Those who own an AIO water cooler and simply find the factory fans too loud or are dissatisfied with the performance may want to see which fans are better. Or those who are assembling a custom water cooling system are basically looking for the best possible fans. Now, the selection in the 120 mm fan range is really not small and the performance differs sometimes very significantly. In order to now clarify which fans are particularly suitable, we have carried out a large radiator fan test with well over 30 different fans, which can help with the choice. Here we show which fans provide the best performance, which are particularly quiet in the process and which achieve the highest maximum power.
The fans in the test
|Warranty in years
|Alphacool Aurora Rise||2500||2||JST||€ 22.90 *|
|Alseye Xtreme X12||1200||2||proprietary||€ 38.08 * (set of 3)
€ 13.95 * (single)
|Arctic F12 PWM PST||1350||6||–||€ 29.77 * (set of 5)
€ 7.25 * (single)
|Arctic P12||1800||6||–||€ 32.95 * (Set of 5)
€ 5.19 * (single)
|Arctic P12 Max||3300||6||–||€ 9.66 *|
|Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB||2000||6||Standard ARGB||€ 35.90 * (Set of 3)
€ 13.90 * (single)
|be quiet! Light Wings 120mm PWM||1700||3||Standard ARGB||€ 64.90 * (set of 3)
€ 22.79 * (single)
|be quiet! Pure Wings 2 120mm PWM||1500||3||–||€ 11.90 *|
|be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 120mm PWM||1100||3||–||€ 13.90 * (black)
€ 16.79 * (white)
|be Quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4||3000||5||–||€ 28.98 *|
|Cooler Master Mobius 120||2050||5||–||€ 26.98 *|
|Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB||2400||5||Standard ARGB||€ 36.98 *|
|Corsair AF120 Elite||1850||5||–||€ 25.81 * (black)
€ 25.90 * (white)
|Corsair iCue AF120 RGB Elite||2100||5||proprietary (Corsair iCue)||€ 82.11 * (set of 3, black)
€ 99.90 * (Set of 3, white)
€ 29.99 * (single, black)
€ 29.99 * (single, white)
|Corsair iCue QL120 RGB||1500||2||proprietary (Corsair iCue)||€ 99.90 * (set of 3, black)
€ 99.90 * (Set of 3, white)
€ 39.99 * (single, black)
€ 44.99 * (single, white)
|Corsair SP120 Elite||1300||2||–||€ 18.35 *|
|Corsair iCue SP120 RGB Elite||1500||2||proprietary (Corsair iCue)||€ 69.76 * (set of 3, black)
€ 59.77 * (Set of 3, white)
€ 22.99 * (single, black)
|DeepCool CF120||1500||1||JST (adapter to standard ARGB included)||€ 61.80 * (set of 3)
€ 16.99 * (single)
|DeepCool FC120 RGB||1800||2||proprietary||€ 41.99 * (set of 3)|
|DeepCool FK120||1850||2||–||€ 35.94 * (set of 3)
€ 17.01 * (single)
|DeepCool MF120GT||1800||2||JST (controller included)||€ 48.06 * (set of 3)|
|ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB||1800||6||Standard ARGB||€ 13.95 *|
|Fractal Design Aspect 12 RGB||1200||2||Standard ARGB||€ 36.88 * (black, set of 3)
€ 14.47 * (white)
€ 17.52 * (black)
|Inter-Tech Argus RS-06||1200||2||proprietary (adapter to standard ARGB included)||€ 27.57 *|
|Lian Li UniFan AL120 V2||2000||2||proprietary (L-Connect)||€ 89.90 * (Set of 3, black)
€ 89.90 * (Set of 3, white)
€ 27.90 * (single, black)
€ 27.90 * (single, white)
|MSI Silent Gale P12||2000||6||–||€ 39.90 *|
|Noctua NF-A12x25||2000||6||–||€ 32.90 * (brown)
€ 34.90 * (Chromax Black)
|Noctua NF-F12 PWM||1700||6||–||€ 24.90 * (brown)
€ 27.90 * (Chromax Black)
|Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM||3000||6||–||€ 29.90 *|
|Noctua NF-P12||1300||6||–||€ 24.90 *|
|Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM||1700||6||–||€ 14.90 *|
|Noctua NF-S12A PWM||1200||6||–||€ 24.90 * (brown)
€ 27.90 * (Chromax Black)
|Noiseblocker NB-eloop X B12-PS||1500||2||Standard ARGB||€ 23.66 * (black)
€ 29.81 * (white)
|NZXT F120 RGB||1800||2||proprietary (NZXT Cam)||€ 28.89 * (black)
€ 28.80 * (white)
|Seasonic MagFlow 1225 PWM||2000||3||–||€ 85.03 * (set of 3)|
Storm BW120 PWM
|1400||–||–||€ 10.87 *|
|Sharkoon Silent Storm PWM RGB||1400||–||Standard ARGB||€ 10.99 *|
|Thermaltake Swafan EX12 RGB||2000||2||proprietary (controller included)||€ 115.99 * (Set of 3, black)
€ 108.37 * (Set of 3, white)
|Xilence XPF120.ARGB||1500||2||Standard ARGB||€ 8.95 *|
|Xilence XPF120X.B.PWM||1500||2||–||€ 8.50 *|
It is possible that fans are added subsequently, which are not found directly in the overview or picked up in the texts.
For the radiator fan test, Arctic provided us with the Liquid Freezer II 240. The Arctic Liquid Freezer is well suited for this test for several reasons:
- With its high thickness of 38 mm, it increases the resistance compared to regular AIOs with about 25 mm. This also emphasizes the performance difference of the fans.
- His relatively low price for an AIO of € 83.52 * makes it accessible to many buyers. It is therefore widely used and represents a good reference point.
The integrated fan splitter is not used in this test. The connector on the cooler is used to set the pump at a constant speed for all fans equally.
The cooler is used on an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, which draws between 150 and 160 watts (CPU Package Power) when loaded with Cinebench at 4.20Ghz all-core overclocking (1.15V peak core voltage), depending on temperature. The radiator sits in the front of the Fractal Design Pop XL Air. The only case fans used are one each of be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 in 120 mm (rear top) and 140 mm (rear), which have as little impact on the test result as possible on an established low speed (120 mm: 800 RPM / 140 mm: 500 RPM).
At the front of the case, the radiator is attached for two reasons. On the one hand, this makes it easier to change fans because no components inside get in the way. On the other hand, the front grille adds resistance that must be overcome.
For a constant result, the system is heated up with Cinebench for 10 minutes and then a measurement is taken in the duration of one minute. The room temperature is subtracted from the measured result to exclude this variable as well. This difference is given as a delta in Kelvin.
The processor cooler is heated up by a high load in Cinebench R23 until the temperature is measured after 10 minutes.
This radiator fan test is repeated three times per fan. Once at 1100 rpm, because this is a speed that each of the 120 mm fans can reach. The second test is performed at a consistent volume level. This run shows which fan offers the highest performance in an almost inaudible state. This test may well be influenced by the fact that some fans become louder in conjunction with the case’s front grille than in a pure push configuration without additional resistance. In other words, fans in the front of the case will be louder and have more resistance than when the radiator is used in the top of the case. The last test is performed at full speed.
Radiator fan test at 1100 RPM
The radiator fan test at 1100 RPM is performed because any of the fans can reach this speed. Also, this speed is often close to the sweet spot of performance and noise. This list is sorted by temperature delta. If the temperature delta is identical, the lower noise wins. The purpose of this test is to determine the highest efficiency of a fan.
|15||Noctua NF-F12 PWM||37,40||39,60|
|21||Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM||31,80||39,70|
|22||Corsair SP120 Elite||36,90||39,70|
|24||Corsair AF120 Elite||34,40||40,10|
|26||Arctic F12 PWM PST||39,40||40,20|
|28||Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM||36,40||40,40|
|29||Corsair iCue SP120 RGB Elite||37,00||40,60|
|30||DeepCool CF120 RGB||39,30||40,60|
|31||Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM||37,40||40,80|
|32||be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 120mm||32,20||40,90|
|34||Noiseblocker NB-eLoop X B12-PS||36,20||41,20|
|35||ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB||35,10||41,30|
|36||Sharkoon SilentStorm BW120 PWM||35,60||41,30|
|37||Seasonic MagFlow 1225 PWM||38,20||41,30|
|38||Sharkoon SilentStorm PWM RGB||35,60||41,40|
|39||Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB||31,80||41,80|
|40||MSI Silent Gale P12||33,40||42,10|
|41||be quiet! Pure Wings 2 120mm PWM||35,90||42,10|
|42||Arctic P12 Max||31,80||42,20|
|43||Arctic P12 PWM||32,40||42,20|
|44||Corsair iCue AF120 RGB Elite||34,70||42,30|
|45||Lian Li Uni Fan AL120 V2||36,10||42,30|
|46||Noctua NF-S12A PWM||38,90||42,40|
|47||Cooler Master Mobius 120||32,90||42,70|
|48||Inter-Tech Argus RS-06||35,90||43,30|
|49||Fractal Design Aspect 12 RGB||36,40||43,30|
|50||Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB||33,10||43,50|
|51||be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 120mm PWM||32,20||43,70|
|52||Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB||33,40||44,00|
|53||NZXT F120 RGB||37,50||44,00|
|54||be quiet! Light Wings 120mm PWM||34,70||44,90|
|55||Corsair iCue QL120 RGB||34,30||46,50|
|56||Alphacool Aurora Rise||37,00||47,00|
Analysis of test results at 1100 RPM
Landing at the top in this range are fans known for their high static pressure in particular, such as the Noctua NF-F12 PWM, NF-P12 and Corsair SP120 Elite. Sitting right at the top are the DeepCool FC120s, but what stands out compared to the rest of the list is that most of the more powerful fans are relatively loud, while the trend is downward. One exception to this is the Noctua NF-A12x25, which not only sits in the top-5 of the list, but also remains extremely quiet in the process.
Also doing quite well are the Corsair AF120 Elite, which achieve almost the same performance as the Noctua NF-A12x25, while only getting a bit louder, but are significantly cheaper to get.
Speaking of cheaper, the cheapest fans in the top 10 are the Xilence XPF120X.B.PWM as well as the Xilence XPF120.ARGB and the Arctic F12 PWM PST, all three of which are relatively loud but deliver decent performance in the €10 range. Just above them in price are the Corsair SP120 Elite and the DeepCool FK120, with the former being a bit more powerful and the FK120 a bit quieter.
The best RGB fans from this test are the DeepCool FC120, with the ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB offering the next best power to noise ratio.
The quietest fans in the test, besides the Noctua NF-A12x25, are the be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 and the Arctic P12 in several versions.
The losers of the test are clearly the Alseye X12, followed by the Alphacool Aurora Rise and the Corsair iCue QL120 RGB. The latter are at least quiet, while the Alseye are pathetically loud and the Alphacool are average.
Radiator fan test at 31 dB(A)
The radiator fan test at a uniform volume was chosen so that the volume is within the perceptual limits of the measuring device. At this volume, the fans are virtually inaudible. The speed is determined by the volume meter perceiving the first minimum deflection above the base noise of the system (especially the radiator pump). The purpose of this test is to find out the best inaudible performance.
|10||Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM||1.000||41,50|
|11||be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 120mm||955||43,20|
|19||Arctic P12 Max||940||43,90|
|20||Corsair AF120 Elite||890||44,30|
|21||Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB||975||44,50|
|23||Arctic P12 PWM||950||44,80|
|24||Corsair SP120 Elite||820||45,10|
|25||be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 120mm PWM||1.020||45,10|
|26||Cooler Master Mobius 120||940||45,20|
|27||MSI Silent Gale P12||900||45,60|
|28||Noctua NF-F12 PWM||770||45,90|
|29||Corsair iCue SP120 RGB Elite||835||46,00|
|30||Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB||940||46,50|
|32||Lian Li Uni Fan AL120 V2||905||46,60|
|33||Sharkoon SilentStorm BW120 PWM||820||46,60|
|34||ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB||810||46,80|
|36||Corsair iCue AF120 RGB Elite||870||46,90|
|37||Sharkoon SilentStorm PWM RGB||810||46,90|
|39||Seasonic MagFlow 1225 PWM||790||47,30|
|40||Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB||930||47,80|
|41||Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM||715||48,10|
|43||be quiet! Pure Wings 2 120mm PWM||800||48,50|
|44||Arctic F12 PWM PST||720||48,60|
|46||Inter-Tech Argus RS-06||820||49,00|
|47||DeepCool CF120 RGB||730||49,90|
|48||be quiet! Light Wings 120mm PWM||855||50,00|
|49||Noiseblocker NB-eLoop X B-12-PS||690||50,10|
|50||NZXT F120 RGB||750||50,50|
|51||Fractal Design Aspect 12 RGB||790||50,60|
|52||Corsair iCue QL120 RGB||880||51,30|
|53||Noctua NF-S12A PWM||700||52,10|
|54||Alphacool Aurora Rise||775||53,50|
|56||Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM||515||56,00|
Analysis of test results during quiet use
At normalized volume, the Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM pulls ahead, as you might expect, by a small margin over the runners-up, the be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4. The Arctic P12 Max and the Corsair AF120 Elite follow in third place.
The best RGB fans in the test are the Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB, which also score points for their relatively low price. Apart from that, the top is relatively dark, until a fairly dense field of RGB fans pops up with some distance. This includes, for example, the Corsair iCue SP120 RGB Elite, the Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB, the DeepCool FC120 and the Lian Li Uni Fan AL120 V2.
In terms of price, the Arctic P12 Max and the DeepCool FK120 are also very well placed and offer very high performance at the low volume. Almost on par, however, are the regular Arctic P12s, which are among the least expensive fans in the test, earning the price-performance tip for being as quiet as possible.
The Alseye X12s were completely removed from the test because they did not reach the low volume level. Otherwise, the Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM, the Alphacool Aurora Rise and the Noctua NF-S12A PWM are in last place. The first two are simply too noisy and therefore have to spin extremely slowly, while the Noctua NF-S12A are simply not designed to build up high pressure.
Radiator fan test at maximum power
The full speed test shows the maximum potential of the fan. Here, the fans are simply set to full power. This gives you the highest possible performance of the fan when the volume is not relevant. The volume is still measured as a reference point. However, it is sorted completely according to the reached temperature delta.
|7||be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 120mm||2.730||54,00||32,40|
|19||Arctic P12 Max||3.070||57,40||33,00|
|21||Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM||2.900||63,00||33,10|
|22||Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM||1.960||46,20||34,00|
|23||ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB||1.990||48,10||34,30|
|24||Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB||2.390||52,20||34,50|
|26||MSI Silent Gale P12||1.860||44,90||34,80|
|27||Seasonic MagFlow 1225 PWM||2.000||51,40||35,00|
|28||Corsair AF120 Elite||1.820||48,40||35,10|
|29||Corsair iCue AF120 RGB Elite||2.210||52,50||35,30|
|30||Alphacool Aurora Rise||2.560||59,30||35,30|
|32||Cooler Master Mobius 120||2.020||47,10||35,50|
|33||Arctic P12 PWM||1.795||43,20||35,60|
|35||Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM||1.720||50,30||35,90|
|36||Noctua NF-F12 PWM||1.560||47,00||36,00|
|37||Thermaltake SWAFAN EX12 RGB||2.270||51,70||36,00|
|38||Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB||1.910||44,80||36,30|
|39||Lian Li Uni Fan AL120 V2||1.965||49,30||36,40|
|40||DeepCool CF120 RGB||1.580||49,00||36,90|
|42||Corsair SP120 Elite||1.355||42,60||37,30|
|43||Corsair iCue SP120 RGB Elite||1.480||44,80||37,30|
|44||NZXT F120 RGB||1.760||49,30||37,80|
|45||Noiseblocker NB-eLoop X NB-12-PS||1.480||44,70||37,90|
|46||be quiet! Light Wings 120mm PWM||1.720||43,60||38,20|
|47||be quiet! Pure Wings 2 120mm PWM||1.440||44,00||38,40|
|48||Arctic F12 PWM PST||1.355||45,10||38,40|
|50||Sharkoon SilentStorm BW120 PWM||1.370||41,50||38,80|
|51||Sharkoon SilentStorm PWM RGB||1.325||40,60||38,90|
|52||Corsair iCue QL120 RGB||1.620||44,10||39,80|
|53||Noctua NF-S12A PWM||1.220||41,50||41,20|
|54||Fractal Design Aspect 12 RGB||1.155||38,10||42,10|
|55||Inter-Tech Argus RS-06||1.215||37,50||42,20|
|56||be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 120mm PWM||1.140||32,50||43,10|
Analysis of high performance fans
Clearly – a higher speed gives strong advantages. Accordingly, particularly fast fans take the lead, so the be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 take the top spot. They are followed by the almost identically performing Arctic P12 Max, DeepCool FC120 and Noctua NF-F12 industrialPPC-3000 PWM. The Noctua fans are the loudest in the test.
At this point, there is a bit of a jump downward when it comes to volume and upward when it comes to temperature. Here, the significantly quieter, but still too loud for everyday use Noctua NF-A12x25 and ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB follow.
Speaking of loudness, the strongest fans that still offer tolerable volumes at full speed are the Arctic P12 PWM, which are also very affordable. The Arctic P12 Max are also still very affordable, but offer the higher overall performance – albeit significantly louder.
The best RGB fans of the test are again the DeepCool FC120, followed by the ENDORFY Fluctus 120 PWM ARGB and the Cooler Master Mobius 120P ARGB.
As expected, the Alseye X12s again sit in last place – they are quite loud and offer virtually no pressure buildup due to their frameless design. They are followed by the very slow spinning be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 120mm – these again have the advantage of being the only fans in the entire test that are barely audible at full power.
The overall winners and losers of the test
The quasi-unbeaten champions of the radiator fan test are the Noctua NF-A12x25, which are not only extremely quiet, but also very efficient. They are followed by the similarly priced be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4, which are a bit less efficient, but offer higher peak performance.
The best RGB fans in the test are the Arctic P12 PWM PST ARGB and the DeepCool FC120, with the Arctic offering a particularly low noise level in addition to their low price. The DeepCool are quite strong, not overly loud, and offer very high peak performance.
In the budget range, the Arctic P12s strike as extremely affordable fans with high performance at a low volume. The Arctic P12 Max are a bit more expensive, but also offer a very low noise level and a particularly high performance range.
Otherwise worth mentioning are the DeepCool FK120 and the Corsair AF120 Elite, which did very well in all tests and turn out to be significantly cheaper than the two overall winners.
The last places are occupied by the Alseye X12, Alphacool Aurora Rise, Noctua NF-S12A and the Corsair QL120. Other fans that do not perform well on the radiator are the NZXT F120 RGB, the be quiet! Light Wings 120mm and the Fractal Design Aspect 12 RGB.
Years after their release, the Noctua NF-A12x25 are still very impressive fans and the clear winners of the performance-volume test on the radiator.
However, Arctic stands out from a price perspective with a whole range of P12 fans that are the clear price-performance winners. In the process, the RGB version is the best RGB fan in the radiator fan test.
The be quiet! Silent Wings Pro 4 120mm are the best all-rounders in the radiator fan test. They offer high efficiency at low volumes, but also the highest overall performance and perform better than the Noctua NF-A12x25, for example, as case fans (see The Big Case Fan Test (120 mm)).