Of course, we are dealing with fans with RGB, and in this case they incorporate 8 individually configurable RGB LEDs on each fan. To do this, CORSAIR sells them in packs of three fans that include a Lighting Node CORE, so that we can connect them together and easily configure them thanks to iCUE, the brand’s unified software.
Unboxing and external analysis
As we just mentioned, we are going to analyze a pack of three fans that include a Lighting Node CORE for the RGB connection of all of them, so they come packaged in a box all together. As usual, on the front side the manufacturer shows us an image of the devices, accompanied by the brand, model and some of its characteristics, such as the fact that the Lighting Node CORE is included.
On the back, and in several languages, CORSAIR gives us a description, accompanied by a table of specifications, an image of the Lighting Node CORE, and another of the fan on the back, with its AirGuide technology.
As usual, an instruction manual is not included, but when we open the box we find a QR code on one of the interior flaps that will take us to the manufacturer’s website.
In a small yellow box, CORSAIR has put all the accessories that are included. We have the usual safety, warranty, etc. booklets, three bags of screws, and the Lighting Node CORE.
The latter is used exclusively to control lighting, and supports up to 6 fans. We will need to connect it to both an internal USB header on the motherboard, and a SATA power connector on the power supply.
Each of the three CORSAIR AF120 RGB ELITE fans comes protected by a yellow cardboard casing.
But let’s look at one of the fans individually first. The frame is square and black, while the blades are translucent to promote better light distribution once they are turned on. They have 9 fairly inclined blades to promote greater static pressure.
As we have already mentioned, each fan has two cables: the usual 4-pin PWM connector for power, and a connector for RGB in which CORSAIR, with an attractive yellow label, indicates that it must be connected to an RGB HUB.
The build quality of these fans is overwhelmingly good. Not only are they compact and robust, but they have a multitude of details, such as the CORSAIR name on the top, or the model in the corners.
The corners, by the way, are rubberized on both sides to absorb vibrations and reduce noise.
Finally, from behind we can see that the rotor is attached to the frames by means of 9 inclined spokes, which make up the air guide so that it comes out focused forward and does not disperse.
Having seen the fans, the time has come to put them to the test. Here you can see how they are mounted in a CORSAIR 5000D Airflow case.
Testing the CORSAIR AF120 RGB ELITE
As we have indicated before, in order to use the RGB lighting of these fans it is necessary to connect them to an RGB HUB, included in the case of this pack of three units. Once done, the iCUE software will detect them and allow us to configure their operation.
As you can see, what iCUE detects is the Lighting Node CORE. We proceed to configure it, and the first thing we come across is that it has not been able to detect how many or what fans it has connected.
So, in the bottom left you have to tell them; In this case, you have to select “Series of 8 LED fans” and you have to tell it that there are 3 connected. Once done, the software will make them glow a different color from each one so we can physically identify them.
Now yes, in the Lighting Channel 1 section (there is no other, I don’t know why it is numbered) we can configure the colors and effects that we want, both the predefined ones and those that we create ourselves. Each of the 8 individual LEDs on each fan is independently configurable.
In the Hardware lighting section we have, as always, the configuration for how we want them to behave when iCUE is not active, such as when we turn on the PC.
Finally, in the Device Settings section, we can update the firmware and control the general brightness of all connected devices.
As always when we review a fan (or fans), we test it in air to measure its performance without impediments like the grills on the PC case or a heatsink (as otherwise the comparison with other fans would have too many factors affecting the performance of the fan). their performance and results would not be comparable).
We start with the loudness, and as always we have used a Protmex PPM-SM001 sound level meter at a distance of exactly 50 cm from the fan, so that the measured result is expressed in dBA. We have made two measurements: one with the speed in PWM so that it works automatically, and another configuring the fans at maximum speed. This has been the result:
We can see from the graph that these CORSAIR fans are not particularly quiet, although it is true that they do have a particularly minimal noise when they are idle, since they do not even reach 17 dBA. However, at maximum speed they do emit much more noise, although it is true that it is a natural noise of the air being pushed by the blades, the noise of the rotor is not perceived, so they are not noisy nor is the sound annoying to nothing.
We are not facing the quietest fans on the market, but we must bear in mind that this comparison is not fair in the sense that the AF120 RGB ELITE work at 2,100 RPM at maximum speed, while other models in this comparison do so at a fairly less speed.
Let’s now see how the performance in terms of airflow is, and to measure this we have used a Holdpeak HP-866A anemometer, again making two measurements: in the first, the fans are set to maximum speed, while in the second we have them manually set to spin at 1,000 RPM. This is the result.
In this case, we find that the CORSAIR AF120 RGB ELITE stays in the middle of the table, with a performance that is not bad at all but also does not place them as the most powerful fans for PCs. It is clear that the manufacturer wanted to find a good balance between performance and noise, and we honestly believe that they have achieved it quite well.
However, there is another factor to take into account to assess the performance of some fans and it is the static pressure, a data that unfortunately we cannot measure since we do not have the physical tools for it; we will trust the data that CORSAIR gives us: until 2.68mm/H2Owhich is an excellent static pressure to push air through aluminum sheets of heatsinks or radiators, or to get air to all components if we install them as case fans.
Conclusion and verdict
They are not the best performing fans, nor are they the quietest on the market; However, it is likely that the new CORSAIR AF120 RGB ELITE are one of the fans with the best balance between performance and sound on the market today, with the addition that they integrate an excellent RGB lighting system and with some possibilities of configuration and customization beyond any doubt.
Now… are we looking at the best fans you can buy for PC? Probably not, but what is certain is that these fans are good at everything (especially in terms of static pressure, so if you intend to use them for a heatsink or radiator, you will gain a lot of performance) and that, since then, if you decide to buy them you will not regret it.
For all these reasons, we believe that they deserve our Gold award, as well as our recommendation for their performance and design.