Not a lot of people give thought about their case fans when building their own rig. Some people do not even consider it that much important but it really depends on your build. A custom high-end gaming rig with a lot of processing power would need a steady air flow to keep it cooled and prevent it from overheating. It also needs a reliable fan that lasts quite a while since people who would custom build a high-end gaming pc would most likely use it often and the fan would obviously need to be sturdy to stand long hours of use. The best solution would be fans that could maintain a significant air flow and thus letting the heat out in the exhausts however; finding a capable one for such a rig can be hard.

Noctua NF-S12A 120mm Case Fan Review – Whats in the Box?

The packaging of the three boxes is nearly identical to each other. The packaging is filled with a lot of details of the product. It has Noctua’s standard colors mostly which are brown and white with a hint of black highlights. It has a stamp that flaunts “Award-winning S12 design”. It has flaps both on the front as well as the back to show off the fan itself. It also shows all of the new features like the NF-S12A AAO Frame, Anti-Stall Knobs, Custom designed PWM IC with SCD and a few others. The packaging itself is covered in matte and feels nice to the touch. At the back of the box it lists all the running specifications and a short paragraph directed at the consumer. The accessories are well organized inside the box along with the cables. It has a very nice premium product look and it has enough information on the packaging to let you know what you’re getting.

The front has a window that gives full view of the 120 mm fan and the rubber fan mounts as well. Adjacent to that, we have a description of how the stall knobs work.

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Once you open the box, you will find the manual, the plastic shell, the cables, the anti-vibration rubber mounts and the mounting screws. All three fans have a 30 cm extension cable. The FLX and the ULN both have a 3:4-pin adapter for directly connecting to the power supply and also low noise adapters. There is a splitter cable for the PWM for other PWM fans that can be added to match the rpms.

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And in case you want a simplified view of each version, here it is:

PWM version:

  • 4 Silver Fan Screws
  • 4 Brown soft rubber anti-vibration mounts
  • Y Splitter cable
  • 30CM extension cable
  • Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A)
  • Manual

FLX version:

  • 4 Silver Fan Screws
  • 4 Brown soft rubber anti-vibration mounts
  • Y Splitter cable
  • 30CM extension cable
  • Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A)
  • Ultra-Low-Noise Adapter (U.L.N.A)
  • Manual

ULN version:

  • 4 Silver Fan Screws
  • 4 Brown soft rubber anti-vibration mounts
  • Y Splitter cable
  • 30CM extension cable
  • Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A)
  • Manual

The Product

The Brand

Noctua is not new to this industry. They’re an Austrian company that have been around for almost a decade and are quite adept at making hardware to cool rigs especially for hobbyists and rig enthusiasts. Noctua is especially known in making cooling fans with a lot of attention to detail which then produces products of best quality which makes them quite known in the market. The downside of cooling a computer is that it can be obnoxiously loud. For Noctua’s fans however, this has never been a problem. Their fans are known in the market to be noiseless and robust.

The NF-S12A 120 mm Fan

The NF-S12A 120 mm fan has three versions, the PWM, FLX and the ULN. These three has their own target market hence this is why there are most likely three versions of the NF-S12A 120 mm fan. These three are the third generation of the S12 series of 120 mm fans that succeeded the previous generation which is called S12B. This new generation is called the S12A. It is designed for balancing static pressure, low impedance builds, airflow and more. These are case fans. And despite these three fans being different, all the three S12A fans look alike. There is an obvious difference however with the 4 pin header on the PWM version.

The build quality along with its accessories is really good; which is a good justification for its price when compared to competitors. Not just that but also the technology and the noise reduction are quite efficient. They are packed with high technology which makes Noctua’s fans one of the leaders in the market.

PWM

First of which is the PWM fan. It is the standard out of the three. It is also decently quiet and is for users who want to keep their CPU’s overclock settings. Its controllers and software are a lot more implemented. The software has been vastly improved which makes it easier to set different profiles that controls the speed of both CPU fans as well as the chassis fans. The PWM also operates at a range of 300 rpm up to 1200 rpm making it very versatile and also very quiet if you set it at the slowest speed of 300 rpm. If it is idle at 300 rpm, it is quiet but you can increase the rpm to 1200 if you need more airflow. If you have an extra 4 Pin PWM fan headers, the PWM is a good choice too.

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ULN

The ULN’s noise reduction is really good. It is more for people who hate having any kind of sound coming from the fan since most stock fans are generally noisy. However, it is not as flexible as the FLX version as this only operates at either 800 or 600 rpm but like I’ve said earlier, this has the best noise reduction. It is pretty much silent.

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FLX

The last one, which is the FLX is the middle ground of the three and it balances everything well. It has great flexibility. It operates at 1200, 900 and 700 rpm if you use the noise or voltage adaptors which means that the user can set up the airflow manually depending on what the user needs with their build whether they want a very little noise and high airflow or a moderate airflow and a quiet fan. This is a great choice for people who want a case fan for general use. If your motherboard also does not have a lot of 4-Pin PWM headers then this is also a good choice.

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Design

The NF-S12A has a ton of technology put into it to ensure the best airflow to noise ratio. It is built with the best intention in mind and has a specific build to ensure the best quality.

All three NF-S12As have the same dimensions which is 120 x 120 x 25 mm. They all use the same physical design. All three have integrated vibration corners, notched fan blades and a stepped inlet design. ­These fans have a variety of uses which can be used in areas that need high airflow like the CPU cooling or other areas such as the in/out case ports.

Both the ULN and FLX use the standard 3-pin headers while the PWM uses a 4-pin one. The fans have seven blades much like the previous generation. It has however new technology added to it which are the Anti-Stall knobs and the Advanced Acoustic Optimization or AAO frame. The former stops reverse airflow problems which happen on fan blades with high angles. The latter is a combination of the integrated anti-vibration pads made of rubber, stepped inlet design and inner surface microstructures.

On the sides you will see a 25 mm thickness and arrows that mark the direction of the airflow.

You can see the power consumption and fan type from the back. All of the fans use the SS02 fan motor that has a metal bearing shell. This gives it more reliability, performance and precision. It is so sturdy that Noctua confidently give owners an amazing 6 year manufacturer’s warranty on the three fans.

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Product Features

The Noctua NF-S12A fans have quite an impressive number of features. We’ve already mentioned a few but here’s a list of all of them.

Award winning design

The Noctua boasts numerous recommendations from various critics because of its classic Straight Blade Design. It has also been optimized for a better airflow to noise efficiency ratio which makes, Noctua’s fans quite impressive.

Advanced Acoustic Optimization (AAO) Frame

The AAO or Advanced Acoustic Optimization frames have integrated anti-vibration pads and also a Stepped Inlet Design with Inner Surface Microstructures. This refines the fan’s performance and also it’s noise efficiency.

Anti-Stall Knobs

These Anti-Stall knobs are good for reducing flow separation in medium as well high impedance situations. This would make the NF-S12A a very versatile fan than the previous versions. It will also have better performance for radiators as well as heatsinks.

Inner Surface Microstructures

The flow separation from the suction side of the NF-S12A’s blades are suppressed that makes the blade passing noise a lot more quiet and also improves the airflow as well as the pressure efficiency because of the tips of the fan blades move through the layer created by this feature.

Stepped Inlet Design

This feature improves flow attachment, increases suction capacity, reduces tonal intake noise because this kind of design is adding turbulence to the influx to be able to facilitate the transition from laminar flow turbulent.

Integrated Anti-Vibration Pads

These pads are made from very soft silicone to minimize the transmission of minute vibrations while still being able to maintain full compatibility with the standard screws.

Smooth Commutation Drive 2(ULN, FLX)

This will eliminate the torque variations and switching noises which then ensures superb running smoothness and makes the fan amazingly quiet.

3 Speed Settings (FLX)

The FLX version can be set up in a way that gives amazing airflow or to set it up to maximize its quietness because of its 3 rpm speeds which are 1200, 900 and 700. This means the FLX provides amazing flexibility for users.

Custom designed PWM IC with SCD (PWM)

The PWM version uses Noctua’s own NE-FD1 PWM IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive technology.

Cable Options

People who make custom rigs dislike dangling wires and but for NF-S12A’s short 20 cm wire, this is not a problem. However, if you need a longer one, you can opt to choose the 30 cm extension giving the fan an extended reach of the environment.

SSO2 Bearing

The rear magnet is placed closer to provide better stabilization and durability with the SSO2.

Metal Bearing shell

There is a CNC milled bearing shell made from brass that provides minimum tolerance, high manufacturing precision and a robust long-term build.

Amazingly long 6 year warranty

With all these features and an amazing quality, you would think that the NF-S12A stops there, but no. Noctua also provides a full 6 year manufacturer’s warranty on top of all these.

Specifications

ULN

  • Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm
  • Mounting hole spacing: 105 x 105 mm
  • Connector: 3-Pin
  • Bearing: SSO2
  • Blade Geometry: S-Series with Anti-Stall Knobs
  • Frame Technology: AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization)
  • Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 800 rpm
  • Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 600 rpm
  • Airflow: 74,3 m³/h
  • Airflow with L.N.A.: 57,5 m³/h
  • Acoustical Noise: 8,6 dB(A)
  • Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.: 6,7 dB(A)
  • Static Pressure: 0,62 mm H₂O
  • Static Pressure with L.N.A.: 0,44 mm H₂O
  • Max. Input Power: 0,72 W
  • Max. Input Current: 0,06 A
  • Voltage: 12 V
  • MTTF: > 150.000 h

Scope of Delivery:

  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 3:4 Pin Adaptor
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws

Warranty: 6 years

FLX

  • Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm
  • Mounting hole spacing: 105 x 105 mm
  • Connector: 3-Pin
  • Bearing: SSO2
  • Blade Geometry: S-Series with Anti-Stall Knobs
  • Frame Technology: AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization)
  • Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 1200 rpm
  • Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 900 rpm
  • Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 700 rpm
  • Airflow: 107,5 m³/h
  • Airflow with L.N.A.: 83,2 m³/h
  • Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 65,8 m³/h
  • Acoustical Noise: 17,8 dB(A)
  • Acoustical Noise with L.N.A: 10,7 dB(A)
  • Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: 7,4 dB(A)
  • Static Pressure: 1,19 mm H₂O
  • Static Pressure with L.N.A.: 0,73 mm H₂O
  • Static Pressure with U.L.N.A.: 0,51 mm H₂O
  • Max. Input Power: 1,44 W
  • Max. Input Current: 0,12 A
  • Voltage: 12 V
  • MTTF: > 150.000 h

Scope of Delivery:

  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
  • 3:4-Pin Adaptor
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws

Warranty: 6 years

PWM

  • Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm
  • Mounting hole spacing: 105 x 105 mm
  • Connector: 4-Pin PWM
  • Bearing: SSO2
  • Blade Geometry: S-Series with Anti-Stall Knobs
  • Frame Technology: AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization)
  • Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 1200 rpm
  • Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 900 rpm
  • Min. Rotational Speed (PWM, +/- 20%): 300 rpm
  • Airflow: 107,5 m³/h
  • Airflow with L.N.A.: 83,2 m³/h
  • Acoustical Noise: 17,8 dB(A)
  • Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.: 10,7 dB(A)
  • Static Pressure: 1,19 mm H₂O
  • Static Pressure with L.N.A.: 0,73 mm H₂O
  • Max. Input Power: 1,44 W
  • Max. Input Current: 0,12 A
  • Voltage: 12 V
  • MTTF: > 150.000 h

Scope of Delivery:

  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws

Warranty: 6 years

Performance

Noctua’s NF-S12A 12 mm fans did very well. If the fans are idle, the FLX kept the CPU really cool at the highest two speed settings. There is a noticeable observation common between all the fans, the temperatures went up as the fan’s rpm lowered. The fans are generally really quiet compared to other traditional fans and including the NA-RC7 noise blocker improves on the already quiet fan.

PWM

With the PWM fan which will be tested with and without the NA-RC7 noise blocker. It has a jump from 80 degrees Celsius without the NA-RC7. We have 44 db without the low noise adapter at around 1200 rpm while 43 db at 900 rpm with the low noise adapter. The video card jumps to 80 degrees Celsius as well.

ULN

With the ULN without the low noise adapter we get 43.5 db at around 800 rpm and a 44.2 db at 600 rpm.

FLX

With the FLX fan without the low noise adapter, we have 44.5 db using 1200 rpm and another minimal decrease of 43.4 db at 900 rpm with the low noise adapter and lastly, 44 db at 700 with the low noise adapter.

The fans give generally good airflow if it is used as an exhaust but when used to make a chassis even quieter, it gives better performance.

Conclusion

The Noctua NF-S12A has a lot of flexibility. It offers an excellent balance between acoustics, performance and sturdiness. You are able to tweak the rpm therefore setting your own preference ratio for the sound reduction and fan speed. There is also an extensive Noctua accessory bundle for each of the three fan which gives the user a lot more flexibility than they already have.

Noctua competes with the top brands in the market and yet manages to deliver one of the best. Every new release improves upon the former. The fans have been a lot quieter and have raised the airflow while still being able to retain the same RPMs. Despite the differences being minimal, it still hands down better than other alternatives.

The technology is also quite fascinating, despite operating at the fan’s slowest rpms, it still manages to keep the processor at a good temperature. And if you compare it to other brands, at top speed, Noctua’s NF-S12A fans are still noticeably quieter. Not to mention it runs with less than half of the power of its competitors.

On top of all this, we are given a 6 year manufacturer’s warranty giving the fans excellent support.

With the price, we think it is justified for the premium and high quality build for the Noctua NF-S12A fans. The amount of flexibility is astounding meaning you can pretty much use the fans in a number of ways. It is definitely a premium product and will obviously come at a premium price. A lot of research and development have been obviously funneled into these fans and the 6 year warranty along with its amazing customer service can make the price tag already worth it because if Noctua’s fans stopped working, they will give you new ones, no problem.

Where to Buy

You can pickup the Noctua NF-S12A series of fans for around $29AUD from your preferred computer retailer. For more information head on over to the Noctua website.

Noctua NF-S12A 120mm Case Fan Review
If one is looking for an amazing set of cooling fans for their new rig then the Noctua NF-S12A are a the perfect fit for you. Their fans are amazingly quiet and the amount of flexibility makes the Noctua NF-S12A all-around kick ass fans.

tsb-kicks-award Noctua NF-S12A 120mm Case Fan Review
Design
Features
Performance
Usability
Value
4.8Overall Score

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