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Noctua NF-P12 120mm Fan Review

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SKYMTL

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Noctua NF-P12 120mm Fan Review
On Air & Water Cooling




Product Number: NF-P12
Price: Approx. $14CAD
Warranty: 6-Year
Availability: Now
Manufacturer Product Page: Noctua.at - sound-optimised premium components "Designed in Austria"!



Noctua is not a company that releases a product every other month. Rather, they pick and choose their battles wisely and more often than not come out on top due to their products’ engineering excellence and award-winning design. In this review we will be looking a little closer at their brand new fan: the NF-P12.

Believe it or not, I was extremely excited to receive this fan. I know it isn’t a marquee product like a next-generation GPU or leading-edge processor but knowing the time and effort Noctua puts into every one of their products, I think my excitement was warranted. Noctua is an Austrian-based company that has been known for their high-end cooling solutions for some time now and the NF-P12 represents the next logical step for them. While they had already released a great-performing fan with their NF-S12, it was somewhat lacking when it came to high-impedance applications. Consumers were hesitant about installing an S12 on their radiators or heatsinks due to the fact it has a less than optimal static pressure envelope for those situations. Noctua has decided that it is time to do something about it and has released this new product which targets the exact areas the S12 was lacking in.

Noctua promises that the NF-P12 (the “P” stands for “Pressure”) is an engineering tour-de force and it definitely has a price to match this claim. Considering the lowest price I have found for this fan is about $14 CAD, this means you will have to dish out about $42 if you want to outfit your 3-fan radiator with a trio of NF-P12 fans. While this may seem like a lot (and it is) all of Noctua’s fans come in full retail packaging so you will never go wanting for mounting hardware or speed adaptors. You will also have the backing of Noctua’s excellent 6-year warranty if anything goes wrong with the bearing or any other component of the fan.

Considering everything Noctua has promised for the NF-P12, we only thought it fitting to test it in various environments. Not only will I be testing it in single and dual configurations on the popular Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme but I also shipped two of these fans to our resident water cooling guru. He will test these fans on a single-fan radiator application. So, sit back and enjoy the review.


 
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SKYMTL

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The Technical Bits and Bytes

The Technical Bits and Bytes

Before we go into all the intricate details and pictures of the fan itself, there are a number of technical features about the NF-P12 which make it stand out from the crowd. Some of the terms used here seem to be marketing gimmicks upon first glance but I have been told by no less than two engineers (one of whom actually work with wind turbines) that the application of the terminology is completely sound. What does this mean? It means that the design innovations which Noctua claims will benefit these fans are not just idle boasts; they are well-grounded in the real world of engineering.


Specifications



As you can see, the Noctua NF-P12 can operate at three speeds with the included attachments; 1300 RPM (which we will use for all the tests), 1100 RPM and 900 RPM. It should also be noted that to convert M3/H into the more readily used CFM, please use this conversion calculator: Conversion Factors / Conversion Tables / Conversion Charts - convert between differnet units

Basically, this is how it should read:

1300 RPM = 54.3 CFM
1100 RPM = 46.2 CFM
900 RPM = 37.3 CFM

All in all those are very respectable stats. Something else to look at very closely is the MTBF (mean time between failures) which is quite high but on-par with other high end fans. The normal lifespan of a sleeve bearing fan is about 20,000 hours while a normal ball bearing fan usually tops out at around 50,000 hours. This high MTBF means a greater lifespan due to the advanced bearing design which we will look at a bit closer later in this review.


Nine Blade Design



Many of the most popular fans on the market have seven blades which are great for moving air in an open environment but start choking when part of their incoming or outgoing airflow is blocked. Noctua has decided to use a 9-bladed fan design which is made especially for high impedance applications where its static pressure benefits of more blade surface area can come into play. In principle, this type of design can move more air through restrictive spaces than its seven-finned counterparts.

For more information about this Nine Blade Design, please go here: Noctua.at - sound-optimised premium components "Designed in Austria"!


Vortex Control Notches



Another feature that distinguishes the NF-P12 from all of the other fans on the market is the distinct notches on each fan blade. Noctua dubs these indents “vortex control notches” and they are slightly offset from one blade to the next. They are supposed to cut down on the vortices generated by the leading edge of each blade so it doesn’t interfere with the movement of the next blade. This in turn should cut down on the amount of noise generated by this product.

For more information about these notches, please go here: Noctua.at - sound-optimised premium components "Designed in Austria"!


SC Drive



This part is a bit more technical than I can accurately describe but “SC Drive” stands for a Smooth Commutation Drive. This technology basically cuts down on the amount of motor noise emanating from the NF-P12.

For more information about the SC Drive, please go here:
Noctua.at - sound-optimised premium components "Designed in Austria"!


SSO Bearing



By now all of us should know that bearings play a huge roll in both the noise output and the life expectancy of fans. Some fans use fluid dynamic bearings while others use sleeve or ball bearings but Noctua has gone a different route with their SSO bearing. With an MTBF of over 150,000 hours and more technical jargon than you can shake a stick at, it is best if you read Noctua’s technical page to learn more about this marvel of engineering: Noctua.at - sound-optimised premium components "Designed in Austria"!
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Noctua packages their NF-P12 in windowed box which which carries their corporate colors. The front of the box holds a window so you can better see the fan itself along with a short listing of some of the main technical features.

Meanwhile, the back of the box breaks down the technologies Noctua implemented into this fan and describes them all in detail. All of the specifications are also there for you to take a look at but most of these things you will never see if you are buying this online. Nonetheless, it really is a nice box for a fan….


The fan and all of the accessories are neatly coccooned in a clear plastic package in order to hold everything in place. You can also see that there are quite a few accessories which we are about to look at…


Other than the fan itself you get the Ultra Low Noise Adaptor (or U.L.N.A as Noctua calls it), the Low Noise Adaptor (L.N.A), a Molex to 3-pin adaptor, 4 mounting screws and 4 rubber fan mounts. Even though it is one of the more expensive 120mm fans on the market, the Noctua NF-P12 does include a whole lot for your money.


The LNA and ULNA are basically adaptors with different strength resistors built into their wires which bring down the fan from 1300RPM to 1100 and 900 respectively. I find these actually work quite a bit better than Antec’s TriCool concept since they attach directly to the 3-pin connector on the fan and you won’t have a switch hanging around your case.

The rubber fan mounts are perfect for applications where you want to install this fan against metal (like in a case) where vibration could be a problem. They install very easily where they can be pulled through a mounting hole to provide a buffer between the plastic of the NF-P12 and the metal of an enclosure.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Noctua NF-P12

A Closer Look at the Noctua NF-P12


One thing is written in stone when it comes to Noctua fans: they have a unique color scheme of brown(ish) and beige which people either hate or couldn’t care less about as long as it performs well. Personally, I like my cases without side windows so the color of my components really doesn’t matter to me at all.

Another thing that is immediately apparent is that the NF-P12 has a very unique 9-bladed fan design. Unlike many other fans on the market, this design makes it look like there is next to no space between the blades but this placement is supposed to benefit it in certain applications.


One of the things I like the most about the NF-P12’s design is that Noctua decided to fully sleeve the 3-pin cable. Personally, I hate the look of unsleeved connectors in my case and I go through the process of sleeving all of my fans if and when I have the time. The sleeving used in for this fan is tightly braided black nylon which is a refreshing departure from the rainbow of colors seen on other fans.


The center hub contains the owl-headed Noctua logo as well as information regarding the power draw of the NP-P12.

Here we also have a closer look at one of the Vortex Control Notches which are built into each fan blade. These notches are staggered from one blade to the next and contribute to give this Noctua fan a very aggressive profile. Whether they work or not will be looked at a little closer at little later in our testing section.
 
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SKYMTL

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology

For this review we wanted to give you readers the most complete tests possible.. So, we decided to test the NF-P12 in both air and water cooling applications against some of its closest competitors. While the list of fans we tested it against does not represent ALL of the Noctua’s competitors, these are the fans we could get our hands on in short order.

Fans Used

Noctua NF-P12 (1300 PRM)
Silverstone FN-121 (1200 RPM)
Ultra Kaze DFS123812L-1000 (1000 RPM)
Yate Loon D12SL-12 (1350 RPM)



Air Cooling Testing Methodology

For the air cooling tests the following system was run:

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (B3) @ 3.5Ghz @ 1.494V (in BIOS)
Memory: 4GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 @ 1556Mhz (7-7-7-20)
Motherboard: Asus Blitz Extreme
Graphics Card: EVGA 8800GT Superclocked
Power Supply: Silverstone DA850
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATAII
CPU Heatsink: Thermalright Ultra Extreme (single and dual fan)
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64

Temperature Logging Program: Core Temp
CPU Load Program: Prime 95 (Small FFTs)
Ambient Temperature Measurements: Extech EX430 with Type-K Thermometer

Room Temperature: 21.3*C
Relative Humidity: 52-56%

In these tests we are aiming to push the most heat possible through the air cooler in order to accentuate the differences between the fans and that is why the vCore was bumped up so much. This is also why you will see some pretty wild temperatures coming from the Q6600 in all of the air cooling results.

As you will see in the benchmarks, we ran tests using push and push / pull fan configurations in order to give you the best idea of how your setup will react to these fans. Due to the lack of an extra 120mm fan mounting bracket used for the push-pull configurations on the Thermalright Ultra Extreme heatsink, all fans were mounted using small pieces of Velcro Ultra Mate in each corner. All other fans on the test bench were disabled.


Temperature Control

In order to better control ambient temperatures, an open test bench was used for all air cooling tests. All of the ambient temperatures were taken using a Type-K thermometer about 7” in front of the intake fan as shown in this picture (note the black circle):


Between each test, the system was shut down for 2 hours in order for the room temperature and the system temperature to normalize. The next test was then begun and the process was repeated for each fan configuration.


Temperature Testing & Results Analysis

All temperatures were logged with Core Temp over a 15 minute period for both Idle and Load results. The processor was allowed to display a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes followed immediately by 4 instances of Prime 95 (small FFTs) being launched to load the processor for another 15 minutes.

The temperatures were then averaged out to give the final temperatures you see in the charts. The overclock on the processor is stable so every 30 minute test (idle + load) was completed.


Water Cooling Testing Methodology

In the water cooling tests we once again tested with push and push/pull configurations with a single fan rad. For these tests, all of the fans were shipped to our resident water cooling reviewer and he had a go at them so the testing methodology and system change slightly.

System Hardware:

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo Q6600 G0 @ 3.6GHz 1.5Vcore (in BIOS) 9x400
Memory: 2x1GB Mushkin XP2 PC2-6400 @ 1.9V DDR2-800 5-5-5-15
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 rev.1.0
Graphics Card: Geforce MX 440 PCI
Power Supply: OCZ GameXStream 600W
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB SATA2 HDD
Disk Drive: Lite-On IDE DVD-ROM
OS: Microsoft Windows XP MCE 2005

H20 Cooling Hardware

D-TEK FuZion (unnozzled, but with gasket)
Swiftech MCP655 vario @ 5 (D5)
Clearflex ½” tubing
Swiftech MCRES-MICRO
Hardware Labs Black Ice Xtreme single 120mm rad
Pure distilled water

Temperature Logging Program: Core Temp
CPU Load Program: Prime 95 (Small FFTs)
Ambient/Water Temperature Measurements: HH506RA multilogger thermometer with one type-T probe & one type-K probe

Room Temperature: Varies (see below)

Here is a quick look at out test setup


Our testing methodology for this part of the review is a little bit different than the air cooling section. Rather than reporting straight CPU temperatures, we will be reporting the “delta T” between the water and the ambient air in the room. The Type-T probe was used to measure water temperatures while the Type-K probe was used to measure ambient temperatures. In order for our readers to better understand why we are testing things the way we have, we’ve created this short explanation of what a “delta” is.


What is a “Delta”?

Delta simply refers to a difference (in this case in temperature between) two things. To give a quick example, all other things being equal, a room with a 20C ambient temperature (the temperature of the air) would have water temperatures that are 5 degrees lower than a room with a 25C ambient temperature. Using delta T allows us to compensate very easily for small fluctuations in room temperature.

Delta T also gives our readers an easy way to determine what their results would be if they had the same setup as we do. For example, if our results with one of the fans was a delta of 15 degrees between air temperature and water temperature, then no matter what the temperature of a room, you could, with reasonable accuracy, deduce what temperature your CPU would run at with our test setup (at the same overclock settings of course).

So, to put it plainly: the Delta T we are using is the difference between the room and water temperature.


More about the Methodology

Now on to the testing methodology: The CPU remained loaded for the duration of the evening that we performed our testing. It was never turned off, and was running 4 instances of Prime95 small FFT for the entire test period. Each fan was hot-swapped onto the running computer, then water temperatures were given 20 minutes to reach an equilibrium (meaning they were not changing anymore), then temperatures were logged over 5 minutes to get our readings. After that, the next fan was tested. Temperatures were recorded using Core Temp plus the Type-T probes reading water and ambient temperatures.

So all of that said, how do you interpret the results? The fan that yields the lowest delta T on our test radiator is simply put, the best fan for high restriction applications. There are few (PC) scenarios that this reviewer can think of that are more restrictive on a fan than a Black Ice Xtreme, so that radiator was chosen for this review.
 
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SKYMTL

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Air Cooling Tests

Air Cooling Tests

Single Fan Tests





The first tests look extremely positive in favor of the NF-P12. There is very little difference between the fans in the idle test due to the low amount of heat being generated by the processor but the gap increases during the 15 minutes of CPU load. While a maximum of 3*C difference between the Noctua and the Yate Loon may not seem like much, the 5% improvement the NF-P12 showed is very significant. All in all, this is a great first result for Noctua’s new flagship fan.


Dual Fan Tests





Once again there was hardly any difference between the fans during the idle tests but the Noctua shines in the load tests. While these results aren’t ground breaking they to show that the NF-P12 is the best performing fan in high impedance situations like we see here when it is installed on a Thermalright Ultra Extreme.
 
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SKYMTL

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Water Cooling / Acoustical Tests

Water Cooling Tests


Single Fan "Push"



The deltas shown by the NF-P12 with the very dense fin arrangement of the Black Ice Extreme single fan radiator is very good. In these single fan tests the numbers it achieved about a 10% improvement over its closest competitor and it beats the lackluster Ultra Kaze by a staggering 30%.


Dual Fan "Push / Pull"



Things get a bit tighter in the dual fan radiator testing but the Noctua fan is still able to win by the skin of its teeth. Together these tests demonstrate that the Noctura NF-P12 fan is, as advertised, incredibly effective when used in applications that require high static pressure. This holds true in both an air cooling scenario, and the two water cooling scenarios.


Subjective Acoustical Tests

The impressive performance shown by this Noctua fan would mean nothing if the NF-P12 was louder than Noctua promised. Some fans on the market are able to offer great performance by sacrificing silence in favor of moving as much air as possible. Remember, these were subjective tests where I eliminated as much environmental noise as I could while running each set of fans.

I am happy to report that Noctua’s promises have held through and they have produced a fan that was the quietest in our testing while maintaining great performance. During the listening tests I was continually amazed that this fan was operating at 1300RPM while maintaining a smaller acoustical footprint than the Ultra Kaze which operates at 1000RPM. There was none of the blade or slight motor noise which is normally associated with high performance PC fans so it seems that all the engineering put into the NF-P12 is paying dividends.
 
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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion

Personally, I think that the tests in this review speak louder than any conclusion I can write because the results were so convincing. The Noctua NF-P12 was the best fan we tested. Period. It beat out all of the other fans we put it up against even though the gap narrowed a bit in the last water cooling test. This shows that the high degree of engineering put into this product was not just window dressing since it performs exactly as Noctua promises and then some. Whether it was cooling a Thermalright heatsink or a Black Ice radiator, the NF-P12 proved that it was the best choice for applications which call for a high amount of static pressure. Without a doubt, every part of Noctua’s fan is top notch in terms of build quality and performance. I also like the fact that all of the mounting hardware is included and as well as two prepackaged adaptors for lowering the rotational speed of the fan.

What really surprised me was the distinct lack of noise produced by this Noctua fan. I was prepared for a moderate increase in noise over the NF-S12 fans I was using on my case but lo and behold, the NF-P12 equaled the quiet performance of Noctua’s older fans. To have this kind of performance with the lack of blade or motor noise is a dream come true for people who demand the quietest PC possible. In many cases, an enthusiast will buy a fan speed controller or build their own resistors into a fan’s wiring in order to lower the amount of noise produced by a fan. With the NF-P12 that is no longer necessary since not only does it offer near-silent operation but Noctua has also included two fan speed adaptors to lower RPMs for even less noise.

So, after that ringing endorsement are there really any negatives about this fan? Yes there are and I think the first thing many people will single out about the NF-P12 is its price. The lowest price I could find was $14CAD which is about double the price of an OEM Yate Loon and a few bucks more than other high performance fans used in this review. I would actually like to see an option to buy these fans in packages of 3 (for triple fan rads) or four in order to save a bit of money by buying in “bulk”. On the other hand we can’t forget that all of Noctua’s fans come with every bit of mounting hardware you could want and a 6 year warranty. I would be more than willing to pay the extra money for the piece of mind provided by a warranty and the convenience of not having to search high and low for screws to mount my fans.

Unfortunately, people also tend to pick on the color Noctua chooses for their fans. Granted, the maroon and beige color scheme won’t find many adherents but when this kind of performance comes along, I wouldn’t care if the fan was painted with pink and yellow polka dots. While that is my personal opinion, I am sure that there will still be some consumers out there that will look away from the NF-P12 due to its oddball colors.

When push comes to shove, for a lot of people the decision to buy this fan will stem from the fact that it offers extremely good cooling performance in high impedance applications while staying blissfully quiet. If you are looking for a high performance fan for a radiator or CPU heatsink, it would be a crime not to seriously consider the Noctua NF-P12.


Pros:

- Amazing performance
- Extremely quiet operation
- Sleeved cables
- All mounting hardware included
- Low noise adaptors
- 6-year warranty


Cons:

- Price
- Color




Thanks to Noctua for sending us this product for review

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/cooling/3795-noctua-nf-p12-comment-thread.html
 
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