Noctua NF-F12 120mm PWM Fan Review

thumb2The Noctua NF-F12 120mm PWM Fan is engineered for quiet performance in restrictive applications. For a fan, it comes with plenty of kit, so we were curious how well it would perform in watercooling duties.

Price: Around £17 UK, $24.90 US, 19.90 EUR

I don't get asked to review fans a lot these days, and since not much is really happening in that area of the PC market, it's no surprise. However contacted me about their latest creation, a 120mm fan and wait until you read about the engineering that has gone in to it.


The is dripping with features and aids to promote high performance but keep noise to a minimum. It also comes packaged with a lot of extras. Even the box is something special.


They say first impressions last, and first impressions of the are good, so let's find out if it actually is as good as the engineering jargon makes it sound.




Size   120x120x25 mm
Connector   4-pin PWM
Blade Geometry   Heptaperf™
Frame Technology  
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)   1500 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)   1200 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)   300 RPM
Airflow   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
Voltage   12 V
MTBF   > 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
Warranty   6 years



The specifications for this fan don't really explain what makes this particular fan different than all the others on the market, but the video above does explain just how much thought and engineering has gone into the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan.


The main purpose of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan is to provide a fan that excels at providing a concentrated push of air for restricted cooling items, such as water cooling radiators and multi-finned coolers. At the same time, the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan has been engineered to be as quiet as possible whilst providing excellent performance.




We've seen the Vortex Control Notches on the blades of previous Noctua fans, but the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan utilises many other techniques and features to achieve it's goal. It begins with the frame of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan, which has eleven Stator Guide Vanes at varying angles to focus the flow of air. This focusing means you should get the same performance as other fans that run at higher RPM.




Like the blades of the fan, the Stator Guide Vanes also have vortex control notches which aim to not so much reduce the noise output of the fan, but rather alter it's frequency to something less annoying to listen to. You'll note in the above picture that all of the vanes are at varying angles between 31 and 37 degrees rather than equal angles apart. These Stator Guide Vanes expand on the idea of the Vortex Control Notches.




Along the inlet edges of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan are steps, and like the Vortex Control Notches and the Stator Guide Vanes, they help to increase the inlet flow with extra turbulence but also help to lessen the noise of the intake.




Another performance increasing feature, and also aimed at keeping the noise levels down are the small dents or Inner Surface Microstructures of the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan.




Perhaps a bit more common to see is PWM speed control on the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan. Noctua custom-designed the NE-FD1 PWM fan driver IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology for quieter operation and low power consumption. Basically, unlike most PWM fans that use square signals, which can lead to "clicking" noises from the fan, the Noctua solution is to use a (still very quick) more gradual burst of power rather than a sudden impulse. The NF-F12 120mm fan draws only 0.6W, which is more than 50% less than many fans in the same speed range.



Clearly, Noctua have put a tremendous amount of thought into the NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan, and not just into the fan itself. Check out the packaging. The box for the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm Fan looks at first glance like any high end fan packaging you may have seen before. The front sports an exploded technical outline of the fan in grey on white, whilst a small window shows you a little of what you are getting.


box2 box3 box4 box5

Turn the box around however and the box itself becomes a multi-page technical manual. The back has multi-lingual paragraphs that explain a little about the fan, but in the top left corner is a small OPEN triangular indicator. The 'pages' of this are held in with small Velcro patches and Noctua explain in greater detail about the features of the fan. I should also comment that each of these pages are solid card rather than flimsy paper. The entire package is a lot heavier than you would expect, and feels solid and of good quality.


contents1 contents2 fan_screws1

Opening the box, we find all the contents securely packed into a segregated clear plastic tray. With the Noctua NF-F12 120mm PWM Fan you get a single sheet User Manual, an L.N.A (Low Noise Adapter) cable, an extension cable, 4 screws and 4 rubber bolts.



The fan itself comes in the typical Noctua colours of a beige surround with a dark brown/red coloured 7 blade impeller.


fan_cable1 fan_extension1

Rather than use one long cable, Noctua have taken a modular approach with the NF-F12. The sleeved cable on the fan itself is quite short, allowing for motherboard fan header applications without the need to hide inches of cable around the case. Should want to use the fan at a greater distance, you can use the supplied extension cable which is about 30cm's long. Both cables are nicely sleeved in black.


fan_pads1 fan_pads2

On each corner of the fan, Noctua have supplied rubber Anti-Vibration pads.



The Noctua NF-F12 uses guide vanes with vortex control notches to help focus the flow of air. Each of the vanes are not an equal distance apart which can make you do a bit of a double take at first.



Inside the fan surround, Noctua have stepped the inlet. This stepped inlet design helps the NF-F12 to draw in more air.



The NF-F12 uses the latest version of Noctua's Self-Stabilising Oil-Pressure bearing, the SSO2. You'll also note in the above image, the low power usage of just 0.6w at 0.05A.



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