Computex 2017: Noctua reveals a new spin on classic fans

Along with nearly every other computer hardware company in the world, the cooling specialists at Noctua are in attendance at Computex. Our guys on the ground, Tony and Adam, got a chance to stop by and check out the goodies. Noctua is showing off a couple of new products this year, including the company's most advanced fan design ever as well as plus-sized coolers for AMD's Rubenesque Ryzen Threadripper and Epyc CPUs.

Most hardware enthusiasts probably know Noctua best from its heatsink-and-fan combo units, but the Austrian company's greatest expertise is specifically in fan design. Enthusiasts have long praised Noctua's distinctive brown fans for their blend of performance and silence. The company already sells fans optimized for airflow or static pressure, but optimal cooling performance tends to require a good blend of both.

Noctua's next-generation A-series fans aim for that mark. Noctua says it has put four-and-a-half years of development time into the new fan design, and that it built more than 200 prototypes over that period. According to Noctua, every fancy engineering tool in the business was employed to determine the optimal fan design, including acoustic imaging, computational fluid dynamic analysis, and laser Doppler vibrometer testing. Dissatisfied with its existing work, the company went so far as to experiment with exotic new materials in its search.

The fruit of Noctua's hard-won efforts is a fan design that the company admits does not match the peak airflow nor peak pressure performance of its existing fans engineered for those purposes. However, the new fans simultaneously offer better static pressure and airflow in real-world conditions rather than a contrived test scenario. The end result is a fan that Noctua claims can offer far superior overall performance than its existing designs while remaining whisper-quiet.

Noctua demonstrated the performance of the new fan design with a prototype strapped to one of its NH-U12 CPU coolers. The prototype was challenged with cooling a synthetic thermal load and matched up against the same cooler equipped with two of Noctua's current fans in a push-pull configuration. As you can see, the new fan apparently offers the same cooling performance as two of the old-style fans. Of course, that could simply be because one fan is sufficient either way. We'll have to get some of the new fans in-house to do our own testing. Noctua will be selling the next-generation A-series fans in 120- and 140-mm varieties.

Besides the fancy new fans, Noctua had some new heatsinks to show. Updated versions of the popular NH-U12S and NH-U14S are coming, redesigned to better take advantage of the new fan design. Noctua says the revised NH-U12S offers 50% greater surface area than the prior version, while the new NH-U14S outshines its predecessor by 30% on the same measure. Both models use a whopping seven heatpipes, so we expect these coolers to offer excellent performance.

Also on display at the Noctua booth were heatsinks for AMD's upcoming many-core Threadripper and Epyc processors. Noctua says the coolers are based on its existing NH-U14S, NH-U12S, and NH-U9 heatsinks. The company had to devise a new mounting system (that it calls SecuFirm2) for AMD's mammoth 4094-contact SP3r2 LGA socket. The new heatsinks have enlarged contact surfaces to accomodate the huge chips.

Noctua gets some flak on occasion for the controversial beige-and-brown color scheme of its most popular series of fans. The company actually sells two more fan lineups, though. The grey-on-grey Redux fans are recolored versions of successful models from the company's catalog, while the all-black industrialPPC fans represent Noctua's most reliable and durable spinners. A couple of years ago, the company debuted a line of multi-colored anti-vibration accessories called Chromax intended to help builders color-coordinate their Redux or industrialPPC fans with their build.

Now at Computex, the company is showing off Chromax Design heatsink covers. These powder-coated aluminum covers will come in solid-color versions, or black versions with swappable colored inserts. They snap onto the top of the company's heatsinks securely so you don't have to worry about rattling or vibration, and the plates extending down the sides of the heatsink could help keep airflow directed toward your exhaust fans. The company says the covers will be available for the NH-U12S and NH-D15 heatsinks. The company also said that there is an upcoming line of Chromax fans and cables.

There were a bunch more products at Noctua's booth, like a new low-profile cooler for AM4, a ridiculously-short 120mm low-profile cooler, fans powered from a 5V (USB) supply, and 24V automotive fans. We'll surely be seeing most of this stuff in the coming months as it becomes available, so keep an eye out.

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