Updated January 1st, 2019 by Jacob Tuwiner
If you’re in search of the best case fans of 2019, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll be taking a look at three of the best case fans: 80mm, 120mm, and 140mm.
Whether you’re looking for the best PC fans for gaming, the best RGB case fans, or quiet case fans, we’ve got you covered.
3 Best Case Fans of 2019
|Size||Name||Image||Benefits||Buy on Amazon|
|80mm||Noctua NF-A8 FLX Case Fan||
|120mm||ARCTIC F12 PWM PST Case Fan||
|140mm||Corsair Air Series AF140 Case Fan||
Noctua NF-A8 FLX
Best 80mm Case Fan
Noctua has delivered yet another superb case fan – despite its small size, their 80mm NF-A8 FLX is capable of outputting nearly 30 CFM. Considering its small form factor, the NF-A8's cooling potential is impressive to say the least. This highly optimised premium case fan is reliable, cheap, and most important of all, effective.
Featuring Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) frame and flow acceleration channels to further improve the fan’s quiet cooling performance, this award-winning 80mm case fan has it all. You can choose between 2000/1650/1200 RPM speed settings via the fan’s included Low-Noise adaptors, giving you the flexibility to configure your fan exactly as you need.
ARCTIC F12 PWM PST
Best 120mm Case Fan
The fan's housing is unique in that it is comprised of two seperate sections, which are connected via rubber grommets in the corners of the fan. The rubber corners help to suppress noise from vibrations. The Arctic F12 PWM performs incredibly well under load, boasting both great airflow and static pressure.
Arctic’s PWM fans are a bit different than traditional PWM fans. Thanks to Arctic’s patented PST (PWM Sharing Technology), the PST feature allows up to five of these case fans to be chained together. If you adjust the speed of one of the fans, you’ll adjust the speed of all of the fans. This handy feature ensures stable temperatures at the lowest possible fan speed, thus reducing noise. We’d recommend you use this 120mm fan as an exhaust fan in our $500 gaming PC build because the case only ships with intake fans. Although, this case fan can also be used for air intake if you prefer.
Corsair Air Series AF140
Best 140mm Case Fan
Spinning at 1200 RPM and only emitting 25.5 dBa, the AF140 is capable of regulating your PC's internal temperature without making too much noise. It's rated at 66.4 CFM, and Corsair recommends at least 3cm of clearance between the fan and anything else inside your case to ensure the best possible airflow.
Corsair’s advanced hydraulic bearing engine design is clever. They took the common sleeve bearing design and improved it to rival the reliability of a high end product. Sleeve bearings are known to emit less noise than fans with ball bearings, but their lack of lubrication usually means they have significantly shorter life spans.
Having your case fans running at full blast all of the time not only generates a lot of noise but also wastes electricity.
It’s best to adjust your case fans’ speed according to the task at hand.
How can you easily manage all of your case fans in one place?
With a fan controller! Fan controllers are a great way to monitor fan speed and case temperature. Some fan controllers will even adjust fan speed based on internal temperature.
They’re differently worth the investment. Luckily for you, we have a guide all about them to help you make the right choice. Check it out!
Case Fan Buying Guide
Before you buy your next set of case fans, it’s important to consider the following:
Size – The size of your fans matter. Do you want large case fans or small case fans? The most commonly used case fan sizes are 80mm, 120mm, and 140mm. If possible, buy 140mm case fans, as they provide the best airflow at lower RPMs (since they’re the biggest, they push more air at the same rate of speed as a smaller fan.) However, if you’re using a small case, you may have to use a smaller case fan, so you ought to check your case’s compatibility. If you’re using a small ATX case you’ll probably be fine, as they usually accomodate fans of all sizes. On the other hand, if you’re using a more compact case such as a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX tower, you’ll probably have to stick with 80mm or 120mm case fans.
Noise – If you’re anything like me, noisy case fans drive you insane. Noise level is especially important if you want to make YouTube videos or stream to Twitch. You definitely don’t want noisy case fans, so pay close attention to your fan’s dBa noise level. Noisy case fans are a common complaint amongst gamers and overclockers. Luckily for you, all of the case fans on this list are powerful and quiet!
Airflow – This one is obvious, so I’m not going to go into detail about it – just make sure your fans provide adequate airflow.
Type of Power Connector - Fans that connect to the motherboard usually have two pins. 3-pin fans have a tachometer signal that allows the motherboard to read the fan’s RPMs, and fans with 4-pin connectors have a PWM signal for speed control. You’ll need to make sure your motherboard has enough fan connectors to accommodate all of your fans. When selecting your fans, consider how you want to control the fan. If you’re looking for a simple plug-and-play fan, you don’t have to stress too much about this. On the other hand, if you want to pick your fan’s settings, control its speed and as a consequence, its noise level, you’ll need a fan with PWM functionality.
Cosmetics – Lastly, you’ll want to make sure your fans look cool! There are many different designs to choose from, so don’t be afraid to search until you find the right fans for you.
Fan Specifications to Consider
Let’s have a look at the important case fan specifications, and what they actually mean:
In general, 120mm case fans are the most popular size in modern PC builds, as they are cost effective, quiet, and they get the job done. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other sizes, each with their own application.
Here is a list of the most popular case fan sizes:
You can find fans larger than 200mm, but the five sizes above are by and large the most common. Fan size is directly related to the fan’s airflow potential.
Larger fans push more air than smaller fans, while running at the same RPM. Since they’re bigger, they have more surface area, therefore they can push more air.
Large fans can spin much more slowly than smaller fans while pushing the same amount of air, which is great for keeping noise to a minimum. Unfortunately, some cases don’t support large case fans. If your case is small, you’ll have to choose a smaller case fan that actually fits inside of your case.
Case fans come with varying power connectors, so it’s important to make sure your case fan’s power connector is compatible with your motherboard.
Most case fans have either a 3-pin or a 4-pin dedicated fan header, but sometimes you can still run into MOLEX 4-pin headers as well. 3-pin connectors merely provide power to the case fan, allowing it to spin when the PC is fired up. 4-pin connectors, however, are different in that they have a PWM feature which allows your motherboard to control the fan’s speed.
This feature is particularly useful for overclockers and gamers because it allows you to adjust the fan’s speed based on heat and noise. If you’re running intensive programs such as video games or video editing software, for example, you can crank up the fans’ speed.
Conversely, if you’re just surfing the web or performing basic, tasks that don’t require a ton of processing power, you can turn down your fan’s speed, saving electricity and reducing noise at the same time.
The bearing type used by your next case fan will have a drastic impact on the fan’s lifespan, performance, and noise level. Choose wisely!
Sleeve bearings use two surfaces lubricated with oil to reduce friction. More often than not, they use porous sleeves that are self-lubricating in order to avoid wear and tear, and maximize the fan’s life span. Sleeve bearings are usually less durable at higher temperatures, because eventually the contact surfaces wear down and the lubricant dries up, leading to the fan’s eventual failure. Sleeve bearings are best used when the fan is placed vertically in the case, and their lifespan is generally a little bit less than a ball-bearing type. At lower temperatures, sleeve bearings can last for a long time, around 30,000 hours at 50 degrees C.
Ball bearings are usually more expensive than their sleeve bearing coutnerpart, but unlike sleeve bearing fans, they can be mounted horizontally and vertically. Moreover, ball bearing fans are more durable at higher temperatures, and they’re generally quieter than sleeve bearing fans at higher fan speeds. Their average lifespan is approximately twice as long as a sleeve bearing fan, around 60,000 hours. Of course, this number will vary from fan to fan.
Rifle bearings are quieter than sleeve bearings and have nearly the same lifespan as ball bearings, for a lower price. This bearing has a spiral groove that pushes fluid through from a reservoir, allowing the fan to be mounted in any configuration. The constant flow of lubrication also helps to improves lifespan, and it reduces the fan’s noise level.
Fluid bearings are more expensive than other bearing types, but they are nearly silent during operation and have a high life expectancy.
Magnetic bearings use magnetic levitation to repel the fan from the bearing with magnetism. They’re sometimes referred to as maglev bearings because they function similarly to a maglev train. Friction is drastically reduced, and as a consequence, sound is significantly reduced as well.
CFM is short for “cub feet per minute” and it is used as a measure of airflow, often used to measure the cooling capability of case fans. Basically, it describes the rate at which a fixed volume of air (a cubit foot) can be moved in one minute of operation. Higher CFM translates to superior cooling potential.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. The amount of noise generated by case fans will vary widely, depending on the fan’s size, brand, design, and bearing type. Noise is measured in dBa (A-weighted decibels), which is an expression of the loudness of sounds in the air as perceived by our ears. More specifically with computers, dBa is used to measure the loudness of computer fans.
25 dBa is typical of most case fans on the market. 25 dBa of sound could be compared to a person whispering in a quiet room. If you’re looking for fan that’s practically silent, consider purchasing the Noctua NF-A8 FLX – it only generates a mere 16.1 dBa, which is practically nothing at all.
The speed of your fan is measured in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute). Faster fan speeds are generally capable of pushing more air, at the cost of creating more noise. The best case fans have 4-pin fan headers that allow you to adjust the fan’s speed. Also, keep in mind that larger fans, such as 140mm and 200mm case fans, are capable of pushing more air at the same RPM as a smaller case fan. This is because their fan blades have a greater surface area than their smaller counterparts.
Static Pressure vs. Airflow Fans
Prior to purchasing your next set of case fans, you must first determine whether you need fans with plenty of static pressure, or high airflow. The shape of the fan blades determines which category the fan falls in.
Airflow fans blow air right in front of them, generally in a straight line. They’re optimally placed when there aren’t any obstructions in their way. Spacious cases are best for airflow fans.
Conversely, static pressure fans push air evenly – although they may not perform as well in terms of pushing air directly, they’re optimal for scenarios in which the fan has something blocking its airflow in front of it or behind it.
How to Install Case Fans
The Importance of Case Fans
Case fans are important because the components inside your PC generate a lot of heat. If you didn’t have a CPU cooler on your CPU, for example, you could fry an egg on top of it. Seriously, look it up.
If your components get too hot, it can damage them and shorten their lifespan. You’ll run into problems with your components malfunctioning if they get too hot.
Most components are programmed to automatically shut down if they get too hot to avoid damage. So, either your PC will turn off over and over, or your components will be damaged.
CPUs and GPUs run especially hot – it is crucial that your PC draws in cool air and expels the warm air.
An efficient cooling system can increase the performance and the lifespan of your computer.
120mm Case Fans vs. 140mm Case Fans
If you have the option to choose either 120mm or 140mm case fans, which is best?
In almost every scenario, you should choose 140mm case fans.
140mm fans are larger than 120mm fans (obviously). Therefore, they can move more air, even at a lower RPM. They can spin slower (and more quietly), while achieving the same cooling.
Or, you can have them spin faster and produce even more air.
The only time you should use 120mm case fans over 140mm is if your case can hold more 120mm fans than 140mm fans.
Cases that have space for a 240mm radiator are also an exception – in that case, it’d be wise to mount two 120mm case fans.