Noctua NA-SFMA1 140mm Fan Adapter Review, Featuring the NF-A12x25 PWM Fan

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Noctua NF-A12x25 NA-SFMA1 Combined Feature

A little while ago, Noctua sent us a press release announcing the introduction of the new Noctua NA-SFMA1 140mm to 120mm fan adapter among other items. Now this might not be the most important product from that update, at least for most people, but it really struck a chord with me since my case only accepts 120mm fans yet the Arctic Accelero Hybrid III cooler that’s attached to my 980Ti is 140mm. For the past year or so my only option has been to allow it to sit casually on top of the PSU cover. Yes, there is a fan spot there, so it’s been collecting cool air through the bottom of the case which I had hoped would vent naturally through the fan vents in the roof or be exhausted by the rear fan, but I wasn’t able to attach it at all and was worried that it wasn’t working efficiently.

I needed a new solution so I explained my layout to Noctua and they sent over their new adapter as well as a selection of fans to play with. I was all set to finally mount my GPU’s radiator in a more suitable place and although there were many bumps along the way that have delayed this review, I can finally present you with my experiences and my opinions – starting in usual fashion with the specifications.

Noctua NA-SFMA1 and NF-A12x25 Specifications & Features

First up, the specifications for the Noctua NA-SFMA1 which is also available to view on Noctua’s website

Colour: Black
Fan compatibility:
  • NF-A12x25 PWM
  • NF-A12x25 FLX
  • NF-A12x25 ULN
  • NF-F12 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-2000
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-2000 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-2000 IP67 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-24V-2000 IP67 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-24V-3000 IP67 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-24V-2000 Q100 IP67 PWM
  • NF-F12 industrialPPC-24V-3000 Q100 IP67 PWM
  • NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM
  • NF-P12 redux-1300 PWM
  • NF-P12 redux-1300
  • NF-P12 redux-900
  • NF-S12A PWM
  • NF-S12A FLX
  • NF-S12A ULN
Scope of delivery:
  • 2x NA-FMA1 adaptor
  • 8x NA-AV4 anti-vibration mounts
Warranty: 6 years

 

Since the NA-SFMA1 is designed with the NF-A12x25 120mm PWM fan in mind, and since they sent me some to use for this review, that’s the one I fitted. Here are the specifications for the fan which again you can find on Noctua’s website

FAN Specification
Size:
120x120x25 mm
Mounting hole spacing:
105×105 mm
Connector:
4-pin PWM
Bearing:
Blade Geometry:
Material:
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%):
2000 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%):
1700 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM, +/-20%):
450 RPM
Airflow:
102,1 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A.:
84,5 m³/h
Acoustical Noise:
22,6 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.:
18,8 dB(A)
Static Pressure:
2,34 mm H₂O
Static Pressure with L.N.A.:
1,65 mm H₂O
Max. Input Power:
1,68 W
Max. Input Current:
0,14 A
Voltage:
12 V
Voltage PWM signal:
5 V
MTTF:
> 150.000 h
Scope of delivery:
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-pin y-cable
  • 30cm extension cable
  • NA-AV2 anti-vibration mounts
  • Anti-vibration gasket for water cooling radiators
  • Fan screws
Warranty:
6 years

 

Noctua NA-SFMA1 and NF-A12x25 Closer Look

Noctua NF-A12x25 NA-SFMA1 Box FrontThe contrast between the two packaging styles is quite a surprise. Where the NF-A12x25 PWM fan follows the same design as previous Noctua products with a large visual graphic and plenty of information, the NA-SFMA1 adapter is exceedingly simplistic with a basic box design and barely more than the model number and logo printed on a black background.

Noctua NF-A12x25 Box Open FlapNoctua NF-A12x25 Box Open Flap 2

As with previous fans, the NF-A12x25’s box has a flap on the front and back which allows you to see the fan enclosed and provides a wealth of information explaining all of the features and benefits of the fan. Noctua NF-SFMA1 Contents

So, our first look at the adapter that is going to change my life – well, change my computer – and there’s not really much to discuss…  I was surprised that the box comes with 2 adapters rather than just a single one, and the inclusion of anti-vibration mounts for the fans was considerate of Noctua, but along with the instruction guide that’s all you get in the box. I don’t know what I was expecting, after all, we’re just talking about pieces of moulded plastic here but knowing how generous Noctua usually is with their accessories it just didn’t seem to be on par.

Noctua NF-A12x25 Contents

And speaking of generosity, here’s the NF-A12x25 complete with a bundle of things you may well never use. You get 2 different mounting methods to choose between as well as the extension cable, the resistor cable to lower the fan speed and the Y-cable to run all your fans off a single connector on your motherboard which are all nicely braided in the same fashion as the fan cable itself. A new addition, at least it’s new to me, is the option of removing some of the fitted anti-vibration pads and using a gasket to create a proper seal between the fan and the radiator. This idea of blocking all possible escape points so that air is forced through the fan or heatsink is one I’ve heard before but never tried out so it’s nice to get that opportunity.

Noctua NF-A12x25 NA-SFMA1 Combined 2

Noctua NF-A12x25 NA-SFMA1 Combined 3

Joined together, we see that the NF-A12x25 PWM fan is a perfect fit for the NA-SFMA1 adapter. I wouldn’t exactly say that they’re a matching pair but there’s not much out there that does match Noctua’s classic colour scheme – still, at least it doesn’t look unsightly. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the product code embedded in the border of the adapter reads ‘NA-FMA1’… I have no idea what happened to the missing ‘S’, it might be that we received an early engineering sample or some other randomness has played a part but it’s unusual for such inconsistency from Noctua.

The Noctua NA-SFMA1 and NF-A12x25 Review: The Verdict

When the NF-A12x25 / NA-SFMA1 press release came in there was something else that caught my eye along with how useful it would be to me – Noctua claims that “the NF-A12x25 not only outperforms the renowned NF-F12 on 120mm based water-cooling radiators but combined with the new, optional NA-SFMA1 adaptor frames, it also offers better efficiency than many 140mm fans on 140mm based systems.” That was certainly something that I wanted to test in order to see just how much of a difference it would make, if any, compared to the 140mm fan that Arctic provide with their Accelero Hybrid III cooler.

Test Setup

  • X2 Empire Silver Computer Chassis
  • ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming
  • AMD Ryzen 1700X
  • 16GB Crucial Ballistix Elite 8GB DDR4-3000
  • Creative Sound Blaster Zx
  • MSI GTX 980Ti Gaming 6GB
    • Fitted with Arctic Accelero Hybrid III cooler

Running 3DMark’s Time Spy I was able to get a baseline score for the Arctic setup when plonked on top of a fan spot in the PSU cover… and it really wasn’t pretty!

Time Spy Benchmark - Arctic fan blowing downI knew that the Arctic watercooler and 140mm fan should be doing a whole lot better than that but to keep things fair I swapped over to using the Noctua NF-A12x25 and NA-SFMA1 and placed it back on the PSU cover. It was better, in fact it was 3% better using this smaller 120mm fan, but with the fan and water-cooling system unable to run at their best it still translates into a score that doesn’t pass the benchmark.

Time Spy Benchmark - Noctua fan blowing downSo at first glance, Noctua was justified in their claim, at least as far as a random sample of 1 other 140mm fan is concerned. Not very scientific I grant you, but I don’t have enough 140mm fans to warrant testing them and seeing if they all are beaten. But I didn’t just want to pick at one line from a press release, I wanted to stop my computer from throwing artefacts when gaming, stop the case from getting exceedingly hot from the poor airflow and finally, importantly, fit the Accellero Hybrid radiator into my case in a way that it worked efficiently and didn’t bash the glass panel every time it was moved… Time to stick it in the roof when instinct says it belongs.

Noctua NF-A12x25 NA-SFMA1 Combined 4

It wasn’t until I was going through the photos I’d taken that I realised that I’d set up the adapter incorrectly – I was concerned that having screws or even the rubber anti-vibration connectors touching the radiator itself might cause damage to the fins but looking at it now I see that there would have been plenty of room between the adapter and the fins. With my setup method, I actually had to remove the anti-vibration pins connecting the fan to the adapter so that I could attach the fan from outside the case – always read the instructions peeps.

So is the NA-SFMA1 worth it? Yes, absolutely yes, for me at least! Firstly, the radiator is now permanently attached to the case, and in a place where it gets fresh air from the environment instead of choked air passing through 2 fan spots and fighting the PSU for priority. Secondly, the radiator is able to be mounted above the pump now instead of below it – it only took one pump failure to learn that lesson and I’m happy having to worry about another. Thirdly, I had no idea that fan adapters were a thing until I saw that press release. If I had known that I was able to pick up a pair of these from Overclockers UK for less than £10 I would have done it as soon as I started using the X2 case.

The benchmark with the NF-A12x25 PWM fan and NA-SFMA1 adapter in the roof of the case speaks volumes when you consider that is the only change…

Time Spy Benchmark - Noctua fan blowing up

It’s important to remember that this isn’t all down to the fan and the adapter, but because of the adapter, I now have the rad in a better position in the case letting both the fan and the pump work at their best.

Your mileage will vary – it will depend greatly on where in your case you fit the radiator, what other fans you have fitted, and airflow direction at the very least. Although the NA-SFMA1 is designed for use with the NF-A12x25 it will work with numerous makes and models of 120mm fan so if you want to get your RGB bling on you can skip the partnership and just grab the adapter.

What’s hot:

NA-SFMA1 Fan Adapter

  • Cheap solution if you are stuck with a 140mm rad and 120mm fan spots
  • For a simple piece of plastic, it’s been well engineered and comes backed by a 6-year warranty
  • Comes complete with anti-vibration fittings

NF-A12x25 120mm PWM Fan

  • Exceptional build quality as expected from Noctua with a 6-year warranty
  • Basic comparison test confirmed that the fan + adapter work more efficiently than some 140mm fans
  • An extensive set of quality accessories are included

What’s not:

NA-SFMA1 Fan Adapter

  • Currently only available in black – we can only hope that white will be an option down the line

NF-A12x25 120mm PWM Fan

  • At £29.99 each from Overclockers UK, these are a serious investment
  • For the price, no RGB LED lighting might put some off considering

Conclusion

Premium fans are never cheap, but £30 for a fan that doesn’t have any kind of RGB is a lot. I’m not saying they’re not worth it, but the average user can see what they’re buying when the parts light up and you can only guess at whether or not there will be a performance boost if you’re looking at fans on the store’s shelf.

Both the NA-SFMA1 140mm fan adapter and the NF-A12x25 PWM fan performed as well as I expected, not only boosting the existing capability of my GPU’s watercooler but finally allowing me to fit it in a sensible place so as to get the absolute best out of it. Or did it? I mentioned earlier that there are a lot of factors that can influence how well a fan will perform and in a future article I will examine just how much of a difference that can make. I will also go through the features and benefits of the NF-A12x25 with a fine-toothed comb because with over 4 years of engineering research dedicated to it there is an awful lot to discover and assess.

There are probably not many people out there who are restricted to only using a 120mm fan but already have 140mm water cooling, but for anyone out there who do find themselves in this predicament there is a solution from a name that’s both trusted and respected – and since you get two for the price of one the NA-SFMA1 fan adapter will be walking away with Play3r’s Value Award in addition to our Editor’s Choice Award.

awards-editorschoice.fw

Value Award

Thanks to Noctua for sending a sample of the NA-SFMA1 fan adapter and NF-A12x25 120mm PWM fan in for review, and a special thanks to Arctic for managing to find me one of the few remaining models of a discontinued watercooler after I destroyed our sample.

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