SPCR's Fan Round-Up #2: 120mm Fans

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NEXUS REAL SILENT CASE FAN D12SL-12

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 19 dBA.


The Nexus comes in two unusual color schemes.

Brand Nexus Power Rating 0.30A
Manufacturer Yate Loon Airflow Rating 36.87 CFM
Model Number D12SL-12 RPM Rating 1,000 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 22.8 dBA
Bearing Type Sleeve Header Type 3-pin & Molex
Hub Size 1.58" Starting Voltage 5.5V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 4
Our thanks to EndPCNoise for supplying these samples.
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
22 dBA@1m
1080 RPM
47 CFM
0.95W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
850 RPM
35 CFM
0.75W
7V
<19 dBA@1m
680 RPM
27 CFM
0.62W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
490 RPM
16 CFM
0.51W
@25 CFM (6.6V)
<19 dBA@1m
640 RPM
25 CFM
0.60W
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
22 dBA@1m
1080 RPM
29 CFM
0.95W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
850 RPM
23 CFM
0.75W
7V
<19 dBA@1m
680 RPM
19 CFM
0.62W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
490 RPM
13 CFM
0.51W
@20 CFM (7.6V)
<19 dBA@1m
740 RPM
20 CFM
0.59W

Nexus' 120mm fan (and the Yate Loon models that it is derived from) is one of the most popular fans among SPCR's regular readers, and for good reason. It may be a little on the expensive side, as individually packaged fans often are, but the combination of a decent noise level at maximum speed, a smooth, low frequency noise character, and its ability to be inaudible at lower voltages make it a well loved favorite.

Despite spinning more slowly, the 120mm Nexus is slightly louder than its 80mm counterpart at full speed. Presumably, the heavier fins require a more powerful motor to drive them, or perhaps their larger surface area produces more turbulence noise. Fortunately, it also blows double the amount of air, which more than makes up for the noise difference. This is a prime example of why we recommend 120mm fans!

The point of inaudibility is somewhere around ~8V, so many users use the 7 volt trick for the best compromise between noise and airflow. We do not recommend running the fan at 5V, as some samples have trouble starting at this level.

As mentioned, the noise character is very low and smooth. This is ideal, since the lower frequencies do not cover distance easily. From most usable distances, the noise is a slight whoosh that is easy to ignore. A word of caution: Much of the low frequency noise is present as vibration as well as sound and can cause resonance if it is hard-mounted. At lower fan speeds, the vibration is so low that this is not a concern, but those using the fan at high speed may find that soft-mounting with silicone grommets may help cut down the low frequency rumble that this fan produces.

Some users who care about appearances have shunned the Nexus for its bright orange color. We're not sure what prompted Nexus to choose orange, of all colors, but there has been enough outcry that Nexus now offers a black-and-white version with the same noise characteristics as the original.

We did not notice any significant variation that could be tied to color, but we did notice that sample variance seemed unusually high, and not all samples we heard sounded as good as the best. One sample we heard just seemed to be louder overall without any identifiable change in noise character, while another had a slight ticking that marred the smoothness of the noise. Other users have also reported some problem samples with ticking. The difference is not large, and at some speeds it may be insignificant, but it is enough to be noticeable in a quiet system.

Aside from that, the only disadvantages are shared with Nexus' 80mm fan: Closed flange screw holes that make wire clips unusable without modification, and sleeve bearings that are inappropriate for horizontal mounting or high heat situations. Together, these ensure that, while the Nexus is an excellent choice for a simple case fan, it is less suitable for mission-critical operations such as a CPU heatsink or a hot power supply.


The closed flange can make mounting a bit tricky.

Noise Recordings

ARX FD1212-A Series

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 19 dBA.

LOW SPEED (FD1212-A3053E)
Brand ACT-RX Power Rating 0.16A
Manufacturer ACT-RX Airflow Rating 70.14 CFM
Model Number FD1212-A3053E RPM Rating 2,000 RPM
Retail Availability Limited Noise Rating 39 dBA
Bearing Type CeraDyna A Header Type 3-pin
Hub Size 1.99" Starting Voltage 4.5V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 2
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
33 dBA@1m
1430 RPM
57 CFM
0.85W
9V
27 dBA@1m
1050 RPM
42 CFM
0.56W
7V
26 dBA@1m
770 RPM
29 CFM
0.43W
5V
20 dBA@1m
470 RPM
16 CFM
0.31W
@25 CFM (6.4V)
21 dBA@1m
680 RPM
25 CFM
0.39W
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
33 dBA@1m
1430 RPM
40 CFM
0.85W
9V
27 dBA@1m
1050 RPM
25 CFM
0.56W
7V
26 dBA@1m
770 RPM
19 CFM
0.43W
5V
20 dBA@1m
470 RPM
11 CFM
0.31W
@20 CFM (7.6V)
21 dBA@1m
800 RPM
20 CFM
0.45W


A small thermal diode is all that distinguishes the thermally controlled version from the regular one.

MEDIUM SPEED, THERMALLY CONTROLLED (FD1212-A2060E)
Brand ACT-RX Power Rating 0.27A
Manufacturer ACT-RX Airflow Rating 87.02 CFM
Model Number FD1212-A2060E RPM Rating 2,500 RPM
Retail Availability Limited Noise Rating 46 dBA
Bearing Type CeraDyna A Header Type Molex pass-through
Hub Size 1.99" Starting Voltage 5.7V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 2
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V, Thermistor Short-Circuited
46 dBA@1m
2440 RPM
99 CFM
3.31W
9V, Thermistor Short-circuited
42 dBA@1m
1900 RPM
77 CFM
2.24W
7V, Thermistor Short-circuited
33 dBA@1m
1470 RPM
58 CFM
1.63W
5V, Thermistor Short-circuited
25 dBA@1m
980 RPM
39 CFM
1.06W
@25 CFM (4.6V)
25 dBA@1m
710 RPM
25 CFM
0.74W
@Default Speed (6.1V)
30 dBA@1m
1270 RPM
51 CFM
1.21W
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
46 dBA@1m
2440 RPM
79 CFM
3.31W
9V
42 dBA@1m
1900 RPM
57 CFM
2.24W
7V
33 dBA@1m
1470 RPM
41 CFM
1.63W
5V
25 dBA@1m
980 RPM
24 CFM
1.06W
@20 CFM (4.4V)
25 dBA@1m
810 RPM
20 CFM
0.72W
@Default Speed (6.1V)
30 dBA@1m
1270 RPM
34 CFM
1.21W

You've probably never heard of ACT-RX, its parent ARX, or its CeraDyna bearings. As a Taiwanese OEM that generally sells directly to system integrators, that's really no surprise, but their web site is chock full of interesting (if poorly translated) technical information about fans. Most of the information relates to CeraDyna, a proprietary ceramic sleeve bearing, but a significant part of that information is specifically about fan noise. In fact, along with reliability, noise is consistently mentioned as one of the primary advantages of the CeraDyna bearings.

Naturally, this piqued our interest, so we were happy to take a look when we acquired some samples. Unfortunately, our happiness evaporated as soon as we started them up. Reliable they may be (we can only assume), but quiet? Sorry. These ARX fans may well be the worst sounding fans we've ever tested.

We looked at two models: A "low speed" model, and a "medium speed" model with thermal control. Although it is the slowest fan they offer, the "low speed" model is hardly low speed by SPCR standards; it's rated for 2,000 RPM and 39 dBA (uh oh). Strangely enough, both of our low speed samples seemed to run at ~1,500 RPM, making us wonder whether our fans were tweaked in any way. Slower or not, the clatter it produced did not disappear even at 5V.

The thermally controlled version was even worse. In our 21°C test lab, it spun at ~1,300 RPM by default. That's 30% more than the Nexus blows at full tilt, and the 30 dBA@1m noise level was completely unacceptable. Even when the thermistor was short-circuited and the input voltage was turned down to match our 25 CFM target, the noise level never dropped below 25 dBA@1m. Our expectation is that a good fan should be nearly inaudible at this level, and this fan clearly failed to live up to it.

There's not really much more to say. We could go one and mention the poor noise character and describe it in detail, but why make a bad reputation worse? If you really want to know what the fans sound like, feel free to check the recordings below. Otherwise, pretend you've still never heard about them and continue reading on the next page...

Noise Recordings

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