There are two ways to select case fans. You can just buy any random set of fans and slap them in regardless of how they perform, or you can take the time to pick out the best 120 mm case fan for your budget and use case. If the latter is more your style, then this list is for you.
Whether you’re upgrading fans or kitting out a new case, our picks have you covered. From value picks to RGB stunners to high-performance fans, our list has something for everyone. Let’s get started.
Our Favorite 120 mm PC Case Fans
1. Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM
|RPM Range||450 - 2000 RPM / 200 - 1700 RPM (with low noise adapter)|
|Maximum Airflow||60.1 CFM / 49.7 CFM (with low noise adapter)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||2.34 mm-H2O / 1.65 mm-H2O (with low noise adapter)|
|Maximum Noise||22.6 dBA / 18.8 dBA (with low noise adapter)|
No list of the best 120 mm fans would be complete without a Noctua product, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM at the top of our list. It’s not necessarily the best value fan, but its combo of low noise, high performance, and premium packaging means it’s an excellent buy if it fits your budget.
The NF-A12 is an all-rounder fan that excels at both airflow and static pressure, with 60.1 CFM and 2.34 mm-H2O respectively. The NF-A12 will do a good job no matter where you put it, whether as an exhaust fan or as an intake drawing cool air through a restrictive dust filter or radiator.
There are a small handful of 120 mm fans that push more air than the Noctua, but none of them can compete when it comes to noise. 22.6 dBA maxed out is excellent and bettered only by silence-focused PC fans that sacrifice on performance.
As with all of Noctua’s mainline fans, you get many extras with each NF-A12. You get an extension cable, a four-pin Y splitter for connecting two fans to a single PWM header, and a low noise adapter that caps the fan’s maximum speed to 1700 RPM. You also get an adapter bracket for 140 mm radiators, letting you use the NF-A12 to replace the fans on 280 and 420 mm radiators.
You also get what’s likely the nicest, most premium packaging for a case fan ever, alongside a class-leading six-year warranty. Noctua fans are the total package, and deserve all the admiration and hype they’ve received over the years.
Of course, you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege: at around $30 bucks a pop, these 120 mm fans are pricier than most 140 mm fans. But if you want the best combo of performance and noise, these are the fans you want.
2. Arctic P12 PWM
|RPM Range||200 - 1800 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||56.3 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||2.20 mm-H2O|
|Maximum Noise||0.3 Sone / 22.5 dBA*|
* Arctic uses Sone to measure fan noise, and conversions to dBA are approximate at best.
Arctic has become a household name in PC cooling recently, mainly through its excellent CPU coolers. Much of this success is thanks to its great fans, which offer excellent performance and silent operation at affordable prices. The Arctic P12 PWM fan is a perfect example.
Arctic markets the P12 PWM as a static pressure-optimized fan, and it justifies that branding with an impressive 2.20 mm-H2O of pressure. But it’s no slouch when it comes to airflow, either; 56.3 CFM isn’t as good as the best 140 mm fans, but it’s right up there with most of the 120 mm competition.
As with Arctic’s other fans, the P12 PWM hits these numbers at impressively low noise levels. The company claims an 0.3 Sone (approximately 22.5 dBA) noise level at max speed; impressive considering that the P12 PWM goes up to a relatively fast 1800 RPM. You can likely get the fans to run below 20 dBA by slowing them down via PWM, making them virtually inaudible.
The best thing about the Arctic P12 PWM is that you get this high-end cooling and low-noise performance at less than $10 per fan. Sure, it’s not as cheap as some of the budget fans on the market. But it costs a third of Noctua’s equivalent 120 mm fan while offering close enough performance for all but the pickiest of users.
Sure, you don’t get as many extras as a Noctua fan, but you still get a six-year warranty. So you’re not losing out on that much, all things considered. Overall, even if the P12 PWM isn’t the outright best fan in any one category, the total package is a brilliant value buy that we’d recommend to most users.
You can buy the Arctic P12 PWM in black, white, and transparent finishes. You can also buy a PWM PST (PWM Sharing Technology) version. The two are identical beyond the PST version’s extra female 4-pin socket for daisy-chaining multiple fans.
3. Corsair QL120
|RPM Range||525 - 1500 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||41.8 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||1.55 mm-H2O|
|Maximum Noise||26 dBA|
Corsair’s QL120 fans won’t win any awards for performance, but what they offer instead is some of the best, most thorough RGB lighting on a 120 mm PC fan. It’s easily one of the best-looking RGB fans available.
The QL120’s main selling point is its dual-sided RGB ring lighting. Many RGB fans only have LEDs on the intake side, forcing you to use them as exhausts if you want the lighting visible on the inside of your rig. In contrast, the QL120 fans’ dual rings mean that the lighting is visible no matter the orientation and positioning.
You get a total of 34 LEDs across both rings, arranged in 4 lighting zones. You control the lighting using Corsair’s Lighting Node Pro (or Core), the latter of which is included if you buy a three-pack.
Performance has never been the strong suit of Corsair’s RGB fans, and the QL120 fans aren’t an exception. 41.8 CFM of airflow and 1.55 mm-H2O of static pressure aren’t numbers that’ll set the world alight. They’re adequate, but anyone seeking cooling performance should look elsewhere.
But performance isn’t why you’d want to consider the Corsair QL120s. These gaming PC fans have a clear focus on aesthetics, and they do that well. If you’re building a colorful, RGB-heavy rig, these fans’ extra-smooth lighting and dual-sided RGB probably trump performance any day of the week. And that’s where the Corsair QL120 fans excel.
Corsair sells the QL120 fans in black and white.
4. Be quiet! Silent Wings 3 120 mm PWM
|RPM Range||200 - 1450 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||50.5 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||1.79 mm-H2O|
|Maximum Noise||16.4 dBA|
Be Quiet!’s Silent Wings 3 120 mm PWM fans live up to the company’s name, offering ultra-quiet operation without any significant sacrifices in cooling performance.
The Silent Wings 3 120 mm fans push air at 50.5 CFM and generate 1.79 mm-H2O of static pressure at a relatively low 1450 RPM. These slower speeds make for a much lower maximum noise level than most competitors at 16.4 dBA.
You may notice that the Silent Wings 3’s fan blades have a unique ridged surface, which be Quiet! claims helps reduce noise alongside the lower maximum RPM. The Silent Wings 3 fans also come equipped with anti-vibration mountings to further minimize noise by preventing vibration transfer to your case.
However, this low-noise performance doesn’t come cheap. You’re looking at around $25 per fan, and unlike Noctua’s offerings, you don’t get many extras. You get a set of washers and push pins alongside the standard fan screws, but that’s pretty much it. The warranty is relatively short, too, at only three years.
So the be Quiet! Silent Wings 3 120 mm PWM fans certainly aren’t perfect. You could make a case for Noctua’s closest equivalent, the NF-S12A PWM, which has a better package and longer warranty. But the be Quiet! fans both perform slightly better and run quieter, making them the marginally better buy. They’re both great silent fans, though, and you can’t go wrong with either.
5. Alpenföhn Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed
|RPM Range||500 - 2200 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||77.9 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||3.24 mm-H2O|
|Maximum Noise||36.8 dBA|
When it comes to cooling, I’m a big fan (no pun intended) of products that strike a great balance between performance and noise output. But not everyone cares that much; if you’re the type that values performance above all else, the Alpenföhn Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed fans are what you’ve been waiting for.
These Alpenföhn fans boast 77.9 CFM of airflow and a staggering 3.24 mm-H2O of static pressure, making these likely the best-performing 120 mm fans you’ll ever find. If you’re rocking a 240 or 360 mm AIO and need some high-quality cooling fans, these might just be the ticket. And they have an addressable RGB ring, too, if you want some bling.
Of course, this performance doesn’t come for free. The Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed fans emit 36.8 dBA of noise at maximum speed, some of the highest noise levels you’ll get from a consumer-grade 120 mm fan.
Sure, you can turn them down, but you’ll lose out on that sweet, sweet performance. Slow them down enough, and you might as well just get quieter, more affordable fans. So these Alpenföhn fans are best suited for situations where noise isn’t a concern.
Beyond the noise, the main downside of these Alpenföhn fans is that they’re relatively pricey and hard to get in the US. They’re also only available as a three-pack at the time of writing, meaning you’re looking at spending more than $100 in one go on fans.
But if you want the best possible performance from 120 mm computer fans, that’s just something you’ll have to accept. The Alpenföhn Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed fans are pricey, but they’re a cut above 120 mm fans for airflow and static pressure.
The Alpenföhn Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed fans are available in black and white.
6. Apevia AF312S-BK
|RPM Range||1350 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||57.67 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||Not listed|
|Maximum Noise||24.7 dBA|
|Connector||Molex and 3-pin|
Apevia’s AF312S-BK three-pack is a great choice for those of you on a budget. They’re not the best or newest fans you can buy, but that’s a minor issue when money is tight; three fans for less than $15 is a bargain, and these are perfect if you just need to fill up those empty fan mounts in a budget case.
Like many budget multi-fan packs, the Apevia fans are old-fashioned fixed-speed fans. These run at 1350 RPM and push 57.67 CFM; quite impressive for the price. The main benefit of the low maximum RPM is that these fans are relatively quiet: 24.7 dBA at 100% fan speed makes these a good choice if you’re building a silent PC on a budget.
Another common trait with other budget fans is the lack of information about these fans’ static pressure performance. That’s not too problematic, as you’re likely not shopping at the budget end if you need high static pressure fans for a radiator or heavily-filtered intakes. But if you need reliable static pressure performance, we’d recommend the Arctic fans instead.
That said, three of even the more affordable Arctic fans will still cost about $15 more than this Apevia three-pack. So they’re not really in the same league. The Arctic fans are a better overall package, and we’d recommend those if you can afford them. But if that’s not possible, these Apevia fans will do a decent job.
Before You Buy
We’ve covered a few of the most critical case fan buying considerations in our roundup of the best case fans, so we won’t repeat them here. Instead, let’s quickly talk about (airflow) performance vs. noise and different perspectives on finding that balance.
Airflow vs. Noise
If you’ve read our guide to setting fan curves, you’ll know that I prefer fans and fan curves that strike a balance between cooling and performance. In most cases, I’m willing to accept slightly higher temperatures if it means a quieter rig.
That’s why the top two picks aren’t the fans with the best outright airflow or static pressure. Don’t get me wrong; they still perform excellently, but where the Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM and Arctic P12 PWM excel are at providing good airflow for their noise output.
But I’m arguably not the typical gamer: I don’t use headphones (or in-ear monitors) daily and prefer having a good set of studio monitors on my desk. So loud fans can be quite annoying, especially during movies or quiet videogames. Quieter PC fans are a must-have for me.
However, those of you who game with headphones might not have any issues with loud fans. In that situation, you might want to get fans that spin at high RPMs and move as much air as possible, regardless of noise level. So that’s where fans like the Alpenföhn Wing Boost 3 RGB High Speed come into the picture.
If noise levels aren’t a concern, you can get high-speed fans and crank them for maximum cooling. It eliminates a lot of the tricky balancing act you need to do if you’re trying to optimize for noise at the cost of a louder system overall.
Both approaches are valid, and there’s truly no right or wrong here. It’s an entirely personal choice, and I’ve only brought this up as a reminder that the best PC fans for one person might not always be the best case fan for you.
Buying 120 mm fans can be simple or complicated; it all depends on how specific your needs are. Almost any fan will work if you just want to cool your rig, but the best 120 mm fans excel in particular categories—silence, performance, RGB, pricing—that set them apart from the competition.
If you’re after a good deal, there’s really no other choice than the Arctic P12 PWM. It’s not the best performing or quietest fan, but it’s excellent value and should be perfect for most gaming rigs. If you want a premium fan with all the bells and whistles, Noctua’s NF-A12x25 PWM is still the fan to beat.
Unsure how many fans you should buy? Check out our quick discussion of fan quantity and placement for some guidance.