Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 Cooling Fans Page: 1
Introduction

Fans are predominantly the main source of extracting surplus heat from any PC. With an ever increasing prevalence, many users are now requiring efficient and effective cooling solutions for retaining an acceptable level of heat extraction from their computers. With the increased popularity of alternative methods of cooling, such as watercooling now becoming mainstream; gone are the days when people had to put up with high cfm, screaming banks of fans resounding from their cases.

Further, advancements in active air cooled heatsinks has meant that PC hardware can be cooled efficiently whilst retaining your sense of sanity. For everything but extreme cooling, high dB fans have become a thing of the past. We have also seen a move towards the introduction of HTPC's, where the modern PC becomes almost part of the furniture; and there is certainly little tolerance for exceptionally loud fans.

Noctua, an Austrian based cooling company, has predominantly set its sights on providing end users with a new level of quality and performance by paying attention to the users' needs and providing sound-optimised premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.

It should be known that this is my first experience with any of Noctua's range of cooling solutions and I must say I'm eager to see how they perform. So let's get down to business.

Today in the OC3D Review Labs we will be evaluating Noctua's NF-S12 (120mm) and NF-R8 (80mm) Cooling fans.

Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 fans


Specifications

According to the Noctua website the NF Series of fans are offered only in 120mm and 80mm configurations, but the 120mm fan does have a 1200 or 800 rpm variant available. The specifications for the NF-S12 and NF-R8 fans have been included below. (These were taken directly from Noctua's website)

NF-S12 (800 RPM)

Size: 120x120x25 mm
Bearing: SSO-Bearing
Blade Geometry: Straight-Blade-Design
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 800 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 500 RPM
Airflow: 59 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 34 m³/h
Acoustical Noise: 8 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: < 5* dB(A)
Input Power: 0,60 W
Input Current: 0,05 A
Voltage Range: 6-13 V
MTBF: > 150.000 h
Warranty: 6 years


NF-S12 (1200 RPM)

Size: 120x120x25 mm
Bearing: SSO-Bearing
Blade Geometry: Straight-Blade-Design
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 600 RPM
Airflow: 81 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 41 m³/h
Acoustical Noise: 17 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: < 6* dB(A)
Input Power: 1,44 W
Input Current: 0,12 A
Voltage Range: 4-13 V
MTBF: > 150.000 h
Warranty: 6 years


NF-R8 (1800 RPM)


Size: 80x80x25 mm
Bearing: SSO-Bearing
Blade Geometry: Raised-Blade-Design
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 1800 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 1300 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 800 RPM
Airflow: 53 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A.: 39 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 26 m³/h
Acoustical Noise: 17 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.: 10 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: 7* dB(A)
Input Power: 1,32 W
Input Current: 0,11 A
Voltage Range: 4-13 V
MTBF: > 150.000 h
Warranty: 6 years

Now that we've seen the specifications of the review specimens, let's delve a little deeper.



Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 Cooling Fans Page: 2
Packaging and Contents

The Noctua NF-S12 and NF-R8 Cooling fan packaging is fairly standard, and provides only relevant information regarding the fans, their specification and content.

Noctua NF-S12 and NF-R8 Cooling fans Back of packaging

Inside the cardboard exterior the fans are protected by a plastic bubble which houses the fan and included accessories. The plastic bubble insert should be fairly hardy and prevent any real damage to the fan caused by knocks and bumps in transit.

Plastic Protection

You will notice the somewhat 'loud' colour scheme of fawn and chocolate brown that Noctua have gone with for their NF Series fans. Admittedly the colours won't be to everyone's taste, but it's the performance that really matters. For some reason under the lighting conditions the fan shrouds appear a salmon colour, but they are definitely fawn in colour.

NF-S12 NF-R8
Noctua NF-S12 and NF-R8 fans

You will notice that I have included the 800 and 1200 RPM versions of the NF-S12, this is purely for illustrative purposes. Noctua has also catered for different mounting applications for within your case, which you will see from the included accessories:

NF-S12 (800 & 1200 RPM versions)

Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
4 Vibration Compensators
3:4-Pin Adaptor
4 Fan Screws


NF-R8

Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
4 Vibration Compensators
3:4-Pin Adaptor
4 Fan Screws

Moving on, we shall now take a look at Noctua's NF-S12 and NF-R8 Cooling fans in a little more detail.



Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 Cooling Fans Page: 3
The Fans In Detail

Both the NF-S12 and NF-R8 Cooling fans utilise Noctua's SSO-Bearing in order to attain silent operation. The SSO-Bearing is a magnetically centred, self lubricating oil-pressure bearing that surpasses current types of ball, sleeve and liquid bearings in long-term stability and quietness thanks to its new, improved principle of operation. It is through the use of the SSO-Bearing that Noctua are able to provide a stellar 6 year warranty and impressive 150,000h MTBF. I have included an illustration of Noctua's SSO-Bearing to further reinforce the theory.

Noctua's SSO-Bearing

To further assist with silent operation Noctua has included an Ultra-Low-Noise adaptor (U.L.N.A.) that allows for a further reduction in noise emission. The U.L.N.A is essentially a simple 12v to 5v adapter that allows consumers to under-volt the existing voltage supplied to the fan for even more quieter operation. You will notice on the red wire that it has some sleeving on the right hand side, under which there resides a resistor.

Noctua's ULNA adaptor

Another implimentation that Noctua has manufactured into their fans, is the use of Raised Blade Design (NF-R8) and Straight Blade Design (NF-S12). Essentially, both of these design features are intended to provide maximum cooling efficiency without the added drawback of higher noise emission when used at a higher rotational speed.
But don't just take my word for it, I'll let Noctua's technical information get the point across.

"In order to make their products more silent, fan manufacturers usually simply reduce RPM without adapting the rotor design to the modified fluid dynamic parameters", explains Mag. Manfred Stadler MBA of the Austrian Institute for Heat-Transmission and Fan Technology. "Using a blade geometry specifically optimised for lower speed ranges like the Noctua Straight-Blade-Design allows for much better performance than simply reducing RPM."

Noctua NF-R8 and AC 8L Noctua NF-S12 Upright

If you look closely enough at the Noctua fan blades in the images above you can see the Raised Blade and Straight Blade designs quite clearly. I have included an AC 8L fan in the first image, so you can compare the two blade structures. I must say that I'm impressed with Noctua's NF Series of fans so far; from the evident R&D work that has gone into them, the build quality and even the braiding on the cable which makes a nice well rounded product. But the proof is in the pudding...How do they perform?

Head on over to the next page to find out if they're worth outlaying your hard earned cash on.



Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 Cooling Fans Page: 4
Testing

I have chosen to test the Noctua NF Series fans using my Scythe Karma Meter as rheobus of choice. The fans will be initially tested using the supplied U.L.N.A 3-pin to 4-pin adapter, L.N.A adaptor and then directly onto the Karma Meter.

3-4 pin connector

Using the supplied U.N.L.A ans L.N.A adaptor made the fans totally silent.

Noctua NF-S12 Noctua NF-R8

Again running the fan straight off the Karma Meter produced pleasing results; complete silence bar the slight sound of moving air.

Let's for interest sake compare the Noctua NF Series fans with some of the other leading brands out there and see how they compare. I have taken the liberty of converting the air volume to CFM:

Noctua 120mm (1200 RPM) 1200 RPM 48.0 CFM 17.0 dB(A)
Noctua 120mm (800 RPM) 800 RPM 35.0 CFM 8.0 dB(A)
YATE LOON D12SL 120mm 1300 RPM 35.0 CFM 19.0 dB(A)
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21D 120mm 800 RPM 33.5 CFM 8.7 dB(A)

Noctua 80mm NF-R8 1800 RPM 30.0 CFM 17.0 dB(A)
Sunon 80mm Fan (BX) 3500 RPM 50.6 RPM 40.6 dB(A)
Thermaltake 80mm A1098 2900 RPM 37.0 CFM 30.0 dB(A)
Vantec 80mm Tornado 5700 RPM 84.1 CFM 55.2 dB(A)

First though, I'd like to point out that the Noctua fans have nearly the best CFM to RPM ratio of all the fans I've listed. Which in reality means that there is something special about these fans, and the R & D that has gone into them is not just technical jargon used by the manufaturer to talk up their product. It's also interesting to note that amongst the 120mm fans I have listed, the 800 RPM Noctua NF-S12 had the best ratio of CFM to dB(A). And amongst the 80mm fans, the Noctua NF-R8 is definitely the clear winner.

Let's head over to the next page to see how the Noctua NF Series fans performed as a whole.



Noctua NF-R8 and NF-S12 Cooling Fans Page: 5
Conclusion

To be quite honest the Noctua NF-S12 and NF-R8 fans are very impressive. Now I'm not intending to wax lyrically about Noctua, but these fans are well worth the £15.97 /AUS$29.95 (NF-S12 1200 & 800 RPM), and £9.35/AUS$21.95 (NF-R8) respectively. Although, some people will baulk at the price, they are really worth investing in if you're after a silent and effective cooling solution for your HTPC or even PC.

Firstly, the R&D that has gone into them is very apparent, the build quality is exceptional right down to the classy cable sleeving provided as standard. And the colour scheme is surprisingly starting to grow on me the longer I spend with them. Admittedly, if you're looking for extremely high CFM fans and silence isn't a main priority, then there are more able fans out there. But, for those who value silence...The Noctua NF-S12 and NF-R8 are a must have!

I have decided to award Noctua the innovation award based on them providing a truly well rounded product. I must admit that my first foray into the world of Noctua has been an extremely pleasant one.

Pro's

+ Extremely quiet
+ Impressive 6 year warranty
+ Quality build
+ Excellent cooling considering the low RPM

Con's

- Colour scheme may not be to everyone's taste
- Pricing may be considered a little agressive by some

Innovation Award


A huge thanks goes out to Noctua for providing the NF-S12 and NF-R8 fans for review.

Feel free to discuss this review in our forum