One thing is certain, without appropriate cooling it is not possible to have a good PC. Even if your components are of the best standards, they won’t be able to perform well if the right environment is not provided. And your PC’s environment is related to how efficiently its temperature is controlled. In this guide, we are going to go over the best 120mm PC fans that you can buy right now in 2020.
Proper cooling is the key for all your essential components, the RAM, GPU and CPU, to function well regardless of how much load you put on your system. Whether you are a pro gamer or an occasional PC user, a cooling system is always a wise investment ensuring sustainability and optimal performance.
Case fans are your answer to this problem. Through several ways of cooling, they provide an environment for your PC to never exceed the limit which leads to overheating your components. Case fans make sure that you don’t have to face issues like a drop in FPS or a low performance and also give your hardware a longer life.
Now picking up a 120mm fan for your system is a good choice. But the process of selecting the most suitable model can be pretty exhausting. In today’s market, which is overflowing with so many options it can get very overwhelming to make the right choice.
Best 120mm Fans For Your PC
So to help you with this difficult choice we are providing you with a guide that will allow you to reach a good decision when you are out buying for a case fan. Here we have laid out a list for the various fans available out there and which are the best picks of 2020, along with all the details you need to know about them.
The following are all the options that we are going to look into in our guide of best 120mm PC fans and some of their specs that you might be interested in learning about at a glance:
|Noctua High-Performance Cooling Fan NF-S12B redux-1200||
|Corsair Magnetic Levitation Lighting||
|Cooler Master SickleFlow||
|Corsair Air AF120||
|NZXT Aer RGB 2||
Now that you know about the products that we are going to look into in this guide of best 120mm PC fans, we can move on to the details. The following is what you need to know about these best 120mm PC fans.
Best Overall: Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200
Noctua is a brand that is currently very popular in the tech world, regarding their quality products. The NF-S12B is another one of their products that perform efficiently even under the stressful workload and is very durable. What is even more satisfying, is that its noise level never exceeds 18.1 dB(A), which makes it a near-silent cooling source.
This product certainly comes on the top of our list, due to Noctua providing the best cooling power in the market right now. The aesthetics are pretty simple, which might be a downside for some users. With a matte grey fan and no RGB, it does not paint an attractive picture, but it does the job its meant for remarkably well. Besides having too much lighting can be a bit too overwhelming for some minimalistic style builds.
Noctua has let go of their usual tan and brown trademark colors in this model, which is even better as it blends well with the standard dark coloring of the rest of your system.
This fan combines high CFM with moderate RPM which allows it to deliver efficient airflow with a low noise level. Furthermore, it is equipped with an SSO bearing which is a combination of hydrodynamic bearing with an extra magnet that helps in supporting the rotor-axis. This leads to sustainability and great performance.
The frame of this fan is expandable with Noctua’s chromax-line antivibration pads. They come in a range of colors and dampen vibrations along with customizing your build. On the whole, this is a case fan that you can’t find fault with.
- Easy installation
- Cost to performance ratio is great
- Good design and durability
- Can get noisier while functioning at high speed as it ages
If you are the kind of user who loves for your PC to look aesthetically pleasing, the Corsair Magnetic Levitation is just the fan for you with its beautiful array of LED lighting. It is an ideal combination of a cool appearance and good performance.
As mentioned previously, builds fully decked with RGB lighting have made a roaring trade in recent years. Cases with tempered glass have become more popular than before as they give you a fine display of all the colors within, instead of a view filled with cables and components.
Whether your preference leans towards a solid color or a rainbow spectrum, Corsair’s Magnetic Levitation is just the case fans for you. The three premium fans provide you with all the colors you desire for your build, as you will be able to select and do any adjustments you like.
But these fans do not just show and no performance. They will give you a solid cooling no matter how long your sessions of gaming, graphic designing or any other demanding task are. They are well made and have a nearly silent performance.
The magnetic levitation bearing serves to reduce friction, by magnetically levitating the fan blades which leads to higher output with less noise. The airflow of this model is 47.3 CFM with an adjustable 400 to 1,600 RPM. Both this and the lights are controlled by the Corsair Lighting Node PRO controller, which comes with the work.
While this is not a purchase to fit in a lower budget, these are a set of truly attractive fans with a performance to match. This is one of the best 120mm PC fans that you can right now if you are interested in RGB lighting.
- Amazing RGB lights
- Near silent performance
- Quality build
- RGB controller is required
Best Cost-To-Performance: Cooler Master SickleFlow
Now we might be in a fix when we do not have the budget to splurge on a cooling fan for our PC but fret not as there certainly are budget-friendly options available in the market like the Cooler Master SickleFlow. This sleeve bearing fan is the best mid-range option that will provide you with efficiency without costing you too much.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly option in case fans without lowering the performance level the Cooler Master SickleFlow is the one for you. This is not at all an overly expensive case fan and a great cost to performance ratio in the current market.
The SickleFlow features only a single electric blue LED lighting, which gives your build a tasteful flair without overwhelming it. The cooling is impressive for its price with 69 CFM and 2000 RPM max. Even at high speeds the noise level does not exceed 19 dB(A).
The cooling is so effective that you will be able to even feel it once turned on. So it will certainly keep the temperature of your build down to an ideal level. The life span is pretty good, despite it being a sleeve bearing fan. It provides you with an average of 50,000 hours under normal temperatures, which is incredible for any sleeve bearing case fan.
The installation might prove to be slightly bothersome for a new user, but other than that, the Cooler Master SickleFlow is all round a great cost-effective cooler for your system. This is the best 120mm PC fan to buy is you want the best value for your money.
- One of the best options in static pressure fans that come in this size
- Pretty great life span
- The efficiency of fan blade design leads to low RPM and high cooling
- The screws it includes need some work to fit into the fan
Best Silent Fan: Corsair Air Series AF120 (12% Off)
A silent function is of course, a priority when you are out choosing a case fan. A noisy one can be extremely annoying and distracting during PC usage. Corsair is another tried and tested tech manufacturer, and with the Corsair Air Series AF120 it brings you an exceptionally quiet cooling option for your build.
The looks aren’t bad either of these LED fans and it provides great performance with the least amount of noise, even when pushed to the limit.
If you are a gamer and are looking to prepare a beastly gaming build with forever cool looking red and black tones, then the Corsair Air Series AF120 is a great choice for you. Appearance aside, the fans also provide you with a quiet and efficient function.
High air flow with less noise is what this fan will deliver, with 52.19 CFM and 1500 RPM max. You will find turbulence to be at a minimum level so no shaking or wobbling is caused. The LED light though is a static red color so if you prefer any other colors then you can look up other models in the same series.
Keep in mind that these fans do not work very well in cramped spaces. You will need to have at least 3cm of clearance on both sides to get good results. By Corsair, users are recommended to mount the fans on the top or rear of your PC casing.
The fans give a remarkable performance for a moderate price, and would be a great installation for mid-range gaming builds or regular PCs. This is one of the best 120mm PC fans that you can buy right now if what you need is silence.
- Red LED lighting
- Minimum fan noise, even at high speed
- Amazing airflow
- Color is non-adjustable
Best High-End Option: NZXT AER RGB 2
This might be the last product on our list of best 120mm PC fans but it is not the least. This fan will be the perfect choice for a premium built PC, with its smooth dynamic design which makes it a product with great aesthetics and reliable sustainability. This fan will provide you with efficient performance for years to come.
If there are no constraints in the budget area, then the NZXT AER RGB 2 is an excellent investment to keep your PC working efficiently for years.
These fans admittedly cost a pretty penny and are a high-end model. But the appearance and specs will make it desirable for any PC user. The design with its RGB lighting is extremely pleasing to the eye, as they retain their vibrancy without being annoyingly bright. They are also customizable and the control settings are within the C system.
The fans can also be adjusted with the NZXT software, but not all users might prefer them as some might like the motherboard controls better. Regardless the control panel is user friendly and it was pretty easy to adjust the RPM from 500 to 1500.
The fan has fluid dynamic bearings, which makes an expense that will keep functioning well for years. Certain FDB fans have a life span of 300,000 hours, and this one is surely going to outlive other fans. This is one of the best 120mm fans that you can buy for your high-end gaming PC.
- Many customizable options
- Incredible RGB lighting
- Powerful and quiet cooling
- Only works with NZXT system and light/fan controller
The following are some other 120mm fan options that you can also check out:
- Intelligent PWM that meets the hardest of cooling demands
- RGB control modes ranging from breathing and static to multi-color settings
- Noise Level down to 0.3 sone
- Airflow is commendable with 56.3 CFM
- Boasts two-way installation
- Has 53 CFM with 350 RPM
Best 120mm PC Fans – Process of Selection
Presenting you with a guide like this is a pretty lengthy process, as we do not proceed to recommend the first product we come across. It is a complete testing and elimination cycle after which we narrow out the final products that can prove to be the most suitable for all sorts of users and their systems. We want to ensure that you get the best possible component for the money you pay.
In-depth research was an essential part of the creation of this guide. Specs were studied, models compared and performance benchmarking was applied. Feedback was taken from users, as their experiences and opinion is the most excellent source of information when testing a product is concerned.
The testing of various products ourselves is arguably the most enjoyable part of the research as getting the first-hand experience and acquiring data from that is quite rewarding. It makes us more certain that we are coming up with the best products to recommend you.
Best 120mm PC Fans – Testing Process
The best way to test a component is by putting it under a challenging stress test to reveal its utmost potential. Most fans will perform well under normal circumstances, but efficiency can only truly be tested when they manage to cool smoothly even when your PC is running demanding tasks.
There are several important factors when you look at a case fan such as its type, the airflow, RPM and more. All of these come together to allow the good performance of a fan. Along with that, the quality of a fan is judged by how much noise it makes when putting under heavy load.
All of these need to be taken into consideration when testing a fan. As the ones we have recommended are tested well, you can be assured that they will provide you with an able performance even under pressure.
This list has some excellent options where case fans are concerned, however, there are some more important points that we are going to discuss here when making a final choice is at hand. The factors such as type, size and design all need to be considered when you choose one of them.
Fans are usually the last component you select when building a PC, as they need to be able to fit in with the motherboard and other hardware in the system. They might have similar appearances but that does not mean their performance is identical too. So, the type of bearing in each fan is also looked at when you are picking one up.
The bearing of a fan plays a prominent part in the performance, longevity and noise levels it has. For example, although affordable, sleeve bearings tend to last less long than fluid dynamic bearings.
Here we will inform you about different types of bearings that exist and which can be a good option for you/
Sleeve bearings are mostly available in both mid-range and budget rigs and are quite a popular option in the market. They do not require frequent replacement or maintenance because they have self-lubricating, porous sintered sleeves. You need to mount this type of bearing fan vertically, to gain better performance.
Although these bearings perform well at an average temperature, they do not work that good under high pressure and will deteriorate even more as time passes if put under heavy load. Although if the temperature of your PC stays around 50 degrees Celsius then they will have a long life ranging from 35,000-45,000 hours.
Fans with sleeve bearings are very cheap and also quite silent at low speeds, but as the risk of their failure increases with age same goes for the level of noise.
This kind of bearings is an upgraded version of the sleeve bearings and provides more durability, long life span and less noise. They are also not under the mounting constraints as sleeve bearings and you can mount them without any particular orientation.
Another good thing is that they can perform efficiently and for a long length of time under high temperature. At an average 50 degrees Celsius, a ball bearing fan will last for 60,000 hours or more.
Rifle Bearings are also currently quite a well-loved choice of users. There is a spiral groove in these bearings which pumps fluid from the reservoir, which allows them to be mounted both vertically and horizontally. The pumping process leads to an appropriate amount of lubrication needed to reduce noise and friction. These bearings have a longer lifespan and low noise level similar to ball bearings.
Fluid dynamic bearings (FDB) and hydrodynamic bearings (HDB)
Both these types are usually on the expensive side, but they give a great performance. The FDB or HDB bearings bring all the best of qualities of the other bearings into one reliable pick.
Fans with these bearings, can fit into your system wither vertically or horizontally and have a remarkably long life. The most exemplary of FDB and HDB models are known to function well for as long as 300,000 hours.
Which Type of Bearing Should You Choose?
To make things even simpler for you, we will now list all the bearings and their strengths and weaknesses (if any), so you can have a good idea of the best choice upon a glance.
- Affordable Price
- Quiet Function
- Have a Short Lifespan
- Only Mounted Vertically
- Silent Function
- Able to mount in any direction
- Mid-range Longevity (weakness only because there are bearings with a longer lifespan)
- Quiet Performance
- Can also be mounted in any direction
- Same as Ball Bearings
FDB and HDB Bearings:
- Extremely effective ideal for high end builds
- Long life
- Near silent function
- None that we could decipher
After going through the above points, you must also keep in mind that upon aging, all fans regardless of quality, will become noisier. So once their standard functioning span is over you will ultimately need to replace them. But choosing a good one means that you won’t have to do that anytime soon.
More Factors to Consider
Bearings are one of the many important elements in case fans. Whether you are a pro or not very tech-savvy a user, you might find remembering all the factors needed to choose the perfect case a bit taxing. So now, we will also guide you through the rest of those eligibility factors.
To check compatibility, you first need to pick out your motherboard and determine what type of pins it supports, as fans come with various pins. You can also use an adapter to remedy that, but it is more hassle-free to get a fan with pins suitable for your build.
RPM and Cooling Capability
The basic function of a fan is to keep your PC cool, which it should do extremely well. Any additional features are much less important than the overall cooling power of a fan.
The strengths of a fan are listed as “CFM” cubic feet per minute, and “RPM” revolutions per minute. By CFM we measure the airflow delivered by a fan and RPM is used for measuring the speed of your fan per minute.
As a general rule, users aim for fans with a higher CFM and moderate level of RPM. Ones that go for higher RPM, will have a fan that will have good speed but it will tend to be noisy at times. However, the products in the current market are mostly not noise enough at even higher speeds to irritate.
A case fan’s noise is measured in dB(A). Most of them fall between 15 to 30 dB(A) of noise level, which is comparable to the sound of a dropped pin to a whispered or quiet conversation in real life.
Various factors count when we are studying the noise of a fan. If your system is bearing a load to its utmost capability, then the fans might become louder due to the increased need for cooling. They also get noisier as time passes and with overuse. Picking up one with a specifically quiet dB(A) meter, such as the ones in our list, will help you in the long run.
A fan’s lifespan is related to the bearing type it has, and if affected by the amount of usage and temperature it works with. Each fan comes with a different lifespan. You may get a life expectancy ranging from 30,000 and 300,000 hours depending on the quality. Keep in mind that fans will ultimately stop functioning once they have given all they have, but it is most likely that you will be upgrading your system before that happens.
LED lighting is a fairly recent and very popular trend in the tech world. Who doesn’t want their PC to have a bit (or a LOT) of bling along with being functional? Rainbow colored mice, speakers and keyboards are a well-loved preference now for users and case fans manufacturers have certainly not remained behind.
The attractive RGB lighting of these fans are mostly controllable, so you can keep your whole build a single color of your choice or have a multi-colored extravaganza, by just a few easy adjustments. Not all cases might be suitable for a flashy look, but even the plainest ones can be uplifted a bit if you choose a colored fan.
Budget is a prominent factor when you are making any purchase. When building a PC, you will come upon many components that can be pretty expensive hence difficult to buy. Fortunately, the tech market has enhanced so much now, that there are many excellently performing options for users with all sorts of budgets.
It is important to also note, that even if you have the cash to splurge you cannot just buy the most flashy and attractive component you see out there. It is not a guarantee that you will get the best performance from an uber-expensive product.
Case fans differ in costs depending upon efficiency, bearing type, size, manufacturer and additional features such as RGB. In terms of price, good 120mm fans are mostly neither too cheap or too expensive. But there are huge cost differences in price.
In most cases, you will need to install more than one fan in your build, which ends up in a multiplied expense. Large-sized cases can fit in as many as six additional fans. The approximate cost of a 120mm fan will also depend upon the type of build it is meant for.
Lower end case fans will be quite cheap, mid-end will also be not completely out of range and of course the fans meant for high end builds have a price to match.
You can save money by buying low-end case fans which will keep your system from getting fried for a brief period. But if you want to invest in a sustainable and efficient build than a bit higher priced fans will be needed, as your whole PC will be depending on them to give you the best performance.
So here ends our list of best 120mm fans for your PC that you can find in the market right now. It provides you with case fans to fit any requirement or budget, so hopefully you would have found one that you prefer by now.
It certainly can put you in a tough spot, but choosing the most suitable fan case, is a necessary part of PC building. So we hope this list made the task easier for you! If you are interested in getting a case then you can check out the PC cases that we recommend for 2020 under $100.