SPCR's Fan Roundup #4: 120mm Fans II

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Despite our high expectations, our roundup of carefully selected fans did not produce as many winners as we had hoped. The only fan we can unconditionally recommend is the Noiseblocker XL-1, and even that has tough competition in the Scythe S-Flex and the Noctua that we saw in our last 120mm roundup

Three of the fans we tested showed promise, only to stumble when it came to bearing noise. The Yate Loon, the Global Win and the Fander all have the potential to challenge our current favorites, but all three showed signs of bearing damage. A lack of multiple samples frustrated our attempts to discover what the fans sound like at their best and whether such damage is common or not. In the case of the Yate Loon and the Global Win, the testimonial of certain respected SPCR forum members gives us enough confidence to recommend them — but only with the warning that the fans may be easily damaged. In the case of the Fander, we know from firsthand experience that they can be very quiet, but the sudden development of bearing noise makes us wonder how reliable they are.

A couple of other fans are worth experimenting with: Both the SilenX Ixtrema Pro and the Enermax Marathon showed promise, and could probably be put to good use in the hands of an experienced user. However, both fans suffered from the same problem: A resonant noise character that can probably be attributed to the light, brittle plastic used in their construction. At very low speeds, such resonance may not be noticeable, and both had other characteristics to make up for their flaws. However, where SPCR is concerned, noise is the primary concern, and both the SilenX and the Enermax fall short in this respect.

The Arctic Fan 12L also proved interesting. It's ambitious frameless design showed much promise, but though it looked good on paper, the real thing didn't seem to be significantly better than any existing designs. While the silicone grommets seem like an excellent idea, the lower mass of the frame ended up rendering the grommets irrelevant in practice, as the lighter mass of the frame rendered the fan more prone to vibration.

The only real loser was the AcoustiFan. Here again, the resonance of lightweight, transparent plastic showed up, but, unlike the SilenX or the Enermax, the AcoustiFan had few redeeming or unusual qualities of interest. Even worse, comparing the transparent AcoustiFan directly against the equivalent opaque model from Globe fan has us seriously questioning the design choice that AcoustiProducts made. Clearly, the fan is available in a better-sounding form; why did AcoustiProducts choose not to sell it?

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


SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
A New Way of Testing Fan Airflow

SPCR's Fan Roundup #3: 92mm Fans
SPCR's Fan Roundup #2: 120mm Fans
SPCR's Fan Roundup #1: 80mm Fans
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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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.

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