Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Review

mrwooshoo - 2013-09-05 21:57:44 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: mrwooshoo   
Reviewed on: September 30, 2013
Price: $27.49

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.

Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Specifications:

120x120x25 mm
4-pin (PWM) 3-pin(ULN, FLX)
Blade Geometry
S-Series with Anti-Stall Knobs
Frame Technology
AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization)
Rotational Speed (+/-10%)
1200 RPM (PWM and FLX no adapters only)
Rotational Speed (+/-10%)
900 RPM (PWM and FLX with L.N.A. Only)
Rotational Speed (+/-10%)
800 RPM (ULN standard Speed only)
Rotational Speed (+/-10%)
700 RPM (FLX with its U.L.N.A. adapter only)
Rotational Speed (+/-10%)
600 RPM (ULN with U.L.N.A. adapter only)
Min. Rotational Speed PWM only (+/-10%)
300 RPM (PWM only)
Airflow 1200 RPM (PWM, FLX)
107.5 m3/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 900 RPM (PWM, FLX)
83.2 m33/h
Airflow 800 RPM (ULN)
74.3 m3/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A 700RPM (FLX)
65.8 m3/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 600RPM (ULN)
57.5 m3/h
Acoustical Noise 1200 RPM (PWM, FLX)
17.8 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise 900 RPM (PWM, FLX)
10.7 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise 800 RPM (ULN)
8.6 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise 700 RPM (FLX)
7.4 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise 600 RPM (ULN)
6.7 dB(A)
Static Pressure 1200 RPM (PWM, FLX)
1.19 mm H20
Static Pressure 900 RPM (PWM, FLX)
0.73 mm H20
Static Pressure 800 RPM (ULN)
0.62 mm H20
Static Pressure 700 RPM (FLX)
0.51 mm H20
Static Pressure 600 RPM (ULN)
0.44 mm H20
Max Input Power (PWM, FLX)
1.44 W
Max Input Power (ULN)
0.72 W
Max Input Current (PWM, FLX)
0.12 W
Max Input Current (ULN)
0.6 W
Voltage (All)
12 V
Scope of Delivery
Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A.)
Ultra-Low-Noise Adapter (U.L.N.A.)
        **only applies to the FLX model**
4-Pin Y-Cable
        **only applies to the PWM**
3:4 Pin Adapter
        **applies only to the ULN, FLX**
30 cm Extension Cable
4 Vibration Compensators
4 Fan Screws
6 years


Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Features:


All information courtesy of Noctua @

Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Testing:

The Noctua NF-S12A's will be tested on the Corsair Hydro H60 water cooler. The water cooler will be installed according to the recommended installation method given in the Corsair Hydro's included manual. More specifically, the Corsair cooler will be mounted to the back of the computer case with a fan between the back wall and the radiator. The fan being tested will be pulling air from outside of the case and pushing it through the radiator. The load tests will be run in two hour intervals with a one hour break in between each load test. Idle tests will be each run 45 minutes and have 15 minute breaks in between. All System Hardware will remain the same during each of the tests and the ambient temperature will be kept as close to 21 degrees Celsius as possible for all tests to be as fair as possible. The fans will all be tested at all of their speed settings except for the Corsair Stock fan and the Noctua PWM, these two will each run at whatever pace the motherboard wishes based on temperatures.







The Noctua NF-S12A’s performed very well. At idle, the highest two speed settings for the FLX kept the CPU running essentially as cool as its competition, with the temperatures going up as fan speeds went down. This trend continues for all of the Noctua fans; lower RPMs means higher temperatures. Except for the PWM fan, right? Wrong. The fan controller just kept the RPMs so low that the speed settings didn’t affect the outcome. The Load results were more interesting and surprising.  ALL of the Noctua NF-S12A fans kept my i5-2500K in check @ 4.5 GHz under full load. The highest temperature reading was achieved while using the 600 RPM settings for the ULN model and those were just above 70 °C. The Noctua’s have proven to me that they can compete with the best because of the well thought out design and not the sheer speed of the fans.

Noctua 120mm NF-S12A (ULN, FLX, PWM) Fan Conclusion:

Noctua seems to thrive off of achieving the impossible.  Every generation its fans are always slower, quieter, and crazier looking than the previous. Noctua competes with other top brands whose fans are much more powerful, and yet it still delivers. The company not only stays competitive, Noctua continues to make its own equipment better. Compared to the last generation, it has made the fans quieter and raised the airflow while retaining the same RPMs. Though the differences seem minimal, this is impressive because of how good the last generation of fans really were.

Now, back to considering how these fans performed today. Though they did not beat the competition outright, this should not discourage someone from picking them up for their computer set ups. At their lowest speeds, the fans were good enough to keep the processor at operating temperatures. This speed was 70% slower than the Corsair fan and 67% slower than the Thermaltake. The max speed of the NF-S12A is only just short of being a match for the competition, and they were operating 33% slower that the Thermaltake and 40% slower than the Corsair. Not to mention that the NF-S12A is also around 33% quieter at its max speed than either of the others and it runs off less than half of the power of the Thermaltake. Thanks to the anti-vibration mounts, integrated anti-vibration pads, Anti-Stall Knobs, AAO frame technology, and the Low-noise adapters, these fans can go from quiet, heavy load performance to silent medium, load performance and back conveniently.

Unfortunately, this marvelous piece of technology comes at the hefty Noctua premium. Fortunately, this is nothing new for Noctua; it has always put in a great deal of effort developing quality products and has always priced them around the same $25 area for the 120mm fans. The NF-S12A FLX, ULN, and PWM are no exceptions and are well worth the price if you are looking for power, but don’t want to sacrifice peace and quiet. Noctua wraps up all this customization and performance with a six-year warranty. I have been blown away by Noctua’s newest S12 series fans and I hope you will be too.