Best Case Fans 2018 (Including 80mm, 120mm, 140mm, and 200mm)

best case fans

After 34 hours of extensive comparison and evaluation, we concluded that the Noctua NF-A8 PWM is the best case fan in the 80mm category. Not only does it deliver a decent amount of airflow to your rig, it’s also surprisingly silent.

If you’re looking for the best 120mm case fan, the best 140mm case fan, and or even the best 200mm case fan, then don’t worry. We also covered the best for these respective sizes in detail below.

Also, don’t be scared away by the terminology we use in these descriptions, because we explain everything you need to know later on.

Small Pick
Noctua NF-A8 PWM

Noctua NF-A8 PWM

The Best 80mm case fan

Don’t let the looks (and size!) fool you. This may be a mere 80mm fan, but it still packs a toon of airflow compared to its other equally diminutive competitors in this category.

This fan features Noctua’s Advanced Acoustic Optimization (AAO) frame and sophisticated aerodynamic design. Topped with an award-winning Self-Stabilising Oil-Pressure version 2 (SSO2) bearing and 4-vibration compensators, and you have a very quiet, brown cooling fan.

This 4-pin PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulated) fan can also be controlled on-the-fly using a 3rd party software. Should you wish to stay within lower RPMs without messing around with a 3rd party software, it also comes with a low-noise adapter (LNA).

Medium Pick
Cooler Master JetFlo 120

Cooler Master JetFlo 120

The Best 120mm case fan

If you need a 120mm case fan, the JetFlo 120 won’t let you down. Your rig will thank you for the great airflow while your ears will thank you for the quietness (Note: This fan doesn’t actually anthropomorphize your rig or ears).

A POM (polyoxymethylene) bearing, steel threads, and sound and vibration absorbing rubber pads-- these are the reason why the JetFlo 120 delivers a whopping 95 CFM at a maximum of about 36dBA.

Large Pick
Corsair ML140 Pro

Corsair ML140 Pro

Powered by magnetic levitation: the best 140mm case fan

Magnetic levitation is Corsair’s new thing and because it’s near-frictionless, you get great performance.

The Corsair ML series boasts a magnetic levitation bearing type that drastically improves performance without being too loud even when set to 100% of use.

At 2000 RPMs, this thing delivers 97 CFM at a noise level of 37 dBA. The corners are also composed of vibration and noise absorbing pads to ensure a silent performing fan.

Xtra Large Pick
Cooler Master MegaFlow 200

Cooler Master MegaFlow 200

The best 200mm case fan isn’t loud at all

This is the epitome of a Gentle Giant. It may be big but it’s surprisingly silent-- almost as silent as the Noctua NF-A8.

If you prefer a large fan for a higher CFM but at a significantly lower RPM, this is one of the better options around. With a noise level of only 19 dBA, you get a huge 110 CFM in return.

Silent Pick
Cooler Master Silencio FP 120

Cooler Master Silencio FP 120

The quietest case fans of all

If being silent means the whole world to you, the Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 is the perfect candidate. With a noise level of 14 dBA at max, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear anything at all.

Thanks to Cooler Master’s Silent driver IC technology, the fan produces less torque impulse which means there is minimal vibration and ultra-low noise. Plus, it’s also designed to deliver a balanced static and airflow performance.

How We Choose

Because performance matters more than aesthetics, we decided to come up with a list of fans that were already proven to perform outstandingly in their respective categories.

If you’re shopping for a CPU fan that you can rely on without any doubt, our detailed review of case fans will definitely give you the best bang for your buck-- just make sure you get to choose one only when you’ve read the next section.

Important Key Points to Check Before Buying a Case Fan

You can’t just get good case fans from the store and hook them up inside your computer system and call it a day (I mean, you can, but you should at least know what you’re doing first). You need to consider the following when buying the best PC case fans to ensure they will not only fit inside your system but also cool your system efficiently.

Static Pressure Fans or Airflow Fans?

The first thing you have to consider is whether you’re better off with a fan with a high static pressure or a fan with high airflow. This is determined by the actual shape of the fan blades, so there are some fans that are identical make and model except they have different fan blades.

You don’t need to go through the spec sheet to tell if the fan is either a Static Pressure or an Airflow type.

Simply face directly to the fan and look at the distance between the fan blades. If the spacing between the blades is small, it’s a Static Pressure type. If the distance is large enough for your index finger to go through, it’s an Airflow type.

Static Pressure Fans or Airflow Fans

Airflow Fans

Airflow fans are pretty straightforward in that they blow air mainly straightforward. These work best if there are no restrictions in front and behind the fan. For instance, if you have a case that has plenty of open space, this should give your case a more efficient airflow.

Static Pressure Fans

Static pressure fans disperse air more evenly. This means they are not as powerful in a direct line, but that they can do a good job when there obstructions. If there’s resistance in front of the fans, like intake fans in front of hard drives or GPU/CPU radiators.

Static pressure vs Airflow

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)

A fan’s airflow is measured in CFM or cubic feet per minute. This determines the volume of air the fan can cycle through in a minute.

Generally, the higher the CFM rating, the better. However, static pressure can be more efficient with less CFM when dealing with obstructions than airflow fans might be.

The ideal CFM for a system is changes on a case to case basis because there are a lot of factors that need to be considered, such as: case size, design, the amount of heat your CPU dissipates, the type of CPU cooler you have, the GPU fans (whether it’s an open-air or a blower type), and the number of case fans you can install.

In general, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that you need more fans if you’re running a little too hot. As long as you aren’t overworking your system, then running a little hot once or twice before you can get new fans won’t damage your system. However, do be particularly wary if you are overclocking.

Size (mm)

Why would you want larger fans? Well, it is pretty basic: they literally move more air.

In case you’re not sure which size fits your case, simply check your case manual. You can also visit the manufacturer’s website to see the dimensions and specs of your case. And if all else fails, simply grab a measuring tape and measure the fan inside your case.

Below are some of the most common fan sizes along with the distance between their screw holes:

Fan size
Fan SizeDistance Between Screw Holes
80mm72mm
92mm83mm
120mm105mm
140mm124.5mm
200mm154mm

Speed (RPMs)

A case fan speed is measured in RPM or Revolutions Per Minute. The higher the RPM, the more air is blown into the system. RPMs have a direct effect on a fan’s noise level because the faster it spins, the more noise it produces.

This might also affect the size of the fan you want. While you might be able to use a small fan at a fast speed, it will likely be louder. So, instead, you can use a larger fan at a slower speed.

Like the CFM rating, there’s no universal measure for all cases and fans because all fans and setups are different.

To get the right RPM rating for your case, simply set the fans at max speeds using a 3rd party software like SpeedFan and drop the speed by 25% until the fan isn’t too loud and temperatures are acceptably cool.

Bearing Type

There are three basic bearing types used in most case fans today and these are the following:

  • Sleeve Bearing
  • Double Ball Bearing
  • Fluid Dynamic Bearing and Hydrodynamic Bearing

Sleeve Bearing

This type of bearing is the cheapest and is expected to last around 40,000 hours of usage run at 60°C (140°F).

The fan speed is designed to be low to maintain low operating noise-- it’s what they’re known for. Well, silence and being cheap. Plus, these are recommended to be mounted vertically, which is said to be quieter.

However, it should be noted that these tend to break down without any warning despite having low operating noise.

Double Ball Bearing

The double ball bearing is more expensive than sleeve bearings, but they do last longer; up to 60,000 to 75,000 hours run at 60°C (140°F).

Unlike sleeve bearings, these can be mounted in any position and are also louder. This is why it’s not recommended for home usage, but fit perfectly in-- and is mostly used in-- server-farms.

Fluid Dynamic Bearing and Hydrodynamic Bearing

These are the premium bearings. They tend to last the longest, reaching up to 100,000 to 300,000 hours of usage run at 60°C (140°F).

Like the double ball bearing, they can be fitted in any position. They also have the lowest noise levels of the 3 and are fit for both server and home usage, though they are preferred mostly for home use since they are a little more pricey.

Noise (dBA)

Fan noise is measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA). A-weighted decibels is the loudness of sounds in air as it is perceived by the human ear. Almost all case fan manufacturers include the noise level of the fan.

Some factors that contribute to fan noise includes:

  • Type of bearing used
  • The distance of the blades from one another and the outer ring
  • How the blades are designed
  • How fast the blades spin (Speed/ RPMs)

Generally, it ranges anywhere between 10dBA to 36dBA. Regardless, you’ll want a case fan with the least amount of noise for obvious reasons. Here is a scale of how loud these noises are compared to everyday sounds:

Noise (dBA)
Sound LevelNoise at that Sound Level
10 dBPin Drop/Breathing
20 dBRustling Leaves/Whisper
30 dBBedroom at night
40 dBBabbling Brook
50 dBNormal conversation

Power Connectors

There are 3 types of fan power connectors:

  • 4-pin connectors let you control the fan on-the-fly using a third party software like SpeedFan.
  • 3-pin connectors can only be adjusted by altering the voltage in the BIOS. But not all motherboards support this feature.

Moreover, running the 3-pin connectors at a low voltage may lead to problems or may not run the fan at all. So make sure you know exactly what you’re doing when doing this.

  • MOLEX connectors will run at full speed at all times and cannot be adjusted in any way.

Connector types affect compatibility. As such, before shopping, check your motherboard’s connector type.

Aesthetics

Case fans can be customized to improve your PCs looks with either color rings or RGB, which lets you change the not just the color but the pattern, too. However, we tend to place more priority on function when it comes to fans; and we think you should too.

Intake/Exhaust

When placing fans onto your case, you will need to choose whether each fan is going to be intake or exhaust.

Ideally, you want to make sure it is relatively close, even a 1:1 ration, but it isn’t always necessary. This whole topic is actually kind of above the head of us computer crafters since each case has its own form factor which affects airflow.

Thankfully, much like vehicles, just because it is affected by air flow and resistance, doesn’t mean we need to understand it to use it; in this way, it can be pretty forgiving.

Some terms to be familiar with are:

  • Neutral air pressure - Equal amount of air goes in and out the case. You will technically never reach a perfect state of equilibrium, but you can get clost.
  • Positive air pressure - Fans pull more air into the case. This can cause air to be brought in through smaller holes that don’t have filters or fans. This means that you will get dust deposits in unpredicted places.
  • Negative air pressure - Fans push more air out from the case, creating a vacuum.

Obviously, you’d want to have neutral air pressure, and a good way to accurately get this right is by measuring the total CFM of all intake fans and CFM of all the exhaust fans.

You have a positive air pressure if the intake CFM is greater and negative if the exhaust is greater. An equal number of CFM means you have roughly neutral air pressure. Do note, that if a fan is obstructed, then it will not be netting its max CFM.

It’s also worth noting that fan placement can be tricky to get down. So it can be best to pay attention to where the majority of your dust builds up. If you feel it’s causing problems, then you can adjust your fan placement accordingly.

If you aren’t sure whether your fans are blowing in or out, then the next section will help you with that.

Determining the Air Flow of the Fan…

When installing case fans, it’s also important that you know which direction the face blows air out of.

Air Flow of the Fan

Most fans have arrows on the sides as an indication. If yours doesn’t, find the grille side (side where the plastic holding the middle hub is), because in general, air is blown out away from this side.

Airflow Direction

How To Choose the Best Case Fan For Your Rig?

Knowing all these key terms, how do you choose the best case fan for your rig? You’ll want to look at the following:

Know your needs and wants. Make a pre-evaluation of your needs and prioritize what your rig really needs. Are you having problems with a specific area or are you on the lookout to find a decent case fan for preventive measures?

Don’t forget to check your PC’s connector type. Before shopping, make sure you check your motherboard’s available connectors to avoid compatibility problems.

Measure the sizes. Refer to your case manual or website to see the exact measurement of and the number of compatible fans.

Is noise going to be an issue? If you need a case fan that’s silent, consider choosing one with the least amount of noise. On the other hand, if noise isn’t an issue, chances are you’ll find one that’s not as silent, but still performs well for less money.

How do you want to control your fan? Get a fan with a 4-pin connector if you want to control the fan speeds on the fly via a third party software. Otherwise, most average users will do fine with 3-pin fans.

If you really need a plug-and-play fan, get yourself a fan with a MOLEX connector (although these are starting to become obsolete).

The 5 Best Case Fans

ProductDetails
Noctua NF-A8 PWM

Noctua NF-A8 PWM

  • max noise level dba rotational speed rpm: 17.7 dBA/2200 RPM
  • size dimension: 80mm/80x80x25mm
  • airflow cfm: 32.66CFM
  • connector type: 4-pin
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Cooler Master JetFlo 120

Cooler Master JetFlo 120

  • max noise level dba rotational speed rpm: 36 dBA/2000 RPM
  • size dimension: 120mm/120x120x25 mm
  • airflow cfm: 95 CFM
  • connector type: 4-pin
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Corsair ML140 Pro

Corsair ML140 Pro

  • max noise level dba rotational speed rpm: 37 dBA/2000 RPM
  • size dimension: 140mm/140x140x25 mm
  • airflow cfm: 97 CFM
  • connector type: 4-pin
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Cooler Master MegaFlow 200

Cooler Master MegaFlow 200

  • max noise level dba rotational speed rpm: 19 dBA/700 RPM
  • size dimension: 200mm/200x200x30 mm
  • airflow cfm: 110 CFM
  • connector type: 3-pin
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Cooler Master Silencio FP 120

Cooler Master Silencio FP 120

  • max noise level dba rotational speed rpm: 14 dBA/1400 RPM
  • size dimension: 120mm/120x120x25 mm
  • airflow cfm: 44 CFM
  • connector type: 4-pin
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#1

Noctua NF-A8 PWM

Noctua is a name you can trust when it comes to cooling solutions. With the Noctua NF-A8 80mm case fan, you get the best performance in the 80mm category.

The NF-A8 features a sophisticated aerodynamic design measure and advanced acoustic optimization (AAO) that’s responsible for keeping the noise level as low as possible. In fact, this runs a maximum of 2200 RPMs with the 4-pin PWM setup and still, you get a 17.7 dBA noise level-- that’s quieter than a whisper!

Another contributing factor to this very silent spin is the SSO2 (self-stabilizing oil-pressure bearing version 2) that Noctua claims to offer higher precision and better longevity than the conventional bearings.

Noctua NF A8 PWM unbox

Plus, the 4 vibration compensator rubber fan screws also contribute to its silent profile. This comes with a sleeved 4-pin Y-cable 30cm extension cable should you wish to have full control over the speeds. Being a static fan makes it perfect for promoting airflow in tight areas.

On the other hand, it also comes with a Low-noise adaptor (LNA) for a one-time setup, fixed performance without the need of 3rd party software for manual adjustments. Just keep in mind that this will limit the RPM of the fan to only 1750 RPM.

#2

Cooler Master JetFlo 120

The Cooler Master JetFlo 120 does a pretty good job at delivering an adequate amount of airflow for a 120mm case fan.

At max 2,000 RPM, the noise level reaches up to 36 dBA and 95 CFM. However, with the included 1,600 RPM limiter, it’d only reach 28 dBA. And if you’re going to use the included 1,200 RPM limiter instead, the 19 dBA noise level is almost non-existent.

All of the cables are also sleeved, so that gives it a more premium look overall.
Cooler Master JetFlo 120 unbox

All four mounting corners are made entirely of rubber, which helps reduce the sound. But it does come with a steel thread to make mounting a breeze.

Plus, this has a POM (polyoxymethylene) bearing-- an engineered thermoplastic that promotes high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability. This is also why Cooler Master claimed that this has a lifespan of up to 160,000 hours.

Cooler Master JetFlo 120 unbox 2

Unlike the Noctua NF-A8 blades, this is an airflow type fan. Moreover, there are also red and blue LED versions of this fan aside from the non-LED theme.

#3

Corsair ML140 Pro

It’s the use of magnetic levitation instead of the conventional sleeve, ball, double ball, fluid dynamics, hydrodynamic, or whatevernamic that makes the Corsair ML140 Pro very unique.

Because of this, the noise level is lower and friction is almost non-existent, which also promotes a longer lifespan since the parts aren’t put under heavy pressure.

Corsair ML140 Pro unbox 1

You won’t have to worry about the structure of the blades because you get both a high static and a high airflow performance fan from the custom rotor design. And you won’t be disappointed with the output, either because this can deliver 97 CFM of airflow without being too loud at 2,000 RPM-- only sitting at 37 dBA.

If you think it’s too loud, just cut back the RPMs manually because this has a 4-pin connector, giving you full control to balance performance and noise.

Corsair ML140 Pro unbox 2

It’s also exceptionally durable, which you can probably tell from the pictures. In fact, Corsair said that “If NASA Designed a Computer Case Fan – This Would Be It”. While that is obviously some good old advertising hyperbole on the part of Corsair, they are known for making components out of high-end materials.

#4

Cooler Master MegaFlow 200

The Cooler Master MegaFlow 200 is one of the best fans in its territory.

It may run the conventional sleeve-bearing model but it also makes up by being the most efficient and the most affordable. For the price, you have a 200mm fan that delivers a whopping 110 CFM to keep your fan cool round the clock. Plus, you won’t even need to ramp up the RPMs to over a thousand to reach this because it gets there even at 700 RPM.

best case fans

While it’s the biggest fan on our list, it’s still fairly silent (19 dBA)-- almost as silent as the Noctua NF-A8 (17.7 dBA). Though it only has a blue and red version apart from the black no-LED version.

And oh, a 3-pin to MOLEX connector aside from the 3-pin connector that it originally comes with.

 

#5

Cooler Master Silencio FP 120

The Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 PWM really lives up to its namesake: Silencio.

At first, you’d mistake this as a standard 120mm fan but if you look closely, this black case fan has a very distinct sickle-looking blade. This is what makes the fan operate silently at high pressure.

On top of utilizing a Loop Dynamic Bearing (LDB), this also utilizes the Silent Driver IC technology-- and this is what provides a smoother, less torque impulse for minimal vibrations and ultra-low noise.

Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 unbox

Even though you can manually control the fans via a 3rd party software like SpeedFan since this has a 4-pin connector, the noise level is still very low. Other contributing factors why this is really silent are the 4 metal screws and 4 anti-vibration rubber screws that it comes with.

Which is the Right Case Fan For You?

With all of the best laid out and covered, it’s time for you to make your pick.

  1. We personally recommend the Noctua NF-A8 PWM case fan if you have a case that requires an 80mm fan. It delivers an astonishing amount of CFM without being too loud. But remember that this doesn’t have RGB and all that.
  2. In the 120mm territory, nothing beats the performance of the Cooler Master JetFlo 120. It has a high-performance motor and fan blades that also keeps everything silent-- thanks to the rubber mounting holes with steel threads for easy installation.
  3. If you’re going to need a 140mm fan that doesn’t just promise performance but also does so silently, nothing can compete with the magnetic levitation of the Corsair ML140.
  4. Should you need a large fan to keep things cool, the Cooler Master MegaFlow 200-- with its high CFM and a very low noise level-- is hard to beat.
  5. And if you’re crazy about wanting a really silent case fan, the Cooler Master cm Silencio FP 120 PWM is one of the quieter fans out there.

Parting Words

Now that you know how to pick a fan and you know about some of the best computer fans, what fan are you interested in? And did we miss out on any great fans?

And, as always, if you have questions, ask away and we’ll be more than happy to address your questions!

Sources

  1. Hilbert Hagedoorn, Cooler Master launches JetFlo 120 Cooling Fans, Guru3D, July 3, 2013

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