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SilenX Ixtrema 80mm & 120mm LED Case Fan Review - Page 1 of 1

INTRODUCTION

While nV News has primarily performed reviews of NVIDIA's video card offerings, the folks at 3DCOOL.COM have provided us with yet another opportunity to check out some of their quality cooling products. In this case, two of their latest cooling fan offerings - SilenX's Ixtrema 80mm and 120mm LED (light emitting diode) case fans.

When it came to fans, I always bought the best performing units I could get my hands on. When AMD's Thunderbird reached a clock speed of 1GHz, it immediately became the must have CPU for gamers. On certain models, some of us reached clock speeds of 1.6GHz with air cooling provided by the Black Delta Screamer (60mm, 7000+ RPM).

SilenX Ixtrema LED Case Fans

Eventually, heatsinks became large enough to mount 80mm fans, which matched the airflow of the Delta Screamer with fewer RPMs. I soon became acquainted with the Panaflo series of fans, which are manufactured by Panasonic. With their fluid bearings and slightly different blade design, the 80mm U1A model moved air at 47 CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 39 dBA (difference in decibels from a reference level). I began using Panaflo case fans exclusively and the 120mm L1A model became a favorite.

With today's processors running at lower voltages and generating less heat, cooling a system is easier than ever. Fewer and less powerful fans are needed, which provides a quieter running PC. However, while most mainstream systems continue to use multiple fans, adding a high-end graphics card will result in higher system temperatures. High-end systems that are air cooled typically have three or more case fans, which can make fan noise a concern.

SPECIFICATIONS

SilenX fans are popular among enthusiasts and gamers as they are relatively quiet and meet their cooling performance expectations. In the photograph below you see the packaging and a few extras that may not be provided with other case fans such as sleeved wires, a 3-pin to 4-pin Molex in-line adapter, and a choice of four standard plated mounting screws or four silicon composite vibration dampening mounts.

Fans With Accessories!

In this review, I will acquaint you with two of SilenX's offerings by replacing a couple of Panasonic Panaflo fans in my favorite case, the Chenbro Jr. The case is several years old and came equipped with three fans - a 120mm intake fan, a 120mm exhaust fan, and an 80mm hard drive fan. The 120mm Panaflo L1A, which exhausts air from the case, generates an air flow of 68.9 CFM at 1700 RPM. The 80mm Panaflo M1A is a front intake fan that cools the hard drives and is rated at 24 CFM at 2400 RPM. The rear exhaust fan with be replaced with the SilenX 120mm fan and the front intake fan for cooling the hard drives with be replaced with the SilentX 80mm fan.

The SilenX 80mm and 120mm LED case fans have the following features:

  • Swept forward blade design
  • Smoother and thinner blades
  • Efficient hypro bearings
  • Vibration isolation mounts
  • Built-in tachometer for monitoring
  • Built-in LEDs

A snapshot of the SilenX 120mm case fan.

SilenX Ixtrema 120mm LED Case Fan

The following table compares the specifications of the Silenx Ixtrema LED case fans with the Panasonic Panaflo fans that are being replaced.

Fan Specifications

And a snapshot of the SilenX 80mm case fan.

SilenX Ixtrema 80mm LED Case Fan

The SilenX fans certainly keep things cool while being relatively quiet. The Ixtrema 120mm fan has a rating of 58 CFM at 14 dBA, which is a 53% reduction in dBA when compared to the Panaflo L1A, while only giving up 2 CFM!

A decrease of 10 dBA is said to be twice as quiet, which means that the Ixtrema 120mm is more than 3 times quieter than the 120mm Panaflo L1A during normal operation. To put 16 dBA in some type of relative perspective, it would be between the sound of normal breathing and audible whispering at 5 feet (according to the League of the Hard of Hearing).

INSTALLATION

Installation was straightforward with the option of using nickel-plated screws or silicon composite rubber-like mounts to secure the fan to the case.

80mm Fan Installed w/Rubber Mounts

For this installation, I went with the silicon composite mounts.

120mm Fan Installed w/Rubber Mounts

The 3-pin to 4-pin Molex adapter was used to power the 80mm fan.

3 to 4-Pin Molex Adapter

The 3-pin connector on the 120mm fan was plugged into an available fan connector on the motherboard.

3-Pin Motherboard Connector

THE TEST

I tested the old fashioned way by relying on my sense of hearing to determine which fan generated the most noise. My ear was equally helpful in determining which fan generated the most air flow :)

The Test!

In the photo above, both SilenX fans are set up and running side-by-side. This is the method I used to compare the SilenX fans against the Panaflos. The power supply was modded for testing fans.

80MM FAN COMPARISON

While the SilenX generates less noise (about 50%), the Panaflo M1A, as expected, generates slightly more (about 14%) air flow. In this case, I chose the SilenX since it is the quieter of the two and the blue LED is pretty cool. The reduced air flow is not a big issue since hard drives do not require a large volume of air flow to keep them at acceptable operating temperatures. Especially when the cooler outside air is being draw into the case and onto the hard drives.

120MM FAN COMPARISON

The 120mm fan comparison was more difficult in determining a clear cut winner. The Ixtrema 120mm fan is being used as a case exhaust fan in a high-end system and is expected to meet a specific level of performance. Using the Panaflo fans, case temperatures reached 38C at maximum load, which has proven to be acceptable while working through a number of graphics card reviews and intense gaming sessions. With stock cooling, the Intel Pentium 4 3.4E CPU, which is running at 3.66GHz, generates a peak temperature of 55C during continuous running of Folding@Home. These two temperatures serve as the baseline for measuring the effectiveness of the Ixtrema 120mm fan.

First, the side-by-side noise evaluation revealed the SilenX to be the winner as no distinguishable noise was heard from the motor. From a distance of about 5 feet, a light sound of air moving through the fan blades was heard while the fan was tested outside the case. The SilenX was almost totally silent when operating inside the case. The fan blade noise on the Panaflo was about the same as the SilenX, but the fan motor could be heard at a close distance. The Panaflo was the clear winner in generating air flow.

Blazingly Bright LEDs!

The final test involved recording the highest case and CPU temperature with the system running at full load over a 24-hour period. The SilenX 120mm exceeded the 55C target CPU temperature by 1 degree Celsius, at 56C, while the case temperature was equal to the Panaflos at 38C.

I am giving the nod to the SilenX 120mm fan since it runs quieter, requires less power, and has a depth of 25mm compared to the Panaflo's 38mm. Plus the SilenX is outfitted with an LED and is capable of monitoring RPM.

CONCLUSION

For those wanting to reduce fan noise while providing acceptable performance, the SilenX Ixtrema fans should be considered. Proper positioning of the fans within the case produced excellent air flow and I plan to purchase another SilentX 120mm to replace the front intake.

At their current prices, $29.95 for the 120mm SilenX LED and $17.95 80mm LED, it becomes relatively expensive to replace all the fans in your case at once. Especially if you have a full tower case with four or more fans. However, your ears will thank you for replacing those stock case fans with quality products from SilenX.

Thanks go out to 3DCOOL.COM for providing the SilenX Ixtrema LED case fans for this review.

PROS

  • Both units provide good performance for case fans with near silent operation
  • Low power consumption
  • LED equipped in various colors
  • The 120mm fan depth of 25mm takes up less space
  • Sleeved wires with 3-pin connector
  • Comes with 3 to 4-pin Molex adapters to connect to a power supply feed
  • Silicon composite vibration dampening mounts/pins as an included option to screws

CONS

  • Price

Feel free to ask any questions or post any comments about this review in this forum thread.

Return to nV News

Last Updated on January 31, 2005


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