80x25mm Fan Round-Up #1

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NEXUS REAL SILENT CASE FAN SP802512L-03

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

Brand Nexus Power Rating 0.15A
Manufacturer Bisonic Airflow Rating 20.2 CFM
Model Number SP802512L-03 RPM Rating 1,500 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 17.6 dBA
Bearing Type Sleeve Header Type 3-pin & Molex
Hub Size 1.35" Starting Voltage 5.0V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 25 mm Number of Samples 5
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
20 dBA@1m
1540 RPM
22 CFM
0.57W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
1130 RPM
14 CFM
0.42W
7V
<18 dBA@1m
840 RPM
10 CFM
0.34W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
530 RPM
5 CFM
0.25W
@10 CFM (7.2V)
<18 dBA@1m
870 RPM
10 CFM
0.34W
May 5, 2008
The updated airflow results here are the result of improvements in our testing procedures. They are more accurate than the original results above, but they are not directly comparable. Please compare these only with fan reviews published after May 5, 2008 — or ones that have updated results published in a box like this one.
12V
20 dBA@1m
1540 RPM
18 CFM
0.57W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
1130 RPM
14 CFM
0.42W
7V
<18 dBA@1m
840 RPM
10 CFM
0.34W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
530 RPM
6 CFM
0.25W
@10 CFM (7.0V)
<18 dBA@1m
870 RPM
10 CFM
0.34W
* Much thanks to EndPCNoise for supplying these samples. *

The Nexus brand name should be familiar to anyone who has spent any length of time poking though Silent PC Review. Their Real Silent fans are well liked because they demonstrate two very important qualities:

  1. The default speed is slow enough that they are reasonably quiet even at 12V.
  2. The noise character is superior to almost every fan we have heard. It doesn't get much smoother than this!

The Nexus is the unofficial benchmark that other fans will have to measure up to. We are intimately familiar with its noise signature, as we use it in our own personal systems. Best of all, it is so smooth that it is effectively inaudible below seven volts. Even at full speed, the only noise is a low, broadband hum that blends easily into the background.

The smooth noise character can probably be attributed in part to the use of sleeve bearings, which tend to generate less clatter than the more common ball bearings. A word of warning, however: Sleeve bearings are less robust than ball bearings, and are not suitable for use in high heat situations (such as on a heatsink). They are also prone to damage if operated in a horizontal orientation.

That's not to say it's without its bad points. Its low speed makes it inappropriate for small heatsinks and hot cases. Even at full speed, it just doesn't blow that much air. However, from a noise perspective, the best solution to these problems is to get a better heatsink or build a cooler system.

It also generates a surprising amount of vibration, which may end up producing noise on its own when hard mounted to a flimsy case. Soft-mounting with silicone grommets or some other soft material is recommended to get the most out of this fan. It's also a sleeve bearing design, which should only be used vertically, and it may be more at risk for rapid loss of lubricant than with other bearing types. (For more information on sleeve bearings, see Anatomy of the Silent Fan.)

We have both closed corner flange and open corner flange samples of this fan. The closed fan version might be earlier samples. While the closed corner flanges may be good for the stability of the frame, they are a bit of a pain to work with. Many clip or grommet-based mounting systems to not work well with this arrangement. In fact, the problem has annoyed so many people that the instructions for cutting the corners away has earned a permanent sticky topic in our fan forum.

Sample variance was fairly minor through the five samples that we tested. One sample had a slight ticking noise, while another had a bit more chuffing and hum than the others, but these differences were very minor, and did not change the noise character enough to provoke more than a comment in passing.

Noise Recordings

PAPST 8412 NGL

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

Brand ebm-Papst Power Rating 0.6W
Manufacturer ebm-Papst Airflow Rating 33 m³/h (19.4 CFM)
Model Number 8412 NGL RPM Rating 1,500 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 12 dBA / 3.5 Bel
Bearing Type Sintec Sleeve Header Type Bare wire
Hub Size 1.37" Starting Voltage 5.0V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 25 mm Number of Samples 2
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
21 dBA@1m
1520 RPM
23 CFM
0.63W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
1020 RPM
14 CFM
0.50W
7V
<18 dBA@1m
670 RPM
7 CFM
0.41W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
320 RPM
0.31W
@10 CFM (7.7V)
<18 dBA@1m
790 RPM
10 CFM
0.43W
* Much thanks to EndPCNoise for supplying these samples. *

Ebm-Papst has an enviable reputation for quality that sets them apart from their competitors. They are unusual in the tech industry in that they do not have any direct ties to China or Taiwan. The company is based in Germany, and manufacturing and distribution are both centered in Europe. Their fans do not seem to be all that common on the retail market, especially in North America.

Because ebm-Papst is an OEM, most of their products are bought by electronics companies who use them in their products — retailers who carry these fans have to go out of their way to find them. Hard to get or not, Papst fans are often recommended as quiet fans, especially by readers from the EU. They have a reputation for being robust and long-lived, and are quite costly.

Our two samples are quite old — they are branded without the "ebm" prefix, indicating that they were manufactured before the company adopted its current name in 2003. In fact, the exact model number on our samples no longer appears on Papst's web site. The specifications listed above are from the closest match we could find — the 8412 NGLE.

Unfortunately, this particular sample did not live up to the Papst low-noise reputation, despite the Sintec modified sleeve bearing. Loud isn't quite the word to describe it — its low rotation speed ensured that it measured almost as low as the Nexus — but it's a perfect example of a fan that measures quiet but sounds noisy. The reason: The noise character is impossible to ignore. The fan had all manner of buzzing, clicking and chuffing that didn't really go away at any speed. The most intrusive was the repetitive clicking that varied with the speed of the fan. The fan was audible even at 5V — a point where the fan didn't blow enough air to measure.

The fan achieved 10 CFM at around 7.7V, where it was clearly audible from one meter. Audible or not, it wasn't quite loud enough to be picked up by the sound meter, and it's possible that other sources of system noise (such as the hard drive) would muffle the noise character enough to live with it. Bottom line: If you believe that Papst's reputation for quality is worth paying for, it's not impossible to use this 8412 NGL in a quiet system, but there are definitely quieter choices out there. We'll have to get our hands on some other Papst samples in the future.

Noise Recordings

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