PC builders typically use 120mm and 140mm fans for cooling and air circulation purposes. These fans do a great job of keeping the system free from overheating.
But the question remains, are bigger fans better?
Usually, the bigger fans move out the same amount of air as the smaller ones but at a lesser speed. Therefore, it’s a tricky question to answer.
For getting a better view of this subject, we are about to discuss something interesting. This article will discuss the 140mm and 120mm fans and the significant differences that set them apart.
We’ll also be comparing them to give you a better idea of getting your priorities right. Therefore, let’s not forget any moment and jump right into the discussion.
Whatever you do with your CPU, heat will inevitably generate. Be it gaming or everyday tasks, at least something will produce. It’s a regular phenomenon.
That is why a fan with superior airflow is desired. But not all fans can give you the same level of airflow. There are obviously some discrepancies.
Here, if I talk about the 120mm fans, they come with a low CFM rating. But usually, they do a decent job of keeping the CPU cool. They produce proper air circulation, which eventually makes them an excellent option for overpowering heat snags.
And the best part is, such low CFM ensures tremendous static pressure. Eventually, this trait makes it perfect for handling heavy tasks.
Now, for the 140mm fans, the CFM rating is high. It ensures better airflow and quickly tames down overheating. In fact, for handling heavy workloads, the 140mm fans are better than 120mm.
A better airflow ensures better heat dissipation, making the CPU temperature go lower. We’ve tested average 140mm and 120mm fans and measured their air cooling capacity.
The average 140mm fan does a better job of cooling the CPU than the average 120mm fan. The 140mm fan kept a consistent gap with the 120mm fan, proving superiority over the 120.
Therefore, the 140mm wins here for better airflow over 120mm, mainly for its greater exhaust pressure and excellent cooling potential.
The spin speed of a CPU fan is measured in RPM, and it is an essential factor to consider while choosing the right fan for your system.
Now, as we talk about fans with 120mm and 140mm, some notable differences eventually decide the one that spins better.
The 120mm fans generally spin at a speed of more than 1200 RPM, making the PC process faster. Such speedy functioning is necessary for carrying out heavy tasks, as it ensures faster responses.
The good thing about this fan is that it also helps eliminate any sort of dust or debris settling down quite quicker than the 140mm one.
Talking about the counterpart, 140mm fans, they run at a speed of 1000 RPM or something slightly lesser than that. To be honest, any speed over 800 RPM is okay-ish. But you need to make sure that such speed remains constant all the time.
So, here the clear winner is the 120mm fans as they have a greater spin speed. They outperform the 140mm ones both in terms of output and speed.
The noise level really matters. You won’t definitely choose something that causes you an irritating experience while gaming or doing tasks.
That said, the 120mm fans come with a very low dBA. They run using small spins, which makes the rotation faster without making any significant noise. As a result, you won’t hear anything too loud, and even there are a few occasions when the sound seems almost inaudible.
The prime phenomenon is that the 120mm fans don’t spin roughly at all, which creates a low noise level.
For the 140mm fans, I would say that the level of dBA is high. Though, you would find few models out there that produce tolerable sound. But in a general sense, at max RPM, the 140mm fans can get loud.
The reason is the larger spins they have compared to the 120mm ones. Especially during multitasking, this thing is very noticeable. Let’s see the temperature and noise level chart again to clear up things.
When the fans are running at low speed and not cooling the CPU much, the noise level of 140mm is quieter. But as the fans are getting worked out, the 140mm and 120mm fan makes a similar noise.
In most cases, the 140mm produces a lower noise at the same temperature. But at peak performance, the 140mm fan does better cooling than 120mm but also produces more noise at the same time.
For the lower noise levels, I would pick and suggest a 140mm fan over the 120mm in most parts.
In a normal job, you won’t find any differences. But in an intensive task or If you overclock your CPU, the fans will need to run at more RPM and will cause more noise. So, check out some of the best CPU coolers for overclocking to keep the noise level in control.
Well, the fans inside your CPU do take up considerable space. So, this aspect deserves at least some consideration.
If I talk about the 120mm fans, they take up less space and are light in weight. Even if you install them in your system, there is a considerable amount of space for use.
What I like about them is there is a decent space between the screw holes. The distance between the holes makes airflow easy so that heat doesn’t settle down around the fans.
However, for the 140mm fans, the space between the screw holes isn’t that well adapted. As a result, the airflow isn’t constant, which doesn’t make it better than the 120mm fan in this case. This fan is also heavier than the 120mm, not to mention its bigger size consuming space.
So, for the most compact and easy-to-install size, 120mm fans win in the size category.
When it comes to compatibility, nothing comes close to the 120mm fans. Thanks to its compact size and wide range of choices, it can fit in any PC case.
Whether it’s an HTPC case, mini-ATX, ATX, or E-ATX, the 120mm fan can snoop in each of them pretty easily.
The most efficient part of a 120mm fan is, you can fit it in a PC casing, and use it as a CPU cooler. The versatility makes it very popular and perfect for any future upgrade.
On the other hand, the 140mm fans are larger and don’t fit properly in all PC cases. It’s mostly suitable for the ATX and E-ATX PC cases, and sometimes in micro ATX cases.
So, in the compatibility category, the 120mm fan is a clear winner.
You would obviously want the best bang for the buck. As it’s utter stupidity to waste money on something that isn’t reasonable.
Let me get this thing straight to you. The 140mm fans are expensive compared to the 120mm fans. But the difference isn’t that big. You might think that the price of a 140mm fan is high. But the tag it bears is justified considering the leverage it is going to give to your system.
In the case of 120mm, it is cheaper than 140mm because of its slightly lower output level. It’s mainly for budget builds, whereas the 140mm fans are for all builds, especially for high-end.
140mm Vs 120mm Fans: Which is Right for You?
Now, it’s decision time! And it feels hard, right? But no worries, I’ll clear up the choice even more with the described factors, and help you make the right choice based on your preferences.
The most important thing you should consider choosing a fan is its cooling performance, quieter noise level, compatibility, and lastly budget.
Based on these factors, the 140mm fans come at the top for their great cooling ability and quieter noise level.
Editor’s Choice: 140mm Fans
The 140mm is the second most popular in the market, right after the 120mm fan. It’s bigger, more powerful, and useful for its capabilities.
It can easily fit in most PC cases and can be used as a casing fan and CPU cooler. The quietness and better airflow system make it the best and ideal to keep your PC cool.
The best 140mm fans can outperform the top-of-the-line 120mm fans pretty easily. And even sometimes, the average 140mm can give a similar performance to the best 120mm fan.
- »The 140mm fans are quieter than the 120mm fans.
- »It has better airflow than 120mm fans.
- »It provides better heat dissipation than 120mm.
- »Better for heavy loads or intensive tasks.
- »More expensive than a 120mm fan.
- »Not compatible with all PC cases.
Now, let’s see the real-world scenario of when you should buy the 140mm for your PC.
Choose and buy the 140mm fan if:
- You prefer quieter fans for productivity and multitasking.
- You want to keep the temperature low.
- You already have or are building a PC with mini ATX, ATX, or E-ATX casing.
If the scenario matches your preferences, you should definitely pick a 140mm fan for your build.
Alternate Choice: 120mm Fan
The 120mm fans are the most popular in the market for their versatility and affordable price. It has decent cooling performance at this price—not much behind a 140mm fan.
HTPC, micro ATX, mini ATX, ATX, or even E-ATX—you just name it—the 120mm fan is compatible with every casing. You can use it as a casing fan or even in the CPU heatsink, and it sits perfectly in all places.
- »Cheaper than 140mm fans.
- »Compatible with every PC casing.
- »Better for average tasks.
- »Louder than 140mm fan at the same temperature.
- »Airflow and heat dissipation aren’t as great as a 140mm fan.
The 120mm fans are cheaper and provide less performance compared to the 140mm fans. However, if you are willing to spend some extra money, you can get your hands on a top-notch 120mm fan that offers similar performance to a 140mm fan.
Choose and buy a 120mm fan if:
- You are building an HTPC or mini ATX PC.
- You want to save money on fans.
- You want to use the fans for your next build.
In case the reason matches your taste, you can pick the 120mm fans for your present or upcoming PC build.
If you’ve selected the ideal fan size, check out the best CPU air cooler and install it to your PC to get the best cooling performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do 140mm fans cool better than 120mm?
Yes, the 140mm fans cool better than the 120mm because of their larger fan and higher CFM (cubic feet per minute) rate.
Is it better to have 2x 140mm fans or 3x 120mm fans?
The 3x 120mm fans will provide more airflow to the PC, but the 2x 140mm fans will be quieter and provide similar airflow in the casing.
What is the best size fan for a PC?
There are various sizes of fans for a PC such as 80mm, 92mm, 140mm, and 200mm. But among all of them, 120mm is the most popular for its affordable price and versatility.