Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware
As a combined review for two different fans, things might get a bit tricky, but I will do my best to keep it organized. Starting on the right, we can see that the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic uses a black plastic frame with the crystalline loop forming a ring around the fan. On the edges, black pads can be seen around each of the mounting holes. These pads act as dampeners, being designed to reduce vibration and noise generated by the fan when mounted. The whole impeller, including the fan blades, are translucent to help disperse the RGB lighting. Even though the crystalline loop is made out of plastic, it has a glass-like appearance. Because of this, the fan looks very clean and polished, even without the RGB lighting. The Cooler Master logo is seen in the center with a large silver sticker, very similar in fashion to the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120 Series. Internally, the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic uses rifle bearings. These bearings are similar to sleeve bearings but have a spiral groove in them that pumps fluid from a reservoir. The fans can be horizontally mounted since the fluid being pumped lubricates the top of the shaft, allowing the fan to operate at a lower noise level while having a longer lifespan when compared to sleeve bearings. These fans should last about 160,000 hours, which is just over 18 years.
Moving to the left, we can see the physical look of the Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB is quite different. This fan utilizes a much thicker black plastic square frame that is designed for noise and vibration dampening. Dampening pads are not visible on the edges, but that is because the entire structure that the mounting holes are built into uses a similar rubber material to absorb vibration. The fan blades also have a frosted look aside from being translucent. The MasterFan SF120M ARGB contains four more thick translucent lines on the sides of the frame, unlike other RGB fans. Like the impeller, the inner rim of the fan utilizes the same translucent plastic that the fan blades are made out of, making it so the RGB lighting will stand out more. The Cooler Master logo is also placed in the center of the fan, but the hexagonal logo outline is static, meaning it will not move when the fan is in operation. The Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB uses dual ball bearings internally. A ball bearing uses at least two races to contain balls that will lower the coefficient of friction due to their rolling motion. Unlike a single ball bearing design where there is only one row of ball bearings, a double ball bearing has two rows of ball bearings. These types of mounts have the advantage of being mountable in any orientation without affecting the lifespan of the fan. These fans should last about 280,000 hours, which is just under an impressive 32 years. I assume that is older than many of the readers on this website, including yours truly.
Taking a closer look at the fan blades of the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic, we can see that the fins are very similar in design to the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120 series, with the angle of the blades becoming more curved near the edges. All the fins have a decently sized gap between them such that none of them overlap each other. In reference to the rotating middle, the angle of each blade is roughly 41 degrees. There are a total of seven blades on the impeller of the MasterFan MF120 Prismatic, all being very smooth without any bumps or abnormalities.
Taking a better look at the Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB, we can see it utilizes thinner fan blades. We can also more clearly see the frosted look of the fan blades, which look cleaner and is more transparent to disperse the RGB lighting more vibrantly. The angle of the blades becomes quite curved as it approaches the edge. The fins do not overlap either with a nice gap between them all. In reference to the rotating middle, the angle of each blade is roughly 58 degrees. There are a total of seven blades on the impeller, all being very smooth as well. Interestingly, all the blades are attached to the circular translucent plastic inside the rim of the fan.
Looking at the output side, we can see four arms that hold the impeller in place. Both fans retain their special lighting feature on the back side as well -- the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic has its crystalline loop visible on the back, while the Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB has its quadrant lighting lines.
A fan speed control switch can be seen towards the right side of the center on the MasterFan SF120M ARGB. On the introduction page, you might have noticed that the specifications of the MasterFan SF120M ARGB were often referred to in three different modes -- high, medium, and low. With this switch, users have the option to select the speed range they want their fan to operate in. However, an issue of accessibility arises with the placement of this switch, especially if this is used as an exhaust fan. The switch is also pretty small, so you may want to keep a toothpick around if you constantly want to make adjustments. As such, I think most users will just want to pick a fan speed range and roll with it. I still think the fan speed control switch is beneficial, since it gives users the option to limit how fast they want their fans to spin.
We can see that two cables are used by both the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic and the Master Fan SF120M ARGB. The first one is a 4-pin PWM-controlled fan header. The second cable is a 3-pin ARGB header with the purpose of controlling the addressable RGB LEDs. The cables for both fans approximately measure 300mm in length. This should be long enough to route around most cases. Both cables are braided, which is a nice touch. The Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB also comes with four anti-vibration mounts shown at the top. These mounts are meant to replace the screws when mounting the fan to further dampen the generated vibration and noise. Personally, I think it looks a bit awkward on the fan, as the ends of the anti-vibration mounts are just sticking out of the fan when mounted. I will probably just use the mounting screws when hooking up this fan to my rig. Like the fan speed control switch though, I think having the included anti-vibration mounts is a nice addition.
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.
Starting with the technical details of the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic, we have some impressive specifications of 55 CFM, 2.91 mmH20, and a maximum noise level of 27 dB spinning at a maximum of 2000 RPM. This is a pretty good balance between airflow and static air pressure. The MasterFan SF120M ARGB also has a good balance between airflow and static pressure with 62 CFM, 2.40 mmH2O, and a maximum noise level of 22 dB spinning at a maximum of 2000 RPM. These details are all for the highest fan speed setting of the MasterFan SF120M ARGB. The medium and low setting mode ratings can be found in the specifications. With these numbers, these fans should generate enough airflow for more open, unrestricted applications like intake fans. In addition, the relatively high static pressure numbers mean these fans should also be capable of working in more dense applications.
There are only so many ways to say that something is "beautiful", but this is the best term I can use to describe the lighting on the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic. The lighting on this fan is stunning because of the 24 addressable RGB LEDs placed around the crystalline loop, which shines brightly off its diamond-looking surface. The six additional addressable RGB LEDs on the fan hub further add to the impressive lighting of the fan. If you are purchasing the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic to solely add a great looking fan to your case, then you will be getting what you want. These pictures are not enough to show how incredible the lighting is, as the RGB lighting display on the MasterFan MF120 Prismatic is simply captivating.
The rainbow lighting on the Cooler Master MasterFan SF120M ARGB also looks great. The four translucent lines on the side of the frame add a nice additional touch to the already colorful fan, which is thanks to the 12 addressable RGB LEDs evenly placed around the frame. The six addressable RGB LEDs on the inner translucent ring allow the RGB lighting to shine brightly here with the frosted fan blades further enhancing the color dispersion. The Cooler Master logo in the center of the fan hub is static, meaning it does not spin with the fan. This is a creative design choice with the logo shining bright in the middle, surrounded by ever changing colors. If there is nothing controlling the colors, the MasterFan SF120M ARGB will glow white for as long as the fan is powered on.
Cooler Master knocked it out of the park when it comes to the RGB lighting effects of these fans. Both the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Prismatic and SF120M ARGB have impressive lighting that is unique and helps the two models stand out from the regular RGB fan crowd. Performance is ultimately what makes a fan worth buying though, so let us move on to the performance tests.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. Performance Tests