How to keep it cool

Whether you’re building your PC from scratch or upgrading your hardware, choosing a high-quality case fan is essential.

Today’s powerful PCs produce a lot of heat, which is why quality case fans are essential to protect your machine from damage. But because the market is flooded with different designs and models, it’s important to do the research and compare the options.

As a proud computer geek, I’ve learned the ins and outs of building a PC from scratch, and case fans are one of my specialties. When I first started building PCs as a teen, I quickly discovered the importance of cooling the hard way. Now, one fried processor and a wealth of experience later, I’m eager to share my insights and save other people’s fancy new components from heat damage.

I’ve compiled a list of the best case fans for those building their own PCs. But even if your computer is already built, I recommend checking out the guide and considering updating old fans to protect your hardware from heat damage. I’ve also looked at prices, noise levels, rotational speeds, and numerous styles, so read on to find the right one for your needs.

  • fan1

    Phanteks/ Pocket-Lint

    Phanteks T30-120 Fan

    Best DIY PC fan overall

    $31 $40 Save $9

    Phantek’s T30-120 case fan is a relatively simple PC case fan, boasting a brilliant build that operates quietly and efficiently. Its success is mainly due to its precise manufacturing and a reinforced “Liquid Crystal Polymer” material, which adds to the durability and longevity of its performance. A nifty switch lets you choose between three different fan profiles, so you can customise the cooling to meet the demands of your rig.

  • Lian Li/ Pocket-Lint

    Lian Li UNI Fan SL V2

    Premium pick

    $27 $30 Save $3

    Improving efficiency from its first-gen predecessor, the UNI Fan SL V2 from Lian Li is a strong contender for “coolest” case fan ever. The design maximises airflow, so it’s worth the slightly higher price tag for those with higher cooling demands. The daisy-chain design is also a standout, letting you combine multiple SL V2 fans without having to buy additional hardware. The sleek and unique LEDs are the cherry on top.

  • Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM, High Performance Cooling Fan

    Noctua NF-S12B Redux-1200 Fan

    Best bang for your buck

    If you want to get your money’s worth, go with the NF-S12B from Noctua. Besides the low price, it boasts premium specs, like a max speed of 1,200rpm and a lifespan of over 150,000 hours. And while you don’t get any fancy LEDs or remote controllers at this price range, the NF-S12B still delivers an excellent performance while emitting only 18.1dB of noise. Noctua certainly deserves its stellar reputation.

  • Corsair/ Pocket-Lint

    Corsair LL Series LL120 Fan 3-Pack

    Best RGB style

    $83 $130 Save $47

    Corsair’s LL Series case fan is designed to dazzle, with dual light loops that encircle each fan in a glorious display of rainbow LEDs. And if rainbow isn’t your jam, you can adjust the colours and lighting modes to your liking with the Corsair software controls and Lighting Node Pro. Appearances aside, the LL Series delivers a premium performance with a premium price to match.

  • fan5

    Arctic/ Pocket-Lint

    Arctic F12-120 Fan

    Most affordable

    The Arctic F12 is not a fan you’d expect to come at such a low price. It’s highly efficient, fast, whisper-quiet, and easy to install. And while it might not look special, it’s definitely an upgrade from your standard pre-installed case fan. The 5-pack boosts the value even higher, so whether you want a chain of fans working in unison or just one extra for your rig, the Arctic F12 is a worthy choice.

  • Antec/ Pocket-Lint

    Antec F12 Series Case Fan 5-Pack

    Best for buying in bulk

    Antec is a great option if you’re buying in bulk. Its beautiful ARGB fans are available in 3-packs and 5-packs, with prices that bring the cost-per-fan down into nearly single digits. The fans also come with a fan hub and remote control, which makes daisy-chaining and customising that much easier. Most importantly, the combined airflow and max speeds are more than enough for high-performance computers.

  • be quiet!/ Pocket-Lint

    be quiet! Silent Wings 3 Case Fan

    Quietest operation

    $26 $42 Save $16

    Most case fans produce around 20–30dB of noise, but the Silent Wings 3 nearly cuts that number in half. It boasts a noise rating of 16.4dB, which is quieter than a whisper – and almost certainly quieter than your CPU fan. Of course, its other specs are impressive as well, with “luid-dynamic” bearings that deliver an estimated 300,000-hour lifespan and a max speed of 1,450rpm.

  • ASIAHORSE/ Pocket-Lint

    AsiaHorse WD-001 Series 120mm Case Fan

    Best with remote controller

    Fiddling with fan speeds in BIOS can be a nuisance, which is why AsiaHorse’s WD-001 Series is a nice relief. Its included remote gives you control over the speed of each fan as well as a whole slew of lighting effects. From rainbow mode to rippling colour styles, the customisation options are nearly endless. Plus, these are some of the fastest case fans out there, with max rotational speeds of 1,800rpm.

Why do I need a PC fan?

Proper ventilation serves two purposes. The first is protecting your components from heat damage, as high temperatures can cause malfunction to everything from the motherboard to the hard drive. Even CPUs, which automatically shut down when they reach a high enough temperature, can still degrade in the face of extreme heat (the silicone parts are usually the first to go). Secondly, proper ventilation can improve performance, as CPUs and GPUs throttle their speeds when they heat up to protect their hardware. In other words, lower temperatures mean higher performance, so get those fans spinning.

How many fans do I need to buy when building a PC?

Almost all CPUs and GPUs come with a built-in fan, but many computer cases include only one (if any at all). Your completed build should have at least two case fans, one for exhaust and one for intake. For high-performance PCs, like gaming rigs, it’s a good idea to install as many fans as your case has mounts. Few computer cases come with more than one fan, so check the product information before you decide on how many to add.

Should I get a 120mm or 140mm PC fan?

Most cases are compatible with both, but your first step should be to check the dimensions of the mounting points to make sure. If your case is compatible with both sizes, you can then decide on what’s more important to you – noise levels or airflow. Generally speaking, smaller fans are considered quieter while larger fans are better at reducing heat. However, the differences become almost negligible as you near max speeds.

Can I change a PC fan speed without a controller?

If your fan doesn’t have a controller, there’s still a good chance you can adjust the fan speed. Look for options that are “4-Pin” or “PWN controlled,” as these types of case fans can be adjusted within BIOS. Some fans even include fan control software for adjusting the settings, including the LEDs. It’s a good idea to check with the manual before diving in.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button