Factors to consider
The standard sizes for case fans are 80mm, 120mm, 140mm, and 200mm. It is essential to identify which fan sizes your case will support before purchasing. Generally speaking, the bigger the fan, the better it’s efficiency at blowing air relative to its speed of rotation. A slower fan generally makes less noise, so given the option, one should always try and buy the biggest size allowed by the mounting points. This guide will be looking at the largest of the standard size case fans, the 200mm.
The primary reason for purchasing a case fan is for cooling, therefore the fan’s cooling ability is the biggest concern one should have in mind when shopping around. Airflow is measured in either velocity of airflow in FPM (Feet per Minute), or more commonly volume of airflow in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). The higher the CFM, the better the fan will be at cooling your PC.
Size is obviously a big determiner of a fan’s cooling properties, but between fans of the same size, factors such as blade design and rotation speed come into play.
Static pressure is another measure of airflow, though typically only relevant to fans mounted on components, not on the case itself. Static pressure signifies a fan’s ability to force air past/through something e.g. a PSU or Hard drive cage, measured in units of mmH2O. The greater the mmH2O, the greater static pressure.
Noise output is probably the second most important feature for consumers. A noisy fan can severely hamper one’s enjoyment of a computer game, the watching of visual media, listening to music, or the ability to focus on work, so it is a fairly important factor to consider – there is little point in spending money on a quality sound system for your rig if it is drowned out by the loud drone of fans! Noise output is measured in dB (decibels) and typically ranges from 18dB to 35dB. A big factor in the dB of a fan is the speed at which it spins, generally the higher the speed, the louder the noise. Fan speed is measured in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute). Ultimately a fan that manages a high cooling factor (CFM/FPM) whilst maintaining a low noise output is generally the most desired.
Case fans generally require a low amount of power to run, but if one has installed numerous larger fans (i.e. multiple 200mm) this can still add up. It is essential to add up the accumulated usage of all potential components within your computer to make sure the PSU (power supply unit) you intend to buy is adequate. Power draw, measured in Amps (A), is often given alongside the maximum voltage of the fan (V). Multiplying these two figures together gives the maximum wattage, which can then be compared against the wattage of your PSU and the drain of your other components.
Power Cable/Plug type (3-pin v 4-pin)
The basic fan cable is a 3-pin design, composed of live, ground and tach (information transmission) wires. 4-pin cables allow the motherboard/software to control the speed of the fan via PWM (Pulse Width Modulation). Usually for case fans, 3-pin is sufficient, 4-pin being reserved for CPU coolers and such, however, if you want full customisable control of the cooling within your computer, it is possible to install 4-pin case fans, linked to the motherboard or an independent fan controller.
These days a lot of fans are available with different aesthetic variations to help you customise the look of your PC. Mostly this involves different paint colours and/or lighting. Some brands offer more cosmetic options than others.
Market leaders in 200mm case fan design are as follows (note this does not mean a consumer should just limit their choice to the following):
- Cooler Master
What Consumers Say
Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a some of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:
+ Mounting: Make sure the mounting holes match up to those of your case. If you want rubber insulating mounts rather than screws, check that your product comes with them.
+ Defects: There can be some variability in build quality on some models. It is advisable to check the returns policy of the seller in case of saying aesthetic damage or if one fan is not rotating at correct speed.
Additional Factors to Consider Before/After Purchase
+ If mounting an odd number of case fans it is usually a good idea to have one more expelling air than there are intaking air. This will create a vacuum within the case which will help to dissipate heat more effectively.
+ Correct positioning of fans is also important to create good airflow. Typically a wind tunnel layout is best, with at least one fan at the front of the case taking in cool air and another at the back expelling the warm air. As above this creates a vacuum, drawing the heat away from the internal components.
+ Overtime dust will always accumulate inside a PC case, and so periodic cleaning (with a compressed air spray for example) is advised, however, this can be massively reduced by the addition of dust filters to intake fan ports. Providing the material is thin enough and any dust buildup on them regularly cleaned off, usually these filters cause only a negligible loss in airflow.