Noctua NF-P12 120mm fan review

From left to right: the 3 to 4-pin adaptor, the U.L.N.A. which drops the RPM to 900 and the L.N.A. which drops the RPM to 1100. These adaptors feature a resistor which reduces the current.

As you may have noticed by now Noctua uses a pretty unique color scheme for their fans. Not everyone is happy with these colors and unfortunately, the firm is still not offering any other color options. The 3-pin cable has been fully sleeved but unfortunately, the adaptors aren't.

The fan features nine very closely spaced large blades to achieve a high air pressure. All Noctua fans use a SSO-bearing, the firm claims this bearing produces a lot less noise than sleeve or double ball bearing and is also more stable. As the fan wears the noise production shouldn't increase exponentially like fans with double ball bearing and sleeve bearing tend to do.

Another special technology used in this fan is Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) which reduces switching noise. This system provides more continuous switching in order to achieve a smoother transition between the stator coils and thereby significantly contributes to the fan's overall quietness.

One of the things I noticed when I got the NF-P12 in my hands is that it's heavier than the NF-S12 fans. The build quality of these fans seems to be better than standard fans and the NF-S12.

Here's a closer look at one of the most distinctive features of these fans: their Vortex-Control Notches. Noctua claims the two notches at the edge of each blade reduce turbulence and velocity loss, which leads to a significant reduction in noise as well as increased efficiency. The firm also reports these notches serve as a psychoacoustic optimization which spreads the noise over a wider range of frequencies which should make the noise less annoying.

The Vortex-Control Notches' effect of psychoacoustic optimization is further enhanced by the staggering of the notches. The Vortex-Control Notches are staggered from blade to blade so that each blade creates a different vortex pattern. As a result, the fan's noise emission is better spread over the frequency spectrum and thereby makes it yet more pleasant to the human ear.

Noise tests
I compared the noise level of both fans with the SmartSensor AR824 decibelmeter. The readings were taken at a distance of 10cm in a room with an ambient noise level of 38dBA.

The NF-S12 seems to be a bit more silent at lower RPMs while the NF-P12 is a bit more silent at higher RPMs but the difference is really very small.

As decibel meters don't tell everything I also did some more subjective noise tests. I listened to the noise of both fans to judge which one makes the least noise but this wasn't an easy task as both fans are very quiet. At a distance of more than a meter you practically won't be able to hear them unless your room is very quiet. The noise production of both fans seems to be about even but I have to admit that the psychoacoustic optimizations seem to work as when I put the fans right next to my ear I found the noise produced by the NF-P12 a bit more pleasant.

I also did a test with the fans mounted on the Noctua NH-U12F heatsink but couldn't really pinpoint which fan made the least noise. I checked with the decibelmeter but the difference was too small to be of meaning.

While the noise level of both fans seems to be very close one thing to take in mind is that the NF-P12 offers more airflow and more static pressure than the NF-S12.

Once again Noctua doesn't disappoint. The NF-P12 produces a decent airflow, a high static pressure and is extremely quiet. This fan is perfect for low-noise CPU, radiator, PSU or case cooling.

Besides the fan's distinctive color scheme which may not appeal to everyone I can only think of one real negative: the price. The NF-P12 has a recommended price of 19.90EUR ($24.90) and that makes these fans very expensive if you need a couple of them. However, if you're willing to pay a premium for silent computing these fans are definitely worth it.

The Good Stuff
- Good airflow to noise ratio
- Very quiet
- Ships with lots of extras (L.N.A., U.L.N.A. and four vibrational noise dampeners)
- Long MTBF and 6-year warranty

The Bad Stuff
- High price
- Not everyone will like the fan's color scheme

I give the Noctua NF-P12 fan a 9/10 and our Top Design award for their very quiet performance.

Added: December 3rd 2007
Product reviewed: Noctua NF-P12 120mm fan
Reviewer: Thomas De Maesschalck
Score: 9/10
Page: 2/2

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About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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