It can be easy when building or upgrading a PC to get so caught up in the internal specs that you forget entirely that a computer needs a healthy body as well as a healthy mind. The quality of PC case fans can vary wildly, and even if this isn’t your first rodeo, understanding and tracking down the information you need can be an exhausting endeavor.
We hope to help with that. While we’ve identified 10 of the top PC case fans in 2020 and offer a quick rundown of each, our guide goes further. We’ll provide you with all the important specs you need to pay attention to, but we’ll also provide you with a shopping guide that can help you better comprehend what they all mean.
- Best PC Case Fans for 2020
- 1. Corsair Air Series AF120 Airflow Fan
- 2. be quiet! Silent Wings Cooling Fan
- 3. ARCTIC F12 PWM Rev. 2 Case Fan
- 4. Corsair LL Series LL120 PWM Fan
- 5. Cooler Master Silent Fan
- 6. Rosewill 120mm Case Fan
- 7. Noctua NF-F12 PWM Fan
- 8. Thermaltake Riing Case Fan
- 9. NZXT AER RGB 2 Case Fans
- 10. Scythe Kaze Flex Case Fan
- PC Case Fans Buyer’s Guide
Best PC Case Fans for 2020
1. Corsair Air Series AF120 Airflow Fan
If this is you first time mounting fans in your PC case, the Corsair AF120 won't be intimidating. Each pack comes with a pair of fans, and the instructions are thorough, making it easy to set up your fans without having to worry about making any mistakes along the way. It offers some of the best performance for such a low price too.
You can get both fans for right around $20, and both of them make use of a custom molded design for the perfect amount of airflow. And the incredibly narrow design of these case fans means that they run with minimal noise. Just keep in mind that the AF series fans shouldn't be used in tighter spaces.
2. be quiet! Silent Wings Cooling Fan
The be quiet! computer fans put their best quality right in the name. These case fans run incredibly quiet, but that's just the opening salvo in a whole host of quality features. These may cost double what you can get the AF120 before, but they feature an impressive lifespan of 300,000 hours, so they're hypothetically the only fans you'll need for your PC case.
One of the best decisions made here is the funnel shaped air inlets that provide you with some incredible power while still keeping the fan volume low. If you need a cooling system for running high end games or to productivity computer, the be quiet! is one of the best options available.
3. ARCTIC F12 PWM Rev. 2 Case Fan
If you need a fan that will work efficiently but you don't want to pay a fortune, you should look to the F12 from Arctic Freeze. Under ten dollars gets you a solid fan that provides surprisingly efficient results. It doesn't just expel hot air from your overworked motherboard. It also sucks in cold air to provide you double the performance without having to take up too much space in your PC case.
This is a four pin fan, and the Fluid Dynamic Bearing is equipped with an oil capsule so your lubricant won't leak and it will stay nice and slick throughout its entire life. Best of all, these fans respond to the needs of your motherboard, so you'll get just the right amount of power for your operations.
4. Corsair LL Series LL120 PWM Fan
The Corsair LL120 falls squarely in the camp of premium PC cooling case fans, and you can tell that at a glance thanks to the inclusion of some of the best lighting options in the business. If you're looking to set up the most complicated and intimidating gaming rig, and the Corsair LL120 RGB configurations are the best because you can choose from 12 different options for each blade (for a maximum of 48).
Keeping the noise level low is clearly a high priority for Corsair. This Corsair fan is engineered to maximize the cooling within your PC case while keeping the interior running cool as a polar bear's toenail. And since this Corsair fan allows you to adjust the rotations per minute manually, you can get a fan speed that matches the intensity of your computer usage.
5. Cooler Master Silent Fan
Cool Master produces some of the most serious case fans around, and they've earned the trust of gamers and other power PC users throughout the world. It's larger than most of the PC case fans on the list, and that means powerful performance that can outmatch most models you'll find.
What's incredible about these models from Cooler Master is how efficient they are. While the fan speed on the Cooler Master falls somewhere in the middle of the pack for traditional case fans, that only tells half of the story. Thanks to the larger size and the extraordinary design, they provide a level of cubic feet per minute that exceeds almost all of the models we've discovered. And that efficiency has an impact that goes beyond your gaming or productivity needs. These fans are RoHS compliant, so you can be comfortable knowing that their negative impact on the environment will be negligible.
6. Rosewill 120mm Case Fan
Need an affordable cooling system for your case and not too worried about pro level performance? Rosewill has produced what may be the best PC fans for the price. Twenty bucks gets you a pack of four fans, but that doesn't mean that these are lacking in terms of performance. The sleeves they're packed in are designed for long life, and the variable voltage makes them adaptable to the needs of your PC.
These are budget model fans, but Rosewill has taken steps to make sure that they'll work regardless of your PC case setup. They support both three and four pin configurations, and setup is a breeze so you don't have to worry about any complicated installation process to get these fans up and running.
7. Noctua NF-F12 PWM Fan
The first thing you'll probably notice about the Noctua NF-F12 case fans are the fact that they're some of the best case fans around in terms of pure aesthetics. The brown and white design on the Noctua really pop, but beauty if more than skin deep with this Noctua cooling fan. These fans sport a four pin design and a wide range of adjustable options so you can get low or high airflow depending on your needs.
The Noctua NF-F12 is one of the best choices for CPU heatsinks as water cooling radiators. Anti-vibration mounts are included on these Noctua fans to provide low noise results even when you're running your computer at max capacity. And everything you need to install these fans are included right out of the box.
8. Thermaltake Riing Case Fan
Need a couple of fans that will really look good in your dedicated gaming PC? The best case fan for your computer case may be the Thermaltake RIING. Each comes in a pack of two, so you can better outfit your computer case without having to spend a fortune, and these fans make use of some very sophisticated fan technology to give you more bang for your buck.
That comes in the form of the concentrated compression blade. These fan blades don't let the inner air go to waste, instead focusing them outwards and letting you get achieve optimal air flow while still maintaining low noise. This contender for best case fan in its class also comes with an anti-vibration mount system that provides 80% coverage that extends all the way to the corners of these fans.
9. NZXT AER RGB 2 Case Fans
We won't lie to you. The NZXT AER may be some of the best case fans on the market, but they don't come cheap. Getting the best case fans means investing about $30 per PC fan (with three per pack), but they'll offer you arguably the best performance you'll find. The dynamic bearings used in these fans produce longer results while minimizing the noise even during high intensity operation.
And these are also some of the best looking fans we've discovered. That's because these are RGB fans. The RGB lighting options are numerous, and you can lean on the free CAM software that comes with these fans so you can customize both the RGB lighting and the air flow speed options to match your specific circumstances. They even feature a unique wing design on the fan blades that really help the RGB lighting stand out from the competition.
10. Scythe Kaze Flex Case Fan
The Scythe Kaze Flex is a case fan that keeps the noise low and the airflow consistent, and it manages to deliver some quality results for one of the best prices out there. The fan blades themselves make use of sealed precision fluid dynamic bearing, a choice that lets these fans run longer and harder even in extreme conditions. It's a decision that can reduce noise and greatly extend the life of your fans at the same time.
These fans offer some of the best power for their price too. 11 blades are packed into each fan, while an anti-vibration mount keeps everything running silently and minimizes the risk of these fans falling apart due to heavy usage. This is one of the best choices for your case radiator and CPU cooler, and the great price point is just icing on the cake.
PC Case Fans Buyer’s Guide
Figuring out how to buy the best PC case fan can be a real trial, because even experienced PC modders don’t necessarily understand the meaning of all the different specifications that go into a fan. But once you get a grip on the fundamentals, it’s pretty easy. Fortunately, most everything you need to understand about PC case fans can be broken down into hard and numeric metrics.
We’re here to help you understand what all those numbers mean. We’ll provide you with guidance on the key specs that are important for all of the best computer fan models, and we’ll also offer answers to some of the questions people ask most often when looking for the best model PC case fans.
If you’ve already picked out a computer case, you’ll only have one option for the fan size. Fortunately, manufacturers don’t tend to be particularly creative with the fan openings in their cases. Most of the best PC fans are 120 millimeters in size, and that means that the majority of users will be able to pick from the majority of products on Amazon and at other shopping sites. While there are other fans available, most cases are designed for only one size, though some come with space for 120 mm and also 140 mm fans.
When you’re shopping for a case, you shouldn’t even treat the supported fan sizes as a high priority. Ultimately, the fan exists to get your computer running cooler, but it’s not a high enough priority that you should sacrifice the hardware you want inside your computer for the sake of a better cooling system. Start by building your rig, and then work backwards. Most cases you’ll find will support 120 mm models, but you can also get good fan models in just about any size.
If you don’t know the size of the fan to use for your case, you’ll need to check the listed specifications in the product guide, though you can measure it yourself as well. If you need to figure out what size PC fans will fit in your case, simply measure the space between the center of both mounting holes. A fan can fall anywhere from 40 to 200 mm in diameter, so there’s a decent amount of variance.
Size does ultimately have an impact on a fan’s performance as well. A larger fan can push more air while running slower, and that generally results in a more quiet noise level while in use. We’ll get into more detail about fan speeds and noise levels further on in the guide.
How fast a fan turns is going to have a major impact on how powerful it is, but this raw metric might not be as meaningful as you think. Speed is measured in rotations per minute. The faster the fan, the more air it’s going to push and the cooler it’s going to get on average. But the speed of your fan can also have an impact on the noise level. A good fan prioritizes efficiency over speed, and while the speed of fans can have an impact on how efficiently your computer will get, you’ll need to pay attention to an even wider range of metrics.
If you really hope to get the most out of your computer, the best PC fans offer adjustable speed settings. One of the things that separates decent case fans from the best case fans is how well they can adjust to your needs, and balance and power are the two things you most need to balance when trying to find the best case fans. It’s good policy to look for a model that comes with variable speed settings. That will allow you to find a speed that’s appropriate depending on your tasks or activities while also keeping the noise level as low as possible.
Number of Pins
Every fan is going to connect to a computer with a series of pins, though some come with three pins, and others come with four. These pins connect directly to your motherboard, and each also has a particular use in the general cooling operations of your computer. If you have a three pin fan, two of the wires control the grounding and the power, while the signal wire sends information on the speed of your fan and other factors to your computer. A three pin fan is more basic in design and typically doesn’t offer variable controls.
What the fourth pin brings to the table is PWM (or pulse width modulation) – and that’s frankly a game changer when you need an efficient fan from a manufacturer like Noctua, Cooler Master, or Corsair but also want to be able to adjust it to meet your needs. Pulse modulation gives the user more control over the speed that the computer runs on, but it can also modulate air flow and other settings to a pretty significant degree.
If you get a four pin fan, you can set things up so that your fan runs at lower power most of the time but also adjusts upward in step with your power consumption and the internal temperatures of your PC case. If you want a fan with a low noise level most of the time but the capacity to adapt to more serious productivity, you’ll always want to search for a four pin type connector.
But a four pin fan isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t have the right connectors on your motherboard. You can connect a three pin fan to a four pin motherboard, and a four pin fan is also compatible with a three pin motherboard. Just keep in mind that in either instance, you’ll only get access to the basic capabilities and can’t make use of PWM automation features. In other words, you’ll likely be paying extra for features you can’t even use.
When you’re trying to figure out how efficiently your fan is going to run, there’s no more important metric than airflow. Whereas speed tells you literally how fast each fan blade moves, air flow tells you how much air a fan is able to move in a given amount of time. Air flow is measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM. If you’re looking for a good fan, your goal isn’t to track down the highest specs possible. Instead, you’ll want to look for a model that offers the highest CFM possible along with as low a noise level and speed as possible.
Whether you’re looking to jump into a round of Overwatch, perform complex calculations, or simply multitask with multiple browser tabs, a loud fan is always going to be an annoying inconvenience. For most users, the noise level will be second only to the airflow in terms of important specs. Noise is measured in decibels, with low noise translating into a lower decibel count.
That said, the decibel level isn’t always a perfectly accurate identifier of how quiet a fan is. Different manufacturers like Noctua, Corsair, and Cooler Master often use different standards for how they determine their decibel rating, and these first party testers understandably tend to be optimistic when discussing how quiet a fan is. While the decibel levels listed for a manufacturer will usually be pretty comfortably within the ballpark, there may be some variance depending on your use case and when compared to other models.
For that reason, if noise is a high concern to you, you may want to turn your attention towards third party reviews. A number of different sites offer impartial testing, and since they use the same testing process, you can be confident that their decibel ratings are on point.
Usually the biggest factor in fan noise is the RPM. A higher RPM often results in higher noise levels, but other factors like the type of lubricant used on the fan blades, the shape of the blades themselves, and any anti-vibration mounting built in can also have a significant impact on noise.
Some fans place an emphasis on high airflow, while others place an emphasis on static pressure. And then there are models that fall somewhere in between the two categories. High air flow fans tend to be pretty basic in design. Bigger blades that run at faster speeds push the air as quickly as possible. That makes them an efficient choice, but a static pressure fan serves its own purpose.
That’s because there are many places you can put a fan that will result in resistance. If your fan fan needs to push air through surfaces like mesh grilles, radiators, or filters, you may want to look at a static pressure model. A static pressure fan employs a different fin design, and that allows them to better deal with the resistance caused by static pressure.
That said, the actual performance of static pressure and high air flow models aren’t all that noticeably different. If you want to perfectly optimize your case to get the best results possible, you may see an advantage by strategically using both types of models, but for the average user, the difference is going to be minimal.
The ability to customize the lighting colors on your fans may be a purely cosmetic choice, but it’s an especially cool feature, and it’s incredibly popular with gaming rigs. Companies like Noctua and Corsair tend to offer some pretty impressive lighting options, and they come with free proprietary software that allows you to customize the color to your heart’s delight.
If you have a Corsair fan along with other Corsair devices like mice or keyboards, you can even sync up their lighting for more elaborate configurations. It may seem like a small thing, but good RGB lighting can really add a lot of character to your computer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are More Case Fans Better?
Hypothetically they are, but one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when building a computer is how to make the most of your space. Even a tower case will leave you having to pick and choose what hardware to include, and that applies to the fans as well. These spatial limitations mean that most users are going to want to make efficient their highest priority so they can squeeze as much value out of each individual fan as they can.
Are 140 mm Fans Better Than 120 mm?
With all other things being equal, a 140 mm fan is going to outperform a 120 mm model. The size of the blades simply allow the displacement of more air at once. That said, all things are rarely equal, and the value of a 140 mm vs. 120 mm fan is going to predicated on a lot more than just size. Most cases are compatible with both 120 and 140 mm fans. Computers that don’t are rare.
What Are the Quietest PC Fans?
The fan that promises the lowest decibel level is the Scythe Kaze Flex, but that can be a bit deceiving. Since this is a model with adjustable speeds, the sound levels are also variable. A noise rating on its own doesn’t mean much, so we suggest you look at the specs side by side and try to find a model that pairs a nice decibel rating with a high air flow level.
A cooling fan may not be the most important aspect of a computer build, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Without an efficient cooling system to keep everything running stable, you could potentially be putting all those expensive pieces of hardware at risk. The last thing you should have to do is replace a motherboard because you got a cheap fan that wasn’t up to the task. From Noctua to Cooler Master to Corsair, our guide covers some of the best models, and we hope you find something that works for your needs here.