Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware
After taking the fans out of the retail boxes, you will see the fan and a plastic bag of four screws. In the above picture, three of the 120 mm fans of the MasterFan Pro series are shown. Thanks to the different designs of the fins, these fans are quite recognizable even when you put them together and mix them up without looking at the inscription at the back. The one on the top left is the 120 Air Pressure, one on the bottom left is the 120 Air Balance, and the one on the bottom right is the 120 Air Flow. As you can see from the picture, the cable is not long -- only about 30 cm -- but according to my experience, it should allow you to easily install the fan anywhere in a standard sized mid tower computer case. All the cables of the MasterFan Pro series are protected by a braided coat, which is a very useful design, since the soft rubber of the cable will not be damaged by any sharp edges in your computer case. At the end of the cable, all the fans have 4-pin PWM headers, which means their speed is adjusted by your motherboard using pulses of voltage. In order to reduce noise, all the fans in the MasterFan Pro series have three modes: P (performance) mode, Q (quiet) mode, and S (silent) mode. The P mode allows the fan to run at the highest RPM, followed by Q mode, and S mode featuring lower RPMs. Using different modes can reduce the noise level, since noise level is proportional to the RPM, that is, the higher the RPM, the higher the noise level. The modes can be set by adjusting the switch on the motor housing cover. However, the users need to use something sharp to get access to the switches, because the switches are under the surface of the motor housing cover. I would prefer the switches to be able to be adjusted without using any tools.
In the MasterFan Pro series, there are two 140 mm fans instead of three. Note the Air Balance one is not available for the 140 mm sized fans. The only difference between the 140 mm fans and the corresponding 120 mm ones in terms of appearance is the diameter of the impeller. All the other aspects, such as the shape of the fins, frame design, and braided cables are pretty much the same. In the above photo, the one on the left hand side is the 140 Air Flow fan, while on the right hand side is the 140 Air Pressure fan. As you can tell from the above two pictures, the 120 mm and 140 mm fans are very similar except for their size. The 140 mm fans also feature 4-pin PWM headers.
In terms of the overall design principle, the MasterFan Pro series are the good examples of being low key and stealth. They are designed to be merged into your computer case, therefore, there is no fancy and shiny bits like LEDs. The frame of the fan is made out of black plastic, and the impellers are made out of half transparent black plastic with a glossy coating. According to Cooler Master, the air resistance can be reduced by applying this kind of coating. The company’s logo and the product’s name is located on the motor housing back cover. Since there is no protection on the air intake side of the fan, be very careful of your fingers if you want to do any modification to your computer while it is on. One feature I like from the MasterFan Pro series fans is the rubber mounts. All four of the mounts are made out of rubber. The rubber mounts can reduce the noise by absorbing the vibration. I will talk about this later when we discuss the noise level.
According to the Cooler Master’s product description, a POM bearing is used for the MasterFan Pro series to achieve a long lifetime. POM stands for Polyoxymethylene, which is one kind of high precision material with “high stiffness, low friction and dimensional stability” according to Wikipedia. POM can provide self-lubrication thanks to its low friction nature, and most importantly, its high rigidity allows the fans to have a very long lifespan. In this case, the MasterFan Pro series has an amazing 490,000 hours of life expectancy. Personally, I believe the fan will just run pretty much forever if you do not intentionally break it, haha.
Flipping over the fans, you can get a closer look at the impellers design. In the above picture, the pair of the 140 mm fans are shown. To be more specific, the 140 Air Flow Fan is on the left hand side. According to Cooler Master’s official website, the shape of its impeller is inspired by a turbine engine. I think the designer of this fan got their idea from the air compressor of a gas turbine, except that the fins are made out of plastic instead of titanium. The blades are rectangular in shape, and they are designed to deliver high volumes of airflow. From the specifications, we can see the maximum CFM (Cubic feet per minute, which is commonly used to measure airflow.) of the 140 Air Flow fan is rated at 106, while the other 140 mm Air Pressure fan has a maximum of 82.2 CFM. Clearly, the 140 Air Flow has better airflow performance, therefore it can be used on the rear or top panel of the computer case to allow more air to get out of the computer case, as suggested by Cooler Master. As for the air pressure, it is another important metric to evaluate the performance of a fan. On a typical computer case, there could be mesh or grille that may prevent the air from getting in, which requires the fan to have the strength to pump the air through. A way to measure this strength is the mmH2O. The 140 Air Pressure features 5.28 mmH2O maximum, which is way higher than the 140 Air Flow’s 2.1 mmH2O, thanks to the helicopter propeller inspired fin design. Note that all the maximum airflow and air pressure is measured at the highest RPM. In other words, it requires the fan to be at the P mode to record those results. It is worth noting the fan is smart enough to stop itself when it is jammed, such that the motor is protected if any external objects get stuck in the impeller.
The 120 Air Flow and 120 Air Pressure fans have the same basic design as the 140 Air Flow and Air Pressure; only the size is different. The only fan available in 120 mm form but not 140 mm is the Air Balance model. As its name suggests, the performance of the 120 Air Balance should achieve the balance between airflow and air pressure. By referring to the specifications, I found out the airflow of the 120 Air Balance is rated at 83.1 CFM, and it ranks in the middle of the 120 Air Flow’s 84.5 CFM and 120 Air Pressure’s 62.1 CFM rating. It also strikes a nice balance with air pressure performance, the 120 Air Balance is rated at 3.63 mmH2O, while the 120 Air Pressure is 4.6 mmH2O and the 120 Air Flow is 2.61 mmH2O. The 120 Air Balance is the right choice if you want both good performance for airflow and air pressure. Therefore, as recommended by the manufacturer, the Air Balance can be used on a CPU heatsink, since it can penetrate the heatsink pretty well due to the high pressure, and it can also deliver high airflow to cool the heatsink down.
Noise is another factor that people may be concerned about when choosing computer case fans. One way to theoretically evaluate the noise level is by using dB. dB is a logarithmic unit to measure how loud the sound is. For the MasterFan Pro series, all of the five fans have the same ratings of noise level in terms of dB. In the S mode, the noise level is 6 to 20 dB, in Q mode, 6 to 30 dB, and in P mode, 6 to 36 dB. If those numbers do not make any sense to you, that is fine, because there are several situations that can represent the same noise level as the three modes according to Cooler Master. For S mode, its noise level is equivalent with the “recording studio”, Q mode’s noise level is the same as a “soft whisper”, and P mode’s noise is just as loud as the noise level in a library. Overall, the fans should not sound very noisy in any of the three modes, but let us see if that is the case in real life on the next page.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Performance Tests