AIO vs NH-U12A on 5800x

evhvis

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I did set up my secondary system with a 5800x and used an AIO while making sure everything is working before setting up my loop. I decided to do some thermal testing to see what all the comments about AIOs loosing out to air coolers are about. I have a Noctua NH-U12A around that is for a future nearly silent build which I tested against the Corsair h150i Pro XT. I also did the measurements on my loop once it was finished. For a lot of people this will most likely be TL;DR, but I do hope some find it interesting.

Mounting:
Case used was the Fractal Design Meshify 2 with stock fans. It has 2x140mm in the front and 1x140mm at the rear. Fans are OK and are quite quiet but do not move as much air at the same RPM as Noctua NF-A14 or other high quality fans.

The AIO was top mounted and the NH-U12A was mounted normally with stock case fans. For my loop I did a front mount so the front case fans were removed. The results from the loop aren't directly comparable for the given noise level as there are no front case fans, but it gives an indication. Drawbacks to having no case fans is that it has to pull air through the mesh compared to having case fans creating positive pressure, but it can also run the fans higher for a given noise level.

I applied a thin spread of NT-H2 paste and tried to get the mounting as optimal as possible. For the Pro XT I pulled the cooler as far to the bottom as possible before tightening the screws. There is some wiggle room and the fin stack doesn't cover the entire heat spreader so getting the mount as offset as possible should give better temps. The NH-U12A only mounts one way so just tightened all screws in a crisscross pattern with aprox 2 revolutions on each screw until they stopped. The mounts where checked upon removal and showed a very thin spread of paste across the entire IHS.

Noise and fan setup:
To avoid brute force i decided to limit it to a certain noise level to 38dbA (quite loud) using a db-meter to measure as phone apps are very inaccurate. The Pro XT will surpass 50dbA if the fans are allowed to run at full speed. I placed the computer under the desk and the db meter on top of the desk and adjusted fan speed until the target was hit. This is approximately equivalent to measuring 1m from the front of the case. The loop had slightly higher fan speeds due to having 2 case fans less. I also ran the PRO XT on auto to see a more realistic use case, but didn't measure noise as it is variable and. I also ran a 32dbA result for my loop.

Testing: I ran Cinebench r23 on a loop and made sure the cooler had hit stable state before taking a 2+ min measurement and reading the average temp and also checking that the average watt had low variance. A 1 watt difference is about 0.3-0.4 degrees Celsius and the measured package power was within .8 watts difference over a 2 minute period and the average run to run variance with the same watt is less then 0.2 degrees given the same ambient. Ambient was at 22.1-22.4. Overall I would estimate the margin of error to be around +/- 1 degree. The exception is the PRO XT that would have to be mounted the same way every time due to large tolerances in how it can be mounted. The effective boost is just an indication on how the PB behaves with different temps, it can vary slightly based on different parameters under the same load and die-average temps.

Results

Pro XT (38dbA):

Radiator fans: 1520RPM
Pump speed: extreme (2700rpm)
Die average temp: 73.1
Effective boost clock: 4600mhz

NH-U12A (38dbA):
Cooler fans: 2110rpm
Die average temp: 78.4
Effective boost clock: 4576mhz

Pro XT Auto:
Radiator fans: extreme profile (approx 1300rpm average and most likely around 35-36dbA)
Pump speed: extreme (2700rpm)
Die average temp: 77.2
Effective boost clock: 4580mhz

Custom loop (38dbA front mounted):
Radiator fans: 1780rpm
Pump speed: 4800rpm
Die average temp: 68.6
Effective boost clock: 4615mhz

Custom loop (32dbA front mounted):
Radiator fans: 1190rpm
Pump speed: 3000rpm
Die average temp: 73.7
Effective boost clock: 4596

Conclusion
First off i would say that 38db(A) is quite loud. Unless you use a DB meter you will not get accurate measurements. I do try to limit my systems to 35dbA or less under load and around 30dbA or less on idle.

The difference in absolute cooling capacity, at a fixed noise level, between the AIO and the air cooler is quite significant. It does however shrink to insignificant once you start using corsairs auto fan curves. With the type of fan curves I would be running then the NH-U12A and PRO XT are almost within margin of error in cooling and fairly close when it comes to noise as I would be running 100% fan speed on the air cooler once temps go above 75 degrees and fans on AIO at extreme. There is a good chance that I would set the AIO pump speed to quiet (2000rpm) for low noise idle, as I find the pump to be slightly annoying at extreme and balanced so they would be approx. equal in cooling capacity in a real world scenario. I didn't test balanced, but it should be 3-4 degrees worse than extreme in this scenario so it would then lose out to the air cooler.

The larger Noctua NH-D15 should be somewhere between 1-3 degrees better than the NH-U12A, and would beat the Pro XT on extreme profiles, but I haven't owned one or noise normalized it so it is guesswork from my side.

The Corsair h150i PRO XT manages fan speed based on water temp and it lets water temp rise. When you set it to extreme mode it will wait until the water temp is quite high before it spins up the fans. This leads to higher temps than the unit is capable of so making it step up the fans slightly faster would give it an a small advantage.

Custom loop is there for reference as that is what I am using on the system, but it is set up slightly different. The main advantage comes when trying to keep the system quiet as the custom loop achieves almost the same cooling performance as the AIO at 1/4 of the sound intensity, but it is also a bit better when running higher noise levels..
 
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Nasgul

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Results

Pro XT (38dbA):

Radiator fans: 1520RPM
Pump speed: extreme (2700rpm)
Die average temp: 73.1
Effective boost clock: 4600mhz

NH-U12A (38dbA):
Cooler fans: 2110rpm
Die average temp: 78.4
Effective boost clock: 4576mhz

Pro XT Auto:
Radiator fans: extreme profile (approx 1300rpm average and most likely around 35-36dbA)
Pump speed: extreme (2700rpm)
Die average temp: 77.2
Effective boost clock: 4580mhz

Custom loop (38dbA front mounted):
Radiator fans: 1780rpm
Pump speed: 4800rpm
Die average temp: 68.6
Effective boost clock: 4615mhz
I'm way less than impressed, I thought these CPUs were supposed to run "cool". But 100MHz less than the MAX boost clock and 70+ temp? 360 AIO RAD probably the best bet, economically speaking considering the results, then again I don't trust AIO anymore.
Custom Loop vs AIO, yeah the Loop is better, but at what cost? 3x right?

And not much love in this forum for what I believe is the best cooler, considering the price, cooling performance, and aesthetics, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, which achieves only 24.3dB at maximum fan speed. I recently moved my primary to be the 2nd system, a 9900KF, did the full MAX boost clock on all 8 cores using ASUS AI Suite software and got 77c highest, with the DRP4.
So, between the AIO 360 and DRP4? I'd go DRP4 and not a Noctura either, based on my own results.
 

evhvis

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I'm way less than impressed, I thought these CPUs were supposed to run "cool". But 100MHz less than the MAX boost clock and 70+ temp? 360 AIO RAD probably the best bet, economically speaking considering the results, then again I don't trust AIO anymore.
Custom Loop vs AIO, yeah the Loop is better, but at what cost? 3x right?

And not much love in this forum for what I believe is the best cooler, considering the price, cooling performance, and aesthetics, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, which achieves only 24.3dB at maximum fan speed. I recently moved my primary to be the 2nd system, a 9900KF, did the full MAX boost clock on all 8 cores using ASUS AI Suite software and got 77c highest, with the DRP4.
So, between the AIO 360 and DRP4? I'd go DRP4 and not a Noctura either, based on my own results.
Based on reviews I have seen of the dark rock pro there is no way it will be at 24.3 dbA, maybe with a phone app that is 10db or more off on the measurements, but not in an airflow case with a proper db meter that has a margin of error of +/- 1.5 db. E.g. techpowerup has it at 40db vs 45 for the NH-U12A in close range measurements so realisticly 35-36db in a case at distance. The memory clearance is also abysmal on the dark rock pro, doubt any of my modules would fit. Personally I would never consider having an air cooler that size on my motherboard.

The 5800x is the anomaly in the 5000 series range as it runs by far the hottest. The 5900x would run at around 58-59 degrees all day long if it was slotted into the same system and running the same tests.

Mhz is what Intel has to go for nowdays, while those of us who care about performance are fine with higher IPC and higher performance with less Mhz.

I build my custom loops because I want to and because I get great thermals with very low noise. Not like I build my computers to be economical, they do cost money.
 

Nasgul

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I highly doubt that be quiet! would release incorrect information about their product, and if they describe 24.3dB, likely it is, I don't have any complaints about my own cooler, unlike what I had with the AIO.

The 5900X is a cherry-picked CPU, that's probably why they're always out of stock, the wafers don't yield enough high-quality chips, so they put the crappy ones in the tier below.

If MHzis what Intel has to go? They certainly make a better performance when they can easily do 5.0GHz+ and to think that it's "fine" just to trust on IPC alone and lower clock speeds, that's why overclocking is the way to to to get the extra performance, otherwise, IPC alone would be enough and nobody would overclock.
I have a Loop, so that I can get my CPU to 5.2GHz on all 8 cores, noisy but if I wanted to run it 100MHz less than what it could do and on just ONE core? I wouldn't waste $500, not even half that on below grade. Higher ICP with less MHz? MHz boost the performance, hence "MAX boost clock speed". Keyword: "boost".
Like taking a twin-turbo BMW to the shop and say: Yo! Remove the Turbos, I want a ride from A to B while I save gas. Why not just buy a Kia?
 

Mizzer

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Imma ‘bout to drop an Arctic Liquid Freezer 420 on a 5900x using MX-5 thermal paste. I’m guessing I’ll like the results. :)
 

MaZa

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There is also the matter of fans. As far as I know, Corsair fans are actually quite poor radiator fans and when you turn them down they have trouble pushing air through the radiator fins effectively.
 

evhvis

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There is also the matter of fans. As far as I know, Corsair fans are actually quite poor radiator fans and when you turn them down they have trouble pushing air through the radiator fins effectively.
Most corsair fans are poor radiator fans, but these are the ML 120 Pro which are actually quite good radiator fans. Mounting Noctua NF-A12x25 pwm would make a small positive impact when noise normalized, as their noise to performance ratio on a radiator is outstanding, but the ML 120 pro are quite good.
 

doyll

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To be fair testing of NH-12A running hotter than CLC and custom loop is probably because of poor stock case airflow because stock case fans really don't move much air (like you said). Their pressure rating is too low to be able to overcome grill and filter resistance. End result is low case air and higher temp air entering cooler .. and every degree hotter air is entering cooler becomes same degrees hotter component is.

Not saying CLC might not be able to remove more heat, and custom loop are almost always better than air cooler and CLCs. Just saying if Fractal stock case fans can't do their intended job properly, so obviously air coolers can't perform as they should.
 

evhvis

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To be fair testing of NH-12A running hotter than CLC and custom loop is probably because of poor stock case airflow because stock case fans really don't move much air (like you said). Their pressure rating is too low to be able to overcome grill and filter resistance. End result is low case air and higher temp air entering cooler .. and every degree hotter air is entering cooler becomes same degrees hotter component is.

Not saying CLC might not be able to remove more heat, and custom loop are almost always better than air cooler and CLCs. Just saying if Fractal stock case fans can't do their intended job properly, so obviously air coolers can't perform as they should.
It is one of the better air flow cases and the stock fans are OK and low noise. The CLC had to pull from the same air and GPU was idle so very little heat produced outside of the CPU. Putting 3 nocuta NF-A14 in there wouldn't have made that much of a difference due to it being noise normalized, not brute force. Having 3 NF-A14 at full speed would have made setup go well above the normalization target with the CPU cooler not even spinning. If I had Nocutas in there I would put them at 850 or so RPM, as they are quite a bit noisier than the stock fans at the same RPM, to leave room for the cooler fans to run and difference in total airflow would be minor.

I could of course brute force both, but most likely it would just favor the CLC even more (it will hit 50+ dbA with ease).
 
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doyll

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Sorry mate but you don't seem to have a clue about how fan specifications (static pressure rating) translate into how much airflow they will produce against resistance in typical case, or idea of how airflow works.

CLC / custom loop fans have much higher pressure ratings, yet radiator resistance to airflow is similar to case grill and filter. I'm sure you are bit monitoring air temp entering CPU cooler vs room ambient, so you are saying things based of what you think, which in this case is definitely not accurate. Even with GPU idling air entering cooler is likely several degrees warmer than room. GPU when gaming will increase air temp into CPU cooler up to 15-20c, maybe even more.

While case has good airflow design it's Dynamic X2 GP12 makes only 0.88mmH2O at 1200rpm (full speed) and Dynamic X2 GP14 makes only 0.71mmH2) at 1000rpm. NF-A14 have 1.51mmH2O rating at 1200rpm. Case grill and filter need fans with a pressure rating of about 1.3mm|H20 at that speed. This means they make about 0.88mmH2O at about 7-800rpm meaning they create a good flow air through a case. To give you a comparison, if you are standing at sea level with toes touching sea and your chin is 5 feet above our toes, your toes have 1.836mmH2O more pressure on them then your chin. That pressure differential is basically same at higher elevations as well.

So we have more than twice as much difference in pressure between surface of ocean and 5 feet above surface is 1.836mm H2O and what your Fractal Design Dynamic X2 GP12 fans make at full speed.

Another example is a person can blow about 1-2psi. 1psi is 703.08893732448-1406.177874649mmH2o .. which is about 780 times what your GP12 makes and 990 times more than your GP14.

NF-A14s' at much lower speeds can overcome resistance of grill & filter (and other obstructions) moving many times as much air than Dynamic X2 fans .. doing it at much lower speeds .. so much less noise.

Below link is basic guide to how airflow works and how to optimize case airflow:
https://hardforum.com/threads/basic-guide-to-improving-case-airflow.1987938/

 

evhvis

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Sorry mate but you don't seem to have a clue about how fan specifications (static pressure rating) translate into how much airflow they will produce against resistance in typical case, or idea of how airflow works.

CLC / custom loop fans have much higher pressure ratings, yet radiator resistance to airflow is similar to case grill and filter. I'm sure you are bit monitoring air temp entering CPU cooler vs room ambient, so you are saying things based of what you think, which in this case is definitely not accurate. Even with GPU idling air entering cooler is likely several degrees warmer than room. GPU when gaming will increase air temp into CPU cooler up to 15-20c, maybe even more.

While case has good airflow design it's Dynamic X2 GP12 makes only 0.88mmH2O at 1200rpm (full speed) and Dynamic X2 GP14 makes only 0.71mmH2) at 1000rpm. NF-A14 have 1.51mmH2O rating at 1200rpm. Case grill and filter need fans with a pressure rating of about 1.3mm|H20 at that speed. This means they make about 0.88mmH2O at about 7-800rpm meaning they create a good flow air through a case. To give you a comparison, if you are standing at sea level with toes touching sea and your chin is 5 feet above our toes, your toes have 1.836mmH2O more pressure on them then your chin. That pressure differential is basically same at higher elevations as well.

So we have more than twice as much difference in pressure between surface of ocean and 5 feet above surface is 1.836mm H2O and what your Fractal Design Dynamic X2 GP12 fans make at full speed.

Another example is a person can blow about 1-2psi. 1psi is 703.08893732448-1406.177874649mmH2o .. which is about 780 times what your GP12 makes and 990 times more than your GP14.

NF-A14s' at much lower speeds can overcome resistance of grill & filter (and other obstructions) moving many times as much air than Dynamic X2 fans .. doing it at much lower speeds .. so much less noise.

Below link is basic guide to how airflow works and how to optimize case airflow:
https://hardforum.com/threads/basic-guide-to-improving-case-airflow.1987938/

I know very well how airflow works and how to set it up. I never denied that the noctuas would be better, however they would not have a major impact on results when noise normalized with only the CPU pulling a lot of power. If the GPU was running as well and you let the noctuas spin at 1200 rpm, then you would have a major impact but at the same time struggle with the noise target. You are trying to create a theoretical major difference out of something that would have a minor impact on the results. The point was to make a realistic comparison between an AIO and a good tower cooler to see why so many were complaining about their AIO performance. The results are pretty much in line with what a lot of sites have done when noise normalizing so complain all you want, but I will still stand by my results.

The exhaust is much less restrictive than the intake and has positive pressure before the fan due to the push-pull configuration of the air cooler blowing directly at it. This is the most important part for getting the warm air out of the case. Two 140mm fans will feed quite a bit of air to the tower cooler and push enough air through the case for a CPU only test to work fine.

The GPU warming up the air is pretty much irrelevant when comparing the AIO vs the air cooler as both were drawing air from the case so they are both impacted. The GPU at idle would heat up the air around 1 degrees, most likely a lot less due to only having 1 monitor connected at 60hz. My main system only heats up the air between inside the front of the case and exhaust by aprox 1 degrees on idle with a GPU connected to multiple high hz monitors and additional stuff heating up the air (well beyond 2 times the watts of the GPU in my secondary system). My GPU running at close to 350 watts, in my main system heats up the air by about 13 degrees in a 35dbA noise profile where 2xNF-A14 fans on outtake are creating the bulk of the noise at just below 900 rpm (not an airflow case). The NF-A14 are noisy and the rest of the fans run much quieter. If your GPU heats up the air by 20 degrees then you either have fans spinning at 500rpm, 2x3090 or a very bad case setup.

Edit: Forgot to mention that if I limit my GPU in my main system to 200w then the airtemp increase from front inside of the case to exhaust is only aprox. 5 degrees and the system is built for low noise, not highest possible airflow.
 
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doyll

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My considerable experience as well as many others who have tried stock Fractal case fans have all found them to be inadequate. They need to run at full speed to be able to overcome grill and filter resistance to flow similar airflow that better fans with higher static pressure ratings can flow at 400-600rpm.

If your system is very powerful and air cooled Fractal stock case fans will not do the job, even at full speed.

Stock Fractal case fans are garbage!

You need keep in mind this "positive pressure" you talk about is infinitesimal. Less than a bug's wings produce.

Radiators are not effect at the 1:1 rate air cooling is. CPU / GPU on air react 1c:1c air temp to component temp at same load and fan speed. Radiator are 3-10c:1c .. bigger the rad to higher the ratio.

Air temp increase from intake side to exhaust side of case is not what's important. Air temp entering component being within a few degrees of ambient is key to cool and quiet systems. How much GPU raises air temp is greatly dependent on how well case is flowing air. I build several system a month and have been for so many years I lost count. Air temp inside of my builds is never more than 5c .. unless filters are plugged with lint and dust because owner hasn't cleaned them in months. :)

If you really want to monitor important air temps I suggest a cheat indoor/outdoor thermometer with wired remote sensor, cheap aquarium/terrarium remote sensor thermometers work well too. Usually available on ebay. I've found them in auto-parts stores. Indoor/outdoor monitors unit and probe so can see room ambient where it's setting as well as temp at probe location (centered 1" in front of cooler fan/s). Cost about $6.00.

Indeed, NF-A14 are not quiet. I know lots of peeps think Noctua is king, but they really are not. Best customer support, but not best products most of the time.

35dbA is as loud as I ever want my systems to run. That is only at 100% load CPU / GPU of both in hot weather with filters not plugged but needing cleaned.

Sorry came back so hard in other post.
 

AVATARAT

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Water cooled Ryzen 5000 will benefit from those few degree lower, and will boost the single thread and sometimes multi threaded performance.
Especially if CPU power limits are removed.
Yes the difference is not much but there is.

In my case this was 1.5-2%.
Is it worth the price - no.
Did I enjoy it - yes :)
So everything is about the fun that we are able to receive.

And of course the end result will vary a lot from the computer case, and how good it will managed air inside.
 

evhvis

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My considerable experience as well as many others who have tried stock Fractal case fans have all found them to be inadequate. They need to run at full speed to be able to overcome grill and filter resistance to flow similar airflow that better fans with higher static pressure ratings can flow at 400-600rpm.

If your system is very powerful and air cooled Fractal stock case fans will not do the job, even at full speed.

Stock Fractal case fans are garbage!

You need keep in mind this "positive pressure" you talk about is infinitesimal. Less than a bug's wings produce.

Radiators are not effect at the 1:1 rate air cooling is. CPU / GPU on air react 1c:1c air temp to component temp at same load and fan speed. Radiator are 3-10c:1c .. bigger the rad to higher the ratio.

Air temp increase from intake side to exhaust side of case is not what's important. Air temp entering component being within a few degrees of ambient is key to cool and quiet systems. How much GPU raises air temp is greatly dependent on how well case is flowing air. I build several system a month and have been for so many years I lost count. Air temp inside of my builds is never more than 5c .. unless filters are plugged with lint and dust because owner hasn't cleaned them in months. :)

If you really want to monitor important air temps I suggest a cheat indoor/outdoor thermometer with wired remote sensor, cheap aquarium/terrarium remote sensor thermometers work well too. Usually available on ebay. I've found them in auto-parts stores. Indoor/outdoor monitors unit and probe so can see room ambient where it's setting as well as temp at probe location (centered 1" in front of cooler fan/s). Cost about $6.00.

Indeed, NF-A14 are not quiet. I know lots of peeps think Noctua is king, but they really are not. Best customer support, but not best products most of the time.

35dbA is as loud as I ever want my systems to run. That is only at 100% load CPU / GPU of both in hot weather with filters not plugged but needing cleaned.

Sorry came back so hard in other post.
My main system has intake (pre-rad), front of case (right after rad towards the bottom) and exhaust air sensors along with water temp sensor. I did check my air temp sensors vs my indoor/outdoor that I also use for monitoring temps, specifically ambient, and they were about the same on the different locations (small decimal differences).

My 5900x CPU temp goes 1:1 with water temp which in turn goes 1:1 with ambient/intake on my custom loop. Should be similar for the 5800x as the radiator is the only major difference. Running cinebench very long periods of time the difference in temp is 31 over water with 50% pump speed and 30 with 100% at 142 watts with water temp is 3.5 to 6 degrees over ambient on my main system, and the difference from ambient depends on fan speed. Typically 4-4.5 on the settings I usually use when gaming. That is stable state which takes about 20 minutes to achieve. All my measurements are done at stable state so the CLC soaked for around 12 minutes and the custom loop soaked for 20+ minutes. Doing the measurements at "initial" state would give results that are way off.

The 35dbA at around 1m is for long gaming sessions as the GPU produces a ridiculous amount of heat and it is my "noisy" profile. Mostly my systems run around 30-32dbA measured 15cm from the front of the case (meter has lower limit of 30dbA so need nearfield measurements for low noise profiles). That is realistically somewhere between 26 and 28dbA at 1 meter away due to reflections. A 200w GPU is easy to handle (5 degrees or so), 350w not so much (around 13 degrees) at the same fan speed. Removing my front and top panel on my main case would turn it into an airflow case and even with 4 noctuas spinning at 1350 rpm you would still have 8-9 degrees increase at 350 watts with no rad at the front. Yes I have tried doing it shortly after I setup my main system. I can get similar or higher levels of airflow if I turn my system up max, but that would hit almost 50dbA but the difference between my 35dbA is only around 3 degrees or so on the exhaust. VRMs stay in the high 40s to low 50s according to ASUS (read +10 for real temp) after 3-4 hours of almost 350w from the gpu and 110w from the CPU being dumped in the case so cooling is not an issue with the 35dbA profile. Running a 30dbA profile is OKish, but vrms might hit the mid to high 50s (+10 for real temps) after 3-4 hours. Other temps are fine as well.

We do agree that the fractal fans aren't great, but for a lot of people they are serviceable and you would be surprised how many people never change their stock fans. I usually swap the fans right away, but only had regular 3 NF-A14s leftover and they looked like dogshit in a white case with clear tint window. It is a low watt system (5800x with 1070) so stuck with stock fans until I mounted the custom loop. The thermal testing was done when swapping the AIO to custom loop as I did not want to mount the custom loop and find out that something wasn't working after building inside the case.

The NF-A14 are great until around 850-900 RPM, after that their sound level increases massively for every 50 rpm and cooling doesn't increase as much as the noise. I do like the sound profile of the NF-A14 at moderate speeds though.
 

GeneO

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While It is true that Fractal stock fans aren't that great (they aren't garbage though, that is just exaggeration- mine are sitting in a boxthough). I have had Noctua case fans in my Fractal Design Meshify 2 case with an nh-d15 and also with a EK-AIO 360 AIO that easily beats the Noctua and is quieter - this is with an Intel processor. So your results are relevant.
 
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