Your graphics card purchase isn’t always about the performance or chipset. Fans used in the graphics card matter a lot to provide that performance you’re looking for. It can confuse you as a buyer if you’re new to the graphics card market.
That’s why it’s important which GPU offers what.
Let’s check out the prominent differences between 1 fan vs 2 fan vs 3 fan GPU, shall we?
1-fan GPUs have the worst airflow out of all 3 variations. Having only one fan isn’t enough and it requires a high RPM thus producing much noise. But 2-fan GPUs can cool a GPU better with low RPM which creates less noise. 3-fan GPUs are the best in cooling and have the lowest RPM. But they can be expensive.
Anyways, that’s obviously not enough to pick out any from these three. Without a doubt, there’s a lot to discuss, mention and elaborate on.
That’s why I’ve made multiple categories and compared them with each other.
1-Fan GPU vs 2-Fan GPU vs 3-Fan GPU: Primary Differences
Like cases or CPU coolers, fans are super important for the graphics cards. If you’re somewhat familiar with the PCs, you know airflow is a must.
But it’s not always possible to provide the best airflow under a certain budget. That’s why different products tend to have different levels of airflow. GPU fans are one of the variables that determine the final price.
Likewise, people often compare 2x 140mm fans with 3x 120mm fans. Depending on the setup, you’re going to have different results.
Usually, the fan debate is mostly about 1 fan vs 2 fan GPU. While the result may seem a little obvious, it’s not always the same case.
Especially when you compare 2 fan vs 3 fan GPU.
Since this can easily be a messy topic, we have decided to simplify it. That’s why we’ve compared all 3 variations under different categories.
This will help you understand the differences faster in multiple categories. Especially the bits of airflow, noise, RPM, and their overall relations with each other.
Here’s what we’ve gathered for you-
|Aspects||1 Fan GPU||2 Fan FPU||3 Fan GPU|
|Appropriate Motherboard Form Factor||ATX, m-ATX, ITX||m-ATX, ATX||ATX|
|Cooling Performance over time||Poor||Great||Best|
|Overclocking||Not Efficient||Efficient||Most Efficient|
|Average Temperature vs Fan Speed||45°C (Idle)85°C (50% RPM)80°C (75% RPM)|
75°C (100% RPM)
|50°C (Idle)77°C (50% RPM)70°C (75% RPM)65°C (100% RPM)||51°C (Idle)74°C (50% RPM)68°C (75% RPM)65°C (100% RPM)|
|Available GPU||Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super||EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Gaming||MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3060|
After going through the table, which fan variation are you liking more?
1-Fan GPU vs 2-Fan GPU vs 3-Fan GPU: Elaborated Comparison
If you still didn’t make a decision yet, that’s alright. There’s more to the table as it’s not elaborated enough, you can check this infographic to get a clearer view.
Here, the rating points are not numerical rather they are based on relative ratings.
I’ve talked about them in separate categories here. Simply relax, grab some corns, and go through the factors one after another.
Our first category and the most important one is the airflow comparison. Graphics cards are one of the most-used components of a PC that requires dedicated cooling.
It’s always under load due to gaming, rendering, or video editing. And if the cooling is inadequate, it causes a temperature throttle.
And trust us, you don’t want that throttle at all. For gaming, you’ll start getting fewer frames and overall less performance. The overall render times will be longer and much more.
In other words, the graphics card will perform worse than usual. That’s why airflow is super important for components like GPUs.
Luckily, most GPUs have solid airflow systems. There’s only a slight difference in airflow between 2 fan vs 3 fan graphics cards.
You should also remember that the case fans do the primary cooling. Many users often get confused and compare case and CPU fans for cooling.
Let’s start with the 1-fan GPUs first. There aren’t enough 1-fan GPUs in the mid-range budget.
It’s because a single fan is quite insufficient to cool high-end chips.
But graphics card like GT 730 or GT 1030 has only 1-fan. I’ve personally used the GIGABYTE GeForce GT 730 2GB which was a great entry level GPU back in 2012.
These GPUs are considered entry-level graphics cards. But there are always some exceptions.
For example, GTX 1050 Ti or GTX 1660 has 1-fan variants available in the market. But usually, these cards are available with 2 fans. That’s why GTX 1660 Super 1 fan vs 2 fans is a common debate.
You can try the single fan edition from PNY or the double fan edition of GTX 1660 super.
1 fan GPUs are quite terrible at airflow. But depending on the chipset, it can be fine. For example, for a GT 1030, 1-fan is enough.
But a GTX 1050 Ti will get hot when running high preset games.
That’s why 2-fan GPUs are way better than the 1-fan GPUs. The above-mentioned GPU; GTX 1050 Ti will run better with 2 fans.
Most 2-fan GPUs are going to be objectively better than the 1-fan GPU.
Last but not least, there are the 3-fan GPU variants. These are mostly present in the high-range graphics card.
GPUs with high-end brands often include 3-fans for a higher price and better performance. For example, ASUS has their GPUs with 3-fans for their Strix lineup.
I’ve recently upgraded my build from MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 Super to ASUS ROG Strix NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti. And man oh man! The performance boost literally blew my mind away.
Also, some RTX 3060 Ti GPUs have 3-fans instead of 2 fans. These GPUs will have better airflow and cooling than their counterparts.
Winner: 3-fan GPUs have the best airflow. 2-fan GPU’s airflow capability is sufficient compared to 1-fan GPU.
Required RPM & Overall Noise
Airflow isn’t the only factor that you should look forward to. The required RPM to cool a card also depends on the number of fans.
The RPM is directly linked to noise as a high RPM will make louder noise.
Without any doubt, 1-fan GPU needs the most RPM to keep a card cool. Since it’s only 1 fan doing all the cooling, the temperature will go high.
To cool that chipset, the fans then have to spin at high RPM consistently. This will then, generate a lot of noise.
Other than that, the lifespan of the fan will also be reduced. And it might even start making sound like this one.
If you ever hear this type of sound just stop doing anything and start troubleshooting your GPU fan. However, it’s best if you take it to a shop given that you don’t know much about PC.
That’s why having 2 fans distributes the workload better. Since the card has 2 fans, they don’t need to run at high RPM. Because of this, 2-fan GPUs will be significantly quieter under load.
Finally, the 3-fan GPUs are the quietest ones. They also have the best cooling designs so it helps these cards further.
3 fans can easily cool a card and keep the temperature stable. Some of these cards can operate at less than 40 dB. This makes 3-fan GPUs super quiet.
Winner: 3-fan GPUs have the lowest required RPM and make the least noise.
Compatibility with Motherboard Form Factors:
You can’t just buy a graphics card and install it on your PC. If the card has multiple fans, it’s longer and will require a proper casing more importantly a motherboard that fits.
1-fan GPUs can fit in any case. They’re small, easy to install, and compatible with any system. With a 1-fan GPU, you don’t have to worry about anything.
They can be fit in ATX, m-ATX, and ITX motherboards.
But the 2-fan GPUs are almost 2x in size thanks to the fans. They tend to be around 25 cm in length.
These cards are compatible with ATX, m-ATX, and some ITX motherboards.
Lastly, the 3-fan GPUs can be really huge. They also can have a bigger height which requires more than 2 slots. They’re only compatible with ATX motherboards.
Winner: 1-fan and 2-fan GPUs have better compatibility.
Cooling performance depends on the overall airflow of the card. In other words, if your card has a poor built-in cooling system, it’ll have worse cooling performance.
For example, some 3-fan GPUs have built-in vapor chambers. Some GPUs have more copper pipes for better heat transfer etc.
Anyways, the outcome can be guessed pretty easily. 1-fan GPUs have the worst cooling performance. They tend to be hot while they’re idle. And under workload, they show really high temperatures.
2-fan and 3-fan GPUs are almost similar in cooling performance. It comes down to the quality of built-in heatsinks that have been implemented.
Most 2-fan GPUs have great cooling performance. But for the best performance; even under heavy workloads, you’ll have to seek 3-fan GPUs.
Winner: 2-fan & 3-fan GPUs win this round.
When running video games or rendering some video work, you may need some extra power. That’s why overclocking is a must since it offers a free performance upgrade.
You might wonder, what is overclocking gpu?
Overclocking the GPU means increasing the clockspeed gradually. It’s done to boost its performance. As like overclocking CPU, you need to slowly increase the GPU’s core frequency to get the best performance. Overclocking will surely increase the temperature of the GPU.
Unfortunately, there’s no overclocking potential for 1-fan GPUs. Because overclocking a card creates a lot of extra heat. Due to having only 1 fan, it’s not possible. You’ll see immediate temperature throttling.
For efficient overclocking, you’ll need at least 2 fans in a GPU. You’ll still have to run fans at a higher RPM though. Nonetheless, it can be done efficiently.
3-fan GPUs are the best for overclocking. You’ll hit even less temperature because of 3-fans. That’s why having 3-fans is the best for bringing a GPU’s most potential.
Winner: 2-fans and 3-fans GPUs are better for overclocking.
Average Temperature vs Fan Speed:
Temperature range under different workloads matters a lot. When compared at different fan speeds, it reveals how good or bad a GPU is.
1-fan GPUs tend to be at 45°C when they’re idle. But at 50% and 75% RPM, it reaches 85°C and 80°C RPM. At full speed, 1-fan GPUs can hit 75°C.
The ideal temperature of a card should be under 75°C to 80°C. To achieve that, you’ll need to run 1-fan GPU at max speed. Otherwise, you’re likely to get temperature throttling.
Running at max speed also means the fan will have a shorter lifespan.
For 2-fan GPUs, they tend to be at 50°C during idling sessions. 2-fans GPUs have an average of 77°C and 70°C with 50% and 75% fan speed.
At 100% RPM, 2-fan GPUs can reach 65°C. But this is unnecessary as it’ll shorten the lifespan. Being under 80°C with 50% fan speed is good enough.
3-fans have the best statistics. They’re usually at 51°C when idle and 74°C with 50% fan speed. It becomes 68°C if you run the card at 75% RPM.
At full speed, the temperature goes lower and reaches 65°C.
Winner: 2-fan and 3-fan GPUs have better temperatures.
When getting a GPU, the budget can be a huge problem. It’s even a bigger problem now considering the current GPU market situation.
The price range is self-explanatory. The 1-fan GPUs are going to be cheaper for around $300-420. They’re also more available among the least expensive brands.
But all companies focus on 2-fan GPUs and they have a slightly higher price tag at the range of $350-950. The price then solely depends on the popularity of those brands.
For example, ASUS 2-fan GPUs are more expensive than Zotac.
Finally, the 3-fan GPUs are the most expensive of all. You can get it for around $350-2000. Remember that, some chipsets like RTX 3080 or RX 6800 XT need 3 fans.
It’s because they’re made for 4K gaming and require a lot of cooling by default. But lower chipsets with 3-fans are more expensive than their 2-fan variations.
Speaking of graphics cards, here’s what our experts recommend-
|ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650||1-fan||Check Price from Amazon|
|MSI RTX 3060||2 fans||Check Price from Amazon|
|Sapphire RX 6600 XT||2 fans||Check Price from Amazon|
|Asus Strix 3060 Ti||3 fans||Check Price from Amazon|
|GIGABYTE GeForce RTX3080||3 fans||Check Price from Amazon|
Winner: 1-fan and 2-fan GPUs are more affordable.
Which One Should You Choose Between 1 Fan vs 2 Fan vs 3 Fan GPU?
If you still haven’t made a decision yet, that’s alright. We have summed up everything in case you’re still confused.
It’s always better to choose 2-fan GPUs over 1-fan GPUs for cooling. Weaker chipsets have only 1-fan so you don’t have to worry about that. But when buying a mid-range GPU, prioritize the 2-fan ones.
But if you’re under budget and you play casually, 1-fan GPU is perfect.
3-fan GPUs are usually expensive and you should pick them if you can afford them. High-end chipsets have 3-fans by default so you can’t do anything about it.
But chipsets like RTX 3060 or 3060 Ti don’t require 3-fans most of the time. Also, keeping the GPU fans clean can also improve the overall temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should all 3 GPU fans always be running?
By default, 3 GPU fans should not be running when the GPU is idling. Recently, both Nvidia and AMD have introduced zero RPM technology. It prevents the GPU from running fans until it crosses 50 or 55 degrees celsius. This, in turn, helps with the overall life span of the graphics card.
How many fans do I need for 3070?
You only need 2 fans for the RTX 3070 graphics cards. RTX 3070 happens to be one of the strongest GPUs in the market. Most RTX 3070s have only 2 fans but 3 fan options are available. As long as you want to bear the extra cost, you can get RTX 3070 with 3 fans. They’re better at cooling.
Will a 3 fan GPU fit in a mid-tower PC casing?
Yes, a 3-fan GPU will fit in most mid-tower PC casings. But recently there have been some exceptions. A few 3-fan GPUs may not fit in mid-towers due to being super long. MSI’s RTX 3080 Suprim X is one such example. It’s the longest graphics card in the market and it can’t fit in many casings.
That was all we could gather and explain on 1 fan vs 2 fan vs 3 fan GPU. We hope this comparison has helped you understand the fan variations better.
For more information, you can check benchmarks from Google or YouTube. There are temperature sheets for the same GPUs with different fans. You can also check the overall temperature of the card you intend to buy.
Finally, have a nice day and happy shopping!