Best Case Fans 2018 – Top Rated 120mm & 140mm PC Fans

by | Jun 7, 2018

Enthusiast-Tier

NZXT Aer 120mm fan

Budget Friendly

NZXT FN V2 120mm fan

Best Performance

Noctua NF-F12 Fan

We rated, reviewed, & compared the best PC cases fans across various budgets. These case fans are designed for performance oriented silent operation.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh6F2eccMec

Corsair Air Series AF120

  • Operates on Hydraulic bearings
  • Excellent Airflow
  • Aesthetic Customizability
  • Low static pressure

NZXT FN V2 120mm

  • Budget Friendly
  • Very quiet
  • Decent airflow
  • Minimalistic design
  • None

Noctua NF-F12 Chromax

  • Exceptional cooling performance
  • Extremely quiet
  • Replaceable corners
  • High-quality aesthetics
  • Very expensive

Corsair Static Pressure SP120

  • Inexpensive
  • High static pressure
  • Visual customizability
  • None

ARCTIC F12 PWM Series

  • Budget-Friendly
  • Quiet Operation
  • High airflow
  • Not the best build quality

Corsair LL120 RGB Series

  • Customizable 16 Vibrant RGB
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great balance between static pressure and airflow
  • Very expensive

NZXT Aer 120mm RGB

  • HUE+ and CAM-compatible
  • Low noise operation
  • Great balance between Airflow and Static Pressure
  • Required HUE+
  • Expensive

Corsair Air Series AF140

  • Very Quiet
  • 3 colored rings
  • Excellent Airflow
  • Not PWM

NZXT FN V2 140mm

  • Budget Friendly
  • Minimalistic design
  • Silent operation
  • None

Noctua NF-A14 Chromax

  • Quietest Case Fan
  • Replaceable Corners
  • Optimal Cooling
  • Very expensive

Corsair ML140 Pro

  • High-Quality Aesthetics
  • RGB Lighting
  • Durable and silent bearings
  • Noisy at high speed
  • Relatively expensive

ARCTIC F14 PWM Series

  • Budget Friendly
  • Tolerable noise level
  • PWM with splitter (PST)
  • Aesthetic Limitations

Common Fan Sizes

Computer Fan Sizes

Case fans come in a variety of sizes, namely 80mm, 92mm, 120mm, 140mm, and 200mm. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Big sized fans deliver a higher airflow compared to smaller sizes, the reasoning comes down to some simple math. Smaller fans are capable of spinning at a much higher RPM than bigger ones, making them a great choice for radiators. Since this buying guide is focused towards case fans, 120mm  or 140mm are the best options. You can also go with smaller or larger fans depending on what your chassis supports.

Most ATX cases will allow you to install upto 5 x 120mm case fans and options for a few 140mm. This factor is completely dependent on the case you are using. If you are building a new PC, make sure you check for installation junctions before you start looking for a case fan. Larger case fans are great for exhaust, simply because of their high-airflow. Compared to a smaller fan, they can push significantly more air through them at lower RPMs, i.e., making less noise.

Smaller fans work great as intake, especially when restrictions such as dust filters are added (Always use dust filters with intake fans).

How to find the ideal case fan - Aspects of Consideration

Though case fans do not consider one of the expensive PC components, the need for having several of them can end up hard on your pockets. This brings us to the first aspect, the budget. It's best to start off with a budget in mind. If you are looking to spend much, looking for something that is highly optimized for performance rather than aesthetics is the way to go.

There are several budget-friendly case fans mentioned in this buying guide (NZXT FN and Arctic are great options). In case you are looking to spend a larget sum for better aesthetics, Corsair ML and LL series are worth a look. Lighting is mostly the reason few case fans have very high-price, the technology is expensive and considered to be reserved for high-end builds. Other specifications related aspects to consider are:

Noise Emission

Case fans are one of the loudest PC components. Noctua currently leads the leaderboard for the quietest case fans with their Noctua NF-F Series.

Static Pressure

Case fans are used to create an airflow inside a pc case; This means they continuously exhaust hot air and intake fresh air. This process allows for better operation of the processor, motherboard or any other operational component. Static pressure is the amount of pressure a case fan can create while pulling/pushing air. This is one of the critical factors that many tend to ignore. Usually, static pressure fans are great for the radiators, but they can also be used for tightly packed and Less ventilated PC cases.

Airflow

Airflow refers to how much air a case fan can intake or exhaust in a unit of time. A fan with higher airflow doesn't necessarily mean a better cooling solution. Big case fans usually provide high airflow, but they lack static pressure. Other factors include Bearing type and type of Pin (3, 4).

Static Pressure VS Airflow - What's the Difference?

All case fans manufacturers advertise their fans to have high static pressure or airflow, What exactly do they mean? Static pressure refers to the pressure that a fan can create. High static pressure fans are optimized for fewer air leaks; This creates a pressure which helps in easy intake of air through a restrictive medium such as dust-filters or radiator.

Airflow fans are optimized to flow more air through them. These fans are great for open PC cases that don’t lack ventilation. Airflow depends on the kind of blades a fan uses, and it’s RPM. You will find many fans that have an excessively high RPM but lack static pressure. It’s better to stay aware of them. Thought they could be an excellent choice as exhaust fans but higher RPM also means more noise will be produced. It's usually better to have large fans as exhaust.

Positive Vs Negative Case Pressure

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8EN3K-eaVA

All the components inside a computer, be it RAM, motherboard, CPU or GPU dissipate waste heat to the surrounding. For this to work efficiently, it is necessary to have colder air surrounding the areas from where heat is dissipated. The air inside the case gets hotter with time, and this is where airflow comes into play. Here, Airflow defines as replacing the air inside of the case with air from outside. This is necessary to keep the process of dissipating heat efficiently.

To achieve this case fans are used. In a standard computer, they are divided into two types, intake, and exhaust. As the name suggests, intake fans, intake air, and exhaust fans are used to push it out. Implementing such kind of a system improperly can cause disasters. Each case fan added to your case increases the total noise it produces. That's not it, each case fan also contributes to an in-case pressure change.

PC case having too many exhaust fans can create a negative pressure which will force dust particles from surrounding to get inside the case. Having too many intake fans can do the complete opposite positive case pressure, this will not cause any issues related to dust(Considering you are using dust filters with intake fans) but it's not the most efficient way to achieve lower temperatures. The optimal solution for this problem is a balance between both intake and exhaust fans.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find out if your case is configured correctly. Unless you have a smoke machine to test this. Then how to figure out if you need to change your case fans setup? The best approach to this is monitoring the dust accumulation over time, if you any abnormal/unexpected results, it's time to add some intake fans.

Different Kind Of Bearings Used In Case Fans

Wikipedia

A bearing is a machine element that constrains relative motion to only the desired motion and reduces friction between moving parts.

In cooling fans, bearings are used to efficiently and reliably spin the blades. They are the major source of noise production when a case fan is running. All manufacturers use different bearings, and it is important to understand the difference between each to make a better buying decision.

Sleeve bearings

Let's start it off with sleeve bearings since they are the most common ones used by computer fans. They are very cheap and quiet which makes them the great choice for budget case fans. The downside is the lifetime. The ideal temperature of their operations is around 25-50 Celsius, Anything above this limit can lead to their dysfunction. Even if they are operated under their ideal temperatures, they are likely to fail with time due to lubricant loss. Due to these reasons, they are not favored for industrial tier case fans. Even though they have their downsides, they are still the most common type of bearings used by popular manufacturers like Corsair, Thermaltake, and Cooler Master.

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are a better version of sleeve bearings. These have small ball-like structures to reduce the contact area, friction and noise produced. This also helps them last a lot longer than the previously discussed sleeve bearings. They are better at enduring heat and have no mounting orientation restrictions. These are usually quieter at high speeds which makes them a really good choice for case fans.

CriteriaBall BearingsSleeve Bearing
Fan LongevityLonger LifeShorter Life
Heat EnduranceHigherLower
Fan Mounting OptionsVertical, shaft Center Line, Parallel, PerpendicularVertical
Noise EmissionsQuieter at higher SpeedsQuieter At Low Speeds in Early Life
LubricantLess EvaporationMore Evaporation
ContactPointLine

Magnetic Levitation Bearings

They are rarely used in case fans. In this list of best case fans, only one operates on these (Corsair ML). Compared to any other kind of bearings these are the quietest, most reliable and longest living. Magnetic forces are used to reduce noise and friction. The ML technology makes them very unique and a perfect choice for enthusiasts.

Types of Fan Connectors

  • 3-Pin fans used widely for chassis; They make use of variable voltage to manipulate their RPM.
  • 4-Pin fan is more usual with CPU coolers, The extra Pin (PWM pin) allows high-efficiency speed control.

The speed of both kinds of fans can be controlled with either motherboard (UEFI) or a fan controller. Both 3-Pin and 4-Pin fans are cross-compatible, A 4 Pin fan could be connected to a three pin connector, but it would prevent proper use of the PWM control.

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