80x25mm Fan Round-Up #1

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It should be no surprise to regular readers that the Nexus is still the quietest fan that we know of. We've referred to it so often in our regular articles that most readers know by now that we think highly of it. What is surprising is how slim the Nexus' advantage is, especially when noise-for-airflow is taken into account. In fact, Scythe's obscure "Flow"-series fan is the equal of the Nexus in terms of noise and airflow, and may even be superior for reliability if its FDB bearings live up to their reputation. However, its extremely limited distribution outside of Japan will mean that most users will simply have no option but to continue using Nexus fans. Scythe, are you listening? There's an opportunity here...

There are a number of other fans that come very close to standard set by the Nexus: The unusual fans from Mechatronics and Arctic Cooling and, of course, the familiar Panaflo fans. In fact, both the Mechatronics and the Arctic Cooling may be quieter than the Nexus for a given rotation speed; it's only once airflow is considered that they drop behind a bit.

All of the fans mentioned above have smooth noise signatures, and they are completely inaudible from one meter when undervolted to produce 10 CFM. Any one of them would be quite at home in a quiet system so long as high airflow is not needed. The advantage of the Nexus and Scythe fans is that they are both reasonably quiet at 12V while producing a little more than 20 CFM each. This makes them very flexible: They can be used at a constant speed (~7V is a good bet) without being heard, or they can safely be used with a fan controller without worrying that the noise level will ever get too high.

Panaflo, the old standby, also lived up to its reputation so long as sample variance could be avoided. These fans are not so quiet at 12V, so they are a bit more difficult to work with, but they are well suited to situations where the Nexus or Scythe fans don't provide adequate cooling or a little more headroom is desired. They can always be turned down if the airflow isn't needed.

The rest of the fans in the test are less interesting, mostly because they don't sound good enough. Let's face it; most of the fans measured fairly close to each other, and most could be made quiet simply be turning them down far enough. Where they differed was noise character, and it was the fans that sounded bad no matter what speed they were at that fared poorly in this roundup

Not surprisingly, the screaming Delta was the worst offender here, but the Sunon was also quite noisy. The biggest surprise was the well-reputed Papst, which clicked severely and would not be a good choice in a quiet system. Perhaps we happened across the wrong models or have damaged samples. If anyone out there has a non-clicking 80mm Papst fan that they would like to contribute for analysis, we'd love to hear from you!

The bottom line is, we are happy to find that our methodical approach has confirmed what we've known all along: It's tough to find a smoother, quieter fan than the Nexus. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find a fan that could equal it in the Scythe. We look forward to testing more Scythe fans in a future roundup

Many thanks to all the readers, contributers and manufacturers who donated fans so this project could happen.


SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Fan Testing Methodology
Anatomy of the Silent Fan
SPCR's Recommended Fans
Simple Fan Controllers from Zalman
Get 5V, 7V, or 12V for your Fans

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