The 120mm Case Fan Shootout: Arctic vs. be quiet!, Blacknoise, Noctua, Scythe & SilverStone

By Ari Altman | Published June 5, 2020 | Updated June 5, 2020


We’ve published over a dozen cooler shootouts over the years, and people have always been interested in them, but it turns out there’s another related topic that gets people even more excited, and that is fan shootouts! Our first, focused on radiator fans, was a big hit, so we’ve followed it up with this even bigger, bolder shootout: a case fan shootout! This was no easy task, and we consulted with multiple fan manufacturers regarding the test methodology for our roundup. In the end, we think we’ve put together some pretty interesting benchmarks, as well as audio samples, for our shootout.

It’s with great pleasure that we share our Best 120mm Case Fan Shootout for 2020. This review features ten of the most popular fans on the market from the very best names in the cooling business: Arctic, be quiet!, Blacknoise, Noctua, Scythe and SilverStone.

The Test

Our test bench consisted of an AMD Ryzen 5 3600X CPU, using a Scythe Fuma 2 CPU Cooler, mounted in a be quiet! Pure Base 500DX Case. Here’s the full lineup of competitors, with prices noted:

  1. Arctic F12 PWM ($9)
  2. Arctic F120 BioniX PWM ($17)
  3. Arctic P12 PWM ($9)
  4. be quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM BL064 ($26)
  5. Blacknoise NB-eLoop PWM 1500RPM ($30)
  6. Noctua NF-A12x25 ($30)
  7. Noc​tua NF-P12 Redux-1700 PWM ($14)
  8. Scythe Kaze Flex PWM ($14)
  9. SilverStone AP120i-Pro ($24)
  10. SilverStone AB120R-ARGB ($20)

As with all of our reviews at this point and going forward, this review appears exclusively on YouTube, which you can see below. Not only do we show you what comes in the box and share some impressive benchmarks, but we give you a good look at each cooler as well!

Don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get in on all our content as soon as it goes live!

Final Thoughts

Here’s the full list of winners:

  1. BEST OVERALL 120MM FAN: Scythe Kaze Flex PWM ($14) – this fan is simply an airflow monster, beating every other fan in the roundup despite a very low 1200RPM maximum rotational speed. It doesn’t work as well on radiators, as we found in a previous test, but as a case fan, it has no equal.
  2. BEST DO-IT-ALL 120MM FAN: SilverStone AB120R-ARGB ($20) – this fan works great in a case, nearly matching the Scythe, but also beats it on radiators, and features eye-catching ARGB lighting. And what benchmarks don’t tell you, but our audio samples do, is that it has a very pleasant tonal quality – it’s a smooth-sounding fan! What’s not to like?!?
  3. BEST BUDGET 120MM FAN: Arctic P12 PWM White ($9) – this is the best fan under $10, bar none. It comes in a wide variety of colors, and offers fantastic performance on radiators, as we found previously, but surprisingly is very decent as a case fan as well, as long as you are willing to buy a few and run them at low RPMs in your case. Why not pick up a 5-pack for around the same price as one Noctua, Blacknoise, or be quiet! fan?

As always, check out our CPU Cooler Buyer’s Guide, updated quarterly, for all our latest recommendations.

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