Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware
As I have mentioned before, the fans will be lined up in the same order from left to right in all of the photos. In each of their packages, SilverStone has provided us with four rubber grommets, four metal screws, and an adapter from the 4-pin PWM connector to Molex. SilverStone has also gave us a white 3M rubber pad with the FQ122 and FW122. These pads have eight cutout areas, which are meant to attach to the fans to reduce vibration between the fan and your chassis when you install it. The FQ122 also has a speed reduction cable included to cap it at the 800RPM mark.
All of these fans are made out of a similar plastic construction, with a blue and white scheme. The FQ and FW fans are inverted in color, as they switch between blue and white for their frames and fans. This coloring scheme is quite unlike the fans fellow editor Preston Yuen reviewed recently, the Deepcool GF120, and I find these colors to be quite odd. It is just really bright blue. It is not some subdued baby or cloud blue, but rather a very in-your-face blue. Of course, this color preference is all opinion, and really depends on your tastes. If you are worried this may clash with a certain pink USB drive, then you might want to find a different fan. Otherwise, it is not a huge deal. If you really do not like the colors of these fans though, you could always buy a non-windowed case. As for the fan grille, you can see SilverStone has taken a different approach, as opposed to their past fans like the Silverstone Air Penetrator SST-AP123. There is now quite a bit less plastic covering the fans, which exposes a larger area of the blade to air. The FQ122 and FW122 seem to have the least obstruction with only four bars extending to the frame, while the FW121 has five, plus a smaller plastic circle. Just be sure to watch your fingers when you are working with these fans, as they may get nicked.
While all of these fans are 120mm fans, there are a few things differing between the three. Besides the obvious color difference between the two series of fans, the FQ-series of fans are supposed to be a higher-end version of SilverStone's cooling equipment in comparison to the FW-series. The FQ122 and FW122 are the exact same size at 120 x 120 x 25 mm, while the FW121 is the slim version in the FW lineup, with a thickness of just 15 mm. Of course, all of their operating speeds are also different, but we will discuss this more later. Otherwise, the last difference between the FQ and FW series is the bearing type inside the fan. The FW line has an unspecified long lasting bearing, with a mean time before failure of 40000 hours, which translates to over four and a half years. On the other hand, the FQ line has PCF or Powder Copper Fluid bearings, which are meant to increase the average lifetime of the unit. The rated mean time before failure is a whopping 150000 hours, or more than seventeen years. While this may seem like a large number, Noctua as well as other fan manufacturers offer similar figures for their own products.
As Preston pointed out in the Deepcool GF120 review, manufacturers are seemingly moving towards a larger width and increasing overlap at the ends of the blades. This should translate into a greater pressure into the system, and focuses the airflow for better static air pressure. The SilverStone fans follow this similar trend, which increases the actual fan performance, depending on your application. The blades on all of the fans look similar, but there are a few differences. For one, the FQ122 has slightly wider fan blades at the end compared to the FW122. The FW121's blades bend the most, as there are only nine total fan blades in comparison to eleven found on the other two fans. There also is a small white ring connecting all of the FW121's blades, probably to increase rigidity of the whole structure. While SilverStone has provided rubber dampeners and fan mounts to reduce the vibration of the fan, they could have also implemented other ways to decrease the turbulence created by these cooling devices. As for the cables on the fans, majority of companies put sleeved cables on their fans, but SilverStone has only opted for this on the FQ122 fan. This means the other two fans reveal their multi-colored wires, but it is not a deal breaker for me. These cables are all around the same length of 30 cm from end to end. This should generally be enough for most users, but it would be nice to see some sort of extension cable for some users with full-tower or larger cases.
All three of these fans are blessed with 4-pin PWM or pulse-width modulation headers, and can be powered by your motherboard, or from the power supply directly via the supplied 4-pin to Molex connector. As I have mentioned before, SilverStone uses PCF bearings on the FQ-line of fans, while the FW-line has an unspecified "long lasting bearing". The specified speeds of each fans are different, with the FW121 ranging from 800 to 2000 RPM, the FW122 from 1000 to 1800 RPM, and the FQ122 from 800 to 1500 RPM. Of course, you might be wondering why the slim fans can spin faster than the higher-end fan. Speed is not the only thing of importance for fans, as there are also the topics of sound and CFM. The following lesson on these two topics have been borrowed from Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan's review of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM and NF-P12 PWM fans.
Noise and CFM relates to the big challenge when designing fans 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 (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 (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.
With all this out of the way, let's look at the technical detail of the fans. The SilverStone FQ122 is rated at 63.8 CFM, 24.9 dB, and 0.11 mmHg. The FW122 is rated at 76.5 CFM, 28.1dB and 0.15 mmHg. Finally, the slim FW121 is rated at 32.6 CFM, 24.6 dB, and 0.11 mmHg. By specifications, it would seem like the FW122 is the better air mover, despite producing more noise. However, we will see how this actually transfers into our classic performance tests.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. Performance Tests