A setup with 2 intake fans plus 1 exhaust fan is like the sweet spot between sufficient cooling and dust proofing. Thanks to the positive air pressure it creates, you cannot find a better alternative with three slots. Best of all, it maintains a somewhat perfect balance between keeping the components clean and cool.
The most common confusion is whether or not such a fan setup can keep the thermals in check. Generally, it is sufficient for the most part as long as you don’t demand high-end gaming because then liquid cooling would be a better bet.
Using 2 Intake Fans and 1 Exhaust Fan
The cooling solution depends on the workload your PC will be handling. For example, gaming PCs require more than just air cooling. Instead, they need a fully liquid or hybrid technology. But if you only want a neat yet moderately cooled PC, it is perfectly okay to have 2 intake fans and 1 exhaust.
Is One Exhaust Fan Enough?
In most cases, one exhaust fan is sufficient, especially if you pair it with two or more intake fans. Besides, having fewer exhaust fans than intake fans helps build positive air pressure inside the case. As a result, the number of dead spots goes down while the dust buildup is at its lowest.
Nevertheless, you can get away with a 1 intake + 1 exhaust build if your tasks are limited to casual browsing and office stuff. On warmer days, the CPU temperature may hit around 55° Celsius while the GPU can go up to 65-66°. So, one exhaust fan will do, regardless of the number of intake fans you have.
Are 2 Fans Intake and 1 Exhaust Enough?
The optimum setup for most PC builds consists of 2 intake fans and 1 exhaust. Such an arrangement keeps things cool and, at the same time, lets as little dust in as possible. So, it will be more than enough unless you want to clean the PC case more often.
Filtration is better when the inward airflow is more than the airflow out. And for those unaware, a case where the amount of incoming air is higher becomes an overpressure case. Despite its odd naming, an overpressured case helps keep the dust buildup in check.
Unfortunately, overpressure setups tend to lack behind on the cooling side of things. Don’t get me wrong. 2 intake fans with 1 exhaust will work for most PC builds. But an under-pressured or balanced setup will provide better thermal results. And that is also evident from the test results below.
Thus, you have to decide whether you prefer a squeaky clean case over an air-cooled one.
Is It Better to Have 2 Intake Fans or 2 Exhaust Fans?
Before you decide between 2 intake fans and 2 exhaust fans, let’s get one thing out of the way first. That is, having some fans is better than having none. Your PC case needs both, generally intake fans in the front area and exhausts at the rear. And if there are vents on the upper wall, they are better used as exhausts. Likewise, side vents usually work better with intake fans.
Although both are essential, intake fans are of a bit more importance than their exhaust counterparts. For example, having several exhaust fans will have close to zero impact if the intake fans fail to suck in ambient air. Yet, if you have only two slots, I would recommend one intake and one exhaust setup rather than two of the same type.
The fact that 2 intake and 1 exhaust fans serve most user needs does not necessarily mean you cannot add more fans. For example, a setup with 3 intake fans and 2 exhaust fans also provides good results. However, adding anything beyond that point has very few advantages and may also prove counterproductive.