Arctic P12 Max Fan Review: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
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Arctic builds all sorts of cooling solutions ranging from tiny server fans to large RGB-equipped, closed-loop liquid coolers. The 120mm P12 Max is not part of the manufacturer’s premium lineup. It looks like your average case fan and comes with a similarly modest price tag. But looks can be deceiving, as we’ve learned after taking the P12 Max for a few thousand spins.
Unboxing the Arctic P12 Max is a straightforward experience that will net you a fan and four screws for case mounting. You can also get this one in packs of five.
A quick look at the back of the box, however, hints at the P12 being something other than a standard case fan. Speeds of up to 3,300 rpm (revolutions per minute), 81 cfm (cubic feet/minute), and a static pressure rating of 4.35 mmH2O should mean it’s suitable as a radiator fan, or for pulling air through a mesh.
Other than these interesting specs, there are no special features like a physical switch for different PWM settings. Also, the fan cable looks and feels a bit flimsy compared to more expensive fans from Noctua or Be Quiet. Considering that not even a 5-pack of these fans will burn a major hole in your pocket, this is perfectly reasonable of course.
On the plus side, the Arctic P12 Max does have vibration-dampening rubber pads on the housing, which seems like a good idea for a 3,000-rpm fan.
Our current setup for testing 120 mm radiator fans is mounting it (single fan) on a Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2. A Voltcraft SL-451 is used for measuring noise levels, and a Uni-T UT363S anemometer measures air velocity directly behind the radiator as a proxy for airflow. PWM levels are fixed at different intervals directly in the BIOS of an MSI Z790 Carbon motherboard.
Note that this setup is not the most accurate and comes with rather large error bars compared to volumetric wind tunnel testing in a lab. Also note that we do not do thermal testing, as temps are hugely influenced by the AIO and CPU characteristics. How much air a fan moves and at what cost in the form of noise levels are key qualities of a PC fan, and our focus here.
Performance at 1000 RPM
Before moving on to the charts, it should be pointed out that the Arctic P12 Max has a very wide speed range. Its lowest setting (as set via PWM) is 200 rpm, and at that level as well as a fair bit higher, the fan is effectively silent. We are starting at 1000 rpm as this is where most fans produce comparable noise levels over ambient (pump noise etc.).
At 1000 RPM, none of our tested fans are significantly above background noise but the differences start to become measurable. Relative to its noise level, the Phanteks T30 pushes a lot of air through the radiator, as does the Noctua NF-F12. The Arctic P12 Max nevertheless compares well to the rest of the lineup including the silence-focused low RPM fans.
Performance at 1400 RPM
All fans are clearly audible at 1400 RPM. Interestingly, the Arctic P12 Max is the least noisy fan here but is also slightly below average in terms of the air it moves. Then again, it also has the widest RPM range of all of these fans.
Performance at 1800 RPM
Low-RPM fans that focus on silence are often capped at 1800 rpm but any fan will be relatively noisy at this speed. The overall profile is however unchanged, with the P12 Max still being limited in terms of airflow but also the least noisy.
Performance at Max. RPM
When leaving the low-RPM fans behind and maxing out the high-speed models, the premium fans from Noctua and Phanteks can clearly push more air through the radiator. But the Arctic P12 Max can offer an air/noise profile that’s on par (within the margin of error) with the Silent Wings Pro 4.
Conclusion: Formidable Value and Surprisingly Low Noise
Arctic’s target audience for the P12 Max is mainly PC builders looking for an effective and affordable fan for their radiators or mesh-style PC cases. The Arctic P12 Max will work well in either of those use cases, but what makes it great is the price. For about half the cost of premium fans, you get comparable and in some cases better performance.
Affordable fan capable of moving lots of air at surprisingly low noise levels
- Very wide speed range
- Subjectively silent at low speeds
- High static pressure: great for radiators and mesh cases
- No extras included, but it's hard to complain at this price level