Great coolers will help keep your individual components from getting too toasty, but you need great fans to move that hot air out of the case and the cool air in. From our experience and research, the best PC fan is the Noctua NF-S12B Redux 1200. It ditches Noctua’s traditional brown aesthetic for a more understated grey, it’s quiet, and powerful, pushing or pulling heaps of air across heatsinks and through dust-filtered vents with ease.
But if that’s not what you’re looking for, we have plenty of alternatives. The Corsair ML120 Pro RGB are expensive but gorgeous to look at, and Scythe’s Kaze Flex is a super-affordable fan that is almost as good as far more expensive options. Note that our choices are all 120mm, though most of them have larger alternatives if your case supports the 140mm standard.
The best PC fans at a glance
Noctua has been making some of the best fans and coolers for almost 15 years and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing. Its NF-S12B Redux-1200 fan is an excellent example of that. It’s high-powered, super quiet, and features a unique blade design to maximize airflow without introducing additional noisy turbulence.
For those who don’t like Noctua’s typical brown and cream color scheme, this fan ditches that in favor of a uniform grey aesthetic that can be accented by colorful anti-vibration mounts (sold separately) if you choose.
The best part of it all, though, is the price. It’s barely more expensive than our budget fan.
When it comes to watercooling radiators, average case fans will do a passable job, but they aren’t what you really need. For pushing air through high-density heatsinks like radiators, you need a fan that can generate high-static pressure. That’s where wide-bladed fans like the Noctua NF-F12 PWM come in.
Once again, Noctua’s quality comes to the fore with this fan. It not only delivers high-static pressure, but it does so at whisper quiet noise levels. This would be a great replacement for a closed-loop all-in-one cooler’s stock fans, or a key component in your custom watercooling loop. It would even be a worthy replacement for a loud CPU heatsink fan.
It comes with built-in anti-vibration mounts, to help further reduce noise. It’s a little pricier than some, but it’s one we’d recommend paying for.
Whether it’s memory modules, peripherals, case fans, Corsair’s RGB lighting is at the front of the pack. The QL120 RGB fans aren’t cheap, but they are some of the best-looking fans we’ve seen. The low-noise fan blades keep these fans whisper-quiet and they look absolutely gorgeous with the custom LEDs all lit up. This new design even lets you split the colors so you have different coloring on the front and back or top to bottom, with 34 individually addressable zones.
They can even operate in concert with one another, or other lighting systems in your PC, if you use the control hub. Corsair LINK compatible, the bundled Node Pro (if you buy the three-pack) lets you create some impressively dynamic lighting profiles that will leave even the most experienced RGB lovers spoiled for choice.
You can get a fan for just a few dollars if all you care about is how cheap it is. Unfortunately, a cheap fan isn’t necessarily a great budget fan. The Scythe Kaze Flex is a much more attractive option to look at, but it also offers many of the features more expensive fans do. All at an affordable price.
At just over $10, you could easily outfit your whole PC with these and not break the bank. They’ll move plenty of air without getting on your nerves with rattling or whooshing sound, either. They come complete with rubber anti-vibration mounts pre-fitted, and are rated to last more than 120,000 hours. That pretty much guarantees you’ll upgrade your entire PC before these economical fans run their course.
Noctua’s back again and this time with a low-profile solution. If you’re building a miniature PC, you don’t need to miss out on high-performance. In fact, you need to make sure you don’t since less space in your case means less thermal headroom. You need the hot air gone and the cold air in, and that’s exactly what Noctua’s NF-A12x15 will do — only in a shorter form than most.
At just 15mm deep, this 120mm fan is perfect for mATX and mini-ITX cases or space-restricted builds, offering high air-flow, low noise output, and a solid build quality. It’s not too expensive, either.