NZXT Aer RGB review: these case fans are pretty, clever
Today we’re looking at some colourful PC case fans from NZXT. They are called the Aer RGB, and they work with the same NZXT Hue+ controller and CAM software that we loved earlier this year. Once rigged up, the fans promise excellent cooling, minimal noise and gorgeous lighting effects. Let’s put them to the test!
Summary and score
These colourful fans look great and perform well too, but everything comes at a cost. For the Aer RGB, that’s wiring complexity and a free internal USB 2.0 header. However, after the fiddly installation is completed, you’ll be glad you went through the effort.
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Specs & Features
|Dimensions||Aer RGB120: 120 x 120 x 26mm|
Aer RGB140: 140 x 140 x 26mm
|Material||Plastic, rubber, PCB|
|Weight||Aer RGB120: 183g|
Aer RGB140: 213g
|Fan Rated Voltage||12V DC|
|Fan Speed||500-1,500 RPM|
|Fan Airflow||Aer RGB120: 20 – 61.4 CFM|
Aer RGB140: 23.9 – 71.6 CFM
|Fan Air Pressure||Aer RGB120: 0.15 – 1.36mm-H2O|
Aer RGB140: 0.20 – 1.81mm-H2O
|Fan Noise Level||Aer RGB120: 22 – 31 dBA|
Aer RGB140: 22 – 33dBA
|Fan Life||6 years|
|Fan Bearing||Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB)|
|Fan Connector||4-pin PWM|
|System Requirements||HUE+ is sold separately and is required to unlock Aer RGB’s full lighting features.|
PC with open internal USB 2.0 port
Windows® 10 / Windows® 8 / Windows® 7
Internet connection is needed to download CAM
The AER RGB fans are available in 120mm and 140mm sizes. We’re looking at the 140mm versions here. The fans have a coloured band of LEDs running around the periphery of the fan. This is only visible from one direction.
The Aer RGB has a nine blade design, as you would expect, and will suck air from the side with the LED ring, and push air towards the NZXT sticker side. Therefore, if you’re mounting them in the front of your case, if you want to see them from the side window they will be exhaust fans; if you want to see them from the front they will be intake fans. Plan your airflow accordingly.
You can get the Aer RGB in various configurations with and without the HUE+ controller, which is needed for the fans to operate.
Here’s a breakdown of the UK prices (all inclusive of VAT):
- Aer RGB120 & HUE+: 2 x Aer RGB120 with HUE+ Controller — £74.99
- Aer RGB140 & HUE+: 2 x Aer RGB140 with HUE+ Controller — £89.99
- Aer RGB120 Triple Pack: 3 x Aer RGB120 — £69.99
- Aer RGB140 Triple Pack: 3 x Aer RGB140 — £84.99
- Aer RGB120 — £31.99
- Aer RGB140 — £39.99
I found the installation of the fans surprisingly challenging. First, you need to install the Hue+ box in your PC. This can go anywhere, but for the Manta the place that makes the most sense is the long cavity in the bottom of the case which is used for the PSU and cables.
There’s a Molex power cable that plugs into the Hue+ — no worries there — and also a Micro USB to USB header cable. I didn’t have a spare connector on my my motherboard — it was already used by my NZXT Kraken X61, go figure — and so I ended up needing to buy an NZXT Internal USB Expansion for £15.
Once that arrived (thanks, Amazon same day delivery), I was ready to connect the Kraken and Hue’s USB headers to the expansion board, mount that in the PC, and finally plug that into the motherboard. The lesson here is this: make sure you have a spare USB 2.0 header on your motherboard, and get an expansion board like the one linked above if you don’t.
Next, you have to hook up the four-pin power connectors for each fan. Normally there’s an inset area on each corner that allows you to route the cables easily, but the completely cuboid shape of the Aer fans means that you need a little extra space along the outside for your cables to run. I opted to put the power connectors on the same side of my case as my motherboard, keeping them out of sight.
The final step was the most annoying. Basically, you have to run cables from the Hue+ to your first fan, then from the first fan to the second fan, and so on until all of your fans are connected. (This means there’s one slot left on the Hue+ you can use for something else, e.g. the gorgeous Hue+ lighting strips). Again, there’s no groove to route the cables on the fans, so these cables also have to sit somewhere outside. Thankfully, the Manta case we’re using does have a lot of extra internal space to play with and the cables are quite thin, so it’s not the end of the world.
Once everything is connected, you’re ready to actually place your fans within your case (if you haven’t done this already). Note that the RGB lighting is on one side only, so you may need to change your case’s airflow if you want the lighting to be easily visible from one side. I had planned to have the fans mounted at the front and facing inwards, but that made the fans exhausts instead of intakes. Ultimately, I changed the orientation of the fans, ensuring my case’s airflow worked as it did before but hiding some of the RGB lighting.
Once your fans are in place and everything is cabled up, there’s one last task: make sure no wires are poking into the fans when you turn them on, as this is a good way to slice up your cables. If everything is correct, you can turn them on and marvel at their splendour.
Controlling the fans is done via the NZXT Cam software. When running the app for the first time, remember to select the Hue+ module from the list of options, to ensure that it shows up properly. If the fans don’t appear in the software, ensure that your USB header cable is plugged in properly at both ends.
So, to sum up, here are some installation tips:
- Think about the placement of the Hue+ box and the orientation of each fan (and therefore its airflow and lighting) before you start.
- Remember that each fan has one power connector, plus one cable in, and one cable out (for all but your last fan). Think about where these cables will lie — ideally you want them out of sight.
- You will need a spare USB 2.0 header on your motherboard. If you don’t have one, you need to get an expansion board.
Once connected, the colour of the Aer RGB fans is controlled through the NZXT CAM software. You can find the appropriate section in Tuning > Lighting. Here, you can choose from:
- 10 standard effects
- 3 smart effects (GPU temperature, CPU temperature and FPS)
- 3 custom effects (make your own animations)
- 3 audio effects (level, sync, gain)
- 3+ game effects (for CS:GO it’s C4 arming, health, grenades)
I found the lighting effects on offer are pretty solid; everything you can think of is here. You can choose from static colours, heart beats, audio visualisers, in-game actions or even use your lights as a CPU or GPU temperature gauge. It would be nice to see more comprehensive custom options, and particularly a way to share your custom effects with your friends or the internet at large.
Switching between effects is simple and fast, and they all look pretty cool! If you have NZXT Hue+ strip lights, you can sync these to have the same animation as your fans, which is pretty neat. Sadly, it’s not possible to automatically coordinate your CPU cooler’s LEDs, at least with the Kraken X61 that we have installed in the XSR test rig.
We recorded temperatures at idle and under load, then compared the results with our original NZXT Manta case fans and our Corsair ML140 replacements.
|Idle||OG NZXT||Corsair ML140||NZXT Aer RGB 140|
|Load||OG NZXT||Corsair ML140||NZXT Aer RGB 140|
Temperatures improved for the GPU, but were a little worse for the CPU and the rear-mounted M.2 SSD. Our theory for this result is that the increased cable clutter in the bottom and back of the case has decreased the amount of air that can reach the rear-mounted SSD (and to a lesser extent, the CPU), thus resulting in slightly higher temperatures. The EVGA GPU was also updated with more aggressive fan settings as part of a firmware update a few months ago, which will have also allowed it to run at cooler temperatures.
We used the Decibel 10th app and a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to measure the noise levels of the test rig at idle and under load. Measurements were made six inches from front of the PC, where the fans were installed.
|OG NZXT||Corsair ML140||NZXT Aer RGB 140|
|Idle||37 dB||35 dB||36 dB|
|Load||40 dB||40 dB||40 dB|
The results were as expected, with the Aer coming in between the original NZXT case fans that were installed in the Manta and the Corsair ML140 magnetic levitation fans we tested earlier this year. Load noise was unaffected, as this was dominated by the CPU and GPU fans running in our test system.
We’re approaching 2,000 words, so it’s time to wrap this review up. In short, we really like what NZXT have done with these case fans, and once installed you can create some really cool effects — particularly in combination with Hue+ lighting strips. However, it does take a lot more work to install these than your average fixed-colour case fan, and you’ll have to work out where all your wiring is going to fit. Ultimately though, the creative possibilities of the many fun effects on offer make the Aer RGB case fans worth all the hassle.
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