Noctua NF-F12 PWM Review

Noctua recently released their new Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm fan and they state that it combines top performance with reduced noise levels. We have no reason not to believe them, as they have proven that their products are top-notch when it comes to air-cooling.

Noctua was founded in 2005 and their headquarters are located in Austria. They specialise in silent PC cooling products and until now they have successfully combined great performance with reduced noise levels.

Let’s take a look at the Noctua NF-F12 PWM specification and features, taken directly from Noctua’s website:

Feature List:

Proven NF-P12 Design
Tens of thousands of quiet cooling enthusiasts swear by Noctua’s classic NF-P12. Its impressive quietness, excellent performance and impeccable, time-tested quality made the P12 a default choice for 120mm quiet cooling.

Pressure-optimized Nine-Blade Design
Specifically developed for high-impedance applications such as CPU coolers, water-cooling radiators or cases with tight fan grills, the NF-P12 PWM provides outstanding pressure and airflow performance.

Vortex-Control Notches

Noctua’s signature Vortex-Control Notches split up trailing edge vortices and thus spread the fan’s noise emission over a wider range of frequencies. This measure makes the NF-P12 PWM sound more pleasant to the human ear.

Custom designed PWM IC with SCD

Supporting fully automatic PWM speed control, the NF-P12 PWM uses Noctua’s novel, custom designed NE-FD1 PWM IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology. By providing smoother torque impulses, SCD suppresses PWM switching noises and thus makes the fan quieter at lower speeds.

Ultra-Low Power Consumption
The NF-P12 PWM draws only 0.6W, which is more than 50% less than many other PWM fans. This doesn’t only make it eco-friendly but also cuts down the electricity bill: Compared to a typical 2W fan, this allows you to save about half the price of the NF-P12 after 5 years of continuous use.

Low-Noise Adaptor
The NF-P12 PWM is supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1300 to 900rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 900rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control.

Extensive Cabling Options
The fan’s short 20cm primary cable minimises cable clutter in typical applications while the supplied 30cm extension provides extended reach when necessary. Both cables are fully sleeved and a 4-pin y-cable allows to connect a second NF-P12 fan to the same PWM fan header for automatic control.

SSO-Bearing
Combining the proven concept of hydrodynamic bearing with an additional magnet that supports the self-stabilisation of the rotor axis, Noctua’s time-tested SSO-Bearing technology has become synonymous with supremely quiet operation and exceptional long-term stability.

6 years manufacturer’s warranty
Noctua fans are renowned for their impeccable quality and outstanding longevity. Like all Noctua fans, the NF-P12 PWM features an MTBF rating of more than 150.000 hours and comes with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.

 

A Closer Look – The Box

 

The Noctua NF-F12 PWM comes in a classy cardbox with the same color pattern that every other Noctua product follows. At the front side we can find the fan’s features, as well as a golden emblem at the upper-right side implying that the fan utilises Focused Flow System, which focuses the airflow to achieve greater performance.

At the back side of the box we can find the fan’s description and features in various languages, as well as the fan’s specifications at the left side.

As usual, the front cover of the box can be opened, revealing the fan. There are schematics showing the fan’s anatomy, a focused flow system visualisation and the contents of the package.

 

A Closer Look – Package and contents

 

Upon opening the box, we find the fan and contents neatly decorated in a plastic transparent box along with the user manual.

Apart from the actual fan, inside the package we can find:

  • One Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A.)
  • One 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • One 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws


Pretty much what Noctua includes in their fan bundles. You will find everything needed to mount the fan along with the L.N.A. adapter to drop the fan’s RPM for quiet operation.

The manual is very explanatory and you can find everything written in simple directions along with helpful schematics.

 

A Closer Look – The NF-F12 PWM

 

The Noctua NF-F12 PWM comes colored in the same pattern as all Noctua fan series and  has a solid build quality. At the sticker located in the center of the fan we can find the fan’s operating specifications. It is implied that the fan uses the new SSO2 bearing system, thus achieving higher precision and better longevity. 

The fan’s edges are rubberized, so that all vibrations can be eliminated during operation.

Oberving the fan a little bit closer, we can distinguish the notches at the fan’s frame. Noctua decided that the noise reduction is greater when the notches are on the frame instead of the blades. The inner frame is carved, this is the Inner Surface Microstructures design pattern that Noctua followed to separate airflow more efficiently.

 

Test Setup and procedures
The rig on which we tested the fan is:

Processor: Intel Core i7-920 @ Stock speeds
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC
RAM: Corsair XMS3 8GB DDR3-1600 Kit (2 x 4GB)
VGA: TwinTech GTX 570
HDD: Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD SATA3
PSU: CoolerMaster Silent Pro M1000 RS-A00-AMBA-J3 1000W Modular
Case: CoolerMaster HAF 912 Plus Midi Tower
Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate

The other competitors were:

 


We ran the processor at stock speeds, while running Prime95 to get the highest CPU temperature possible.

The tests we took included the following:

 

  • Motherboard Temperature in Idle Mode, fan installed on chassis blowing air out
  • Motherboard Temperature in System Load Mode, fan installed on chassis blowing air out
  • CPU Temperature in Idle Mode, fan on CPU heatsink
  • CPU Temperature in System Load Mode, fan on CPU heatsink
  • Noise levels


All tests were made in a room temperature of 22 degrees celsius.

 

Test Results

As we can see, the Noctua NF-F12 PMW was slightly better than the other fans when operating in the chassis, blowing hot air outside of it. It’s Noctua brother is not far in performance, but note that the PWM system utilises the fan in lower RPM.

 

Thanks to its advanced technology an design, the Noctua  NF-F12 PWM is the clear winner when it comes to CPU cooling. It managed to stay quiet in both idle and load system conditions while efficiently cooling our CPU. Yes, the performance margin is nearly zero compared to the older Noctua fan, but again…lower RPM operation!

 

When it comes to noise levels, Noctua’s PWM system and new design really pays off. The fan was hardly audible even when operating at the highest RPM.

 

Verdict
The Noctua NF-F12 PMW offered great performance in all our tests while keeping sound levels really low. The new design techniques along with the PMW system really pay off, while giving an impressive performance to noise ratio.
Of course we could not expect less from Noctua, who are starting to turn air-cooling into science. An amazing job and study have been done to ensure maximum airflow, and you can notice the small details on the fan itself.

Costing around 20 euros across Europe, this is not the fan for everyone’s pockets, but we would greatly recommend it for users seeking cooling performance without their system being noisy.

Pros

(+) Solid build quality
(+) Exceptional performance
(+) Quiet thanks to PWM control

Cons

(-) Price, but you surely get what you pay for

 

Thus, we can surely give the Noctua NF-F12 PWM our Editor’s Choice award.

 

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