Noctua builds a better 120-mm fan

Computex — Unlike some cooler makers, Noctua isn’t dabbling in PSUs, gaming headsets, or iPad accessories. That says a lot about the company’s focus, making it rather appropriate that the rep we met with in Taipei had quite a lot to say about the upcoming Focused Flow 120-mm fan. I swear he spent a good 15 minutes going over all the little features that have been incorporated into the fan, and not once did the needle on my BS detector so much as flutter.

Seemingly every single element of the fan has been tweaked and massaged to improve airflow and to lower noise levels. The interior surface of the fan housing is riddled with tiny dimples to let the fan blades pass by more quietly. A series of tiny little steps around the edges helps to shape the air drawn into the fan, and vanes located behind the blades straighten the outgoing airflow to better wick heat away from radiator fins. Those vanes are spaced unevenly and notched to spread fan noise over a broader frequency spectrum, making the fan more difficult to hear.

The Focused Flow uses a four-pin PWM connector, and Noctua built a custom fan-control IC to smooth the subtle switching noise it detected with conventional PWM controllers. Then there’s the magnetic bearing, which has been tuned to improve stability. Noctua wraps the bearing in an all-new brass shell designed to improve long-term durability. There are vibration-dampening rubber pads built into the fan mounts, too.

Like Noctua’s existing fans, the Forced Flow won’t be cheap. It’s likely to last, though, and Noctua seems keen to supporting customers for the long haul. If you’ve bought a cooler from the firm in the last six years and still have the original receipt, you’re eligible to receive a mounting bracket for Intel’s upcoming LGA2011 Sandy Bridge-E socket free of charge.

Noctua’s Computex booth was loaded with prototype cooler designs in all shapes and sizes. Some are closer to production than others, and most have been designed to allow clearance for taller memory modules.

Interestingly, those trendy direct-contact heatpipes were nowhere to be found. According to Noctua PR manager Jakob Dellinger, the crimping necessary to create direct-contact pipes can damage the internal structure of the pipes in unpredicatble ways, affecting their performance. We’ve pointed out obvious gaps between pipes and cooler slugs on several occasions. Those gaps can purportedly grow over time due to thermal expansion and contraction, which is why Noctua solders all its heatpipe joints. Copper is an expensive commodity these days, and Dellinger suspects direct-contact copper pipes have become more popular because they’re cheaper than doing a full copper block.

Comments closed
    • jimmy900623
    • 8 years ago

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    • jcw122
    • 8 years ago

    Is it safe to ballpark these fans at $30-40 a pop? Considering people still don’t understand that it’s ridiculous to pay over $6 for a 120mm fan made by a good brand…

      • bimmerlovere39
      • 8 years ago

      I can’t think they could get away with much higher than the current $25/fan they charge now.

    • gamoniac
    • 8 years ago

    Do those tiny dimples on the fan blades work like the dimples on a golf ball – creating some sort of lift or vaccuum spots? Some explanation would be interesting to read.

    • A_Pickle
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve been all about magnetic bearings as of late. I will probably never build a PC without magnetic-bearing fans ever again. They’re reliable and long-lived, they consume little power, and they generate little noise. They produce less airflow than other bearing type fans, but not by much… and they still move plenty of air for any setup at stock speeds these days.

    I swore by the Scythe S-FLEX SFF21E case fans. 120mm, 1200 RPM, Sony-designed Fluid Dynamic Bearing — super quiet. Usually these run around $17 per fan, though (with discounts when purchasing 2, 3, and 4 fans or more). Expensive fans, but you get what you pay for.

    Pretty sure I’ll almost always be getting these Enermax UC-12EB’s from here on out, though. Also 120mm, 1000 RPM, and an Enlobal Magnetic Bearing. Very quiet, reasonable airflow, and only $10 apiece. And, you can remove the blades for easy cleaning! This essentially gives me the same performance as the Scythe SFF21E, but with some extra features and reduced cost.

    • normalicy
    • 8 years ago

    Want… to… buy… Finally someone who takes fan design seriously. It always bothered me that there weren’t any serious innovations in fans where so many obvious ones could be made.

      • Goty
      • 8 years ago

      See: Scythe Gentle Typhoons

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Could TR do a special take on the fans? I’m fairly interested in them after reading what you wrote on them. There isn’t a whole lot of differentiation in fan or cooling markets, everyone sorta seems to be doing the same thing. So anyone that stands out is worth a look at.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      I second!

      • webs0r
      • 8 years ago

      Probably better to wait for SPCR to do the review, they have better equipment (e.g. small anechoic chamber) and method for this sort of stuff.

      I notice the TR reviews for sound levels generally bottom out at 38-40 dB 🙁

      • Flying Fox
      • 8 years ago

      I’m interested in that low profile cooler.

    • Welch
    • 8 years ago

    Hmmm, the earthy tone isn’t my favorite, but it may go well with the new Asus Sabertooth 990FX board!

    I’m happy to see a company who takes pride in pushing something so seemingly simple to the extreme. Gotta build a better mouse trap!

    • odizzido
    • 8 years ago

    Nice post, I’ve never even heard of these guys before so I will have to check them out.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Agreed

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 8 years ago

    Now they just need to introduce different colors to their products.

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      No, it matches the first-person shooter games of today.

      • JMccovery
      • 8 years ago

      I think that is called ‘Product Differentiation’ (I think I spelled it correctly, my phone hasn’t flagged it as incorrect… I love the colors, even though they don’t match anything…

      • jensend
      • 8 years ago

      On the contrary. It’s nice to see that one cooling company out there is still focused on better engineering rather than having exotic colors, loading everything with idiotic blue LEDs, and creating HS designs around the idea that it’s some kind of art piece. You’re just going to put this in a case and never see it anyways.

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        Hey, I love blue LEDs.

          • Farting Bob
          • 8 years ago

          Nothing beats an unnecesarily bright blue LED as the only light source in the room at night, burning its colour forever into your retina.

          My monitor has one to show its on (in case you couldnt tell) and i had to cover it with black electrical tape because it was so offputting.

          I dont mind any company putting LED’s on stuff, but it should be law that it can be easily disabled with a simple switch or button.

        • Firestarter
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<] It's nice to see that one cooling company out there is still focused on better engineering rather than .... [b<]creating HS designs around the idea that it's some kind of art piece.[/b<][/quote<] I dunno, check the gallery and you'll see some artsy stuff right there 😛

      • FuturePastNow
      • 8 years ago

      All black versions would be nice, but then your fellow enthusiasts won’t know you spent too much money on fans.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      I agree, it’s only a colour scheme that only an Ubuntu fan boy could love.

    • Meadows
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]The interior surface of the fan housing is riddled with tiny dimples to let the fan blades pass by more quietly. A series of tiny little steps around the edges helps to shape the air drawn into the fan, and vanes located behind the blades straighten the outgoing airflow to better wick heat away from radiator fins. Those vanes are spaced unevenly and notched to spread fan noise over a broader frequency spectrum, making the fan more difficult to hear.[/quote<] My inner geek just came from all this technobabble.

      • continuum
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]vanes located behind the blades straighten the outgoing airflow to better wick heat away from radiator fins[/quote<]That sounds like marketing to me. Just call it static pressure, damnit!

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      My inner homosexual thanks you for this mental image.

    • herothezero
    • 8 years ago

    Must say I love my Noctua cooling gear; though I[m pissed I just bought four of their 120mm fans…clearly didn’t time it right.

      • Sunburn74
      • 8 years ago

      I’m more ticked that they cost 25 dollars a pop for a 120mm fan.

        • Vaughn
        • 8 years ago

        And I though S-Flex’s for $12-15 was expensive!!

          • Thrashdog
          • 8 years ago

          I’m the same camp. Noctua’s gear is impressive, but IMO it’s not $25 impressive. Maybe for a high-end HTPC, but for anything else Scythe fans are expensive enough for me.

          I’d really like to see what they could do for case design, though. A lot of the the other players in that market seem to have a tenous grasp on designing for airflow.

            • Firestarter
            • 8 years ago

            I guess that their cases would be most excellent in every way, but expensive enough that you’d begrudgingly buy something else.

            • bimmerlovere39
            • 8 years ago

            And very beige (meh) or brown (obnoxious, but it could be really cool if well done).

            I love their dedication and lack of diversification, but it would be very interesting to see them do a case.

            I also wonder what a GPU cooler from them would look like.

          • Duck
          • 8 years ago

          s flex is the best. better than noctua fans of old.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    “If you’ve bought a cooler from the firm in the last six years and still have the original receipt, you’re eligible to receive a mounting bracket for Intel’s upcoming LGA2011 Sandy Bridge-E socket free of charge.”

    That brought a tear of joy to the corner of my eye. What a great customers support, why can’t others be like them?

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      Yea, takes a special kind of company to do that. It is things like this that makes me buy their products even if the price is in the higher range.

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