Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

The Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB has quite the appearance with a nice ring design similar to, but not exactly like the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120 Halo, and of course, the Thermaltake SWAFAN 12 RGB. In addition to the translucent blades of the fan, there is also a diffuser ring around the rim of the fan. These semi-transparent locations are designed to adequately spread the light around the fan evenly. Aside from these areas, the rest of the fan is completely white. Similar to many other fans, the SWAFAN EX12 RGB has a bit of branding on the middle of the impeller. On the edges, you have some large rubber pads to soften the mount between the fan and your case or radiator during installation. These rubber pads allow for better sound dampening by reducing vibrations. Overall, the design is quite standard with a bit of spice.

Internally, the SWAFAN EX12 RGB uses hydraulic bearings. These bearings are similar to regular fluid bearings, but it is also lubricated using oil. The use of using hydraulic bearings increases its longevity and consistency while also lowering the noise produced compared to other types of bearings. The one negative to this type of bearing is the same as all other fluid bearings, as they must maintain pressure to prevent wear and mounting orientation consideration may be required. The mounting position may be a moot point as these fans are rated for 40,000 hours, which is a bit short even for a fan. We will see how much noise this fan outputs when we test them later.

Taking a closer look at both sets of blades, you will see quite a standard approach coexisting with many other fans. There is a small gap in between each of the fins, having no overlapping areas. 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 nine blades on the impeller. The impeller is a relatively regular size compared to other fans. Additionally, we have the reverse fan. These reverse fans add a nice unique aspect to the installation as the use is purely aesthetic when it comes to mounting. Rather than flipping the fan over, you can simply swap to the reverse fan blades to avoid showing off the arms on the output side. To swap to the reverse fan, it is a simple pop out and pop in of the fan blades. When taking off, it does not require too much pressure, as I found I never felt as though I would be breaking the fan. The re-installation is very similar as you simply push and clip the blades into place. This should be much easier than having to remount a fan to reverse the direction of airflow. We will see how this swappable design performs in our performance tests on the next page.

On what is typically your output side, four arms hold the fan in a manner as seen in the image above. These arms will minimally obstruct air from passing through. There is a single cable on the Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB that is magnetically attached to the fan for power and lighting controls. This magnetic design is quite innovative and should clear up a lot of cable clutter. These fans have the capability of being daisy-chained by simply placing the fans next to each other. In the image below you will see the pins on the fan that magnetically attach to both connect to the magnetic cable and daisy-chain fans. The cable is a 9-pin header that is approximately 900mm in length. This should be more than long enough to maneuver around most cases for a clean build. This cable is quite flexible and is sleeved for better durability and looks. The 9-pin header may seem strange, but it connects directly to a controller for lighting and PWM control. This does mean you must use the included controller as it will not plug directly into any standard motherboard. We will talk about the controller more shortly.

Looking at the specifications, we can see the maximum CFM or cubic feet per minute rating of the Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB is 57.11 CFM with the base blade and 56.26 CFM with the reverse fan. This is improved compared to the non-EX model, which is rated at 53.02 CFM with the base blade and 54.85 CFM with the reverse fan. Still, this is a little lower than other 120mm fans we have seen. For example, the be quiet! Silent Wings 4 had an airflow of 76.7 CFM.

Air pressure is another important metric to evaluate the performance of a fan. In scenarios where there is mesh or a heatsink that obstructs airflow, the fan is requires to have the strength to pump air through it. This is measured in mmH2O. The Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB specifies 2.39 mmH2O maximum with the base blade and 2.02 mmH2O with the reverse fan, which is actually lower than the previous model at 2.58 mmH2O and 2.19 mmH2O,respectively. Note these values are achieved by the fan spinning at the max speed of 2000 RPM. Another important aspect of fans is their noise level, which is measured using dB, or decibels. The specifications state a noise level of 30.6 dB for the base fan and 32.5 dB for the reverse fan, which is about the same in normal configuration compared to the SWAFAN 12, but quieter with the reverse fan that was previously rated at 36.5 dB. Taking this into account, these fans can be considered to be average in noise level when considering their rated RPM and airflow.

The controller is designed very simply for the ease of use for the user. On the top and bottom are slots for fans to be plugged in. On the left, we have a micro-USB port that can be used to plug into the motherboard via a 9-pin USB 2.0 internal header or to daisy chain controllers to each other. Additionally, we have a 4-pin plug for said daisy chaining. On the right side of the controller, we have another 4-pin connector that must be connected to a Molex cable from your PSU. The physical setup was quite simple, but some issues may arise which we will talk about shortly. One thing that is a bit concerning is the need for so many proprietary connections, especially with the daisy chaining and the 9-pin fan headers. I also wish they used SATA connections to power the controller instead of the older Molex, especially considering this is a newer updated model.

As for lighting in the Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB, there is a very well-spread amount of light throughout the fan blade and ring. There are 30 LEDs divided into the ring around the fan and in the center. This allows for the colors to be bright and vibrant at every part of the fan. Pictures do not do the lighting justice as it is beautiful and shines bright. Thermaltake did a really good job with the lighting for the SWAFAN EX12 RGB.

In terms of controlling the lights, you can adjust them using TT RGB PLUS, which downloads as a 153MB ZIP file. These adjustments can be made rather simply using their lighting tab. If you have read my previous review, you may have seen how I had issues regarding detecting the fans to control the RGB. Fear not, for the fans were detected this time. This time around, I was able to access my system condition, fan speeds, and of course, lighting. The My PC tab allowed me to see the current temperature of my PC components alongside the speeds they were running at. Additionally, this tab had another sub category that allowed me to customize the speed of the SWAFAN EX12 RGB.

The lighting tab was accessible this time around, but worked poorly. I would often times have to restart TT RGB PLUS because my chosen lighting effect would not be applied when hitting the Apply button. The software all around has decent performance, but the usability is limited. With the appearance of the SWAFAN EX12 RGB being a key component of this product, this is a relatively big issue that should be addressed, as users will likely have to restart TT RGB PLUS several times before getting the correct colors and effects running, especially with 13 different lighting effects to choose from.

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