Noctua NF-F12 PWM Review

ccokeman - 2011-08-13 17:35:36 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 14, 2012
Price: $24.95


Since its dawn, Noctua has built a history of bringing innovative products to market. Designed to offer excellent thermal performance with a minimal noise signature, their cooling products do more than just slowing down fan speeds to hit the mark. Noctua uses a strong design team to consistently find unique and innovative solutions to manage the thermal load of today's processors and chassis, all while taking into account airflow, static pressure, and, most definitely, noise. Looking at a variety of Noctua's products in the past, it gives a unique look at the progression of their designs. For a long time, the NF-P12 was one of the best fans on the market and now, Noctua has upped the ante with the NF-F12 PWM. Featuring an impressive set of specifications, it shows an increase in both static pressure and airflow over the tested NF-P12. Also new to this fan is the PWM feature, that allows it to be controlled via a PWM controller for reduced noise, power consumption, and flexible performance scaling. Let’s take a dive into the new NF-F12 PWM fans and have a look at the features that really set these apart from the crowd.

Closer Look:

The packaging is standard Noctua; a brown and white themed box. The front has the Noctua logo, the part number, and a window that shows off the NF-F12 PWM. The back side is quite a bit more interesting with a significant amount of information on the features of the fan; from the stepped inlet, to the SSO2 bearing, Heptaperf impeller, and "Focused Flow" design. This information is spread over two flip-open tabs, so that every bit of information is readily available to someone making a purchase at a brick and mortar store.










Inside the box is a plastic shell that holds the NF-F12 PWM fan and the accessory bundle. Included are the manual, NF-F12 PWM fan, mounting screws, vibration resistant mounts, a 30 cm 4-pin cable extension, 4-pin y splitter, and L.N.A (Low Noise Adapter). The Low Noise Adapter is used to limit the maximum fan speed and noise signature of the NF-F12 PWM fan.



Here, we get into the meat and potatoes and see what makes this new Noctua fan so special. The NF-F12 PWM has dimensions of 120 x 120 x 25 mm and is designed for use where fans with high static pressure and airflow are needed, such with heat sinks or radiators. This fan utilizes a 4-pin PWM fan connection for fan speed control. The power cable is sleeved from the fan to the connector; definitely a nice touch. The NF-F12 has a new 7 blade fan/impeller design called Heptaperf that is optimized for use with the "Focused Flow" frame and eleven stator vanes that channel and straighten the airflow through the fan housing.



A stepped inlet is used on the fan body to promote turbulent airflow into the fan, which improves compression of the airstream and reduce the noise signature. Small inner microstructures also help to improve airflow and static pressure efficiency on the suction side of the Heptaperf fan and reduce the fan noise. The improved airflow stream is pushed through the "Focused Flow" frame, where it is straightened, channeled, and "Focused" by the 11 stator vanes. These vanes are equipped with Vortex control notches and are placed at variable intervals that range from 31 to 37 degrees apart; all in the name of improved flow and reduced noise. The second generation SSO2 full metal bearing is machined from solid brass for a longer lifespan and improved fan blade stabilization. The motor magnet is placed closer to the axis of the fan blade shaft; again, for improved stabilization in combination with the new metal shell. The NF-F12 PWM has removable rubber vibration dampers to keep vibrations quiet. The back side of the motor houses the new NE-FD1 PWM IC, which incorporates SCD technology to reduce noise at very low fan speeds, as the NF-F12 PWM can run as low as 300 RPM.




All the innovation and design work are for nothing if the design does not work as intended. Noctua's designs have widely proven successful, so there is no reason to expect otherwise, but to make sure, it comes down verifying with tangible results. Let’s see if the NF-F12 PWM does indeed deliver all that the technology and design have promised.


120x120x25 mm
4-pin PWM
Blade Geometry
Frame Technology
Focused Flow™
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1500 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
1200 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)
300 RPM
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
12 V
> 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
6 years






All information courtesy of Noctua@


These latest Noctua fans will be tested by comparing them directly to the Noctua NF-P12 fans delivered on the Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366. Testing will include a comparison of both fans running at 100% fan speeds, as well as using the PWM function of the NF-F12 PWM "Focused Flow" fan. All hardware and settings will remain the same throughout each test. Ambient temperatures were 23°C during testing.


Comparison Fan:





Lower = Better


In the testing, there really was not a lot of variation in the results between the NF-P12 and the NF-F12 PWM fans. The idle results between them were identical when the PWM control was disabled and 5°C higher on the NF-F12 when the PWM function was enabled. The load testing shows that the Focused flow design of the NF-F12 PWM fan does provide an improvement in temperatures when using the Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366 as the heat sink of choice for this test. When the PWM function was enabled under load, the fan speed rises to follow the specified fan profile, with just a small hit to the temperature at idle. The high static pressure, innovative design, and improved airflow help here.


Testing out these new fans from Noctua makes me realize just how much I like the innovative designs of their products. They do not simple take the ideas from others and make small improvements; they throw the book away and start from scratch. The NF-F12 PWM fans feature an all-new Focused Flow design that improves overall static pressure and airflow, with just a slight noise penalty compared to the NF-P12. The list of enhancements is staggering. One would never think this much thought went into a product that is an afterthought for many. From the top, there is the Heptaperf 7 blade fan, an all-new design, stepped inlet on the frame, and micro structures on the inner ring of the frame to improve suction, reduce noise, and improve airflow. There is the Focused Flow frame with an 11 blade stator with varying angle design and Vortext control notches to improve the tone of the fan. A second generation SSO bearing assembly works together with an improved solid brass machined bearing shell to offer improved stabilization of the fan blades. Noctua used a custom-designed NE-FD1 PWM IC, equipped with Smooth Commutation Drive technology, to again improve the noise signature when run at lower speeds such as 300 RPM. All this design work has a purpose and that is to provide a fan that runs quietly and features incredible longevity for use with radiators and heat sinks that need a high static pressure fan. When run with or without the PWM function enabled, it outperforms the time tested NF-P12 under load, which is what really counts. At idle when the PWM function is enabled, the NF-F12 PWM does deliver higher temperatures than the NF-P12, as you can expect with a fan speed of only just over 300 RPM. If you set the PWM control to a slightly more aggressive profile, you can match the idle temperatures without noise penalties. At 22.4 dBA under load, it is hard, if not impossible, to hear the noise difference over the 19 dBa of the NF-P12.

Looking at the fans from a cost perspective tells you the price of all the engineering and design work that has been put into this fan. However, comparing costs at e-tailers shows that the pricing difference between the NF-P12 and the NF-F12 PWM is nil. Effectively, this gives the end user a more efficient design for the same fixed costs. At around $25, the price is steep compared to other fans, though you do get a well-designed product for your price of entry. The bundle of accessories included with the NF-F12 PWM allows the end user to make the fan truly silent: rubber mounts, improve connectivity with a fan extension cable, and a splitter to use when there is only one PWM controlled header on the motherboard. At the end of the day, I feel that Noctua has hit a home run with the NF-F12 PWM; offering a better-performing product for the same fixed costs to the consumer. Now to try out the greater-than-150,000 hour MTBF!