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Appeared on: Monday, March 04, 2013
Noctua NF-A14 ULN, NF-A14 FLX and NF-A15 PWM Fan Review


1. Features, specs

Today we have in our labs Noctua's new NF-A14 and NF-A15 140mm fans. The new fans have been designed to replace the popular NF-P14 fans, which have been the choice of PC enthusiasts.

Compared to the NF-P14, the new fans have been aerodynamically optimized to provide higher static pressure and a better airflow/noise ratio. Noctua' NF-A14 series includes the NF-A14 FLX (flexible) and the NF-A14 ULN models. Both 140mm fans have the same size (140x140x25 mm) and square frame design.

The FLX version is provides 1200, 1050 and 900 rpm speed settings via the supplied Low-Noise and Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptors, offering more options for fine-tuning for superior airflow or maximum quietness.

The ULX version is providing 800 and 650 rpm speed settings via the supplied adaptor, meaning it's tailor made for silent enthusiasts who demand quietness of operation.

The third fan we present today is the Noctua NF-A15 PWM, an 140mm fan sized at 140x150x25 mm - 10mm wider than the NF-A14 series - with a round frame designed for use on today’s high-end CPU coolers. The cooler features standard 120mm mounting holes (105mm spacing) allowing for a performance upgrade for 120mm case or CPU fans.

The NF-A15 PWM fan supports the automatic PWM speed control and it is supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1200 to 900rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 900rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control. In addition, the NF-A15 PWM uses Noctua’s custom designed NE-FD1 PWM IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology. The IC is said to provide smoother torque impulses suppressesing PWM switching noises and thus makes the fan quieter at low speeds.

All three coolers comply with Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) standard, they feature Noctua's aerodynamic design measures such as Flow Acceleration Channels, and SSO2 bearing.

- Features

  NF-P14 FLX NF-P14 ULN NF-A15 PWM
 
Noctua’s NF-P14 fan has become a default-choice among PC enthusiasts. Thanks to its thoroughgoing aerodynamic optimizations, the NF-A15/14 provides higher static pressure and an even better airflow/noise ratio than their predecessors.

The NF-A14 (FLX & ULN) square 140mm frame with 140mm mounting holes (124.5mm spacing) makes it a replacement for common 140mm case fans and perfect for use on 140mm water cooling radiators, where its square shape will ensure full coverage and best pressure performance.

 
  The NF-A15 is tailor-made for use on today’s high-end CPU coolers: While its 150mm width matches those of most high-end heat sinks, its 140mm height doesn’t make it extend on top and thus ensures case compatibility. The NF-A15’s standard 120mm mounting holes (105mm spacing) also make it a great performance upgrade for 120mm case or CPU fans.

The NF-A14/A15 impeller features suction side Flow Acceleration Channels. By speeding up the airflow at the crucial outer blade regions, this measure reduces suction side flow separation and thus leads to better efficiency and lower vortex noise.

Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) frames feature integrated anti-vibration pads as well as Noctua’s proprietary Stepped Inlet Design and Inner Surface Microstructures, both of which further refine the fan’s performance/noise efficiency.

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.

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 Pads made from extra-soft silicone minimize the transmission of minute vibrations while maintaining full compatibility with all standard screws and other mounting systems.
The fans feature the optimized second generation of Octal’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.
In order to guarantee the highest possible degree of manufacturing precision, minimum tolerance and excellent long-term stability, the NF-A12/A15 sport a CNC milled bearing shell made entirely from brass.
Providing 1200, 1050 and 900 rpm speed settings via the supplied Low-Noise and Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptors, the NF-A14 FLX (Flexibility) can be fine-tuned for superior airflow or maximum quietness.  
  Providing 800 and 650 rpm speed settings via the supplied adaptor, the ULN (Ultra-Low-Noise) version is tailor made for serious silent enthusiasts who demand super-slow running speeds and utmost quietness of operation.  
    Supporting fully automatic PWM speed control, the NF-A15 PWM uses Octal’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 low speeds.
 
The NF-A15 PWM is supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1200 to 900rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 900rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control.
The latest version of Noctua’s advanced Smooth Commutation Drive system ensures running smoothness by eliminating torque variations and switching noises. This makes the NF-A14 remarkably quiet even at very close distance.  
The NF-A14 FLX consumes only 0.96W of power, which amounts to a reduction of about 20% as compared to its predecessor. The NF-A14 ULN consumes only 0.48W of power.

The NF-A15 PWM consumes only 0.96W of power, which amounts to a reduction of about 20% as compared to its predecessor.

The fans' short 20cm primary cables minimize cable clutter in typical applications while the supplied 30cm extensions provide extended reach when necessary. All cables are fully sleeved and the supplied 3:4 pin adaptors allows to connect the fans directly to the power supplies.

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-A15 PWM fan to the same PWM fan header for automatic control.

Like all Noctua fans, the NF-A/14A15 features an MTBF of more than 150.000 hours rating and come with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.

Specifications

  NF-A14 FLX NF-A14 ULN NF-A15 PWM
Size
140x140x25 mm
140x150x25 mm
Connector
3-pin
4-pin PWM
Bearing
Blade Geometry
Frame Technology
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1200 RPM
800 RPM
1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
1050 RPM
650 RPM
900 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
900 RPM
-
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)
-
300 RPM
Airflow
115,5 m³/h
79,8 m³/h
115,5 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A.
101,9 m³/h
66,4 m³/h
88,7 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.
88,7 m³/h
-
Acoustical Noise
19,2 dB(A)
11,9 dB(A)
19,2 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.
16,4 dB(A)
9,1 dB(A)
13,8 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.
13,8 dB(A)
-
Static Pressure
1,51 mm H2O
0,69 mm H2O
1,51 mm H2O
Static Pressure with L.N.A.
1,18 mm H2O
0,42 mm H2O
0,89 mm H2O
Static Pressure with U.L.N.A.
0,89 mm H2O
-
Max. Input Power
0,96 W
0,48 W
0,96 W
Max. Input Current
0,08 A
0,04 A
0,08 A
Voltage
12 V
MTBF
> 150.000 h
Scope of Delivery
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
  • 3:4-Pin Adaptor
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 3:4 Pin Adaptor
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws
Warranty
6 years

2. Noctua NF-A14 FLX and ULN

Let's have a closer look to the fans.

Starting with the NF-A14, both the FLX and ULN versions retail in similar carton boxes you see below. Each fan is sold online for about $23, which is a reasonable price for 140mm fans.

NF-A14 FLX
NF-A14 ULN

An Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.) is the extra component you'll get with the NH-A14 FLX version bundle:

  • 1x Noctua NH-A14 FLX fan
  • 1x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 1x Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
  • 1x 3:4-Pin Adaptor
  • 1x 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4x Vibration-Compensators
  • 4x Fan Screws
  • 1x Noctua NH-A14 ULN fan
  • 1x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 1x 3:4 Pin Adaptor
  • 1x 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4x Vibration-Compensators
  • 4x Fan Screws

As we previously mentioned, the main difference between the NF-A14 FLX and ULN versions is their 3-spped and 2-speed fan settings, respectively. The FLX version provides 1200, 1050 and 900 rpm speed settings via the supplied Low-Noise and Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptors, while the ULN version provided 800 and 650 rpm speed settings via the supplied adaptor. Besides that, the fans look similar:

NF-A14 FLX
NF-A14 ULN

 

The Noctua NF-A14 series has a square 140mm design, enhanced with Noctua special features like "Stepped Inlet Design," which 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.

The fans are sized at 140x140x25 mm and can be installed on rather large cpu coolers like the Noctua NH-D14. They have a square 140mm frame with 140mm mounting holes (124.5mm spacing) makes it a replacement for 140mm case fans and also compatible with 140mm water cooling radiator.

Each corner of the fans' frames includes anti-vibration pads for quieter operation. The fans also feature the second generation of Noctua’s SSO bearing. With SSO2, the rear magnet is placed closer to the axis to provide even better stabilization, precision and durability.


3. Noctua NF-A15 PWM

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM also retails for about $23 and is backed by a 6-year warranty. Below you see the fans' package, which includes all the product features printed at the front and back sides of it.

Opening the box unveils the contents

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM has a 150mm wide round frame and has been designed for use on today’s high-end CPU coolers. While its 150mm width matches those of most high-end heatsinks, its 140mm height doesn’t make it extend on top, ensuring case compatibility.

The NF-A15’s standard 120mm mounting holes (105mm spacing) also make it an ideal performance upgrade for 120mm case or CPU fans. The NF-A15 supports the automatic PWM speed control, meaning that the fan will control its rotating speed according to the feedback it gets from motherboard's temperature sensors.

In addition, Noctua’s NE-FD1 PWM IC integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology. By providing smoother torque impulses, SCD suppresses PWM switching noises and thus makes the fan quieter at low speeds.

The NF-A15 PWM also takes advantage of all those technologies and features found on the NF-A14 series, including the side Flow Acceleration Channels, Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) frames with integrated anti-vibration pads as well as Noctua’s proprietary Stepped Inlet Design and Inner Surface Microstructures, Noctua’s Stepped Inlet Design and SSO2 bearing.

Last but not least, the NF-A15 PWM is also supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1200 to 900rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 900rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control.


4. Summary

We installed the Noctua NF-A14 FLX, NF-A14 ULN and the NF-A15 PWM fan on a Noctua NH-D14 cpu cooler. Our system was powered by an Intel i5 2500K processor (95W) overclocked at 4.5GHz. Using the OCCT testing software we stressed out the system for a full hour and logged the temperature of the CPU and the noise level each of the fans produced.

Compared to the performance of a Noctua's NF-P14 fan (previous model) when installed on a Noctua NH-D14 cpu cooler:

In any of the above cases, enabling the LNA or ULNA would have a further effect on the cooling efficiency of each system. However, it would make a great sense to use these features in order to reduce the noise of the spinning fans.

To sum up, the Noctua NF-A14 series is armed with all the latest technologies from Noctua and comes as a well-balanced fan either for cases or cpu coolers.

Using the included adapters, the FLX version can be adjusted to spin at 1200rpm ~ 900rpm, offering a very quiet operation. Compared with the company's previous 140mm fan - the NF-P14 - the NF-A14 FLX cannot fully match its cooling performance, although it follows closely.

The ULN version is can be adjusted to spin at 800rpm ~ 650rpm, making it one of the most quiet 1400mm fans available today. However, the price is the relatively weak cooling performance at such low RPMs. Compared with a NF-P14, the NF-A14 ULN is not a performance champion, but remember that this fan is aimed for maximum quietness.

If you need the absolute performance, you may go for the Noctua NF-A15 PWM. This one is also armed with all the latest technologies from Noctua successfully replaces the legendary NF-14. The combination of the Noctua NH-D14+NF-A15 PWM will give you at least a 2 degrees Celsius advantage over the NF-P14+Noctua NH-D14 setup. For that performance you will have to pay around $23 ad you'll get a full retail package, great performance and a fan that is not more noisy than the NF-P14.

Noctua NF-A14 FLX Noctua NF-A14 ULN Noctua NF-A15 PMW

Pros:

  • Complete retail package
  • Good price
  • Fits into case/cpu coolers
  • Can be very silent with the included adapters
  • 6 years warranty

Cons:

  • Somewhat lower performance compared with NF-P14

Pros:

  • Complete retail package
  • Good price
  • Fits into case/cpu coolers
  • Can be extremely silent with the included adapter
  • 6 years warranty

Cons:

  • Not a performance fan for hardcore users

Pros:

  • Complete retail package
  • Good price
  • Best performance you get from an 140mm fan
  • Relatively silent product
  • 6 years warranty

Cons:

  

 



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