1. Fan isolators are better than grommets.
Even if the grommets were made from that same material as the E.A.R. fan isolators, the answer would still the same.
Why? Because grommets are used in conjunction with metal screws. Even though you may be using multiple grommets, the shaft of the metal screw can touch the fan and the case hole. This will pass the vibrations.
Theoretically, there is a slight
chance that grommets would actually isolate some vibrations if
the shaft of the 4 screws is perfectly centered and not touching the fan or the case hole. However, in order for this to happen, the screws would have to be tightened down to the point where the positioning would never change. Having it this tight is also taking away the ability for the rubber to do much vibration absorption.
And that my friends, is why the E.A.R. fan isolators are superior. Not only do they separate the fan from touching the case, but the mounting shaft is not metal.
2. Correct, the D8000 has 3 of the sides rivited down. I suppose you could drill out the rivits, but I'm not sure how you'd re-attach it. For $90 more, you can get the GlobalWin YCC-61F1. Now that case is sweet. Removable sides too.
3. I have both Panaflos and Papst fans. Both are good choices. However I love Papst much more. They are better balanced and quieter. Most people come to the same conclusion: Can you justify the price for a slightly better fan? Directron
now has the Papst 120mm's back in stockat $20. Whereas the Panaflo 120mm L1A is only $15. The L1A is also 38mm thick. To me, it's a no brainer. I just ordered 2 more Papst fans. When building a new computer, $10 more isn't going to kill you. That just my opinion.