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

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EBM PAPST 4412 SERIES

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 19 dBA.

Low Speed: 4412 F/2GLL
Brand ebmPapst Power Rating 0.72W (0.06A)
Manufacturer ebmPapst Airflow Rating 70m³/h (41.17cfm)
Model Number 4412 F/2GLL RPM Rating 1,300 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 18 dBA
Bearing Type Sintec Sleeve Header Type 3-pin
Hub Size 1.86" Starting Voltage 3.5V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 2
Our thanks to Craig in NJ and Ichbinleise for supplying these samples.
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
24 dBA@1m
1290 RPM
54 CFM
0.64W
9V
20 dBA@1m
980 RPM
40 CFM
0.48W
7V
<19 dBA@1m
750 RPM
30 CFM
0.38W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
490 RPM
18 CFM
0.30W
@25 CFM (6.2V)
<19 dBA@1m
660 RPM
25 CFM
0.35W
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
24 dBA@1m
1290 RPM
34 CFM
0.64W
9V
20 dBA@1m
980 RPM
23 CFM
0.48W
7V
<19 dBA@1m
750 RPM
18 CFM
0.38W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
490 RPM
11 CFM
0.30W
@20 CFM (7.4V)
<19 dBA@1m
780 RPM
20 CFM
0.41W


Papst has evolved into ebmPapst, but the 4412 series hasn't changed.

Medium Speed: 4412 FGL
Brand ebmPapst Power Rating 1.25W (0.105A)
Manufacturer ebmPapst Airflow Rating 94m³/h (~55 CFM)
Model Number 4412 FGL RPM Rating 1,600 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 26 dBA
Bearing Type Sintec Sleeve Header Type Molex pass-through
Hub Size 1.86" Starting Voltage 3.4V
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 1
Our thanks to EndPCNoise for supplying this sample.
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
30 dBA@1m
1610 RPM
69 CFM
1.19W
9V
23 dBA@1m
1260 RPM
53 CFM
0.86W
7V
20 dBA@1m
980 RPM
40 CFM
0.66W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
670 RPM
26 CFM
0.48W
@25 CFM (4.9V)
<19 dBA@1m
660 RPM
25 CFM
0.48W
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
30 dBA@1m
1610 RPM
45 CFM
1.19W
9V
23 dBA@1m
1260 RPM
32 CFM
0.86W
7V
20 dBA@1m
980 RPM
23 CFM
0.66W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
670 RPM
16 CFM
0.48W
@20 CFM (6.1V)
<19 dBA@1m
810 RPM
20 CFM
0.57W

Papst fared poorly in our last fan roundup, despite great expectations and many recommendations via word of mouth. In fact, our experience was so contrary to expectations that we had to wonder whether we'd looked at the wrong fan. And, when German web shop Ichbinleise offered to send us a pair of low speed Papsts, we jumped at the chance to let Papst redeem itself.

The 4412 F/2GLL model is a special low-speed version of the 4412 series. It is not listed on any of Papst's numerous web sites, but a quick Google search revealed numerous web shops that stock it — mostly silence oriented shops located in and around Germany, where Papst is headquartered. We also threw a faster 4412 FGL into the mix, which is why two sets of results appear above. Although it bears the older Papst logo without the "ebm" prefix (marking it as a pre-2003 model), it looks identical to the slower versions and sounds similar enough that we feel comfortable mixing it in as an example of how the 4412 series performs one the whole.

A quick examination leaves the impression that this is a very serious fan. It's heavier than most 120mm fans, and it has a metal axle embedded in the center of the hub. It also spins very smoothly; when the power is cut, the rotor glides easily to a halt rather than bouncing to a sudden stop when one of the magnets in the motor assembly catches it. Perhaps this is why the starting voltage is so low; a smoother rotor probably requires less force to put in motion than one that has to overcome a static magnetic field.

Surprisingly, it appeared to blow slightly less air per rotation than the Nexus, but the difference was not enough to make much difference to noise. The two were more or less the same volume at a given speed, so it came down to noise character to decide between them. And, while the Papsts were smooth (much smoother than the 80mm model we listened to), the Nexus was smoother still. The Papsts had a slight chatter or ticking that was slightly more pronounced in our two low speed samples. From a distance and at higher speeds, the roughness in the noise seemed to smooth out a little, but it never achieved the barely-there hum that has made the Nexus so popular.

Regardless, the Papsts still managed to be inaudible at 25 CFM, so they are quite usable. The low starting voltage is also an asset, as it allows for a larger range of voltage adjustment. We are sure there are many users who will be happy to trade a tiny bit of noise for Papst's reputation for quality and longevity — or perhaps just on the basis of Papst's superior Sintec Sleeve bearing.

Noise Recordings

ANTEC TRI-COOL 120

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 19 dBA.

Brand Antec Power Rating ?
Manufacturer Dynatron Airflow Rating 39 / 56 / 79 CFM
Model Number TriCool 120mm RPM Rating 1,200 / 1,600 / 2,000 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 25 / 28 / 30 dBA
Bearing Type Ball? Header Type Molex / 3-pin Combo
Hub Size 1.77" Starting Voltage 3.2V @ High
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Number of Samples 8
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V (High)
36 dBA@1m
1930 RPM
73 CFM
2.73W
9V
29 dBA@1m
1530 RPM
58 CFM
2.00W
Medium
27 dBA@1m
1430 RPM
53 CFM
1.90W
7V
23 dBA@1m
1220 RPM
45 CFM
1.54W
5V (Low)
20 dBA@1m
870 RPM
30 CFM
1.18W
@25 CFM (4.5V)
~19 dBA@1m
740 RPM
25 CFM
1.00W
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 (High)
36 dBA@1m
1930 RPM
53 CFM
2.73W
9V
29 dBA@1m
1530 RPM
41 CFM
2.00W
Medium
27 dBA@1m
1430 RPM
36 CFM
1.90W
7V
23 dBA@1m
1220 RPM
30 CFM
0.54W
5V (Low)
20 dBA@1m
870 RPM
21CFM
1.18W
@20 CFM (4.9V)
20 dBA@1m
850 RPM
20 CFM
1.18W

Antec's TriCool fans are fairly well known, though not specifically because they are quiet. Rather, it is because nearly every case that Antec has released since the P180 has included them as stock fans. As stock fans go, they're fairly quiet thanks to a three-speed switch that allows the fan speed to be reduced to low noise levels. The switch allows users to choose between noise and cooling, but we don't recommend using anything except Low unless undervolting. It's good for Antec as well: It allows them to cater to two different market segments — overclockers and silencers — with a single product.

In addition to showing up in Antec's cases, TriCools are also available packaged individually. Noise, speed and airflow are all identical in the retail version, but there is one trait that sets them apart: The retail fans are made from clear plastic — a nod to yet another market segment: Bling. We tested three samples with black frames that came from various cases that we had lying around, plus another five clear ones, and came to the conclusion that there was no audible variation between the black and the clear versions. However, there are two variations that we did not test: TriCool LED, and TriCool DBB (Double Ball Bearing). The LED version should not sound any different from our samples, but this is not true of the DBB version, as bearing design contributes significantly to a fan's noise signature.


TriCool fans get their name from this three-speed switch.

Antec is a well known retail brand, so it's no surprise that the TriCool is widely available. However, some may be surprised that it is not actually made by Antec. Like many products in the tech industry, it is built to Antec's specifications by a Taiwanese company that is only too happy to supply the kind of volume that Antec can move. In this case, the company is Dynatron, although the fan itself does not show up on Dynatron's product list. As far as we know, Dynatron does not produce the TriCool for anyone but Antec, so it's no surprise that they don't list it. However, it does make collecting specifications a bit more difficult, since Antec's specifications lack details such as bearing type and power rating.

At High speed, the TriCool was about as noisy as you'd expect of a fan spinning at 2,000 RPM. It moved a lot of air, and it was definitely not quiet. The Low and Medium speeds are of more interest, especially to a casual user who appreciates the convenience of being able to make his fans quieter without purchasing a separate fan controller or modifying his system in other ways. At Medium, the fan was quieter, though still a long way off of inaudible, and most users will probably choose to stick with the Low setting.

The Low setting was quite impressive; it deserves mention for having one of the quietest "stock" speeds of any fan we've tested, although the airflow drops off proportionally. Nevertheless, 20 dBA@1m is quiet enough that some users may find it inaudible, especially in an office environment where the ambient noise tends to be fairly high.

Noise quality was also fairly good. Like the Papst 4412, the TriCool was smooth at high speeds, but developed some roughness when slowed down. In this case, the roughness took the form of a chuffing noise that was clearly audible in the Low speed setting and even when the fan was undervolted for the test at 25 CFM.

Unfortunately, this acoustic artifact at low speeds is enough to put the TriCool behind the Nexus and the Papst; it is audible no matter what speed the fan is operating at, which makes the TriCool unsuitable for users who want complete silence. But that should not take away from its good points: It is cheap, widely available, and is quiet enough for many casual users.

Noise Recordings

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