But, without a case fan (or a few), your over-the-top PC build will go up in smoke in a hurry. So, what’s the best case fan for your computer? Well, there’s not a one-size-fits-all fan out there – not yet.
And that’s the reason we’ve put together this list. We’ve looked at all the different case fans and these are the ones that we believe will work great for keeping your system COOL.
Corsair has been around for quite some time, creating quality PC components that outlast and outperform their competitors. With that in mind, the ML120 is no slouch, packing a serious punch and finding a way to look AMAZING when compared to other fans.
As the name implies, the ML120 is a 120mm fan. As is the case with most 120mm fans, it will fit in the front intake, the side intakes, the rear exhaust, and the top exhaust and/or intake.
Getting beyond the size of the ML120, you’ll quickly see that it can move some air. This is because Corsair has a custom designed rotor that works great in both high static pressure setups (i.e. radiators and wire mesh) and in high flow setups. To be exact, the ML120 can move up to 75 CFM at 2,400 RPM at a power draw of 0.299A (3.58w @ 12v).
The ML120 is a 4-pin fan so the RPMs can be adjusted as needed. At full speed, the ML120 produces a max noise rating of 37dBa which is equivalent to a babbling brook. At the lowest RPM setting, the ML120 only produces a paltry 16dBa which is just under the sound of rustling leaves – it’s very quiet. Corsair is able to do this using their MLT or Magnetic Levitation Technology and through anti-vibration rubber dampers.
The dampers are changeable from one of three colors – red, white, blue (isn’t that patriotic?). The ML120 uses center-mounted LEDs to produce a bright, vibrant burst of color in either red, white, or blue too.
The ML120 is built for moving air, no matter what the application. And at 2,400 RPM (Max Speed), the ML120 is NOT loud. There are a lot of other fans, that don’t move as much air as the ML120, that are louder. The interchangeable dampers are another nice touch, though this is purely aesthetic.
If you want the BEST, then Corsair is a great option. The ML120 is a very versatile fan, utilizing several Corsair-specific technologies. The Magnetic Levitation Technology helps to extend the life of the fan bearing while also helping to keep noise down. The custom designed rotor also helps to keep the noise down while pushing a whopping 75CFM at max RPM. The interchangeable rubber dampers also help to keep the noise down and add another layer of customization.
Next, we’ll cover a fan that isn’t nearly as FLASHY as the Corsair ML120, but that has a LOT to offer. The Noctua NF-F12 has a TON of technology for such a simple fan. If you don’t have to have RGB lighting, then the NF-F12 should be on your list.
Getting started, the NF-F12 is another 120mm fan. And as such, it can be used in a ton of locations and/or applications. For moving air, the NF-F12 isn’t weak either, pumping out a total of 55 CFM at 1,500 RPM with a power draw of ONLY .05A (0.60w @ 12v). To do this, Noctua has a TON of technology helping them out.
For starters, they are using a Heptaperf impeller that uses an odd number of blades (7) to create an offset in spacing (more on this in a moment). Next, they use varying angular distances and vortex-control notches which help to create a more ear-pleasing hum through multiple sound frequencies. Then they use a specialized frame that uses stepping to further control the turbulence, reducing the sound and focusing the air-flow. And finally, the frame has straightened channels to keep the air going in one direction, rather than creating counter-balanced vortex streams. And all of this works! In fact, the NF-F12 has a MAX noise rating of 22.40dBa (equivalent to rustling leaves).
Now, we did say that Noctua left out the RGB lighting, and they did, but they also left out any other colors too. This comes in a Tan/Brown color configuration and looks like something you might see in the ‘70s. Even so, the NF-F12 is a worthy competitor for someone looking for functionality over flash.
We can’t get over how much air it moves while being so quiet. Even at full speed, you really won’t hear the NF-F12’s. While we would have preferred a little more color, we can overlook it because of its power draw and CFM output.
While The Noctua NF-F12 is not bright and flashy like the ML120, it’s a worthy competitor. It moves 55 CFM at 1,500 RPMs while only using a total of 0.60 watts. If function is what you’re after, then the NF-F12 should be more than enough.
Thermaltake is another company that has proven themselves in the PC component industry, but most importantly, in the cooling component industry. And The Luna CL-F009-PL12BU-A (the Luna 12) is a perfect example of that.
The Luna 12 is another 120mm fan that can compete with the BIG boys. It is designed to move up to 50.44 CFM at only 1,200 RPMs at a power draw of 0.16A (1.92w @ 12v). To move this much air, Thermaltake increased the inflow frame and also included double-curved impeller blades.
Whenever you’re moving 50+ CFM, there’s a good chance that it’ll be noisy. But that’s not the case with the Luna 12. Instead, at 1,200 RPMs, the fan only has a noise rating of 20.7 dBa which is the sound of rustling leaves in the distance. But, Thermaltake also helps to reduce the noise rating using rubber dampers that help to protect the fan by 80% from sound transfer.
And the Luna 12 is available in three RGB colors – red, white, blue. So you can customize your PC rig to shine like the flag or glow with anger; it’s whatever you want to do.
We weren’t expecting much from the Luna 12 at less than $10.00, but it is very impressive. While the 20.7dBa noise rating might be a little off, it is still extremely quiet, even when at full speed. Also, the fact that you can order these in red, white, or blue was a nice touch and the colors are VIBRANT.
If you’re looking for a fan that won’t break the budget, but that will keep everything COOL while looking good too, then the Luna 12 from Thermaltake is a great option. It’s fairly quiet while moving a TON of air, and it looks great in any setup.
Here’s another offering from Corsair, that will definitely do the job, while still managing to look great. As the AF120 name indicates, this is another 120mm case fan.
The AF120 is part of the Corsair AirFlow series and it can move some air. Corsair’s AirFlow series is designed to move air in unrestricted spaces, and it performs best as an intake and/or exhaust, but not as well on radiators and/or heatsinks.
Well … how much air does the AF120 move? The AF120 can move up to 52.19 CFM at 1,500 RPMs while pulling a MAX power draw of 0.40A (4.8w @ 12v). This means that it is a little more inefficient when compared to the ML120, but doesn’t spin up near as fast either. As this is only a 3-pin fan, the fan is not RPM adjustable. Even so, it manages to stay quiet with a noise rating of only 25.2 dBa (just slighting above rusting leaves and below a whisper).
The AF120 also comes in four color configurations – red, white, purple, and blue. The impeller blades are ultra-thin, translucent, and textured so that the LEDs shine BRIGHT! And, they use four LEDs to make sure that you see them.
These are BRIGHT! They will really light up your case, especially in dark settings. The glow from this is otherworldly. Plus, it can move 52+ CFM at only 1,500 RPM. While we do wish it was PWM controllable, we’ll be okay as the noise rating is only a hair above 25 dBa.
It goes without saying, but Corsair is a force to be reckoned with. The AL120 is a versatile fan that can move some air. While it is best for unrestricted airflow situations, it’ll keep everything nice and cool, while looking great. If you want a BRIGHT cooling solution that will impress, this could very well be the one.
When it comes to cooling, a company that has COOLER in the name probably knows a little something … right? Well, Cooler Master definitely knows what they’re doing and they’ve put together a fan that can definitely compete with the others on our list.
The JetFlo 120 from Cooler Master is another 120mm fan that can be used in a TON of applications and/or locations. In fact, the JetFlo 120 is built for both restrictive and unrestrictive setups with a 2.72mmH2O rating and a 95 CFM rating.
So, we’ve already let the cat out of the bag. Yes, the JetFlo 120 literally moves 95+ CFM at 2,000 RPMs with a power draw of 0.40A (4.8w @ 12v). To do this, Cooler Master has designed an advanced impeller blade design that can focus airflow better while maintaining a low noise rating. In fact, at full speed, the JetFlo 120 has a noise rating of only 36 dBa (landing it between a whisper and a babbling brook).
And if you want a little extra customization, the AF120 comes in four color configurations – red, white, blue, and no color. The blades are translucent and the LEDs shine bright and distribute well for great aesthetic appeal.
This fan MOVES air! Seriously, it’s not just a little air either. You can feel it when its at full speed. And it’s not that loud either. If you don’t like it loud, they have limiting cables to keep it from breaking 28 dBa @ 1,600 RPMs or 19dBa @ 1,200 RPMs. We still prefer the PWM mode where you can control it based on internal temperatures.
The JetFlo 120 blows as hard as a jet without the noise level of one. If you want to create your own mini tornado, get a few of these and you’ll be amazed at how cold your system stays.
Want a different look without sacrificing air-flow? Then the Moonlight Series from PC Cooler should do the trick.
The PC-3M120 is another 120mm offering that can be used in a lot of configurations. While it doesn’t have the same strength as others like the JetFlo 120 or the ML120, it can still be used for intakes, exhausts, and general air-flow (we wouldn’t suggest it for radiators and heatsinks).
This fan can move air at a rate of 54 CFM at 1,800 RPMs. To achieve this, they use a 9-blade impeller with a sloped curve to help keep noise levels down. Even so, the PC-3M120 can get as loud as 45 dBa when maxed out.
Where the PC-3M120 shines is the customizable, daisy-chainable, colored rings. While the fan is a 4-pin PWM controlled fan, it also has a separate 5-pin RGB controller that makes customization super easy. The rings can change colors, chase each other, work in sync, all from your RGB controller (onboard and/or included). Other companies tend to focus on one RGB color, but with this fan, you can change the color anytime you want.
We like this fan because of its customizability. It looks different with the rings versus the whole fan being lit up, and it stands out. Being able to create sweeping color patterns makes this worthwhile if looks matter to you.
While it won’t keep up with the JetFlo 120 and the ML120, it doesn’t have to. If you want airflow, those two are your best bet. If you want a unique look that can really make your rig stand out, then you’ll want the PC Cooler Moonlight Series PC-3M120.
Just a moment ago we talked about a unique case fan with the Moonlight Series from PC Cooler. But now we’re going to flip the script completely! The Deepcool MF120 looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
This is one of the power-hungriest fans we’ve seen, but a lot of that can be attributed to the RGB lighting that comes with it.
Where the MF120 stands out is the frameless design, the unique fan shroud, and the customizable RGB lighting system. First, it is completely frameless using a suspended frame and truly unique shroud to connect to your PC.
Next, the shroud has built-in RGB channels that have up to 36 different lighting modes, all controllable from the included RGB controller (or with your smartphone using the downloadable app).
The shroud looks like a four-legged spider and the rolling RGB lighting patterns can really create a unique atmosphere inside of your PC.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, we love the color patterns and unique shroud design of the MF120. And while it does use a fair amount of power, we’re okay with it because it can still move 56 CFM of air while looks really badass.
When you want to be different, you have to look where no one else is looking. Well, today’s your day because the Deepcool MF120 is unique, worth the price, and looks AMAZING!
Now, getting back to some of the more “normal” fans, we’ll look at a budget option from Arctic. The Arctic F12 PWM is a great budget entry that can move air without making much noise or using much power.
The F12 moves up air out of your PC case at up to 53 CFM at 1,350 RPMs with a power draw of only 0.24A (2.88w @ 12v). It doesn’t use much power, but it moves air out of the way quickly. To do this, Arctic designed their impeller blades to cut through the air while minimizing drag (to reduce noise). And the F12 is one of the quieter fans we’ve encountered, only registered a total noise rating of 25 dBa at full speed.
Like the Noctua, the F12 is not a flashy PC fan. The mounting base is black and the fan blades are white. There aren’t any LEDs built-in and it doesn’t have any customizable features. You simply install it, turn it on, and let it run.
For the price, it can really move some air. It’s not flashy, and it will work great in systems that don’t have a clear, open design concept.
The Arctic F12 PWM isn’t going to win any awards for the best looking case fans, but it wasn’t designed for that. For the price, it’s amazing that it can move so much air (53 CFM) while being so quiet (25 dBa) while using so little power (0.24A).
Just the brand name makes us take a second look. But NZXT Technologies has done a good job of creating a worthy competitor.
The RF-FZ120 is a very versatile fan, able to be used in both unrestricted and restricted airflow applications (i.e. open case + radiators and heatsinks). And they manage to squeak out a 65 CFM rating while only reaching 1,200 RPMs at a power draw of 0.21A (2.52w @ 12v). To do this, the fan has 13 impeller blades that slice through the air. And while slicing, they stay quiet too with a noise rating of only 26.8 dBa (quieter than a whisper).
While the mounting frame looks basic, it does have some built-in LEDs to add a little customization to your PC rig. And you can choose from white, blue, orange, green, and red so there’s a good chance it’ll blend right in with your other components (or stand out if you want it to).
When we use a fan, we want it to move air. And the RF-FZ120 does it well at 65 CFM while never getting louder than an actual whisper. Even though it isn’t PWM controlled, it’s too quiet to matter.
Sometimes, the best option is a very simple product offering without a lot of fanfare and marketing. The NZXT Technologies RF-FZ120-W1 is a great option, at a great price, that can really BLOW.
And finishing it out with a very unique offering is the LEPA Chopper Advanced which has a lighting pattern that is unrivaled.
Before we get into the lighting patterns, the LPCPA12P-G is able to move air at a rate of 70 CFM at 1,500 RPMs while using 0.20A (2.4w @ 12v). The ability to move so much air when compared to others is the special HALO ring that LEPA uses that gives them 30% more airflow than standard fans.
Additionally, the LPCPA12P-G is very quiet, reaching a maximum noise rating of 20dBa which is SO QUIET. You’ll never hear this, even at full load. To achieve this, they use a customized blade design, with a modular-built fan system that can be disassembled and repaired with ease.
Now, while the airflow rating is great, it’s the lighting that sets the LPCPA12P-G apart from EVERYONE! They use four color rings (all the same color) that can perform up to 30 different lighting patterns, creating a kaleidoscope effect.
Just like when were kids, we loved kaleidoscopes, and the LPCPA12P-G is the grown-up version of them. The lighting patterns are close to psychedelic and can literally mesmerize you. The lights are very bright and unique, but the 70CFM at 20dBa is the icing on the cake.
At points, we might save the best for last. While this may not move the most air, it’s definitely one of the most unique PC fans we’ve ever seen.
Finding the best PC fan can be hard, especially with all the “mumbo jumbo” that manufacturers throw out there. Which is why we’ve put together this buyer’s guide. We’ll cut through all the technical jargon and get right to what matters … helping you find the perfect fan for your PC.
The fourth pin is for Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) which allows you to control the speed of your fan via the motherboard or software. PWM is basically turning the power on/off so fast that you can control the speed of the fan to help it stay quieter when not needed (i.e. when the system isn’t doing a lot of work or when the system isn’t too hot).
A 3-pin fan will still work, but you will not be able to control the speed of the fan. It will be ON or OFF (no other option).
So, we just talked about the fan speed a moment ago, but we didn’t truly define what we meant. We aren’t saying that a fan can go 60mph on the highway, but rather, we’re talking about the number of times the fan spins in one minute – also known as Revolutions Per Minute (RPM).
The higher the RPM, the faster the fan is spinning (and in theory, the more air it is moving). A fan makes more noise as it spins faster, thus the reason for having a 4-pin fan.
Going back to 3-pin vs 4-pin fans, a 3-pin fan will always spin at its fastest RPM, whereas a 4-pin fan can be controlled. Which means, a 3-pin fan will most likely be louder than a 4-pin fan in most cases (unless they are both maxed out).
Case fans come in a lot of sizes. In fact, there are more than 30+ fan sizes ranging from 25mm and increasing all the way to 360mm. In most cases, you’ll be looking for fans that are either 120mm or 140mm in size.
The larger a fan, the more air it can move at the same RPM when compared to a smaller fan. As such, a larger fan is less likely to be as noisy as the smaller fan while moving the same amount of air. Of course, your PC case dictates how large of a fan you can install unless you are willing to make modifications to your case.
In some cases, people will “mod” their cases to use larger fans such as a side-mount 240mm case fan. And in some instances, you can find a PC case that is already built for these larger fans.
We’ve already mentioned this indirectly while talking about airflow, but airflow is nothing more than how many CFM’s a fan can produce at max RPM.
When you get into the details of a fan, it really comes down to how much air can it move from one place to another (i.e. cubic feet per minute). A fan that can move 75cfm is going to be more effective at removing heat from the PC case and/or components than a fan that can only move 50cfm.
This is a little different from CFM, as this is a measurement of mmH2O or the ability of the fan to push air past a resistance such as a radiator or wire mesh; mmH2O represents a unit of pressure (i.e. millimeter of water).
Most PC case fans will focus on CFM as this is the most commonly used fan. CFM is still the most important of these two numbers.
Noise is rated in decibels (dB) or (dBa) decibels adjusted to how the ear perceives the sound. Fans tend to fall into the 0db/dBa to 80db/dBa range. Here’s a reference chart to help you understand dB ratings a little easier.
As you can see, the noisier a fan gets, the more obtrusive it will become. You probably wouldn’t want a fan that stays around 70dB+. As we’ve already discussed, the size of the fan and the speed of the fan directly affect how loud a fan can become under max capacity (thus the reasoning for using 4-pin fans).
How much power a fan draws can affect the power source you decide to work with. Fans are generally rated using Amps (A). For instance, a fan may claim to use .40A at an operating voltage of 12v. Converted to watts, that fan would use a total of 4.8w of power at max capacity.
If you had seven fans in your system, all functioning at the max capacity, you would be pulling 33.6w + all the other hardware in your system.
And finally, while you primarily use a fan to decrease your PC’s temperature, certain fans have added features to increase your case’s appearance too.
Some fans come with colored rings and RGB lights, which can be controlled using an RGB controller. If you’re into customization, this is one area where you can really change the look of a rather bland setup.
A: If you don’t want your PC to overheat, you need a fan (probably multiple fans). Electronic components tend to fail when they get too hot and without any airflow, it’s VERY probable that your computer will overheat.
A: This is dependent on a number of factors, but most computers have a minimum of two fans (one in the front/top and one in the back). However, more powerful computers can have a LOT more than two fans, sometimes topping ten fans (3 front fans + 3 radiator fans/top fans + 2 side fans + 2 rear fans/exhaust fans).
As you can see, there is no “magic” number of fans, though the more fans you add, the louder the system will be.
A: Depending on your airflow requirements, the size of the fan CAN matter. Most computers are not capable of accepting fans larger than 140mm without custom “modding” to the case itself. However, you should make sure that the fan you want to use matches the mounting size of the case. For instance, you cannot use a 140mm fan in a 120mm mounting location.
A smaller fan cannot move as much as a larger fan, which means it will have to spin faster which will cause it to be louder. Some users will install multiple fans to move more air and then use PWM to keep the fan speeds down to reduce noise.
A: So there’s a good chance that the power draw of ONE fan will not matter too much, as most fans don’t pull more than 0.5A at full draw. That equates to a total of 6w (0.5a x 12v = 6w). If you are using a 600w power supply, that literally equates to 1% of the total power supply.
Where the power draw matters is when you have multiple fans, and you have to account for them all. Above, we discussed the idea that you can have 10+ fans. If each fan drew 6w, that would be 60w of draw which would now be 10% of a 600w power supply. If you were close to your power supply limit, this might be more than your system could handle, causing your system to not start up properly.
ONE fan, in most cases, will not draw enough power at full capacity to matter, but MULTIPLE fans might.
But, your fans have to be 4-pin fans or it will not matter. If you are using 3-pin fans, you CANNOT control their speed(s). ONLY 4-pin fans have the ability to be controlled using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM).
Ultimately, the size and speed of your fan will dictate how loud the fan is. If your fan is loud, you may need a bigger fan or you may need to replace it completely.
A: A PC fan can blow air into your case or it can blow air out of your case. The direction you want your PC fan to blow depends on what you are using it for.
Most PC cases use fans in the front and/or sides to blow air INTO the case. The fans on the top and/or back generally blow air OUT of the case. If you don’t know which way your fan blows, there’s generally an arrow that shows you the airflow direction.
A: A PC fan is designed to do ONE thing – move air from one place to another. Anything else is considered extra, like colored RGB lights.
RGB lights don’t add to the efficiency of a PC fan at all. All they do is help to enhance the appearance of the computer case and/or internals. In most cases, the amp draw is so insignificant that it doesn’t affect the power draw either.
You don’t have to use a PC fan with colored RGB lights, but it will help to add a little POP to a fairly bland PC setup.
A: So, radiators are supposed to use water to cool your computer components, right? So, why do they need fans too?
Again, a fan helps to move air from one place to another. In order for a radiator to work effectively, air has to move across the fins, effectively pushing the heat out of the water/radiator. Without a fan, a radiator would have to have a lot more “fin space” so that the heat could be dispersed faster. Using a fan, or multiple fans, helps to remove heat faster with a small radiator.
A liquid cooled system is more likely to be cold, but it can only remove so much heat. Radiators can have up to three fans to remove heat from internal components, but a radiator cannot get to all areas of a PC, which is why the need for more intake fans and exhaust fans is likely.
While the ADDITION of a LCR is a good idea, it’s not the be-all/end-all that some people think it is.
And as you can see, there are a lot of PC fan options to choose from. Of course, we’ve narrowed down your search by giving you the ten fans we believe are perfect for you and/or your PC. But, if you didn’t find the fan you wanted in our list, we also gave you a buyer’s guide to help you narrow down your search too.
Hopefully, you found the perfect PC fan(s) for your system. If not, at least now you know what to look for.
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