Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H80
Power Supply Corsair CX500
Enclosure BitFenix Prodigy with 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro intake @ 5V

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

So why use a closed enclosure, and a Mini-ITX one no doubt? As it turns out, my experience in testing Origin's Chronos LAN box suggested that this might actually be ideal. Removing the middle drive cage allows for a straight shot between the Prodigy's intake and the radiator fan, allowing us the opportunity to test how quietly and efficiently the fans can run in a closed system with no real acoustic baffling, while the 200mm Spectre Pro attenuated to 5V runs both quietly enough to not significantly impact results while providing enough airflow to ensure the radiator fans can do their job. Using a larger enclosure felt like it might complicate things with too many variables; the small and wonderfully efficient BitFenix Prodigy felt perfect for the job.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Finally, for the closed-loop cooler we used Corsair's H80. Our own testing proved this was a solid performer and fairly representative of 120mm closed-loop units. The H80 includes a thick, beefy 120mm radiator as well as having dual fan headers built into the waterblock that run non-PWM fans at a constant 12V. I elected against testing in a push-pull configuration, though, to isolate individual fan performance; test results are in a push configuration only.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded; since the block runs the fans at a constant 12V, the only fan that changes speed (and thus noise) is the stock H80 fan, so the noise level for that fan is recorded again during the Prime95 run.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the H80, the SP120 fans, and CX500 power supply.
  • Thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the Air Penetrator AP121 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Prodigy enclosure and Spectre Pro 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 1
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  • ikaboo154 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    According to the graphs, the NZXT is as quiet as the Nexus.
    The NZXT also cools better than the Nexus.

    The conclusions says the Nexus is quieter than the NZXT, yet on the graph they both measure 30dB.

    Since, the NZXT is cheaper and cools better than the NEXUS, I'm going to buy the NZXT unless someone can reassure me that the Nexus is quieter.

    TLDR: Is the Nexus quieter than the NZXT? If so, is the graph just inaccurate?
    Reply
  • Freezer64 - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    So this was basically a ploy to market the H80, and boost sales @ Corsair. Maybe next time you run a test like this you'll use fans that people actually use instead of garbage you found @ Fry's. Terrible review, you should be fired! Reply
  • cerealkeller - Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - link

    I have been using the Cooler Master Sickle Flow 120mm Fans for years and have been very satisfied with their performance. They run quiet and move a relatively good amount of air for $10 a piece. Based on this review I bought a set of the Corsair SP120s to replace my Cooler Masters on my 240x60mm radiator. I don't know why the hell your Cooler Masters ran 30C higher than the Corsairs because I only saw 2C drop in load temps and 1C drop in idle temps switching to the Corsairs at max RPM. I'm not impressed. I'm glad my temps dropped, but I was hoping for at least 5C. I'm planning to try the Noctua NF-F12 next. It's crazy expensive for a fan, but I would like to see my temps hit below 40C under load, they're at 52C atm with the SP120s. That is with push only, not push pull. Reply

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