By – John Williamson

Silverstone He

The growth in popularity of Closed Looped CPU Coolers has increased the consumer demand for aftermarket static pressure optimized fans. Water units such as the H100i come bundled with serviceable fans which implement a fairly audible fan curve with very few colour variants. Many hardware enthusiasts have opted to purchase the Corsair SP120 quiet edition fans due to their near silent performance and customizable colour rings. Competition within this field is rife as Noctua, Corsair, Silverstone and many other major manufacturers attempt to optimize cooling performance whilst attaining quiet operation. The Silverstone FQ121 has been touted as a water cooling aficionado’s dream and designed to compliment an PC enthusiast’s setup.

Silverstone have opted to use environmentally friendly packaging which is easily opened by removing two sticky tabs and prying open the plastic front cover. The protective plastic housing is durable and contains a tight seal meaning the fan doesn’t move about during transportation.  Included is the 120mm FQ121 fan, 4 standard threaded screws and a 4 pin to molex converter. I would have preferred to see a Y cable and rubber grommets included but this may have impacted on the extremely aggressive price point. Also, I can imagine most people using these fans on heatsinks/radiators so it makes sense for the rubber fittings to be excluded.

In terms of aesthetics, the Silverstone FQ121 is a glorious myriad of blue and white which compliments the water cooling theme. The fins are finished in a stunning light turquoise blue which is accentuated by the plain white frame.  This combination is a bold, classy look which manages to suit a wide variety of colour schemes. Silverstone could have added blue highlights via LEDs but this may have detracted from clean and professional finish. Perhaps an LED SKU with a higher asking price could be available for users who prefer a more ostentatious build.

FQ121 Fan (2)

The FQ121’s craftsmanship is exceptional and feels like a premium piece of PC Hardware.  Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) is used on both the fins and frame which is highly durable and resilient against excessive temperatures. PBT’s rigidity as a plastic means there is no flex or weak points on the entire fan’s structure. This ensures there won’t be any failures even under heavy load as the fans are over engineered to withstand overclocking and high thermals. Speaking of lifespan, the unit is rated at 150,000 hours MTBF and backed by an excellent 3 year warranty. While this doesn’t match the Noctua 6 year warranty, it is longer than other brands like Corsair and comes in at a more attractive price.

Sleeved cables always provide a premium feel but aren’t too common on PC fans.  Thankfully, the FQ121 bucks the trend and has a sleeved coating on the 4 pin cable.  Under closer inspection, the finish is exemplary containing no gaps and a straight, flush run to the connector.  The sleeving feels remarkably similar to the Swiftech Helix fans which feature the best braided cables I’ve seen to date.  The cable routing is also excellent and allows for tidier cable management.

FQ121 Fan (1)

The unit is powered by a Powder Copper Fluid Bearing (PCF) system which enhances the fan’s performance in a number of key ways.  Axial fans with a bearing mechanism are quieter due to a smoother movement at higher RPM speeds.  This improved efficiency enables the fan to maximize cooling performance at reasonable noise levels.  Other benefits include a longer lifespan, greater resistance to heat and reduced friction. Usually, ball bearing structures are exclusive to expensive fans so it is very impressive to see such a precise mechanism and this affordable price point.

Silverstone have implemented a blade design with 9 individual fins and a sharp angle of attack for maximum airflow. The stated airflow is 67.5CFM (max.) at 1800RPM which outperforms the most popular water cooling fan, Corsair’s SP120 by some margin. The SP120 Performance editions have a limit of 62.74CFM running at 2350RPM.  However, the Corsair units do utilize a higher degree of static pressure. For instance, the SP120 Performance has a static pressure figure of 3.1 mm/H20 whilst the FQ121 is 1.82mm/H20.  It’s not all bad though as the Silverstone model under mid-high load exceeds the SP120 Quiet Editions which employ a 1.29 mm/H20 rating.

FQ121 (3)

The blades also contain air-inlets which are small rivets designed to reduce air resistance and keep the fan moving in a smooth, gradual motion.  This feature works in a similar  vein to Noctua’s Stepped Inlet Design and performs brilliantly.  In real life scenarios, it allows for a smaller audio gap between fan speed revolutions.

As with any PWM controlled fan, the usual testing procedure involves benchmarking tools such as OCCT and analysing how the sample performs at varying fan speeds and the noise levels created. The FQ121 has an operating range of 1000-1800RPM at <5-12 volts.  At the base level, the fans are inaudible at approximately 16.7 dBA and would be suitable for ultra silent build without a hefty overclock.  Increasing the fan speed to 1300 lowers the temperatures on average by 4.5 degrees. Although this performance came at the expense of a louder 19.6 dBA noise level. Ramping the fans up to 1600RPM+ yields another 3 degree reduction but this additional speed makes the fans obnoxiously loud if you have a fairly silent build. This is to be expected though and the noise/performance ratio is fairly impressive.

If we compare the FQ121 to the SP120 again, it appears that Silverstone’s offering can operate at a faster revolution speed of 1700RPM compared to the Corsair’s 1450rpm whilst maintaining a 23.2dBA. The noise figures are within 0.1-0.6 depending on the runs and I would describe that as fairly insignificant to even the most attuned ear.

Silverstone fq121

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Silverstone’s FQ121 120mm fan is stellar choice for quiet water cooling purposes provided you don’t exceed 1450RPM. This appeared like the cut off point before additional cooling impacted too much on the silent operation.  The construction is excellent and performance  exceeds what you would expect given the price point. If you’re looking for a premium aftermarket heatsink/radiator fan, then the Silverstone FQ121 might be a viable alternative to the Noctua NF-F12 and Corsair SP120.

Silverstone FQ121 120mm Fan  Summary:

    • Time Used – 13 days

    • Software Used – Prime95, OCCT, HWMonitor, CPU-Z

    • System Specs – Intel i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 4GB

    • Acquisition Method – Review Unit

    • Warranty – 3 years

    • Availability – Amazon

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  • Gripster

    What is static pressure as applied to the review please? Does it merely mean moves a lot of air

    • John Williamson

      In basic terms, static pressure is the amount of force/pressure the fan can produce to push air in a tight location. So, static pressure fans are good for heatsinks, and other areas where there isn’t a lot of airflow.

      • Gripster

        I understand now. You explained it quite well and it is appreciated. Thanks

        • John Williamson

          Not the easiest thing to explain but I hope that helped you :) If you have any questions, feel free to ask away!