Noctua 140mm/150mm Case Fan Roundup Review

El_Capitan - 2013-01-24 22:44:20 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: El_Capitan   
Reviewed on: April 2, 2013
Price: $28.99

Noctua 140mm & 150mm fan Introduction:

Noctua has made a name for itself for delivering sound-optimized premium components without sacrificing thermal performance. It continues to innovate the cooling sector, by this time introducing its own AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) frames to the new line-up of 140mm+ Fans: the Noctua NF-A15 PWM, the Noctua NF-A14 FLX, and the Noctua NF-A14 ULN.

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM is meant to provide superior performance on high-end CPU coolers, while both the Noctua NF-A14 FLX and Noctua NF-A14 ULN are meant ideally for watercooling radiators or as upgrades for 140mm case fans. They will be tested against the previous line's Noctua NF-P14 on both a CPU cooler and watercooling radiator, as well as against a Phanteks- PH-F140TS fan on its own Phanteks PH-TC14CS CPU Cooler.

Let's see if all that design innovation can prove itself in some real-world tests!

 

Noctua 140mm & 150mm fan Closer Look:

The packaging is revamped from the usual brown and white themed box Noctua typically used for its previous fans, as there's now some more black color added to the theme. The front still has the Noctua logo and the part number, but now there's a mobile tag and a sticker indicating what the ideal use for the fan is, which is useful for a customer browsing the store in search of fans for specific uses. It no longer has a window that shows off the fan on the front. To see the fan you have to pry open the velcro-latched cover, which shows off all the nifty new enhancements on the left side of the inside cover; from the Flow Acceleration Channels, to the SSO2 bearing and Stepped Inlet Design. On the right side of the inside cover you can see the actual fan, albeit upside-down, through the plastic window, along with the Scope of Delivery and illustrations of what's included inside the box with the fan. The back side of the cover shows a brief description of the fan in nine different languages and provides the fan specifications, the Scope of Delivery again, and the Six Years of Warranty disclaimer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside each box is a plastic shell that holds the fan and accessories together. Included in all of them is a manual, a fan, an extension cable, mounting screws, and vibration resistant mounts. Each fan also has different accessories specific to the model:

Noctua continues to provide a lot of useful accessories that add functionality to the package for the widest range of users. Each of the cables on the three fans are labeled for ease of identification!

  

Noctua 140mm & 150mm fan Closer Look:

Noctua NF-A14 ULN

The first thing I noticed when pulling the fan out for a closer look was the weight. It is a little bit heavier than the Noctua NF-P14. A few other things that stand out from the Noctua NF-P14: it has a square frame as opposed to a round frame, which is ideal for use on watercooling radiators as it ensures full coverage and best pressure performance. There's no longer a nine blade fan blade design with Vortex-Control Notches; they now have seven fan blades on the impeller without notches. On the back of the blades there's now these nifty Flow Acceleration Channels that are supposed to alter the flow distribution on the suction side of the blades. This is to speed up the airflow at the crucial outer blade regions leading to significant reduced flow separation, which permits lower vortex noise and higher airflow efficiency. The corners are now adorned with removable Anti-Vibration Pads to reduce vibration noise.

The outside of the frame is lined with what Noctua calls a Stepped Inlet Design. This design is also identical to the one used on the Noctua NF-F12 PWM. It adds turbulence to the fan's influx so the fan can suck in more air to improve flow efficiency. It's also designed to reduce tonal intake noises. The inside of the frame is dotted with Inner Surface Microstructures that are used to create a turbulent boundary layer when the fan blades pass by. This is to help improve airflow and static pressure efficiency while also allowing for again lower noise emissions. The Noctua NF-P14 had 120mm mounting holes (105mm spacing), which came with extensions for 140mm mounting. The Noctua NF-A14 ULN now has 140mm mounting holes (124.5mm spacing).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noctua NF-A14 FLX

Externally the Noctua NF-A14 FLX is physically identical to the Noctua NF-A14 ULN aside from the front center sticker. Internally are where the differences lie in how the windings are set up to run at a higher operational speed of 1200RPM versus the 800RPM on the NF-A14 ULN. It is equipped with the same feature sets discussed with the NF-A14 ULN.

 

 

 

Noctua NF-A15 PWM

The Noctua NF-A15 PWM has all the enhanced features of the NF-A14's with the following additions. It has a round frame and the width is enlarged to 150mm while still being 140mm in height. It's a little confusing as it's not intended as upgrades to 140mm fans, but instead is intended for upgrades to 120mm fans for use on high-end CPU coolers and case fans. The Noctua NF-A15 PWM has 120mm mounting holes (105mm spacing). It has a custom designed NE-FD1 PWM IC that is fine-tuned for superior quietness and has been carefully optimized to allow for ultra-low power consumption.

 

 

 

Included in the A14 and A15 fans, but behind the scenes, is the new SSO2 Bearing Technology. Noctua states that, "SSO2 is the further optimized second generation of SSO. Made possible by the use of metal bearing shells and new injection molding techniques, the magnet is now placed closer to the rotor axis and thus exerts higher magnetic force to it. This results in even better stabilization, precision and durability." I'll take Noctua's word for it. All this innovation and design sounds great on paper, but let's see how that equates to real-world testing.

Noctua 140mm & 150mm Case fan Specifications:

Fan
NF-A15 PWM
NF-A14 ULN
NF-A14 FLX
Size
140x150x25 mm
140x140x25 mm
Connector
4-pin PWM
3-pin
Bearing
SSO2
Blade Geometry
A-Series with Flow Acceleration Channels
Frame Technology
AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization)
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1200 RPM
800 RPM
 
1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
900 RPM
650 RPM
1050 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
N/A
N/A
900 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)
300 RPM
N/A
N/A
Airflow
115,5 m³/h
79,8 m³/h
115,5 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A.                         
88,7 m³/h
66,4 m³/h
101,9 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.
N/A
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.
13,8 dB(A)
9,1 dB(A)
16,4 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.
N/A
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.               
0,89 mm H2O
0,42 mm H2O
1,18 mm H2O
Static Pressure with U.L.N.A.               
N/A
N/A
0,89 mm H2O
Max. Input Power
0,96w
0,48 W
0,96 W
Max. Input Current
0,08 A
0,04A
0,08 A
Voltage                               
12 V
MTBF                   
> 150.000 h
Scope of Delivery
Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
4-Pin Y-Cable
30cm Extension Cable
4 Vibration-Compensators
4 Fan Screws
3:4 Pin Adaptor (NF-A14ULN)
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
Warranty                            
6 years

 

Noctua 140mm & 150mm Case fan Features:

 

 

 


All information is courtesy of Noctua @ http://www.noctua.at/main.php?show=produkte&lng=en

Testing:

These latest Noctua fans will be tested by comparing them with each other, as well as to a Noctua NF-P14 fan on a XSPC 140mm Watercooling Radiator in pull configuration, cooling only a single watercooled GTX 690. Testing will include a comparison of fans running at 100% fan speeds, as well as using the L.N.A and U.L.N.A. fan adapters. All hardware and settings will remain the same throughout each test. Ambient temperatures were 22.2°C during testing.

 

Comparison Fan:

 

Testing:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Lower = Better

 

For testing, I ran Unigine Heaven 2.1 for two full benchmark cycles, waited 15 minutes, and then ran two full cycles again before switching to the next fan. I would wait another 15 minutes to let the system cool back down and then measure the idle temperatures before running the same tests on the next fan. I took the highest GPU Core temperature from the GTX 690 from both tests as the final result.

There wasn't any variation in the temperature results between the NF-P14 and the NF-A14 FLX fan. The surprise results came from the NF-A15 PWM, which wasn’t marketed for being used on watercooling radiators. Due to the 120mm mounting holes, I was only able to attach it to the radiator by using tape on each side. It cooled 1 °C better than the NF-P14 and NF-A14 FLX at 100% speed, and a whopping 3 °C better when using the L.N.A. adapter than the NF-P14 or the NF-A14 FLX also using the L.N.A. adapter.

Unfortunately, the NF-A14 ULN could not handle cooling the GTX 690 by itself. The high temperatures would cause the GTX 690 to lock up and I would have to restart the system to let it cool off. I repeated using it multiple times, and the results were the same. This didn’t happen with the NF-A14 FLX with the U.L.N.A. adapter, which was only 900RPMs to the NF-A14 ULN’s 800RPMs.

During testing, I did notice that the NF-A14's and NF-A15 were quieter than the NF-P14 fan in terms of vortex fan noise.

Testing:

These latest Noctua fans will be tested by comparing them with each other, as well as to a Noctua NF-P14 fan and a Phanteks PH-F14TS fan on a Phanteks PH-TC14CS CPU cooler in pull configuration with one Phanteks PH-F14TS pushing, cooling an i7 980X at 4.0GHz with 1.3125V's. Testing will include a comparison of fans running at 100% fan speeds, as well as using the L.N.A and U.L.N.A. fan adapters. All hardware and settings will remain the same throughout each test. Ambient temperatures were 23.89°C during testing.

 

Comparison Fans:

 

Testing:


 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower = Better

 

For testing, I ran Prime95 Blend tests for 30 minutes, stopped and waited for 30 minutes, and then ran it again for 30 minutes before switching to the next fan. I would wait another 30 minutes to let the system cool back down and measure the idle temperatures before running the same tests on the next fan. I took the highest CPU Core temperature from the i7 980X from both tests as the final result.

Interestingly, the NF-P14 performed the best. The NF-A15 PWM was warmer by 1 °C, which was still cooler than the Phanteks PH-F14TS at 80 °C. The AF-14 FLX was 1°C hotter than the Phanteks PH-F14TS.

When using the L.N.A. adapter, the NF-P14 and NF-A14 FLX stayed close to eachother at 82 °C, while the NF-A15 PWM performed the same as the Phanteks PH-F14TS and the AF-14 FLX with the U.L.N.A.

During testing, I did notice that the NF-A14's and NF-A15 were still quieter than the NF-P14 and Phanteks PH-F14TS fan in terms of vortex fan noise.

 

Conclusion:

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).

 

Pros:

 

Cons: