Posted: February 25, 2004
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: Acousti Products
Source: Quiet PC
Computer noise is a serious issue for many people, including myself, as I would prefer to not hear any of the 3-4 computers that may be running at any given time in my small home-office. When Quiet PC made me aware of the Acousti Products AcoustiFan, I was more than willing to accept them for review. Any product with the term “noiseless” in the description is a welcome ally in my battle with noise, and Quiet PC was kind enough to send over two of the 120 mm models to see if they performed as promised.
The fans are available in the typical 80 mm, 92 mm, and 120 mm sizes, and the 120 mm units shipped in the packaging pictured above. It is just a plain white box with a label indicating some of the key specifications and features. Browsing the Acousti Products website I found additional information on their packaging, which touts their “environmental responsibility” through use of 100% recycled cardboard and paper, minimal use of plastic, and use of biodegradable packing tape. Impressive! I am not sure I have seen a tech company make such an effort.
The above left image provides a look at one of the 120 mm AcoustiFans. The blades, hub, and entire frame are constructed of a translucent thermoplastic. The motor is designed to operate on 12VDC, and the bearings in the motor are oil impregnated sleeve bearings, which are intended to run very quietly with minimal vibration. The above right image details the two wired leads found on the fan… A typical 3 pin power lead and a thermal sensor for automatic speed control. Each lead features an impressive length of 46 cm, which will make routing the leads simple, even in a larger case where the power connector may not be all that close to the fan location.
The above image shows the accessories included with the AcoustiFan, and two of them are specifically designed to further reduced noise. You have a typical set of four fan screws, but in addition you have four “gel-like fan mounts” and a wired resistor intended to reduce the voltage to the fan and thus further reduce its speed and noise output. The use and performance of these two special accessories will be detailed later.
The table above details the official specifications of the 120 mm AcoustiFan, as taken from the Quiet PC website. As you can see, the fan isn’t rated for extremely high speeds (1500-2000 RPM), but still produces a respectable volume of air flow. For comparison purposes I will be looking at the AcoustiFan matched up with other 120 mm fans from Papst and Delta, which can provide up to 2500 RPM, higher airflow, and from my own personal experience, more noise than I care to have! I currently use a fan speed controller to knock the speeds (and noise) down substantially, but I’m hoping for a better balance of cooling and silence with the AcoustiFans.
According to a chart on the Acousti Products website, the thermally controlled operation of the fan will result in a range of speeds from approximately 1600 RPM at 35 degrees Celsius up to 1900 RPM at 70 degrees Celsius. With a speed range listed as 1500-2000 RPM, I am unsure why the chart only goes from about 1600-1900, and I am also unsure that I will ever see the full speed of the fan as I do not intend for anything in my case to approach 70 degrees Celsius!
For testing purposes I connected the three 120 mm fans to an external power supply to isolate the noise from anything else in the case they are to be installed in. Basically, I wanted to get a sampling of the noise and airflow of each fan, to see how they match up. With no speed controller used on any of the fans, the Papst and Delta fan roar, but move a high volume of air. The AcoustiFan operates whisper quiet, but the amount of air being moved is noticeably less than the Papst and Delta brand 120 mm fans in question. With the wired resistor in place on the AcoustiFan power lead, the airflow drops even more, and although the noise at any level is barely detectable, it did drop a bit, as well. Basically, its like comparing apples to oranges at this point, as I do not use the Papst or Delta fans without a speed controller. Such a device is an extra expense and was not included with either fan, whereas the AcoustiFan was specifically designed to run quieter.
Installation of a fan is nothing special, but the AcoustiFan does require a bit more than your typical unit. I created the above image from one available on the Acousti Products site, which highlights the “gel-like fan mounts” in red. Isolating the screw from the case by slipping the gel-ly donut into the fan hole proved to be easier said than done. Actually… it proved to be near impossible. Fitting a rubbery ring into a hole barely large enough for the screw alone isn’t really reasonable. I struggled for a while trying to make it work, but gave up once a few of the rings were mutilated, or had squeezed right off the end of the screw head as I tightened them down. Good idea... poor execution.
The above left picture shows the insides of my case before the installation. From some of the components in there, it should be obvious that I’m striving for silence! Water cooling on the processor and video card, the cooling fan on the northbridge has been replaced by a passive heatsink, and there are two 120 mm fans (one visible) both wired to a fan controller for noise reduction purposes. The above right image shows the case with the AcoustiFans installed, and you can see the thermal probe lead inserted into the fins of my northbridge heatsink (by far the warmest surface in there). An added bonus to any noise reduction is the fact that the transparent fans nearly disappear into the aluminum case as compared to the black fans in the original installation.
The AcoustiFans perform as promised... Providing near silent operation, while still moving a decent volume of air. Considering I had my previous fans turned way down, the noise difference wasn’t substantial, but I would say the AcoustiFans were a little bit quieter. Case temperatures were unaffected, wavering +/- 4 degrees Celsius from the usual temperatures.
Available from Quiet PC for $25.95, the 120 mm AcoustiFan costs $5 to $15 (US) more than many other quality 120 mm fans on the market. Unlike the other brands, the AcoustiFan offers a well thought out design with complementary accessories which insure that the fan operates quietly and efficiently (well, the “gel-mounts” may work for some people). Some people aren’t willing to spend much money on fans, but quality costs money. The higher price may be worth it to those who demand quality, performance, and minimal noise with minimal effort.
For about the price of two ‘lesser’ priced 120 mm fans and a decent speed controller, you have two 120 mm AcoustiFans that will provide roughly the same performance. The route you choose will depend on what you want to do, and perhaps what items you have on hand already. Do you want the fans to be silent right out of the box, but with no chance of higher airflow? Or, do you want fans capable of moving more air and making more noise, and have to rely on another device to manage the noise?
Overall, I am very impressed with the 120 mm AcoustiFans, and consider them to be “Recommended”… Four out of five stars.
Final Rating (4 out of 5 stars):
• Performs as promised with extremely low noise
• Includes accessories such as the fan mounts and wired resistor for further noise reduction
• Clear plastic design is attractive as the fan nearly disappears into the case
• Long leads make for easy wiring
• Installation of “gel-like fan mounts” didn’t work
Please drop by the BigBruin.Com forum, and feel free to discuss this review.
Big thanks to Quiet PC for providing the Acousti Products 120mm AcoustiFan to BigBruin.Com for review!
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