Zalman ZM-SF3 120mm Ultra Quiet Case Fan

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Product(s): Zalman ZM-SF3 120mm Fan
Provided By: Zalman

Price: ~$14.99 USD at time of publishing

 

 

Introduction: 

Anyone who has tried to build a quiet PC has quickly realized that cheap (and usually included with your case) fans just don't cut the mustard when it comes to performance and noise levels. In years past pretty much every fan used a very similar fan design and there really wasn't too much to get excited about when it came to fan design. This all has changed in the past couple years as companies have started to re-design the fins to help increase performance as well as reducing noise and today we are going to take a look at Zalman's newest fan, the ZM-SF3 120mm case fan.

There isn't really much to say about this fan, the pictures in the next section will really show you how this fan is different. We will also compare this fan to some other that we've tested from Thermaltake (full review of the Thermaltake ISGC Fan here) and Noctua (full review of the Noctua NF-S12B FLX here).

 

 

First Impressions:

Here we go, as you can tell really quickly the Zalman ZM-SF3 120mm fan is a bit different thanks to it's "Shark-Fin Blade Design".

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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Packaging
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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Packaging

 

At closer inspection you can see the fan blades are pretty "extreme" looking and if nothing else make the fan look pretty mean-looking. You can also see the black "Anti-Vibration" pads on the four corners of the fan which help reduce vibration noise.

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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Top View
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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Bottom View

 

As you can see in the next picture you get 4 "Anti-Vibration" Silicone Pins to help you get your fan installed and reduce noise. You also get a resistor cable that when attached will reduce the RPM from 1500 (Full Speed) down to 900 RPM. For someone wanting to build a quiet PC you might want to use the resistor cable for the extra noise reduction.

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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Accessories

 

So that's what the ZM-SF3 fan from Zalman is all about. Nothing too out of the ordinary other than the unique fin design. In the next page we'll take a look at some other case fans that use non-traditional fin designs to see how the Zalman ZM-SF3 can compare.

 

Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Specifications:


Features

  • Anti-Vibration Silicone Pads & Pins
  • 150,000 Hours Guaranteed Product Lifespan
  • ELQ (EverLasting Quiet) Bearing Technology
  • Shark’s Fin Blade Design



Detailed Specifications

Dimensions 120(L) x 120(W) x 26.4(H) mm
Weight 118g
Fan Speed 900 ~ 1,500rpm ± 10%
Noise Level 18 ~ 23dBA ± 10%
Bearing Type ELQ (EverLasting Quiet)
Rated Voltage DC 12V
Lifespan 150,000 Hours

 

 


 

Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Installation and Testing:

As I mentioned in the first page of this review, Zalman isn't the first company to try a different fin design and in this section we'll show you with some pictures how it compares to new fans from Noctua and Thermaltake (you can read our full review of these other fans here).

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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Comparison
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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Comparison

 

When comparing fins between the three fans you'll see that Zalman's is perhaps the most "extreme" design of the three. Both Thermaltake and Noctua have notched the end of the fans out while Zalman has added the Sharks fin which are supposed to reduce turbulence and thus reduce noise and vibrations.

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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Comparison
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Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Comparison

 

The Winner?

It's tough to crown a winner as all 3 fans do things a tad bit differently and most of its going to come down do personal preference when deciding between the three. I'll post my quick thoughts on each fan below:

 

Thermaltake ISGC
Manual fan adjustment, you can set the speed anywhere between 800 and 1300 RPM. Only fan of the 3 that allows you to adjust the fan speed without having to install adapters and you can easily adjust speed while the fan is running.

Noctua NF-S12B FLX
Noctua included 2 fan adapters which allows you to set you fan speed at 600, 900 or 1200 RPM. Of the 3 fans the Noctua is able to spin the slowest and when all three are side by side appears to be the most quiet of the 3 (the Zalman goes down to 900 RPM and the Thermaltake goes down to 800 RPM) which makes sense because its spinning the slowest when all fans are set at their minimum speeds.

Zalman ZM-SF3
You can set you fan at either 900 or 1500 RPM. At full speed the Zalman ZM-SF3 feels like its probably pushing the most air (unfortunately Zalman does not include airflow stats on this fan we don't have the equipment to properly test airflow).

Unfortunately we can't really crown a winner, but all 3 have advantages and at the end of the day all 3 are pretty good choices so you can't really go wrong with either.

 


 

Zalman ZM-SF3 Fan - Final Thoughts:

Replacing case fans with a "higher performance" fan might not be the first thing people do when building a computer, but if you want a system that is nice and quiet chances are you'll be eventually looking to replace those cheap fans with something better. The Zalman ZM-SF3 is a great fan and thanks to the new engineering is able to outperform traditional fan designs and is also to help reduce noise which most enthusiasts will appreciate.

There really isn't much to say about case fans, the Zalman SM-SF3 works like advertised and will help make your computer quieter (which is probably why your considering replacing your case fans).

 

As far as drawbacks for the Zalman ZM-SF3, there really isn't anything I can think of. This fan is really quiet, performs well, and looks pretty neat.

At the end of the day its pretty easy to recommend the Zalman ZM-SF3 120mm case fan if your looking to give you computer cooling an upgrade. Not only will you help increase airflow but you'll also reduce fan noise which isn't a bad thing at all. Thanks to some cool engineering the folks at Zalman have made the ZM-SF3 case fan a pretty easy fan to like and if you want something that performs as well as it looks you'll want to give the Zalman ZM-SF3 some serious consideration.

 

Pros:

  • Unique Design
  • Quiet
  • Good Value

 

Cons:

  • Nothing Major

 

BCCRating

Gold 
 

 

I'd like to thank Zalman for sending us the ZM-SF3 Case Fans. If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback, please leave it at the "Comments" link below.