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First 140 mm Fan Roundup: Noctua, Phanteks, Xigmatek

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140 mm fans from Noctua, Phanteks, and Xigmatek battle in our latest fan roundup with one emerging as a clear winner in both thermal performance and acoustics.

May 21, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Last month we staged an epic shoot-out among some popular 120 mm fans. Some great sounding fans emerged but we were left a bit wanting. The best sounding fans performed poorly in our thermal test while some with forgettable or undesirable acoustics rose to the top in ccooling performance. Sadly, there was no magic bullet, no model that truly excelled both in cooling and acoustics. With 120 mm fans well covered, we move on to the 140 mm variety hoping for more better results. This time models from Noctua, Phanteks, and Xigmatek are represented.

The following is a summary of our current fan testing methodology; for more information as to our reasoning behind all this, it’s described in great detail in our last fan roundup, #7.

THE TEST HARDWARE

  • i7-1366 CPU die simulator with embedded T-type Thermocouple wire
    A generous contribution from Thermalright. It can handle up to 150W,
    but its heat distribution is more even than a typical CPU. The
    main thing is that it gets hot enough, with extreme consistency, and there
    are no worries about a CPU or motherboard breaking down.
  • Thermalright Archon heatsink — It’s a good performer like most Thermalright
    CPU heatsinks, and it can fit very large fans. It is also quite responsive
    to the size of fan used due to its big mating surface area for the fan. Given
    the same RPM, for example, a 140mm fan always results in lower temperature
    than a 120mm fan. For a fan test platform, this is as it should be.
  • Mastech
    6030D
    DC Regulated Power supply, 0-64V/3A — It heats up the
    CPU die simulator with power up to 137W.
  • For Voltage fan speed control, we use a custom built 0~12 VDC Regulated
    Voltage Fan Controller
    — The same one used for years and years. It is
    sometimes used for PWM fans when the lowest test speed is not achievable on
    the PWM fan controller.
  • For PWM fan speed control, Fan Xpert 2 utility in Asus P8Z77-V Pro motherboard — A great board to work with to test fans. You’ll appreciate the detailed data summary it generates. It also incorporates a voltage regulation circuit for its non-CPU 4-pin headers, which allows 3-pin non-PWM fans to be analyzed using its auto-tune function, and to run the entire test on the fan when appropriate. It has too conservative a definition of “safe starting speed”, which prevents many 3-pin fans from running at very low (but still safe) speeds.
  • Kanomax 6803 Vane Anemometer
    — ±1% accuracy rating, which is believable. This is by far the most
    accurate of the handful that we’ve acquired over the years. Ironically, it
    is used not as a primary tool, however, but a secondary one as we’re not concerned
    about airflow per se, but its thermal effects in a cooling system.
  • Mannix DT8852 Dual Input Thermometer (K, J or T Thermocouple input) —
    Supposedly 0.1% accurate. This is to monitor the temperature of the CPU
    die and the ambient air ~6″ in front of the fan intake
  • High accuracy general purpose Multimeter
  • Guangzhou Landtek Instruments Scroboscope DT2350P (primary tachometer) — This is supposed to be accurate to 0.1%.
  • Laser digital tachometer by Neiko Tools USA (alternate tachometer) — This is supposed to have 0.05% accuracy, but I don’t trust it as much as the strobe, it requires a reflective tape to be stuck on a blade, often gives false readings (like 9687 RPM when measuring a fan spinning at ~700 RPM)) and doesn’t work well with light colored fins.
  • SPCR hemi-anechoic chamber
    and audio analysis system.

THE TEST PROCEDURE

Our die simulator is heated up to maximum capacity and fans are strapped on and run at a variety of predetermined speeds. We record airflow, noise, and temperature rise, that is the difference between ambient temperature and the temperature of an object under thermal load. Better cooling results in lower temperature rise; worse cooling results in higher temperature rise. In this case, the ambient is the temperature of the air 6″ in front of the fan, and the thermal load temperature is that of the CPU die simulator.

The fans are tested at top speed and 2000, 1500, 1100, 900, 700, and 550 RPM if possible (most fans can hit at three or four of these speeds at the minimum, giving us a nice cross-section for comparison). Long experience has shown that neither noise nor cooling is affected by changes in fan speed that are lower than ~50 RPM. We did not sweat to make the targets exactly, but they were always better than 50 RPM within target, as measured by the stroboscope.

Using RPM has an important, practical advantage: For
most computer users, RPM is the fan/cooling data that is most readily accessible,
and controllable
. Almost every fan in computerland these days offers
RPM data output, and every motherboard has the ability to monitor it. If you
set the speed of your selected fan at one of our test points, you know exactly
what noise level (within a decibel or so) will obtain. There are many ways to
adjust fan speed: Most motherboards are equipped with speed controllers for
their fan headers, and monitor fan speeds for any standard 3-pin fans or 4-pin
PWM fans, and the RPM can be displayed right on the desktop using any number
of fan and/or thermal utilities.

Noctua NF-P14 FLX (SPCR 140 mm reference fan)

We start with the Noctua NF-P14 FLX, which back in the day, was chosen as our reference model based on its excellent acoustics and the abundance of samples we had in hand (it’s included in Noctua’s premium dual fan heatsinks, the NH-D14 and NH-C14, of which we have several). Discontinued now in favor of Noctua’s new A series, this classic can still be found on store shelves, though we can’t say for how much longer.


The NF-P14 FLX is basically a larger version of the NF-P12 with a round frame.

The main design feature is the vortex control notches on each blade’s trailing edge, purportedly to reduce turbulence, creating a smoother sounding fan. We can’t argue with the end result, the NF-P14 is one of the best sounding fans we have in our arsenal.

There are nine gently curved blades in total. Like many 140 mm models, the housing offers 120 mm mounting holes for convenience and maximum compatibility.

 

Specifications: Noctua NF-P14 FLX
Manufacturer Noctua Power Rating 1.2 W
Model Number NF-P14 Airflow Rating 110.3 m³/h
83.7 m³/h with L.N.A.
71.2 m³/h
with U.L.N.A
Bearing Type SSO2 Speed Rating 1,200 RPM
900 RPM with L.N.A.
750 RPM
with U.L.N.A
Frame Size 140 x 140 x 25 mm
(120 mm holes)
Noise Rating 19.6 dBA
13.2 dBA with L.N.A.
10.1 dBA with U.L.N.A
Hub Size 41 mm Header Type 3-pin w/ molex adapter
Blade Diameter 130 mm Fan Mounts Isolators or screws
Cable Length 40 cm Weight 160 g
Starting Voltage < 4.0 V Number of Samples 4
Corner Type Open Retail Availability Yes

Accessories: LNA (low noise adapter), ULNA (ultra low noise adapter), molex adapter, metal reinforcements (140 mm mounting hole adapters), isolators, screws.

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the Noctua NF-P14 FLX.

 


Acoustic analysis of the Noctua NF-P14 FLX.

 

SPCR Test Results: Noctua NF-P14 FLX
Fan Speed (RPM)
1200
1100
900
700
550
SPL (dBA@1m)
26
23~24
17~18
13
11
Thermal Rise (°C)
19
19
21
23
27
Airflow in/out (FPM)
540/750
500/660
250/310

As we mentioned earlier the P14 was chosen as a reference due to its excellent acoustics. Our chosen sample exhibited very little tonality throughout its range, illustrated by the lack of tonal peaks in the spectrum. Though turbulent above 1,000 RPM, it became mostly smooth with a broadband profile at lower speeds. Its range gives it a degree of versatility. Users unconcerned with noise can run it at full speed for best cooling while those with a more delicate sensibilities will find the fan becomes quiet below 1,000 RPM.

We sampled four fans that originated from a pair of Noctua NH-C14 coolers. They all sounded quite similar though two varied slightly in pitch, one higher, the other lower. Even these “flawed” samples produced a pleasant sound.

The NF-P14 FLX was a good performer as well, generating fairly low temperatures until we dropped the speed to 700 RPM and below.

Noctua NF-A14 FLX

As good as the P series sounds, it has fallen victim to the march of progress with Noctua replacing it with the A series, now equipped on some of their latest heatsinks. The new design ditches the blade notches for something more conventional, though the iconic brown and beige color scheme remains.


Noctua has a pair of 140 mm models, the NF-A14 FLX and NF-A14 ULN, which by all accounts are identical save for their speeds, 1,200 and 800 RPM respectively.

The fans sit in a clear plastic container with their accessories. The ULN includes isolators and screws for mounting, an extension cable, two LNAs (low noise adapters) with one doubling as a molex adapter. The FLX comes with an additional ULNA (ultra low noise adapter) to better tame its higher speed.

Some faint ridges are present on the intake side of the blades and the corners are equipped with loosely-held dampeners.

Noctua has chosen a square frame for the NF-A14 series with struts that curve only slightly at the edges. The blades are also larger and have less intimidating rounded tips.

 

Specifications: NF-A14 Series
Manufacturer Noctua Power Rating FLX: 0.96 W

ULN: 0.48 W

Model Number NF-A14 FLX

NF-A14 ULN

Airflow Rating FLX: 115.5 / 101.9 / 88.7 m³/h (stock / with LNA / with ULNA)

ULN: 79.8 / 66.4 m³/h (stock / with LNA)

Bearing Type SSO2 Speed Rating FLX: 1,200 / 1,050 / 900 RPM (stock / with LNA / with ULNA)

ULN: 800, 650 RPM (stock / with LNA)

Frame Size 140 x 140 x 25 mm Noise Rating FLX: 19.2 / 16.4 / 13.8 dBA (stock / with LNA / with ULNA)

ULN: 11.9 / 9.1 dBA (stock / with LNA)

Hub Size 42 mm Header Type 3-pin w/ molex adapter
Blade Diameter 133 mm Fan Mounts Isolators or screws
Cable Length 20 cm Weight FLX: 190 g

ULN: 170 g

Starting Voltage FLX: 6.0 ~ 6.5 V

ULN: 7.0 ~ 7.5 V

Number of Samples 1 each
Corner Type Open Retail Availability Yes

Accessories: 8 cm LNA (low noise adapter), 10 cm LNA molex adapter, 30 cm extension cable, isolators, screws. FLX also includes an 8 cm ULNA (ultra low noise adapter).

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the NF-A14 FLX.

 


Acoustic analysis of the NF-A14 FLX.

 

SPCR Test Results: NF-A14 FLX
Fan Speed (RPM)
1300
1100
900
700
SPL (dBA@1m)
24
19
14~15
11~12
Thermal Rise (°C)
18
18
20
23
Airflow in/out (FPM)
460/590
390/520

Compared to the NF-P14 FLX, the NF-A14 FLX had a lower pitch and a rougher sound overall that sounded worse than its predecessor. Sharp spikes were noted at several frequencies, though it didn’t sound as bad as the spectrum looks. At top speed it produced a droning noise. Reducing the speed to 1,100 RPM turned the drone into a subtle low pitched tone. At 900 RPM, the tonal sound faded and it was mostly smooth from then on. Despite having a higher rotational speed than the P14, it measured lower in SPL at every mark.

The A14’s cooling performance was about on par with the P14, so if you look purely at the numbers, Noctua’s new fan does offer a nice boost in efficiency.

We decided not to test the ULN as the FLX works as a suitable analog. At equivalent fan speeds, the FLX and ULN samples sound more or less identical. The ULN’s 800 RPM speed severely restricts its usefulness and with motherboard fan control being so common now, and the higher speed FLX shipping with two different low noise adapters, the ULN seems like a pointless SKU. We don’t recommend it unless the FLX is unavailable.

Noctua NF-A15 PWM

The NF-A15 PWM is very similar to the NF-A14 FLX with the most noticeable difference being a larger octagonal frame and more heavily curved struts. The impeller and blades are exactly the same as the A14 and the specifications are similar to the FLX except this model has PWM capability.


It appears as though the fan’s oddly squared off top and bottom serve only as mounting points for Noctua’s fan dampeners.

We don’t know the advantages of this semi-octagonal frame but the higher curvature of the struts should reduce tonality compared to the A14. The fan itself looks identical.

The A15 is strikingly similar to Thermalright’s TR-TY140.

 

Specifications: NF-A15 PWM
Manufacturer Noctua Power Rating 0.96 W
Model Number NF-A15 PWM Airflow Rating 115.5 m³/h
88.7 m³/h
with L.N.A
Bearing Type SSO2 Speed Rating 1,200 RPM
900 RPM
with L.N.A
Frame Size 150 x 140 x 25 mm
(120 mm holes)
Noise Rating 19.2 dBA
13.8 dBA with L.N.A
Hub Size 42 mm Header Type 4-pin
Blade Diameter 133 mm Fan Mounts Isolators or screws
Cable Length 20 cm Weight 160 g
Starting Voltage 6.0 ~ 6.5 V Number of Samples 1
Corner Type Open Retail Availability Yes

Accessories: 8 cm LNA (low noise adapter), 30 cm extension cable, 10 cm Y-cable, isolators, screws.

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the NF-A15 PWM.

 


Acoustic analysis of the NF-A15 PWM.

 

SPCR Test Results: NF-A15 PWM
Fan Speed (RPM)
1250
1100
900
700
SPL (dBA@1m)
23
19~20
15
12
Thermal Rise (°C)
18
18
20
23
Airflow in/out (FPM)
450/540
410/530

The A15 had a more pleasant pitch than the A14, especially at full speed where it produced more of a buzzing rather than a droning sound. At lower speeds, it was noticeably smoother as well, though we could detect some faint fluttering close up, as if something inside the motor was off balance. The A15 does indeed sound superior to the A14 but the old P14 still sounds better yet.

We also only had one sample of the NF-A15 PWM, so for all we know, the improvement in noise quality is a fluke. That being said, what we heard was perfectly in line with expectations given the physical structure of the frame.

While the A15 sounded better, its cooling performance was exactly the same at each of the tested speeds. The measured noise level was also very close.

Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS

It seemed fitting to throw a Phanteks model into the roundup. Phanteks is known for CPU coolers which sport designs, mounting hardware, accessories, and even packaging brazenly similar to Noctua’s high-end offerings. The PH-F140HP/TS fan (“HP” is displayed on the box but “TS” is on the label and on the website) shares some similarities with the A15’s frame but the design itself seems to be original. This is the model paired with the PH-TC14PE, which is a near clone of the famous NH-D14 dual fan cooler.


Like their heatsinks, the Phanteks PH-F140 is available in various colors. We were blessed with white, black, and blue versions.

The fan is sits inside a plastic tray just like Noctua’s but the accessory list isn’t as extensive. Phanteks includes a set of isolators and screws for mounting, a low noise adapter, and a metal bracket that allows users to place the fan in the area next to the expansion slots so you can have a large fan blowing over the graphics card(s).

The main design features are the included rubber washers and the straight ridges on the intake side of the fan blades.

The structure of the fan housing is similar to the NF-A15 but it’s much slimmer at the edges, conforming to standard 140 x 140 mm dimensions. The fan itself has straighter blades and the tips are also ridged.

 

Specifications: Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
Manufacturer Phanteks Power Rating 1.8 W
Model Number PH-F140TS Airflow Rating 78.1 CFM
Bearing Type Updraft Floating Balance Speed Rating 1,200 RPM
Frame Size 140 x 140 x 25 mm
(120 mm holes)
Noise Rating 19 dBA
Hub Size 42 mm Header Type 3-pin
Blade Diameter 132 mm Fan Mounts Isolators or screws
Cable Length 39 cm Weight 170 g
Starting Voltage < 4.0 V Number of Samples 3
Corner Type Open Retail Availability Yes

Accessories: 12 cm low noise adapter, thermal bracket, isolators, screws.

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS.

 


Acoustic analysis of the Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS.

 

SPCR Test Results: Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
Fan Speed (RPM)
1300
1100
900
700
550
SPL (dBA@1m)
26~27
22
16~17
12
11
Thermal Rise (°C)
18
18
19
22
25
Airflow in/out (FPM)
530/740
460/640
240/330

Aside from our reference NF-P14 FLX, the PH-F140HP/TS had the best acoustics of the fans in this roundup, having a much cleaner profile than the latest offerings from Noctua. At higher speeds it sounded buzzy and turbulent as many fans do but at 900 RPM and below it was almost completely smooth, aside from a very faint clicking audible only at close proximity at 700 and 550 RPM.

Sample variance was minor. Of the three samples we had on hand, the white variant produced a slight tone at lower speeds while the black model was a tad whinier at full speed than the blue. The blue version used in our test had a superior sound though the other two were very similar.

The Phanteks produced excellent temperatures down to 700 RPM and only a very modest drop-off when moving from 700 to 550 RPM, earning it the best cooling result at this RPM of any fan we’ve tested.

Xigmatek XAF-F1453

Xigmatek is an enthusiast brand that makes an effort to make their products look snazzy. We have a small sampling of their vast array of fans that sport multiple designs, shapes, and colors. The XAF-F1453 has four white LEDs in its corners shining toward the translucent orange fan blades which help scatter the light. White LEDs also available in black and blue models, while non-LED variants can be found in white and black.


Both the XLF and XAF series ship in plastic clam shell containers, though thankfully they are easy to unpack and reseal.

The XAF-F1453 is easily the oddest fan in our roundup. Its blades are narrow and shaped in a wave pattern as if it had sat in the sun too long and partially melted. The fan has 120 mm mounting holes but a set of adapters are included to give it 140 mm fittings.

For some reason, the mounting holes on opposite sides are not aligned so if you turn the fan around you have to rotate it slightly for proper alignment.

The fan has a noticeably thin frame and indeed it is the lightest fan in our roundup, weighing only 120 grams, similar to a typical 120 mm model. Ideally we want to see as wide an angle as possible created between the struts and the trailing edges of the blades but instead we have the exact opposite with the struts and fins lining up almost perfectly.

 

Specifications:
Manufacturer Xigmatek Power Rating 3.6 W
Model Number XAF-F1453 Airflow Rating 90.3 CFM
Bearing Type Copper Brush Axis Speed Rating 1,200 RPM
Frame Size 140 x 140 x 25 mm
(120 mm holes, 140 mm adapters)
Noise Rating < 18 dBA
Hub Size 40 mm Header Type 4-pin PWM with molex adapter
Blade Diameter 131 mm Fan Mounts Screws
Cable Length 30 cm Weight 120 g
Starting Voltage 4.0 ~ 4.5 V Number of Samples 1
Corner Type Open Retail Availability Yes
Accessories: 10 cm molex adapter, 140 mm mounting adapters, screws.

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the Xigmatek XAF-F1453.

 


Acoustic analysis of the Xigmatek XAF-F1453.

 

SPCR Test Results: Xigmatek XAF-F1453
Fan Speed (RPM)
1200
1100
900
700
550
SPL (dBA@1m)
28
24~25
19
16~17
12
Thermal Rise (°C)
18
18
20
22
26
Airflow in/out (FPM)
530/770
490/730
240/370

The XAF-F1453 had some interesting acoustic properties. Above 1,000 RPM it was mostly buzzy but we could also detect an intermittent increase in turbulence every couple of seconds as if the fan was pulsing — given its odd blade structure there was bound to be some weirdness. At 900 RPM this unusual effect ceased and the buzzing turned to a dull drone which was partially hiding a tone at ~530 Hz. At 700 RPM and below, this tone was more noticeable and the fan also developed a slight clicking.

The XAF-F1453 sample was an only child so we can’t say with certainty whether other individuals of the same model/line have similar issues.

Its cooling efficiency was nothing to write home about, not particularly good or bad compared to most of the 120 and 140 mm models we’ve run through our testbed.

Xigmatek XLF-F1453

The XLF line reminds us of old Noctua S series which had lightly curved rectangular blades resembling airplane wings. The XLF-F1453 is another white LED and orange fan combination with other variants available in blue and black.


The XLF’s are 3-pin models that ship with only a molex adapter and mounting screws. It’s important to note the XLF has closed corners; many fan mounting schemes on heatsinks are designed to clip onto the inside of open corners.

Compared to most fans, the blades are anemic, with large gaps between each. Once again the blades are almost parallel to the struts. The acoustics of the XAF and XLF might be improved if they simply swapped housings.

 

Specifications: Xigmatek XLF-F1453
Manufacturer Xigmatek Power Rating 3.6 W
Model Number PLA14025S12L Airflow Rating 63.5 CFM
Bearing Type ? Speed Rating 1,000 RPM
Frame Size 140 x 140 x 25 mm Noise Rating < 16 dBA
Hub Size 45 mm Header Type 3-pin
Blade Diameter 132 mm Fan Mounts Screws
Cable Length 30 cm Weight 130 g
Starting Voltage 4.0 ~ 4.5 V Number of Samples 2
Corner Type Closed Retail Availability Yes

Accessories: 10 cm molex adapter, 140 mm mounting adapters, screws.

 


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the Xigmatek XLF-F1453.

 


Acoustic analysis of the Xigmatek XLF-F1453.

 

SPCR Test Results: Xigmatek XLF-F1453
Fan Speed (RPM)
1000
900
700
550
SPL (dBA@1m)
24~25
21~22
15
13
Thermal Rise (°C)
18
19
21
26
Airflow in/out (FPM)
440/640
220/370

At its top speed of 1,000 RPM, the XLF-F1453 had a mostly buzzy character but we also detected a barely audible hum which became more noticeable at 900 RPM. The hum was low-pitched and seemed to be partially generated by vibration (our foam frame stands reduce but does not eliminate vibration effects) which was not a total surprise given the fan’s low weight. At 700 RPM it was much smoother but it also emitted a clicking sound which grew as the speed was lowered further.

A second sample was slightly worse with a more pronounced hum at both high and low speed.

Despite having a vastly different design than the XAF, the XLF performed more or less the same in our thermal test.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

  • Noctua NF-P14 FLX
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (13 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (17~18 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (23~24 dBA@1m)
    — 1,200 RPM (26 dBA@1m)
  • Noctua NF-A14 FLX
    — 700 RPM (11~12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (14~15 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (19 dBA@1m)
    — 1,300 RPM (24 dBA@1m)
  • Noctua NF-A15 PWM
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (15 dBA@1m)
    — 1100 RPM (19~20 dBA@1m)
    — 1,250 RPM (23 dBA@1m)
  • Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (16~17 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (22 dBA@1m)
    — 1,300 RPM (26~27 dBA@1m)
  • Xigmatek XAF-F1453
    — 550 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (16~17 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (19 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (24~25 dBA@1m)
    — 1,200 RPM (28 dBA@1m)
  • Xigmatek XLF-F1453
    — 550 RPM (13 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (15 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (21~22 dBA@1m)
    — 1,000 RPM (24~25 dBA@1m)

COMPARISONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

To compare the test results collected, the following table has been assembled indicating the temperature rise each fan produced at noise levels of 22 dBA@1m and below. The fans have been arranged loosely from best to worst from top to bottom.

120/140 mm Fan Comparison: Thermal Rise (°C)
SPL (dBA @1m)
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS
19
22
25
Noctua NF-A14 FLX
18
20
23
Noctua NF-A15 PWM
18
20
23
Noiseblocker B12-2
20
20
23
28
Noctua NF-P14 FLX
21
23
27
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-12
24
27
Noiseblocker M12-S1
25
29
Corsair AF120 Quiet
20
23
26
30
Corsair AF120 Performance
20
23
26
Thermalright TR-TY150
20
23
25
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-14
19
22
24
27
Xigmatek XAF-F1453
20
22
26
Nexus Real Silent
22
24
26
33
Xigmatek XLF-F1453
19
21
26
Noiseblocker B12-PS
19
21
24
28
30
Corsair SP120 Quiet
21
22
24
29
32
be quiet! Silent Wings 2
22
25
27
34
Noiseblocker M12-S2
23
25
29
33
Antec TrueQuiet 120
23
24
26
29
34
Noiseblocker M12-P
22
25
31
GELID Wing 12
22
26
Antec TrueQuiet 120 Pro
23
24
27
30
35
Antec TwoCool 120
22
26
31
34
SilverStone AP123
24
27
31
140 mm+ models in yellow.
Green box indicates a win, blue box indicates second place.

In our last 120 mm fan roundup we lamented the fact that many of the best sounding fans faltered in our thermal test, posing our readership with a vexing question: Which is more important, acoustics or cooling performance? For this first batch of 140 mm fans, there is no such dilemma.

The Phanteks PH-F140HP/TS is the clear winner in every respect. It edged out the new Noctuas every step of the way, delivering the best overall results of any fan we’ve tested thus far. To top it off, it had cleanest, smoothest sound of all the new fans in this roundup. If we had to start from scratch, this might be our new reference model.

Our current 140 mm reference fan, the Noctua NF-P14 FLX held its own against the newcomers. It didn’t cool quite as well as its successors but its acoustic character is still amongst the best you can find in a 140 mm model. For many, the new models’ improvement in cooling ability isn’t substantial enough to offset the superior sound of the older model. The fact this model has been discontinued is a shame — if you want one, get it now while you can.

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM and NF-A14 FLX followed close behind the Phanteks in our thermal performance test. The A15 has a smoother acoustic profile than the A14 but both sound fairly good to the ears. However, they share the misfortune of living in the shadow of the P14. The A15 and A14 have a rougher, muddier sound and neither is worthy of being a true successor.

The Xigmatek XAF-F1453 and XLF-F1453 were underwhelming, competing with and getting beaten by many of the smaller 120 mm models from previous roundups. The straight-bladed XLF’s acoustics are passable; that is to say its undesirable characteristics can be easily hidden, damped by a case side panel or blurred when combined with the noise from other components. The XAF is a more difficult beast to mask at it develops a strong, distinct tone at lower speeds. While we don’t recommend either fan, the XAF should probably be actively avoided.

Great thanks to Thermalright for sponsoring the CPU thermal simulator and the heatsink and fan samples.
Thanks also to the fan sample suppliers: Noctua, Phanteks, and Xigmatek.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Fan Roundup #7: Antec, be quiet!, Corsair, GELID, Noiseblocker, SilverStone
Fan Roundup #6: Scythe, Noiseblocker, Antec, Nexus, Thermalright
Fan Roundup #5: Attack of the 120 Scythes
Fan Test System, SPCR 2010
Fan Test Methodology V.3
Anatomy of the Silent Fan
SPCR’s Recommended Fans

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