Our viewers have long requested that we add standardized case fan placement testing in our PC case reviews. We’ve previously talked about why this is difficult – largely logistically, as it’s neither free in cost nor free in time – but we are finally in a good position to add the testing. The tests, we think, clearly must offer some value, because it is one of our most-requested test items over the past two years. We ultimately want to act on community interests and explore what the audience is curious about, and so we’ve added tests for standardized case fan benchmarking and for noise normalized thermal testing.
Normalizing for noise and running thermal tests has been our main, go-to benchmark for PC cooler testing for about 2-3 years now, and we’ve grown to really appreciate the approach to benchmarking. Coolers are simpler than cases, as there’s not really much in the way of “fan placement,” and normalizing for a 40dBA level has allowed us to determine which coolers have the most efficient means of cooling when under identical noise conditions. As we’ve shown in our cooler reviews, this bypasses the issue where a cooler with significantly higher RPM always chart-tops. It’s not exactly fair if a cooler at 60dBA “wins” the thermal charts versus a bunch of coolers at, say, 35-40dBA, and so normalizing the noise level allows us to see if any proper differences emerge when the user is subjected to the same “volume” from their PC cooling products. We have also long used these for GPU cooler reviews. It’s time to introduce it to case reviews, we think, and we’ll be doing that by sticking with the stock case fan configuration and reducing case fan RPMs equally to meet the target noise level (CPU and GPU cooler fans remain unchanged, as these most heavily dictate CPU and GPU coolers; they are fixed speeds constantly).
We’re revisiting one of the best ~200mm-ish fans that existed: The SilverStone Air Penetrator 180, or AP181, that was found in the chart-topping Raven02 case that we once held in high regard. We dug these fans out of our old Raven, still hanging around post-testing from years ago, and threw them into a test bench versus the Noctua 200mm and Cooler Master 200mm RGB fans (the latter coming from the H500P case).
These three fans, two of which are advertised as 200mm, all have different mounting holes. This is part of the reason that 200mm fans faded from prominence (the other being replacing mesh side panels with a sheet of glass), as companies were all fighting over a non-standardized fan size. Generally speaking, buying a case with 200mm fans did not – and still does not – guarantee that other 200mm fans will work in that case. The screw hole spacing is different, the fan size could be different, and there were about 4 types of 200mm-ish fans from the time: 180mm, 200mm, 220mm, and 230mm.
That’s a large part of the vanishing act of the 200mm fans, although a recent revival by Cooler Master has resurrected some interest in them. It’s almost like a fashion trend: All the manufacturers saw at Computex that 200mm fans were “in” again, and immediately, we started seeing CES 2018 cases making a 200mm push.
The revolution of 200mm fans was a short-live one. Large fans are still around, but the brief, bombastic era of sticking a 200mm fan in every slot didn’t last long: The CM HAF X, NZXT Phantom 820, SilverStone Raven 02 (180mm), Throne & Thor, and 500R all have designs that have largely been replaced in the market. That replacement comes in the form of an obsession with the word “sleek” in marketing materials, which generally means flat, unvented paneling that would conflict with the poorer static pressure performance of large fans. That’s not to say 200mm fans are inherently good or bad, just that the industry has trended away from them.
That is, until the Cooler Master H500P, which runs 2x MasterFan MF200R units dead-center, fully garnished with RGB LEDs. We didn’t necessarily like the H500P in its stock configuration (but did fix it), but we know the case is popular, and it’s the best test bench for 200mm fans. There’s a good chance that purchasers of the NF-A20 are buying them for the H500P.
And that’s what we’re reviewing today. In this benchmark, we’re reviewing the Noctua NF-A20 200mm fans versus the Cooler Master MasterFan MF200Rs, which come stock with the H500P. The MF200R fans will almost certainly become available separately, at some point, but presently only ship with the H500P.
Modern humans used to hang undesirables in the town square and light “witches” aflame. For lack of a witch, PC hardware enthusiasts prefer to seek out companies that other internet users have suggested as wrongdoers. Legitimate or not, the requirement to stop and think about something need not apply here – we need more rage for the combustion engine; this thing doesn’t run on neutrality.
Posting a concern about a product, like Reddit user Kendalf did, cannot be praised enough. This type of alert gets attention from manufacturers and media alike, and means that we can all work together to determine if, (1) there is actually an issue, and (2) how we can fix it or work around it. The result is stronger products, hopefully. As stated in the lengthy conclusion below, though, it’s an unfortunate side effect that other commenters then elect to blow things out of proportion for need to feel upset about something. There’s always room for a one-off defect, for misunderstandings of features, or just a bad batch. There’s also room for a manufacturer to really screw up, so it just depends on the situation. Ideally, the mobs remain at bay until numerous people have actually verified something.
EVGA’s CLC 120 cooler fell on our bench shortly after the EVGA CLC 280 ($130), which we reviewed last week against the NZXT X62 & Corsair H115i. The EVGA CLC 120 prices itself at $90, making it competitive with other RGB-illuminated coolers, but perhaps a bit steep in comparison to the cheaper 120mm AIOs on the market. Regardless, 120mm territory is where air coolers start to claw back their value in performance-to-dollar; EVGA’s chosen a tough market to debut a low-end cooler, despite the exceptionally strong positioning of their CLC 280 (as stated in our review).
This year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday sales continue, allowing us to compile a list of PC accessories that are aimed at giving your system a boost in aesthetics. Most our guides thus far have been focused on the performance aspect, like our “Best SSDs of 2016” guide, our guide to mechanical keyboards, to 1440p monitors, and recent two PC builds. We’ve also got some coverage of the best PSUs currently on sale, if that’s interesting.
But today, we’re here for visuals. RGB lighting products and sleeved cables are a common trend in the market in 2016 for those looking to improve their setups looks. This year, RGB has gotten big enough that only the craze for tempered glass rivals its popularity; there are RGB fans, mouse pads, controllers, and peripherals of all sorts.
Here’s the shortlist:
Thermaltake's updated Riing RGB LED fans that we spotted at Computex have received a few final tweaks prior to production. The new fans succeed Thermaltake's trend-setting Riing RGB fans, building on initial designs by adding a USB-attached hardware controller that can daisy chain sets of 3 RGB LED fans.
This controller is leveraged to allow independent speed and brightness controls, without which both speed and brightness are impacted by regulating voltage delivered to the fan. With most LED-enabled fans, reducing the speed (to a quieter 30%, for example) would also reduce the brightness linearly. This is because the voltage is reduced by the motherboard or host, and therefore all fan components are affected. With the controller, a fixed supply of voltage is delivered to the LEDs, while the speed is independently managed through software. Conversely, if the user wanted to run LEDs at half brightness (or even off), that could be done while retaining 100% fan speed.
This week's news announcements include AMD AM4 Zen chipset naming (rumors, technically), NZXT's new RGB LED 'Aer' fans, and a pair of cases from Rosewill and Cooler Master.
AMD's initial AM4 chipset announcement was made at PAX, where the B350, A320, and XBA300 chipsets were announced for mainstream and low-end Gen 7 APUs. The high-end Zen chipset for Summit Ridge was concealed during this announcement, but is now known to be the X370 platform.
X370 will ship alongside the Summit Ridge CPUs and will add to the lanes available for high-speed IO devices, mostly SATA and new generation USB. Most of the IO with the Zen architecture will be piped through the CPU itself, with what remains of the chipset acting more as an IO controller than a full chipset.
German manufacturer Be Quiet! has released its latest line of ultra-quiet fans – the SilentWings 3, first found in the Dark Base 900 that we saw at Computex. Be Quiet! is a company whose name backs most product roll-outs, as representative Christoph Katzer explained to us. The company focuses heavily on build quality and silence, and the new SilentWings 3 fans have been redesigned with fluid-dynamic bearings, now using brass cores and seven blades that have a funnel-shaped design. The frame is rubberized to enable a reported near-inaudible sound level – according to Be Quiet!, the 120mm model produces 16.4 decibels and the 140mm model 15.5 decibels. To put that into perspective, someone whispering is about 30 decibels. The rubberized design also reduces vibration levels to further mitigate noise.
We looked at Be Quiet!'s Dark Base 900 PC case at Computex and were impressed. The SilentWings 3 fans debuted in the DB900, about 3 months prior to launch individually, so owners of the DB900 are already equipped with the new fans.
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