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Appeared on: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Noctua NF-F12 review

1. Features, specs

Noctua's design team has been to consistent in delivering unique cooling solutions to manage the thermal load of today's processors and chassis, all while taking into account airflow, static pressure, and noise. The NF-P12 has been one of the best CPU fans on the market and now the company hopes that the new NF-F12 PWM fan will be an even better solution for the latest CPUs. As you realize the NF-F12 PWM supports the PWM feature, that allows fan to be controlled via a PWM controller for reduced noise, power consumption, and performance scaling.

This 120mm fan promises to offer even higher efficiency and lower noise levels than previous models. It comes packed with new technologies such as the  Focused Flow system, which creates high static pressure and focuses the airflow for superior performance on the CPU's heatsinks. At the same time, a wide range of aerodynamic design measures, second generation SSO-Bearings and Noctua’s new, custom designed PWM IC for fully automatic control guarantee quietness of operation.

The NF-F12 comes with modular cabling, integrated anti-vibration pads and two speed settings for more flexibility.


Focused Flow Focused Flow Frame
Designed for pressure demanding applications such as heatsinks and radiators, the Focused Flow frame features eleven stator guide vanes that straighten, channel and focus the airflow, which allows the NF-F12 to rival the performance of conventional fans running at much faster speeds. 

Varying Angular Distance Varying Angular Distance and Vortex Control Notches
The NF-F12’s stator guide vanes are set out in Varying Angular Distance and feature Vortex-Control Notches. Both measures help to spread the noise emission over a broader frequency spectrum and thus make the fan’s sound pattern more agreeable to the human ear. 

Heptaperf Heptaperf Impeller
Custom designed for the new Focused Flow frame and to work in tandem with the eleven stator guide vanes, the NF-F12’s seven blade Heptaperf™ impeller has been carefully optimized to achieve a perfect balance between power and quietness.

Stepped Inlet Design Stepped Inlet Design
Noctua’s Stepped Inlet Design adds turbulence to the influx in order to facilitate the transition from laminar flow to turbulent flow, which reduces tonal intake noise, improves flow attachment and increases suction capacity, especially in space restricted environments. 

Inner Surface Microstructures Inner Surface Microstructures
With the tips of the fan blades ploughing through the boundary layer created by the Inner Surface Microstructures, flow separation from the suction side of the blades is significantly suppressed, which results in reduced blade passing noise and improved airflow and pressure efficiency.

Integrated Anti-Vibration Integrated Anti-Vibration Pads
Integrated Anti-Vibration Pads made from extra-soft silicone minimize the transmission of minute vibrations while maintaining full compatibility with all standard mounting systems and fan clips used on heatsinks. 

SSO2 SSO2 Bearing
The NF-F12 is the first fan to feature the further optimized second generation of Noctua’s renowned, time-tested SSO bearing. With SSO2, the rear magnet is placed closer to the axis to provide even better stabilization, precision and durability.

Metal Bearing Shell Metal bearing shell
In order to guarantee the highest possible degree of manufacturing precision, minimum tolerance and excellent long-term stability, the NF-F12 sports a CNC milled bearing shell made entirely from brass. 

PWM Custom designed PWM IC with SCD
Supporting fully automatic PWM speed control, the NF-F12 uses Noctua’s novel, custom designed NE-FD1 PWM IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology. By providing smoother torque impulses, SCD suppresses PWM switching noises and thus makes the fan quieter at lower speeds. 

Low Power Consumption Ultra-Low Power Consumption
The NF-F12 draws only 0.6W, which is more than 50% less than many fans in the same speed range. This doesn’t only make it eco-friendly but also cuts down the electricity bill: Compared to a typical 2W fan, this allows you to save about half the price of the NF-F12 after 5 years of continuous use.

LNA Low-Noise Adaptor
The NF-F12 is supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1500 to 1200rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 1200rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control.

Cabling Options Extensive Cabling Options
The fan’s short 20cm primary cable minimizes cable clutter in typical applications while the supplied 30cm extension provides extended reach when necessary. Both cables are fully sleeved and a 4-pin y-cable allows to connect a second NF-F12 fan to the same PWM fan header for automatic control.

Warranty 6 years manufacturer’s warranty
Noctua fans are renowned for their impeccable quality and outstanding longevity. Like all Noctua fans, the NF-F12 features an MTBF rating of more than 150.000 hours and comes with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.

- Specifications

Size   120x120x25 mm
Connector   4-pin PWM
Bearing   SSO2
Blade Geometry   Heptaperf™
Frame Technology   Focused Flow™
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)   1500 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)   1200 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)   300 RPM
Airflow   93,4 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A.   74,3 m³/h
Acoustical Noise   22,4 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.   18,6 dB(A)
Static Pressure   2,61 mm H2O
Static Pressure with L.N.A.   1,83 mm H2O
Max. Input Power   0,6 W
Max. Input Current   0,05 A
Voltage   12 V
MTBF   > 150.000 h
Scope of Delivery  
  • Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A.)
  • 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws
Warranty   6 years

2. A closer look

The Noctua NF-F12 retails in an attractive package with all the product features printed on the front and back sides of it. The product costs around $19.50 (6-years warranty), which is not much for such a promising 120mm fan. For our tests we used two NF-F12 fans.

Inside the box is a plastic shell that holds the NF-F12 PWM fan and the accessory bundle. All the features of the fan are presented and well-explained in the inner part of the box:

Opening the box unveils the contents

The Noctua NF-F12 has the typical dimensions (120x120x25) of 120mm fans so it will fit in all cases/cpu coolers. Noctua;s products are easily recognizable by their ‘Marmite’ colors and the standard seven blade fan design. The 4-pin cable is shielded and durable. What's different from from the previous fan designs that there are larger rubberized vibration pads placed at each corner of the fan. These vibration pads can be easily removed.

You can also see the unusual fan design developed by Noctua. Air notches are no longer on the blades as in the P12 range but are now placed upon the fan chassis itself. According to Noctua, these are the guide vanes that help to generate sound ‘pulses’ along the framework when one of the fan blades crosses over this section:

The Noctua NF-F12 also comes with a SSO2 bearing with a metal shell. The second generation SSO2 full metal bearing is machined from solid brass for a longer lifespan and improved fan blade stabilization. When the 4-pin fan header is plugged on board, it uses the NE-FD1 PWM sensor to determine the fan speed.


3. The NF-F12 in action

We compared the thermal and noise characteristics of the Noctua NF-F12 fan(s) with those of a dual NF-P12 fan configuration, mounted on a Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler and an Intel Core-i5 2500K processor.

Under overclocking conditions and after our system was stressed for an hour, the combination of the 2x NF-F12 kept the CPU's temperature 3 degrees Celsius lower than the 2x NF-P12 configuration. The differences between the two setups under idle conditions were negligible. When the PWM function was enabled under load, the fan speed rises with just a small hit to the temperature at idle.

Without any doubt, the NF-F12 fan to the already a powerful NH-D14 cpu cooler is a winning combination.

Noctua's engineers have done a great job with the design of the NF-F12 PWM fan. The all-new Focused Flow design improves overall static pressure and airflow, with the noise penalty compared to the NF-P12 to be negligible. Noctua also used a custom-designed NE-FD1 PWM IC, equipped with Smooth Commutation Drive technology, to improve the noise signature when run at lower speeds such as 300 RPM.

Whether you enable the PWM function or not, the NF-F12 outperforms NF-P12 under load. At idle when the PWM function is enabled, the NF-F12 PWM delivers a slightly higher temperature than the NF-P12. You can set the PWM control to a higher profile to match the idle temperatures without any noise penalty.

The price of the F12 is at ~$20 but worth every penny, considering that you are getting a high-performance fan along with a complete system with cable expanders and even low noise adapters.



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