Corsair AF and SP Series Fan Review

Waco - 2012-06-22 07:35:30 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: Waco   
Reviewed on: July 12, 2012
Price: $19.99 to $29.99

Introduction:

Corsair isn't a name unfamiliar to most computer enthusiasts. From cases, to power supplies, to cooling products and more, Corsair has a reputation of making high quality products that won't break the bank. Today I'm looking at a slew of products from Corsair's Air Series of cooling fans.

The Airflow model fans are oriented toward high air flow (hence the AF name) in situations without a whole lot of air resistance. This means they will be ideal for use as case fans but they probably aren't something you would want to stick on a heat sink or water cooling radiator. The other model line of fans I'll be taking a look at today is the Static Pressure line. These fans are designed to move air through situations where this is a lot of resistance to flow, AKA static pressure (which brings us to the SP moniker). This makes them ideal for use with heat sinks and radiators where the cooling fins are densely packed together. Both fan lines have quiet and performance variations to tailor to your specific tastes and needs.

Now that you know a little more about the fans; let's see if they can continue the Corsair reputation!

 

Closer Look:

When a rather large box showed up on my doorstep I was not expecting it to be filled with fans. After opening the box I realized that Corsair had sent a pair of every fan in the Corsair Air Series. That leaves me with a pair of each of the following fans: AF120 Quiet, AF120 Performance, AF140 Quiet, SP120 Quiet, and the SP120 High Performance. Each of the 120mm fans were delivered in a twin pack while the AF140 fans showed up in individual packaging. The boxes themselves clearly denote the model number along with the basic fan specifications at the bottom left of the front of each box. A large window makes it extremely easy to get a good look at each of the fans before you buy them should you be shopping in your local Fry's or Microcenter. Now that I've had my fun stacking all the boxes in interesting ways… let's move on to the individual boxes for a better look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the boxes for the various fan models are fairly similar. Each has a very large window on the front that clearly shows off what you're buying. Each one lists the basic information (fan size, fan speed, and noise rating) in the lower right corner of the front of the box. The bottom left of the front of the box boasts about one of the more unique features of the Corsair Air Series fans: interchangeable colored trim rings. Now, if you're like me, that's something you've been wanting for a long time. I can't count the number of fans I've found that I wanted to use in a build but the colors just wouldn't work with the theme I was going for. With the interchangeable colored rings (in red, white, and blue) you can match these fans to nearly any build quite easily.

Spinning the boxes around reveals a paragraph (in six languanges) about the features and a table of specifications for each fan. The boxes are all fairly similar on the sides as well with the model number and basic specs listed. The AF140 boxes differ here though – since they are not twin-packs they have a list describing the features of the fans: the interchangeable rings and the built-in vibration and sound dampers. These features are also included on the AF120 and SP120 boxes, but since they are twin-packs, the boxes open up to reveal the second fan and the feature list is printed near the bottom of the interior.

I don't know about you, but I’m ready to get these fans out and get to testing. Keep reading to see the fans finally excavated from their boxes!

 

 

Closer Look:

Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition

Pulling the AF140 Quiet Edition out of the box is a simple matter and finally reveals just how these fans look. Corsair, at least in my opinion, has really come up with something special here. The AF140 has an 11-blade impeller designed for use in low-restriction installations and spins at 1,150 RPM pushing 67.8 CFM. Because Corsair has specifically designed this fan for use as a case fan it should yield higher airflow with lower noise than fans that try to fit all duties simultaneously. What's the expression… a jack of all trades is a master of none? It seems to apply in reverse here. You can also see what is included in the package: a short booklet detailing Corsair products available for purchase, the three trim rings (red, white, and blue), a set of fan screws, and an unlabeled fan speed adapter. The fan speed adapter drops the voltage down for even quieter operation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapping out the colored trim rings couldn't be easier. Gentle pressure at one of the four corners pops out that corner. The other corners follow suit pretty easily as well. I imagine that these probably won't be swapped out that often after you've finished your build but it's nice to know that you can change them out in the future if your color tastes change. All of the fans in the Corsair Air Series share the same frame style built of black plastic with grey rubber inserts on each corner for noise isolation.

 

 

Corsair AF120 Quiet Edition and AF120 Performance Edition

Because these fans are so similar I took their picture side-by-side. On the left decked out in red is the AF120 Quiet Edition and on the right garbed in Corsair blue is the AF120 Performance Edition. Aside from the actual motor assembly under that Corsair logo these two fans are physically identical in every way. The Quiet edition runs at 1,100 RPM pushing 39.88 CFM while the Performance edition runs at 1,650 RPM and pushes 63.47 CFM. The same plastic frame and noise-isolating rubber mounts are here as is the specially designed 9-blade impeller for low-restriction environments. If you have a pile of these laying around you'll need to take a look at the sticker on the rear of the fan to determine the type (and even then, you'll need to look up the amperage for the motor or Google the model number). They're fairly easy to mix up if you're not paying close attention (or you haven't color-coded them like I have).

 

 

Looking around to the sides of the AF120 Performance Edition you can see the frame and noise-isolating mounts in their full glory. Unlike many mounting systems for "low noise" Corsair has not made these fans closed-corner. This is a great feature as it allows for mounting on essentially any case using nearly any mounting system. Many fans with closed ends can't be mounted using clip-mount systems found on some cases and heat sinks. Overall these are looking to be some pretty nice fans!

 

 

 

 Corsair SP120 Quiet Edition and SP120 High Performance Edition

The last two pairs of fans are the two versions Corsair has designed specifically for use on heat sinks and radiators. The SP120 Quiet Edition (clad in red on the left) spins at 1,450 RPM and pushes 37.85 CFM while the SP120 High Performance Edition (with the blue ring on the right) rotates at 2,350 RPM while moving 62.74 CFM. The 7-blade design is wildly different than the Air Flow fans with much wider blades at a lower pitch. These fans should be ideal for those dense-finned heat sinks and radiators that cause many fans to drop flow down to nearly unusable levels because of all the air resistance. Thanks to the open-corner design, seen on all of the Air Flow series fans, you won't have any issues mounting these fans to whatever device you have in mind.

 

Installation:

Installing a Corsair Air Flow series fan is as easy as installing any case or heat sink fan. The Corsair 650D will be home to the various fans during testing along with the rest of the test hardware. You can see the stock 220mm Corsair fan in the top of the case – this is the fan that was swapped out to test the Corsair AF-series fans.

 

 

 

The Corsair SP-series fans were tested on the Noctua NH-U12P SE against the stock pair of Noctua fans. As you can see in the pictures the stock mounting system for this heat sink would have been a challenge if the Corsair fans had closed corners. Thankfully they mounted right out without any hassle. I only show the SP120 High Performance Edition in the second picture, but don't fret, I did test the SP120 Quiet Edition as well. Now that the fans are all mounted up, let's see how they perform!

 

Specifications:

 

AF140 Quiet Edition
 
Dimensions
140x140x25mm
Power Usage
.15 Amps
Speed (12v)
1150 RPM
Air Flow (12v)
67.80 CFM
Air Pressure (12v)
0.84 mmH20
Sound Level (12v)
24 dBA
Operating Voltage:
7-12 Volts

 

AF120 Quiet Edition
 
Dimensions
120x120x25mm
Power Usage
.19 Amps
Speed (12v)
1100 RPM
Air Flow (12v)
39.88 CFM
Air Pressure (12v)
0.5 mmH20
Sound Level (12v)
21 dBA
Operating Voltage:
7-12 Volts

 

AF120 Performance Edition
 
Dimensions
120x120x25mm
Power Usage
.33 Amps
Speed (12v)
1650 RPM
Air Flow (12v)
63.47 CFM
Air Pressure (12v)
1.1 mmH20
Sound Level (12v)
30 dBA
Operating Voltage:
7-12 Volts

 

SP120 Quiet Edition
 
Dimensions
120x120x25mm
Power Usage
.09 Amps
Speed (12v)
1450 RPM
Air Flow (12v)
37.85 CFM
Air Pressure (12v)
1.29 mmH20
Sound Level (12v)
23 dBA
Operating Voltage:
7-12 Volts

 

SP120 High Performance Edition
 
Dimensions
120x120x25mm
Power Usage
.25 Amps
Speed (12v)
2350 RPM
Air Flow (12v)
62.74 CFM
Air Pressure (12v)
3.1 mmH20
Sound Level (12v)
35 dBA
Operating Voltage:
7-12 Volts

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

All information courtesy of http://www.corsair.com/en/cpu-cooling-kits/air-series-fans.html

Testing: Corsair AF120 and AF140

Testing the Corsair AF series fans required pushing my hardware to heat things up! Testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, and chipset during idle and load conditions. Load conditions were simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs and 3Dmark Vantage for one hour. The maximum load temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor and the idle temperatures were taken after a 30 minute cool down time.

Since we're taking a look at three different fans today I tested a few different configurations, all of which will be housed in the Corsair 650D chassis. As seen earlier on page two, each of the fan types (a pair at a time) will be swapped into place where the stock 220mm fan sits as an exhaust at the top of the case for measurement. The room temperature was maintained at 25 °C for testing.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Test Case:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I even talk about the results at all… let me talk about what I heard during these tests. Or rather, what I didn't hear. These fans are QUIET. Even the AF120 Performance Edition was barely audible when running at its full speed of 1,650 RPM. The stock 220mm Corsair fan at the top of the 650D is a bit whiny at full speed so matching the performance of it while being quiet would be quite a feat… but that's something these fans did and exceeded. Every single one of the AF series fans matched or beat the stock Corsair fan in all measurements.

Out of all of these the AF140 Quiet Edition is the real winner though – it delivered the lowest temperatures and was essentially silent in doing so. The AF120 Quiet Edition would be a good choice if you only have 120mm mounting holes and are a serious stickler about noise, but on the other hand, you could always get the AF120 Performance Edition and use the included low-speed adapter to quiet it down. That's not saying the AF120 Performance Edition a loud fan by any means, but some are more sensitive to noise than others. All of these fans are impressively good at cooling while being quiet as well!

Testing: Corsair SP120

Testing the Corsair SP120 series fans requires a slightly different approach as opposed to the AF-series fans. Because they are intended to be run on heat sinks I'll be running them through an hour long gauntlet of Prime95 small FFTs followed by an hour-long cool-down period for both stock and overclocked configurations on the Noctua NH-U12P SE. The stock Noctua fans will be used for comparison. The room temperature was maintained at 25 °C for testing.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Fans:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speeds there's not much to talk about as the CPU simply doesn't put out enough heat to stress this heat sink even with slow speed fans. The big thing to note here is that the SP120 Quiet Edition keeps the CPU just as cool as the Noctua fans while being noticeably more quiet. Things heat up when pushed to 4.4GHz though, as the contenders separate into their respective performance categories. Unfortunately the Corsair SP120 Quiet Edition simply doesn't move enough air to keep things cool at full load for long periods of time with temperatures busting over the 80 °C mark. The stock Noctua fans pull up in second place for overclocked load at 75 °C and the Corsair SP120 High Performance Edition really pulls a lead at 70 °C.

An improvement of 5 °C over the admittedly good Noctua fans is a great result, but what is the cost? Well, Corsair didn't put the "High" in High Performance Edition for no reason… the faster RPM of the SP120 fans is clearly audible when running full speed. It emits a somewhat nasal whine that, while not terribly loud, is irritating in a quiet room. The included low-noise adapter does bring the noise down quite a bit but the temperatures fall right in line with the stock Noctua fans at that point.

Conclusion:

The AF series fans impressed all around. They delivered low temperatures, quiet (near silent) operation, and were a breeze to install. I honestly can't find a fault in them other than the slightly elevated price compared to barebones case fans. On the other hand, these fans do offer a nice upgrade from your generic case fans by decreasing noise, increasing cooling, and looking damn nice at the same time.

The SP series fans may not be something you'd buy to replace fans on your current heat sink or radiator, but if you were buying parts without included fans they're a great choice! The quiet version of the SP120 doesn't move a ton of air to cool highly overclocked CPUs on air cooling but it was essentially silent during the test runs. The faster of the two SP120 fans cooled incredibly well at the penalty of increased noise. Keep in mind though that the SP120 High Performance Edition still isn't a loud fan. They don't hold a candle to the Vantec Tornado screamers of yesteryear and if you aren't picky about noise they'd suit you just fine even at full speed. The quieter SP120 Quiet Edition is what I'd recommend to anyone who needs an absolutely silent computer… for anyone else the SP120 High Performance Edition (maybe using the low-voltage adapter) would be the way to go.

Overall both the Corsair AF-series and the Corsair SP-series fans were impressive. Both lineups include editions oriented towards quiet cooling and performance cooling. Even the performance-oriented versions of the fans were very quiet with the exception of the SP120 High Performance Edition, which, while performing highly, did not do so in silence at 12 volts. The included low-voltage adapter quieted the beast right down though! The interchangeable color rings are a nice touch and the frames and rubber noise isolating inserts are built extremely well and will offer years of service. Corsair has served up winners here!

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: