Noctua 140mm/150mm Case Fan Roundup ReviewEl_Capitan - April 2, 2013
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I'm a big fan of Noctua fans, so I'll try not to be too biased in my conclusion and let the test results speak for themselves. There are so many variations of air coolers and watercooling radiators that each type of radiator will work best with certain types of fans, so these test results aren't definitive of what these fans could be fully capable of. I just happened to have two types of radiators that fit 140mm fans, so I went with what I had. I will be keeping these babies around to test on other radiators against other 140mm fans in the future, so their performance may be measured more accurately.
One of my favorite things about Noctua is how quiet its fans are without sacrificing thermal performance. Noctua pushes the boundaries of continually making improvements in all aspects of its products, and the latest from Noctua doesn't disappoint.
Comparing these fans to their predecessor, the Noctua NF-P14, it's easy to notice the differences in design, and I could definitely hear less vortex noise!
The Noctua NF-A15 PWM was the better performer of the three, but its size and hole spacing makes it tough to find the right place for it. While it's not really supposed to be used on watercooling radiators or to replace 140mm fans for air coolers, it actually cooled better than all the other 140mm fans used in this review except for the Noctua NF-P14 in the air cooling test. While that's a definite plus, and also being slightly quieter than the NF-A14 FLX, it won't fit on the popular Cooler Master Hyper 212+. It's limited to mostly air coolers with wire fan adapters to attach fans to the air radiator, like the higher end Noctua NH-D14 or any of the TC14 Phanteks coolers. It also won't fit very well as a rear case fan for certain cases, though it will fit on the front and top without much trouble.
The Noctua NF-A14 FLX performed much the same as the NF-P14, but at a quieter level. I really wish there were two of these I could put in push/pull against two NF-P14's in push/pull on a 140mm watercooling radiator. The square design would theoretically make it more optimal, but I'll have to purchase a second fan in order to test out my theory at a later time.
The Noctua NF-A14 ULN is pretty much what I would call the "lite" version of the NF-A14 FLX. By itself, it had trouble pushing enough air through a watercooling radiator to do much good. However, I could barely tell that it was on with how quiet it was! While I wouldn't recommend this to cool a 140mm radiator by itself, I could see a couple of them on a larger 320mm or 460mm radiator where silence was the intended result. It's the only Noctua fan that actually sacrifices thermal performance for near-silent operation. While it may be a con to some, it may also be a pro for others.
Keep in mind that while the test results aren't overwhelmingly spectacular, consumers are offered more options depending on what they're looking for. The Noctua NF-P14 was a "convertible" fan. It had 120mm hole spacings with 140mm extensions with a round frame, so it could fit 120mm or 140mm mounts However, like a real convertible with the top down, it's a bit louder. Round framed fans in general perform much better on air cooling radiators, but square framed fans in general perform better on watercooling radiators. Thus, you now have the option to choose between a variety of 140mm (and 150mm) fans from Noctua. Whether you're looking for the most optimal silent solution with the NF-A14 ULN, or a quieter replacement to the NF-P14 with the NF-A14 FLX that still does a great job with the U.L.N.A. adapter. The NF-P14 is still a solid performer and the NF-A15 PWM is a great replacement for 120mm fans where size isn't a factor. Decisions, decisions!
There's one final tidbit I'd like to share about Noctua. Before I became a reviewer, I had three RMA's I did with Noctua and two service requests. When a fan blade breaks, all you have to do is take a picture of it with the serial number and Noctua will send you a new one. Noctua didn't even ask for a copy of my invoice! If a fan starts making more noise than it should, the company will send you a new one! Can you believe that? You don't have to ship it back, either, but you have to break the fan blade and take a picture of it with the serial number. That's how important silent operation is to Noctua! You don't have to pay extra money for a replacement because of having to ship the fan back to the company; how cool is that? You only have to go through a little bit of trauma by having to break a Noctua fan blade on purpose so you don't keep using one of the fans with the extra noise. The other times I'd request extra 120mm to 140mm extensions and wire fan adapters, and Noctua sent them to me for free as long as I sent in a copy of my invoice. Now that's service! With a seven-year warranty, there's really no downside to owning a Noctua fan (except for some people, the color scheme).
- Low Noise - less than the Noctua NF-P14
- Innovative design
- Airflow performance
- More variety in fan options than just the NF-P14
- 140mm fans with square frames
- Customer Service
- Color (not everyone's favorite color scheme is beige)
- No reason to upgrade from the Noctua NF-P14 unless you want to further lower the noise level of your system