Q&A: What Are The Best Case Fans For Keeping Your PC Cool?

We did our research and testing on over 20 models and we ultimately determined the best case fans for most PC builds are the Cooler Master's Jetflo 120mm. This was our Editor's Choice due to the sleek design along with the powerful fan speed and airflow while maintaining an affordable price.

Our runner-up model was the Noctua SF-S12A fan which is slightly more expensive than the Cooler Master and isn't nearly as pretty to look at. However, the benefit of this Noctua model is the efficient design which focuses on providing a reliable and constant airflow while emitting the least amount of noise out of all of the case fans listed within this guide.

Some of you may be building a new PC on a tight budget so we chose Thermaltake's Riing 120 as the best low budget fan. This is the lowest priced fan model on this list, but it is still capable of supplying out a decent amount of airflow with an attractive look that should be ideal for those who don't require the most expensive components.


Editor's Choice & Best Case Fans Overall

Cooler Master Jetflo 120 Case Fan

The Jetflo 120 earns our top case fans honor thanks to the stellar amount of airflow it can offer to cool your PC. 

If you are going to be building a serious gaming rig or multi-media editing workstation then you'll need the proper case fans to keep your build cool enough to operating . The Jetflo 120 offers speeds up to 2000 RPM and airflow up to 95 CFM, but the noise level can hit 37 decibels at maximum speed. 

*Pricing as of 3/28/18


Runner-Up &​​​​ Quietest Fan

best 120mm case fan

Our top choice for achieving lowest noise output while maintaining adequate airflow.

If you don't need the most airflow on the market and can settle for slightly less in exchange for a more quiet experience. The NF-S12A from Noctua offers the lowest audible noise levels on this list while outperforming the airflow of several other case fan models. 

*Pricing as of 3/28/18


Best Low Budget Fan

best pc case fans

A cheap case fan that gets the job done without the bells and whistles.

The Riing 12 by Thermaltake is our best choice for those looking to build a PC on a low budget. While it doesn't offer the best performance or specs on this list of case fans, it is affordable and still supplies enough air to keep your components cool under pressure.

*Pricing as of 3/28/18


When it comes to keeping your gaming rig cool, choosing the right case fans is an essential element to building a gaming PC to ensure maximum performance and a prolonged lifespan of the internal components.

Console gaming used to dominate the market, but as new games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are pushed out exclusively to the PC (at launch), more gamers are swapping their controllers for a traditional mouse and keyboard to get in on the action.

One reason for this change is the massive influx of players who are buying their own PC components and building their own gaming PCs. More people are choosing to build their own rigs since prices are as competitive as ever and there is a massive amount of free guides and knowledge shared online that those without a lot of tech experience can usually figure it out quickly.

RELATED - Q&A: What Is The Best 14 Inch Laptop?

However, cooling is one area in the PC build that some people overlook or don't put enough emphasis on. Ultimately, a build that keeps the internal hardware cool under pressure will not only outperform mirror specs with less cooling, but it can also help you retain the longevity of your machine as components that run too hot for too long can result in permanent damage.

It is situations like that where choosing quality case fans comes into being important. Here's a great video by Linus Tech Tips discussing hardware temperatures within gaming PCs:


How Does A Case Fan Keep My PC Cool?

Beyond your traditional CPU heatsink which either comes with your processor or is purchased aftermarket (maybe even liquid cooling), the best way to keep the internal hardware cool is through the use of fans mounted about the case of your PC.

For optimal setup, you'll want multiple fans mounted within your case, and they are used to accomplish two things. These fans either bring in colder room temperature air from the outside of the case towards the hot components or they are used to expel hot air from the interior the case, outward.


Where Are The Best Case Fans Placement For Maximum Airflow?

This is a great question, and it depends on some variables that will differ on a situation basis, but according to an in-depth test completed by Luke from Linus Tech Tips, the optimal setup for maximum airflow would be two fans in the front of the case, one fan in the rear and two fans mounted on the top of the case.

In terms of the single fan breakdown, the most efficient fan to achieve optimal airflow of the internal case is the rear fan. This is the most important case fan as it handles the crucial task of taking hot air from inside the case and pushing into the exterior environment thus resulting in heavy cooling potential.


What To Consider When Purchasing A Cooling Fan

If in the market for new fans for your PC build, these aspects are important to remember when determining the right build for your needs:

Size & Dimensions

There are several different sizes of fans on the market so choosing the right fit for your case is something you'll need to consider before buying. Fans are categorized in size via millimeters with most falling between the range of 40mm all the way up to 140mm.

Logically, the larger the fan blades are then, the more airflow it can circulate at the same speed. This means a smaller fan will have to run at a higher speed (which will make it audibly louder) to push as much air as a larger fan running at a significantly lower speed (thus being much quieter).

For a general rule of thumb, you want to choose the largest fan that still fits the given parameters for your case. The average case supports fan sizes up to 120mm or 140mm, and we will be covering the 120mm versions in our recommended cooling fans below due to their sheer popularity and compatibility.

LED Lighting

Not a huge factor for some, but others will want to make sure the LED lighting coming from the case fans will also match the rest of their computer build including any existing case fans, mouse, keyboard or display LEDs.

Some models might offer a wide range of LED color options that you can choose before purchasing whereas others may not offer any LEDs at all, but instead offer colored attributes within the fans design itself which look nice without attracting too much attention.

Fan Speed

Measured in revolutions per minute (higher is better), the fan speed is another crucial component in performance and is directly related to fan size. This attribute is the biggest culprit responsible for audible noise from the fans themselves. Those who desire a silent setup will want to purchase bigger fans running at lower RPMs over smaller fans that will be spinning faster.

Pins

For power distribution to the fans themselves, your case fans will either have three or four-pin connections. The three-pin design is more standard and will allow the fan to run at full speed unless the voltage is lowered by the motherboard. On the other hand, the four-pin design can be controlled using third-party software thus allowing you to reduce energy costs and fine-tune the speed for performance gains while keeping unnecessary noise to a minimum.

Air Flow (CFM)

Measured in cubic feet per minute (higher is better), the air flow measurement determines how much air the fan can move each minute. The higher the CFM, the more cooling that the fan will be capable of. However, if the CFM is higher, the audible noise may also be higher depending on the fan size and speed.

Noise Level (dBA)

Measured in decibels (lower is better), this attribute determined how loud the fan will be when operating at its maximum speed. This value isn't always going to be consistent as some fans have ways methods of slowing down the fan speed (either through physical adapters or third-party software) which will lower the noise level, but it's a good benchmark for determining how noise efficient the fan design is.


Comparing The Top Computer Case Fans


best 120mm case fans 2018
ThermalTake Riing 120 Case Fan
Jetflo 120 fan
Corsair AF120 fan
Luna Slim by Thermaltake
Corsair ML120 Pro

Company

Noctua

ThermalTake

Cooler Master

Corsair

ThermalTake

Corsair

Model

NF-S12A

Riing 120

Jetflo 120

AF120 Performance

Luna Slim

ML120 Pro

Price

Size

120mm

120mm

120mm

120mm

120mm

120mm

LED Options

None

Multi-option

None/Blue/Red

None

Red/White/Blue

None

Pins

4-Pin

3-Pin

4-Pin

3-Pin

3-Pin

4-Pin

Max Fan Speed (RPM)

1200

1500

2000

1650

1400

2000

Air Flow (CFM)

63.25

40.6

95

63.47

50.44

75

Noise Level (dBA)

17.8

24.6

36

30

24

37


Best 120mm Case Fans (2018)

The most expensive case fan mentioned in this article is the ML120 Pro by Corsair, and it is one of our favorites. It is offered in a sleek black finish without an LED or in varying colors with blue, red or white LED accents.

Beyond its elegant design and construction, the ML120 Pro offers stellar performance due to the magnetic bearing which is proven to result in higher performance, less noise and a longer lifespan.

The four-pin power connector allows the fan to be controlled anywhere up to 2,000 RPMs thus enabling you to find the perfect balance between noise and airflow without having to settle. This makes the ML120 Pro capable of an airflow CPM anywhere from 12 all the way up to 75.


From one of the most popular brands in cooling accessories comes the Jetflo 120mm case fan. The futuristic design is sleek and modern with both blue, red and white LED versions available for sale in addition to a base black, non-LED model.

Internally, the Jetflo fans offer excellent performance while outputting low noise with a maximum of 36 dBA due to vibration and sound absorbing technology within the design. The Jetflo is made for the long haul with a self-lubricating bearing that offers lifespans up to 160,000 hours and a high-efficiency motor that is dust and water resistant as well as polarity proof.

When it comes to performance, the Jetflo 120 is capable of producing RPMs between 800-2000 with two silent mode adapters at 1,600 RPM and 1,200 RPM. The high performing motor combined with the well-designed fans allow it to generate up to 95 CFM airflow.


The Corsair AF120 comes in two editions: performance and quiet. For the purpose of cooling, I am going to be recommending about the performance version as it will offer the more optimal cooling in exchange for slightly louder fan performance.

Its design is rather simple with a black base color for the chassis and an internal colored ring that comes with red, blue or white inserts. There are no internal LEDs on this model, but this can be seen as a positive as it helps lower power consumption and the overall cost.

With a maximum noise level of 30 dBA, the performance edition isn't overly loud especially when you take into consideration the ability to produce 63.47 CFM of airflow with fan speeds of up to 1650 RPM.


One of the highest rated case fans on Amazon, the Noctua NF-S12A is the third iteration of this model with newly designed blades that offer better airflow while minimizing noise up to 8% when compared to earlier generations. Additionally, the frames harness integrated anti-vibration pads which further improve the performance/noise ratio.

The brown and beige color combination are not that appealing but get the job done offering up to 63.25 CFM from the standard 120mm fan size. Each NF-S12A fan comes with a low-noise adapter that reduces the max speed during PWM control from 1200 to 900 RPM. Operating at just 17 dBA, the NF-S12A is one of the quietest case fans on the market that maintains this much airflow.


The Riing series from Thermaltake is another popular fan option with a sleek design that utilizes patented circular LED rings available in red, blue, green or white. Beyond the appeal, the Riing offers many features for optimal performance and efficiency.

It utilizes a concentrated compression blade which is designed to push the inner circle of air outwards which helps the overall flow by pressurizing and compressing the air. The wind blocker frame reduces blade noise and vibration to focus on the optimal balance of speed and sound.

Internally, the fan utilizes a hydraulic bearing which is self-lubricating and free from friction overall reducing noise and improving efficiency. The Riing 120mm has a max speed of 1500 RPM with up to 40.6 CFM.


Designed with a form factor of just 15mm in thickness, the Luna fan by Thermaltake offers stellar performance with little noise due to the enlarge fan frame opening that boosts air flow coupled with up to 1400 RPM of fan speed. The nine fan blades are also double-curved which helps deliver better air pressure at a lower noise level. The Luna 12 Slims are available in three colors: red white and blue.


Ending Thoughts

In the end, the right model for your needs will depend on a lot of variables. You'll ultimately have to choose which attribute you value most between price, design, performance and sound output. All of the options listed above are solid case fans that should fit most gamers needs and in some cases there are only minor differences between them.

For most people, we think the Cooler Master Jetflo 120s are the case fans that provide the best value and performance for the price. However, if you are seeking slightly less performance in exchange for a more silent operation, then Noctua's NF-S12A fans are going to be the better choice.

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We hope you found this helpful in finding the best case fans.

Colt Agar

Colt Agar

Managing Editor at TheTechReviewer.com
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and web services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.
Colt Agar
Colt Agar
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