Whenever you build a gaming PC, you hardly pay any attention to the case fans. But the truth is, PC case fans bring more performance by lowering the temperature and preventing any damage to your hardware. Also, PC case fans are incredibly cheaper as compared to other PC hardware. Even if you are tight on budget, you can shop for the best cooling fan to get optimal thermal performance.
But before picking PC cooling fans for your machine, there are certain things to keep in mind. Most PC cases are readily compatible with 120mm or 140mm case fans. So, you should know which type of fan would fit your case.
Some PC cases have vents for both 120mm and 140mm fans. 120mm case fans are cheaper and standard for most PC cases. 140mm case fans, however, are quieter and push more air inside your PC case as compared to 120mm fans.
In addition to these, you’ll also come across 240mm case fans that are bigger and move more air as compared to 140mm fans. But 240mm fans are a bit expensive, and you should only go with these when you are building high-end gaming machines with bulky peripherals inside.
For now, a 120mm or 140mm case fan would be enough for an average gaming or workstation PC. Also, smaller size case fans would make less noise as compared to bigger-sized fans. So our advice would be to stick with smaller size fans that make less noise and promote high airflow.
If you want to improve airflow inside your PC case without putting a hole in your wallet, then we’ve tested some of the best budget PC case fans in this guide. We’ve also included the shopping guide at the end to help you pick the case fan that fits your need and budget.
List of the Best Budget PC Cooling Fans to Consider
Here are the top choices:
Corsair LL120 RGB Fan – Overall Best Budget PC Fan
Size: 120mm | Bearing Type: Hydraulic Bearing | dBA: 24.8 | RPM Range: 600-1500 | RGB: Yes
Reasons to Buy:
- Quiet and Powerful
- RGB aesthetics
We know that going just after the glowing RGB lights doesn’t make a fan perfect for cooling down your PC. But, the Corsair LL120 RGB case fan brings style plus performance in a single package.
The vibrant RGB lights on this fan make it a great deal for RGB gaming cases. Corsair LL120 comes with 120mm fan blades with an RPM range between 600-1500 rpm. In addition to this, the listed dB rating of this fan is around 24.8 dB at peak loads.
So, you can expect this fan to be quieter under heavy workloads. But we’ve found this fan to be a bit louder at mid-range speeds. But if you are not too sensitive to fan noise, then there’s no need to worry about the noise.
Overall, Corsair 120LL is much quieter than its competitor fans from Thermaltake and Cooler Master. If you need more silence, then consider going with the Corsair 140LL 140mm size fans that are roughly $8 to $10 more expensive than Corsair 120LL.
Lastly, these are not the cheapest case fans to get right now. It’s better to buy a pack of 3 if you have made up your mind for these fans. By paying less than $100, you’ll get three powerful 120mm fans from Corsair that come with stunning RGB lights and cooling performance.
Thermaltake ToughFan 12 Turbo – Best Value High Static Pressure 140mm Case Fan
Size: 140mm | Bearing Type: Hydraulic Bearing Gen2 | dBA: 33.2 | RPM Range: 500-2000 | RGB: No
Reasons to Buy:
- High rpm for maximum airflow
- Durable hydraulic bearing
Where everyone is switching to RGB case fans, Thermaltake ToughFan 12 Turbo puts you back into a classic era where performance matters the most than aesthetics.
Although this case doesn’t come with the RGB lights that we had on Corsair 120LL, it surely brings more cooling performance to your desk. This is a PWM-controlled fan that can achieve up to 2000 RPMs to move more air inside your case.
In addition, it stands on the 2nd generation hydraulic bearing system that preserves the lubricant on both sides to reduce noise levels under full load. However, still, the dB levels on this case fans are a bit higher than the Corsair 120LL fan.
But keep in mind this is not the stylish case fan that’ll sit on the front of your case. Being a static pressure fan, the Thermaltake ToughFan 12 Turbo is more suitable for users who need a radiator fan to pull air from behind the mesh filters or grills on a PC case.
However, you can use them as regular case fans but you’ll have to deal with noise levels. This is a PWM-controlled fan that can achieve a speed of up to 2000 RPMs. This means you can hear a little bit of noise at different speed levels.
Overall, it’s a solidly built case fan if you want to accept the noise-level tradeoff for higher airflow. A single Thermaltake ToughFan 12 Turbo costs around $30 on Amazon and a pack of two would cost you around $49.
Comparatively, this fan is cheaper as compared to the Corsair 120LL that comes in a pack of three. But there are no RGB lights on this fan and it has a higher dB level as well.
Noctua NF-P14s Redux-1500 PWM – High-Performance Case Fan on Budget
Size: 140mm | Bearing Type: Self-Stabilising Oil Pressure Bearing | dBA: 25.8 | RPM Range: 400-1500 | RGB: No
Reasons to Buy:
- Inexpensive, yet powerful
- Strong airflow
Although Noctua fans lack aesthetics and RGB lights, they offer an excellent price-to-performance ratio. Many hardcore gamers go with Noctua fans due to their long life span, cheaper price, high airflow, and quiet operation.
To this day, Noctua fans are known for their ugly and weird-looking design. However, with the arrival of the Noctua Redux line-up, it looks like Noctua has taken the demands of end-users seriously and has improved a lot.
But there is one thing that hasn’t changed, and that’s the solid cooling performance. The Noctua NF-P14s Redux 140mm is cheaper as compared to the previous two case fans on our list.
In addition, Noctua NF-P14s is quieter as compared to Corsair 120LL and Thermaltake ToughFan 12. But this fan is a bit noisier than its 120mm version which comes with a listed 18.1 dB.
Moreover, the Self-Stabilising Oil Pressure Bearing on this fan makes it durable enough to last longer. Overall, it’s a budget-friendly case fan to push more air inside your case at mid-range speeds.
It’s a winning case fan to go with as it perfectly balances the price-to-performance equation. If you are not a fan of RGB lights and all you need is a pure cooling performance, this is the right case fan to go with.
Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM – A Classic Case Fan for High Airflow
Size: 120mm | Bearing Type: 2nd Self-Stabilising Oil Pressure Bearing | dBA: 22.6 | RPM Range: 450–2000 | RGB: No
Reasons to Buy:
- Excellent airflow
Like we’ve said earlier, most “Noctua” case fans look classic and ugly when compared with modern-day case fans. Noctua NF line-up packs some of the most popular cooling fans.
Don’t go with the looks of this 120mm Noctua fan as it packs some serious performance on its end. We’ve tested many cheaper case fans in our lab, but Noctua NF-A12x25 grinds its competitor fans by promoting high airflow for an inexpensive price tag.
Although there’s a lot of spinning room for this case fan up to 2000 RPMs, you’ll find it quieter at mid-range speeds. As it’s normal for a PC case fan to spin mostly between 600 to 3000 RPM, you’ll find Noctua NF-A12x25 silent in between these speeds.
Though the design and colour of the fan blades on Noctua NF-A12x25 look outdated, you’ll still find them reliable and durable for pumping more air inside your PC case.
Plus there are plenty of accessories that come along with this fan like a 12-inch extension cable and a Y-splitter for dampening vibration
Noctua NF-A12x25 120mm fan is super silent in operation as compared to Corsair 120LL fan. There are no fancy RGB lights on this fan, but it offers plenty of airflow for a lower price.
Scythe Kaze Flex 120 PWM – A Low Budget Case Fan
Size: 120mm | Bearing Type: Fluid Dynamic Bearing | dBA: 24.9 | RPM Range: 300–1200 | RGB: No
Reasons to Buy:
- Cheaper price tag
- Durable build quality
If you are looking for a budget-friendly PC case fan, then Scythe has the ultimate solution for you. Scythe Kaze Flex 120 PWM is made out of cheaper plastic fan blades and fluid dynamic bearing to cool down your PC.
Although this cooling fan is made up of cheaper materials, it performs way better than many brands that offer PC case fans for the same price.
In our tests, we’ve found that Scythe Kaze Flex 120 PWM pumps more air inside your PC case despite having a tight RPMs headroom up to 1200 RPM.
Where most case fans have nine fan blades, the Scythe Kaze Flex 120 PWM holds 12 fan blades to push more air for better cooling.
But this low-budget cooling fan is louder as compared to its competitor fans. Even at 1200 RMP, this fan is audible. But the noise that his fan makes doesn’t disturb you at all. And you’ll barely hear the noise if you are wearing headphones.
Although the Scythe Kaze Flex 120mm fan comes with a lower dB rating, it isn’t as quiet as the Noctua’s NF-A12x25 120mm fan. But the most important thing is it’s super cheap and sits just under the $15 price tag.
The Scythe Kaze Flex 120 PWM would be ideal for someone who doesn’t care about a little bit of fan noise and just needs a case fan for optimal cooling. There are no RGB lights on this case fan as well, but it won’t be affecting its performance after all.
How We Tested PC Case Fans
Firstly, we bought some of these fans from Amazon to find out if they really fall into our expectations. Afterwards, we set an anemometer inside a glass tube tunnel to measure the airflow.
Furthermore, we placed a decibel meter to measure the noise level that each of these case fan produces at different RPMs. As many users need a case fan that comes with high airflow and low noise, we set down our selection criteria.
As the average distance of a user from the PC case is anywhere between 8 inches and to 15-inches, we set the decibel meter at this range to measure the noise levels.
120mm or 140mm Case Fan
Well, it depends upon the type of PC case that you have on your gaming desk. If your PC case comes with 140mm fan mounts, then it’s better to go with 140mm case fans for higher airflow and low noise levels.
120mm case fans, however, are best for compact PC cases where there is limited space for mounting case fans. Most PC cases come with 120mm fan mounts to reach the upper and lower reaches of your PC case.
Things to Look For in A PC Case Fan
Shopping for the best PC cases on a limited budget is simple and there are certain factors you to look at.
It’s important to know about the size of the fan mount on your PC case. Some PC cases come with 120mm fan mounts whereas others support 140mm case fans. In addition, there are also computer cases that support both the 120mm and 140mm fans.
Keep in mind that most PC cases allow you to install 140mm case fans on a 120mm fan mount. But not every PC case is made like this, some PC cases do restrict you to mount a specific fan size.
Check out your PC case instruction manual to know about the fan mount size.
CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute and it shows how much power a fan is in moving the air. The higher the CFM number, the more air a fan will push inside the case. But at the same time, higher CFM leads to more noise.
Also Read About: Best 120mm High CFM PC Fans
Fan noise is measured in dBA or Decibels. The smaller the dBA level, the quieter would be the fan. Generally, PC cooling fans below 30 dBA are ideal if you want complete silence in your room.
The larger the fan size, the more slowly it would spin, hence producing less noise. This is why 140mm case fans are quieter as compared to 120mm case fans.
This isn’t the most concerning factor to look at, but case fans with 4-pin connectors are speed adjustable and are energy-efficient as compared to case fans with 3-pin connectors.
Everyone needs a case fan that promotes higher airflow. But you have to be cautious before making your final purchase. Generally, there are two types of case fans, ones with high-volume airflow and others with high static pressure.
If you have a PC case with restricted airflow or limited vents, then it’s important to look for case fans that offer high static pressure rather than high airflow.
You should only go for high airflow case fans if you have enough fan mounts on your PC case or if there’s plenty of space inside your PC case for fresh air to flow easily.
For a longer life span and durability of a PC cooling fan, you have to consider the type of bearing used by the manufacturer. Ball-bearing case fans have a reduced life span as compared to hydraulic-bearing or fluid dynamic case fans.
Also, ball-bearing case fans produce more noise as they go through higher RPMs. It’s important to spend your budget on PC case fans that come with advanced bearing technology.
RGB lights add more looks and aesthetics to your overall gaming rig. RGB case fans are expensive as compared to standard case fans. If you have a gaming PC with an RGB CPU cooler or graphics card, then going with RGB case fans would make your rig more appealing and complete.
But there’s no link between RGB lights on a case fan with the cooling performance. Also, if you are limited on budget, then it’s worth staying away from RGB case fans.
When looking for a cost-effective PC fan that offers efficient cooling and reliable performance, several options are available that balance quality and affordability. Here are a few budget-friendly PC fan options that are known for delivering good value:
Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM:
Noctua is renowned for producing high-quality cooling solutions, and the NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM offers excellent airflow and pressure at an affordable price point. It features PWM support for automatic speed control and comes with Noctua’s renowned SSO bearing for reduced vibration and improved stability.
ARCTIC F12 PWM PST: ARCTIC’s F12 PWM PST fan provides reliable cooling and comes with PWM speed control. It offers a balance of airflow and static pressure, making it suitable for various PC cooling configurations. The “PST” (PWM Sharing Technology) feature allows you to connect multiple fans, simplifying cable management.
Cooler Master SickleFlow 120 V2: The SickleFlow 120 V2 offers enhanced airflow and durable build quality at an affordable price. It features a new blade design for improved airflow and is equipped with a larger frame for increased air pressure. The fan comes with PWM speed control for precise cooling adjustments.
be quiet! Pure Wings 2:
be quiet!’s Pure Wings 2 fan series provides a budget-friendly option with solid performance. It features airflow-optimized fan blades and a rifle-bearing design for quiet operation. The fan is available in various sizes to accommodate different PC case configurations.
Corsair Air Series AF120:
The Corsair Air Series AF120 fan offers a balance of affordability and performance. It features custom-molded blades for high airflow and low noise levels. The fan is compatible with Corsair’s lighting and control solutions, offering additional customization options.
The choice between 120mm and 140mm fans for PC cooling depends on several factors, including the specific use case, available space, airflow needs, noise considerations, and the design of your PC case.
Ultimately, the “better” option between 120mm and 140mm fans hinges on your specific PC cooling needs, case compatibility, and noise preferences. It’s advisable to assess your specific case layout, airflow restrictions, and cooling targets to determine which fan size will provide the best balance of performance and quiet operation for your PC build.
Hi, this is Masab, the owner and founder of the PC Wire. I’m a PC enthusiast who loves to talk about computers. I have been testing PC hardware for several years now, and I hope my knowledge would answer your queries thoroughly.