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The best PC fans

Although often overlooked, cooling is one of the most important aspects of building a computer. Of course, you want a beefy CPU cooler — or even better, an all-in-one liquid cooler — but you should pay attention to the general airflow in your case, too. To make sure everything moves along as smoothly as possible, we’ve rounded up the best PC fans for your build. 

PC fans all move air around your case, though some do it better than others — and quieter, at that.

The best PC fans at a glance

The best PC fan: Noctua NF-S12B Redux-1200

Noctua fan

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. Noctua NF-S12B Redux-1200 is barely more expensive than our budget fan.

The best PC fan for watercooling: Noctua NF-F12 PWM

Noctua 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. The Noctua NF-F12 PWM a little pricier than some, but it’s one we’d recommend paying for.

The best RGB PC fan: Corsair iCUE QL120 RGB

Corsair iCUE Fan

Whether it’s memory modules, peripherals, case fans, Corsair’s RGB lighting is at the front of the pack (it showed up a lot in our best RGB PC components guide). 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.

The Corsair iCUE QL120 RGB 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.

The best budget PC fan: Scythe Kaze Flex

Scythe budget fan

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, the Scythe Kaze Flex won’t break the bank. You could easily outfit your whole PC with these on a budget. They’ll move plenty of air without getting on your nerves, too. Quiet operation is the name of the game, with no rattling or whooshing sounds. Rubber anti-vibration mounts come pre-fitted, too, promising to last more than 120,000 hours. That pretty much guarantees you’ll upgrade your entire PC before these economic fans give up.

The best low-profile PC fan: Noctua NF-A12x15

Noctua low-profile fan

Noctua makes another appearance with an unassuming cooling device that proves you can get high-quality components even if you’re building a tiny PC. Smaller computers have less thermal headroom, so their parts must be as efficient as possible. Noctua’s NF-A12x15 does an excellent job of keeping the cool air in while pushing the hot air out. And it manages to complete the transfer in a shorter package.

The 120mm fan is only 15mm deep, making it the ideal solution for mATX and mini-ITX cases and other builds short on space.

The Noctua NF-A12x15 is sturdy while being relatively quiet, and it’s affordable as well.

If a fan doesn’t efficiently cool your computer, it will adversely affect your device’s processing times and overall lifespan. You must invest in a high-quality fan for your PC, and the options listed above are all terrific choices that won’t break the bank. They’ll help you keep your PC in top shape, extending its life and ultimately saving you money in repairs.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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