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New PWM fans from Noctua

In late 2011 Noctua refreshed its entire line of fans by putting out PWM versions. They also introduced a new fan. Let's look at two of the updated fans and the new one.

Here are the NF-P14 PWM and the NF-P12 PWM:

Noctua NF-P14 & NF-P12 PWM's

Noctua engineers took some years to figure out how to make PWM PCB's so that they operate quietly. Did they succeed? We'll see.

Now let's look at the new fan, the NF-F12 PWM:

Noctua NF-F12 PWM

Those vanes are called stators. When a fan's output is blown through properly designed stators, it focuses its airflow and it increases its static pressure. Noctua says not to expect more airflow from this fan. We shouldn't see or any better cooling on their coolers. That's because the NF-F12 PWM is designed to push more air through constricted settings, like radiators.

Currently the NF-P12 PWM and the NF-F12 PWM are available retail. The NF-P14 PWM is not. You can't buy it separately. It only comes with Noctua heatsinks.

So let's look at the P12 PWM and its box:

Noctua NF-P12 PWM and box

It has nine blades, and it comes with accessories, of course:

NF-P12 PWM and accessories

From the left:

A PWM Y-cable. Both branches have gnd, 12v and PWM control lines. Only one has an RPM reporting line, to avoid confusing the motherboard with more than one RPM signal.

A 30cm (one foot) extension cable. Since the fan has only a 20cm long (eight inches) cable, this allows a longer reach if you need it.

Four "Vibration Compensators." They come with all Noctua fans. You are supposed to use these to fasten the fan to a case with these. Let me know if you can make these work. I want to know how.

There is a packet of four standard fan screws (not shown).

In front of the fan is the Low Noise Adapter (L.N.A.), part no. NA-RC6. It will reduce the fan from 1300 rpm to 900 rpm -- and still let the PWM signal control fanspeed.

And Noctua provides a product page for the NF-P12.

Here is the NF-F12 again:

Noctua NF-F12 PWM and box

The corner cushions are made of silicone rubber to cut down vibrations. The diagram on the inside cover of the box illustrates the advanced technology features of this fan: the stepped inlet design, the inner surface dimples, the improved SSO bearing. It explains that the stators are not evenly spaced around the fan's circumference. On the next page there is a chart that shows how moving the 11 stators just a little bit to a slightly irregular spacing attenuates some noise spikes. I will predict that we should hear less of a tone from these fans.

NF- F12 Product Page.

And these are the accessories:

Noctua NF-F12 PWM and accessories

30cm PWM extension cable.

Screws.

Low Noise Adaptor. This one is an NA-RC8. It reduces the fan from 1500 rpm to 1200 rpm. I compared the NA-RC8 to the NA-RC6 from the P12. On the D14 the RC8 dropped my P14 to 900 rpm. The RC6 dropped it to 700 rpm. So the NA-RC8 has a stronger resistor than the NA-RC6.

The superb Noctua PWM Y-cable. Note that all the cables are beautifully sleeved.

Four Vibration-Compensators.

Fan Testing:

12v: I plugged each fan into my PSU's 12v Volt line to get the max speed. With the PWM line unplugged you get the maximum rpm a fan will do. You should get 100% fanspeed, but 100% on your motherboard may not reach the fan's maximum speed.

Gnd: Poked a grounded line into each fan's PWM channel. This emulates 0% PWM duty. In the case of the Noctuas, all three fans stopped. This is unusual PWM fan behavior. Most go to some minimum speed when their PWM rate is zero. And from there the fanspeed will increase with PWM duty; but the increase is often, even usually not linear. We'll see if the Noctua fans have a linear PWM duty vs. RPM speed curve.

The fans then were tested on the Zalman PWM Mate, which is a PWM controller. The PWM Mate generates an approximate 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% PWM duty to each fan. Measured fanspeed with the motherboard utility. Measured the sound pressure level with an SPL meter from 10cm directly in front of the fan. Subtract 20 dB and you have the equivalent sound pressure level of what you would hear one meter away.

Here are the results:



Noctua fans



PWM duty



Noctua



Fan measurements



0



≈25%



≈50%



≈75%



100%



Rating

















NF-F12 PWM RPM



0



363



757



1123



1470



1500



NF-F12 PWM SPL



0



12 dBA



15 dBA



22 dBA



28.5 dBA



22.4 dB

















NF-P12 PWM RPM



0



330



686



992



1271



1300



NF-P12 PWM SPL



0



12 dBA



13 dBA



19 dBA



25 dBA



19.8 dB

















NF-P14 PWM RPM



0



381



721



991



1225



1200



NF-P14 PWM SPL



0



12 dBA



17 dBA



24 dBA



29.5 dBA



19.6 dB


What is not on the chart is the amount of clicking. It's missing because all the fans had the same amount of clicking at all speeds: none. That's amazing. Mission One accomplished.

Note that the percent PWM duty applied to the fans is approximate. But within the ability to test the RPM and the PWM duty percentage, the speeds of these fans scaled more or less linearly with the PWM duty.

As usual for Noctua fans, these were quiet. Even the F12, was quiet and it was spinning at 1470 rpm (some of the SPL results could have been quieter than measured; twelve dBA is the lower limit of the equipment and the environment). Note that discrepancies between what manufacturers measure and what we measure are normal. More important is that the speeds and sound pressure levels for the PWM P12 and P14 are the same as for their non-PWM predecessors.

Testing cooling power

First, let's look at the NF-P14 PWM:

Noctua NF-P14 PWM and P12 box

Since the P14 PWM doesn't have its own box I put it in front of the P12's box. They are similar fans, after all.

Test rig details here.

Results:

D14 with Noctua PWM fans -- RPM, SPL and TOA

The PWM fans cool the same as their corresponding non-PWM fans and with the same noise. The F12 cools the same as the P12, again with the same noise. I did observe that the air normally spilling out the sides of the fin stacks of the D14 (and demonstrate with a tissue) was absent when the F12 was mounted there. It appears that the F12's airflow truly is focused, as advertised.

Interim Conclusion

The NF-P14 PWM and the NF-P12 PWM perform the same as the non-PWM versions. With the arrival of these PWM fans, the last problem with the NH-P14 has been solved. And the NF-F12 PWM is a fine fan in its own right.

But the Noctua "Vibration Compensators" are not very useful.

The Noctua isolators fit very tightly on the F12. I was afraid to put one in because I wasn't sure I could get it out again without breaking it or cutting it off. The worst problem is that they are too short. You have to grip the end with needle nosed pliers to pull one into position. It is hard to get your fingers into the fan's corner to pull it through.

Closeup:

NF-F12 PWM and Noctua vibration isolator

That picture shows you where the isolator will end up once it is in. You can see that grabbing enough of it to pull it to that position might be quite the task.

What you need is a longer one, like this:

NF-F12 PWM and Nexus vibration isolator

This isolator (http://www.svc.com/sfm-1000.html) is long enough that you can grab it on the other side of the fan from the case. You won't have to try to get your fingers into some far corner and struggle to get the peg in.

But this is not important: when you buy the fan, get aftermarket isolators and leave these in the box.

Final thoughts on the Noctua PWM fans:

The fans:

  • They are quiet.
  • They do not click.
  • They perform well -- identically to their predecessors.
  • Their PWM/RPM curves appear to be linear.

These fans include excellent accessories:

  • Their power cables are just the right length.
  • If you need a longer cable, one is included.
  • They include a PWM Y-cable that is well-designed, and not excessively long.
  • All cables are handsomely sleeved.

Thanks to Noctua for supplying the PWM fans.
 

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Thanks! Although I changed my NH-D14 to all PWM fans already after Noctua didn't show any progress last year.
Those "Vibration Compensators" - aren't they the rubber rivet thingies that you can use to mount the fan in a case? I'm using them in my rig - you just pull them through the screw hole and then through the fan's mounting hole. You have to pull hard though - those things are tough and I feared I'd tear one but that didn't happen. They're not for heat sinks.
 

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Quote:
The NF-P14 PWM and the NF-P12 PWM perform the same as the non-PWM versions.
Ehume if their was a "Subscribe" button next to your name, I would click it.

On the NH-D14... Some points to consider about your results.

- Noctua likely engineers their coolers very precisely to match the included fans. I wouldn't suggest this about most companies, but Noctua isn't most companies. The results of your multiple fan comparison with the D14 supports this notion, at least loosely.

-Note that Noctua tauts it as the "Focus Flow." The NF-F12 is a pusher. Putting it in the pull position may not take full advantage of its increased static pressure. (sorry if you did..I'm still waking up). Noctua shows the NF outperforming the NP on their U12 hsf, and I tend to think Noctua isn't the type to BS, but who knows.

I do know this. Yesterday I replaced the Scythe Slipstream PWM in my Tuniq Tower with an NF-F12. Now, the Tuniq is an old dog, but since it's the control baseline it doesn't really matter. More importantly, the Tuniq is rather ideal for comparison since it is optimized around a single fan. Completely encasing it in 1.5mm spaced fins, the Tuniq is totally unforgiving. It's so optimized around its internal fan that strapping an additional fan to its exterior generally results in 1c lower temps, in my experience. Every inch of the design is built around that one internal doing both push and pull legwork.

My amateur results, for whatever they are worth.

E8600, 4.11ghz at 3.18v. Stressed using small FFT for 30 minutes with Orthos and OCCT respectively, monitored with Core Temp.
Slipstream PWM: Idle 36c, load 59. RPM at load: 1440rpm. Official max is 1300rpm but when set to allow 100%, pwm pushes it to 1440.
Noctua NF-F12: Idle 36c, load 54. RPM at load: 1210 RPM. PWM profile was set to hit 100%rpm at 57c.

I can't measure DBA, but my armchair observation is that the Slipstream, while not loud, is definitely making itself known at full throttle. Standing 10 feet away there's no doubt the thing is under stress.
When the Noctua kicked up past it's 700rpm idle speed to 1200rpm, it became about as loud as the Slipstream at 950. Under 1100rpm the Noctua is no louder than any of my case fans, none of which run over 850rpm. Granted, the Tuniq dampens noise somewhat with its full enclosure.

Not all was roses: the wires on the NF-F12 run exposed along one of the veins (vanes?). When I first noticed this I thought "uh oh." They weren't obstructing the blades, but it was very close. First time I installed it, after a few minutes the blades began to brush against the wires, and I had to remove the fan (not a pleasant experience with the Tuniq) and bend them out of the way. A strange call on Noctua's part.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
rrhobeck - you have nimble fingers. I had to use needle nose pliers to pull those pegs through.

Otterclock - Thanks for the data.
 

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Nice performance, but they're still ugly as hell. Reminds me of half of the toys that came out in the 80's. Like this:

450
 

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Just got done installing my NF-P12 into the Tuniq.

Same tests, conditions.

NF-P12, 1300rpm (no limiter): idle 37c, load 60c.
NF-P12 1100rpm (black limiter): idle 36c, load 61c
NF-P12 900rpm (blue): idle 38c, load 62-63c fluctuating.

At 1300 rpm, the NF-P12 was quieter than the F12 at 1200. at 1 meter I could barely detect its presence apart from the sound of air created by my case fans, which are low rpm slipstreams. Whereas the sound created by the increased rush of air from the F12 was noticeable.

In my limited experience it may be premature to suggest that the F12 performs similarly to its predecessor. I'd like to see tests where it's placed in a push configuration designed for a 12cm fan. Just putting it in place of the 14cm on the D14 may not be the best route since that's an apple/oranges issue with the size difference.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by XNine View Post

Nice performance, but they're still ugly as hell. Reminds me of half of the toys that came out in the 80's. Like this:
450
I like the color, ha. There's no mistaking it for anything else. In a clear case setup with lighting and so forth, I can see how they would clash, though.

So this is the second Noctua fan to impress me. The other is the NF-P12. The NF-S12b is one of the worst fans I've had the displeasure of using, and I found the P14, though decent, to be a bit of a disappointment in its noise:cfm. I dont think Noctua quite has the grip on 140mm design yet, but then again neither have most manufacturers.
 

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I'm interested in how the F12 performs (against a P12 PWM) in a heatsink like the megahalems, true, or something like that.
 

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Am I the only one disappointed that the PWM fans perform as good as their non-PWM predecessors? I was hoping for legitimately better fans that were also PWM.

Note: I'm not bagging on Noctua's products. I love their heatsinks, I love their customer service, and their attention to detail sets the bar in the industry. I'm just annoyed that their fans are merely 'meh' compared to Gentle Typhoons, Noiseblocker Multiframes, San Ace silents, etc.
 

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How do these compare to blademasters? Since they are both pwm fans but the bm has higher rpm so probably not going to be as good right? Btw are these ball bearing fans?

Sent from my brain using my fingers
 

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Nothing is different on the P12 and P14 except the PCB and the accessories. The PCB is PWM -- a non-clicking PWM. The accessories are superb.

I am a big fan of GT's and KM2's, but I don't see them available as PWM fans.

Bearings are SSO, proprietary to Noctua. They're like FDB's but perhaps better. Anyway, Tator Tot says FDB's outlast ball bearing fans. Certainly you don't get the bearing race sounds, which younger users can clearly hear.

You may be disappointed with these fans, but on a D14 they are hard to beat.
 

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Noctua may have said not to expect more airflow, but they certainly are claiming better cooling on their coolers. At CES they had images comparing its thermal performance to the NP-12, with the NF-F12 mounted on an NH-U12P for comparison. This fan was made for air coolers, Noctua's in particular.

Noctua will certainly point out its effectiveness on WC rads; a customer is a customer, but air cooling is Noctua's business. They designed them for Noctua's air coolers, and of course as an aftermarket fan for competitor's products.

Presuming it performs as claimed, its value as a case fan is understated. A fan that can produce a tight, far-throwing current of air with minimal noise is good for more than pushing through aluminum fins. There may be a lot of case's front intake slots with that fan's name on it.

When placed as a puller with its keystone technology half gone to waste, it's not going to do much more with the NP-14 at its back as the NP-12 did. If we're going to see what this fan can (or can't) do, it's going to pushing air, or better yet, pulling in synergy with another F12 behind it, as well as transporting air to components from distant intakes. just imo.
 

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Sounds awfully similar to the Silverstone Air Penetrator series...

I want to like these fans. I really do. I like supporting companies that have treated me right and I have several Noctua products to prove it. If I have a few extra bucks when the taxman is done then I'll pick up a couple to compare to my GTs and Noiseblockers. I'm especially interested in seeing if the Sunbeam PWM fan controller can really make the and non-PWM Multiframes sing, which would (for me) negate the potential value of the new Noctua fans.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBEG View Post

Sounds awfully similar to the Silverstone Air Penetrator series...

I want to like these fans. I really do. I like supporting companies that have treated me right and I have several Noctua products to prove it. If I have a few extra bucks when the taxman is done then I'll pick up a couple to compare to my GTs and Noiseblockers. I'm especially interested in seeing if the Sunbeam PWM fan controller can really make the and non-PWM Multiframes sing, which would (for me) negate the potential value of the new Noctua fans.
Look at the price of that controller, and the price of fans. For someone without money in existing fans, a controller is no longer necessary, at least for this cooler.

The Air Penetrator is a nice idea. This is a different take on the same concept. Prior to the Air Penetrators, you could find house fans with the same thin stator pattern. Also, fan manufacturers have made industrial fans with 7 - 13 stators for use in various devices that need cooling. Where Noctua has done something novel is in setting the stators at irregular intervals, breaking up the tonal quality of the fan sound. The F12 is also the first 25mm fan I have seen with half-thickness stators.

It really is an innovation.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBEG View Post

Sounds awfully similar to the Silverstone Air Penetrator series...
I want to like these fans. I really do. I like supporting companies that have treated me right and I have several Noctua products to prove it. If I have a few extra bucks when the taxman is done then I'll pick up a couple to compare to my GTs and Noiseblockers. I'm especially interested in seeing if the Sunbeam PWM fan controller can really make the and non-PWM Multiframes sing, which would (for me) negate the potential value of the new Noctua fans.
I have the Sunbeam. I'm not totally clear on this, but I don't think it provides a true PWM control of the fans, it just uses the information from the PWM signal and attempts to emulate it by linear voltage limiting (as opposed to the more power efficient pulse width modulation). It's not too shabby, but the fans tend to run at odd speeds (or rather, run as if each were the cpu cooler fan), since it's trying to use pwm feedback based on one fan to run multiple fans, often of different speeds.

edit: it's still a decent low priced controller, even without the pwm function.
 

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The way I see it, for a cooler you want some turbulence between the fins. Stators straighten out the airflow and take away the rotation, and if you straighten it out too much you get closer to laminar flow which would be bad. So you need a compromise that gives you more pressure but leaves the turbulence. You can see how Noctua tries to mess up the laminar flow in their new designs. I wonder why we don't see any dimples.
 

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I wouldn't mind seeing a test using NF-P12+NF-F12+no fan. With the P14 at center/F12 in front, we may very well have the most capable tool doing the wrong job.
 
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