HomeTechnologyNewsThe best PC fans of 2023

The best PC fans of 2023

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Justin Duino / Instruction Geek

What to look for in PC fans in 2023

The first thing you’ll want to consider is whether the fans will actually fit inside your case. 120mm is the most common size, but you’ll find 140mm and even 200mm and 220mm fans. If you have a compact case, you will need a lower profile fan.

Once you’re sure a fan will fit your case mounts, it’s time to consider rotations per minute (RPM). Larger fans push more air at lower overall speeds, while smaller fans must spin faster to move more air. This is important for overall airflow, but that’s not the only reason RPM is important.

In general, the faster a fan spins, the noisier it is. Most fan manufacturers have decibel (dB) ratings for their fans, so you can get an idea of ​​how loud they will be. While a liquid-cooled build is quieter, it can still be pretty quiet with careful fan choice. But, if you’re playing games that will push your graphics card to the limit, your fans will need to spin fast to push hot air out, you’ll need to consider whether a fan-cooled or liquid-cooled build is right for you.

You also have to choose between DC and PWM fans, which use three or four pins, respectively. While PWM fans are more popular and offer greater control capabilities, deciding between DC and PWM usually depends on the types of connectors on your motherboard.

For a simple home PC, you probably don’t need to light your case, but gaming rigs pretty much require a lot of lighting these days. If you plan on RGB lighting, you must select between standard RGB and ARGB (Addressable RGB), which allows you to control your lighting through software.

closeup of gray noctua fans
noctua

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  • great airflow
  • quiet operation
  • PWM and DC options

If you’ve ever purchased PC fans, you’re probably familiar with the Noctua name. The company’s fans are known for their rock-solid reliability and performance. If you’re looking for a fan that prioritizes performance over flash, the Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM fan is a great buy.

This is a 120mm fan that offers an RPM range of 400 to 1200 RPM, which can move a decent amount of air. It’s also a quieter fan, with a decibel rating of 18.1 dB. While Noctua fans used to be on the ugly side, the black and gray look here is understated but looks great.

One thing you don’t get with the Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 is RGB lighting or any kind of lighting. That may be a positive for some, but it’s important to remember if you want an RGB fan.

The model we’re looking at uses a four-pin PWM connector, giving you decent control over fan speed. If you’re building a PC with a motherboard with three-pin DC outputs, you might want to go for the Noctua NF-S12B.

The best overall PC fans

Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM

The Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM offers great cooling performance without much noise. They don’t look flashy, but this is both a feature for some and a drawback for others.

Close up of arctic fans
ARCTIC

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  • Great performance for the price.
  • PST allows you to daisy chain fans from a single PWM header
  • relatively low noise

If you are looking for some crazy lighting, you can spend a lot of money on box fans. On the other hand, if you’ve spent most of your budget on other components, you’ll find plenty of performance and control at a good price with the ARCTIC F12 PWM PST.

This model is only available in 120mm sizes, but offers up to 1350 RPM. Fluid dynamic bearings keep the noise level down, coming in at just a little more than our overall pick of 24.1 dB. Airflow is good if you’re not building a very hot gaming PC.

An interesting aspect of the ARCTIC F12 is the PWM Sharing Technology (PST) feature. If your motherboard doesn’t have many PWM slots, don’t worry as PST allows you to daisy chain fans to a single header.

The ARCTIC F12 PWM PST is available in black or white, with the black model also coming in four and five packs.

The best cheap PC fans

ARCTIC F12 PWM PST

If you’re looking for powerful cooling on a budget, the ARCTIC F12 PWM PST is a great option. These fans come in black or white and are even available in packs of four and five.

Corsair QL RGB fan on blue background
corsairs

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  • Stunning lighting effects.
  • Corsair iCUE software offers excellent light and fan control
  • great airflow
  • 120mm and 140mm options

Cons

  • RGB controller costs extra
  • Louder than some other fans

If you’re looking for truly brilliant RGB lighting on your fan, consider the Corsair QL120 RGB fans, which offer fully addressable RGB across four lighting zones and 34 individual RGB LEDs.

These fans come in either 120mm or 140mm varieties and offer speeds up to 1500 RPM for the 120mm variety and 1250 for the 140mm. Those speeds mean a bit more noise than some of the other fans we’re looking at, but the fans are still relatively quiet at 26 dB.

Since these are customizable RGB lights, you can use them to create all kinds of lighting effects. Corsair’s iCUE software lets you create lighting effects while monitoring system temperatures and setting custom fan curves.

QL120 RGB fans are available in black or white for individual models. You can also opt for a triple 120mm fan pack or a dual 140mm fan pack. Corsair also sells a three-pack with an RGB controller included if you don’t already have one.

The best PC fans with RGB

Corsair QL120 RGB fan

If you’re building a gaming rig and want some impressive lighting effects along with powerful cooling, the Corsair QL series is perfect. Control the lights and fan speed with Corsair’s iCUE software, then sit back and dazzle at the show.

Cooler Master fans on the table
chiller masters

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  • 120mm and 200mm sizes
  • Fully addressable RGB allows for extensive customization
  • excellent airflow
  • Fairly quiet

Cons

  • Lighting is not as bright as others
  • Requires a separate RGB controller

Your options are slim if you’re looking for customizable RGB lighting on a budget. That being said, the Cooler Master MF120R A-RGB offers custom colors and light effects while still being inexpensive.

This fan comes in 120mm and 200mm options and offers fan speeds up to 1500RPM on the 120mm model and 800RPM on the 200mm model. No matter which fan you choose, noise levels are relatively low, at 25dB for 120mm fans and 28dB for 200mm fans.

These aren’t quite as bright as our other RGB pick, and you’ll need to purchase a separate fan controller. That being said, the blades are translucent, which means the light will still shine brightly.

120mm versions of the Cooler Master MF120R A-RGB are also available in a three-pack.

Best cheap PC fans with RGB

Cooler Master MasterFan MF120R ARGB

If you’re building a gaming PC and want custom lighting without breaking the bank, the Cooler Master MasterFan MF120R ARGB is your best bet with great airflow and lighting at an affordable price.

Close up of brown Noctua fans
noctua

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  • Fits in small low profile cases
  • Anti-vibration mounts included for low noise
  • Quiet considering the speed of 1850 RPM

Cons

  • The brown finish is not the best

Finding a good fan for a compact case can be almost as difficult as installing it. Fortunately, the Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM is a low-profile case fan that provides good airflow for compact PCs.

Let’s get this out of the way: the Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM’s brown finish won’t appeal to everyone. Fortunately, the performance of the fans makes up for this, and you probably won’t even see the fans in your compact case anyway.

It’s 120mm and just 15mm thick, which means it’ll stay out of the way of your other components. Provides up to 1,850 RPM max. but with a noise level of 23.9 dB.

To help keep things quiet, Noctua includes anti-vibration mounts. The company also includes an extension cable and a Y-cable for running two fans from a single PWM header.

The best PC fans for compact cases

Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM

Building a PC inside a compact case isn’t easy, but the Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM’s low profile gives you plenty of space while providing powerful cooling.

Frequent questions

Connecting a fan to your motherboard allows you to control it, either via DC voltage or PWM. To really control the speed of your fans, you’ll need to use an app like Fan Control.

The number of fans you need depends on what you are doing with your PC and the type of fans you are using. Typically you’ll want at least three fans, with two intake fans and one exhaust fan.

The easiest way to clean PC fans and your PC in general is to use a can of compressed air to blow away the dust. If they need more cleaning, you can open their case and clean them with cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol.

In general, you’ll want the fans to pull in cool air at the front of the case and exhaust it out the back. If your cabinet has supports on the bottom or top, you’ll want to take air in at the bottom and exhaust it out the top.

Dust that settles on fan blades can make them heavier, adding to overall noise. Cleaning your fans should generally help. For more information, check out our guide to silencing your PC.

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