Arctic P12 PWM PST in detail
There are a lot of droning or downright rumbling fans out there, but none have been as popularized by this sound profile as the Arctic P12. Probably also because this acoustic deficiency is really pronounced here and has pushed the manufacturer to make design changes in newer models that are aimed at suppressing critical tonal peaks. But even so, the base model P12 PWM PST is a remarkable fan and is unbeatable in its price range.
Because of its extremely low price and high “cooling efficiency”, the Arctic P12 PWM PST is the best-selling 120mm fan by many metrics. With a large number of owners, there is thus naturally a fair amount of feedback, and since most people’s hearing is fine enough to hear this fan’s sound profile more acutely, there are often voices that this fan is noisier. This is because of the tonal peaks not only at the lower “rumble” frequencies, but also at the middle “hum” frequencies. We’ll get to that as we go along and flesh it all out in detail.
Starting out, it’s still worth noting that the Arctic P12 compares with the previously tested BioniX P120 A-RGB, although it has seemingly the same rotor – it doesn’t. And there are more than enough differences, including a shorter tunnel (P12) with less rotor clearance from an obstacle, but let’s start the analysis as usual from the top.
The P12 PWM PST fan (hereafter referred to as the P12, but we’re still talking about the PWM PST variant) has a 5-blade axial rotor, which is typical of Arctic’s current “P” series models. Because of the small number of blades and the intention to achieve high static pressure, each blade must be large. If the blades were smaller, a lot of air would escape through them, which would reduce the airflow the more resistance the fan would have to overcome. Thus there is a considerable cross-sectional area covered by the blades, so that the airflow does not decrease excessively even if the fan is operating on restrictive obstacles.
The leading edges of the P12 are significantly curved so that the air streams have a cylindrical trajectory and more effectively avoid contact with the frame. Also at this level (due to lower friction and less turbulence), there is an increase in efficiency compared to traditional fans that do not have such significantly curved blades. But with the P12 it is really extreme and the leading edges of the blades have up to 60 mm. That’s still 5mm more than the BioniX P120 A-RGB.
The thickness of the material goes up to 3.5mm in critical areas (towards the tips), but even with those, they are flexible and prone to higher vibrations when using PBT materials (and even a stronger LCP wouldn’t completely save it). And these, when they hit the resonant frequencies in an exemplary way, the result is that at the same, let’s say, average noise level, the P12 can indeed be a noisy fan both in the low-frequency (up to 200 Hz) range of sound and between 300–450 Hz.
One of the differences from the BioniX P120 A-RGB that is also good to notice when judging the results is the smaller offset of the rotor from the frame. The P12 has a half centimeter narrower tunnel, so the rotor is closer to the obstacle, which changes the airflow velocity in addition to the noise. So there is actually a similar effect that the Noctua NA-IS1 frame is supposed to provide.
For being only a 6-euro fan, the precision of production is extremely high. It’s only at the level of really fine detail that you’ll find that the P12 has slightly looser manufacturing tolerances than Arctic fans with a similar rotor. There will be a tiny unevenness here and there on the P12, but it will have virtually no impact on the performance. And at this price range, it’s also a bit unfair to point it out, as similarly priced fans often fare considerably worse.
The design of the frame of the P12 is very simple and differs from the others only by the shaped protrusions in the corners where you would expect anti-vibration pads. Arctic doesn’t supply these with this fan, although they would be useful. But again, considering the price, this is something we can’t fault this fan for. In short, a necessary compromise.
Also simpler on the P12 is the sticker with the Arctic logo in the middle of the rotor. On the BioniX P120 A-RGB and the BioniX P120 individual characters are protruded and here (on the P12), they’re “2D”. Of course this is a minor thing, but we are talking about visible differences compared to more expensive models…
The cable is “ordinary” but solid – flat, with the wires holding together nicely. There are two connectors at the end. One to connect the fan to the motherboard or hub/controllers, and the other to daisy-chain another fan. The cable is 40–45 cm in length.
The Arctic P12 (PWM PST) is a 120mm format fan with a claimed speed range of 200–1800 rpm. You can choose between very low noise and medium performance. The bearings are the fluid (FDB) bearings that Arctic uses in their fans outside of the CO (ball bearing) variants.
- Arctic P12 PWM PST in detail
- Overview of manufacturer specifications
- Basis of the methodology, the wind tunnel
- Mounting and vibration measurement
- Initial warm-up and speed recording
- Base 6 equal noise levels…
- ... and sound color (frequency characteristic)
- Static pressure measurement…
- … and airflow
- Everything changes with obstacles
- How we measure power draw and motor power
- Measuring the intensity (and power draw) of lighting
- Results: Speed
- Results: Airlow w/o obstacles
- Results: Airflow through a nylon filter
- Results: Airflow through a plastic filter
- Results: Airflow through a hexagonal grille
- Results: Airflow through a thinner radiator
- Results: Airflow through a thicker radiator
- Results: Static pressure w/o obstacles
- Results: Static pressure through a nylon filter
- Results: Static pressure through a plastic filter
- Results: Static pressure through a hexagonal grille
- Results: Static pressure through a thinner radiator
- Results: Static pressure through a thicker radiator
- Results: Static pressure, efficiency by orientation
- Reality vs. specifications
- Results: Frequency response of sound w/o obstacles
- Results: Frequency response of sound with a dust filter
- Results: Frequency response of sound with a hexagonal grill
- Results: Frequency response of sound with a radiator
- Results: Vibration, in total (3D vector length)
- Results: Vibration, X-axis
- Results: Vibration, Y-axis
- Results: Vibration, Z-axis
- Results: Power draw (and motor power)
- Results: Cooling performance per watt, airflow
- Results: Cooling performance per watt, static pressure
- Airflow per euro
- Static pressure per euro
- Results: Lighting – LED luminance and power draw
- Results: LED to motor power draw ratio