When you think of case fans, a lot of names come to mind, but unless you're a cooling connoisseur that's traversed all corners of the web, Noctua probably isn't one of them. That's where we at HardwareLogic come in, bravely venturing the web where few geeks have gone before, and in our latest wanderings, we've stumbled upon an Austrian company dedicated to a small array of cooling products.
What Does Noctua Mean?
The little owl, Athene noctua, is the symbol of the Greek goddess Athene, who represents wisdom, science and strategy. She has a marked preference for the most clever among the Greek heroes, like Odysseus, who endure their adventures by the use of savvy consideration instead of mere force. Until today, the owl symbolises intelligence and prudence, its manlike face emblematises attentiveness and communication. We from Noctua follow the suit of its calm and accurate observation in the dark, its soundless flight as well as the effective, economical use of its powers and precise attack. - Noctua
Alrighty then! So just what kind of 'precise attack' can we expect from a pair of bling-less fans designed by the little owl that could? Noctua claims they designed their fans with a sound optimized geometry and profile that promise to be the quietest around this side of the Pecos. Will they live up to their hushed billing, or are the claims full of hot air?
|Size|| 80mm and 120mm|
|RPM|| 800-1800 (80mm) / 1200 (120mm)|
|Type|| Oil pressure bearing|
|Noise||7dBA (80mm) / <6dBA (120mm)|
| Warranty||6 years|
As you can see Noctua has chosen to go with the brown/creme color combo for their fans. For those of you who are into the bright lights and matching the right color for your rig, you might want to pass on these. It is very apparent that these fans are not going to have the Fatal1ty logo on them any time soon, which, quite frankly, earns bonus points in our book.
For our review, we chose to put these fans in our HTPC Thermaltake Tenor case, replacing the noisy 80mm and two 60mm fans that currently reside inside. By doing so, we hoped to rid our system of the jet engine sound that's plagued our ears, but when it came time for installation, we ran into a bit of a snag.
Call it poor planning on our part, or just plain stubborn insistence, but the Tenor case lacks a 120mm fan mount. But hey, it's for situations like these that zip ties were created, and with a little fiddling and some wire rearrangement, we were successful in replacing the three old fans with the Noctua variety.
To measure temperatures inside the enclosure, we used SpeedFan. Our testing consisted of the closed enclosure with the three original fans, taking a temperature reading at startup. The speed of the fans was controlled by checking the auto control box in SpeedFan itself. We then retook temp readings after watching a movie (Talladega Nights, because you're curious). We then let the let the computer sit powered down for a day and started it up fresh for our next round of tests with the Noctua fans installed. The testing consisted of the same criteria as the other fans.
|Thermaltake Startup||Noctua Startup||Thermaltake Shutdown||Noctua Shutdown|
As you can see there isn’t much difference in temperatures for any of the tests, which we ultimately blame on the Tenor's ventilation acting as a bottleneck. But what's of real note here is that the Noctua fans didn't have an adverse effect on cooling in a cramped HTPC environment, while also managing to substantially reduce noise levels. In other words, noise management gurus concerned with cooling trade offs can have their cake and eat it too.
Warranty and SupportNoctua offers a generous 6-year warranty on all of their fans. Their support page includes a Direct-RMA form, online FAQ, and a contact email address. Note that for RMA service, you will need to retail a copy of your sales invoice, and upload a scanned copy when filling out the RMA form (boo!).
Our RecommendationThere's no doubt about it; the Noctua fans do a premium job at controlling airflow while maintaining low noise levels, while also carrying a premium price tag. If you can get over the sticker shock, there's a lot to like here, including a lengthy 6-year warranty.
What the Noctua fans don't have are flashing LEDs, Fatal1ty logos, or other gamer oriented bling, and you have to be resigned to the fact that the brown and crème color scheme is the only flavor offered. Aesthetics aside, these fans come with a pretty good bundle, giving you both 4-pin connectors and 3-pin extension connectors, and rubber standoffs to help with vibration and further manage noise control. If function over form is your game, you will have a hard time finding a fan that performs as well as these Noctua units do at such low noise levels. Just be prepared to pay for the cooling extravagance, which can reach upwards of $20/ea street.
Other Reviews of NoteIt's always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, we may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out some reviews from some other great sites from around the web.