The Best Radiator Fan Shootout, feat. Arctic, Noctua, Scythe, and Thermaltake
Here at TBG, we’ve taken up the challenge of finding the very best PC fans on the market, cutting through the marketing hype and actually testing fans the way you use them. We benchmark fans of various sizes and in every possible application, from intake fans to exhaust fans, from heatsink fans to radiator fans, and we’ve done it over and over as new fans hit the market, as well as to introduce new testing methodology and insights into what drives fan performance.
And, take note: we always test fans in a shootout format for every category, which we believe gives our audience a much better understanding of the market than one-off reviews do. It also forces us to choose winners, and therefore give you a sense of what’s actually worth buying. Hence the name The Tech Buyer’s Guru!
So with that as a backdrop, we present what may well be our 10th fan shootout (we’ve honestly lost count), this one laser-focused on finding the very best fan for use on CPU cooling radiators.
Here are the fans included in this test:
- Arctic P12 PWM PST ($10), also available in value 5-pack for $31 + $10 shipping
- Arctic P12 A-RGB 0dB PWM PST ($17), also available in value 3-pack for $43
- Noctua NF-A12x25 ($33)
- Scythe Wonder Snail 120 ($17)
- Thermaltake Toughfan 12 ($25), also available in a value 2-pack for $40
And here’s the system setup:
- CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i RGB Platinum SE, Noctua NH-U12S, tested with Corsair ML120 fans as a baseline
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
- MB: Asus X470 Crosshair XI Hero
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 802
- Thermal Paste: Noctua NT-H2 10g
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 benchmarks, but we give you a good look at what it’s like to use each product!
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!
All right, we have a winner! You’ll need to watch to video to see the details, but without a doubt, the vaunted Noctua NF-A12x25 has a well-earned reputation as the king of radiator fans. In a heated competition, it kept the heat at bay better than any other fan, all of which were released after the A12x25 rose to fame! Fending off multiple rivals attacking from all sides, with all sorts of tricks up their sleeves, is impressive to say the least! In fact, when averaged together with the results from our dedicated heatsink fan shootout, the Noctua NF-A12x25 can now lay claim to the best overall cooler fan.
Now if only Noctua could release (a) the black version it should have released from the start (and which is apparently coming at the end of 2021, and (b) the 140mm version it’s been promising for years!
Winning the price/performance honorable mention is the brand-new Arctic P12 A-RGB, which may be one step behind the NF-A12x25, but it’s still an amazing fan, for half the price, and with ARGB effects to boot. Also deserving of an honorable mention is the Thermaltake Toughfan 12, which performed identically to the P12 A-RGB throughout our testing, and while it’s a bit more expensive and doesn’t offer ARGB effects, it’s the smoothest-sounding fan we’ve ever tested, and for many people, that’s all they need to hear to make up their minds!
As always, check out our CPU Cooler Buyer’s Guide, updated quarterly, for all our latest recommendations.