Fractal Design Kelvin T12 Review
Published: 19th February 2015 | Source: Fractal Design | Price: £74.99 |
The T12 review sees our Fractal Design triptych of testing completed, and it's fair to say we've been more than a little impressed with them so far. The S36 took the performance crown, and the S24 won our hearts with its staggeringly low noise levels and decent performance, but what of the little T12, the baby of the bunch. Actually, if it were a baby, it'd be a chunky monkey, measuring as it does some 90mm thick with both of the 120mm silent series fans attached. This thickness though shouldn't be a problem in most standard tower cases as it's likely that the T12 will be fitted in the rear fan position, but it's worth mentioning should you have thoughts of squeezing it into an SFF rig. We've not saying it won’t fit, just that you'll need to check those clearances. It's also unlikely that you’re going to be using the T12 with a high end Motherboard such as the 2011 we use for testing, but if this is the case be aware that you'll need to be using RAM with standard size heat sinks.
The T12 does of course share the same attributes as the others in its family in that it is a modular system utilising 9/11mm tubing attached to black G1/4" compression fittings. This modularity enables the system as it is purchased to be disassembled and added to at a later date should you so desire, and where some might think this a bit of a gimmick, it doesn't appear to cost the purchaser significantly more to have this extra level of functionality, so what's not to like? Well basically,if you're going to add additional components in the future, by the time you've plumbed in various other parts, and mixed up tubing styles and fittings the whole thing is going to start to look more than a bit messy. To be honest although we appreciate the thought, in reality we think it's more likely that people will move from this to a custom loop and either sell the T12 on, re task it or simply send it to live out its remaining days in the magic cupboard (you know, the one everyone has in their spare room where all the stuff goes when you're done with it but can't quite bring yourself to throw it out)
One thing we weren't too keen on though was that Fractal for some reason have varied the aesthetics of the T12 from both the S24 and S36. This change comes in the form of what appears to be a second radiator cowling clipped in place over the original and the core, and where the others in the range are satin, sleek, curved and understated, the T12 looks a bit more angular and flash with a high gloss strip running centrally around the cowling. To us, this changed aesthetic not only looks less attractive than the others but does somewhat break the aesthetic lineage of the Kelvin Series. Even more worrying is that it hasn't even been done well, leaving you with the feeling that somebody has simply slapped another coat on top of what originally lies beneath, and not even bothered to hide the metal tabs holding it in place.
Looks aside, the T12 performs well. It's perhaps not quite as silent as the others in the series, which is odd as it shares the same fans. This slight additional noise we think is most likely due to the increased air resistance and turbulence noise generated by the thicker 46mm radiator as opposed to the 30mm thick unit on the S36 and S24. The noise though, only slightly raised, and this is still one of the quietest AIOs we've come across and without a shadow of a doubt the quietest 120mm based units.
From a performance perspective the T12 came right about where we thought it would. With its twin 120mm fans and 46mm thick radiator it beat thinner core units such as the Corsair H75. What is surprising is that it also outperformed some of the 240mm units we've tested, including the H100 and the Eisberg 240L. It was though beaten to the 120mm rad crown by the H80i which as we know still has a thinner 38mm core but more powerful and it has to be said noisier fans enabling it to edge ahead.
The T12 then is a bit of a mixed bag. It's the quietest 120mm rad unit we've ever tested, though not as quiet as the other units in the Kelvin series. Its looks, although not actually unattractive vary from the others in the line up, which we feel set it apart unnecessarily. We're also not massively impressed with the way the change of appearance has been carried out, and think the exposed metal tabs look ugly and perhaps smack of a corners being cut, in essence providing a solution to a problem we don’t think was there in the first place.
We've thought long and hard about the award and because of the points we've raised were very close to not awarding a Gold. We can’t though mark it down on aesthetics. After all, just because we’re not mad keen on the looks doesn’t mean you guys won’t like it. The tabs though are the main thing that nearly stopped it taking the coveted Gold. What swung it was that at the end of the day, tabs aside the T12 is still a high performance very low noise cooler that will do the job you need it to while offering the option of modular upgradability at a later date.