If you’ve noticed that your PC is running a bit hotter than what is ideal for your system components, it may be time to start checking out some of the best case fans in order to avoid future problems. Quality fans make the best CPU coolers. There are a broad variety of options available to you when it comes to case fans and it is important to choose the right one for your case.
To help you out a bit, we’ve put together this comprehensive buyer’s guide to explain how a fan cooling system works and how to pick the best one for your case, components, and other specs.
Before you start shopping, you’ll want to double check the dimensions of your case and how much clearance you actually have internally for a fan setup. In some cases, you may be better off with a multiple fan system, rather than just a single fan. Really, it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
What Role Does a Case Fan Play in Maintaining PC Performance?
As the technology driving our PC’s and laptops continue to increase in both power consumption and speed, so do our computer’s internal temperatures. If important components such as the CPU and PSU are not kept at an ambient temperature via passive cooling, you desperately need a case fan or two in order to help carry the excess heat load. Left unresolved, excess heat will severely shorten the lifespan of your PC components.
Active cooling has become an integral part of PC maintenance. That’s where case fans come into play. With proper positioning, your case fans will simultaneously push hot air away from problem areas such as the CPU heatsink and pull fresh, cool air across them.
How to Choose the Very Best Case Fan for Your PC
A fair amount of thought and research should go into the purchase of a new case fan for your PC. You’ll want to consider things like;
- Whether or not aesthetics are important. Does your case provide a view of your fan? Does it matter to you what it looks like? There are fans with cool light displays and multiples colored blades for computer enthusiasts looking for something a bit more unique.
- What your primary goals are for active cooling. Do you have specific problem areas that are in need of active cooling, or are you taking preemptive measures to protect the entire system? Are you in the market for a new fan because of heat problems, noise levels during operation, or both?
- How much noise you want to put up with. Noise complaints are most common amongst overclockers, gamers, and professionals that need a lot of processing power. There are, however, some really nice, quiet models available if you’re willing to pay the difference in price. To better understand fan noise rankings, check out this guide.
- How you want to control your fan. Do you want a simple, plug-and-play fan that turns on and off as necessary? If you’re interested in manually controlling your fan settings, picking up the best fan controller for your system might be a good idea too. You can also use software to control your fan operation if you prefer.
Before you go shopping, you’ll need to check a few things:
- Check your PC’s connector type. There are 3 different types of connector, a 2-Pin, 3-Pin, and 4-Pin. A 2-Pin is a simple, on/off setup; not commonly used in modern computing. Both the 3 and 4-Pin connectors allow more control over fan operations, leading to more efficient active cooling.
- Choose an appropriate fan for your case size. If you have an extra-large case, you’ll want to consider a 200MM case fan, for instance. In this situation, an 80MM fan would do very little to cool your system, as it lacks the force of air flow and RPMs necessary to efficiently move cool air to important areas such as the CPU.
Best 80mm Case Fans
Cooler Master Sleeve Bearing 80mm
Without a Doubt One of the Very Best 80MM Case Fans
The Cooler Master 80MM silent case fan is one of the best options available for smaller cases that are exhibiting symptoms of overheating. If you find yourself irritated by regular fan operation noises, this 80MM case fan can easily fix it, in addition to efficiently cooling your system. Even while running at max power/speed, this fan is nearly completely silent.
An 11-blade design and a 3-Pin connector that’s perfect for hooking up to a fan controller are easily the most exciting features of this fan. For a smaller unit, it is incredibly efficient.
- 11 Blade design
- RoHS compliant
- Silent operation
- Perfect for smaller cases
- Not powerful enough to protect larger systems
- You can’t control the PWM
ARCTIC F8 PWM Rev. 2
Another Favorite 80MM Case Fan
ARCTIC’s Fluid Dynamic 80MM Case Fan is probably the best budget case fan available to consumers today. Its two-way installation allows you to blow warm air out of your case or pull cool air into your case; which is highly effective as a cooling measure. With a 4-Pin connector, this affordable case fan is ready to plug-and-play, set up with a fan controller, or even directly control your fan’s PWM with software settings.
Another great feature of this ARCTIC case fan is the fluid dynamic bearing, which has an integrated capsule of lubricating oil to ensure that operation remains smooth and silent even at high speeds. Other quiet models typically rely on a sleeve bearing to achieve this level of quiet, however, their service life is usually much shorter than that of fluid dynamic bearings.
- 4-Pin connector that works with software and fan controllers to control WPM
- Very quiet model
- Highly affordable
- Small enough to fit in smaller cases
- Easy installation
- Too small for medium-large cases
Noctua NF-A8 PWM Premium 80mm
One of the Best PC Case Fans on the Market
If you’re into aesthetics when it comes to your computer components but aren’t a fan of flashy light displays, the Noctua NF-A8 PWM Premium 80MM case fan just might be perfect for you. Designed with components such as your CPU in mind, this Noctua model was built to stand up to the air flow pressure demands of tight spaces around heat syncs and such. But they didn’t neglect the visual design elements of the fan in order to accomplish this level of efficiency.
Not only is it fairly quiet, due to Noctua’s signature SSO bearing system, it is composed of sleek lines, an open design, and perfectly placed blades. If you’re in the market for a smaller case fan set up, this is truly a great option.
- Custom designed, ultra-low power consumption
- 4-Pin connector which gives you more options for control
- Inefficient for large cases
Best 120mm Case Fans
Be Quiet! BL070 SILENTWINGS 3
A Practically Silent Case Fan
Don’t let the standard 7-blade design fool you; this SILENTWINGS 3 case fan is anything but standard. A unique 6-pole motor design allows for drastically less power consumption; and thus less vibration as well. Thanks to this feature, the Be Quiet! 120MM High Speed fan is indeed very quiet.
Another of our favorite features on this particular case fan is the design of the air inlets. They are funnel-shaped in order to create maximum air pressure; whether drawing air away from overheated components or pushing cool, fresh air across them. At 120MM this case fan is perfect for small or medium size PC cases.
- Perfect fit for more small-medium sized cases
- Quiet, thanks to a fluid dynamic bearing design
- 4-Pin connector which gives you additional control options
- Won’t fit in all small PC cases, you’ll have to check how much room you have in your case
- Some users experience more noise than others
Asiahorse Solar Eclipse MIRAGE
A Quiet and Slim Case Fan
The Aisahorse Solar Eclipse MIRAGE 32 LED is an amazing pc case fan. With an all copper core motor and FDB bearings, this fan requires no maintenance. It can cool the chassis temperature by five to ten degrees in a matter of minutes.
- Very quiet compared to similar brands
- Made of silicone mat making it more durable than its foam competitors
- Comes with a 3-pin interface that can be connected to the motherboard and other equipment
- Screws that come with the fan were not long enough for most chassis
- Unbalanced increasing the noise the fan makes
- Performed badly in most gaming PC’s
Corsair LL120 RGB
A Fully Customizable and Colorful Fan
Available with software control and customizable RGB lighting effects, this fan is a beautiful addition to your pc. You can control the speed of the fan allowing you to minimize noise and maintain maximum airflow.
- You have full control over everything from fan speed to lighting and even temperature alerts
- Unlimited optimization
- High airflow and static pressure perfect for liquid cooling applications
- Beautiful color options for ultimate customization of your computer chassis
- To get the full effects of the unit you need to invest in the command pro unit which is about $70
- Lighting modes are limited. There are no fade, flicker or breathing effect options
ARCTIC F12 PWM Rev. 2
The Best 120MM Case Fan for the Price
The F12 PWM Rev. 2 Case Fan is another great model designed by ARCTIC; one of the leaders in the industry of case fans and general cooling technology. This 120MM fan is a 4-Pin connector model, which allows you to control the pulse width modification of your fan. This is useful for heavy duty computer users such as gamers and designers who are battling unusually high operational temperatures.
Another benefit of the 4-Pin connector is that allowing your motherboard to control the fan’s PWM will dramatically cut fan noise levels. Constant monitoring of exact temperatures allows the system to appropriately estimate how much power and running time it will take to keep components at ideal temperatures. That means that the fan can avoid running at max power, and thus avoid running at max noise volume.
- 2 Way installation so you can push or pull air
- 4-Pin connector allows control of PWM
- Not enough air flow for larger cases
- May not fit smaller cases
One of the Best Case Fans Around
The Corsair ML120 is definitely one of our favorite 120MM case fans. Almost everything about it is custom, from the rotor design to the magnetic bearing that relies on magnetic levitation technology to create a smoother, quieter, and longer lasting case fan.
As a premium model, this fan is of course, a 4-Pin. If you’re a gamer, streamer, or other heavy duty PC user, this can be critical to keeping your system running optimally and quietly.
- 4-Pin connector
- Easy installation
- High performance
- Not as quiet as some fluid bearing models
- May need more than one to compensate for larger cases with extra gear
Thermaltake RIING 120mm
A Quality, Quiet Case Fan
Thermaltake RIING case fans come in sets of two. They work most efficiently this way, in pairs. They can be installed either direction, so you can push or pull air flow as necessary.
This case fan is a bit flashier than many others on our list and is perfect for open view cases. This 120MM fan equipped with dazzling multicolored LED lights which put on quite the display when running at max capacity.
- Anti-vibration mounting system
- Unique blade design which contributes far more concentrated compression
- Very cool display
- Using a two fan system will take up twice the room
- Won’t fit smaller cases
Best 140mm Case Fans
Corsair’s Best 140MM Case Fan
Another set of two, the Corsair ML140 case fans have an extensive control range of 1,600 RPM. This allows you to control your fans with great precision, and find a happy balance between fan performance and fan noise.
A custom rotor design and time-tested magnetic bearing motor system are probably the most notable features of these fans. Using static pressure, this 140MM Corsair fan creates ideal air flow to keep components cool and effective.
- Easy installation
- 4-Pin connector
- Not as quiet as other models on our list
- Won’t fit smaller cases
Noctua NF-A14 FLX
Introducing One of the Absolute Best PC Case Fans
The Noctua NF-A14 is identical to the previously described Noctua NF-A8 in every way but size. Due to its larger size, it is a more efficient cooling system for heavy duty computer users experiencing overheating problems.
One feature that we did not note on the other Noctua model, is the air flow acceleration channels which run along the sides of the fan casing. This optimizes this static fan’s ability to create adequate air flow.
- Provides low and ultra-low noise settings
- Easy installation
- 4-Pin connector
- Louder than similar models
- Only 1200 RPM capacity
Rosewill Makes Yet Another One of the Best 140MM Case Fans Available
Fluid dynamic fans such as these are commonly a favorite amongst computer users. They are one of the quietest, most efficient, and highly affordable 140MM case fans available. The 140MM Rosewill fan is easy to install, easy to use, and even comes with LP4 cables to avoid compatibility issues.
Simple, dynamic, and effective. That’s how we’d describe Rosewill’s 140MM fan.
- Easy installation
- Very quiet
- 3-Pin connector does not allow control of PWM
NZXT FN V2 140mm RF-FN142-RB
An Incredibly High Performance and Quiet Case Fan
NZXT are considered industry leaders when it comes to cooling technology for PCs, and it shows in the FN V2 140MM fan. A classic design, anti-vibration pads and cable sleeves, and a lower noise rating than similar fans of this type and size, all contribute to this fan’s superiority.
This case fan is a great deal. It’s affordable, it’s quiet, and it’s efficient.
- Comes with a 4-Pin adapter
- Incredibly cheap for the size and quality
- Original design is a 3-Pin which doesn’t allow WPM control without an adapter
Best 200mm Case Fans
Cooler Master MF200R RGB
The Quietest Case Fan with Silent Cooling Technology
One of the quieter case fans on the market, the Cooler Master MF200R RGB has a beautiful hybrid design that offers the perfect amount of static air pressure without losing airflow. This model comes with silent cooling technology which utilizes a combination of noise reduction technology along with sound-absorbing rubber pads.
- Smart fan sensor protects your fan by automatically shutting down if the motor of the fan becomes jammed by foreign objects.
- Certified compatible with Asus Aura, AS Rock RGB and Gigabyte Fusion
- Outstanding build quality
- Requires the purchase of an RGB controller
- LED lights are dependent on the fan power, if the fan shuts off, so do the lights.
Cooler Master MegaFlow 200
A Top Notch Case Fan for Over Clockers and Gamers
This sleeve-bearing model is a great option if you’re looking for the largest, most efficient fan at the lowest, most affordable price. With a displacement volume of roughly 184 m3/h, this 200MM case fan produces double the air flow. Keeping your system cool is a breeze with a fan of this size and quality.
- RoHS compliance
- 4-Pin connector
- To disable the lights, you’ll need a fan controller
Thermaltake Luna 20
Great 200MM of Silent Case Fan
Easily the prettiest case fan on our list, the Thermaltake Luna 20 is a thing of beauty, in both function and form. This high airflow case fan sports 11 uniquely designed blades, which contribute to lower noise volume and higher air inflow. An anti-vibrational mounting system helps this fan qualify as a ‘silent’ model.
The light display is ideal for open view cases, especially if you’re interested in a little geek glamour.
- Great display
- High air-flow design
- Only goes up to 800 RPM