Noctua‘s reputation among PC enthusiasts is no joke. They’ve been quite around for several years now and the name is already starting to be a household name for cooling fans. Since then, we’re always keen about why Noctua is that famous – the answer, probably lies into their deep understanding of the products they offer, the amount of research and development they’ve spent on their products, as well as proving to the masses that they are one of the best choices when it comes to cooling solutions, although some might not like the signature beige and brown color design that proudly screams premium and quality.
On the recent Computex 2018 in Taipei, Noctua showcased some of its products, including some new ones. One of these products is their new NF-A12x25 series, which boasts all-round functionality and which we are currently going to review. They have three variants of it, the PWM, FLX, and ULN, which we currently have on this article.
We’re going to be honest, reviewing cooling fans isn’t as easy as you think. There are many variables that can affect the results and the findings we’re going to put here, but that doesn’t stop us to review this quality fan which spent 4.5 years in the making.
What’s in the box
Before we tackle what’s inside the box, let’s take a moment to appreciate Noctua’s simple solution yet premium in terms of packaging design. The box material is sturdy enough to protect your premium fan investment, and its packaging inside was simple, yet genius, IMO.
It is also well-detailed, containing almost all the essential + extra information that you should know about using a Noctua fan such as performance curves, product description and applications.
Inside, you’ll find the NF-A12x25 ULN fan itself, as well as the following accessories:
• Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
• 3 to 4-pin power supply cable
• 30 cm extension cable
• NA-AV2 anti-vibration mounts
• Anti-vibration gasket
• Fan screws
It also includes a 6-year full manufacturer warranty, in case you get trouble with the fan.
Design and Build Impressions
While Noctua already released their Chromax line to satisfy others’ craving for a different color, Noctua chooses to stay loyal to their signature beige and brown color scheme with this release, which some might not like, but for us, it doesn’t really matter.
The NF-A12x25 series fans had 9-blade or fins, with the outer tip of the blades reaching within 0.5mm of the inside wall of the housing. Typical cooling fans would give at least around 1.5mm space tolerance in order for their fans to work well, however, given the build and proprietary design Noctua uses, they’ve managed to improve airflow and reduce noise further. Being closer to the inner edge also helps the fan to work against backpressure.
Noctua uses what they’ve called Sterrox Liquid-Crystal Polymer compound with this fan, which can provide extreme tensile strength, low thermal expansion as well as damping properties which would in effect, reduce resonance as well as vibration. It also gives the blades some texture.
The frame, on the other hand, is ingeniously designed. Noctua calls it AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation). We’ve noticed that the NF-A12x25 series fans are quite heavier than most of the cooling fans out there, however, this plastic material that Noctua used seems to do its job very well, including the ability to absorb sound and vibration effectively.
The fan’s central motor hub is made entirely from steel and the axle mount is reinforced with an additional CNC-milled brass structure. The hub runs on a more advanced SS02 bearing, compared to the previous SSO bearing Noctua is using on their previous fans. Closer to the axis is the rear magnet.
There’s also anti-vibration pads pre-installed on all four corners. They are removable, which enables you to change it to the included anti-vibration gasket for mounting it on water-cooling radiators. You can also use them without one, but yeah, why put them if Noctua thinks you’re not going to use them, right?
The build of the fan is undeniably sturdy. Seeing the materials used as well as the precision of the design implementation, we’ve might gave additional answers to our first question on the beginning of this article.
The official specifications of the Noctua NF-A12x25 ULN fan are here as follows:
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm
Mounting hole spacing: 105 x 105 mm
Blade Geometry: A-Series with Flow Acceleration Channels
Frame Technology: AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation)
Material: Sterrox® LCP
Rotational Speed: (+/- 10%) 1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A.: (+/- 10%) 900 RPM
Airflow: 55,7 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 39,4 m³/h
Acoustical Noise: 12,1 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: 7,6 dB(A)
Static Pressure: 0,82 mm H₂O
Static Pressure with U.L.N.A.: 0,41 mm H₂O
Max. Input Power: 0,6 W
Max. Input Current: 0,05 A
Voltage: 12 V
MTTF: > 150.000 h
What makes reviewing cooling fans a bit complicated is testing its performance, since there are many variables that can affect the results. We’ve gathered several data to compare it with, such as acoustics performance and thermals (CPU).
And since this is probably our first series of comprehensive cooling fan reviews, we’ve developed a series of test criteria to follow on, and we also waited several days to get our hands on our measuring materials.
Our tests are conducted on an acoustically-treated, air-conditioned room with around 25°C room temperature, as well as around ±30dbA ambient room noise with a large-diaphragm condenser microphone pointing on the bench 5 inches away. An open-air bench with Ryzen 5 1600 clocked at 3.8GHz on 1.3V and a borrowed NH-U12S cooler is also used.
Our temperature test results yielded that the NF-A12x25 ULN could yield better results despite spinning at a slower RPM compared to its higher-RPM siblings. It still beats out the SP120 with a 2-degree peak difference.
Looking at our acoustic results, the noise level of the NF-A12x25 ULN is absolutely the winner among all the fans being tested at 32dB, also beating out the notably silent SP120 from Corsair, which we luckily have the chance to test out.
And if we removed some other possible noise sources such as PSU fans, we’ve probably been able to achieve better results. Our tests could have been subjective but we’ve tried our best to obtain good results. The results above are showing how the NF-A12x25 series fans compare with each other.
Noctua spending four and a half years on making this fan is really that impressive because no other company comes close. We’re also impressed on how it performs, and no doubt that it is superb compared to what we’ve seen before, and is really screaming the best of the best among all offerings out there.
Anyone can see most of all the engineering work and innovation in aerodynamics, and their feat in providing quieter fans. The NF-A12x25 ULN is absolutely a good choice for everyone and for us, it is best used as a case or a radiator fan, rather than a CPU cooling fan.
With that said, we’re giving the NF-A12x25 ULN our ‘Great Buy’ seal as well as ‘Gold Award’.