Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan Review

Product: Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm
Company: Noctua
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: April 3rd, 2012

Noctua NF-F12 PWM

Noctua products are not aimed at the budget minded or basic need requirement consumer, but rather are aligned with boutique applications where specific functionality is required alongside a high consideration for aesthetics. When you pick up the NF-F12 PWM box you hold a cardboard box with a hole to see a portion of the fan inside, a pretty typical and unassuming package. Things start to get interesting as soon as you flip it over to see the product details - there is not one, but two fold out double-sided information sheets built into the package to better elucidate the contents within.

Noctua's documentation (PDF) gives every impression that their engineers have gone over every aspect of a standard axial fan design and looked for ways to crank the dial to 11. The frame is denoted as the focused flow system, featuring eleven stator guide vanes that manage the airflow - straightening, guiding; channeling it to provide better cooling performance at low speeds, a key to keeping noise down. The vanes appear to be equidistant and evenly distributed but in fact are at varying angles, with notches etched into the surfaces. The varying angular distance and vortex control notches are to reduce specific frequency noise spikes, in an effort to reduce the intrusive noise of the fan in operation.

The fan blades, known as the Hetaperf impeller, appear symmetrical and smooth at first glance but closer inspection reveals a number of engineering design tweaks. The seven blades are designed to work with the focused flow system, and a further tweak to the chassis is present around the inside edge of the impeller cutout. Inner surface microstructures reduce flow separation from suction side to exhaust side at the blade edges, meaning lower noise and higher pressure flow - the fan fights itself less, and pushes more.

The impeller cutout itself is tweaked too, with the inlet channels stepped to reduce the resistance of airflow from simple layered air currents to turbulent flow - twisting and thrusting through the fan. This transition point is another area where noise can be generated and fan performance limited, hence the steps improving both focused flow and noise level in operation.

The Hetaperf impeller is propelled by an evolution of Noctua's self-stabilizing oil-pressure bearing (SSO), now in version 2. The rear magnet, used to stabilize operation of the rotor axis, is now moved closer to the bearing to provide better stability and long lasting operation - and Noctua offer a 6 year warranty on this fan.

The fan is equipped with integrated anti-vibration pads that fit on all four corners to provide a silicone rubber vibration damped installation. The pads are removable to suit your needs and the fan should be compatible with all standard mounting designs and fan clips, or using the provided silicone fan mounts in place of traditional screws.

As the name suggests, the NF-F12 PWM is equipped with a 4-pin fan header, on a 20cm cable. An extension cable is also included, as is a 4-pin Y splitter and fan speed reducer, to drop max fan speed from 1500rpm to 1200rpm. As a consequence of the low resistance and speed of the fan, it's low power as well - Noctua claim 0.6W in operation, significantly lower than a standard 120mm fan which usually pull around 2W.