NZXT has been a big name in RGB for quite a while an has been due for a line refresh. I had a chance earlier this year to look at the HUE 2 but the fans weren’t ready yet. I’ve recently obtained three 140mm fans to see what the fuss is all about. In this review I’ll be talking about what I liked, what I didn’t and overall how happy I am with NZXT’s new RGB fan lineup. Read on to find out more!
- MSRP: Starter Kit: $99 - $129, $29.99/120mm, $34.99/140mm
- Dimensions: 120mm: 120 x 120 x 26mm; 140mm: 140 x 140 x 26mm
- Weight: 120m: 187g; 140mm: 222g
- Materials: Plastic, Rubber, PCB
- # of LEDs: 8 each.
- Rated Voltage: 12VDC
- Fan Airflow: 120mm: 17.48-52.44 CFM; 140mm: 30-39 - 91.19 CFM
- Fan Air Pressure: 120mm: 0.15 - 1.35mm H2O; 140mm: 0.17 - 1.52 H2O
- Fan Speed: 500-1,500 RPM
- Noise: 22-33dBa
- Fan Life: 6 years
- Fan Bearings: Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB)
- Fan Connector: 4-pm PWM
- Warranty: 2 years
Writing an entire article about RGB fans isn’t necessarily an easy task - you can see from the specifications if they’re quiet enough for you or fit your budget but I’m going to do my best to do justice to these premium fans from NZXT. When Chris initially asked if I’d be interested in checking out the fans I jumped all over the chance, being an RGB addict, and was even more pleased by how quickly NZXT sent them out. I was expecting some sort of pack, similar to the HUE 2 kits I received, so I was a little surprised about getting three standalone packages for each fan.
Don’t get me wrong because I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I like that they can be purchased individually if need be. For me, the downside comes with the wiring that was included. There didn’t seem to be any foresight that people would be connecting these together side by side and subsequently, there’s no adapter for easy connectivity. I ended up with a bunch of cables I had to manage. In previous iterations I’ve used, small fan-to-fan cables were included to connect the RGB together that was just long enough to reach easily without excess slack. Not the case with the standalone AER RGB 2 fans, though it may be different in the starter kit which comes with 2 fans.
Cable woes aside installing the fans was just as easy as any other fan. The screws for mounting the chassis were included and fit snuggly into rubber reinforced holes to ensure no rattling when the fans ramp up in the RPMs. You have the typical IN/OUT connectors that you find with NZXT, connecting the fans together and one to the controller for managing the RGB goodness. The new HUE 2 controller, which you’ll need even if you have the old one, is much slimmer than generation one and lacks the annoying light as well. It’s thin form factor allowed me to keep it tucked nicely away in an SSD mount on the rear side of the motherboard tray, right next to the fan controller.
The most important part of a chassis fan is the ability to be, well, a fan. The RGB is great and all but if you’re left with a product that can’t push air your rig will suffer no matter how good it looks. In that regard, I’m perfectly happy with the performance. Most people don’t buy RGB fans to get the best possible cooling you can possibly get - these aren’t Noctua fans (though Noctua ever busted into the RGB market it’d be game over). The NZXT AER RGB 2 fans are quiet as can be on a mildly aggressive fan curve. Even peaking out at 33 dBa isn’t the loudest fan you can end up with and depending on the quality of your chassis could easily be ignored. The fluid dynamic bearings result in a stable, smooth and quiet rotating and thanks to ample use of rubber around the fan there is no rattle to be heard.
Currently, I’m experimenting with a negative pressure environment in my chassis (in case you were wondering why my fans were facing the “wrong way”) which has the added benefit of making up for a big weakness on the RGB side of things: you can really only see the RGB from one side. I was really hoping that NZXT would follow companies like Rosewill or Corsair and have their RGB equally visible on either side of the fan and I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn’t the case. If you don’t have a PC case that can showcase an RGB fan from the outside, the NZXT AER RGB 2 will be a hard sell unless you run a negative pressure setup which requires a relatively dust-free environment (or copious maintenance).
Outside of this drawback, the delivered lighting is exactly the quality you’d expect from a name like NZXT. With 8 RGB LEDs per fan, each individually addressable, the sky is the limit with getting the aesthetics just the way you want them. However, if you aren’t someone who likes to spend the time to go through each individual LED and set it to your exact specifications, NZXT has a bunch of presets included in CAM for your enjoyment. I’ve showcased some of them below.
If you’ve used an NZXT RGB product in the past, whether it be fans, light strips, or the Kraken AIO, then you’re familiar with CAM. NZXT’s CAM is a “PC monitoring application” that is required for changing the lighting on RGB products in the NZXT lineup. It has a great interface for making these changes as well as monitoring temps and frequencies on your CPU, GPU, etc, but is, unfortunately, an extremely volatile piece of software. I don’t know enough about the backend intricacies of programming addressable lighting to comment why I have so many issues with CAM, but, it doesn’t change the fan that I have SO MANY ISSUES USING CAM.
During the course of just the fan review, I had to uninstall and reinstall CAM three times, including hunting down and deleting registry entries because it would just stop booting. Even with nothing but the 140mm fans plugged in (I unplugged the light strips and ambient lighting) I still couldn’t get it to boot. From what I can tell with my own extensive troubleshooting it has something to do with ambient lighting being plugged into the wrong USB port that causes it to crash, which corrupts something to prevent the program from ever recovering. I don’t say this to throw shade at NZXT - I really enjoy their products and have had great interactions with their customer service - but just to serve as a warning that I, and many others only a Google search away, have experienced a lot of frustration as a result of this.
Ed. Note: It is likely that this is a complex issue related to individual system configuration and shouldn’t be construed as a blanket statement on functionality. I and others on our team have had no such issues with CAM.
At the end of the day, NZXT AER RGB 2 fans deliver cool and quiet airflow wrapped up in a gloriously lit aesthetic. If you’re lucky enough to not have any issues with CAM then there’s virtually no downside to picking them up if you’re a fan of RGB and can fit it in your budget. The second generation comes with a few more presets compared to the first as well as the ability to put more lights on a single channel - though unless you’re really going all out I don’t necessarily see the need to upgrade if you have the first gen product. That doesn’t have to stop you from buying the HUE 2 controller and a fan or two due to the backward compatibility of the second generation product. Overall I am happy with the fans themselves and plan on ordering a few more to replace the non-RGB fans in my case.
- Cool and Quiet
- Vibrant RGB with eight LEDs per fan
- A ton of presets to choose from
- Single sided RGB
- CAM software is hit or miss per user
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.