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Some years ago, you could say that at least one case fan is required to keep a gaming rig safe. Long gone are those days, and meaner rigs require multiple cooling systems in place. Reputed names like Corsair, NZXT, and CoolerMaster are producing different sizes of fans that go with their respective mounts on the case.
In fact, we have also moved on from the purely technical value of a PC cooling fan. With RGB rich PC cases all over the market, the aesthetic value of the coolers has also become relevant. However, there are a number of different sizes available ranging from as low as 80mm and going up to as large as 240mm. However, the most common ones are 120mm case fans, not only for the more suitable size but also because there is a variety of models available to choose from.
Best 120mm Case Fans For Aesthetics and Performance
Buying yourself an efficient fan isn’t as complicated as buying some of the other PC components. Apart from the dimensions and power requirements, there are just a few other things to consider. You’d want the fan to be as quiet as possible because who likes it noisy! Similarly, you’d be checking the air flow capacity of the fan as well as any assistance it gets with power modes.
However, only after you are through with these aspects we would suggest you go for aesthetics and design elements. Features like LED lighting is an optional high-end feature that some of the more expensive products will have. But since PC fans aren’t really a very pricey component in the first place, it should be fine to add that extra bit of style.
With one of the best designs for maximum airflow capabilities and long life, the Noctua NF-A12x25 is focused on what is truly important, cooling your PC system at an affordable price.
Quick Review: Noctua NF-A12x25
The cooling fan is of a sturdy design that sports a brown color scheme, the focus of the company seems to be on the function of the fan itself, to cool your components thoroughly. They have a SSO2 fan bearing (Self Stabilizing Oil Pressure) which uses magnets for stabilization. Meaning they can provide better performance while keeping the noise levels to the minimum. This bearing type also gives the fans a good life, meaning a longer life span for your buck.
So the fan is heavier than most RGB fans, they have an incredible tip clearance of 0.5mm thanks to the material their fans are designed with. They have used their own material called Sterox which is a liquid crystal polymer that can dissipate heat better and more tensile, this allows Noctua to have a 0.5mm tip clearance as compared to other fans which have a 2mm tip clearance usually. Even after having such a low tip clearance on the Noctua NF-A12x25, the blades still don’t hit the edges even at high speeds.
Speaking of high speeds, this fan has a high speed of up to 2000RPM, which is pretty impressive for its price tag. While having such a high speed, its mounting is pretty solid, which helps avoiding vibration and making unnecessary noise that is also why Noctua fans are super quiet.
The NF-A12x25, which comes with an Ultra-Low Noise (ULN) Adapter for keeping the fan as silent as possible at low RPM. You can adjust the speed of the fan with different adapters according to your needs. If you prefer performance over noise, you can just blast the fan at high RPM of up to 2000, but if you like it quiet you can use the ULN adapter and keep the fans RPM limited.
Now this fan has one of the best Static Pressure to airflow ratios, meaning not only does this fan move around air better, but pushes more air into components. This fan is a jack of all trades when it comes to airflow vs. static pressure fans. Most fans out there either focus on CFM, or they focus on Static pressure, so Noctua NF-A12x25 120mm fans are way better in that accord. They have an airflow of 60 CFM and a static pressure of 2.34mm-H2O, which is the highest amongst all the fans we reviewed.
These cooling fans have a warranty of up to 6 years, so you can just sit back and relax without any worries. Noctua puts a lot of faith behind the fan’s capabilities, design and materials to back it with such a big warranty.
If you’d want something with better style quotient and lower price, we tested a befitting Thermaltake PC fan too. In fact, for the incredible performance offered in its three in one pack makes it a great value deal. The noise levels go as low as 18.7 dBA which is considerably low. And the airflow levels are maintained well at two levels ranging between 12/14 and 40.6/51.1 CFM. It also has the anti-vibration pads similar to the Noctua fan above.
If you want to get beautiful RGB lit fans but you do not like a noisy PC, then NZXT AER RGB 2 can do just that for you. Beautiful RGB lighting, very low noise levels and a really good airflow capacity.
Quick Review: NZXT AER RGB 2
If we look at top of the line cooling products, NZXT comes at the very top along with some very notable names. But we found the specifications on the AER RGB 2 better than other silent cooling fans. Along with having a rather stylish RGB lighting around the edges this fan is very silent compared to other 120mm RGB lit fans by other brands.
The NZXT AER RGB 2 has a fan noise level of 22dBA, which is pretty dead silent when they are encased in a tempered glass casing. So you will be able to game, work and watch movies without any noise interruptions from these 120mm cooling fans.
But having low noise levels alone is not what makes a silent cooling fan good. But that is not all the NZXT AER RGB 2 has to offer, along with incredibly low fan noise level, it has airflow of 52.44 CFM. That is a pretty decent amount of airflow to cool your components, just 1 AER RGB 2 is going to move around 52.44 CFM air around, so adding in a few more to complete a set of intakes and exhaust would cool down the computer considerably.
The fan has speed levels of 500-1500RPM, so these are faster than most RGB cooling fans out there and move more air than them. You can adjust the speed of the NZXT AER RGB 2 through your Bios, one thing of note is that you will need to get the controller to be able to control the RGB on the fans through the CAM software.
The NZXT AER RGB 2 cooling fans have a static pressure of 0.15 – 1.35mm-H2O to push the air more easily through your components to cool them down rapidly. You will need good static pressure if you have HDD cages and other components inside the casing.
Now let us come to their composition, the NZXT AER RGB 2 have a white LED ring, blades and a frame made out of a light and sturdy plastic. There are rubber corners to avoid vibration in the fans, keeping noise levels down. The composition of the fans is light and because of that they can move more air around easily.
They have a FDB, which is fluid dynamic bearing in the fan, which offers a longer life while keeping things hush. That is why these fans have a life expectancy of 6 years and they come with a 2 year warranty from NZXT.
So the real question is, are these worth it, with the new HUE 2 ecosystem and immensely customizable options on the RGB, yes they are. The CAM software allows you to control each individual component attached to the NZXT HUE controller. You can make custom pre-sets, chance the light to breathing, pulsing, flickering, swirling rainbows, sync it to audio and your games to get the best experience out of RGB from the NZXT AER RGB 2.
If we had to pick one alternative for the Corsair fan above, it would be yet another PC fan from the same company. Except, this time around the product has just a single LED color instead of RGB. However, it is a magnetic bearing fan. This allows the fan to run faster at 2,000 RPM, thrusting out 75 CFM air. However, it isn’t as quiet as the RGB model and produces about 50 percent extra noise at 37 dBA.
Best Entry Level
People who like their rigs to be quiet while they work really need to look up this fan, the Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 PWM 120mm fan. The name Silencio is not just a gimmick though, they really are silent.
Quick Review: Cooler Master Silencio FP 120
So as the name suggests, the fan focuses most on the noise levels. They have a Loop Dynamic Bearing, which makes them especially quiet at noise levels of 6.5-14 dBA at the lowest to highest RPM setting. So one thing we can be sure of is that these fans will give you a peace of mind over everything else.
But this does not mean the fan is slow, the fan has speed of 800-1400 RPM, which is a pretty good speed for the kind of low fan noise it makes. Of course the design also sacrifices a little bit of the airflow, with the highest airflow at 44 CFM, which is not the best we have seen in all of the cooling fan reviews so far.
The Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 PWM is not exactly focused heavily on the airflow and static pressure numbers, it is more about the fan noise levels. So it has a low static pressure of
0.47 – 1.69 mmH2O, which is not so great, but still better than most cooling fans out there.
With sacrificing just a teeny bit of performance the Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 gives you a really silent experience. The sacrifice in quality is not so great that it undermines its ability as a cooling fan, of course, if you want to go for performance you can opt for a Noctua fan, but this fan is comparatively more affordable than any other fan while maintaining a good functionality.
We had a hard time picking up an alternative for the slot because there were two aspects to choose from. One being the flashy side with LED lights and all, while the other a more to the point approach that Noctua and Arctic followed above. However, we chose the RockSoul 120mm LED case fan for its ingenious approach. The fan is transparent and comes with a blue LED. But that gives you the opportunity to color it as you please! Not only that, it has fairly commendable fan speeds reaching up to 1500 RPM. The company claims 1800 RPM speeds, 25 dBA noise, and over 60 CFM airflow.
We got acquainted with a large number of 120mm case fans during the process and the bottom line is that there is no single winner. There are a few Corsair fans and CoolerMaster fans that cross the threshold every time. But it all boils down to your needs.
If you are an enthusiast overclocker you will need fans with the greatest airflow as the rig will get hotter than others. But then, the whole thing will be prone to noise, or as expensive as a sophisticated cooling system. PC case fans are nonetheless an integral part of your PC performance, which is why you should focus more on the qualitative aspects when choosing.