BitFenix Spectre Pro Range Review
Published: 19th December 2011 | Source: BitFenix | Price: Specialtech |
One of the first ever reviews I wrote was of the original BitFenix Spectre fans, and back then I decided that in very simple terms a fan had 3 jobs to to. Move air, Be quiet and look sexy. if you think the old CPU heat sink has a hard life meeting the demands of the Holy Trinity then have some sympathy for the poor old case fan. Never has such a simple and relatively cheap item of case hardware been subjected to such close scrutiny, or inflamed such heated debate. And why....Numbers that's why. RPM, DB-A, CFM, mmH20 and that's before we've even started talking about starting currents power consumption and cost. Because we have numbers we can back up our arguments as to which is better and why. Remember Top-Trumps? Not sure if it's still around, but if it still is, along with the Aircraft and sports car editions, there really ought to be a "case fan" pack to play with. If like me you think this would be cool, elevate yourself to level 10 Geek.
The point I'm trying to make here is that when you played Top Trumps you picked the suite that you thought stood the best chance of winning the hand. there were very few if any cards in any game of Top-Trumps which was guaranteed to win outright against anything it came up against. even the strongest card could always be defeated if someone chose to measure it against an area it was weak in. It's the same with case fans. Every fan you ever look at will fall somewhere on a graph that compares airflow, static pressure and noise. Some may be fractionally better than others in one area or another, but it's really just manoeuvring on the margins. There may be fans that are quieter than others, but odds are they shift less air. Others might have High CFMs but are noisy and have lower static pressures. All this before we even start talking about how they look and how much they cost.
Ok, Back to the BitFenix Pro. With regards to their ability to shift air the figures are up on those of their predecessors across the whole range, and not just by a small margin either. However, it's when we look specifically at static pressure that we see even bigger gains being made. BitFenix put this down to the redesigned fan blade and to the use of the focussed airflow technology, by which they are referring to the radial struts on the reverse side of the fans.
In order to assess the performance of the Pro it does need to be compared to other fans in the same category. To do this I've chosen a select few fans to measure against, the Silverstone Air Penetrator, the Enermax TB Apolish, the Enermax TB Cluster, the Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1450, and for a bit of a laugh the Scythe Gentle Typhoon 5400 (yes you read that correctly). With regards to the 120mm models I have attached each of them in turn to a 4 heat-pipe single tower cooler and run the torture test in exactly the same way as it's done for the CPU heatsink testing. The results are seen below.
|BitFenix Spectre Pro||1200||56.22||1.24||18.9||22.5||77.25||54.75|
|Scythe Gentle Typhoon||1450||45.9||1.29||21||23||74.75||51.75|
|Enermax TB Apolish||1800||75.98||2.41||26||20.75||71.5||50.75|
|Scythe Gentle Typhoon||5400||15.1||15.2||50.5||21||67.5||46|
What the results tell us is in general terms is that the higher the RPM, the higher the noise and the lower the temperatures. If we take the Spectre pro and the Enermax Apolish as two examples we can see the Enermax is 4 degree lower, but at the same time is 7.1 dB-A higher, which in real terms is nearly a doubling of perceived sound.
Although not tested I think it's fair to say that the same would hold true of 140mm fans fitted to heat-sinks. I was able to test the 140mm by swapping out intake and exhaust fans, but it really made no discernible difference to either internal case temps or the CPU temps
Using both the Spectre 200mm and the 230mm as side window fans did have the effect of dropping the overall case temp by 4 degrees and the CPU temp by 2 degrees. OK so not huge gains, but it's worth bearing in mind these fans are also blowing nice cool refreshing air directly onto your GPU and your motherboard effectively turning any passive cooling heat-sinks into semi active ones. Some would argue that a side case fan upsets the airflow through a case, and to be honest I'd perhaps have a degree of sympathy with that argument, however the figures speak for themselves. All other things being constant upset airflow or otherwise, the temps are down with a side window fan.
Moving onto the last category of assessment. Looks. At this point I'd usually say something very liberal and politically correct along the lines of beauty being in the eye of the beholder and that just because the looks appeal to me doesn't mean they necessarily have to appeal to you Ydda Yadda Yadda. However on this occasion I'm going to change the rules about a bit, be a little less "liberal" and a bit more "Clarkson". "If you don't like the look of these fans, you're wrong". Can't put it plainer than that can I.
So you know I like them, but why do I like them? Well first off it's nice to see a manufacturer move away from the generic single piece cowling and try something different, The split cowling that BitFenix have used not only serves to provide vibration isolation, but enables BitFenix to use contrasting colours for different sections of the fan housing. That they can be split in half, whether intentionally or otherwise also means that parts are essentially interchangeable, enabling you with a bit of patience to make a whatever combination you desired. The use of an hexagonal textured surface to the outer cowling of the 120mm and 140mm versions also raises this fans head above the others in the crowd with regards to aesthetics.
Moving to the 200mm and 230mm versions, again, something different, they really do have great case presence. Very industrial and functional design, I think the many attachment holes being used simulate the bolt holes you might see on a high pressure plate coupling. If you don't like the looks of the LED models then the plain black should fit the bill for you. OK so there's not exactly a great deal of competition out there in the 200mm and 230mm market, Some Yate Loons, NZXTs, Xigmatecs and a few Coolermasters in the 200mm range but it has to be said that on looks alone BitFenix have just destroyed what opposition there is.
On to the final category, Noise. A great deal of importance is placed on those few numbers that sit innocently before "dB-A" on the boxes of our case fans, but what does it really mean? In very simple terms, an increase of 10dB-A can bethought of as a doubling of the perceived noise. So a fan that is 28 dB-A is twice as loud as a fan at 18dB-A. But how loud is 18 dB-A? or 28dB-A for that matter. Are they both still quiet? is 28 too loud to live with? I hate to complicate things further, but as important as the volume of noise is the quality of noise a fan produces, and this can be very subjective. So having confused things totally, lets talk about the BitFenix Pro range. As already mentioned the noise levels are up on the original version but subjectively remain very quiet fans. The bigger fans do make a bit more noise, but owing I think to the large fan blades and slow rotation speed the noise is low frequency and as such tends to blend in with the ambient noise of the room very well.