4-Pin CPU Fans for Optimum System Performance

There are two general varieties of PC fan connectors, which ultimately determine the type of control you have over fan speeds and whatnot. One variant is the 3-pin fan, commonly called the DC powered fan. This type does not have pulse width modulation (PWM), which keeps its speed at a constant RPM, while the 4-pin variant has PWM and should have a connector on any modern PC motherboard. This allows you to control the fan speeds manually or automatically to optimize noise levels and cooling capabilities according to the particular loads the computer is handling.

What Are the Variants of 4-pin CPU Fans?

  • Stock Laptops: Laptops have slim coolers that fit snug between the motherboard and the backplate of the computer. These are designed differently than desktop coolers because of the clearance constraints but move air quite well despite the streamlined design. Laptop CPU cooling fans have exhaust centrifugal designs that push air out of the cooling assembly through a narrow opening and out of the exhaust grilles.
  • Stock Desktops: Stock desktop CPU coolers typically have 4-pin connectors that slot into PWM driver pins in the motherboard. These fans have stock aluminum heatsinks designed by the CPU manufacturers. Aluminum is the ideal material for this due to its high heat conduction properties and inherent lightweight nature and malleability. This allows manufacturers to design them according to specifications while providing effective cooling.
  • Third-Party: These types of coolers can be purchased separately from processors. Many are much larger than stock CPU fans and can even support more than one fan to move a lot of air from within the computer case. These also have larger aluminum heatsinks to promote higher and faster heat dissipation along with direct flow to the exhaust fans because of the increased overall height of the assembly.

What Type of CPU Fan Is Ideal for My Build?

  • Enthusiast Builds: The type of CPU cooler for an enthusiast-grade computer would depend on the preference of the owner. Air cooling is easy to set up, but liquid cooling is also an option. An all-in-one liquid cooler has a bracket that mounts against the CPU and has an interior pump that routes the coolant to the radiators, which exhaust the heat.
  • Mid-Tier Builds: The design of these builds depends on the priority of the user. A workstation would prioritize CPU cooling, so a third-party cooler with a large aluminum heatsink with two noise-dampening fans would be ideal. But for gaming oriented builds, the priority can be shifted from the processor to the GPU, so sticking with the stock CPU cooler in favor of spending more for a more powerful video card is a sensible option.