Without proper airflow in your PC chassis, the parts will run hotter than they are supposed to. This results in decreased performance. How to fix that? Well, you can start off with some new case fans. If you own a gaming PC and the temperatures exceed a certain limit, both your graphics card as well as processor will begin to throttle down their speed in order to lower heat output. This can happen in the middle of a gaming session, and the last thing you want while playing an intense game of Overwatch or CS GO, is the occasional framerate drop in the middle of a fight. It is incredibly frustrating as a competitive gamer to lose because of unexpected hardware issues, but more importantly- your PC’s components may have a shorter lifespan without adequate cooling.
We have done the research for you, and came up with six of the best PC case fans that you can currently purchase. Before you start shopping, make sure to check the manufacturer specifications for your particular computer chassis. You need to know the exact size of the fan that your PC case supports. Different areas of the chassis will fit fans of varying sizes, and if you get the size wrong it is going to be a hassle. Most popular sizes for PC fans are- 80mm, 120mm, and 140mm. Some larger ATX cases have 200mm fan mounts on the front to support extra airflow, these kinds of cases are great for overclocked air- cooled gaming PC builds.
Without further ado, here are the best case fans you should consider.
The AF120 is one of the most popular high airflow optimized case fans available on the market. You know it is a quality product because Corsair made it, and their fans as well as AIO liquid cooling systems are some of the best in the gaming industry. The highlight of this fan is its affordable price and incredibly low operating volume.
Most case fans use sleeve bearings or ball bearings. Corsair takes things to the next level with their ML series of fans which uses magnetic levitation technology to separate the fan shaft and bearing such that there is nothing but air between them. This results in zero bearing friction as well as reduced noise levels.
Ask any PC building forum or gaming enthusiast about Noctua, and you will hear nothing but praise. This company makes quality products that run silently and last forever- everything a gamer needs. Although Noctua fans are slightly expensive, they will probably be the last fans you ever buy.
What do you do when you only have 5 bucks to spend on a brand-new case fan, but don’t want to end up with some cheaply built fan from a brand you have never heard of before? In that case (pun intended), you need the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120.
Frequently Asked Questions-
Static Pressure vs High Airflow
There are two types of PC fans- high airflow optimized fans, and high static pressure optimized fans. Most PC case fans are airflow optimized types, whereas static pressure optimized fans are used on heatsinks, radiators, etc. So what is the difference between the two? Airflow optimized fans are designed to shove more air per unit of time, which is why they are often marketed with CFM numbers that show how much cubic feet of air the fan can blow per minute. Static pressure fans on the other hand, are designed with the purpose of cramming air through densely populated areas of the computer chassis. They create more pressure on the exhaust side compared to airflow optimized fans.
So while airflow fans shove more air per unit of time, static pressure fans blow that air much harder. Why does this matter? Well, in a PC you have fans in different spots. The one at the back of your case is in a relatively uncrowded spot with no restrictions to airflow whereas the ones on the front might be obstructed by air filters and hard drive stacks. So you want high static pressure fans on the front in order to blow that air harder, so that it makes it way through the air filter meshes and hard drive cage. Same applies to heatsink and radiator fans- they are optimized for high static pressure. If the fan is unobstructed and just has to blow as much air as possible, you want a high airflow fan like the one at the exhaust side of the case. Airflow fans have sharper blade angles, whereas static pressure fans have flatter blades with less space between each blade.
How Many Case Fans do I Need?
This depends on the type of hardware that you are running, the quality of the fans, the case you are using, and the level of noise that you deem tolerable. More fans don’t automatically make a system cooler. In fact, some experiments have shown that too many fans can negatively impact system temperatures. And you also run the risk of an extremely loud PC if you cram a lot of fans into it. You can check out this video for more info on how many fans is appropriate for your specific PC.
What are PWM fans?
PWM is the technology used to regulate fan speeds in modern PCs. It requires a 4-pin connector, as opposed to the 3-pin connectors you will find in cheaper models. PWM fans have the ability to operate much more silently compared to non-PWM models, since the pulse width modulation technology helps them achieve a much wider range of speeds with extremely precise control at all times. Modern motherboards come with at least one 4-pin PWM port, which you can use to connect things like LED strips, water cooling pumps (AIO CPU coolers), or RGB PC case fans. Premium gaming motherboards have 4 to 6 PWM hubs, and allow you to connect multiple fans and LED lighting strips. The system monitors load on the CPU and motherboard, as well as the temperatures through various sensors on the board. Depending on the temperature, it signals the fans to spin faster or slower. You can customize fan speeds at various load levels in your motherboard BIOS, or through fan control software on your desktop. Non PWM fans can also vary their speed, but not to the same degree as PWM fans. To learn more about PWM fans check out this page.
Positive vs Negative Air Pressure
Positive air pressure is when there is more air entering your PC case, than there is air leaving it. This setup means that you have more air being sucked in by the intake fans than there is air being blown out by your exhaust fans. This creates a pressure inside your case that is higher than atmospheric pressure. In a negative air pressure setup, there is more air exiting the case compared to incoming air. With this setup you have created a region of low pressure in your case which means outside air will try to flow in through the vents and holes of your case. A negative pressure setup results in a couple degrees less heat, but at the expense of extra dust accumulation on the case. You will have to clean the air filters more often, and there will be dust on the internals that you need to get rid off before it hampers system performance. With a positive air pressure setup you risk running slightly hotter, but at least you don’t have to clean the case as frequently. Learn more about positive vs negative pressure in PC cases over here.
Is RGB Worth It?
RGB fans look pretty but they also cost more. So you need to decide if the extra cosmetic appeal is worth a few more bucks per fan. If you are building a system that is focused on achieving the maximum performance with a given budget, you need to conserve as much money as possible by using the bulk on your CPU and graphics card. Next in line is the memory and storage, followed by the motherboard and power supply. If you have a decent case along with a decent CPU cooler and a good aftermarket graphics card, any mid-range case fan will do just fine. The most premium ones tend to have fancy features such as RGB lighting that can be programmed through software. If you are splurging a couple thousand dollars on a high-end gaming rig and have money to spare on looks, go for it. They provide no performance advantage, and a well-built Noctua will always run quieter than some tricked out lightshow from a Chinese company you have never heard of. So if you are purchasing RGB fans, make sure to buy a model made by a reputed brand such as Corsair, Thermaltake, or CoolerMaster. The cheap RGB fans cut corners on quality of the core components in order to have the lights.
Which One Should You Buy?
If you are looking for the absolute best of both worlds, you can’t go wrong with the Corsair ML120 PRO series of fans. We recommend the LED models because they are barely a dollar or two costlier than the base version, but offer truly impressive lighting. Unlike fans like the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120 which have the LEDs on the inside of the frame, the ML120 PRO LED fans have the 4 lights located right inside the fan hub. This leaves less space for the shaft and blades, but Corsair managed to get away with it thanks to their clever engineering and innovative fan blade design. This innovation results in superior lighting, the illumination is spread evenly across the entire surface of the fan as it is spinning and creates a much better lightshow at all times, day or night. The performance figures are impressive, and noise is low. PWM speed control is supported on all Corsair ML120 fans, and they are guaranteed to last very long thanks to the unique magnetic levitation bearing system. If you want something less flashy than the ML120 PRO LED and even quieter, get the Noctua NF- S12a. It may look weird, but does its job really well and you will barely hear it operating even when it is spinning at max speed.