SPCR's Fan Round-Up #3: 92mm Fans

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February 9, 2007 by Devon Cooke

May 5, 2008
Our fan airflow measurement system has recently undergone a major revision to improve accuracy and repeatability. We've updated airflow data for some but not all fans; only fans that fared well acoustically were retested with the new system. There will be a new methodology article coming soon.

A quiet computer starts with quiet fans. As the primary source of noise in most computers, we've subjected a lot of fans to our scrutiny over the years. However, most of them have been examined in the context of a larger product, typically a heatsink or a case. It's only recently that we've started looking at fans in their own right. Thus far, we've reviewed a dozen 80mm fans plus six more 120mm fans, putting a small dent in the huge pile of fans we have waiting for us as part of the Calling All Good Fans project.

Now, it's time at last to check out some 92mm fans. 92mm fans are not as common as 80mm or 120mm fans, and they are most commonly found on heatsinks, not cases. Keep this in mind while you read; if you're looking for a heatsink fan, remember that heatsink fans are usually subject to tougher thermal conditions and more frequent speed changes than other fans.

As usual, the selection of fans in the round-up is somewhat of a mish-mash. Part of the reason is that we've have fewer 92mm samples than either 80mm or 120mm, which reflects real market conditions. Our samples from major fan brands are either no longer available or simply too noisy to even consider. The Panaflo hydrowave bearing 92mm L and M models, for example, are no longer made, and never were anywhere as quiet as the 80mm version, for whatever reasons. Also, it's easier and quicker for us to test smaller batches of fans and post roundups more frequently; we have another batch of samples that will be included in the next 92mm roundup.

The inclusion of our de facto reference, the Nexus Real Silent Case Fan, won't surprise any of our regular readers, but the rest were chosen at random from our pile of potentials. There's a couple well known names that specialize in low noise — AcoustiFan and Noiseblocker are both well-established in Europe. Another low noise specialist (at least by name) — the UK's Pure Silence — has also been tossed into the mix, though they are less well known than the others. The last two contenders come from Coolink — a Taiwanese company — and Fander — from... Poland?!??

This roundup is primarily a summary of our test results with a few interesting tidbits about each fan thrown in. We have kept theory to a minimum, so you do not need to know how a fan works to get the most out of this article. You need to know two things:

  1. Fans are designed to push air — the faster the fan, the more air it pushes
  2. Fans produce noise — the faster the fan, the more noise it produces

For our purposes, the best fan is the one that pushes the most air for the least noise. For users who are interested, a more technical discussion of fan technologies can be found in our recent article, Anatomy of A Silent Fan. Users who want to know exactly how the fans were tested should refer to our test methodology article. The rest of you: Sit back and enjoy! We hope you find our work useful.

HOW TO USE THIS REVIEW

Each fan in this roundup has its own data table and write-up that summarizes what we learned about it. Use these to find specific information about the fan you're looking for. In addition, every fan was recorded four times, according to our standard Audio Recording techniques. These recordings can be used to make A/B comparisons between fans to help illustrate the differences between them. The four recordings are as follows:

  1. Alternating ambient noise and the fan running at 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V, recorded at a distance of one meter.
  2. Alternating ambient noise and the fan running at 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V, recorded at a distance of one foot (30 cm).
  3. Five seconds of ambient noise, followed by the fan running in the constant airflow test, recorded at a distance of one meter.
  4. Five seconds of ambient noise, followed by the fan running in the constant airflow test, recorded at a distance of one foot (30 cm).

As always, we recommend that you listen and compare the recordings in a specific way. The green box below describes how we make our recordings and what you're supposed to do with them.

At the end of the roundup is a conclusion that summarizes the best and the worst that we found. This is where to look if you just want to cut to the chase and find out which fan we liked best.

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

THE FANS

The following fans were included in the roundup:

The Conclusion can be found on page 6.



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