80x25mm Fan Round-Up #1

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November 13, 2006 by Devon Cooke

May 5, 2008
Our fan airflow measurement system has recently undergone a major revision to improve accuracy and repeatability. We've updated airflow data for some but not all fans; only fans that fared well acoustically were retested with the new system. There will be a new methodology article coming soon.

Silent PC Review's first fan roundup is the culmination of over a month of hard work testing, re-testing, and documenting a dozen different fans as we learned the subtle ins-and-outs of fan testing. It's also the first concrete result of a project we started over two years ago, called Calling All Good Fans.

This inaugural review covers a wide and somewhat random range of 80mm fans (other sizes will be covered in subsequent articles), starting with our current favorite (Nexus), passing over some past favorites (the two Panaflo models), tossing in a few that have been recommended by others (Papst, SilenX), and ending with some that are just plain bad (Delta). While the focus of our selection was on low speed, quiet fans, we've included a wide range of fans to make judgments easier — the bad fans serve as points of reference just as much as the good ones.

This roundup is the first in a long series, and is not meant to be comprehensive or even representative of what's out there. The only thing that these fans have in common is that, at some point in the last two years, they were acquired by SPCR and added to our enormous pile of fans.

This roundup is primarily a summary of our test results with a few interesting tidbits about each fan thrown in. We have kept theory to a minimum, so you do not need to know how a fan works to get the most out of this article. You need to know two things:

  1. Fans are designed to push air — the faster the fan, the more air it pushes
  2. Fans produce noise — the faster the fan, the more noise it produces

For our purposes, the best fan is the one that pushes the most air for the least amount of noise. For users who are interested, a more technical discussion of fan technologies can be found in our recent article, The Silent Fan. Users who want to know exactly how the fans were tested should refer to our methodology article. The rest of you: Sit back and enjoy! We hope you find our work useful.


This roundup barely dents the veritable mountain of fans we have waiting to be tested.

HOW TO USE THIS REVIEW

Each fan in this roundup has its own data table and write-up that summarizes what we learned about it. Use these to find specific information about the fan you're looking for. In addition, every fan was recorded four times, according to our standard Audio Recording techniques. These recordings can be used to make A/B comparisons between fans to help illustrate the differences between them. The four recordings are as follows:

  1. Alternating ambient noise and the fan running at 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V, recorded at a distance of one meter.
  2. Alternating ambient noise and the fan running at 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V, recorded at a distance of one foot (30 cm).
  3. Five seconds of ambient noise, followed by the fan running in the constant airflow test, recorded at a distance of one meter.
  4. Five seconds of ambient noise, followed by the fan running in the constant airflow test, recorded at a distance of one foot (30 cm).

As always, we recommend that you listen and compare the recordings in a specific way. The green box below describes how we make our recordings and what you're supposed to do with them.

At the end of the roundup is a conclusion that summarizes the best and the worst that we found. This is where to look if you just want to cut to the chase and find out which fan we liked best.

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, 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. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound 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. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. 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 one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

THE FANS

The following fans were included in the roundup:

The Conclusion can be found on page 8.



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