From old favorites from Noctua and be quiet! to the relatively new Arctic fans, our selections cover a variety of requirements. Whether you’re looking for good value, stunning RGB, near-silence, or just need a ton of airflow, our list has something for you.
Our Favorite Case Fans
|RPM Range||200 - 1800 RPM (120 mm) / 200 - 1700 RPM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Airflow||56.3 CFM (120 mm) / 72.8 CFM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||2.20 mm-H2O (120 mm) / 2.40 mm-H2O (140 mm)|
|Noise Level||0.3 Sone / 22.5 dBA*|
* Arctic uses Sone for their noise ratings, and conversions to dBA are approximate at best.
Arctic’s P12 and P14 pressure-optimized case fans aren’t the outright best-performing fans you can buy, nor are they particularly premium. But what they do offer is virtually top-tier performance for budget-tier pricing. They’re incredible value, and we think that makes both of these fans excellent choices for almost any PC builder out there.
Of the two, the 120 mm P12 strikes us as the better choice, at least as far as value goes. Its 56.3 CFM of airflow and 2.20 mm-H2O of static pressure place it only slightly behind Noctua’s top-tier offerings for cooling performance. The P14 is still great, and it’s the case fan I use in my rig, but it lags a bit further behind Noctua’s equivalent 140 mm fan than the P12.
You’re not sacrificing noise for this much airflow, either, with both fans producing around 22.5 dBA at full speed. They’re not as quiet as silence-focused fans, but they’re quiet enough to run at full speed without turning your rig into a jet engine.
So far, so good. But what puts these Arctic fans at the top of the pile is the price: at around $10 each, these fans are genuinely budget-friendly options that punch well above their weight. Trading blows performance-wise with $30 Noctua fans is no mean feat, and it’s to Arctic’s credit that they opted to keep pricing low on these.
Yes, the packaging is cheap and zero-frills, with only a small bag of screws included with the fans. But you get a Noctua-equalling six-year warranty, which more than makes up for the unspectacular package. The Arctic fans have it where it counts, and that’s great.
Overall, we think that the Arctic P12 and P14 are some of the best PC case fans to come out in recent years. Both prove that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get quiet, high-performance fans for your rig.
|RPM Range||450 - 2000 RPM (120 mm) / 300 - 1500 RPM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Airflow||60.1 CFM (120 mm) / 82.5 CFM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||2.34 mm-H2O (120 mm) / 2.08mm-H2O (140 mm)|
|Noise Level||22.6 dBA (120 mm) / 24.6 dBA (140 mm)|
Value is all well and good, but what if you have the money to spare and want a truly premium case fan? If that sounds like you, you’ll want to make a beeline for Noctua’s NF-A12x25 PWM and NF-A14 PWM case fans. They’re modern classics of the case fan world for good reasons.
The NF-A12x25 PWM and the NF-A14 PWM are static pressure-focused fans, but they also offer more than enough airflow to make them viable for every position in a PC case. We particularly like the NF-A14 as an all-purpose cooling solution. Its 82.5 CFM of airflow trumps even some airflow-focused fans while still offering a decent 2.08 mm-H2O of static pressure for pulling air through dust filters and other intake obstructions.
If you just need static pressure grunt for a radiator, though, then the NF-A12x25 is probably the better bet. 2.34 mm-H2O of static pressure is incredibly high for a 120 mm fan, and it even comes with an adapter for replacing 140 mm fans on 280 and 420 mm radiators.
The NF-A12x25 PWM’s 140 mm bracket is a perfect example of the thoughtful and useful extras you get with most mainline Noctua fans. The standard package includes a four-pin Y splitter, a 30 cm (11.8-inch) extension cable, a low noise adapter, and rubber fan mounts (for minimizing vibration and noise). The low noise adapter limits the maximum fan speed for situations where you can’t do so in software. You also get a six-year warranty, which is the icing on the cake.
Overall, Noctua’s NF-A12x25 PWM and NF-A14 PWM are excellent case fans that are still relevant despite more value-oriented competition. They’re not cheap at around $30 a pop, but it’s hard to deny that the total package makes them feel like money well spent.
Not keen on Noctua’s classic brown-and-browner color scheme? Check out the NF-A12x25 PWM chromax.Black.swap and NF-A14 PWM chromax.Black.swap, which come in black with swappable multi-color corner pads.
|RPM Range||525 - 1500 RPM (120 mm) / 550 - 1250 RPM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Airflow||41.8 CFM (120 mm) / 50.2 CFM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||1.55 mm-H2O (120 mm) / 1.4 mm-H2O (140 mm)|
|Noise Level||26 dBA (120 and 140 mm)|
|Connector||4-pin PWM and 4-pin Corsair ARGB|
Recommending RGB fans can be tricky, as a lot of it comes down to personal tastes. But there’s one area where the Corsair QL120 and QL140 are objectively better than most of the competition, which earns them a spot on our list: dual-sided RGB rings.
Many RGB fans only have a single RGB ring on the intake side, limiting the visibility of the ring depending on their placement. Not so with the Corsair QL fans. These have RGB LED rings on the intake and exhaust sides; the upshot of this design is that you get that sweet RGB ring lighting no matter the fans’ orientation. If you’ve always been frustrated by the dull exhaust sides of many RGB fans, these Corsair QLs are for you.
Anyone familiar with Corsair’s RGB fans will know that they’re not necessarily the best-performing fans out there, which hasn’t changed with the QL fans. The two sizes perform surprisingly similarly, with the QL120’s 41.8 CFM of airflow and 1.55 mm-H2O of static pressure comparing quite favorably to the QL140’s 50.2 CFM and 1.4 mm-H2O.
To be clear, these aren’t terrible numbers, and they’ll certainly keep your components from overheating (especially if used in an airflow-friendly case). However, these aren’t for you if you’re after the best possible cooling from a case fan. They’re also pricey, with individual fans in the $35 to $50 range, depending on size and color.
But you’re not paying for performance here. The Corsair QL120 and QL140 are fans for those who don’t mind potentially leaving some cooling performance on the table in the name of a great-looking rig. If that’s your jam, then the QLs’ relatively smooth lighting and dual RGB rings should more than justify the cost.
|RPM Range||200 - 1450 RPM (120 mm) / 200 - 1000 RPM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Airflow||50.5 CFM (120 mm) / 59.5 CFM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||1.79 mm-H2O / 1.08 mm-H2O (140 mm)|
|Noise Level||16.4 dBA (120 mm) / 15.5 dBA (140 mm)|
With a name like be quiet!, you’d expect their products to focus on low-noise operation above all else. And that’s exactly what you get with the Silent Wings 3 PWM fans, in both 120 mm and 140 mm guises.
The Silent Wings 3 fans are by no means airflow monsters. But at 50.5 CFM for the 120 mm and 59.5 CFM for the 140 mm, they certainly won’t hold your cooling back. Static pressure on the 120 mm fan is decent too, with 1.79 mm-H2O from the smaller unit. The 140 mm fan doesn’t fare as well, but it’s probably still enough to pull air through filtered intakes.
So the airflow on these fans is decent, if not necessarily impressive. But where they excel is the noise output: the 120 mm fan outputs 16.4 dBA at max RPM, while the 140 mm comes in even quieter at 15.5 dBA. According to the American Academy of Audiology, that’s about the same noise level as rustling leaves. So if you’re an absolute stickler for silence, these are the fans to get.
Be quiet! manages this trick through a combination of low maximum speeds (the 140 mm fan tops out at 1000 RPM) alongside those signature ridged fan blades. The company claims that these fan blades have an “optimized surface structure” that reduces noise and improves airflow. Both fans also have anti-vibration mountings that eliminate vibration transfer between the fans and your case.
However, this level of silence doesn’t come cheap. These are on the higher end of fan pricing, costing $20 to $25 per fan, depending on size. But if silence is your main goal and you have no intention of compromising on that, then these be quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM fans are the best case fans for the job and well worth the money.
|RPM Range||750 - 3000 RPM (120 mm) / 800 - 3000 RPM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Airflow||109.8 CFM (120 mm) / 158.5 CFM (140 mm)|
|Maximum Static Pressure||7.63 mm-H2O (120 mm) / 6.58 mm-H2O (140 mm)|
|Noise Level||43.5 dBA (120 mm) / 41.3 dBA (140 mm)|
I’m a big fan of cooling hardware that strikes a good balance between noise and performance, which is why the Arctic and mainline Noctua products top our list. But what if you don’t care about low noise operation and just need a ton of airflow and static pressure? Say hello to Noctua’s Industrial PPC fans.
Noctua makes a few different versions, but the ones we’re interested in are the 3000 RPM versions, which are the best airflow fans in the range. Both the 120 mm and 140 mm versions offer more than 100 CFM of airflow, with the 140 mm fan, in particular, impressing with its 158.5 CFM. Static pressure is also impressive, and the 120 mm fan takes the cake here with a staggering 7.63 mm-H2O.
Of course, this airflow doesn’t come for free. Both fans break past the 40 dBA barrier, which is quite loud for a modern case fan. We wouldn’t call it unbearable, but you’re likely going to want a good pair of headphones to drown out the hum.
Noctua’s Industrial fans all sport IP52 certification for water and dust resistance, which makes more sense for the industrial and harsh environments they’re designed for. Overkill for home use for sure, but the dust resistance might come in handy for extending the fan’s life. We wouldn’t recommend buying it for the dust resistance, but it’s arguably a nice bonus on top of the powerful airflow.
The Noctua Industrial fans don’t come with the usual extras, which makes sense given their practical and performance-oriented nature. You still get a nice box and a six-year warranty, but you’re paying solely for the reliability and airflow here. So if that’s what you want, then the $30 or so per fan is a small price to pay for these high airflow fans.
|RPM Range||1350 RPM|
|Maximum Airflow||57.67 CFM|
|Maximum Static Pressure||Not listed|
|Noise Level||24.7 dBA|
|Connector||Molex and 3-pin|
Apevia’s AF312S-BK fans aren’t particularly special case fans. They’re not that powerful and don’t come with much in the way of extras or a warranty. But they do have one thing going for them: they’re cheap. At less than $15 for a three-pack, these are insanely cheap fans perfect for ultra-budget builds.
At that price, you won’t be surprised that these are old fixed-speed fan designs, just with a new lick of paint. That said, that doesn’t make them bad: with 57.67 CFM at 1350 RPM, they’ll do a perfectly adequate job cooling your components. The low maximum RPM also means low noise; 24.7 dBA is relatively quiet, and these may be good options if you want a silent PC on a budget.
We wouldn’t recommend them for radiators or other situations where you might need a lot of static pressure, but you’re not likely to be buying fans these cheap if you’re splurging on an AIO. The stock fans on most AIOs will outperform these anyway.
Overall, the Apevia AF312S-BK fans are a solid choice if you’re looking for the best cheap case fans for a budget build. There are a lot of better fans out there, and we’d recommend you check out the Arctic fans at the top of our list for a great value fan that beats these Apevias handily. But if you absolutely can’t stretch your budget to the $25 or so it’ll take to buy three Arctic P12 PWMs, then these are worth checking out.
Apevia also sells these fans in bright orange and green if you want cheap and colorful case fans. If you want budget 140 mm fans, check out our list of the best 140 mm fans for a great suggestion. We think you might as well stick to 120 mm fans and save a couple of bucks if you’re on a budget, but it’s your call.
Before You Buy
Buying case fans is relatively straightforward, but there are still a few topics we think you should be aware of. Let’s run through them quickly.
120 mm vs. 140 mm Fans
Most gaming PC cases will support 120 and 140 mm fans, letting you choose between the two. While both will be fine, 140 mm fans tend to be the better choice overall. Why? 140 mm fans’ increased diameter means they can perform better than 120 mm fans at a given RPM. So you can run your 140 mm fans slower for reduced noise while maintaining equal airflow to a 120 mm fan.
Let’s take Arctic’s 140 mm P14 and 120 mm P12 for example. The P14 boasts 72.8 CFM of airflow and 2.40 mm-H2O of static pressure at 1700 RPM. The P12, on the other hand, offers 56.3 CFM and 2.20 mm-H2O at a slightly higher 1800 RPM.
So, on paper, you should be able to run the P14 PWM at 1500 RPM (or less) and achieve cooling performance on par with the P12 PWM. If the 120 and 140 mm fans have a similar price, you might as well go with larger fans if they’ll fit in your case.
If you’re building in a case that supports larger fan sizes like the Fractal Torrent and its 180 mm front fans, then you’ll almost always want to take advantage and use the largest fans possible. Especially if, as with the Torrent, the case already comes equipped with them.
The same benefits of more airflow at lower RPMs apply to 180 mm fans, but with the bonus of some truly impressive airflow if you crank the fan speeds up.
If you’re curious about case fan sizes, check out our guide to PC case fan sizes for a quick overview.
Static Pressure vs. Airflow
There are two types of PC case fans: static pressure fans and airflow fans. Static pressure fans excel at pulling or pushing air through restrictions such as dust filters, radiators, and drive cages. On the other hand, airflow fans work best at moving air as fast as possible, at the cost of reduced performance through the restrictions mentioned above.
Manufacturers will often indicate the fan type on the packaging, but a good way of identifying fan types is by looking at the blades. Airflow fans tend to have nine or more blades vs. the five or six on static pressure fans. Blade shape also differs: static pressure fans have curved fan blades, while airflow fans tend to have slightly straighter ones.
The usual rule of thumb is to use static pressure fans for radiators and filtered intakes, while airflow fans are perfect for unobstructed exhaust fans. However, unless you’re dead-set on optimizing your PC’s airflow as much as possible, you can run all-airflow or all-pressure fan setups without issue.
The potential one- or two-degree Celsius temperature differences between the fan types won’t be much of a problem for most users. In that situation, feel free to use whichever fans you prefer. The best high static pressure fans—like the Arctic P14 PWM—tend to be good all-around performers and will work in all fan positions. So they’re what we’d recommend for most gamers.
Most of the fans on our list use PWM, or pulse width modulation. PWM allows for fine-grained control of fan speeds without manipulating fan voltage. The main advantage of this approach is that it lets you slow fans down and even stop them without any adverse effects. Most voltage-controlled fans will stall below 5 volts, which stops them from working at ultra-low speeds. So PWM is important for achieving those 200 to 500 RPM speeds that silence enthusiasts may want.
The easiest way to tell between the two fan types is by looking at the fan connectors: PWM fans use four-pin connectors, while DC fans use three-pin ones. Fans and fan headers are interchangeable, meaning you can connect a three-pin DC fan to a four-pin PWM connector (or vice versa).
However, PWM won’t work if you connect a PWM fan to a three-pin fan header. If you want to use PWM, make sure you connect your four-pin fan to a matching four-pin header when installing it.
How Many Case Fans Do You Need?
Figuring out how many fans to install can be tricky, especially if you’ve ever seen users on Reddit or PCPartPicker populate (almost) every fan mount in their rig. Do you really need that many f ans?
To be fair, it can look pretty cool. And it’s definitely a serious flex if you rock Noctuas all around. Pose value aside, though, there’s no real performance reason to go full-on with a ton of case fans.
Hardware Canucks tested a few fan configurations in a be quiet! Pure Base 500DX and found that a two-intake, one-exhaust fan setup was good enough for their Intel Core i7-8700K and RTX 2060 Super. These components ran at 75 and 73 degrees Celsius, respectively.
Adding two top intakes reduced CPU temperatures by a single degree and raised GPU temperatures by the same amount, although that may just be run-to-run variance. Even if it isn’t, a single degree Celsius reduction in CPU temps isn’t worth the additional cost of two extra fans.
The main takeaway is that you don’t need to waste money filling out your case’s fan mounts. You can if you really want to, as it generally won’t hurt your rig, but there are definitely better places to spend your money. Check out our overview of fan numbers vs. temperatures for more information and testing results.
Choosing the best case fans for your rig depends a lot on what you need out of your PC’s cooling solution. Some fans excel at near-silent running, while others crank the fan speeds up to push as much air as possible to feed your hot, power-hungry PC components regardless of noise. It’s all about finding the right fan for the job.
We think most average gamers will be more than happy with the Arctic P12 PWM or P14 PWM. They’re quiet, high-performance fans that compete with Noctua’s offerings at less than half the price. Of course, if you want the prestige of a high-end, premium fan, then Noctua’s NF-A12x25 PWM and NF-A14 PWM are still the fans to go for. Just remember that you’re not paying entirely for the performance there.
All the best!