Relative new comers BitFenix have made a massive impact since their arrival on the scene back in April of 2010, Along with their Colossus case one of their first products to market in August of the same year was the now well recognised "Spectre" series of fans. The original Spectre (which is still widely available) is recognised for it's quiet operation and it's selection of LED colour options. Since then BitFenix have gone from strength to strength releasing a not insubstantial range of cases, and of course their delectable "Alchemy" braided cables. Already recognised for the high quality of their products and for supporting their customers (the official UK support forum is housed on this very site), BitFenix have a reputation for Listening to, and acting upon the feedback they receive. With that Spirit of listening to feedback in mind BitFenix have revisited the Spectre range, releasing the "Spectre Pro"
In this review I shall be looking at the entire Pro range, using examples from each of the sizes for illustrative purposes. To keep things from getting too messy I have grouped the Tech-Spec for the whole range together on one page, providing an "at a glance" appraisal of their capabilities, although as I go through the review I'll be comparing the specs of the original fans to those of the new. Below I've listed the Specs for the new LED fans, but the new non LED share exactly the same set of figures.
Spectre Pro™ LED
PC & PBT
Fluid Dynamic Bearings (FDB)
1200 RPM ±10%
Air Flow (CFM)
56.22 CFM ±10%
Air Pressure (mmH2O)
1200 RPM ±10%
Air Flow (CFM)
86.73 CFM ±10%
Air Pressure (mmH2O)
900 RPM ±10%
Air Flow (CFM)
148.72 CFM ±10%
Air Pressure (mmH2O)
900 RPM ±10%
Air Flow (CFM)
156.27 CFM ±10%
Up Close: 120mm Spectre Pro.
|Static Pressure (mmH2O)||1.24||0.62|
The 120mm version we're looking at here is actually the Non LED version, but like the rest of the sizes available is also available in a red, blue and white LED variant. Unlike the LED fans which are made of a semi transparent smoked plastic the non LED has a dense satin black finish to it. Packaging wise the fans come in a rather classy looking card box with a window the size of the full width of the fan. The rear of the box details a full list of product features and technical specifications, but being as I've listed them on the first page I'm not going to inflict them on you again.
From the rear we can see that BitFenix have employed the technique of using multiple radial fins as a means of achieving a more focused airflow. With regards to goodies included with the fans you'll get a 7v step down adapter, 4 black fan mounting screws and 4 rubber isolation mounting pins. With the LED models you also get a wire that attaches the fan to a compatible lighting controller such as the Hydra or the units fitted in certain BitFenix cases. With the larger fans you also get 4 long mounting bolts to aid mounting in roof and front panel locations.
If like me you're a modder and no matter how nice something looks you can't resist stamping your own personal style on it then the 2 images below are probably the most important in this review. Why, because the image on the left shows that owing to the Spectre Pros dual frame construction the inner cowling which houses the fan can actually be split from the outer frame of the cowling with very little effort. Why is this important? Well if you're a modder you'll know why. Painting, that's why, it's a heck of a lot easier to paint a fan if you can split it. With most fans you can at least take the blades off if you're careful, with this fan you can not only take the blades off but split it still further. The image on the bottom right might look like i've dropped the camera in the process of taking a shot but the image is actually centred on a small 5mm hole. On the LED versions this hole would be filled with a 5mm LED, on this version it's left empty, which means of course that it's much easier to fit your own LEDs should you be that way inclined.
In use the fan is essentially silent, with the ear up close a very faint whir can be heard but this is to be expected as there is no such thing as a "silent" fan. Before anyone points out that the fan is on extract at the base of a case I know, i've put it in there purely to make photographing it easier.
Up Close: 140mm
|Static Pressure (mmH2O)||1.38||0.6|
The 140mm model used in the review is the Blue LED version. Like all the other sizes it is also available in red and white LED as well as a non LED version.
The 140mm Spectre Pro shares the same split frame construction as the rest of the range, however with the coloured LED versions of the Pro the inner cowling is made not of a solid Matt Black but of a semitransparent plastic, which is coloured to tie in with the colour of the LED, in this case blue.
The Pro's outer cowling is again made of a semi transparent plastic, this time in smoked grey. The LEDs are located on the outer corners of the fans outer cowling. Technically the LED version of the fan can still be split as with the non LED version. However in doing so it will be necessary to either extract the LED, which are glued in, or more likely after 20 mins of trying in vain to pry one out, cut the wire leading to the LED. I guess if you were planning to change the colour and re paint then having to cut the wires to the LED is no biggy really.
Installed and working the Spectre Pros LEDs illuminate the fan blades from the outside of the cowling. The semi transparent nature of the blades does diffuse the light to an extent, but as with all fans where the LEDs are on the outside pointing in the effect is more that of illuminating shafts of light on the blades, as well as giving a diffuse glow to the immediate area within the case. The top two images below are taken with the room ambient lighting on, and lower two images in total darkness.
Up Close 200mm
|Static Pressure (mmH2O)||1.26||0.41|
As you can see from the images below with the 200mm Pro fan BitFenix have moved away from the square outer cowling used in the 120 and 140 and moved towards a frame which mirrors the shape of the inner frame but with a selection of mounting points distributed along its perimeter.
As with all BitFenix products I've come across Quality and attention to detail is high. The fan blades although not the most heavy duty in the world are sturdy enough and are reinforced with ribbing to prevent deformation at high RPM. BitFenix have added their brand name to the outer edge of the cowling with this fan as with the others in the range.
The fan used for the 200mm review is the white LED version. Like its siblings it has an inner cowling which matches the colour of the LEDs
There are a fair few cases out there that are able to take a 200mm fan in the front or in the roof, but even if you have a slimmer case then you can still accommodate this chap in the window or door, using it to blow fresh cool air over your hot hardware. Below I've fitted the fan to the door of the Aerocool XPredator. if you've read the review of that case you'll know I'm not a huge fan (sorry) of having vented windows, but I have to say that if you really do need to get some extra air into the case (or out for that matter) then whacking a big lowish RPM fan on the side is quite a good means to an end.
Up Close: 230mm
|Static Pressure (mmH2O)||1.81||1.08|
And finally we come to the Daddy, the Matriarch of the Spectre family, the 230mm Spectre pro. As Douglas Adams might have put it, "It's big....really big, you might think it's a long way to the shops, but that's peanuts compared to this..." To show you what I mean have a look at the images below and see how it compares to the 120mm.
The style of the 230mm is very similar to that of the 200mm in that it also departs from the square outer cowling and uses a cowling very similar to that of the 200mm. The are quite a few other "similarities" with the 200mm but I'll come to those later.
Installed in a case and powered up the fan spins quietly with a nice red glow.
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.
It's acknowledged that the figures used for CFM and other metrics in this review are those supplied by the manufacturers and that as such you may wish to take them with a pinch of salt. That said, fan manufacturers like other manufacturers do have certain quality standards and units and measures legislation to meet with regards to the claims they make about the abilities of their fans. If we accept that a given manufacturer may "massage" their figures a little by introducing a fiddle factor, then by definition we must accept that all manufacturers massage their figures a little by introducing a fiddle factor of their own, and as such to a greater extent the argument that you can't trust the numbers on the box looses some credence. In simple terms we apply the same pinch of salt to each of them
Also as I've alluded to, I'm not going to get into a game of Top Trumps here. If I were to sit and write about how these fans compared to the other 100s if not 1000s on the market I'd have enough material for a dissertation. What I have done is compare the BitFenix fans to the originals and to a few key member of the opposition and (aside from the ridiculous Gentle typhoon 5400), what might be considered the direct competition.
So how does the Bitfenix Spectre Pro fare? Well they are a definite improvement on the original Spectre range, and that's not meant to sound like a criticism of the originals. Across the range like for like they shift more air than the originals. If you've taken the time to look over the comparison figures at the top of each page you'll see that that BitFenix have indeed listened to their customers and released a series of fans with much better airflow and much better Static pressure. it's clear that this is at the expense of a slight increase in noise, but the Decibel being the fickle logarithmic measure that it is the slight increases in numbers don't really relate to an perceptible increase in noise. In simple terms they're still very quiet. With regards to the others in the test, it holds it own I think, slightly bettered by the cluster on temps but only by a small margin. The others in the test are higher RPM fans, so will invariably produce better temps, again the trade off being noise, all apart from the Silverstone AP, which didn't seem to know what to do.
While we're talking about the Silverstones, it's worth mentioning that the design of the radial struts is very similar to that of the Silverstone Air penetrator fans, although the struts are not nearly as pronounced or numerous, the effect of these struts can be felt rather than seen as the Silverstones are able to project a column of air a good meter from the fan, whereas the Pros only manage 50cm or so, which I guess is as much as is needed for most cases. It is perhaps these struts that give the AP Silverstone slightly higher static pressure but rob it of it's airflow. The other fans on test could not in all fairness be said to project a column of air as such.
So farso good. But perfect? Nearly. I like to write a balanced review, and to do so you have to present the bad along with the good. It's actually easier to write a review where there's plenty to say on both sides. With the Pros though it's not that easy. if I wanted to be picky, and I mean really picky I'd have to say I'm a little surprised that they chose not to braid the wires in the simply stunning Alchemy braid, perhaps a cost consideration. BitFenix have also chosen to drop a few LED colour options from the range, although these are still available in the original Spectre. Presumably the colours dropped weren't a great seller in the originals. The only other thing is that although the 200mm and the 230mm model are made to fit different mounting sizes there's not a great deal of difference in the fan sizes. Don't believe me, look back at the images on the page for the 230mm fan and you'll see one where I've laid the 200mm over the 230mm
Choosing fans is very subjective, and is lead to a certain extent by our requirements or at least perceived requirements. In performance terms these fans are as good as a great many out there, and a good deal better than most. Sure, they're not the quietest, but if your primary need is a quiet fan then you're going to give up CFM and static pressure. If a massive airflow and Static pressure is your priority then you go for the high RPM Scythes and expect to be deafened in the process and have a fan in your case that looks like it's made from a recycled wheelie bin.
However if your not on these extreme margins and want a good honest fan that does the job, shifts the air and has a respectable static pressure and looks stunning into the bargain then I think it's hard to beat the Spectre Pro
These fans are something rare, something that little bit different. In a game of top trumps they're the card that might not be the absolute best in any given specific area, but they are the best all rounder in the pack. And all this without breaking the bank
For that reason i'm giving them the first Gold award I have given, I really do think they are something that little bit special. A great all rounder, and pretty with it.
Thanks to BitFenix for the fans on test here today, you can discuss your thoughts in our forums.