Noctua NF-A Series Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Performance Tests

While these tests are not the most objective method for fan testing, they do give us some information of important fan attributes, such as airflow, airflow consistency, and the amount of static pressure generated. The fans are set at the edge of a desk to prevent air from bouncing back, which could hide the true characteristics of the fan. Because of the amount of fans I will be testing, I have broken up this section into a couple of pictures for each test. First, I will look at the tests of the 40 mm fans, then the 120 mm fans, followed by the 200 mm fans. Each test was conducted in the same manner, with as many constants kept the same as possible.

Setting up the 40 mm fans was the most difficult part. They would easily shift and move around, making it impossible to set them up together. I ended up having to stick them to the top of the surface with packing tape, and since their cables are so short, I had to use the included extension cables. To ensure they reached their maximum speeds, I connected the fan controller and set the speed settings within the BIOS. To avoid any confusion, the way these fans are placed right now stays the same throughout the tests. Starting from the left, the fans were the 5V, PWM, 5V PWM, and FLX.

The 5V and the 5V PWM fans performed the best; actually being able to lift the tissue paper a bit. The PWM version also lifted the tissue paper a bit, while the FLX version did not at all. Even though the tissue paper did not get lifted very high, the parts that were lifted had limited flutter, meaning the static pressure was quite good. I did not expect the 40 mm fans to be able to lift the tissue papers very high, but they performed quite well. One thing about the 40 mm fans was their static pressure is rated quite high. This means they would be good in environments where there is high resistance.

Sound is always quite subjective, as such I will do my best to give a fair assessment of what they sound like on a scale from one to ten, where one is silent and ten is loud. At full speed, the sound comes in at 5.0/10. When the speed was a slower, the sound came in at 4.0/10. Overall, Noctua again proved their capabilities of building silent but well-performing fans.

Testing two fans at a time instead of four fans made things a bit easier. In the above pictures, the PWM version of the Noctua NF-A12x15 was on the left, while the FLX version was on the right. For both 120 mm fans, the performance was mostly the same. The tissue for the FLX version was lifted slightly higher than the PWM version. At the end of the tissue paper, there was some flutter. This was more noticeable on the PWM version. This means the airflow was good, but it was not as consistent. As already mentioned, the PWM version was not as high as the FLX version either. For both fans, I was impressed by the static pressure, which meant there was little to no flutter around the middle area of the tissue. Both fans performed well in the different categories. As always, Noctua has created well-performing fans.

I will be using the same scale for sound as previously mentioned. At full speed, the sound came in at around 5.5/10, while at more nominal speeds, the sound was near silent; coming in at around 2.5/10. Noctua is continuing to demonstrate their prowess at balancing performance and silence.

The Noctua NF-A20 fans performed similarly to the NF-A12x15 fans, except the airflow was more consistent with the 200 mm models. There was barely any flutter noticeable in the tissue paper. They have a capped RPM at 800, so they are not the fastest spinning fans out there. But they are large, and move quite a bit of air. The tissue paper test is definitely not the most effective method for testing these fans, especially in one category. The tissue does not reach the bottom of the fan. This means some of the air being pushed through the fan did not affect the tissue, which could in part explain why the tissue did not rise as high. Otherwise, the middle of the tissue paper was being kept in the air with some flutter, while the end also stayed consistent. The NF-A20 fans were not rated the best for static pressure, but they make up for it in airflow.

The bigger fans actually spin at a slower speed, making them quieter. Using the same scale as previously mentioned, the fans at full speed came in at 4.0/10, while at lower speeds, it came in at 2.0/10. Each of the fans we tested performed well in the tissue paper test, and were quiet.

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