A good temperature is impossible to achieve without great intake fans. The most popular setups run either 3x 120mm fans or 2x 140mm fans. This often confuses people and they can’t help but wonder which one is superior.
What are the differences between 2 140mm fans vs 3 120mm fans?
When it comes to airflow, 3 120mm fans perform better compared to 2 140mm fans. It’s because they cover more area. But 2x 140mm fans can sustain a great airflow with a low RPM which results in less noise. They’re also cheaper compared to 3x 120mm fans. Because you won’t have to pay for an extra fan.
Is that it? Of Course not! There’s a few more important factor that you should know before going with one option.
I’ve elaboratly compared both combinations head to head. So let’s get into this!
2x 140mm Fans Vs 3x 120mm Fans: Key Differences
Airflow is one of the most important fundamentals when it comes to PC cooling. Depending on different PC cases, the intake fans run different combinations.
Normally, 2 intake fans and 1 exhaust fan are enough to keep the airflow stable. When it comes to 3 intake fans, people mostly favor 3 120mm fans.
They’re often found as 3-pack 120mm fans and are quite available. But still choosing between 3 120mm fans vs 2 140mm fans is quite hard.
Like intake fans, exhaust fans are also compared against each other. While most systems have 1 exhaust fan, some systems can have 2 140mm exhaust fans.
This comparison is quite similar to comparing air coolers with AIO coolers. As long as there are two contenders, it’s fun to compare them against each other.
That’s why we’ve made a chart for you-
|Aspects||2x 140mm Fans||3x 120mm Fans|
|Case Compatibility||ATX, specific m-ATX||ATX, m-ATX, ITX|
|Where to Get||Check Latest Price On Amazon||Check Latest Price On Amazon|
Which intake combination are you liking so far?
2x 140mm Fans or 3x 120mm Fans: Detailed Comparison
If you haven’t reached a conclusion yet, there’s no need to worry. Moreover, sometimes visual representations are more useful than written words. So, here’s a comparative graph for your better understanding.
There’s a lot more to talk about that we couldn’t fit into the table. Simply sit back, relax and go through the aspects one by one.
Without a doubt, airflow is the most important element when it comes to PCs. Lack of airflow causes temperature throttling.
And guess what? Without a great airflow system, you can’t get that hot air out! This is how an ideal air flow system should look like.
Source: be quiet
Most modern gaming PCs have at least 2 intake fans. But for a more advanced rig, you’ll need at least 3 intake fans.
Also, it’s worth noting that when comparing between case and CPU fans, case fans contribute more to overall cooling.
This is where things take a turn and buyers face a great dilemma. They often wonder, are 120mm fans better than 140mm fans?
A 140mm fan is better than a 120mm fan. In terms of airflow, a 140mm fan will create higher pressure at a low RPM. Simply because the fans are bigger. The fan will also be quieter than the 120mm fan.
But that’s not the case when you consider multiple fans.
An intake setup with 2x 140mm fans will create high airflow without a doubt. It’s called a 280mm setup and that’s going to be enough for most systems.
But 3x 120mm just wins because of one additional fan. Because they cover more area and create more pressure.
Although worse than the 140mm fan, 3x 120mm fans can create higher airflow.
Winner: 3x 120mm fans create the best airflow. If it’s the better airflow that you’re looking for I suggest you get the CORSAIR iCUE 120mm Triple Fan Kit.
Required RPM & Noise:
Okay so far, 3x 120mm fans have shone over the 2x 140mm fans. But this is where it’s going to be different.
Required RPM is the RPM that you need to sustain a great airflow. In other words, the less the value, the quieter the fan will be.
So, basically, if you can sustain a great airflow at low RPM, the system is going to stay both cool and quiet.
And that’s where the 2x 140mm fan takes the lead. Since the fans are bigger, they create enough pressure easily in low RPM.
Because of that, they are also significantly quieter than the 3x 120mm fans.
You also take note of the overall lifespan of the casing fans. Since 140mm fans can operate just fine at low RPM, their lifespan doesn’t get shortened.
On the contrary, 3x 120mm fans are loud. They’re smaller fans and thus they need to run at a high RPM.
Otherwise, they’ll create less pressure which will result in a bad airflow system. They’re also going to be noticeably louder.
Since they run at higher RPM, the fan lifespan will be shorter as well.
Winner: 2x 140mm fans can sustain great airflow in low RPM and are much quieter. That’s why this fellow opted for 2x 140mm fans in his own build.
Compatibility is something you’ll have to consider as well. Not all cases fit all types of fans. Without proper planning, you’ll simply waste money.
140mm fans are available in most ATX cases. They’re standard cases and you don’t have to worry about anything. M-ATX casings also fit them nicely.
Source: Nerd Techy
But ITX casings can’t fit them at all. They’re small in size and 140mm is too big for them.
Remember that you’ll need special fittings for these fans. Because these fans won’t fit in the usual 120mm fan holes. This is a precaution you’ll need to be careful about.
But 120mm is a universal size. So you don’t have to worry at all. You can easily fit 3x 120mm fans in most cases. Most ATX casings support 3x 120mm in the front.
Some m-ATX casings support that as well. As for ITX, you can install two in the front and one at the top.
Winner: 3x 120mm fans can be installed in most cases. So, it’s the clear winner in this category.
Budget is also something that can be a barrier sometimes. When choosing fans, this is something that you need to consider as well.
2x 140mm fans are without a doubt, the cheapest option. Since you’re only buying 2 fans, the cost is significantly less.
When compared, 2x 140mm fans cost 20-40% less than the 3x 120mm fans.
On the contrary, 3x 120mm fans are going to cost you a little more. 3 120mm RGB fans are more expensive.
But considering the best airflow, you can choose them if you want.
Speaking of the case fans, here are the expert’s recommended picks-
|ALSEYE PC Fans||120mm||Check Latest Price|
|upHere White LED Case Fan||120mm||Check Latest Price|
|ID-COOLING ZF-12025-PINK Case Fan||120mm||Check Latest Price|
|uphere 3-Pack Computer Case Fan||120mm||Check Latest Price|
|be quiet! Pure Wings Fan||140mm||Check Latest Price|
|Noctua NF-P14s redux Quiet Fan||140mm||Check Latest Price|
You can choose to go for 2x 140mm fans or 3x 120mm fans. They’re all strong fans and will do your PC a great service!
Winner: 2x 140mm fans are cheaper and best for gamers under budget.
Which One to Choose?
Okay so have you reached a conclusion yet? If you haven’t, that’s alright. We’re going to summarize it for you based on your needs.
If you want a great airflow under budget, pick the 2x 140mm fans. It has two advantages, low RPM which increases the fan lifespan. The other is low noise which keeps your PC quiet.
But some of us want gears that perform the best. If you fall into that category, pick the 3x 120mm fans. They cover a larger area and create better airflow.
Besides, you’ll also need to keep the case fans clean. Dirty fans can’t ensure proper airflow and thus your PC will get hotter.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can 140mm fans fit in 120mm?
The simple answer is no, 140mm fans can’t fit in 120mm slots. It’s because your casing has premade holes for multiple 120mm fans. That’s why when you try to install a 140mm, it won’t fit. It also won’t line up. But some PC casings have both 140mm and 120mm fan holes that support both fans.
How many case fans do I need?
The absolute minimum amount of case fans for a PC is 3 fans. Basically, a 2 intake fan and 1 exhaust fan setup. But in some cases, they might prove insufficient for high-end PCs. The quality of the fans also matters and should be considered. Great casing fans last longer and keep the PC cooler.
Can you have too many fans on PC?
It’s possible to install a lot of fans on a PC if you want to. But the result won’t improve as much when you push a certain range. You’ll also spend more money overall and the PC is going to be considerably louder. In general, 3 intakes and 1 exhaust fan are enough for a high-end gaming PC.
That was everything we could deliver on 2 140mm fans or 3 120mm. We hope that this comparison has cleared your confusion regarding intake fan setups.
At the end of the day, 2 intakes and 1 exhaust fan do the job. That’s why try to focus on getting the best fans possible and you’ll be fine.
Finally, have a nice day!