What’s The Best 120mm Case Fan For Your PC?
When you are looking to purchase your case of choice, 99.9% of them come with an exhaust fan pre-installed… therefore, you don’t need to worry about it, right? I mean, does it really make any difference what fan sits at the rear of the chassis, and exhausts hot air out of your case? Does fan blade count & design, RPM or even price make any difference to the job this fan does?
A lot of companies have tried to re-invent the proverbial wheel when it comes to fan design and with a large focus on static pressure fans for radiators swamping the market, does it really make that big of a difference? For this shoot-out, we contacted companies in advance to give them enough time to send whatever fans they wanted included in this big comparison, below are the 22 fans which made the cut including specifications, pricing and a link to check the latest price (or purchase) from Amazon! The key question we will be asking today; What 120mm fan is the best rear case fan?
|Brand||Model||Maximum Airflow (CFM)||Blade Count||Maximum Speed (RPM)||Price||Link – (Click for latest price)|
|Antec||Rainbow 120 RGB||42.62||7||1200||$14.99||www.antec.com
|Arctic||F12 PWM PST||53||9||1350||$7||http://amzn.to/2iqzZJo|
|be quiet!||Pure Wings 2||51.4||9||1500||$15.86||http://amzn.to/2zbdLD4|
|be quiet!||Silent Wings 3||50.5||7||1450||$26.85||http://amzn.to/2hAwsIN|
|be quiet!||Shadow Wings 1 Low Speed||22.5||7||800||$16.18||http://amzn.to/2ztksUd|
|be quiet!||Silent Wings 3 High Speed||73.3||7||2200||$26.50||http://amzn.to/2yrbPt1|
|be quiet!||Shadow Wings 1 High Speed||76.2||9||2200||$27.63||http://amzn.to/2xUsSj5|
|Cooler Master||MasterFan Pro Air Pressure RGB||35||9||1500||$19.99||http://amzn.to/2yNFpcu|
|Cooler Master||MasterFan Pro Air Balance RGB||42.7||9||1300||$19.99||http://amzn.to/2xVuN6S|
|Cooler Master||MasterFan Pro Air Flow RGB||48.8||9||1100||$19.99||http://amzn.to/2zQcepe|
|Corsair||ML120 Pro LED||75||7||2400||$27.99||http://amzn.to/2zakjBY|
Not on Amazon US/UK
|Noctua||NF-F12 Industrial PPC 2000||N/A||7||2000||$25.35||http://amzn.to/2hBud8i|
|Noctua||NF-F12 iIndustrial PPC 3000||N/A||7||3000||$25.95||http://amzn.to/2zaPRb7|
In order to ensure they covered all bases possible, our friends at be quiet! sent us just about every 120mm fan in their product line-up. These included:
- Shadow Wings High Speed
- Shadow Wings Low Speed
- Pure Wings 2
- Silent Wings 3 High Speed
- Silent Wings 3 Standard Speed
No fancy RGB lighting to be had here, as they are all about performance. be quiet! currently dominate our CPU cooling charts, so we are very hopeful for awesome performance in our test.
Not to be outdone by be quiet!, Corsair also weighed in with some pretty heavy hitters of their own in the shape of the ML 120 and the ever popular SP 120. In contrast to the be quiet offerings, we have a plethora of LED’s here to feast our eyes upon, including the SP 120 in all of its RGB glory!
ID-Cooling Rainbow RB-12025
Adding further bling to proceedings, is the 3 fan kit from ID-Cooling, which comes bundled with it’s own RGB controller. Retailing for around $50, these are serious value for money. The biggest problem is that availability is extremely hit and miss, and at the time of this article, they are nowhere to be found in the UK.
Full details can be found on the ID-Cooling website HERE.
Another manufacturer sending multiple models in for the shoot out is Arctic. With the exception of the newly released BioniX F120 fan, every single one of Arctic’s submissions retails at under $10, with the F12 PWM coming in at just $7 at the time of the testing. These are by far the cheapest in our line up, and offer serious value for money.
Representing NZXT we have a twin pack of their AER F120 fans. We only fitted one for the purpose of our testing obviously… perhaps fitting 2 at once is for a future feature!
A further single fan entry sees Antec join the party… and boy do they make an entrance, with not only RGB LED’s but also chrome effect fan blades! If anyone is planning a low-rider inspired gaming PC, then these are most definitely the fans for you!
- Rainbow 120 (UK link as not found on Amazon.com)
Our friends over at Cooler Master weighed in with one of each of their 3 designs of the new RGB laden MasterFan Pro 120; sending us the Air Flow, Air Pressure and Air Balance. These fans will be of particular interest during the testing, to see just what temperature difference each of these fan design & layouts make when it comes to exhaust performance.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the premium cooling specialists from Austria…Noctua. These guys were pulling no punches whatsoever, sending us 2 variations from their premium range, but also 2 speed iterations of their Industrial PPC fans. These guys really mean business!
Test Setup & Performance
Test Bench Setup
CPU – Intel Core i9-7900X 10 Core @ Stock
Motherboard – ASUS ROG Rampage VI APEX
Memory – Ballistix Elite 3000MHz 32GB (4x8GB)
Graphics – ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1060 6GB
CPU Cooler – be quiet! Silent Loop 240mm
Case – be quiet! Silent Base 600
Power Supply – be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
Each of the 120mm PC case fans tested below were tested inside of our be quiet! Silent Base 600 system with a very powerful Intel i9-7900X 10 core processor which is perfect for rendering, multi-tasking and production work flows. Each fan was installed into the rear of the case and was set up as an external dump at the rear of the case. Our be quiet! Silent Loop 240 240mm AIO CPU cooler was installed with the radiator mounted in the front of the case with the fans set up in a way which draws air from the front panel. The ASUS ROG GTX 1060 STRIX graphics card was installed to give the system a more “natural” feel and we felt this was the right way to go to emulate a real world set up. Currently due to the change in premises, audio testing isn’t going to be possible due to large amounts of road works outside causing excessive ambient noise levels.
Minimum temperatures were taken at idle and the system was left on for 4-6 hours before the reading was taken. Temperatures at Play3r are done in Delta which gives a more consistent and broader set of results. Delta is room temperature minus core temperature in this case. At maximum, Prime95 with AVX was loaded and run for 2 hours; the maximum core temperature was taken after this time.
Conclusion – Which is The Best 120mm PC Fan?
It’s very obvious that when cooling components, a variable amount of airflow is needed to assist in heat dissipation for whatever it is from VRM heat sinks, graphics card VRMs etc. It’s no secret that the range of available case fans over the last couple of years has exploded with stalwarts such as Cooler Master, Noctua and be quiet! leading the way in PC case fan design. On top of that, you have legendary companies like Corsair redefining their current technology and adding some of the best RGB we have seen from a case fan into the equation.
So we’ve tested them all in the exhaust case fan position and our findings are pretty interesting. The best performing fan in our testing is the Noctua NF-F12 Industrial PPC 3000rpm which may come as no surprise. It’s also one of the most expensive offerings from the list and is the strongest indicator of pure performance without being flashy, especially against those in the price range which extra premium is spent on RGB lighting such as the Corsair SP120 RGB fans. It wouldn’t make sense to conclude everything individually as the results above speak for themselves. When choosing a 120mm to act as a case exhaust, the variation in temperatures between all of the fans tested is minimal with the biggest differences coming from purposely designed slower fans against the fastest with speeds up to 3000rpm.
Here are some notable picks and relevant awards…
Noctua NF-F12 Industrial PPC 3000
This particular 120mm offering from Noctua sits top of our performance charts and is in no short thanks to the fast 3000rpm speed. If you’re all about performance and don’t care about things like RGB (god forbid), then this is the fan to go for!
Corsair SP120 RGB
The Corsair SP120 RGB not only offers great performance at a fairly decent price, but you can buy them in multipacks which makes it as cheap as most other RGB 120mm fans. The clear and crisp RGB lighting which is compatible with a plethora of other RGB related peripherals and components makes this our favorite fan out of all on test at this time.
be quiet! Silent Wings 3 High Speed 120mm
The 2nd top performer on our list and possibly most stylistically elegant in design, the Silent wings 3 from be quiet! is a must have if RGB isn’t your thing and you want an alternative route to Noctua’s basic and famed beige colour scheme; something Noctua has been working on changing with their new Chromax products.
Huge thanks to all the companies who provided us with 120mm samples for our comparison!