Corsair ML120 & ML140 PRO review: magnetic levitation tech meets the humble case fan

ML120_HERO_LED_BLU

Normally case fans aren’t too exciting, but they’re a critical piece of any PC build — and these ones are actually pretty cool. Corsair’s new ML120 and ML140 fans use magnetic levitation instead of ball bearings, providing zero friction. That should make them quieter than fans running at the same speed (or equally, at higher speeds when producing an equal amount of noise). That sounds promising, so let’s see if Corsair’s new fans deliver on their promises.

Pros

  • Extremely quiet operation
  • Blue corners and lights are pretty
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Premium price adds up quickly
  • RGB lighting would be cool

score9-200Summary and score

Corsair’s new ML120 and ML140 fans deliver quieter operation and better performance than most fans on the market. The new magnetic levitation technology seems to be working wonders, and it’s well supported by noise-damping corners and fun LEDs in the Pro and Pro LED models. Replacing every fan in your case might be an expensive venture, but these premium fans are worth it.

Support XSR: Buy for $30.39 from Amazon.com  

Features

  • Magnetic bearing harnesses magnetic levitation technology to provide lower noise, higher performance and a longer lifespan
  • Custom rotor design for the perfect balance between high static pressure and high airflow, operating flawlessly in the most challenging environments
  • 1,600 RPM control range gives you total control between low noise and absolute performance
  • Replaceable coloured corners mounted to anti-vibration rubber dampers
  • Ultra-bright LEDs in red, white or blue mounted to the center harness
  • Box contains fan, 4x self-tapping screws
  • Requires open 4-pin fan connector
 

Specifications

  • Warranty: Five years
  • Fan size: 140 x 25mm
  • Flow type: Static pressure
  • LED color: Blue, Red, White
  • PWM control: Yes
  • Airflow: 20 – 97 CFM
  • Static Pressure: 0.2 – 3.0 mmH20
  • Sound Level: 16 – 37 dBA
  • Power Draw: 0.276 A

Variants

triple

The new magnetic levitation Corsair fans are available at 120mm or 140mm sizes. There are three variants at each size: Standard, Pro (with noise-dampening corner pads) and Pro LED (like Pro, but with LEDs in red, white or blue). Here’s the full table:

Standard Pro Pro LED
120mm ML120 ML120 Pro ML120 Pro LED Red
ML120 Pro LED White
ML120 Pro LED Blue
140mm ML140 ML140 Pro ML140 Pro LED Red
ML140 Pro LED White
ML140 Pro LED Blue

Our review unit is the ML140 Pro LED Blue, FYI.

 

Unboxing & Design

DSC_8108

The ML140 comes in a cheerful yellow cardboard box, well packed to prevent any damage from errant shipping companies.

DSC_8110

As well as the fan, you’ll get four screws, a pair of zip ties and a bit of warranty information.

DSC_8116

Out of the box, the ML140 Pro LED Blue (hereafter: the ML140) immediately looks a bit fancier and more rugged than the average case fan.

DSC_8112

Instead of thin and fragile-feeling plastic, the ML140 sports a thicker and more complex design which provides considerable rigidity – you’d struggle to bend this in your hands and wouldn’t worry if it dropped on the floor.

DSC_8114

The subtle blue outline around the periphery of the centre and the coloured corners match the LEDs built into the centre. To reiterate, we’ve gone for the Blue option but White and Red (and no LED at all) are also options for the Pro.

DSC_8117

The cable is mounted to one side, and measures around half a metre in length. This terminates in a 4-pin connector: 3 pins for power, 1 pin for reporting and controlling RPM.

DSC_8120

Overall, it’s a good-looking and durable-feeling design.

 

Build Log

IMG_7156

Our test rig is MANTAMACHINE, a mini-ITX system built into the roomy NZXT Manta case. The case’s front intake can accommodate 120 or 140mm fans, but only 120mm fans are provided… so let’s upgrade them with these new Corsair fans.

Here are the rest of the system’s specs.

  • Intel Core i5-6600K processor
  • NZXT Kraken X61 liquid cooling
  • EVGA Nvidia GTX 1080 FTW
  • Asus Z170I mini-ITX motherboard
  • Crucial 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  • Samsung 128GB Evo 850 Plus M.2 SSD
  • Western Digital Green 3TB HDD
  • Enermax 600W PSU

Thanks to NZXT for providing the Manta case and Kraken X61 liquid cooler. Thanks to Samsung for providing the Evo 850 M.2 boot drive. Thanks to Zoostorm and Crucial for providing the DDR4 RAM.

We started by removing both sides and the front of the case, giving us access to the innards. We removed the front filter was removed (and cleaned it), then unplugged, unscrewed and uninstalled the original pair of 120mm fans (in that order).

Next, we investigated the power situation. The fan controller card only sports 3 pin connectors and our motherboard fan connectors are occupied, so we’ll use four pin connectors connected directly to the power supply instead.

DSC_8126

Each fan has a lovely long cable (about half a metre), so it was no trouble to route the power cables through the back side of the case and into the maelstrom of PSU cables in the lower quarter of the case.

Once plugged in, it’s time to actually install the fans. Despite moving from 120mm to 140mm, the fans still fit easily next to our existing components. We placed the bottom fan first, screwed it in, then the next one flush on top of it and screwed that in too.

DSC_8130

With the fans installed, it was time to turn on the PC and see what differences in noise and performance we could find!

We ran into a slight issue on that first boot: none of our USB devices worked once Windows booted — definitely odd. After several BIOS option changes, we discovered the USB 3.1 ports still worked, so we used those to log into Windows and re-enable the (mysteriously disabled) USB ports in Device Manager. We’ve faced no issues since, and we think it was due to running the PC without anything plugged in order to take photos. We don’t think it was related to the fans, but it’s worth mentioning here just in case.

 

Testing

Temperatures

We recorded temperatures at idle and under load using Corsair Link before and after the new fans were installed. The results are tabulated below; click the image to enlarge.

temps-final

Compared with our previous fans, we saw an decrease in temperature of about 3-4 degrees across the board at idle, and 1-2 degrees under load. Of course, temperatures are only one half of the story — let’s take a look at noise levels.

Noise

We used the Decibel 10th app and an iPhone 6 Plus to measure the noise levels of the test rig before and after the new fans were installed, at idle and under load. Measurements were made six inches from front of the PC, where the fans were installed.

Before installation, sound levels were 47dB at idle and 50dB under load. After installation, sound was measured at 45dB at idle, and 50dB under load; a small net improvement.

N.B. XSReviews is a small operation; we don’t have specialised equipment to precisely measure airflow and noise. For more precise testing, please check out ThermalBench’s excellent review.

DSC_8132

 

Wrapping up

Corsair’s magnetic levitation fans are pretty sweet. We look forward to what they can do with the same technology in the future — hopefully these units come down in price and we see even fancier options at the high end, like RGB backlighting or more advanced controls. For now, these fans are definitely worth considering, alongside other high-end options like Noctua’s premium range. If you want the latest tech and some pretty colours, the ML120 and ML140 are hard to beat.

Support XSR: Buy for $30.39 from Amazon.com

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

Check Also

1464861361

BenQ GW2270HM review

The BenQ GW2270HM is designed to be the ideal monitor for professionals, with features that …