By: Kenneth Kwok
July 19, 2013
Several weeks ago, I was informed by our Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan that Antec contacted us again, and asked us if we would like to take a look at some of their latest products. I quickly accepted, as I heard there will be some LED case fans on the docket. Since I was already planning to write about the SilverStone Air Penetrator SST-AP123 fans anyway, this was really a no-brainer for me. I thought it would be good to have some comparable products when it comes to the airflow tests, and would also make it easier on me to write two fan reviews in a row. As such, I gladly accepted the Antec offer, and before I knew it, the TrueQuiet 120mm LED fans arrived on our doorstep here at APH Networks Vancouver. When I received the package, I was reminded of how Antec was well known for their exceptional line of cases back in the days, such as the Sonata and the P series. Even today, they are still making tons of computer chassis, and has penetrated well into the cooling and PSU sector, too. The last time we looked at an Antec product was way back in 2007; time sure does fly by. Anyway, let's see how their current products stack up in the market. Without further delay, let us dive right into today's article on the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED case fans.
Our sample unit of Antec's TrueQuiet 120mm LED came in a white bubble mailer from Antec's American offices located in California, USA. UPS Standard was used to ship the package, which arrived quite quickly, and in pretty good condition. There were a few trace marks of handling on the white bubble mailer, but that is expected when you ship something using a bubble mailer, especially in white. The package inside came in good condition, even if the outside looks a bit battered. Nothing else was used to fill the bubble mailer, so the product probably moved around inside. However, this did not leave any noticeable damage, and it is a completely acceptable way to ship such products.
Our review samples came in retail packaging, which mainly consists of a plastic box that is used to display the contents of the product itself. The up side of using a full clear plastic box is the fact that you can easily see the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED fans itself. On the other hand, the use of a full plastic box is not very environmentally friendly, and does not hold well over time when it comes to appearance. Dust collects pretty easily on these type of boxes, and wears out quite easily, especially when it comes to those micro scratches. Regardless, the rest of the design uses a small cardboard tray that is mostly black, and has some white and orange text to accompany it. The front has the Antec logo, as well as the product name; while the back has some specifications in a few languages. When it comes to packaging, it is pretty average, but it should look decent enough on any store shelf, and gives full view of the fan.
Removing everything from the retail packaging, we are left with just the cardboard tray that carries the fan, as well as some accessories, which are hidden behind the top flap of the cardboard. The inside of the tray is a nice orange color that fits in with the rest of the design scheme. Included with the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED fan are four tool-free mounting pins, 3-pin to Molex adapter, and an instruction manual, which lists some of the features and specifications of the product. Speaking of specifications, let's take a quick look before moving on, as obtained from Antec's website:
- 2-way switch to select fan speed
- Blue/White/Green/Red accent LED lighting
- Uniquely-designed fan blades increase air flow while reducing noise
- Silicone grommets to reduce vibration
- Tool-less mounting pins for quick and easy installation
- Included 3-pin to Molex adapter
- Model: TrueQuiet LED 120 (Red)
- Model Number: 0761345-75280-0
- Size: 120 mm x 25 mm / 4.7” x 1.0”
- Weight: 138.9 g / 4.9 oz
- Speed: 1000 RPM / 600 RPM
- Input Current: 0.12 A / 0.06 A
- Air Flow: 01.0 m³/min (46.3 CFM) / 00.6 m³/min (21.1 CFM)
- Noise: 19.9 dBA / 8.9 dBA
- Input Power: 01.4 W / 00.7 W
As seen in the photo above, Antec sent us two identical Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED fans. This is to assure that we can actually use them fully in a test environment, since not many builds require only one fan -- if at all. One thing that you won't be able to see in the above picture is the fact the included LEDs on the fan are red. There are four possible color options from the company, which includes blue, green, white, and red. LEDs are one of those love-hate things. Some people just absolutely love having LEDs to make their products look cool, and this is especially true for chassis that have windows attached. On the flip side, it can also be annoying for people who like to leave their computer on overnight, and don't want to have a glowing outline around their build when they are trying to get some shuteye. Personally, I don't mind either way too much; LEDs can be good in certain situations, but this isn't the main reason for me to be buying a specific cooling product anyway.
The fan is made entirely out of plastic from the enclosure to the blades itself. The only other material is the orange silicone used in the four corners. This is actually used to dampen vibrations and reduce noise. Four tool-free mounting pins are included, and are used to mount the fan instead of the usual screws. This makes installation much easier and also provides better vibration dampening combined with the silicone. I personally thing tthis unique design is quite aesthetically pleasing; it is surely different from standard fans, and looks good to boot. Antec's TrueQuiet 120mm LED also comes with a small fan controller attached to the cables, which has a high and low setting. At low, the fan spins at 600 RPM; while on high, it spins at 1000 RPM. This is a nice feature, and is easier to use and customize compared to custom cables that are just used to lower the voltage.
One of the biggest challenges to a noise optimized product is to provide a high level of airflow to noise ratio, and even both of these cannot be objectively measured at all times. The most common unit of objective measurement is CFM (Cubic feet per minute) of air for airflow, and dB noise, respectively. We will go over how application and CFM is related with regards to its standard measurements, but let's discuss perceived noise first, as written by our Editor in Chief Jonathan Kwan.
dB (Decibels) is a logarithmic unit of sound intensity. While it provides what appears to be an objective measurement for the most part, it should be noted that perceived noise levels to the human ear, and actual sound intensity, could result in very different things. Human ears are more sensitive to particular frequencies, and when those particular frequencies are emitted from its source, it may appear louder than its numbers suggest. That same can be said vice-versa -- frequencies that human ears are less sensitive to can actually have louder dB measurements from a sound meter, yet the human ears does not perceive it to be as loud as the numbers suggest. Other factors such as turbulence noise are often not measured correctly, therefore, while it usually provides a good reference, it does not necessarily reflect real life performance.
With regards to the application and CFM, it is generally optimal to have a fan to have a high air volume flow rate -- but as aforementioned, pure CFM values are limited to an extent with regards to its indication on fan performance. It is not completely about how much air in can move per minute quantitatively, but equally as important is how it is executed in reality. Airflow to noise ratio is an essential factor as mentioned earlier. Static pressure is also very important depending on application. High resistance applications such as dense fins on a large heatsink require high static pressure, while case fans needs less static pressure and faster airflow. Its differences in application is like a large truck that has a diesel engine with lots of low end torque for towing, compared to a sports car with a high revving gasoline engine with lots of power to beat around the track -- they are simply designed for different purposes, so choose one appropriate to your needs.
On paper, the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm is rated at 46.3 CFM, 19.9 dBA at 1000 RPM, and 21.1 CFM, 8.9 dBA at 600 RPM. Relatively speaking, at least on paper, the airflow is a bit on the low side, but this is because the fan only runs at up to 1000 RPM, whereas most other fans can run up to 1200 RPM. This is purely a design choice by Antec, but real life performance is something we have not got to yet.
In terms of design and blade geometry, the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED is quite interesting. The low RPM can probably be attested to by the number of fan blades on the fan itself. There is a grand total of nine fan blades, and all of them are angled kind of like a flower petal. The short and small blades should be pretty effective in terms of airflow, and the fins should direct the airflow into a straighter trajectory than most standard fan blades. The question that I have with this design, is how effective is having a large amount of smaller fan blades compared to using a lower number of bigger fan blades. I am no expert in this, but my best guess is you probably will not get a whole lot of static pressure with higher air speed. In addition, I also want to know about the noise differential this will create compared to a more standard fan design. Luckily, I will be testing just that in the upcoming section.
Using our tried-and-true APH proprietary 'scientific' method for measuring fan performance we devised back in 2007, it is no surprise that we're using it for this review as well -- we have used it in every fan review since then. While it is not exactly the most objective method you can use (No kidding haha), there are a few attributes of fan performance that we can obtain clearly from our observations: Airflow, airflow consistency, and amount of static pressure generated. It visually portrays characteristics of each fan.
Looking at our test setup from left to right, we see our SilverStone Air Penetrator SST-AP123, and two Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED fans set up with our usual testing method. The fan in the middle is set on the low setting and runs at 600 RPM, while our second fan on the right runs on the high setting of 1000 RPM. From this angle, we can tell that the fan on the right, which is the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED running at 1000 RPM, and the SilverStone Air Penetrator SST-AP123 on the left manages to lift the paper the highest, which means there is more airflow and higher static pressure. Sadly, the middle fan set on low running at 600 RPM is barely able to move the paper at all. The good news is that the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED running on high provides a consistent flow of air, and keeps the paper lifted the whole time the test was ran. The only issue was a bit of fluttering, which is not always necessarily a fault in the airflow design, but it shows the nine blade design generates a little lower static pressure. So does this thing blow more air due to the design? Well, it seems that way when you look at the 1000 RPM setting, although it still seems a bit low compared to some fans running at around 1200 RPM.
Perceived sound is another very important aspect, as we have mentioned earlier with regards to perceived noise versus decibel measurements. However, limitations of this test involves subjective measurement of the reviewer; while one reviewer will tell you it is very quiet, it is entirely plausible that another will claim it is very loud. Throughout the last few years, we have developed our own perceived sound scale to make some objectiveness out of this matter here at APH Networks -- the same measurements are been applied to products ranging from power supplies to video cards. To ensure accuracy, I have several reference devices to make sure my ears are in line at all times. All APH Networks reviewers work on the same scale, so the numbers you see in our reviews are definitely comparable.
Each fan was tested independently in a quiet room, with the power supply isolated, to ensure accuracy. On a scale from 0-10, where 0 is silent and 10 is the loudest, I would rate the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED on high to be at 2.5/10 at 1000 RPM. For the low setting, I would say it was running at around a 1.5/10 at 600 RPM. I must say I was a bit surprised that the fan was so quiet at first, but then looking at the fact that it runs at only 1000 RPM, it shouldn't be all that surprising. Of course, on the low setting, the fan noise was almost inaudible even being next to it. You could honestly only really hear the moving wind and a slight buzz of the fan blades turning.
Altogether, the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED makes for an interesting product to say the least. Starting from the intriguing design concept with the usage of orange silicone on the side, the shape of the fan, to the excellent build quality, there is not too much not to like about the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED fan. It is unique, and it performs well. The LEDs, of course, are a nice touch if you are into those kind of things, and can look great in the right situation. Coming in blue, green, white, and red, there are quite a few options for LED colors as well. In terms of airflow and RPM, it seemed a bit lackluster when the fan was set on low running at 600 RPM (Not that we expected any miracles though), but the performance of the fan on the high setting running at 1000 RPM is much better, and does a pretty good job of getting air through. My only concern is it may not be enough in some applications; it would have been great to see a 1200 RPM option as well. The scalability of a fan is more important than the rated peak noise on paper. Do keep in mind the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED is intended to be a case fan, and should not be used in applications where higher static pressure is important, such as on your CPU heatsink. Finally, when it comes to noise, the Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED was certainly quiet on both settings, and is a good choice if you are looking for a quiet fan with multiple color LED options.
Antec provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.3/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Antec TrueQuiet 120mm LED is a great product if you are looking for a quiet LED case fan with lower airflow environments.
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