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Written by David Ramsey   
Sunday, 08 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator Fan
Closer Look: SilverStone SST-AP181 Fan
Air Penetrator Detailed Features
Air Penetrator Fan Installation
Fan Testing and Results
Who needs a CPU fan?
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Air Penetrator Final Thoughts

It's clear that in most cases, the SilverStone SST-AP181 "Air Penetrator" fans provide better cooling performance than the FT02 fans; in some scenarios, like the fan-less Super Mega test, the performance difference is dramatic. SilverStone has been showing new case designs (the Raven RV03 and Temjin TJ11) with these fans, so perhaps they'll become standard across SilverStone's "rotated motherboard" case line.

The overclocked and overvolted Intel 980X processor and twin NVIDIA GTX480 video cards represent a worst-case scenario for air cooling, and it's possible that the advantages my tests showed for these fans would not be as dramatic with, say, an Intel 930 and NVIDIA GTX260 video cards. High-end systems like the one I tested with are the best application for these fans.

SilverStone has used the 180mm size of their fan to good advantage. Most of the larger-than-120mm fans I've used, especially 140mm case fans, move rather feeble amounts of air, trading performance for silence. The AP181's are noisier than the stock FT02 fans, especially at the "high" setting, but even at their loudest, they're much quieter than any "high performance" 120mm fan. I just bought a Delta FFB1212EH to keep around for cooler testing, and while its 150CFM output is only a little better than the AP181's 130CFM, the SilverStone fan's noise is a low-pitched hum, whereas the Delta emits a piercing shriek. At its low speed, the AP181 fan makes very little noise, especially in the acoustically-padded FT02 case.

The AP181 fan available for $24.99 at Newegg. This is a very reasonable price given the performance of the fan, and in fact is a few dollars cheaper than the price of the similar FM181 (which does come with the infinitely variable fan speed controller, though). The only problem is that you're probably not in the market for this fan unless you have an existing SilverStone case, and if you do, then you already have some pretty nice 180mm fans anyway, and you need to consider whether the extra few degrees you get in cooling is worth the $75 or so you'd spend to replace all three fans. I'd recommend that you only replace the rearmost two fans, though, as the frontmost fan provides plenty of cooling for even the hottest hard drives

silverstone_sst-ap181_fan_box_fan.jpg

SilverStone SST-AP181 Conclusion

The performance of these fans is exemplary. They provide a significant increase in cooling performance over the already excellent FT02 standard fans. Their focused column of air puts a lot of airflow wherever you aim them, all at a very low "cost" in noise.

There's not much I can say about the appearance of the fans; they're plain black case fans. The integrated grille is interesting, but its design was dictated by performance considerations (since the fan rotor and blades seem to be identical to those in the standard FT02 case fans, the grille must be the part that directs the airflow so well).

The fans are solid and well constructed. The hub motors use sleeve bearings, and there are some who will insist on ball bearings or fluid dynamic bearings. However, I don't see how these would make this fan any better, although they would certainly increase its cost. I'd like to have seen sleeving on the power and speed selector wires; both sets of wires are unsecured and quite long, leading to merry colorful tangles when you install the fan and try to route the wiring neatly.

Functionally, the fan exceeds SilverStone's claim of providing the high speed performance of the FT02 fans while running at low speed. In all but one of my tests, the AP181 Air Penetrator fans provided better performance at low speeds than the stock FT02 fans on high.

Priced for $24.99 at Newegg, these fans represent an excellent value given their almost unbeatable noise/performance combination...but remember that you'll most likely be using them to replace what are already a pretty good set of fans to begin with. But if you're reaching for the best air cooling performance possible, or trying to build a silent, high performance workstation, they're fans you should consider.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Provides excellent airflow with minimal noise
+ Integrated two-speed controller
+ Integrated fan grille shaves a few millimeters off the size of the FT02 fans
+ Easy replacement of stock fans in SilverStone cases

Cons:

- Unsleeved wiring easy to tangle
- Replacing all the fans in your SilverStone case costs $75.00
- Limited real-world applicability due to unusual 180mm size

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.75
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 8.50
  • Functionality: 9.75
  • Value: 9.50

Final Score: 9.3 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

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Comments 

 
# Quiet FT02Peter Hopewell 2010-08-10 12:24
I'm interested in running a quiet FT02 system and wondering if these fans offer any advantages. I want to run the 980X at stock with a Magahalem and quiet PWM fan and use a passive 5750 (e.g. Powercolor Go Green). Could these fans be run at lower RPM via a fan controller? Any thoughts on how stable a system at lower RPM might be?
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# RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanDavid Ramsey 2010-08-16 17:03
That's a good question, Peter. The fans are virtually silent at "low" RPM, so I don't see any real advantage to running them any more slowly (I wasn't clear in the article when I said that they were noisier than the stock fans, which I only noticed at the "high" speed setting).

You might be able to run the fans with a separate fan controller, leaving the attached switches set to "high", but not knowing how the attached switches are wired up, it's just a guess.

Since you'll be running the system at its stock clocks, why bother with a fan on the Megahalems at all? As my tests showed, a Megahalems will keep a 980X nice and cool with no attached fan, just using the airflow from the AP181s.
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# FT02 with Super Mega side panel closure?Harry 2010-09-11 16:15
Hi,

I would like to know when you install the Prolimtech SM Cooler in FT02 your review, could the FT02 case side panel be closed? Isn't the spec for this cooler very tall and could touch the side panel case?

#benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=553&Itemid=62&limit=1&limitstart=

I am thinking of getting similar sized cooler for my RV02 like CM Hyper 212+ GP which is cheaper.

Your assistance is very much appreciated.

Thank you.

Cheers,

Harry
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# RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanDavid Ramsey 2010-09-11 17:13
Yes, the side panel fits on with no clearance problems. There's maybe 1/2" of clearance between the top of the Super Mega cooler and the side panel window.
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# RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanJiri 2010-11-25 03:10
Hi,

thank you for the review. I was wondering, is it possible to thest the Thermalright HR-02 in the passive setup with the FT-02 case (AP-181 fan)?

That would be lovely :)

Take care
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# RE: RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanDavid Ramsey 2010-11-25 07:50
Sadly, I don't have a Thermoright HR-02 available, but I imagine it would work fine passively as long as you weren't over clocking too much.
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# RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanMike Cannon 2011-05-19 18:32
David, I have a Thermaltake 360 rad with standard fans.
They were noisy so I put a drop of sowing machine oil in the bearings.
I was going to ditch them for new fans and was considering the air penetrator. It is expensive in Aussie. Would this type of fan be a good radiator fan?
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# RE: RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanDavid Ramsey 2011-05-19 18:41
Mike, I don't know. Normally for a radiator fan you want a high static pressure to move air through the fins. You can see the official static pressure rating in the chart on the first page of this review, but I don't know how that compares to the fans you're using now.
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# RE: RE: RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanMike Cannon 2011-05-22 22:49
The fans on the rad are Thermaltake. TT-1225. A1225L 12S. I don't know what these model numbers mean. You might have a better idea. In the meantime I might try a search. Regards and thanks.
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# RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanAthlonite 2011-11-22 08:56
just a note if you buy FM181 fans to replace the fans in an RV02 or FT02 they don't come with the inbuilt speed controller they only run at 700rpm 100cfm
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# RE: RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanDavid Ramsey 2011-11-22 21:04
That's why you'd want to buy the AP181 fans, like the ones in this review, since they _do_ come with the speed control switches...
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# RE: RE: RE: SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator FanAthlonite 2011-11-23 06:50
Ufortunatley for me SilverStone hadn't yet started making the AP181 so I had to buy 3 FM181LED fans instead and assumed because it was stated that they ran 700~1000rpm they included the speed controller well was I ever wrong (grrrr)
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