Ranking First: Corsair LL Series LL120
- Lighting control and lighting synchronization via Corsair Link
- Spectacular RGB lighting with numerous effects
- Illumination brightness is independent of speed
- At least down to 600 rpm, moderate speed ensures low maximum volume
- Fans require Corsair RGB control
- Only limited cooling capacity reserves due to the moderate maximum speed
Another RGB fan series from Corsair? This is how some readers may react to the launch of the LL RGB fans. However, the Light Loop fans can clearly stand out from the other Corsair RGB fans.
Unlike previous models, the RGB LEDs do not just sit in the frame or hub. No, the 16 RGB LEDs are distributed equally over two light rings that can light up independently of each other. Because the effects can also show different colours at the level of individual LEDs, they are particularly colourful and versatile. However, the Lighting Node PRO (included with the Multi-Packs) or optionally the Commander PRO must be connected to a USB header on the mainboard and Corsair Link must be used. However, the LL RGB fans cannot be operated at the normal RGB connectors of the mainboard. However, the Link software can be a very powerful control center – and this is all the more true if other products with link support are used.
With regard to the measurement results, the picture is somewhat mixed. Due to the very moderate maximum speed, the fans remain comparatively quiet at 12 Volt supply voltage. And the minimum speed of 600 rpm is also favourable when a low noise level is the main concern. In contrast, the measured airflow is rather weak not only at maximum speed, but also at 1,000 rpm. Especially for use on coolers and radiators, the LL RGB fans are not the first choice. But because of the lighting, they are primarily suitable as case fans anyway.
As spectacular as the two light rings may be, they are also expensive. However, for the higher price you get rock-solid RGB case fans that are very reliable. Those looking for particularly effective RGB fans with sophisticated and versatile control software will definitely find what they are looking for in Corsair’s LL RGB series. We therefore award the fans with the two light rings with our Technology Award.
Ranking Second: Corsair ML120 PRO
- PWM fan with wide control range, therefore very flexible
- Quality of workmanship
- Unlit and available with three different LED colours
- Good cooling performance, very quiet operation in low speed range possible
- In the upper speed range too loud for everyday use
“If NASA designed a fan for computer cases, this is what it would look like.” That’s the slogan Corsair is using to promote the new ML series of fans. A magnetic bearing is designed to reduce material contact and thus bearing noise. With (optional) illuminated rotor, the ML fans also look futuristic. But we’ll find out how advanced ML120 Pro and ML140 Pro really are in the test.
Corsair has been offering fans for years and the Corsair cases are also delivered with fans from our own company. Typically, these fans focus more on cooling performance and less on low noise, though. The fans of the new ML series are also supposed to offer high cooling capacity reserves, but at the same time also allow for quiet operation.
Corsair advertises the ML series primarily with the Magnetic Levitation Bearing, which also gives it its name. However, there is no communication as to exactly how the bearing is constructed. In the end, the decisive factor is how the new fans perform in practical use anyway. Where they have an advantage in is the wide PWM control range. If you like it quiet, both the ML120 Pro and ML140 Pro can be regulated down to a whisper-quiet 400 rpm. The airflow is then practically inaudible. The minimal ambient noise in the lowest speed range is already inaudible when the case is closed. On the other hand, generous speed reserves are available. However, hardly anyone will want to operate the fans permanently at over 2,000 rpm. But if the last bit of cooling power is needed, the ML fans can deliver it. This makes them more flexible than typical silent fans, whose maximum speed is usually well below the 2,000 rpm mark.
A decoupling solution should not be missing in this price class. The integrated rubber elements convince as user-friendliness, because they are completely uncomplicated. They are part of the fan structure and do not have to be added during installation. Unlike Noctua’s classic corner trim, they can’t simply detach from the fan. The colour-contrasting corners also characterise the modern look of the fans. The LED models also feature pleasant indirect lighting.
The ML-Series is less of a revolution than the widely advertised magnetic levitation mount might suggest. However, it convinces as a modern PWM fan series with a remarkable control range and correspondingly high flexibility. For this, ML120 Pro and ML140 Pro have also earned our Excellent Hardware Award.
Third: Thermaltake Riing Plus 12 RGB
- Solid and high quality processing
- Long life span
- Quite low volume
- Stylish and customizable RGB lighting (via software, app and voice)
- Commissioning and assembly somewhat complex
The new Thermaltake Pure Plus RGB TT Premium Edition fan is available in 120 and 140 models. The 120 fans we have tested measure classic 120 x 120 x 25 mm (W x H x D) and weigh 6.5 oz. each. The frame and rotor blades are made of plastic – the rubberized corner elements reduce the vibration of the fan.
Manufacturer Thermaltake relies on a hydraulic bearing that is designed for a service life of over 40,000 hours. The rotor design ensures a high contact pressure and a decent conveying volume (max. 95.9 m³/h). We could not detect any processing defects on our test samples.
All three fans are controlled by a small controller hub, which has a 9-pin USB 2.0 (mainboard/fan) and a 4-pin Molex connector (power supply controller). The lighting behavior of each LED can be controlled via the TT RGB PLUS app. In addition to direct input via PC or smartphone, the lighting and fan speed can also be configured via voice control, which is also compatible with Amazon Alexa. For example, the lighting can be adapted to the local weather or synchronised with peripheral components via the Razer Chroma software.
The new Thermaltake Pure Plus 12 RGB TT Premium Edition fan bundle is a great and above all quite inexpensive entry into the RGB fan world. First of all, there is the high-quality workmanship: The plastic frame is very stable – the bearing is designed for long durability. There’s also nothing to complain about in terms of performance and scope of delivery. But the highlight is and remains of course the chic and customizable RGB lighting – casemodders will have their fun with the fans. The low volume and the comparatively fair price also speak for our test sample.
Fourth: Enermax T.B. RGB AD
- Solid quality
- Beautiful design
- Noisy in higher load ranges
The Taiwanese company Enermax presents the SquA RGB fan series with addressable RGB LEDs. Said fans use the Enermax LED lighting technology for a bright and even RGB lighting according to the manufacturer’s specifications. According to Enermax, the addressable RGB LEDs can create rainbow effects and allow synchronisation with supported motherboard software. The T.B.RGB AD. can be used as a stand-alone product with the included RGB controller or synchronized with supported RGB motherboards from ASUS, Asrock, MSI and Gigabyte. According to Enermax, the patented Twister-Bearing technology of the T.B.RGB AD. provides light effects and is also supposed to realize a silent cooling.
With the Twister Bearing technology Enermax guarantees its customers a lifetime of 160.000 hours (MTBF). The bearing shaft of the fan is fixed to the rotor and a small magnet in the bearing holds the mentioned shaft in position. The convex surface of the shaft bottom is also supposed to reduce the frictional resistance. According to the company, this also ensures quiet and even fan rotation. The sleeve of the T.B.RGB AD. is made of a self-lubricating material, which prevents the bearing from drying out and corroding. T.B.RGB AD. fan blades have been optimized for quiet operation according to the manufacturer’s specifications and it is possible to reduce the speed to 500 rpm. The frame of the T.B.RGB AD. fans is equipped with rubber dampers to prevent vibrations from being transmitted to the case.
The integrated RGB controller allows 10 preset lighting effects to be configured without an RGB motherboard or additional software. Enermax’ patented modular frame design with a total of four halo-shaped rings is mainly responsible for the design of the T.B.RGB AD. Furthermore, due to the Twister bearing technology it is possible to remove the fan blades of the T.B.RGB AD. fans for easy cleaning. The fan blades can be detached by pressing the center of the rotor from behind. The manufacturer’s recommended retail price is 80 Dollar, the T.B.RGB AD. is available on Amazon.
Fifth: AK-FN103 Akasa Vegas
- Silicone decoupler factory fitted
- Very quiet at high air pressure
- Also suitable for water cooling
- Quality of materials
Akasa is wrongly given too little attention by many users. To date, the manufacturer has one of the best RGB fans you can buy. With the Vegas X7 you get a bright fan with a high air pressure. These models are not too loud and have a high quality. Especially advantageous is that they come to your home without a separate controller. However, for a price of around 35$ you cannnot really expect this model to compete with the best RGB case fans / radiators on the market. For its price you get solid quality, but nothing more. Enthusiasts should try to go for an RGB case fan in the mid to high range in order to have the best experience and value for the money you spend.
RGB fan Buyer’s Guide
An RGB fan is a simple case fan that was equipped with small LEDs by the manufacturer at the factory. These LEDs have a special technology, so that they can not only shine in one colour, but in up to 16.7 million colours. Many models can be further personalized with software or a remote control. You can choose from different modes that let the fan blink, flicker, wavy colors, and more. With the right components, they can also be integrated into the system so that they synchronise with all other components.
Technically, such a model hardly differs from a conventional, non-illuminated fan. In the end, this is also a small fan that generates air to cool internal components and dissipate heat. This is incredibly important, as we will explain in the next section.
Why do I need case fans?
Your computer uses electricity to run, and wherever electricity flows, it generates heat. Your processor in particular, but also your graphics card, uses a lot of electrical energy, which is what heats it up the most. But also the RAM, the mainboard or your mass storage devices generate heat. This can accumulate inside the case, which causes the internal temperature to rise more and more. If a heat accumulation occurs, important components such as the CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) can no longer be cooled sufficiently. As a result, these components clock down and become slower. As a result, games reach less frames per second or you have to wait much longer when editing pictures or videos.
This is where case fans on the PC case come into play, because they ensure that cool air flows into the case while warm air is being expelled. The stronger and faster your PC is, the more fans you need.
How is a fan placed and installed correctly? – The Airflow
When installing a case fan, whether with RGB or without, you have to consider some physical laws. As we have already learned in school, warm air rises while colder air sinks. You can also use this knowledge when installing your fans. It makes a lot of sense to place one to three RGB fans in the front of the case, which direct cool air inside. If you have the possibility, you can also screw one or two more fans to the bottom. These can then blow even cooler air directly onto the graphics card. To dissipate the heat as quickly as possible, you can install another fan at the back of the PC. If the possibility exists, you can install additional fans directly in the roof. Here you can dissipate the most heat. The correct placement creates the so-called “airflow”, which translates as “airflow”. Every gamer tries to find the best way to keep the internal hardware well cooled. For office PCs this is not so important in the first place.
The most important RGB fan manufacturers
|Enermax||Enermax belongs to the old iron in the PC segment, because the manufacturer has been in the top positions with good products for many years. Here you get not only RGB fans, but also very good power supplies, housings and cooling solutions for your CPU.
|Thermaltake||Another giant in the PC area is Thermaltake, which is mainly known for its experiments with cases. The manufacturer has special showcases on offer that perfectly match the high-quality RGB fans. Power supplies and more are also developed behind the doors of Thermaltake.
|Corsair||Corsair is one of the largest and best-known full-service providers. Here you will not only get fans, but also SSDs, memory, housing, power supplies and much more.
RGB fan and other components
Of course you can also use your RGB fans on other components, for example the CPU cooler. No matter if you want to use an air cooler or a water cooler, both options also support RGB fans. However, you have to check with the manufacturer in advance if the fans generate enough pressure for the cooling. Especially for radiators you will notice some differences between the fans, because the airflow can be different for each model. While one fan will keep your CPU very cool, a completely different fan can make the processor sweat. Therefore, we recommend that you first obtain detailed information about the RGB fan you want.
Setting different colours
Now you are probably wondering how you can define the individual colors of an RGB fan. And this is where there are probably the most differences, because every manufacturer goes a different way. Some companies deliver a special controller together with the fans to which you can connect all case fans. These can then be controlled with a remote control. You can not only choose the colors, but also the fan speed. However, this type of installation and control often causes a lot of cable tangle in the system. In addition, this controller must also be connected to your mainboard using a special RGB cable.
A somewhat simpler variant is the direct connection to the mainboard. Here, each fan comes with its own fan cable and its own RGB cable. Now each mainboard has a maximum of two RGB connectors, so you can’t connect everything. An RGB splitter cable with which you can connect your RGB fans helps here. For only 10 Dollar you can get a splitter with up to nine connectors. If you have everything connected correctly, you can control your fans with the included software from the motherboard manufacturer.
Tip: Currently, Asus belongs to the manufacturers with the best and most balanced RGB system. If you use more than just RGB fans (RGB graphics card, RGB cooler, RGB RAM), the Asus Aura system is recommended.
Are there differences in price?
If you’re looking for a new fan, you’ll find models in the most diverse price ranges. From around 8 to 25 Dollar for an illuminated fan, everything is included. Without lighting, you can even find bargains for around two to three euros. But you will notice big differences between the different fans. For one thing, very cheap RGB fans are often very dark and the colours look a bit washed out, which can cloud the overall impression of the PC. On top of that, some fans don’t work as well as you might want them to. Worse, however, is the material used and the cooling capacity. While high-quality fans rely on high-quality bearings that can survive many thousands of hours, the failure of a cheap fan is almost certain.
Tip: Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should buy the most expensive fan, but rather that you should keep your eyes open to see which model offers the best value for money. Of course, with an RGB fan, looks also play a big role.
Watch out: Pay attention to the format!
You won’t find a one size fits all RGB fans, because every case and every cooler has different dimensions. Therefore, you have to find out beforehand what size your new fans are allowed to have. In the worst case, the drillings do not fit and you have to return your order. The most common sizes are 80mm, 120mm and 140mm. In addition, there are some other sizes, but they are only used by some manufacturers at the factory and are less important for those who want to upgrade their PC.
120 mm or 140 mm – what difference does size make?
In general, 140 mm fans are ahead of the rest thanks to the larger surface area of the rotor blades, because they can move more air. However, the power behind extremely good 120mm fans like the Noctua NF-A12x25 shouldn’t be underestimated. Said PC fan also beat 14mm fans in our tests.
All in all, it can be said that a larger fan is generally more powerful, but it’s always the quality of the fan that counts. You shouldn’t install smaller fans in the PC than intended, but also not too large PC fans where there is simply not enough space for them.
Do LEDs make the fan smaller and therefore worse?
As with all PC components, LEDs are becoming increasingly popular for fans. Especially the fans at the front look really good when illuminated.
Whether the lighting has an influence on the quality of the cooling really depends on the position of the LEDs. If they are placed in a ring along the inside of the frame, the rotor blades must be made shorter. In this way, surface area and thus also cooling capacity is lost. If the LEDs decorate the corners of the frame or the fan hub, the performance remains unaffected. But you have to keep in mind that lighting has its price, so good fans with LEDs cost more.
How many PC fans are useful – interesting facts about airflow & Co.
In the meantime it is common practice to use active cooling by fans in PC cases. Usually even inexpensive cases are equipped with one or more PC fans as standard. However, it is often not clear whether this ventilation is sufficient or whether an upgrade is necessary. In the following, we will explain what the airflow is, how many fans should be installed and which fan arrangement is reasonable.
Constant airflow is important
The most important premise is to maintain the air flow. It should always be ensured that all fans in the enclosure move the air in the same direction and that they do not work against each other. Most current PC cases offer a simple constellation of PC fans for this purpose: One sucks the cool air into the case at the front, the second blows it out again directly behind the processor. PC buyers often ask themselves the question whether there are not other sensible ways of dividing the fans or whether the fans on the case can be dispensed with altogether. We’ll clarify these questions in the next sections.
Do I need case fans?
If no fans are used on the case of a PC, only the fans on the CPU cooler and graphic card provide fresh air. However, since in a case without a fan, significantly less air from the outside to the inside penetrates the case and the warm air therefore remains in the case much longer, the air used for cooling by the components mentioned is also considerably warmer. If warm air is used for cooling, this is logically not very effective in the long run. In various tests by us, the temperatures rose sharply due to the omission of all fans.
Although the values were not yet so high that the hardware would have been at risk, very air-permeable PC cases were used. In less air-permeable cases or cases where the hardware is crowded into a small space (e.g. mini cases), the temperature can rise so much that sufficient cooling is no longer possible. We therefore strongly recommend that you always equip your computer with at least one fan.
Fan or cooler?
Here, we give you an important overview. Many users often have the problem that they do not know what they need. Often the cooler is mixed up with the fan, which can be annoying when searching for new products.
The cooler is a solid metal body using aluminum and copper. It is placed on particularly hot components, such as the CPU or GPU, so that the heat is dissipated as quickly as possible. In most cases a fan is attached to it.
The fan is not a heat sink. It’s just the moving part of it. It ensures that heated components are quickly freed from heat by moving air like a fan.
Tip: This distinction is especially important in many hardware shops, because fans and coolers are always strictly separated from each other.