Noctua NF-P12 Cooling Fan Page: 1
Introduction

From the very first days of the computer, fans have been a necessity for keeping components within operating temperatures. Today things are no different, while the increased availability and affordability of water based cooling solutions has improved things, the fan has still not been made redundant; just moved onto radiators. Alongside this industry-wide shift towards water-cooling, the technology employed in our fans has also been stepped up somewhat.

The heat expenditure of  every day hardware has extended the need for high CFM fans into nearly all levels of the desktop PC, putting pressure on manufacturers for quieter fans. This is clearly also an attractive prospect for enthusiasts, who have possibly endured years of high pitched screeching from multiple high-end Delta level fans.

The fans being tested today are the very latest offering from a company that specialises in addressing all the problems mentioned above - Noctua. Relatively unknown to the enthusiast market until recently (with the release of fans like the NF-R8 and NF-S12 ), Noctua is an Austrian company specialising in the development of sound optimised cooling solutions. There is quite a bit to read on the background of the company on their About Noctua page, but here is a short extract detailing where the company has arisen from:


Noctua aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance "Designed in Austria" through paying attention to the users' needs in a market burdened with all kinds of frills and furbelows and providing sound-optimised premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.

Noctua arises from a cooperation between the Austrian Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation and entertains a development partnership with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology (Österreichisches Institut für Wärmeübertragung und Ventilatorentechnik, ÖIWV). These connections form the key to the achievement of our goal: The partnership with the ÖIWV permits the application of scientific measurement instrumentation, methods of calculation and simulation technology in the R&D process. Rascom's long, customer-oriented experience in developing and distributing sound-optimised high-end products ensures a clear focus on the users' needs. The use of Kolink's advanced manufacturing technology and ultra-modern production plants allows us to efficiently implement our technical edge and provide solutions of the highest standard in quality and performance.
 

Looking at the background of the company it is no surprise that the fans previously reviewed were so impressive. Today we will be looking at the new NF-P12.

NF-P12

Specifications

Being a brand new product, specifications are not available on Noctuas website so the following has been replicated from the back of the NF-P12's packaging:

Fan Specifications

As you can see the NF-P12 has a very impressive airflow to decibel ratio ( 54.31855 CFM @ 19.8dB). As well as the impressive airflow to decibel ratio, Noctua has included low noise and ultra low noise adapters, effectively taking the fan down to very low noise levels.

However as I'm sure many people have experienced, decibel measurements don't consider the pitch of the sound emitted so further into the review we will be taking a look at all the above RPM settings to get a fair idea of what sort of sound you can expect if you were to buy one.


Noctua NF-P12 Cooling Fan Page: 2
Contents & Packaging

The packaging housing the NF-P12 and extras is very similar to the packaging seen on previous fans reviewed here at Overclock3D. Sporting the same intriguing logo and umber / sienna gradient with a window just big enough to get a look at the fans unique colouring and vibration dampening fixtures.

Packaging Front Packaging Back
 
The back of the packaging is this time a bit heavier on information and pictures than the previous fans. There are details on the fans features such as the nine blade design, vortex control notches, smooth commutation drive and self stabilising oil-pressure bearing (also listed on the front of the box). Further down we are given the fans specifications (seen on page 1) , a list of the box contents and a mention of the massive six year warranty the fan carries.

After taking the fan out the box and having a good look at it, I noticed a gap running down the side of the box which I admittedly missed before. After a good look I decided it was safe to give it a pull and was shocked to be greeted with an extensive breakdown of all the technology employed by the fan, a list of awards received by Noctua and details about the contents.
 
Back Opened Out


I personally think it is nice to see a bit of effort and design going into packaging considering that the usual packaging is no more than a transparent box with a cardboard insert.

Contents

Once you open up the box and pull the fan out  you get a good look at what you're getting for your money. The quality plastic casing is the same as that on previous Noctua fans, which should help to prevent any nasty knocks from damaging anything.
 
Plastic Inner Packaging

Originally the colours sported by the Noctua fans were a bit of a shock, but in the months since they were first seen, and having had one sat in front of me, I must say I'm quite fond of it. Obviously this will be a bit of a 'marmite moment' where others will not be anywhere near as keen. At the end of the day however, performance is the key factor we should be concerned about.

 In the box there is a fair helping of extras:

- Ultra Low Noise Adapter
- Low Noise Adapter
- 4 Vibration Compensators
- 3 to 4-pin Adapter
- Fan Screws
 
 Adapters  Vibration Reducing Fixtures

With the inclusion of  two mounting methods and two adapters, purchasers are getting a fair bit more than seen included with most fans on the market.


Noctua NF-P12 Cooling Fan Page: 3
The Fan In Detail

When looking at the fan itself, I think you will agree that it looks a lot sturdier than the NF-S12. Utilising an extra two blades  and being housed in a slightly thicker shroud, we should certainly see an improvement in increased static pressure. The fan when picked up has the same feel to it as would be expected from an industrial fan such as a Papst or Delta. As a result the fan is fairly weighty and the plastic definitely feels a lot more robust than most case fans.

Fan Back

Fan Front

One of the most noticeable features on the  NF-P12 is the vortex controlling notches cut into the trailing edge of the fan blades. These are designed to disrupt and spread the drag created by the blades movement, reducing resistance noise. The back of the packaging seen earlier tells us more about this process and goes on to explain that the notches are staggered distances from the edges of the blades to create a range of pitches, effectively making the sound a lot less distinct and far more tolerable.

The cable running from the fan is of a considerable length (approx. 40 CM) and is sleeved with a rubber sheath heat shrink sealed at both ends.

3-pin connector

The SSO Bearing

One of the features seen on the NF-P12 is a Self Stabilising Oil bearing. This system allows for near frictionless operation, reducing heat, power input, noise and instability. Furthermore, we are provided (again on the fold out part of the box) with information detailing the massive increase in bearing longevity this technology provides.

 
SSO Bearing

SSO Bearing Comparison
 
Obviously I cannot comment on the bearing comparison but I can certainly vouch for the increase in stability of the blade rotation.



Noctua NF-P12 Cooling Fan Page: 4
Fan Testing

To give an idea of what sort of gains the NF-P12 offers, I will be using it as a case fan and measuring the temperature drops caused by the fan. The case I will be fitting the fan in will be an Antec P182. The case is currently cooled by three Antec TriCool 120mm fans. To give a more focused result, I have removed the two extraction fans and blocked one of the vents, leaving a low speed TriCool feeding the case from the front with fresh air. The power supply is fitted in a separate compartment at the bottom of this case, which means that the power supplies fans will not be aiding in the removal of warm air.

I will be taking readings from a fixed location approximately 15 centimetres down from the top of the case and positioned equal distances from the sides. I will be taking three temperature values, one for each speed / noise level the fan is capable of. Each reading will be  taken three times and averaged over a period of 30 minutes of general desktop use, with around 45 minutes given after introducing each speed adapter to allow temperatures to reach a constant level. I will also include a full speed reading for a Sharkoon 1000 'Golf Ball' fan, which produces a nearly identical 19dB(A) to the full RPM NF-P12 and employs an alternative vortex control system.


The ambient temperature was measured throughout and stayed between 17°c and 17.3°c and so all results have been left as taken.

Temperature Results

As you can see the NF-P12 without any adapters fitted, dramatically reduced the temperature within the case to a very comfortable 20.9°c, which is nearly 2 degrees lower than the Sharkoon 1000. Usually this would equate to an increase in noise but I can easily say that the Noctua's 19dB(A) output is of a more pleasant pitch than the Sharkoon.

With the introduction of the low noise adapter and ultra low noise adapter, the temperatures understandably increased but only over a range of 2.8°c, which when you consider the near complete silent operation with the U.L.N.A (12.6dB(A)) is a more than acceptable performance.

With the introduction of two extra blades to the fan the static pressure output of the fans will have been increased, which is a welcome improvement over the previous fans. Due to time constraints however, accurate testing of these improvements is not possible. I can say though that when fitted to a radiator consisting of 20 fins per inch it maintained pretty healthy airflow.


Noctua NF-P12 Cooling Fan Page: 5
Conclusion

When it comes to review conclusions I have to say I try my best to present everything fairly and concisely, highlighting positive and negative points with the product, as one would expect. That being said, I am finding it difficult to fault this products performance. It really does tick all the boxes, by providing the airflow of a high-performance fan while producing the same noise as fans that have needed to compromise airflow to obtain their low decibel output.

The previous Noctua case fans that Overclock3D reviewed came with a slightly hefty price tag of around £15 (now around £13.50). The NF-P12 however has hit the market at an RRP of £13.85 (EUR 19.90) and be found over at WaterCoolingUK for a similar price. This will definitely seem a little expensive to some prospective purchasers, but in my opinion is well worth it if silence is your biggest priority. Should it hit the shelves in the UK at this price, Noctua are certainly onto a winner and this fan would certainly by my first choice were I to build a HTPC or silence orientated PC.


The Good
* Very quiet even without adapters
* Improved static pressure and high airflow for noise and RPM
* Good build quality of the fan and cabling
* Long lasting, self stabilising bearing
* Nicely packaged with good bundled extras
* 6 Year Warranty

The Mediocre
* Colour scheme will not be to everyone's liking
* Would have been nice to see braiding on adapters

The Bad
* Price may be a little high for some


So, with the rather long list of positive features, I'm happy to award the Noctua NF-P12 the Overclock3D's Editors Choice Award.

Editors Chocie Award

Addendum (15/12/07) - Static pressure testing has now been completed for this fan and you can find it here.
 
As usual readers can head over to the forums to join in the discussion.