ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM PST RGB 0dB Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

Taking a look at both the ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM PST RGB 0dB, we have what appears to be standard RGB fans. For simplicity, I will be referring to the P12 PWM PST RGB 0dB as the P12 PWM throughout the rest of the review. On the left, we have the P12 PWM, and to its right the BioniX P120 A-RGB. Aside from the translucent blades on the P12 PWM, the rest of the frame is black, as with most fans. The BioniX P120 A-RGB maintains a mainly matte black look with a translucent ring to allow for light to shine through. Both fans place the ARCTIC logo on the middle of the impeller. Around the mounting holes for the BioniX P120 A-RGB, there seem to only be pads on the exhaust side to help dampen any vibrations. This is a strange choice as noise will only be dampened if mounted for moving air in one direction and not the other. The P12 PWM, on the other hand, has pads on both sides of the fan, dampening noise no matter how you choose to mount them. It is important to note the BioniX P120 A-RGB is slightly thicker at 30mm compared to the typical 25mm thickness on the P12 PWM.

Internally, the ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM both use fluid dynamic bearings. These bearings are similar to sleeve bearings, but have improved lubrication. This achieves an increased life span and keeps the noise levels low. Fans that use fluid dynamic bearings can be mounted in either horizontal or vertical positions without any issues. While I cannot confirm the lifespan, you should not be worried as fluid dynamic bearings often have lifespans ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 hours. In addition, ARCTIC does provide a 6-year warranty for both models, so I am not too concerned for its longevity. We will see how much noise the BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM output when we test them later on in this review.

Taking a closer look at the blades, you can see a notable difference compared to other fans on the ARCTIC P12 PWM. All the blades are connected to an outer rim. There is a gap in between each of the fins with no overlapping blades. The angle each blade sits in comparison to the rotating middle is about 45 degrees. The curvature of the blades is about average. There is a total of five blades on the impeller. The blades on the P12 PWM are quite smooth.

The ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB is a bit more standard in comparison to the P12 PWM, having each fin only connected to the middle. Its blades are very similar to the P12 PWM, but are a bit more rounded off on the edges. The rest of the fan is quite similar, having no overlapping fins, 45-degree angle for the blades, and a total of five blades on the impeller. Once again, the blades were quite smooth.

On the output side for both fans, four arms are attached to the frame with a curved arm as seen in the image above. These arms obstruct a very minimal amount of air passing through. On the topics of sound, airflow, and static pressure, the following lesson on these issues have been borrowed from my colleague Jonathan Kwan's review of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM and NF-P12 PWM fans.

Noise and CFM relates to the challenge when designing fans, which is to provide the best airflow to noise ratio. One would want the best amount of airflow while keeping it as quiet as possible. Even with the best ratio, it is quite difficult to measure objectively at all times. The most common unit of objective measurement is CFM, or 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 us discuss perceived noise first.

dB, or 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 do 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 all the time.

With regards to the application and CFM, it is generally optimal to have a fan to have a high air volume flow rate. However, 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 need less static pressure and faster airflow. There are times where case fans will require higher static pressure too, such as the front intake fans where a mesh grille would create some resistance. Some fans are simply designed for different purposes, so choose one appropriate for your needs.

Looking at the specifications of the ARCTIC P12 PWM, we have a maximum CFM or cubic feet per minute rating of 48.8 CFM. The BioniX P120 A-RGB is marginally lower at 48 CFM. These values are quite average for a 120 mm fan. In terms of static pressure, the P12 PWM specifies about 1.75mm H2O maximum, while the BioniX P120 A-RGB is listed at 2.1mm H2O. Note that these values are achieved by the fan spinning at their maximum speed, which is 2000 RPM for the P12 PWM and 2300 RPM for the BioniX P120 A-RGB. As for noise, the specifications list the noise levels in units of sone. Sone units are neat in the fact they measure the perceived loudness equal to the loudness of a 1000-hertz tone at 40 dB above threshold. The maximum noise level of the P12 PWM and BioniX P120 A-RGB is 0.3 sone and 0.45 sone, which is about 22.5 dB and 24 dB, respectively. As the P12 PWM is capable of scaling down to 0 RPM like the SilverStone Air Penetrator AP120i PRO, 0dB is achievable. There is no specified minimum noise level for the BioniX P120 A-RGB.

The ARCTIC P12 PWM has two cords coming out. One cord is a 4-pin PWM-controlled header, while the other is a 4-pin RGB header. Both cables are about 400mm with a 100mm extension to aid in daisy-chaining all subsequent fans together. This should be effective in helping the user manage all their cables. A small issue I had was how the two cables came out on different edges rather than being routed out of one area. It is something very small, but can get annoying when mounting several fans together. The cables are quite flexible, but they are not braided.

On the other hand, the ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB does not have any cables directly attached to the fan itself. Instead, different several cables can be used based on the user's preference. The first is a 400mm cable that goes from a single 7-pin block to a 3-pin A-RGB and 4-pin PWM header for direct connection to the motherboard. It is great to see a standard addressable RGB header here instead of a custom one. Next, we have a 200mm cable to daisy chain BioniX P120 A-RGB fans together. Lastly, we have another 400mm cable to connect to a controller. There is one additional block that can be used to “wirelessly” connect two BioniX P120 A-RGB fans to each other when side by side. This block only has pins and no actual cable, hence the "wireless" connection. It may sound like a gimmick, since you still need a physical connection, but it does aid in cleaning up the cables substantially. It would be nice if ARCTIC provided a way to securely attach the two fans together prior to screwing them in. Without this, the only thing holding the fans together are the pins, which could affect its ease of installation.

Both the ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM feature RGB lighting. The BioniX P120 A-RGB setup straightforward. Using the motherboard to fan cable, you can simply plug the 4-pin PWM and 3-pin A-RGB headers into the correct spots on the motherboard, then plug the 7-pin header into the fan. After, you can choose to daisy chain using either the daisy chain cable or connector block. ARCTIC does not have a proprietary lighting software, so lighting effects are limited to the motherboard’s capabilities.

The ARCTIC P12 PWM is also easy to setup. As with many fans, you simply plug in both the PWM header and the RGB cable into the motherboard. Unless you wish to connect additional fans to the 100mm extensions, you are done. This 100mm extension is what ARCTIC calls their PST technology. By connecting another fan to this header, all of the speeds can be controlled synchronously. Taking into account that this fan only uses an RGB header rather than an ARGB header, the P12 PWM will only be able to light up one color at a time. This does not affect me as a big fan of static lighting, but if you are looking to have a rainbow pattern swirling around your entire system, you will have to look elsewhere.

In regard to the lighting for both the ARCTIC BioniX P120 A-RGB and P12 PWM, I really liked the implemented lights. The BioniX P120 A-RGB was very minimal and tasteful with the lights with the ring design. There seem to be 12 LEDs evenly divided around the ring, allowing the colors to be bright and vibrant all throughout. The P12 PWM looks as good as expected. The colors are bright all throughout the blades and even illuminate the outer rim, as you can see in the image above. As far as RGB lighting can go, ARCTIC has done a great job in its implementation.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Performance Tests
4. Conclusion