The raw data can be seen in the tables below. We tested the fans at 3 different speeds dictated by the voltage limiting accessories/features that come standard with each product.
We have also indicated the subjective noise level for each product at the specified speed/setting.
Temperatures were recorded with the ambient temperature and whilst the ambient temperature was usually a standard 20 degrees, it did vary for some of the tests so we have compared the delta temperatures for the most part in the interests of fairness.
The Antec Tricool achieved the best load temperature of all at full speed but it was loud – really loud. For the .95 of a degree difference, we would prefer the NF-F12 at an audible to noticeable 12v. Better yet, the PWM configuration where it was less audible and 4 degrees warmer. With some software tweaking and fan profiles, the PWM noise/performance ratio could certainly be improved but this is getting into software/controller territory.
Whilst the older Noctua NF-S12B FLX create less noise than the Tricool fans, they are not as effective with temperatures. The NF-F12 in any configuration out of the box (using the L.N.A, on 12v or via PWM 4 pin), finds the happy middle ground in our 120mm tower heatsink tests and we were impressed.
I first wondered why you would bother with a L.N.A on a PWM fan, then realised that you can limit the maximum rpm this way if your software/bios won’t allow it. Even at full speed, this fan seems to blend into the ambient room noise so we didn’t find it to be irritating or distracting. When it comes to noise, vibration etc, I’m pretty picky so the average gamer should be satisfied with the acoustic performance of this fan.
Conclusion (Heatsink Testing)
The NF-F12 really seems to hit the sweet spot when it comes to noise/performance ratio. The PWM capability matches well with modern mother boards and the different fan tuning software bundles that are available. I’d happily ditch my manual 5.25″ bay fan controller for PWM.
We consider the NF-F12 a worthy heatsink upgrade for AU$29. I’d grab one of these in a heartbeat if my current fan was either noisy or didn’t have PWM capability.