Cooling your gaming PC might seem like a simple process, but nothing quite compares to the best PC fans. Sure, you could chuck any old blower inside your PC case, but your components can’t run the most demanding games at a decent frame rate if they’re hampered by what’s known as thermal throttling – heating up enough to underperform but not too much that your PC will shut down. Sticking with a set of Noctua, be quiet, Cooler Master, or Thermaltake fans is a surefire way to ensure your gaming RAM, SSDs, and motherboard feel the cold breeze when they can’t cool themselves.
While we can separate the best PC fans from the duds, you’ll still need to ask yourself a bunch of questions before chucking your money at your gaming monitor. Do you want the coolest components possible or a silent PC, as this is often the trade-off you’ll need to make? Are you attaching the fans to the radiator of an AIO cooler, the heatsink of an air cooler, or straight to your chassis? And what size fans do you need?
Once you’re sure everything’s compatible, you’ll need to consider the amount of air your case takes in versus how much it exhausts. Ideally, you’ll want either the same amount or more air coming into your case, but we’ll run through everything you need to know after presenting you with our selection of the best PC fans.
Here are the best PC fans in 2022 that can stop thermal throttling and boost fps:
Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM
The best PC fans all-round are the Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM.
You might know Noctua as the company that douses its fans in beige and brown, but this grey blower packs a huge punch for its price. As the perfect embodiment of the ‘why not both’ meme, the Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM refuses to compromise between noise and airflow, delivering a whopping 59.2CFM airflow at just 18.1dBA.
It’s possible to go even quieter, but the NF-S12B isn’t just our favourite overall fan, it’s one of the best cheap PC fans. A few decibels sacrificed are worth the cost and it’s still the second quietest fan on this list – you can use Noctua’s anti-vibration mounts if you want to pull out all the stops.
Noctua is almost entirely function over form as the two-tone colour will divide plenty of PC gamers, but there is a solution at the bottom of this list if you want to add RGB and complete the trifecta. Yes, you read that right, you can add RGB to a fan.
|Noctua NF-S12B redux-1200 PWM|
|Speed (RPM)||400 – 1,200|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||18.1|
|Connector||Four-pin PWM (also in three-pin)|
Be quiet! Light Wings
The best RGB fans are the Be quiet! Light Wings.
There’s no beating around the bush, Be quiet! is all about living up to its name and keeping things hush. Fortunately, its first attempt at a splash of colour is no exception, as the Light Wings are the quietest RGB fans we’ve ever used. The ring light itself packs 18 LEDs in the 120mm model and 20 LEDs in the 140mm version, each of which is addressable in your motherboard’s software.
You’re not stuck for selection, as Be quiet! not only sells Light Wings in 120mm and 140mm versions, but in both airflow and high-speed models so you can cater to the best AIO cooler. Single fans are on the expensive side, though, so it’s worth grabbing the triple-pack that also includes an ARGB hub. If you do end up buying one fan at a time, however, you can add it into the loop using a built-in daisy chain system, keeping your cables neat.
|Be quiet! Light Wings|
|Sizes (mm)||120mm (also in 140mm)|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||20.6|
|Lighting||18 ARGB LEDs|
|Type||Airflow (high-speed static pressure available|
Cooler Master MF120 Halo
The best budget RGB fan is the Cooler Master MF120 Halo.
Addressable RGB is in the DNA of the Cooler Master MF120 Halo, with two lighting rings that shine no matter whether you position it as an intake or exhaust. It cleverly uses white fan blades to better reflect the RGB across the entire face of the fan, which you can customise using Asus Aura Sync, MSI Mystic Light, ASRock Polychrome, or Gigabyte RGB Fusion.
The most impressive thing here is that Cooler Master undercuts the cost of most other premium fans, if you don’t mind some extra noise. The triple pack serves up a decent discount than if you buy each fan separately and includes Cooler Master’s controller, but this isn’t mandatory. MF 120 Halos are also compatible with any addressable Gen 2 RGB header on compatible motherboards. Besides, $30 per RGB fan is pretty reasonable, and you’ll regularly find them reduced.
|Cooler Master MF120 Halo|
|Speed (RPM)||600 – 1,800|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||30|
|Lighting||24 ARGB LEDs|
Be quiet! Silent Wings 3
The best silent fan is the Be quiet! Silent Wings 3.
It takes a lot to beat mainstays like Noctua in the audible department, but Be quiet! Silent Wings 3 fans are as silent as they come. Of course, noise scales with airflow, so you can expect them to blow a little lighter in exchange for their whisper quiet operation, but there’s still a stronger gust than most other fans on this list – perhaps due to its seventh blade.
Be quiet! assures that the six-pole motor should vibrate less than competitor devices, but just in case ships the Silent Wings 3 with anti-vibration corner fittings. It comes with a premium price, but you certainly get what you pay for with a solid build and three-year warranty should anything go wrong.
|Be quiet! Silent Wings 3|
|Sizes (mm)||120mm (also in 140mm)|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||16.4|
|Connector||Four-pin PWM (also in three-pin)|
Thermaltake Toughfan 12 Turbo
The best AIO fan with static pressure is the Thermaltake Toughfan 12 Turbo.
The Thermaltake Toughfan 12 Turbo isn’t quite as bold of a statement as Noctua usually makes, but it sheds the traditional matte black coating for something a bit more eye-catching. It’s also what’s known as a static pressure fan instead of the usual lot you’d stick on the sides of your case.
Static pressure fans are built to shunt air through the grills of a radiator on an AIO cooler. The higher airflow is also handy in small form factor cases where space is tight and you can’t fit as many fans. It’s overkill for most, but you can fill your gaming PC solely with static pressure fans without issue, provided you can stomach the higher price tag.
Most static pressure fans make your gaming PC sound like a jet engine, but Thermaltake Toughfan 12 Turbo fans strike a fantastic balance of audio versus airflow. Once a fan hits its 2,500RPM ceiling, it only makes 28.1dBA of noise, which is loftier than most on this list but you’ll get a significantly higher airflow and 3.78mm-H2O of air pressure for your troubles.
|Thermaltake Toughfan 12 Turbo|
|Sizes (mm)||120mm (also in 140mm with Toughfan 14)|
|Speed (RPM)||500 – 2,500|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||28.1|
The best slim fan is the Noctua NF-A12x15.
The Noctua NF-A12x15 looks as though someone accidentally sat on an NF-A12x25, flattening it to give it a low profile. Regardless of how it got so slim, being just 15mm thick makes it ideal for small form factor (SFF) cases and CPU coolers when there isn’t a lot of clearance.
For its size, it’s pretty speedy at 1,850RPM. The 23.9dBA noise level really isn’t anything to scoff at, but you have the choice to lower this to a near-inaudible 16.8dBA if you use the low noise adapter it comes bundled with – just be prepared to sacrifice some airflow in the process. And, as with all Noctua equipment, you’ll get anti-vibration mounts to cement its silence.
|Speed (RPM)||450 – 1,850|
|Noise (dBA at max speed)||23.9|
|Connector||Four-pin PWM (also in three-pin)|
Phanteks Halos RGB Lux Fan Frames
The best way to add RGB to your PC fans is the Phanteks Halos RGB Lux Fan Frame.
Sacrificing the aesthetics of your gaming PC in favour of better cooling is a tough pill to swallow, which is why Phanteks has created the Halos RGB Fan Frames. You can pop these on pretty much any standard 120mm or 140mm fan provided you have an extra 6mm clearance, and it’ll add 30 LEDs per fan to brighten your setup. Do note that the lighting shines brightest when paired with white blades.
With the Lux version, you get full addressable RGB that you can control with Asus Aura and rainbow RGB with MSI Mystic Light. You can daisy chain multiple Halos together to better manage cables. And you can even choose between a black or silver frame, the latter of which pairs perfectly with our top pick.
If the Lux is a little too rich for your blood, there’s a standard Phanteks Halos RGB Fan Frame that drops addressable RGB in favour of solid colours. These aren’t quite as bright with fewer LEDs, but do the job brilliantly for the price.
How to choose the best PC fans
PC fans look simple on the surface, but there’s a lot of nitty gritty things to think about before buying one. Here’s everything you need to know about PC fans so you don’t trip up on terminology:
The airflow of your PC is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the number, the more air a fan can push, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better as you’ll need to balance the amount coming in with the amount pushed out. More on this in our airflow section.
Pushing and pulling air is the number one job of a fan before you introduce fancy features
The sound of your PC is measured in decibels (dB). While lower is definitely better, there’s a trade-off as your fans push more air into the case. Even if you’re not in the market for a silent PC that won’t make a peep, you’ll still want to hear your game as your PC fans kick into gear.
Here are some comparisons courtesy of the hearing specialists at Audicus to put decibels into perspective so you can gauge your expectations:
10dB: Normal breathing
20dB: Whispering from five feet away
30dB: Whispering nearby
40dB: Quiet library sounds
60dB: Electric toothbrush
70dB: Washing machine
80dB: Alarm clock
90dB: Subway train
100dB: Factory machinery
110dB: Car horn
120dB: Ambulance siren
Motherboards and fan controllers can use pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control fan speed automatically based on the temperature of your PC, ramping things up when things get hot or keeping things quiet when idle. These use a four-pin connector.
You can only alter the speed of a regular three-pin fan by changing the voltage they’re using via supported motherboard BIOS and fan controllers, which isn’t as flexible as PWM and may cause issues when undervolted. A four-pin fan will work just fine when plugging it into a three-pin connector, but it’ll run at full voltage and lose the ability to use PWM.
Size and speed
The size of a fan is based on its diameter, while the speed of a fan is measured in rotations per minute (RPM). With their bigger blades, larger fans can spin slower and push the same amount of air as their smaller counterparts, allowing for quieter operation. Alternatively, faster fans create more pressure, which is ideal when air is obstructed by a radiator.
Most mid and full towers use 120mm and 140mm fans, but there are some instances where you’ll need something smaller, slimmer, or even larger. For example, small form factor PCs might demand an 80mm fan, while large air coolers and the biggest cases have room for 200mm whoppers.
There are two types of PC fans: airflow and static pressure. It’ll say on the box which type of fan you own, but you can also tell by sticking your forefinger in between the blades (note: /when the fan is off/). If your index finger fits, it’s an airflow fan. If it doesn’t, it’ll be a static pressure fan because the blades are much closer together in order to widely disperse the air.
The only time you’ll really need static pressure fans are to complement an AIO cooler, as they’re most effective stuck to a radiator. Airflow fans go pretty much everywhere else, such as on your air coolers and cases unrestricted. Putting an airflow fan onto a radiator will cause the temperature inside your case to climb higher than it would with a static pressure fan, so it’s worth being mindful before you purchase.
How do I improve my PC’s airflow?
Knowing your intake from your exhaust fans is important, as you can measure exactly how much air (CFM) is coming in and going out of your gaming PC. This creates either positive, neutral, or negative pressure inside your rig.
Positive pressure: more air comes into the case than is exhausted. The surplus air vents out the unfiltered cracks and crevices that don’t have fans attached to them, such as the corners of tempered glass panels. This is often seen as the best way to keep your system clean as it blows dust out the way.
Neutral pressure: equal amounts of air flows into the case as it does out. It’s impossible to achieve a true neutral pressure, but you can get pretty close.
Negative pressure: Fans exhaust more air than the case takes in. Some tests show that this might shave a degree off your PC’s temperature, but it creates a vacuum that’s prone to dust build-up and risks your components.
Fans & Coolers