Just like people, your computer components need to ‘’breathe’’. In order to keep them breathing you’ll have to pay attention to the heating signatures and keep the temperature as low as possible. Keeping the components’ temperature at an optimal level is closely tied to the overall stability of your PC. The worst-case scenario is burning out your valuable components, which is definitely the last thing you want to happen. The statistics show that overheating accounts for 60% of all malfunctions. The fact that this issue is so prominently recurring is why PC cooling fans have been invented and developed in the first place.
Many PC building enthusiasts and users consider these neat and compact devices to be the equivalent of a medical first-aid kit. Not only do they act as a fail-safe mechanism that prevents your components from overheating, but they also improve the overall performance of your configuration.
If you’re reading this guide, that means that you’ve already decided to purchase a cooler with the intention of preventing rather than fixing. Luckily for you, we’re here to help, which is why we’ve chosen five of the best PC fans currently on the market.
5 Best PC Cooling Fans
We’ll start off with our top pick, and then we’ll gradually move on to some of the other viable options.
1. Be quiet! Silent Wings 3
We’ve chosen Silent Wings 3 as our top pick due to the way the company incorporated all the necessary cooling fan aspects into one seamless product. The company released multiple variations of this particular cooling fan. These include the 120mm and 140mm frame sizes as well as the DC and PWM versions for both dimensions. We’ll be focusing on the 120mm high-speed PWM version in this review. Even though we’re reviewing just this version, we can guarantee that the quality is equally distributed to all other variations.
First of all, by looking at the visual aspect of the unit itself, we can see that the frame features a black rubber finish on the inside. In fact, the whole unit is black, including the braided cable and the exposed wires on the side. Furthermore, the thickness of the frame equals to 25mm and isn’t affected by the size of the frame that you choose (either 120mm or 140mm). The corners of the fan have the standard mounting holes. However, the company provided you with an alternative way of mounting your cooler. You can use their new vibration dampening system where you have to push the pin through each corner piece.
More on the technical side, the voltage range of the cooler can go from 5 to 13.2v, and it utilizes 1450 Fan RPM (revolutions per minute). When it’s operating, the unit is literally inaudible at 5 or 7 volts, although it produces a slight humming at 12 volts.
It’s extremely quiet
It features two possible ways of mounting it (attachable corners for even quieter performance)
There is a slight hum when operating at 12 volts
2. Cooler Master Sleeve Bearing 80mm Case Cooler
Cooler Master is a widely known company among the PC users and retailers. The company earned its prestigious reputation by manufacturing high-quality cooling products throughout the years. The Sleeve Bearing 80mm Case Cooler belongs to one of their entry-level fan categories. That, however, does not mean that this fan isn’t a worthy contender.
The design of the cooler is quite simple, to be honest. The only feature that remotely stands out is the company’s trademarked holographic logo sticker in the middle. The rest of its structure is pretty straightforward and basic. The cooler’s diameter is quite small because it was designed specifically for some of the Cooler Master’s more notable cases (such as CM 560 and 690).
The cooler offers a decent 24 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air output, which is fairly impressive considering the size of the device. Furthermore, the unit is not exactly silent as the company advertises. In terms of the noise level, it can’t compete with Silent Wings 3. Twenty decibels are enough for a decent, low-key performance, but nothing else than that. However, the fact that it’s so small and compact compensates for this shortcoming.
The cooler is extremely cheap
The diameter of the device is relatively small and compact
It’s not completely silent
The design is a bit dull
3. Arctic F8 PWM 80mm Case Fan
The fan features a black and white color scheme in its design, which is the company’s trademark. Arctic isn’t really trying to make the best-looking case fans; instead, they’re focusing on functionality above all other. Being a PWM case fan, it comes with a four-pin connector, which makes most standard motherboards perfectly compatible with that mounting system.
Arctic fans usually range from 6 to 12 volts, which allows you to adjust the cooling and the sound level according to your preferences. This fan is no different in that regard, so you can take the full advantage of that feature. Moreover, the fan has a relatively good air flow of 31 CFM when it’s running at full speed - 2.000 RPM. We compared it to several stock case fans to test out how well it deals with the noise level. The difference was drastic, and we barely heard any noise.
The downside of this fan is that it comes with low-quality cables. We wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily pleased with how the cable management looked in our PC. It would have been better if Arctic sheathed the cables in black rubber. Then, you wouldn’t have to worry about the cables being damaged.
It’s an 80mm case fan, so it’s relatively small and compact
You can adjust the cooling and sound level performance
The cables are frail and exposed
The design is a bit odd
4. Corsair ML120 120mm Premium Magnetic Levitation Fan
The ML Premium Corsair fans are best described as having an overly industrial look to them. These descriptions actually match the company’s manufacturing procedures and the high-quality materials that they use. They are incredibly sturdy thanks to the enhanced frame structure (the edging and the mounting holes). The sturdy construction is complemented by the two combined colors (black matte and grey). They accentuate the aesthetic value of the cooler’s design and make it match well with most PC builds.
As far as performance goes, the fans feature magnetic levitation technology in order to reduce the noise levels. That technology ensures that no physical bolt bearing is used. Instead, the fans are supported by magnetic fields.
During our testing, we’ve noticed that the units were able to keep the overall temperature in our build at a bare minimum and push the CPU to its limit. Moreover, we could utilize its extensive control range and adjust the noise level however we wanted. In short, they do their job, and they do it extremely well.
All in all, we’re not sure whether the second fan is worth the added cost, but it definitely showcased better performance than we had expected. The Corsair fans are up to some tough competition such as the Be Quiet’s coolers, but they’re certainly among the best computer fans.
The fans are extremely sturdy and well built
They utilize Arctic’s new magnetic levitation technology
You can adjust the noise levels according to your wishes
The package is a bit expensive (the second fan isn’t necessary)
5. Noctua NF-F12 PWM Cooling Fan
We’ve reserved the last spot on our list for Noctua’s NF-F12 cooling fan. Noctua fans have quite a distinct appearance due to their interesting colors. Most PC users complain how these colors never match the theme of their PC configurations and cases. We partially agree that it’s a bit difficult to integrate them into the chassis without compromising the aesthetic value. However, a fan’s appearance should be the least of your concerns.
The NF-F12 features standard dimensions like most computer fans. It’s 25mm thick and has a 120mm long diameter. Once you connect the fan via the 4-pin header, it utilizes its sensor in order to determine the most optimal fan speed for your system configuration. The fan’s rotational speed easily reaches 1500 RPM (or 55 CFM) with 93.4 cubic meters of air per hour. In addition to these features, the fan also has a low-noise adaptor and integrated anti-vibration pads.
Noctua’s selling point has always been the utilization of focused flow. Focused flow uses stators to manage and direct the airflow even in the toughest cooling conditions. That means that your computer might be located between two furniture items and it would still get a decent amount of ventilation.
The fan has a great cooling potential (even in the most difficult cooling conditions) due to its focused flow system
It has a sensor which can determine the most optimal temperature for your PC
The design features a combination of colors which are hard to combine with the rest of the PC case
Buyer’s Guide for the best computer cooling fans
Our, shall we say, comprehensive list of products will do you no good if you don’t understand them in their entirety. Therefore, we’ve written a short buyer’s guide to help you get acquainted with the product which you intend to buy. These are some basic aspects that you should pay attention to.
Appearance and Dimensions
First and foremost, you’ll need to check your computer case to determine which dimensions are suitable for your rig. Failing to do so will result in you getting a PC cooler that doesn’t match the designated bolt holes of the motherboard/case.
Moreover, if you’re someone who cares about the aesthetic value of your PC, it’s understandable that you’ll be more ‘’picky’’ when it comes to the design of the fan. As discussed above, some companies simply choose not to dedicate enough time and attention to such details. Rather, they focus on functionality. You should check each company’s trademarked design to see which one suits your needs best. However, if your case doesn’t provide a clear view of your PC components (a glass side panel), it doesn’t really matter how it looks.
There’s little to say about this aspect as it’s quite self-explanatory. The amount of money you wish to invest in a cooling unit affects its quality. It’s simple as that. However, since the market is a versatile place, you’ll probably find something that matches your budget.
Overclockers, PC enthusiasts, and ‘’normal’’ users all have something in common - noise complaints. Before purchasing a cooling fan, you should decide on how much noise you want to put up with. Some people are really bothered by noisier fans while others aren’t at all. If you’ve managed to stumble upon a good cooling fan that suits your needs and doesn’t produce that much noise, it can only be a bonus.
Finally, the last and most important aspect is the actual performance of the cooling fan. This is basically what you’re paying for, so you want to make sure that your investment is justified. The emphasis here is on the unit’s ability to ventilate and lower the temperature of your components. If it doesn’t do that, then you’ve just purchased another worthless accessory for your PC. Always look for fans that have integrated control options which let you customize individual aspects of your cooling unit.
To summarize, we still think that ‘’Be Quiet! Silent Wings 3’’ deserves the top spot in our best PC cooling fans list. To support that statement, we can only add that the company takes building cooling fans seriously. In comparison to their previous models, they’ve improved Silent Wings 3 in almost every single aspect. The fan is extremely easy to adjust and install, and it just performs phenomenally.
You don’t necessarily have to agree with our choice, and that’s perfectly understandable. That’s why we’ve provided additional picks with similar properties and features. Perhaps one of those might be just what you’re looking for.