6 Best Radiator Fans for Water Cooling in 2023
In the past, having a CPU with two cores at 3.0Ghz was considered advanced technology, but now it is common for consumer-grade CPUs to have many more cores at higher speeds.
As a result, water cooling systems have become more popular among PC builders, which require fans to help exchange heat with the atmosphere.
There is no doubt that liquid cooling is the most effective method for maximizing the performance of your PC. However, even with liquid cooling, it is still necessary to use fans to cool the radiators. Finding the right radiator fans can be challenging as they are not the same as the fans typically used for air-cooled systems.
After testing multiple fans, we have determined that the Noctua NF-F12 PWM is the best overall fan for radiator use in either an AIO or custom loop setup. It offers a great value with its long lifespan and high static pressure, making it a perfect choice for your next PC build.
Corsair ML120 Pro
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm | RPM: 400 – 2400 ± 10% | Airflow: 75 CFM ± 10% | Static Pressure: 4.2 mm H₂O | Noise level: Up to 37 dBA | Warranty: 5 years
If you’re looking for a fan with RGB then this is the right option but a little more expensive, even without the LED. It is also a bit louder than the ones on top of the list. This fan is for someone who wants a powerful, and visually striking fan to complement their liquid-cooled build.
The Corsair ML series of fans come in both 120mm and 140mm sizes and feature a square frame designed. The seven fan blades and four stator guide vanes have been carefully engineered for maximum static pressure and airflow.
Additionally, the fan utilizes a levitating magnetic bearing which reduces friction and optimizes power consumption, noise output, and wear on the fan. In terms of performance, the ML120 has a maximum static pressure of 4.2 mm H₂O and the ML140 has a maximum static pressure of 3.0 mm H₂O, making them both powerful options.
However, there is a linear relationship between power and noise, with both the 120mm and 140mm producing around 35 dBA at maximum speed. The noise level may be bothersome for some, depending on personal preferences and the environment.
The power draw is decent, ranging from 2.5 to 3.75 W, depending on the size and whether or not the optional LED lights are included. The Corsair ML series is also the first to offer optional LED lights in blue, red, white, and a metallic black colorless option.
The fan has a five-year warranty and is a great option for those who appreciate the power and aesthetic of Corsair. However, for those who do not need the lights or do not want to showcase the fans in their build, there may be better options at a lower cost.
- Available with and without LEDs
- Good static pressure and airflow
- Well-made blades and rotor
- Build quality is excellent
- A bit loud
- Expensive than the most
- Cables are not included
Lian Li UNI Fan SL120
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm | RPM: 800 – 1900 | Airflow: 58.5 CFM | Static Pressure: 2.54 mm H₂O | Noise level: Up to 31 dBA | Warranty: 2 years
Lian Li is also a popular brand known for making high quality computer components. Their PC cases are quite popular amongst the gamer community.
The UNI Fan series comes in two sizes, 120mm and 140mm, with the 120mm variant being more powerful with a static pressure of up to 2.54mm H₂O, suitable for radiator fans. The 140mm variant has a static pressure of 1.67mm H₂O.
The fans use a hybrid bearing system for power and durability and are supported by rubber vibration pads for secure mounting. They may be loud with a noise level of up to 30dba, but the RGB elements and unique design make them stand out. They also have a higher power consumption with the 120mm variant drawing 5.2 watts and the 140mm variant drawing 3.6 watts.
The LED strips around the edge of the case give it a cyberpunk aesthetic that doesn’t draw as much attention to the fans themselves.
The Lian Li SL series fans are designed to be modular and easily connectable, allowing up to 16 fans to be controlled by one central controller. They come in both black and white, making them versatile in terms of matching the aesthetic of your build.
The fans can be purchased individually, which includes just the fan, cable, and mounting screws, or in a multi-pack, which includes either three SL120s or two SL140s, screws, cables, and a controller for addressable RGB elements.
These fans are not only stylish with their RGB lighting, but also de-emphasize the fans themselves, making them a great addition to any build showcase.
They are in the same price range as Corsair and be Quite!, but for those who prioritize aesthetics as well as performance, the Lian Li SL series fans are worth the investment.
- Good performance
- Great build
- Vibrant RGB
- Multiple variants available
- Premium look
- Power consumption is high as compared to others
- No RGB controller with single fan
Noctua NF-F12 PWM
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm | RPM: 300 – 1500 | Airflow: 55 CFM | Static Pressure: 2.6 mm H₂O | Noise level: Up to 22.4 dBA | Warranty: 6 years
Fans that are unobtrusive as possible are great for the build, and this is why the award winning Noctua NF-F12 PWM is a great budget option.
Its 120mm square design and 25mm thickness make it compatible with most top radiators and it doesn’t take up much additional space.
The Heptaperf design, which consists of seven angled fan blades and eleven stator guide vanes, allows for a maximum static pressure of 2.6 mm H₂O and is powered by the SSO2 magnetized bearing. The fan blades are designed for minimal noise and vibration is reduced by silicone pads on the corners.
At full capacity, the noise level is only 22 decibels, but it also comes with a low-noise adapter that brings it down to 18.5 decibels at the cost of performance. Despite being powerful, it only uses 0.5 W of power.
It may be more expensive than a regular case fan but it’s still relatively affordable and comes with a six-year warranty.
Overall, the Noctua NF-F12 is perfect for a liquid-cooled build as it provides powerful cooling with minimal noise and is compatible with most radiators. The lack of RGB and aesthetic appeal may be a downside for some, but for those looking for powerful cooling without noticeable fans, the Noctua NF-F12 is an excellent choice.
If you want the best results than the premium version Noctua NF-F12 iPPC 3000 PWM will be the better choice.
- High static pressure
- Very quite at high speed
- Good quality
- Only draws 0.5 W
- No RGB
- Low static pressure in low-noise mode
Be quiet! Silent Wings 3
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm | RPM: Up to 1450 | Airflow: 50.5 CFM ± 10% | Static Pressure: 1.79 mm H₂O | Noise level: Up to 16.4 dBA | Warranty: 3 years
Be quiet! is a German company known for producing high-quality PC components that all have one thing in common: they operate quietly.
The Silent Wings 3, available in both 120mm and 140mm sizes. At maximum speed, both sizes produce only about 16 decibels, equivalent to a whisper from across the room. High-speed variants are available that increase the noise level to almost 30 dBA, but also increase performance.
Be quiet! achieves this through features such as a rubberized fan case and anti-vibration mountings, as well as angled, grooved fan blades. The fans also have a 6-pole motor with fluid-dynamic bearings for quiet and durable power.
However, the basic versions do sacrifice some power for the silence, with the 120mm version at 1.79 mm H₂O and the 140mm at 1.08 mm H₂O.
The power consumption differs across models, from 1.44W to 4.44W on the120mm and 3.6W to 6W on the 140mm models.
The fan comes with two adaptors, a 3-speed SATA adaptors, and a 20-inch extension cable.
They are a bit more expensive than average but are worth it for those looking for a quiet way to move air across a radiator. However, they may not be suitable for those doing heavy overclocking or producing a lot of heat.
- Quality build
- Very Quite
- Good balance between power and noise levels
- Multiple variants available
- Base models are weak
- No RGB
Size: 120 x 120 x 25 mm | RPM: 500 – 1800 ± 250 RPM | Airflow: 53.3 CFM ± 10% | Static Pressure: 1.72 mm H₂O | Noise level: Up to 25 dBA | Warranty: 5 years
In terms of price, F120MP is not too cheap or expensive, and sits right in the middle. It has a standard has a standard square design with silicone pads for added stability and noise/vibration dampening.
It has seven broad, angled blades and four stator guide vanes, which produce 1.72 mm H₂O in the 120mm version and 1.62 in the 140mm version, which is towards the low side for radiator fans but still adequate for cooling.
It uses a magnetic motor for quiet, frictionless power and has a 25 dBA noise level at full power. It’s a bit high in power consumption and cable management is a downside. Also, as compared to the top, it’s not the most powerful or the quietest fan.
The fan comes in black and white color options and does not include RGB, and comes with a 5-year warranty against defective product. Overall, this fan is a good choice for budget builds.
- Budget-friendly price
- Good quality
- Available in different colors
- Low static pressure for the power
- Not as quiet
- Average cable management
NZXT AER P
Size: 120 x 120 x 26 mm | RPM: 500 – 2000 ± 300 RPM | Airflow: 73.1 CFM ± 10% | Static Pressure: 2.93 mm H₂O | Noise level: 21 – 36 dBA | Warranty: 2 years
At the last spot, we have the NZXT AER P. Being at last doesn’t mean you will sacrifice any major performance. It is just a couple dollars more than what it should be.
The NZXT AER P radiator fans come in both 120mm and 140mm sizes and have a square shape that fits well on radiators. They also have built-in vibration dampeners to reduce noise and wear on the fans.
However, they are slightly thicker than most radiator fans at 26mm, which may be an issue if space is limited. Performance-wise, both the 120mm and 140mm produce high levels of airflow, with the 120mm producing 2.93 mm H₂O and the 140mm producing 2.71 mmH2O.
They use a specialized multi-bearing fluid dynamic rotor which is less efficient but less expensive than levitating magnetic rotors. The downside is that they are slightly power-hungry and can be quite loud, peaking at 36 dBA (38 for the 140mm).
They do not have RGB lighting, but the trim color can be changed with a separate accessory pack. They come with a sleeved 500mm 4-pin cable and have a two-year warranty.
Overall, the NZXT AER P fans are a good choice for those looking for a balance of power and affordability, but they may be louder and require more power than some other options.
- Good performance
- Quality construction
- Customizable trim
- Built-in vibration dampeners
- Noisy as compared to others
Radiator fans are increasingly popular in the PC building community, with more and more people opting for All-In-One and Custom Water Cooling Loops. While manufacturers often include fans with their AIO kits, they may not be the best option.
The good news is that these included fans are not required to be used with the associated pump and radiator.
When building a computer, the most commonly used radiator size is 120mm wide and either 240mm or 360mm long, therefore a 120mm fan is usually the preferred option.
The key factor in determining the performance of a radiator fan is its static pressure, which is the amount of air it can push through or around obstacles such as radiator fins.
Fans that are optimized for static pressure have wide and flat blades with minimal gaps between them. Static pressure is typically measured in mm H₂O, with the best radiator fans having a reading of 2-3 mm H₂O or higher.
The RPM of the fan also plays a significant role in determining its static pressure, which means that fans with higher static pressure may produce more noise. If you chose liquid cooling to avoid loud fan noise, this could be a crucial factor to consider when selecting a fan.