing Type

RPM

SPL
dBA@1m
Cooling
??
NB-NanoSLI
300~870
10~12
+25°/12dBA
It has multiple unique features like soft rubber corner blocks for highly effective vibration damping, and it is just about the quietest fan we've tested at full speed. It also manages good cooling even at the slow <900 RPM speed. Very nice for silent computing. Added Sept 2012
??
NB-NanoSLI
540~1265
11~23
+25°/13dBA
Higher speed version of the S1 with the same basic performance. Slows down nicely w/o spurious noises. More versatile due to higher maximum speed. Added Sept 2012.
??
NB-NanoSLI
600~1600*
7~23*
n/a
PWM version of M series. Higher speed M12-P was tested & found to be a bit too high speed to be useful in a silent PC. We're sure the PS offers performance similar to the S2 but with the advantages of PWM control via the motherboard. Added Sept 2012
Nexus Real Silent Case Fan D12SL-12
Yate Loon / Hong Sheng?
Sleeve
650~1100
12~18
+24°/14dBA
A longtime favorite, still recommended. SPCR's de facto reference 120mm fan. Its noise character is smooth, generating a low hum when it is audible. It manages to provide consistently better cooling on most heatsinks than most 120mm fans. Sample variance is a bit of a question mark. Added Mar/07
Nidec
Double Ball
340~880
11~12
+24°/12dBA
High quality build, heavy duty bearings and a smooth acoustic profile, excellent cooling to noise ratio. The 1450 RPM GT 120-14 was also tested, not quite as quiet and developed high pitch tonality when slowed down. 550 RPM #11 is probably too slow to be useful; the 1150 RPM #13 might be a great all-arounder. Officially discontinued but still in the market. Added Sept 2012
Scythe Slipstream 12L, 12M, PWM/VR
??
Sleeve
300~800
400~1200
19 max
28 max
n/a
Slipstreams have been recommended in the SPCR forums for years, ideally as case fans. The SPL data is from pre-anechoic chamber days, but there's no question these fans are smooth and quiet, slow down gracefully, and start at very low speed. They've been widly popular for good reason. A PWM/VR version is now available, with similarly good characteristics. Added Sept 2012
??
Sleeve
310~1200*
23 max
+24°/12dBA
High quality 7-blade fan, tested pre-anechoic chamber. Smooth& quiet: We liked it then, we still like it now. Added Sept 2012
Antec TrueQuiet 120
??
Sleeve
550~1100
11~19
+26°/15dBA
Soft corner mounting pads (probably borrowed from the NB M series), and good acoustics, but not great cooling, with a convenient 2-speed switch to slow the fan to ~650 RPM. Modest pricing and wide availability out it on our list. Added Sept 2012

* * *

Recommended 9cm Fans
NOTE:
It has been ages since we paid close attention to fans of this size, simply because the 12cm fans have so completely dominated both case and CPU cooling for many years now. We will try and assemble a new 92/80mm fan roundup in the near future. If you really need them, your best quiet bets are <1500 RPM fans from Scythe, Noise Blocker, Noctua, Enermax and NMB.
Fan Model
(linked to review)
Manufacturer
Bearing Type

Starting Voltage

Rated Speed
SPL @ Full Speed
Nexus Real Silent Case Fan DF1209SL-3
Dynatron
Sleeve
2.4V
1,500 RPM
21 dBA@1m
Like its larger 120mm cousin, the 92mm Nexus has served as our reference fan for years. It set the standard for what a quiet fan should sound like: A low, smooth hum that disappears quickly. There's a slight touch of motor whine at full speed, but that drops away when speed is even slightly reduced. Its main weaknesses? Sleeve bearings that are unsuitable for high temperatures and a low MTBF that suggests long-term reliability may be poor. Added Mar/07
Unknown
Sleeve
3.9V
1,400 RPM
21 dBA@1m
A slick looking fan with a black frame and transparent blue fins (not to be confused with the Noiseblocker Silent Fan SE2, which has a clear frame and an ugly noise character). Sounds very similar to the Nexus, but a close side-by-side comparison showed the Noiseblocker to have a slightly more tonal (and thus more audible) noise character. Very smooth, and becomes inaudible below ~7V. Added Mar/07

* * *

Recommended 80mm Fans
NOTE:
It has been ages since we paid close attention to fans of this size, simply because the 12cm fans have so completely dominated both case and CPU cooling for many years now. We will try and assemble a new 92/80mm fan roundup in the near future. If you really need them, your best quiet bets are <1500 RPM fans from Scythe, Noise Blocker, Noctua, Enermax and NMB.
Fan Model
(linked to review)
Manufacturer
Bearing Type

Starting Voltage

Rated Speed
SPL @ Full Speed
Bisonic
Sleeve
5.0V
1,500 RPM
20 dBA@1m
As with its larger brothers, the 80mm Nexus sets the standard against which all other fans must measure up. It is shockingly quiet even at full speed. In many systems, 20 dBA@1m will already be inaudible without requiring any undervolting at all. Its noise character is smooth and low, just like the other Nexus models. Our only real complaint is that it may be too quiet — such a slow fan pushes very little air, and not everyone will be happy with a fan that pushes 22 CFM at full speed. Added Mar/07
Scythe Kama Flow SA8025FDB12SL
Adda? (Sony Bearing)
Sony-FDB
4.6V
1,500 RPM
22~23 dBA@1m
This is basically the baby brother of the Scythe S-Flex, which, as noted above, gives the 120mm Nexus a run for its money. Likewise, this Kama Flow gives the 80mm Nexus a tough challenge, with the final result a tossup, as the two sound more or less identical. Our samples produced slightly more airflow than the Nexus at full speed, though both are rated at 1,500 RPM. The Kama Flow's biggest advantage is the use of Sony's FDB bearings, and its biggest disadvantage is the impossibility of acquiring one outside of Japan. Added Mar/07

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Fan Roundup #6
Fan Test System, SPCR 2010
Anatomy of the Silent Fan
Simple Fan Controllers from Zalman
Get 5V, 7V, or 12V for your Fans

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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