Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H80
Power Supply Corsair CX500
Enclosure BitFenix Prodigy with 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro intake @ 5V

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

So why use a closed enclosure, and a Mini-ITX one no doubt? As it turns out, my experience in testing Origin's Chronos LAN box suggested that this might actually be ideal. Removing the middle drive cage allows for a straight shot between the Prodigy's intake and the radiator fan, allowing us the opportunity to test how quietly and efficiently the fans can run in a closed system with no real acoustic baffling, while the 200mm Spectre Pro attenuated to 5V runs both quietly enough to not significantly impact results while providing enough airflow to ensure the radiator fans can do their job. Using a larger enclosure felt like it might complicate things with too many variables; the small and wonderfully efficient BitFenix Prodigy felt perfect for the job.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Finally, for the closed-loop cooler we used Corsair's H80. Our own testing proved this was a solid performer and fairly representative of 120mm closed-loop units. The H80 includes a thick, beefy 120mm radiator as well as having dual fan headers built into the waterblock that run non-PWM fans at a constant 12V. I elected against testing in a push-pull configuration, though, to isolate individual fan performance; test results are in a push configuration only.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded; since the block runs the fans at a constant 12V, the only fan that changes speed (and thus noise) is the stock H80 fan, so the noise level for that fan is recorded again during the Prime95 run.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the H80, the SP120 fans, and CX500 power supply.
  • Thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the Air Penetrator AP121 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Prodigy enclosure and Spectre Pro 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 1


View All Comments

  • softdrinkviking - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Sanyo Ace has wide range of fans, some of which are optimized for noise.
    w w w . sanyo-denki.com/sanace.aspx
  • mantikos - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    Sanyo Denki has fans that are damn near silent to leaf blowers...and in either category they are the best. Although a little hard to find.
    I have a Sanyo Denki hooked up to my radiator and I can tell you this thing is awesome!
  • Beenthere - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    ...this type of testing doesn't provide much useful data as the results are only applicable to the hardware tested, i.e. the exact PC case, CPU/cooler, and peripherals as installed in this particular PC case.

    The advertised airflow and static pressure mean absolutely NOTHING unless tested under the exact same industry standards by one source, on the same test equipment all at the same time. In addition how these fans actually perform in real use can be completely different than the advertised performance specs as the case/cooler/peripherals ALL influence the fans performance.

    The reality is the only way to determine how any fan will actual perform in your PC is to test it. Chances are you won't find much difference between the top 5-10 fans that operate at approx. the same speed and with similar airflow, so you might as well just pick the one that makes you happy and forget it unless you want to test for entertainment purposes.
  • prophet001 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Akasa Viper PWM fans is the best one I've used.

    Noctua is good but they don't have the ability to output high CFM when necessary.
  • Narg - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I love that case, other than it's only ITX. Does anyone know if there is something similar in a Micro ATX or any ATX for that matter? Reply
  • C'DaleRider - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Go to Xtremesystems, liquid cooling sub-forum, then the testing sticky. Inside you'll find Martin210's test of over 50 fans tested on a Swiftech MCR-120 rad. Further testing on higher density finned rads are also there, conducted by Vapor.

    Sad this site tried to do with 8 fans what has been done with 50 fans, and counting.
  • SantaAna12 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Nice! I was ready for something straight ahead. I would like to see the Noctua included too. I own some, and found that them to be noisy. Coolermaster slapped down! Hardly a big surprise there....you get what you pay for....mostly. I ended up using Nexus....but would like to see a better cfm flow option that is truly quiet. Good review! Reply
  • 996GT2 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Why was the Gentle Typhoon line (especially the AP-15) not tested?

    The AP-15 is one of the go-to fans for radiators. Not only does it have good static pressure, but it has a very acoustically pleasing noise characteristic.
  • maximumGPU - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I got an GT-AP after after all the praise they got, and i was underwhelmed. They push a good amount of air but i certainly didn't find their noise "acoustically pleasing".
    I hoped for better.
    Of all the fans i tried, the best so far has been the TY-140 from thermalright.. But they're 140mm and look hideous.
  • 996GT2 - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    In my own testing the AP-15 @ about 1800 RPM sounded like my FDB bearing Scythe S-Flexes at about 14-1500 RPM. The AP-15 is inaudible to me at ~1000 RPM from a normal distance. Reply

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