80x25mm Fan Round-Up #1

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SUNON KS1208PTS3

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

Brand Sunon Power Rating 1.4W
Manufacturer Sunon Airflow Rating 31 CFM
Model Number KS1208PTS3 RPM Rating 2,300 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 26 dBA
Bearing Type Sleeve Header Type bare wires
Hub Size 1.48" Starting Voltage 3.0V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 25 mm Number of Samples 2
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
32 dBA@1m
2400 RPM
36 CFM
1.35W
9V
30 dBA@1m
1920 RPM
28 CFM
1.08W
7V
23 dBA@1m
1550 RPM
23 CFM
0.90W
5V
21 dBA@1m
1130 RPM
16 CFM
0.70W
@10 CFM (3.2V)
~19 dBA@1m
710 RPM
10 CFM
0.45W

Like Delta, Sunon is a big name. Walk into an electronics store that buys a single brand of fans in bulk, and chances are decent that that brand will be Sunon. And, like Delta, Sunon does not seem to put much effort into making their product line quiet. To wit: This fan is the slowest and quietest in its series, and it's rated for 2,300 RPM and 26 dBA. Our favorite fans are rated for 1,500 RPM and below, and, because they are marketed as quiet, often carry unrealistically low noise ratings.

We're a little unsure of the results for this fan because the two samples that we had were quite obviously different, despite bearing the same model number. The difference was in the frame: Both frames were unusually sturdy, but one had closed flanges and seemed even more sturdily built. A quick listen showed that the noise didn't vary significantly, but we have to wonder how many other variations of this model number there are...

Subjectively, the Sunon didn't sound too bad. It was a touch buzzier than we'd usually like, but it didn't have the clicking or rattling that we heard in some other fans. Unfortunately, undervolting was not very effective; dropping the voltage to 5V reduced the noise to a level that would just barely be acceptable in the quietest systems. That's not to say it didn't end up being quiet when we dropped the speed enough to produce 10 CFM, but the 3.2V required to achieve this is difficult produce for most users. It's lucky that the fan even started consistently at this level — at 3.0V, this fan had the lowest starting voltage of any fans we tested.

The Sunon also had issues with vibration — it had a lot. The fan harness shook visibly during the test, especially at higher speeds. Soft-mounting could definitely benefit this fan, as placing the bare fan on our test bench produced a hum that was not audible when it was tucked into the foam harness that we use for most of our testing.

All in all, Sunon's biggest advantage is its wide availability. In situations where nothing else is available, this fan at 5V may do in a pinch, but it's far from the best of the bunch.

Noise Recordings

ARCTIC COOLING ARCTIC FAN 3

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.


Arctic Cooling has been playing with frameless designs for a long time.

Brand Arctic Cooling Power Rating 0.12A
Manufacturer Arctic Cooling Airflow Rating 28 CFM
Model Number Arctic Fan 3 RPM Rating 1,900 RPM
Retail Availability Discontinued Noise Rating 0.8 Sone
Bearing Type Fluid Dynamic Bearings Header Type 3-pin
Hub Size 1.39" Starting Voltage 3.4V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 45 mm Number of Samples 2
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
21 dBA@1m
1800 RPM
12 CFM
1.18W
9V
19 dBA@1m
1460 RPM
10 CFM
0.87W
7V
<18 dBA@1m
1170 RPM
6 CFM
0.66W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
810 RPM
3 CFM
0.47W
@10 CFM (9.0V)
<18 dBA@1m
1460 RPM
10 CFM
0.87W

Arctic Cooling has been making quiet, inexpensive products for a long time, and they've become quite good at it. They've been experimenting with "frameless" fans for some time with the goal of reducing turbulence noise. Unfortunately, as the results above show, the approach also seems to affect airflow significantly. That said, it's not clear how accurate our airflow measurements are for this fan; measurement required fitting the fan into our test harness, which imposed a foam "frame" around the fan that does not reflect standard usage.

The Arctic Fan 3 is a slightly smaller stand-alone version of the fan found on Arctic Cooling's last round of low-end heatsinks, the Super Silent 4 series. The fan can also be found in Arctic Cooling's Silentium T2 case. It has since been superseded by the Arctic Fan 8 series, but the design has not changed that much, and there are still many Arctic Fan 3's to be found on the retail market.

There's no question that the Arctic Fan 3 is a quiet fan. It measured 21 dBA@1m at full speed — the equal of Scythe's FDB fan and nearly as good as our favorite Nexus. The trouble is airflow: There's not enough of it to make voltages below 9V worthwhile, and, unfortunately, the fan is still audible at this level. The poor airflow results seriously hurt the fan, as it needs to spin faster and more noisily to push the same amount of air. In addition, the fan is not well suited to situations that require higher airflow, since the maximum airflow we ever measured was just 12 CFM.

The noise character was very, very smooth, with most of the noise scattered across the higher frequencies. There was very little low frequency noise at all. At full speed, the fan had just a touch of whine, but it was higher pitched, and thus more clearly audible than most fans at this noise level. In addition, the fan seemed to squeal a bit at certain speeds — an odd noise that is unlike any other fan we've heard. The squealing was most evident just before the fan started, at around 3.3V. The easiest method of dealing with the squeal is probably to ensure that there is no direct noise path between the fan and your ears; higher frequencies are easily deflected or absorbed within the case, and as long as there is something between you and the fan, the squealing should not be a problem.

Noise Recordings

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