Case Fans

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One of the most active subjects in the forums deal with CPU and Case Fans, their capabilities and the noise they generate. My interest has always focused on high performance and quality. I have not found suitable fans included with computer cases that meet my criteria, including the fans supplied with more expensive cases.

There are three major types of fans being produced today (there are others but they are not in the mainstream of fans used).

Sleeve Bearing Fans are by far the quieter running of the three. They produce the lowest air movement or cfm’s and by their very nature inexpensive, has a shorter life span and is the type of fan shipped with the majority of cases.

Ball Bearing Fans are the most widely used of all and their noise level goes from tolerable to the utter extreme. As the air movement or cfm’s increase so does the noise level. While being medium priced this tends to increase as the cfm’s and noise level do.

Hydro-Ware Bearing Fans use Panasonics patented technology that eliminates the wear and tear associated with axial friction. The bearing floats in a sealed bath of oil and consumes 40% less power to produce the same air movement or cfms as other technologies. The Panasonic Panaflo Fans produce the best ratio of cfms to noise generated. Less wear means a longer life span and they tend to be priced in the medium to high price range.

The size fans used in computers are generally a mix of one or two of the sizes Cooling Basics - Cases and Cooling 27 available. Rarely will you find all the sizes in a standard case, but the chances are good that you’ll find them all in a custom case. Almost all heatsinks use a 60mm fan while a few use an 80mm. Most case fans are usually 80mm with some using a mix of an 80mm and a 92mm and specialty cases might also employ 120 mm fans.

Bigger fans do not automatically translate to increased noise, which is dependent on the RPM used to achieve the rated cfms. An example would be a 60mm fan running at 7000 RPM producing 37 cfm produces a noise level of 46.5 dBA’s, while an 80mm fan running at 2900 RPM producing 36 cfm only produces a noise level of 29 dBA’s.

So you can see all Fans are not created equally and your choice should be determined by the highest amount of air movement or cfm’s you can get at a noise level you can accept.

I do not recommend Sleeve Bearing Fans for obvious reasons, but I do recommend Ball Bearing Fans and Hydro-Ware Bearing fans with the following qualification.

High Performance Noise Not an Issue: By far the best are the Delta fans.
High Performance Medium Noise Tolerated: Papst, Sunon and Adda lead the pack.
High Performance Low Noise Required: Sanyo Denki is the best here.
Best Overall Ratio Cfm’s to Noise: In a class by themselves Panasonic Panaflo fans.

I personally mix and match the brand of fans I use depending on the particular need, but the vast majority of fans I use are the Panasonic Panaflo’s as pictured. Please remember; high cfm’s translates to higher noise levels, low cfm’s translates to lower noise levels, this applies to fans of the same size.

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A good majority of the High Performance Fans are either shipped with out a connector or with a three pin connector. Most of these require more power than is supplied on motherboard headers so you’ll need a three to four pin converter or if you don’t have many available 4 pin Molex connectors available from your power supply you may need a “Y” splitter, then due to distance an extension may be required.

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Another item that may be quite helpful is this little device from Christi and Chris at that allows you to slow down a fan by changing the voltage from 12v to 7v by just flicking the toggle switch. With lower voltage supplied to the fan attached it runs slower and quieter for those times when the full speed of the particular fan is not required, giving you hands on control of your fan speed and noise generated. Many people will put four or more of these together and create a Bay Bus to be able to control all there fans, or will simply purchase a Bay Bus kit.

The last two items dealing with fans that should be considered are Filters for intake fans to prevent dust from entering your computer and Grills to protect any digits or limbs that may come in contact with the high speed fan blades

If your case is not equipped with Filters you risk the chance of dust and minute particles that maybe charged with static electricity entering your computer and that could spell trouble. Filters do not improve air flow and actually cost you 1 to 3 degrees in increased case temperatures, but are worth their value in preventative insurance.

The are basically three types of filters available, those that are supplied with a case and usually mount between the cases front bezel attached to the frame of the computer, normally made of plastic they resemble a frame with a foam filter that can be removed for cleaning. Then there are two aftermarket filters that are quite different as they mount directly to the intake fans themselves. Please note, the pictures below.

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The plastic filter seen here is actually three separate parts, the frame that screws onto the intake fan, the foam filter material and the outer frame that snaps on to the inner frame. Removal for cleaning is quite simple, just snap off the outer frame, remove the filter and clean it. This filter will cost you more in the way of increased temperatures because of its obvious construction.

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The aluminum mesh filter pictured here is of one piece construction and is mounted to the intake fan by four screws. Removal for cleaning is more difficult as this filter has to be completely removed from the intake fan. The highlight of this filter is that it cost you a minimal amount of increased temperatures.

Both types of filters retail for about the same amount of money and are available in 60mm, 80mm, 92mm and 120mm sizes. You choose the one that is best suited for your computer. Tony of also carries the aluminum mesh filter in anodized designer colors at an additional cost.

As most of the high performance fans run at fairly high RPM, fan guards/grills are a necessity to protect you or any one who has access to your computer from injury due to a finger or any limb coming in contact with the fan blades.

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They also are available in all the popular fan sizes mentioned above at reasonable prices. Attachment to you fans is simple, just screw them in place.

Now, if you’re looking for a grill more for style and good looks than protection, Andrew Smith (Techru) of has developed Laser Cut Fan Grills available in 5 styles and three sizes, 80mm 92mm and 120mm. They are sold with a pre-paint finish ready for your custom paint job. I think I’ll get a couple of the Spiders!!!!

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