The Noctua fan comes packaged in the usual styling, with brown, blue and black making the package stand out. The front has a little window that allows you to see the interesting adjustments that the Austrian designers have made. While easily overlooked, there is actually a door at the rear of the box that opens up and is a bible for how this fan differs from others.
Of note, the notches that you can see on each of the blades are not – as you would expect – added to reduce noise levels. Instead, the VCN (Vortex-Control Notches) are strangely nothing to do with Star Trek but modify the trailing vortex each fin makes. This in turn spreads the frequencies of sound that each fin makes as it carves through the air, which doesn’t reduce noise, but makes it much more pleasant to the ear. An interesting approach as there will come a point where a fan cannot become quieter as it inherently has to make noise in order to shift air. These notches have been added primarily to allow the higher static pressure that the fan has while retaining a usable noise output.
The fan features a lot more blades than you would normally witness on a standard 120mm fan, and for a very good reason. There are three key numbers to look at when picking a new fan, and they are airflow, static pressure and noise output. The first and the last are obvious, but static pressure is oft overlooked. The higher the static pressure, the more airflow will be generated for a certain resistive force. Sounds complicated, but when you mention a watercooling raditor, it soon becomes clear. The resistive force would be the radiator fins that the fan has to force air through; they prevent airflow to a certain extent giving the fan more work to do. As the fan has a high static pressure, it is able to maintain its airflow against a larger resistive force than a normal fan which would have it’s airflow dramatically reduced.
The fan comes with a now standard set of Noctua accessories which includes the infamous L.N.A and U.L.N.A adaptors (of course combined creating the MULNAZ adaptor). These look like simple 3 pin fan cable extension leads, but they contain a different rated resistor on the 12v wire which lowers the current that the fan receives. This changes the stock values for the airflow, static pressure and noise output from 54.3 CFM, 1.68 mm H20 and 19.8 dBA respectively to 46.2 CFM, 1.43 mm H20, and 16.9 dBA with the L.N.A and 37.3 CFM, 1.21 mm H20 and 12.6 dBA with the U.L.N.A; airflow values are all in meters cubed per hour and converted for comparison. The box unfortunately doesn’t give a figure for when you use both together, creating the Mega Ultra Low Noise Adaptor Zord.
Along with the limiters, you get four standard silver fan screws, four rubber mounting Vibration-Compensators and a molex to fan header adaptor. The accessories can be used with any fan that you have so you’ll get a little more value from the fan than you would ordinarily.
The fan itself is rather ugly with the eye-catching peach outer and brown fan blade design that Noctua continue to use. While I can’t say that I agree with the combination of these two colours, I would be sorry if they decided to change the colour; seeing this colour scheme identifies the fan as undeniably Noctua, unlike normal black fans. You can instantly see that the fan has additional blades and you can barely see through them out the other side while normal fans have large gaps between them.
The actual motor of the fan uses the same SSO bearing that other Noctua fans introduced earlier this year and basically gives a quieter and long-life span when compared to sleeve or double ball bearings. Granted you’ll probably only notice the quiet part, as case fans are normally thrown away before they’re bearings fail. You can read more about SSO bearings on the Noctua site here. Noctua must have confidence in this as they provide a 6 year warranty with the fan which is – as far as I know – unmatched and the MTBF is a mighty 17 years. A new technology that the NF-P12 brings in is Smooth Commutation drive which sounds more technical than it needs to be. A motor is not a single turning motion and uses magnetic forces to create rotation, which depends on the position of the rotor itself. Once the rotor has turned a certain amount, the electro magnet connected on the rotor reverses it’s field which propels the rotor around another half turn inside the permanent magnet of the outer case. As the rotor turns, the magnetic forces are obviously strongest where the polarity has just changed, which creates a sudden increase in torque that creates unwanted noise. SC drive smoothes out the transition between the polarity transitions creating quieter operation.
The fan lead coming from the NF-P12 is sleeved in a black waxy-feeling lead that masks the usual tri-coloured wire which will make your case look a little clearer once installed. This wire terminates in a 3 pin header which is particularly useful as it allows you to change the fan speed with either your motherboard or fan controller that a molex connector wouldn’t allow easily. Of course Noctua also provide you with an adaptor for those without enough mobo fan headers.