Noctua NF-F12 PWM fans bring performance and silence to any cooler or radiator
Unboxing and the Test
The only thing better than a single Noctua fan is two. We received two from Noctua even though we requested one for evaluation. And as it turned out, it was perfect for extreme testing of two fans in push-pull configuration on our watercooler’s radiator!
The Noctua NF-F12 PWN fan comes boxed for retail sales and it includes 4 pages of specifications and features that fold out from the cover. The packaging is nice and one hates to throw it away.
All of the Noctua fans have a very unique look that sets them apart from other fans. The two-tone colors are a love-it or hate-it thing for some; we like it as it is different from the generic black. However, if we have a suggestion, it might be for Noctua to offer a color choice.
Well, we have unboxed our NF-F12 PWM fans, we see the excellent specifications and we note the care that Noctua has used in creating them to be powerful, focused, and yet quiet and energy-efficient. All that there is left to do is to test them using our AMD-branded Asetek Liquid Cooling Radiator against the stock fans that come with it. We expect the Noctua fans to be quiet. Can they also provide the same level of cooling or better than the stock fans?
Here is the AMD-branded Asetek cooler from the Asetek website:
We used our hard-to-cool test system with our FX-8150 overclocked to 4.6GHz. We used the stock AMD-branded Asetek Liquid Cooling system with the stock 120 mm Everflow fans. After we measured the temperatures running benches, we replaced the stock fans with the Noctua NF-F12 PWN fans and reran our benches. The most extreme test which heated up our CPU most consistently is OCCT and we used version 4.1.
Here is the AMD-branded Asetek Liquid cooling system with a side of the radiator visible sandwiched in-between two stock Everflow fans in push-pull configuration. The LED behind the AMD logo can be changed from red to blue to white in the software’s control panel.
Replacing the stock fans with the Noctua NF-F12 PWN fans was simple but the screws were barely long enough to reach the radiator because of the slight extra thickness of the anti-vibration pads. Of course, before this simple change of fans, we ran our overclocked FX-8150 test with OCCT first with the stock fans and stock liquid cooling configuration at the extreme preset. We almost achieved near-stability at 4.8GHz but could not pass OCCT, so we settled on 4.6GHz as a solid +1GHz overclock of our FX-8150 and a good test of any cooler’s ability to cool a very hot overclocked CPU.
Test Configuration – Hardware
- AMD FX-8150 (reference 3.6 GHz; overclocked to 4.6 GHz), supplied by AMD
- ASUS CrossHair V ROG AM3+ (latest BIOS, PCIe 3.0 specification; CrossFire/SLI 16x+16x; onboard audio), supplied by AMD.
- Kingston HyperX 4 GB DDR3-PC1600 RAM (2×2 GB), supplied by Kingston
- AMD HD 6950 (2 GB, reference clocked at 800/1250MHz), supplied by AMD
- AMD Liquid Cooling CPU cooler, supplied by AMD
- Two Noctua NF-F12 PWN fans (in push-pull) as a replacement for the stock Everflow fans; supplied by Noctua
- 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard drive
- Philips DVD writer
- 850 OCZ PSU
- Thermaltake Chaser MK-I (Supplied by Thermaltake)
The test and the results
Well, we started our test first with the stock fans and used the extreme preset in our watercooling control panel so the fans would kick up high enough to keep our overclocked-to-4.6GHz FX-8150 cool enough to run this extremely demanding test. We also let the AMD stock power management control the fan’s rpm and ultimately the temperatures. We are going to withhold comment about noise until after we present both results.
First of all, it is important to note that both sets of fans kept the stressed FX-8150 CPU cool enough to pass the OCCT torture test without errors at 4.6GHz with VCore pulling nearly 1.5V. Both saw absolute peaks of temperatures at 82C and both averaged about the same 68C with the liquid temps ranging from high 30sC to lows 40sC, depending on the power management software that is included with the AMD Liquid Cooler.
The main difference was that the Noctua fans although definitely noticeable were not annoying like the stock fans. The stock fans at maximum rpm sounded like something was trying to claw its way out of the case while the Noctua fans, although not silent, were pushing a lot of air without being intrusive. Take a look at the respective fan speeds – the Noctua FX-F12 PWM fans are on the right.
The Noctua fans can spin slower and remain much quieter at 1500 rpm than the stock fans at 2340 rpm. There was absolutely no comparison, only contrast with these two kinds of fans when the CPU is under maximum load. At “silent” preset, the Noctua fans barely breathed above the HD 6950 at idle and the Thermaltake case fans on low. The stock fans were not much louder. But once the rpm was kicked way up, the stock fans became absolutely intolerable while the Noctua fans although more noticeable on extreme, were not irritating. Noctua has come much closer to their goal of very quiet fans and very good static pressure with the NF-F12 PWM fan.
Now that we have run our tests in an extreme situation, let’s head for our conclusion