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Best 120mm Case Fans Reviews for 2019

Any PC running high internal temperatures risks damaged parts in the future. To avoid the trouble of early replacements and incurring unplanned expenses, you better get on the cooling fan wagon. Choosing one needn’t be hard.

A quality case fan balances the amount of air it can produce and the noise level. It may also allow for speed control to customize your experience.

After researching through different 120mm case fans, comparing their performance and balance of aesthetics to cooling, our favorite is the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120. It ticks our performance list including being silent while offering an incredible 69.69CFM.


Top Pick - Cooler Master SickleFlow

At full RPM 2000, this case fan offers 69.69CFM. It is the perfect choice for gaming PCs. It pushes air so hard that you can use it for both intakes and exhausts.

1. Cooler Master SickleFlow 120: Best 120mm Case Fan for Gaming PC

With the entry of massive graphics cards, traditional case fans are going to break when it comes to cooling a gaming PC. More so for hardcore gamers, not just any case fan will cool your PC.

Cooler Master, a renowned brand when it comes to computer cooling offers their most popular choice, the Cooler Master SickleFlow 120. This model is all in from the beautiful LED colors to the silent operation and of course an amazing CFM of up to 90CFM.

At full RPM 2000, this case fan offers 69.69CFM. It is the perfect choice for gaming PCs. It pushes air so hard that you can use it for both intakes and exhausts. You will like that its blue LEDs are not very bright or very dark, and they will match with any gaming setup.

If noise is always an issue with any fans you have come across; this one operates at 19dB. It is one of the most silent case fans we have come across for the size. When running at 5 volts, there’s absolutely no sound from this fan. And when you crank the power up a little bit, say 7 volts, then you can start to hear a humming sound.

For those with a loud GPU fan and operating this fan at full speed, you will hear the sound of air being pushed. It should not be an issue unless you are a silent freak.

With this Cooler Master SickleFlow 120, you get all the installation components including the 3 to 4 pin adapter. What’s more, you get four screws that make installation fast and easy.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

The only thing you won’t experience with this case fan is PWM speed control. It’s what you get for the price which won’t dip your budget for even a little bit. And if you need speed control, a separate fan controller will do the job just fine.

         Pros

  • Delivers high CFM
  • Virtually silent at low speeds
  • Blue LEDs are neither too bright nor too dark
  • thumbs-up
    Comes with all installation hardware
  • thumbs-up
    Up to 50,000 hours on long life sleeve bearing

Cons

  • It comes with a short fan cable
  • thumbs-down
    A bit loud at high speeds

2. Cooler Master 4-Pack: Best value 120mm Case Fan

Cooler Master 4-Pack achieves high efficiency on a budget. It is ideal for mainstream computers as it operates silently unless you have the speed all way up.

This fan offers up to 44.73CFM at 1200RPM. It showcases the ideal balance of airflow and noise performance since it will be comfortable for the most part unless you are installing it on a high-end gaming PC which we do not recommend.

Since this is a cheap model, don’t hold your breath for RGB lighting and all the fancy stuff that come with more expensive brands. It aims at cooling your PC which is crucial if your computer came with one fan.

If you are keen about the things you bring to your home, you will be glad that this model is RoHS compliant. It means it does not have hazardous materials used in electrical components.

It’s important to note that if you use all the four fans in a small space, it’s going to get noisy. And if you install the fans with the sleeves horizontal, they will again be noisy. Whether it's on a radiator or a tower, they need to be vertical to maintain their lifespan.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

If you plan on routing the fan cable, this one is still too short for that. The fan is also a bit plain for those using it to build around a transparent case.

           Pros

  • Performs well for the price
  • Decent lifespan on the sleeve bearings- up to 30,000 hours
  • Operates quietly at low and medium speeds
  • thumbs-up
    Complies with RoHS standards for environmental protection

        Cons

  • They are noisy when all four are installed and running at full speed 
  • thumbs-down
    They do not use a 4-pin connector

3. ARCTIC F12 PWM PST 5-Pack: Easiest to Control

Get the necessary cooling without your input with the ARCTIC F12 PWM PST. It comes as a 5-pack, offering PWM automatic speed control without being a tad expensive. These fans work together thanks to its exclusive PST technology. Your computer reads only one PWM signal as it chains together all the five fans. 

To do this, all your fans will connect to a single header. The cable is quite long for ATX cases and should be more than enough for cable routing.

The PST process enhances cooling which in turn reduces noise levels. When your computer is idling, it won’t use up energy for cooling since all the fans run slowly. It is another advantage of PST technology for quiet and efficient case ventilation. 

ARCTIC F12 PWM PST offers up to 53CFM at a maximum RPM of 1350. It is remarkable that its noise level is lower than our top best at only 15dB. It is barely audible when running at normal speeds except when playing a heavy graphics game.

ARCTIC F12 PWM PST comes with durable hydraulic bearings. They are not only durable, but you can install them in whichever direction you choose, and the noise level will not be affected. On that note, it’s also possible to install these fans for intake or exhausts without affecting performance.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

These fans are not meant to replace high-end brand models like Noctua. You may notice that the plastic parts are a bit fragile and installing the screws too tight may cause them to crack. Fortunately, they have a 72-month warranty so you can have them replaced if it happens to you.

         Pros

  • PST technology allows PWM signal control
  • Saves energy by controlling full load
  • Quiet and efficient operation
  • thumbs-up
    Allows two-way installation
  • thumbs-up
    High-quality hydraulic bearings

      Cons

  • May need setup with rubber screws because they get loud at high speeds
  • thumbs-down
    It does not offer cable management for the five fans

4. Noctua NF-F12 PWM: Best Premium Choice

Meet high performance and silence on Noctua’s premium choice NF-F12 PWM case fan. Featuring Noctua’s FocusedFlow Frame, it works under the most demanding conditions from your heat sink to a radiator; it is the 120mm of choice for demanding situations.

The frame combines eleven stator guide vanes that focus and channel the air for faster cooling without running at a high RPM. The result is a less noisy application compared to traditional case fans. With the stator guide vanes set at varying angular distance and the inclusion of Vortex-Control Notches, this fan spreads noise at a wide frequency. This way, you can use it in a small room without feeling like you need ear muffs.

Other features unique to the Noctua NF-F12 PWM are the 2nd gen SSO bearings, Heptaperf impeller, and the PWM IC with SCD. The bearings provide stability and durability while the impeller helps to balance power and silence hence saving you energy. You will also like that it automatically achieves PWM speed control.

As a premium product, it is designed to last an impressive period. Noctua offers a 6-year warranty and seeing that it has a brass bearing, we don’t see why it won’t last longer than the warranty.

Installation is quite straightforward. It comes with four fan screws, four vibration dampers, a 4-pin Y-cable, Low-Noise Adapter, and a 30cm extension cable. It offers modular cabling plus two-speed settings for your specific cooling needs.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

The humming sound on this fan may be distracting to those who work in very silent environments. This is because it is computer controlled so it varies according to what you are doing. It’s not such a biggy in normal computing conditions where they are other sources of noise except for the computer fan.

Pros

  • High-quality design and execution
  • Low noise but highly efficient
  • Useful for demanding situations
  • thumbs-up
    Comes with a low-noise adapter
  • thumbs-up
    It has a 6-year warranty

      Cons

  • Some models come with fewer parts
  • thumbs-down
    The extension cable is still short for some applications

5. Corsair Air Series AF120 LED Quiet Edition: Best Corsair Case Fan

Corsair is a popular name in PC building. Apart from offering high-end case fans, you will also find high-performance PC accessories and components including gaming mice, memory cards, CPU coolers, and so much more.

Looking at the Corsair Air Series AF120, we see a model made with quality, performance, and durability in mind. Even though it has a plastic frame, you will notice that it is not fragile. It comes with custom-molded blades that displace more air than most 120mm case fans claiming similar features. At 25.2dB, it is not the quietest fan out there, so you have to contend with some noise even if it is quieter of the Corsair models.

Corsair Air Series AF120 can work as an exhaust fan. It can be mounted at the top or rear of your PC’s case and remove all that excess heat that increase the operating temperature of your computer. This is mostly so if you have a gaming computer with high-end graphics cards running the latest games.

If you have areas with less air intake, this fan will also be the intake fan you are looking for. It is good to install at the side or bottom around stuff like hard drive cages. It works nicely in both configurations for maximum performance.

We particularly like the red LED lighting as it automatically brings life to your machine. Whether you are watching a music video and want to integrate some nice LEDs in your room, or you want the color to match other accessories, it complements just about any setup.

Seeing that this is a 3-pin fan, you can have them on a speed-controlled line lest you deal with a lot of noise. For most people, it is not a problem as most PCs can control it automatically in BIOS.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

Corsair Air Series AF120 has a sleeve bearing system. It’s not our expectation considering that it comes at a premium price. There are other versions of Corsair Air Series with hydraulic bearings. We wish to see the same integrated into this particular model.

      Pros

  • Delivers high air volume
  • Quality construction on the bezel and plastic frame
  • It is speed-controllable
  • thumbs-up
    Can work as an intake or exhaust fan
  • thumbs-up
    Comes with frosted, custom-molded blades

    Cons

  • LED cannot be switched off
  • thumbs-down
    They are more expensive than fans with hydraulic bearings

6. Corsair ML120 Pro: Best LED 120mm Case Fan

A lot goes into the construction of a good case fan, and Corsair knows better not to bring a midrange model to the table. Corsair ML120 Pro is available in different colors including RGB which allows you to customize the color according to your liking.

With its superior aesthetics, it does not compromise on the speed and noise. It delivers an impressive 2000RPM that is PWM controllable. With a 4-pin connector, there’s no need to buy an external speed controller. It is easy to control speeds manually or automatically on your PC.

A unique feature of this model is that if you use voltage speed controls, the LEDs are brightness adjustable. But if your PC offers automatic PWM control, the LEDs operate at full brightness.

It is built around magnetic levitation bearings which provide a longer life span and less noise. It does not have physical bearings which means less friction. It uses magnetic force to counteract the effects of gravity. That’s why this case fan is perhaps the most durable on our list.

The fan comes with a custom rotor design. It balances high airflow and high static pressure to provide smooth operation in tough conditions.

Another interesting feature on Corsair ML120 Pro is the color customization. The fan allows you to change out the corners and match them to your PC. If you are keen on aesthetics, it's nice to know; you can have every component your way.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

A common complaint with this fan is that you have to bear with the noise level as it similar to stock fans. Corsair is not known for silent fans even though described as such.

      Pros

  • Uses long-lasting magnetic levitation bearings
  • Corners are replaceable
  • Uses custom rotors for improved performance
  • thumbs-up
    Can be controlled using corsair ICUE software control

    Cons

  • Replaceable edges have to be bought separately
  • thumbs-down
    LED cannot be shut off when the fan is operating

7. Thermaltake Riing 12 Series: Best 120mm Case Fan for Radiators

Designed with concentration compression blade, Thermaltake Riing 12 Series is the ideal 120mm case fan for your radiator. It has two parts where the inner circle pushes the air outside while the outer ring pressurizes and compresses it. The process creates high-pressure which is ideal for demanding situations.

To balance noise and vibration, this model uses a wind blocker. It localizes the air volume which in turn creates faster cooling without going at full speed. Compared to standard fans, the Riing radiator provides 40% better cooling without costing an arm and a leg.

What’s more, you get an LED ring that provides a nice oomph in the way your PC will look after installation. It supports most setups including gaming and video editing which produce a lot of heat. Better still, this fan provides an anti-vibration installation system. It has mold-injection rubber pads that cover all the four corners and the surface to minimize vibrations.

Thermaltake Riing 12 Series has invested in the durability of this fan thanks to the use of hydraulic bearings. You can expect years of use with this fan unless you want to change up things with RGB lighting which it lacks. It even has a 3-year warranty, proof that Thermaltake Riing 12 Series stands behind their products.

Flaws but not Dealbreakers

This is not a PWM fan. Speed control is not automatically achieved. If you plan on using it for liquid coolers where you may need to control the speed, an external module is an accessory you will need.

      Pros

  • Works with hydraulic bearings
  • Allows anti-vibration mounting
  • Affordably priced for the features
  • thumbs-up
    Uses a Concentrated Compression Blade for maximum cooling and noise performance

    Cons

  • Cables are a bit too short for routing
  • thumbs-down
    It is not PWM

Best 120mm Case Fan: Buying Guide

Apart from improving performance on your PC, a proper case fan will increase longevity on your PC. After you have identified that your PC supports 120mm case, there are a few more features to remember.

Connector Type

Most computer case fans have 4-pin, 3-pin, or Molex connections. With a 4-pin connection, the fan will connect to the 4-pin connector on the motherboard. This connection allows fan speed control using a PWM signal.

3-pin fans connect to only three pins from the 4-pin connector. The motherboard reads a tachometer signal on the fan that allows it to know the RPM. Since they do not have a PWM signal, you can buy a separate speed controller.

If you lack fan plugs, the 2-pin Molex connector is the next choice for you. It connects to the power supply and gets very loud because the fan speed is not adjustable.

Bearing Type

There are also three types of bearings.

  • Sleeve- these are the cheapest bearings with a relatively low lifetime.
  • Ball- these are more expensive, have a longer lifetime, but they are also noisier than sliding bearings.
  • Hydrodynamic – these are liquid cooling fan bearings. They are the most expensive but then the most durable. These bearings self-lubricate; hence increasing their life.

Airflow

Airflow determines the amount of air the fan can push in a minute measured in cubic per feet (CFM). The more air a fan can displace, the better it is at cooling. CFM goes hand in hand with RPM.

A high RPM and high CFM means that the fan is working hard and producing lots of noise in the process. You need to look for fans that can achieve high speeds without generating a lot of noise. In 120mm case fans, for instance, it should be between 800RPM and 1600RPM.

Noise

Again, on sound, having fans that produce the least amount of noise is what you should aim at. Noise is measured in dB. In small fans, expect noise levels from 15-25dB in large fans and 30-36dB in large fans.

 

Conclusion

A cooling fan may be the only upgrade you need for your PC. After covering top choices on the market, we came across interesting and distinct features on different brands.

Since it is not always possible to control all the fans in a PC, ARCTIC F12 PWM PST has their innovative PST technology which allows all the fans you install to be read from a single PWM signal. It makes it effortless for the PC to control speed according to the task at hand.

We’ve also encountered brands like Noctua that use high-end parts. In our case, Noctua NF-F12 PWM has stator guide vanes, PWM IC with SCD, and a Heptaperf impeller. These are features that offer premium performance on this product.

And, we couldn’t fail to recognize the impeccable design of Thermaltake Riing 12 Series. It is a fan that achieves perfection in an affordable model for heavy duty tasks owing to its Concentrated Compression Blade.

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