Does your PC slow down the longer you play games even though you’ve recently cleaned out the dust from inside it? Does your case feel extremely warm?
Your computer might be overheating because of poor airflow inside your case!
By installing one or more fans properly, hot air can efficiently leave your case helping your internal parts function at normal operating temperatures and prevent thermal throttling.
In a hurry? We’ve broken our case fan reviews into specific sections to help you compare some of our top recommendations by type and our best picks broken down by size.
- Best RGB Fans
- Best Silent Case Fans
- Best Static Pressure Fans
- Best 80mm Case Fan
- Best 120mm Case Fan
- Best 140mm Case Fan
- Best 200mm Case Fan
Thermal throttling is your gaming rigs last defense against heat, aside from shutting down completely, to prevent it from damaging itself.
This process forces your hardware to reduce power usage, become much slower, but ultimately run cooler.
In this guide, we’ll cover what to look for when buying a PC case fan and review some of the best case fans on the market to help you keep your PC running cool.
How To Choose A Case Fan – Specifications
Fan Speed, Noise & Vibration
There is nothing more annoying than firing up your favorite game, only for your PC to become so noisy that it interferes with your gameplay.
Noisy fans that sound like blow dryers can be mentally stressful and detrimental to you as a gamer.
So it’s important to pay attention to the following fan specifications:
- RPM (revolutions per minute)
- CFM (cubic feet per minute)
- dBA (noise level) and Speed Ranges.
Product descriptions usually feature RPM ranges, maximum noise levels, and noise-reducing screws. The latter are usually special rivets with a rubber coating for reducing vibration caused by the fans.
RPM ranges are usually given in a minimum-maximum range, but real-world performance usually sits somewhere between the two.
Noise is usually given at a maximum which is often correlated to current fan speed. For example, 15-20 dBA is where they get more noticeable in a quiet room.
Anything higher and they might become annoying, but this depends on your hearing and if you’re wearing a gaming headset or not.
The key to keeping electronics cool is about moving air away as fast as possible. So CFM is the most important stat for keeping your PC build cool. That is how much air moves in one minute. It usually correlates with fan speed and size.
What are the best stats for your needs? It depends what’s more important to you. It could either noise, cooling efficiency, or a combination of both.
Power Connectors & Fan Controls
There are 3 kinds of power connectors used by most case fans:
- MOLEX Connectors
A fan that only uses MOLEX connectors can be hooked up directly to most power supplies if you have an available cable. You may need an adapter in some cases.
While some of these fans have manual fan speed controls, they typically don’t have automatic controls since they don’t hook up to your motherboard.
The important difference between 4-pin headers and the others is that the fans can be controlled by software.
If your motherboard comes with fan control software, you can set up various profiles for gaming performance, reduced noise, eco-friendly and so on.
However, if you connect a 3-pin fan into a 4-pin header (which I don’t recommend doing), you won’t be able to control that specific fan via this method.
If your goal is to have a controllable cooling system, then ensure that both your motherboard has 4-pin headers available for fans and your fan also has 4-pin connectors.
Fan Sizes & Installation
Will the fan fit into your case? Most cases feature pre-defined locations where you can install fans. The best way to check which size you need is by looking up your PC case model’s documentation.
As a last-ditch effort, you can measure the distance between screw holes. Never measure diagonally, measure straight from center to center of each hole.
Note: Some fans and cases have multiple mounting holes, and not all fans use the exact dimensions in the chart below, which is why I don’t recommend measuring yourself.
|Fan Size||Screw Hole Distance|
If you’re only installing 1 fan, this fan should either be placed in the back-top of the case blowing outwards or on the side blowing outwards. This allows air to be pulled in from the front and out the back or side.
Think about where the air is going to be pulled from and where you are blowing it. You want the best flow possible. The goal is to take hot air away from it, so ideally it should be able to travel far.
Having your tower inside a closed shelf, close to a wall, or in a cupboard is not ideal because heat will build up and defeats the purpose.
Installing a computer fan is pretty straightforward:
- Make sure your PC is powered off.
- Matchup to the four screw holes inside the case
- Screw them in one by one, ensuring that screws are tightened in the proper order to avoid vibrating and additional noise.
- Insert the connector into its header.
- Ensure that the cable doesn’t get in the way of airflow. A plastic zip tie might be needed for cable management.
Fan Filters & Dust Protection
Fans are prone to collecting dust and dirt over time. Dirty blades make your fans work harder resulting in noise and dust can work itself inside the fan and eventually stop it from working.
All the while, they help draw dust into your PC. Dust can create static electricity inside your case which is one of the biggest enemies of electronics.
To combat this, you can install filters such as the 120mm Silverstone Tek ultra fine fan filter. These come in various sizes, so you’ll have to choose the right size for your fan and vents.
You can set these filters up to prevent dust from getting into the case while letting air flow freely. You can set them up to prevent dust from running your fans and being blown into your room.
You will have to clean them regularly as they are prone to being clogged, but that just means that they are doing their job.
Case Fan Types: SP vs AF Fans
There are two main types of fans: Static Pressure and Air Flow. While they look similar, you should not mistake the two.
Static pressure fans are intended to be used in conjunction with radiators, heatsinks, and spaces with small openings like hard drive bays. They have the goal of pushing air through smaller openings.
Air Flow fans are intended for open spaces such as the back or side areas of the case as an outtake, fans and they also work as intake fans in the front if there are no hard drives, cables or disk drives obstructing the airflow.
In high-end rigs, it can be more beneficial to use SP fans since there is much less space inside due to the increased amount of parts.
PC Case Fan Reviews
Best 120mm Case Fan – Corsair SP120 Quiet Edition
- 23 dBA (Quiet) 35 dBA (Performance)
- 37.85 CFM airflow (Quiet) 62.75 CFM (Performance)
- 1450 RPM
- Ring colors: red, blue, white
The Corsair SP120 comes with impressive features including rubber corners and a so-called Advanced Hydraulic Bearing for reducing noise and vibration. Each 120 mm fan has seven wide blades and requires a 3-pin header for operation.
The SP120 Quiet Edition Twin Pack has two of these fans in it, along with the required screws for installation.
There are variants of this fan sold under:
- Performance – Higher air flow with more noise
- Quiet Edition – Less airflow with less noise.
No matter the choice they are prone to making buzzing noises at full-speed like other fans, regardless of how tightly you screw them in.
Installing them is fairly easy, but due to the screws slots having a rubber coating, there is no easily noticeable point where you should stop tightening the screws.
You should just keep tightening all four screws until the fan sits tight and does not budge when nudged with your hand,
If you’re looking for an AF fan to move air out of your case, consider the Corsair AF120 instead. Just keep in mind that they need at least 3cm of clearance space to operate properly.
Best 140mm Case Fan – Corsair ML 140
The Corsair ML140 140mm fans come in five different color variations: regular, blue, RGB, red and white.
Although the lighting is more center-fan focused, LED-enthusiast gamers may be satisfied with the LEDs. They have a soft glow, enabling them to be seen without being too distracting.
However, the unique selling point of these fans is that you can use them as airflow or static pressure fans. They work equally well in both modes thanks to their unique blade design.
The top thing I would keep an eye out for is if the rubber bearings don’t reduce vibrations and noise to a bearable degree.
If it’s your first time purchasing them, you might not know what is and isn’t acceptable. When in doubt, get in touch with the vendor you purchased them from as soon as possible.
Best 200mm Case Fan – MegaFlow 200
As its name suggests, the Cooler Master MegaFlow 200 is a huge fan. It can be bought either with or without blue or red LEDs.
In addition to 200mm diameter, they are 30 mm thick, so you should only consider these if you have a large tower case that can support them.
While their RPM caps out at around 700, they move a lot of air due to their size.
It comes with a 3-pin connector by default, but the package also includes a 3-to-4 pin adapter, enabling some speed control via BIOS if your motherboard supports it.
One of the top selling points is that these fans do their job quietly. I think that these airflow fans would be ideal for side case vents, where there is usually enough space for a large fan to draw out heat that builds up there.
Best 80mm Case Fan – Noctua NF-A8 PWM
If you need a smaller fan, the Noctua NF-A8 may be a good choice. While it isn’t the most stylish or best-looking fan, it does its job very quietly.
At its maximum 2200 RPM, it only makes about 17-18 dBA, which is barely noticeable in a quiet room.
This fan also features PWM via a 4-pin adapter so you can adjust its speed in your BIOS or desktop.
The package contains a speed jumper which you can use to cut down the max RPM from 2200 to 1750, resulting in even quieter operation.
The unique selling point is Noctua’s special SSO (self-stabilizing oil-pressure bearing) system that helps ensure a long lifespan without any increases in vibration or buzzing.
Instead of regular mounting screws, rubber mounting grommets are supplied to reduce such issues further. You can see that Noctua takes these issues seriously.
These fans would be ideal for the top-back or side of your case. If you’re looking for quiet fans that perform but don’t mind how they look, the Noctua NF-A8 fans may be a good choice for you.
Best RGB Fans
Corsair LL120 – 120mm RGB
- 600 to 1500 RPM
- 25 dBA max noise
- PWM control-capable
- 16 independent, customizable LEDs per fan
If you’re looking to show off your rig, the 120mm Corsair LL120 fans can help you cool your rig with impressive lighting.
The packages include Corsair’s proprietary Lighting Node Pro parts for computer lighting and modding. These can be expanded by additional Corsair fans or LED lighting strips if you are into that sort of thing.
The fans themselves are very quiet (around 25 dBA on max RPM) and they are somewhat of a hybrid (use them as airflow or static pressure).
I wouldn’t recommend these fans for new PC builders because setting up them can be a bit confusing.
The additional steps go something like this:
- Use the additional connector for RGB control (which should go into a USB slot).
- Set up the colors via the Corsair Link software. It’s not included in the packaging, so you have to hunt it down on Corsair’s website. Unfortunately, Corsair’s website is a bit confusing which makes this a challenge.
On the Corsair forums, there are plenty of threads discussing issues with these fans from flickering to not being recognized by some setups. I thought I’d mention it because I know some of you will see the bright lights and buy without question, like a moth to a flame.
However, in spite of the issues, PC modding enthusiasts and experts may find the Corsair LL120 RGB fans to be a good choice, as they are quite powerful and can impress your crowd once you get them working properly.
NZXT RF-AR120-T1 Aer RGB120
- Hue+ and CAM-compatible
- Daisy-chain them for more effects
- dBA: 22-33
- RPM: 500-1500
- CFM: 17.48-52.44
If you’re looking for Hue+ and CAM-support for various RGB and coloring effects, the 120mm NZXT fans are probably your best bet.
The LED lights go along the edges in a “square with a rounded corner” fashion and can output millions of different color combinations.
The fans have good airflow and are PWM-capable, so you will have to use 4-pin headers to connect them.
Unfortunately, you will have to purchase a separate HUE+ device and associated controllers to use its LED lights and other coloring capabilities. If you want to daisy chain several fans, you have to connect those with additional cables, further increasing the total cost.
Great fans, but again, I would only recommend these to true PC modding and LED enthusiasts, as their setup is even more difficult than the Corsair LL120s.
When you factor in their base cost plus the additional items needed, they aren’t for those on a budget.
Asiahorse Wireless RGB Quiet Edition
- 2 sets of RGB lights per fan
- Heat sensors, automatic speed adjustments
- Airflow: 38 CFM
- Fan Speed: 1500 RPM
- Noise: 20-32 DBA
While Asiahorse is a lesser-known brand, its fans are quite good and are also a bit cheaper due to less marketing.
These RGB fans feature the LEDs in a circular fashion, and you will need purchase a separate Asiahorse-branded controller to utilize the LEDs.
They have rubber corners, and the package also contains a set of black filters which you can apply to the fans to prevent dust from getting into the case (if you’re pushing air in).
There are many variants of this fan, the Quiet edition having a bit lower performance, but performs quietly (around 25-28 dBA when it runs at max speed).
The RGB antenna which transmits signals to the controller can be blocked easily by other components in your PC. So placement can be a bit difficult if you don’t have enough space to move the remote around.
Another thing to consider that is that they use a special 6-pin connector, but are compatible with 3 and 4 pins.
If you’re on a budget, the 120mm Asiahorse RGB fans may be a good choice even when you factor in the controller compared to similar branded models.
Best Silent Case Fans
be quiet! BL071 SILENTWINGS 3
- Special “Fluid-dynamic bearing” with long life (up to 300,000 hours)
- Rubberized frame
- 1600 RPM
- 28.1 dBA
- 140 mm
The “be quiet!” company specializes in manufacturing long-lasting, quiet PC cooling solutions. They know that there is nothing more annoying than fans that become loud while gaming or ones that make funky noises even when your PC is idle.
The BL071 Silentwings 3 is an airflow solution. These have a very low power consumption rate compared to most others, and the 6-pole motor is designed to reduce vibration that stems from all fan motors.
The important thing to know about this fan is that the rubber mounting pins stick quite well into the case’s screw holes. You’ll have to make sure that you position the fan exactly how you want to install it before using the pins.
You will also need to use 3-pin headers, so the speed isn’t adjustable, which I think is fair for its price range.
If you need a simple, quiet fan without all the bells and whistles, the BL071 Silentwings 3 is certainly worth considering.
ARCTIC F12 Ultra Quiet 120 mm Case Fan
- Friction reduced by a new alloy+lubricant combination
- Fluid-dynamic bearing
- 120 mm
- 800 RPM
- 38.6 CFM
- 20.5 dBA
The ARCTIC F12 is the quietest fan in our reviews with only 20.5 dBA at full speed (800 RPM). While its speed is on the lower end for 120mm airflow fans, it can do the job as either an air intake or outtake fan.
Just like the one I mentioned above, this one is also very basic, but this comes with the price – due to these usually being 3-pin, there is no way for you to set its speed via software solutions.
ARCTIC is very confident in the longevity of these fans and grants a 6-year warranty for them.
Regarding aesthetics, it looks pretty stylish with the black frame and white blades. The only concern here is if the sticker is a tiny bit misaligned, it can look like the fan is wobbling. However, it’s not a big deal if your case isn’t out for display.
If you’re on a budget or looking for a quieter replacement, check out the ARCTIC F12 case fan.
BitFenix Spectre Pro 230mm Case Fan
With only 900 RPM, the BitFenix Spectre Pro BFF-SPRO-23030KK-RP produces an astounding 156.27 CFM. That is due to the 230mm diameter, which makes it difficult to use in mid-size cases.
This is a pretty basic setup with a 3 pin connector (with 3 to 4 pin adapter) without PWM support, but you may be able to control it in your BIOS or fan controller.
Other models in the BitFenix Spectre series have PWM and RGB features, but that’s going to add to the overall cost. This one looks pretty cool with the circle design, so I would just stick to this model.
The only issue you might come across is that screw holes may be a tiny bit misaligned when compared to the ones in your case, making installation a little bit harder.
If you need to move a lot of air and have space for it, consider the BitFenix Spectre Pro 230mm black case fan.
Best Static Pressure Fans
Thermaltake Riing 12 Series Case Fan
- Hydraulic Bearing
- 120 mm
- 1500 RPM
- 24.6 dBA, 18.7 with Low-Noise cable
I’ve been a fan of Thermaltake products for years because from my experience they manufacture good products.
The Riing 12 series case fan looks stylish with black frames, blades, and single-color LEDs. There are four colors to choose from including red, green, blue or white.
Since these are Static Pressure fans, they are intended for tighter, cramped places such as in front of HDD bays, radiators or heatsinks.
Anti-vibration rubber pads and a Low-Noise cable are also present for each fan in the package. If you use the Low-Noise cable, it cuts down the RPM from 1500 to 1000.
Overall, the Thermaltake Riing 12 3-pin 120mm fans don’t feel gimmicky, other than the LEDs, and are a solid choice to consider.
Noctua SSO2 Bearing Case Fan
- Industrial-grade materials
- Dust and water-resistant
- 450-2000 RPM
- 29.7 dBA
- PWM supported
The Noctua SS02 case fan is a higher-end fan with Noctua’s best technologies included, such as the SSO2 bearing for noise and vibration reduction.
However, even with the rubber noise-canceling grommets, these will be quite noticeable when running at 2000 RPM.
Of course, you most likely won’t need to run them at max speed and are controllable via 4 pin connector and PWM.
Even at about 80% of full speed, the noise would be significantly lower.
The higher price tag of Noctua SSO2 fans comes from the industrial-grade materials which are, in my opinion, more of a marketing gimmick.
But if you need a replacement fan for a heatsink or a radiator that isn’t obnoxious aesthetically, check out the Noctua SS02 Bearing case fan.
Final Thoughts – What Is Your Top Pick?
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when looking for case fans, but noise levels and airflow will be the most important for you while gaming.
While there are a lot of statistics and specifications we can look at, I feel personal experience is going to be the ultimate decision on whether you go back to buying a particular fan in the future.
If I had to choose just one fan from each type of fan, I would pick the Corsair SP120 Quiet Edition for keeping hard drives and graphics cards cooler and the Cooler Master MegaFlow 200 to maximize that airflow through my case.
Let me know in the comments if this buyer’s guide helped you in choosing a case fan, what you are considering buying, and any experience you have that could help others make their PCs cooler.