If you’re a PC enthusiast, chances are you’ve already heard of Noctua — the company builds some of the best PC coolers you can buy, backed up by lifetime guarantees, full-color manuals, and upgrade offers that often extend the lifespan of coolers past their technical socket compatibility limits. Noctua (See on Amazon) has had a reputation for building excellent fans for many years, but the company’s latest efforts set a new technical standard for excellence — and required inventing an entirely new material.
The NF-A12x25 fan series uses Sterrox, a type of liquid-crystal polymer, to cut the gap between the fan blades and the edges of the fan enclosure to just 0.5mm. Normal fans fall victim to what’s called “impeller creep,” or the tendency of plastic to expand slightly as it ages. Had it kept to normal tolerances, this wouldn’t be an issue — typical fans are designed to allow for this aging. But Noctua wanted to reduce the amount of dead space within its fans, which required the use of a material that wouldn’t fall prey to the problem. It may also explain why the A12-x25 family has been in development for over four years.
According to Noctua, the end result of all this effort is a fan that has better real-world performance than any of its previous devices. While the F-12 has higher maximum air pressure and the S12A has higher theoretical maximum air flow, the real-world performance of the A12x25 is said to best both of them in the set of conditions where most systems practically run. Those of you who still run your fans at maximum volume 24×7 are… I SAID, THOSE OF YOU WHO STILL RUN YOUR FANS AT…
Ahem. Where was I? (Besides being measured for hearing aids).
Here’s how Noctua’s CTO, Lars Strömbäck, describes the three fans and their strengths and weaknesses relative to one another.
It’s true that at similar free flow sound pressure levels, the NF-F12 features a higher maximum pressure specification and the NF-S12A features a higher maximum airflow specification than the NF-A12x25. However, you have to take into consideration what these specifications actually mean and that they only have a very limited relevance for real-world applications.
Simplifying things a bit, you can imagine the maximum pressure measurement as a situation where a fan is put blowing against a closed wall and the maximum airflow measurement as a situation where the fan is operating in completely free air rather than blowing onto or into something. Neither of the two situations commonly occurs in real-world applications where you usually have the fan working against some resistance, but never 100% resistance or zero resistance. So first off, you actually have to look at the entire pressure vs airflow (P/Q) curve of the fan to get a rough idea about its performance, and if you do this with the NF-A12x25, you will see that while it doesn’t excel at maximum pressure or airflow, it has an extremely strong mid section. This allows it to outperform both the NF-F12 and the NF-S12A in most typical applications.
A full interview with Strömbäck (conducted by Noctua itself, but with some solid background information and R&D data on the fans) can be found here.
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