|SilverStone SST-AP181 Air Penetrator Fan|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 08 August 2010|
Page 7 of 7
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 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.
+ Provides excellent airflow with minimal noise
- Unsleeved wiring easy to tangle
Final Score: 9.3 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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