Over the years, we have seen quite a few fan designs leave Corsair for us to test with, whether it be on an air cooler, on an AIO, or just random single and multi-fan kits we have had in our hands. One thing is sure, though. Corsair has not run out of ideas yet on what could be the next big thing in forcing air through the chassis or fins of a cooler. At the same time, the market had changed from when we started with computers, where silence in operation is vital, and the more lighting you can include, the better your chances are of selling them!
Video: RGB lighting effects demo of Corsair's iCUE QL120 RGB Fans
The latest setup to hit the bench for review is the QL120 RGB LED fans, which can be had singularly, but you will need some other toys to make it work, or you could opt for what we have, their three fan kit with the included Lighting Node. As manufacturers do, Corsair has proprietary connections on their fans, so it is not as easy as connecting them to an RGB header on the motherboard. Still, the fans will spin as they use a standard 4-pin PWM connection to be powered. Once powered, we are told by the specifications that these iCUE QL120 fans will spin around 1500 RPM at maximum, and while at that speed will deliver 4.8 CFM, 1.55 mmH2O, and 26 dB of noise into the chassis. Another thing explained to us on the product page is that each fan comes with an astounding thirty-four RGB LEDs in them, which allows iCUE to deliver some fantastic looking patterns of illuminations, as well as the typical static colors or whatever it is you are looking to do with them for the most part!
As we mentioned, the QL120 RGB 120mm PWM Triple Fan with Lighting Node CORE kit comes with everything you need to get up and running. From the fans to the node, and instructions to guide you through setup, downloading of the software, and how to enjoy what iCUE can deliver via software options. All you need is the space to install them. So that you are aware, they also make a 140mm fan version of this kit, which we have, but will review a bit later, for those with larger fan requirements. That being said, Corsair has driven the price up with this kit as well, and rather than the near $100 pricing we thought was already a bit rough for customers to pony up, the QL120 RGB LED PWM Triple Fan with Lighting Node CORE kit we are looking at right now is an astonishing $139.99 as set by the Corsair MSRP!
On the front of the box, the Corsair name and logo are at the top, next to a notation of the included Lighting Node Pro. The center of the panel shows one of the 120mm RGB LED fans illuminated. At the same time, the bottom delivers the QL120 RGB name, with notations to included bits and software compatibility at the bottom-right.
The back of the packaging is where Corsair offers a view of both sides of the fan, flanked to the right by a specifications chart. Below, in nine languages, Corsair writes about the four-zone, 34 RGB LED fans, and their spellbinding colors. Also mentioned are the combination of iCUE and the Lighting Node CORE for control, semi-transparent low-noise fan blade engineering, and use of anti-vibration measures.
The stark contrast of white against the black frame is attractive on its own, without any lighting active yet! Each fan is supported with a robust black frame, which is also where the light rings around the fan are attached. There are nine milky white fan blades on each fan, which matches the backlit hub, where the metal applique is found sporting the Corsair logo.
Around the edges of the frame, we see the X-patterning put into the black frame, as well as the loss of some frame to allow the light rings to be seen better from other angles than head-on. Each corner of the frame has a thick rubber pad on it, where the screws will mount the fan to a chassis or cooler, which will undoubtedly keep vibrations at bay.
We did find that each fan is numbered as well, all having the same beginning, but ending in -1, -2, and -3. We also noticed for the less experienced fan installers; there are a pair of arrows that show fan rotation and airflow direction as well.
Typically, on just about any fan, on the frame side, behind the hub, we find a model number and voltage requirements. However, Corsair dressed these up quite a bit, with a matching metal badge to what we saw on the front of the hubs. As a bonus, there is light-bleed in the ring that surrounds it as well.
Each fan in this trio has two leads that need to be connected. The connector on the left is proprietary, and as the sticker suggests, it gets connected to the Lighting Node CORE for RGB LED control. The other lead ends in a 4-pin PWM connector and is what drives the fan. All of the cables were very near twenty-four inches in length, plenty of length for proper wire management.
The Lighting Node CORE is powered by a SATA connection, and talks to iCUE through the USB 2.0 header, and is stuck to whatever surface with the 3M foam tape sent with it. Even though we only got three fans in the kit, the hub is capable of working with six fans. We also found the fan mounting screws in the hardware box, along with a QC insert, marking what worked as intended.
Literature is not in short supply with the QL120 RGB kit. We see the manual which explains everything from the parts you should have, through the installation and wiring, and also has information on the two-year warranty. To the right is the WEEE guide, which covers waste disposal potential issues. There is an FCC insert stating that these will not cause or react to interference, and for kicks, we found another QC sheet stacked with the rest of the literature.
Once powered on, there is a decent amount of airflow. We realize that is not very descriptive, but the flow coming out the back is more than we expected to feel with a fan rated at 42 CFM. However, it is the light show that will fascinate! What you see in this image is the default setting, and it looks incredible! With iCUE installed, you can not only address these lights with the typical modes and static colors, but we also noticed a custom mode, which allows you to make the fans do whatever you are looking for, not just in color, but how they are presented, as well as duration between changes!
We do realize that for a good fan, you will have to pay a premium in most instances, and this is one of those times. To add air into a chassis, three of these in the front of any chassis will not only make a huge aesthetic improvement, but 120-ish CFM of airflow is plenty for most setups. Static pressure is not very high, but it is enough to help these fans push most of that airflow through a dust filter that we always put in front of these fans to test this sort of thing that many users will run into. That being said, there is also a bit more noise associated with the QL120 RGB fans when at full speed, topping out at 37 dB. Many will opt for PWM control anyway, so this may not be a concern to many, but all the same, it needs to be mentioned.
The lighting is truly amazing, not just in what you can do in iCUE with them, but in their brilliance of illumination coming from the fan. Thirty-four LEDs are a lot to pack into a fan, but it has paid off in spades! The QL RGB LED lighting is vastly superior to the ML and LL Series' we have already reviewed, this is the best and brightest display of RGB illumination we have seen in any individual or kit packaged fan! On top of that, it offers the most feature-rich options set for control that we have seen to date, and while airflow and pressure numbers are not great on paper, in real life, these fans prove to be up to snuff! From the moment we got them in hand, throughout the images and connectivity, we found no issues or complications with this setup and no reasons to detract for your purchase of them.
We will admit, there is a fair bit of sticker shock when you see that $139.99 price tag, but we feel it is justified. Compared to similar systems that Corsair and other released, running in the range of $80 to $100 for whatever RGB LED fans you wanted to buy in kit form, why not pay a bit more to get something vastly better than all of the competition has shown us so far! To be honest, we are not sure where Corsair can go from here, as the QL120 RGB LED PWM Triple Fan with Lighting Node CORE has raised the bar so high that other companies will either copy these directly or spend the next year trying to play catch up with Corsair.
If you are in the market to drop some RGB LED goodness into a chassis, you want the best options for control available, and you tend to gravitate towards the best the market has to offer, look no further than Corsair to deliver the goods!
Chad's Fan Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus VIII HERO (Intel Z170) - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- CPU: Intel Core i7 6700K - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Patriot Viper 4 3000MHz 4X4GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage: Corsair Neutron XTi 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: INWIN D-Frame - Read our review
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower DPS 1050W - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: RealTemp 3.70, AIDA64 Engineer 5.75.3900, and CPU-z 1.77.0 x64
The Bottom Line
While a tad expensive, Corsair made it well worth the investment. A good amount of airflow, enough pressure to keep most of it behind a filter, and a RGB LED display that is the best in the business. If it were our money, we would look no further than this kit!