When it comes to keeping your gaming rig cool, choosing the best 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 (for now), 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. The reason more people are choosing to build their own rigs is that 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.
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 the best case fans comes into being important.
Here's a great video by Linus Tech Tips discussing hardware temperatures within gaming PCs:
How Do You Keep Your PC Build 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.
What To Keep In Mind When Buying 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
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 air 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.
As we just touched on in the last section, the fan speed is another crucial component in performance and is directly related to fan size. Measured in RPMs, the fan speed usually is the largest element responsible for audible noise from the fans themselves. Those who desire a silent setup will want to purchase bigger fans running at lower RPMs than smaller fans that will be spinning quicker.
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, 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 could also be higher depending on the size and RPMs.
What Are The Optimal Placements For Case Fans?
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 is two fans in the front, one in the rear and two on the top.
On the single fan breakdown, the most efficient fan to achieve cooler internal case temperatures is the rear fan which has the crucial task of taking hot air from inside the case and pushing into the exterior environment.
Best Case Fans For Gaming PC Builds (2017)
Noctua NF-F12A 120mm – $19.99 (Amazon)
One of the highest rated case fans on Amazon, the Noctua NF-F12A 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 offer 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 10 CFM from the standard 120mm fan size. Each NF-F12A fan comes with a low-noise adapter that reduces the max speed during PWM control from 1200 to 900 RPM.
ThermalTake Riing 120mm – $13.99 (Amazon)
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.
Cooler Master Jetflo 120mm – $15.99 (Amazon)
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 plain black, non-LED model.
Internally, the Jetflo fans offer powerful 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.
Corsair Air Series AF120 – $19.99 (Amazon)
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.
Thermaltake Luna Slim 120mm – $13.99 (Amazon)
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.
Corsair ML120 Pro – $24.99 (Amazon)
The most expensive case fan mentioned in this article is the ML120 Pro by Corsair and it is one of my 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.
So Which Case Fan Should I Buy Overall?
There isn't a concrete answer for everyone has different needs regarding budget, performance and noise levels. All of the options on this list are solid case fans that should fit most gamers needs with minor differences between them.
Personally, I care most about performance above all as when I'm gaming or editing multimedia. My rig can get very hot and suffer from thermal throttling so I'd pick up the Corsair ML120 Pros as they fit my needs the most in terms of performance coupled with the most appealing design from my perspective.
However, if I were on a budget or would not be pushing my PC build to the max through gaming or editing then I'd save a couple of bucks and go with the Cooler Master Jetflo 120mm as they are some of the best case fans for the price in terms of overall value.