The Best 120mm Case Fan

Looking for the best 120mm case fan? You’ve come to the right place!

When searching for case fans, one of the most common sizes you will come across is 120mm. These are used on pretty much everything inside a computer, from chassis intake and exhaust to radiators and heatsinks. They are available in many different flavors- RGB, single color, PWM, etc. And to make things even more confusing, you have static pressure optimized fans as well as airflow optimized fans. Which one should you get? After all, there are several brands and model lines to choose from even if you know that you are looking for a 120mm case fan. Depending on which part of your case the fan will be mounted on, as well as the presence of other fans in your case, you will have to narrow down your options.

First you must decide whether you want a static pressure or airflow optimized fan. How to do that? Well, it’s actually quite simple- look around the area in which this fan will be mounted. Is it on the chassis without any airflow impeding objects nearby? If there are no air filters around it, or any hard drive cages in the vicinity, you want an airflow optimized fan.

If the fan must draw air through a filter or push air through hard drive cages, you want a static pressure optimized fan. And if the fan is being used on any sort of cooling system, whether it’s a radiator for a water loop or heatsink for a tower cooler, you always want to get a static pressure optimized fan. Once you decide which type of 120mm fan you need, it is time to look at the bearing. Bearing reliability and price increases in the following order- Sleeve bearing, Ball bearing, Hydraulic bearing, SSO2 bearing, and Magnetic levitation bearing.

The more expensive bearings last longer and run quieter. Talking of quiet, you now need to check the fan for noise levels. Noctua and beQuiet make some amazing silent 120mm fans for gaming PCs. Finally, you look for aesthetics- fan color, RGB, etc.

Without further ado, here are our contenders for the best 120mm case fan:

Rosewill 120mm Case Fan 4-Pack, Long Life Sleeve Bearing Computer Case Fan ROCF-13001, Ultra Quiet Computer Cooling Fan 4 Pack 120 mm Standard Case Fan

Rosewill 120mm Quad Pack – A Lot of Cheap Airflow

Overview:

Buy a pack of four, and you cover all the airflow for your entire computer for under 20 bucks. Keep in mind that these aren’t intended for any powerful gaming PCs, and are mostly for budget systems where the CPU or graphics card aren’t spitting out much heat.

Features:

The reason these case fans are so cheap is because they have no additional features or PWM control- they are just designed to suck air in and blow it out the from the other side, that’s it. No fancy RGB lighting, not even single color LEDs. There are no anti-vibration mounts or rubber padding on the corners, so be prepared to hear a bit of rattle in your case if you don’t mount them securely. But as long as you use the provided screws and secure these fans properly to the case, there should be very little noise… at least at the beginning of their lifespan since these are sleeve bearing fans.

Sleeve bearings are the cheapest type of bearing, and although they come in various flavors the general rule with them is that they start out quiet and progressively get louder with time. They also have a shorter lifespan compared to ball bearing fans and can die suddenly after working fine for years. We don’t recommend these fans for cases with a lot of stuff inside such as hard drive cages, air filters, or water cooling loops. They generate decent airflow at 38.2 CFM, and the noise level is actually surprisingly low- just 22 dBA which is not much louder than a whisper. The main reason for the low noise level is the speed at which these fans spin- they are voltage controlled and have a steady speed of 1200 rpm. You can plug them into 4-pin headers on your motherboard, but you will not control the speed with PWM.

Pros:

  • Okay in terms of airflow, at 38.2 CFM
  • Extremely cheap, you get a 4- pack for under 20 bucks
  • No software to mess with, no fan curve to set since these are regular DC fans and don’t have PWM speed control
  • You can control up to 8 of these with just one fan header, using the Silverstone fan hub

Cons:

  • Starting voltage is 7V DC, which means you have a very limited rpm range for speed control through voltage manipulation (as is the case with most 3 pin fans)
  • No rubber anti-vibration mounts on the corners

Corsair LL Series LL120 RGB 120mm Dual Light Loop RGB LED PWM Fan 3 Fan Pack with Lighting Node Pro

Corsair LL120 RGB Triple Pack – Best Looking RGB Fans on the Market

Overview:

Are you okay with sacrificing a little bit of airflow performance in return for the best RGB lighting possible? Well then, check out the Corsair LL120 RGB 120mm fans. These are slightly weaker in terms of airflow when compared to AF120 fans but still pack enough cooling performance to handle a beefy gaming PC, and look awesome while doing it.

Features:

The Corsair LL120 RGB was designed with one purpose in mind- provide the best RGB lighting of any fan in the entire computer industry. Performance took a backseat as a result, which means the regular AF120 fans beat out the much more expensive LL120 RGB fans even though both are 120mm models. The reason for this decreased airflow performance is the LEDs- this fan has more LEDs than any other fan in the market. Standard LED fans use 4 units, which can be positioned in a ring around the frame of the fan, or installed directly into the rotor hub which provides a much more uniform lighting. But with the LL120 RGB fan, Corsair took things to the extreme and used 16 RGB LEDs for each fan. These LEDs are installed in two separate lighting loops for maximum color penetration across the entire cross section of the fan, and each LED is individually customizable which results in thousands of unique lighting profiles.

The fan speed can be controlled seamlessly through a range of 900 rpm (600 to 1500), thanks to PWM. When you purchase this pack of 3 LL120 RGB fans, you also get Lighting Node Pro RGB controller module which allows you to connect all your RGB fans and LED strips to one central hub that is then controlled through the Corsair iCUE software. You can effortlessly customize lighting profiles and choose from thousands of possible combinations. One thing we love about the LL120 RGB fans is how quiet they are, which is partly because of the low rpm. The fan blades are designed to generate good airflow while also staying under 25 dBA of noise.

Pros:

  • The best RGB lighting on the market, with 16 independent RGB LEDs arranged around the fan in two separate lighting zones (one on the inner circle of the frame, and another on the fan hub)
  • Hydraulic bearings for low noise and long life
  • Optimized to deliver a nice balance between static pressure and airflow (43.25 CFM and 1.61mm H20 of airflow and static pressure respectively)
  • Fan speed and lighting controlled through PWM
  • This pack of 3 fans also includes a Lighting Node Pro RGB controller hub

Cons:

  • In exchange for the amazing lightshow, you sacrifice a bit of cooling performance (it is still very powerful compared to an average 120mm case fan)
  • Very expensive

Thermaltake Riing 12 High Static Pressure Circular Ring Red LED Case/Radiator Fan with Anti-Vibration Mounting System Triple Pack Cooling CL-F055-PL12RE-A

Thermaltake Riing 12 – Stylish and Silent

Overview:

Do you need a pack of three fans for your 360mm radiator? Are you a fan of high performance and low noise? Well, Thermaltake has your back with their static pressure optimized Riing 12 LED fans. These are available in 4 different colors- red, white, blue, and white. But if you want every possible color in your gaming PC case, check out the RGB version of these fans which also comes with a RGB controller made by Thermaltake.

Features:

The rubber anti-vibration mounts and unique fan blade design allow this fan to spin quietly at speeds up to 1500 RPM. It uses a hydraulic bearing just like all the other premium case fans out there, and this guarantees low noise along with longer lifetimes. The Riing 12 LED fan has a life expectancy of around 40,000 hours at operating temperatures of 25°C. It provides really good static pressure (2.01mm H20), along with decent airflow numbers (40.6 CFM). Note that this Thermaltake fan outperforms the flashy Corsair LL120 RGB fans, both in terms of airflow and static pressure. And it does so while running quieter than the Corsair LL120 fans- 24.6 dBA vs 24.8 dBA. Not that your ears will notice a 0.2 dBA difference in noise levels, but it is worth noting that this fan costs much less than the LL120 RGB.

And if that isn’t quiet enough for you, you can attach the low noise cable which adds additional resistance to further reduce noise levels down to just 18.7 dBA. It does so by decreasing fan speeds down to 1000 rpm from 1500. This fan doesn’t have a 4-pin connector, which means it relies on voltage control to change speed. Most of the time it will run at full speed, unless your motherboard supports voltage based fan speed control for 3- pin fans through the BIOS.

The RGB version of this fan is a completely different beast- while the Corsair LL120 had 12 individually addressable RGB LEDs, each Riing 12 RGB fans is equipped with a whopping 30 RGB LEDs. These 30 individually addressable LEDs are spread across 3 different lighting zones- Front, Center, and Back. And you can control them through the TT RGB Plus software on your desktop, or their phone app for Apple and Android devices. The triple pack of RGB fans also comes with a controller hub just like the Corsair LL120 fan pack, but this is a totally different type of controller. It allows you to attach up to 5 RGB devices and can be controlled with Amazon Alexa. So you can change the color and brightness on your Thermaltake Riing 12 RGB fans by talking to an Amazon Alexa device. Aren’t these fans super cool?

Pros:

  • Great airflow and static pressure
  • RGB version has 30 individually addressable LEDs, arranged in 3 different lighting zones
  • Rubber padding on corners to lower vibration transfer from fan to case
  • Hydraulic bearing for less noise and longer lifetime
  • Triple pack of RGB fans comes with a controller hub that accepts up to 5 RGB devices

Cons:

  • Even though the RGB version of the Riing 12 is better looking and has more lights than the Corsair LL120 RGB fan, it performs slightly worse in both airflow and static pressure
  • No PWM speed control on non RGB Riing 12 fans

Noctua NF-F12 PWM chromax.Black.swap Premium-Grade Quiet 120mm Fan

Noctua Chromax Edition – Expensive, but Worth It

Overview:

Noctua had been getting a lot of criticism for the bland, industrial color schemes on their fans. And none of the Noctua fans have any kind of fancy lighting features since every single one of them is designed to deliver maximum cooling performance while staying as quiet as possible. Anything else is deemed unnecessary. But they finally caved in to the pressure from critics and customers- did they include LED lighting? Nope, doesn’t seem like we will ever get that. But hey, at least we have removable corners that come in 6 different colors!

Features:

That’s right, the famous Noctua NF- F12 static pressure optimized fans now come with rubber corner pads that are removable and don’t look like dried up cattle dung. Gone are the boring industrial looks, we now have a black frame with black fan blades and… colored anti vibration pads? You get 4 pads for each one of the 6 different colors- red, white, blue, black, green, and yellow. In terms of performance, there isn’t really much to say. Put up any other 120mm fan against these, and the Noctua will win by a large margin. No other company has managed to replicate Noctua’s impressive balance between performance and low noise levels. It is a static pressure optimized fan, which means it is designed to be mounted on radiators, heatsinks, and behind mesh filters on PC case air intakes.

The static pressure rating for this fan is 2.61mm H20, which puts it ahead of both the Corsair LL120 RGB and Thermaltake Riing 12 RGB. Those fans may look cool, but this fan does actual work. But just because it is static pressure optimized, doesn’t mean this Noctua fan cannot generate airflow- it does, a whole 55 cubic feet of air per minute. That means it trounces both the Corsair LL120 RGB and Riing 12 RGB in the airflow department as well. And it does all of this while staying whisper quiet- at just 22.4 dBA, the NF- F12 PWM Chromax is the quietest PWM static pressure fan we have ever seen. If you buy the standard non- Chromax NF- F12 without the swappable corner pads, you also get a low noise adapter which reduces RPM from 1500 to 1200, further reducing noise levels down to 18.6 dBA.

Pros:

  • 61mm H20 of static pressure, makes this fan perfect for mounting on radiators, heatsinks, in front of drive cages and behind air filters
  • 55 CFM of airflow
  • Incredibly quiet, even under full load (1500 rpm max)
  • The regular PWM version of the NF- F12 comes with a LN adapter which reduces speed to 1200 rpm and noise down to 18.6 dBA
  • SSO2 bearings which are better than regular hydraulic bearings, the reason this fan has a MTTF of 150,000 hours while other fans last around 40,000 hours
  • Comes with a bunch of accessories- 4 swappable rubber corners for each of the 6 colors
  • The regular non- Chromax version of this fan comes with a low noise adapter

Cons:

  • Expensive, when you consider that this is a single fan instead of a pack
  • Even the Chromax edition with swappable rubber corner pads looks incredibly boring and bland compared to most modern LED fans (but it gets the job done better than any of them)

Frequently Asked Questions-

 

How do I know if this fan will fit inside my PC Case?

Your case will have mounting spots for fans, usually 120mm and 140mm on both the front as well as top. This can vary depending on what type of case you are using, for instance a small form factor case probably isn’t going to support 280mm radiators on two different sides. Most cases that are mid towers will take 120 and 140mm fans, and there are some mid towers (older designs) which even accept 200mm fans. The rear end of the case, where all the motherboard I/O is located will probably have a 120mm fan mount. You can measure the fan mount from the middle of one side to the middle of the opposite side, since all of them will be square shaped.

When measuring a fan mount on the case or the size of your fan, do not take a diagonal section. Don’t go corner to corner, instead measure from one side to another (through the middle of the side). If you don’t have any measuring tools at hand don’t worry- even the smallest of cases are designed to fit at least 3 to 4 120mm fans. And if you need specific info on what size of fans your case supports and how many of each type it will fit, just refer to the product page on the manufacturer’s official site, or the box that your case came in.

 

How is fan speed controlled?

Fan speed in the old days was constant- either it would be running at full speed (ON), or it would be at zero RPM (OFF). Eventually, system builders and enthusiasts started to tweak around with their fans and made custom resistance cords that would patch onto the existing wires to reduce the amount of current or voltage being sent to the fan, this in turn would slow down the fan and reduce its noise. The simplest fans use a 2-pin or 2-wire connection. Then we have 3-pin fans which are also called DC fans, and in these fans the third wire is what relays the speed of the fan to your system. You can look for 3-pin fan headers on your motherboard, and connect these fans to them.

Three pin connectors can regulate fan speed, but in a very crude and inefficient manner. They do so by regulating the amount of voltage being sent to these fans. One of the problems with voltage based speed control is that very often the fan won’t start until you supply at least 50% of its rated voltage, and this means your fan will be really noisy whenever it starts up. The range of speed control is also limited, and power is wasted. In comparison, PWM or pulse width modulation based fan speed control uses digital pulses or signals to control fan speeds much more efficiently across a wider range of RPM. PWM control results in more power efficiency, less noise, and allows the fans to run at extremely low speeds that are not possible with voltage based speed control (many 3 pin fans cannot go below 50 percent RPM or they stop completely). And with PWM, you can also control the RGB lighting on your fan. This is done through the motherboard, and you can select custom lighting effects and watch them update on your fan in real time.

It is also important to note that you can connect a 3 pin fan to a 4 pin header on your motherboard, it will still run. But since this is not a PWM fan, the motherboard will not regulate its speed and the fan will run at full RPM all the time which increases noise levels and reduces fan lifetime. You can control this through the BIOS in some motherboards, where they allow you to set the speed on a 3 pin fan even though it is connected with a 4 pin header, this is done through fan voltage control instead of PWM.

 

Why are silent fans more expensive?

Silent fans are designed with special blade geometry and superior bearings. They also have rubber pads on the corners to reduce vibration transfer from the fan to the case. Some premium silent fans also come with rubber mounts that replace the metal screws. These rubber screws don’t secure the fan to the case as well as an actual metal screw, but they significantly reduce noise because even less vibration is transferred to the case. Another reason why silent fans are more expensive is the PWM speed control- it requires a special IC within the fan motor as well as a 4 pin cable. There are quiet fans which are 3 pin types, but they are not as silent as PWM based fans. There are some exceptions of course, such as the Noctua fans which come in both DC as well as PWM versions. Noctua says that DC voltage control is superior in some aspects, but they can get away with it because their fans are already engineered to be quieter than 90 percent of all fans out there, PWM or not. Noctua also provides ULN or ultra low noise adapters which are basically extension cords for your fan cables. These extensions carry resistors which decrease the voltage flowing to the fan and reduce its speed.

 

My motherboard doesn’t have enough headers, what to do?

There are a couple options for you. First, you can but a PWM fan splitter cable such as this one from eBoot. The cords are all nice and braided, and you have multiple color options to choose from in order to match the theme of your gaming PC build. Or, you can get a PWM fan hub. This fan hub from Rosewill is cheap and allows you to connect 8 fans through just one 4- pin header on your motherboard. How does it work? Well, the hub draws power directly from your PSU so you don’t have to worry about the motherboard getting starved. The speed reading for all fans is provided by the one fan that is connected to the glossy port. This one speed reading is taken as the speed of all fans and is transferred to the header in your motherboard. Then it takes the PWM control from your motherboard and transfers that signal to all PWM fans which are connected in the hub.

So there are two cables going out of this hub- one to a SATA connector drawing power from your PSU, and the second to your motherboard CPU fan control header. If you connect a 3 pin fan to this header, it will still work but you can’t control its speed. It will run at max RPM all the time. And you can also operate this fan hub without plugging in the PWM cable, by just connecting the SATA power. This will also run the fans at maximum speed all the time, since the motherboard has no way of knowing what speed the fans are operating at, and there is no signal going into the hub that tells the fans to slow down.

 

Which One Should You Buy?

If you want a fan to suck in air through mesh filters, then push this air to the rest of the system through drive cages, you are looking for a good static pressure fan. And that means you need the Noctua NF- F12 PWM which is quiet simply the best static pressure fan on the market. Not only is it unbelievably silent while running, but the amount of static pressure that it generates is incredible. This fan is perfect for PC case air intakes, water cooling radiators, and air cooler heatsinks.

But what if you are more interested in augmenting the aesthetics of your gaming PC build? In that case (see what we did there?), you need the Corsair LL120 RGB fans. They come with a free RGB controller unit, and you can sync up all the fans with other RGB lighting accessories in your case using the Corsair iCUE software. If you own a Corsair gaming keyboard and mouse, you can sync up the RGB lighting of your whole gaming setup.

We hope this in-depth review of the best 120mm case fans was helpful to you. If you’re building or upgrading your PC, we can help further; check out our PC PARTS category for more in-depth articles on each PC part you need to consider for your perfect build. Good luck with your research, and happy building!