Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Reviewmrwooshoo - September 30, 2013
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Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Introduction:
Noctua is an Austrian-based company that is very well known for its air cooling solutions. The company incorporates its high quality fans into many different products to help both computer enthusiasts and regular users alike. Most, if not all, of the products are excellent air cooling solutions. But the drawback of cooling a computer well with air cooling is that the result can be the sound of a 747 at take off. However, this has never been a problem for Noctua. It simply saunters its way into air cooling solutions, with nearly noiseless products, gives a great big smile and whispers. “You're welcome.” Noctua's line of fans has never been anything short of impressive, and I am sure that this third generation S12 120mm fans will be just as impressive, if not more so, than the last.
The fans in question are three different variations of the NF-S12A 120mm fan. These are the PWM, ULN, and FLX. Each of these fans has a target user demographic. The PWM is the most standard of the three fans and targets users who dislike noise, but would still like to keep their small overclock settings. The ULN version is more geared toward people who absolutely hate sound of any sort coming from their computers and would like to keep their stock computers cool without the noise of stock fans. Finally, the FLX is dynamic enough to be used by either group.
Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Closer Look:
All three fans and their packaging are nearly identical to one another; so I will be showing pictures of mostly one individual fan. The packaging has Noctua's standard colors for the most part, consisting of brown and white with black accents, a silver stamp that says “Award-winning S12 design” and the blue/purple model indicator that has either PWM, ULN, or FLX on it. The box itself is stunningly nice, with two swinging Velcro sealed doors and a nice pseudo-frosted look to the finish. On the front of the package there is the model number and a small list of features starting with Noctua's newest improvement to the fans: Anti-Stall knobs, AAO Frame, Stepped Inlet Design, Inner Surface Microstructures, Smooth Commutation Drive2, and SSO-Bearing. On the back of the box there are the fans' running specifications and a short paragraph to the consumer.
Looking behind the door, on the front of the box, shows a window with a full view of the 120mm fan and three of the four rubber fan mounts, as well as a list of included items. Adjacent to the window is a description of how stall knobs work. Behind the back door there is a list with descriptions of all of the fans features. The list varies slightly from fan to fan.
The inside of the box houses the manual, the plastic shell with the fan, cables, mounting screws, and the anti-vibration rubber mounts. The cables differ between all three fans. All of them have a 30cm extension cable, the ULN and the FLX both have a 3:4-pin adapter for direct power supply connection and low noise adapters for slowest RPM speeds (600 and 700 RPMs respectively U.L.N.A), and the FLX and PWM have low noise adapters for fan speeds of 900RPM (L.N.A). Finally, the PWM has a splitter cable for other PWM fans to be added to match RPMs. Also, note that all of the cables for the PWM have 4-pin headers and are thus slightly different from the others.
The NF-S12A's are all 120x120x25mm. These are very multi-use fans meant for areas in need of high air flow like CPU cooling or more relaxed areas such as an in/out case ports. The ULN and FLX use standard 3-pin headers and the PWM, as I have mentioned previously, uses a 4-pin design. There are seven blades on the fan, just like the last generation, but with the newest fan technologies: the Anti-Stall knobs and the AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) Frame. The Anti-Stall knobs are supposed to stop reverse airflow problems that tend to take place on fan blades with really high angles. The AAO is a combination of the rubber integrated anti-vibration pads that are on each corner of the fan housing; Stepped Inlet Design encircling the fan designed to create turbulence in order to increase flow; and the Inner Surface Microstructures, which are dimples present on the inner wall of the fan housing used to break up air passing between the fan blades and the inner wall, minimizing the vacuum between the two.
Between the high angle blades, Anti-Stall knobs, and AAO, these fans are looking quite impressive. These fans have the same impressive SSO2 full metal bearing as the last generation. This bearing is known for its stability and longevity due to practiced magnet placement and its sealed metal shell casing.
With all of the effort Noctua put into designing these fans I am sure they will deliver impressive results. Let’s find out if all of the redesigning was worth it.