Noctua NF-S12A Series Fans Reviews

There are hundreds of fan models in the market that a user can choose for cooling his case. Without doubt, one of the most reliable one’s are Noctua’s fans, which are proved to offer a balanced performance to noise ratio. Today we will be looking at Noctua NF-S12A series, the NF-S12A PWM, NF-S12A FLX and NF-S12A ULN. They have 120mm size and they are targeted mainly for chassis cooling.


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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 fans’ specs:


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All three fans come in the usual Noctua packaging pattern. The front cover of the boxes can be opened, revealing a transparent window and the features of the fan. Even the back side can be opened, revealing a more detailed feature listing.


A Closer Look – The NF-S12A Series Fans

Noctua’s new 120mm fans follow the classic Noctua color pattern and their design is identical. They are intented to use in the chassis rather than on CPU coolers.

Noctua NF-S12A FLX


The Noctua NF-S12A FLX is the most flexible of the three fans allowing an RPM range of 700-1200 RPM. Inside the package, we can find:

  •    Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  •    Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
  •    3:4-Pin Adaptor
  •    30cm Extension Cable
  •    4 Vibration-Compensators
  •    4 Fan Screws


Noctua NF-S12A PWM


The PWM version of the NF-S12A has an automatic speed control adjustment that changes according to temperature levels.

Inside the package we can find:


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

Noctua NF-S12A ULN


The ULN version of the NF-S12A series aims for the lowest noise levels, with the RPM speed rainging from 600-800RPM only.

Inside the package we can find:


  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 3:4 Pin Adaptor
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws

All the fans incorporate advanced features that aim for maximum airflow combined with top acoustic performance. We can notice there are encravings around the fans’ frames and that the blades are not entirely flat, insted near their end there are plastic edges, that according to Noctua maximise air pressure.

Now let’s take a look at the overall pictures, taken directly from Noctua’s website:

aao frame - Noctua NF-S12A Series Fans Reviews

Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) frames feature integrated anti-vibration pads as well as Noctua’s proprietary Stepped Inlet Design and Inner Surface Microstructures, both of which further refine the fan’s performancenoise efficiency.

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Noctua’s S12 series impellers use a high angle of attack in order to achieve superior airflow. However, impellers with high angles of attack are typically more prone to undesired stall and flow separation phenomena that can occur when the fan is working against higher impedance such as when blowing through tight fan filters or when used on heatsinks and radiators. In these situations when the fan is building up high pressure but less air is moving through, the speed of the air particles flowing alongside the suction side of the fan blades gradually decreases towards the trailing edge. The lower the speed and the higher the counter-pressure, the higher the risk of the air particles becoming detached from the blade surface. This flow separation phenomenon known as stall leads to undesired turbulence, reduced efficiency and translates into a dent in the fan’s performance curve.

The NF-S12A features Anti-Stall Knobs close to the trailing edges of the fan blades. By speeding up the air at this critical point of the blade profile, the Anti-Stall Knobs reduce the risk of undesired stall and flow separation phenomena. This means that the NF-S12A works more efficient than its predecessors in most mid- to high impedance situations despite its slightly lower maximum pressure: While providing a bit less static pressure at the shut off point, the NF-S12A produces more pressure throughout most of the curve, making it better suited for all-round use, tight air filters or even heatsinks and radiators:

Comparing the NF-S12A’s performance curve to its predecessor’s, the improved stall margin is immediately visible: Thanks to the suppression of the stall effect, the dent in the curve occurs much later and less pronounced than with the NF-S12B. Combined with its higher maximum airflow in free flow and further reduced noise emission, this allows the NF-S12A to achieve even better results than its renowned predecessor.


nf f12 bearing shell - Noctua NF-S12A Series Fans Reviews


In order to guarantee the highest possible degree of manufacturing precision, minimum tolerance and excellent long-term stability, Noctua’s newest 120mm and 140mm models sport a CNC milled bearing shell made entirely from brass.


nf f12 ism - Noctua NF-S12A Series Fans Reviews


Inner Surface Microstructures are an advanced aerodynamic design measure first introduced with Noctua’s NF-F12 fan. Miniature dents at the inside of the fan frame create a turbulent boundary layer when the fan blades pass by. With the tips of the fan blades ploughing through this boundary layer, flow separation from the suction side of the blades is significantly reduced. As suction side flow separation is a major source of axial fan blade passing noise and leads to considerable losses in airflow and pressure efficiency, the use of Inner Surface Microstructures allows for lower noise emission and better performance at the same time. Reducing undesired turbulences caused by suction side flow separation, Inner Surface Microstructures help Noctua’s latest fans to keep pushing the boundaries in performance to noise efficiency.


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Noctua’s Stepped Inlet Design is an advanced aerodynamic design measure first introduced with the NF-F12 fan. By adding turbulence to the fan’s influx, the Stepped Inlet Design facilitates the transition from laminar to turbulent flow. This measure has an effect similar to the dimple structure of a golf ball in so far as it leads to better flow attachment to the frame, which allows the impeller to suck in more air and hence improves overall airflow efficiency. 

In addition to these aerodynamic benefits, the Stepped Inlet Design also reduces tonal intake noises caused by laminar inflow due to it being transformed to turbulent flow, which produces a more broadband noise profile. This way, the Stepped Inlet Design helps to refine the fan’s acoustic qualities by letting it blend into the background noise more easily and making it more agreeable to the human ear.


sso versions - Noctua NF-S12A Series Fans Reviews


The self-stabilising oil-pressure bearing (SSO-Bearing) system has always been at the heart of Noctua’s award-winning premium fans. Silent enthusiasts and industry clients alike swear by its proven, time-tested quality. SSO combines the proven concept of oil-based hydrodynamic bearings with an additional magnet that supports the self-stabilisation of the rotor axis. Due to the axis being stabilised by the magnetic field, Noctua’s SSO Bearing achieves higher precision and better longevity than conventional ball-, sleeve- or hydrodynamic bearings. 

SSO2 is the further optimised second generation of SSO. Made possible by the use of metal bearing shells and new injection moulding techniques, the magnet is now placed closer to the rotor axis and thus exerts higher magnetic force to it. This results in even better stabilisation, precision and durability.

As you can understand, all fans incorporate advanced features that show that Noctua have done a sophisticated job regarding the fan operation. The only thing to see now is how the fans perform in real.


Test Setup and Results, Verdict

To determine if the NF-SA series fans are worth buying, we performed two tests:


  • Motherboard Temperature Test
  • Noise Levels Test (Chassis)

We used one generic included ATX case fan for the intake and one of Noctua’s fans for taking the hot air outside the case. The fan was placed at the back of the case and we measured motherboard temperatures at idle and load conditions. The fans were not used with any LNA or ULNA adaptors so they performed at max RPM except for the automatic RPM adjustment done by the NF-S12A PWM.
The test system on which the tests were performed was:

Processor: Intel Core i7 920 Stock
Motherboard: Asus P6T SE
RAM: Transcend 2GB x 3
VGA: Gigabyte GTX480 1536MB
HDD: Velocity Raptor 150GB
PSU: High Power P5550 Pro
Case: Antec One
Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit
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Judging from the results, the new NF-S12A series are a definite improvement over the company’s previous models. The new design features incorporated give Noctua’s fans the ability to efficiently cool the system while being absolutely quiet. There is one fan for each purpose. The FLX is the most flexible fan and can be manually adjusted for the desired performance to noise ratio using the supplied cables, while the PWM automatically changes RMP according to the temperature levels. Finally, the ULN is the most silent fan we have ever tried and it is the best option for users wanting absolutely quiet systems.

Costing around 20.00€ across Europe, they are at the same price range with Noctua’s older models so it is the final user who benefits from a potential buy, as you get more performance and quality with the same amount of money. Many might consider that they are too expensive considering they are fans, but you definitely get what you pay for.


(+) Great performance
(+) Solid build quality
(+)  They can hardly be heard, especially the ULN version
(+) Complete bundle


(-) Price, there are cheaper options but not as good


Thus, we would like to give the Noctua NF-S12A Series fans our Editor’s Choice Award.


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