While the Raspberry Pi is designed to function as is out-of-the-box, you shouldn’t expect it to reach its full potential without the helping hand of a quality cooling solution, not least a fan. This is even more pertinent if you plan to experiment with more elaborate and demanding applications that push the Raspberry Pi to its limit and beyond via overclocking, and by extension, cause the popular mini-computer to produce substantial amounts of heat.
Why? The Pi has an in-built temperature sensor that causes thermal throttling once it passes a threshold of 82-degrees, at which point, the system reduces the CPU’s clock speeds. The Pi does this to ward off overheating and, by extension, extend the system’s lifespan, something that, while detrimental to performance, should be music to the ears of Pi owners that prize longevity.
But there is an easy fix: pair the Raspberry Pi with a fan to help dissipate heat. To that end, we’ve gathered together a selection of the best Raspberry Pi fans to help those fearful of dreaded thermal throttling keep their Pi’s temperature in check and make the right choice.
On a superficial level, any old, correctly-sized fan should do the job, right? In reality, there are quite a few factors to consider when shopping for a Raspberry Pi fan: size, noise-levels, speed modes, the size and quality of adjacent heatsinks, cooling performance, installation, and, for the aesthetically-conscious, added niceties like colorful LEDs. And, of course, there’s the ever-important matter of cost to consider.
The best Raspberry Pi fans will prioritize good airflow and heat dissipation, and deliver operational temperatures well below those obtained without a fan, even under heavy loads, all at a reasonable price point. If they happen to look good in the process, all the better, although this isn’t a priority.
After scouring the market, we settled on four Raspberry Fi recommendations suitable for a large variety of applications. We’ve included several price points and designs (single fan, dual fan, PC tower-style, etc.), but the overarching theme is that each of these Raspberry Pi fans delivers excellent cooling performance.
Best Raspberry Pi Fan in 2021
Tower cooler design
Include fan and chunky heatsink
Perfect for overclocking
Expensive compared to other Raspberry Pi fans
Only compatible with Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
With a form factor and design more akin to that of a CPU cooler found on a full-sized PC than something you’d find attached to the diminutive Pi, the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler is equipped to handle everything you can throw at your Raspberry Pi, including overclocking.
The tower cooler design is the highlight and combines a high-quality seven-blade 30 mm fan with a multi-layer aluminum heat sink with a 5 mm copper tube. The fan features RGB lighting with seven different color LEDs that cycle automatically. Sadly, these can’t be customized. The heat sink is designed to sit atop the Pi’s CPU separated by a layer of thermal tape (included with the tower cooler), attached to the Pi via four protruding arms that align with the mounting holes on the board.
Setup is more involved than other fans due to having to screw the arms to the heat sink, apply the thermal tape, connect power cables to the relevant GPIO pins, install standoffs, and the provided acrylic panel that sits below the Pi. The acrylic panel creates a gap between the Pi and the surface it’s sitting on to promote airflow and dissipate heat. Overall, adept tinkers should breeze through the setup, while novices are looking at no more than 15 minutes to combine the Pi and the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler.
Put to the real-world test, the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler’s cooling performance is excellent, dropping temperatures from a toasty 80-degrees to a cool 40-degrees when overclocking the Raspberry Pi. Under more normal circumstances, the temperature management is equally impressive even when set to the quiet cooling mode that runs the fan at a lower RPM. At full speed, noise levels are within a respectable range.
Turning to where the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler falls short, it has limited compatibility. It can only be paired with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and Raspberry Pi 4 Model B due to the alignment of the mounting arms.
Additionally, at just shy of $20, the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler is considerably more expensive than most other Raspberry Pi fans. The setup is more elaborate and the cooling performance stellar, so the extra cost is well warranted, but it may be too much for those looking for a low-cost way to cool their Raspberry Pi. Fret not, as the other three recommendations in our guide are great options, some priced as low as a quarter of the price of the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler.
Broad Raspberry Pi version compatibility
30 mm, 7-blade fan
Quiet and full speed cooling modes
Noisy after breaking in period
With the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan, we drop down the pricing ladder to a highly affordable $6. For the price, you don’t get the same heat sink/fan setup as the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler above. Still, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan is a strong option for more mainstream projects that require a no-frills, general-use fan that does the job free of any added niceties.
The iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan is a 30 mm fan with a seven-blade arrangement designed to combine with all manner of Raspberry Pi projects. It features four standardized screw mounting holes on each corner to slot into various cases, including the popular retro gaming-geared RetroFlag NESPI Case. Installation beyond the screws is effortless and only requires slotting in the connectors to the appropriate GPIO pins in two configurations: a full-speed cooling mode and a quiet cooling mode.
Talking of noise levels, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan caps out at a manageable 18 dB in quiet cooling mode, but full speed mode produces a high-pitched whine after the initial breaking in period. The noise doesn’t affect performance, but money is better spent elsewhere for those who prioritize quiet operation.
Another strong point is the broad Raspberry Pi version compatibility of the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan. It pairs perfectly with the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, and Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+.
Cooling performance is good for $6, and the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan can pump in cool air or extract hot air, based on your favored intake/exhaust orientation, well for general-use applications. It doesn’t quite have what it takes to keep temperatures within reasonable limits for more demanding projects, notably because the package doesn’t include any heat sinks. Buying third-party heat sinks is an option, and doing so can substantially improve the cooling performance of the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan.
Cool blue LED
30 mm fan
Good Raspberry Pi version compatibility
Very low operational noise levels
Affordable price point
Only one fan mode
The ever-growing popularity of PC components fitted with RGB lighting has unsurprisingly bled into the Raspberry Pi world, not least in fans. MakerFocus Raspberry Pi LED Fan is a top choice as it houses LEDs but is no slouch on the cooling front either. Much like the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan, this is very much a general-use Raspberry Pi fan that should work for a large cross-section of project types.
The MakerFocus Raspberry Pi LED Fan emits a tasteful blue glow when powered up to add spice to Raspberry Pi projects where aesthetics are essential. As such, the fan pairs particularly well with see-through cases or those with large vents or cutouts, through which the light can escape.
As for the fan itself, it’s a 30 mm part with a seven-blade setup and a standardized four screw hole mounting system. Cooling performance is about where you’d expect: a workhorse fan that excels at keeping the Pi nice and cool under typical loads.
Setup is effortless, although the two GPIO connectors come in a fixed housing, meaning you can only use the fan in a single full-speed mode. Fortunately, the MakerFocus Raspberry Pi LED Fan produces very low operational noise levels even when the RPMs are pushed to the maximum of 5000 RPMs. You’d need to lean in close to hear what little noise the fan does produce, perfect for those that need a discreet Raspberry Pi setup.
Priced at $8, the MakerFocus Raspberry Pi LED Fan won’t break the bank either and even comes in a pack of two, so you’ll have a backup unit in the unlikely case the first one fails unexpectedly. The low price does mean the fan doesn’t ship with any heat sinks, so factor in an additional purchase for those if you want optimal cooling. It does, however, deliver decent Raspberry Pi compatibility: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, and Raspberry Pi 2 Model B+.
Dual fan setup
Decent Raspberry Pi version compatibility
Includes heat sinks and thermal tape
Adhesion isn’t ideal
What’s better than a single fan? Two fans, of course. The iUniker Raspberry Pi Dual Fan deviates from the norm to offer a two-in-one dual fan design that sits flush with the highest temperature-prone parts of the Raspberry Pi, effectively providing ample cool air for even the most demanding applications.
Two low-profile 15 mm fans sit side by side affixed to a large aluminum heat sink to offer top-notch heat dissipation. The fan even ships with both RAM and LAN module heat sinks and thick adhesive thermal pads to adapt to the newer Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and last generation’s Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and Model B+. Noise levels are excellent even under the heaviest loads, and on the cooling front, you’ll struggle to come into range of the thermal throttling cap with the iUniker Raspberry Pi Dual Fan.
By omitting screws in favor of adhesive thermal pads that ensure firm contact between the Pi and heat sink, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Dual Fan dramatically simplifies the installation process. Still, the durability of the adhesive tape isn’t particularly suited to mobile Pi setups subject to a lot of movement. We found that the tape can quite easily detach, effectively canceling out the cooling capabilities of the heat sink. As such, this is very much an option for fixed Pi projects unless you are willing to source some better quality tape yourself.
It’s also worth noting that the demands of two fans require more power, so factor this into your decision as well. Finally, priced at under $10, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Dual Fan is an absolute steal.
Things To Consider
Raspberry Pi Version Compatibility
With four generations of Raspberry Pi’s released, each with up to three or four models to choose from, there’s now over a dozen different versions sitting in workshops, labs, and store shelves across the world, which makes buying a fan suitably sized and designed to pair with your specific Raspberry Pi a crucial step in the buying process.
Most fans are compatible with the latest Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and last generation’s Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and Model B+, with some even extending compatibility to the second generation Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. But, don’t take this as standard and check manufacturer listings before committing to a purchase to avoid disappointment. Fans are cheap in the grand scheme of computer and hardware pricing, but having to navigate a retailer’s return policy to source a replacement is the type of hassle no one needs.
For the smaller form factor Pi’s, such as the compact Raspberry Pi Zero, Zero W, and Zero WH, things are more limited, and cooling solutions are generally limited to heat sinks rather than fans due to the lower specification hardware mounted on the boards.
Match Your Project
As above, the Raspberry Pi is technically able to run without a fan or heat sinks but to err on the side of caution; we suggest incorporating a cooling solution even for modest projects that won’t push the Pi’s limits.
That said, it’s possible to go overkill and buy a fan that is simply too much, so buy according to the ambitions and demands of your project. Tower-style fan/heat sink setups that resemble those found in full-fat PCs are best suited to demanding tasks and overclocking that produce substantial heat. These fans will maintain lower enough temperatures to stay well clear of that thermal throttling threshold.
Pair A Fan With Heatsinks
Alone, fans can reduce temperatures by a few degrees. Still, when paired with a set of heat sinks that cover the most heat-producing parts of the Raspberry Pi board, such as the CPU, RAM, and the USB/LAN modules, you are effectively super-charging the cooling setup. You can expect temperature drops in the double-digits. As such, we highly recommend always sourcing some heat sinks to go along with a fan or opting for fan setups that include heat sinks/thermal pads, whether those are adjoined to or shipped alongside the fan.
If you plan on housing your Pi in a case, whether that’s to protect it from dust and the elements or for aesthetic reasons, look out for cases that promote good airflow and overall good cooling performance. Many ship with fans and heat sinks. While the quality of these can be hit and miss and correlate mainly with how much you pay, there are some great solutions out there.
A no-compromise Raspberry Pi fan, the MakerFocus ICE Tower Cooler borrows the familiar PC CPU cooler design to deliver an efficient and stylish cooling solution for both the most demanding projects and overclocking. Expect to pay more for the pleasure, though.
For general-use projects, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Fan is a potent mix of affordability, no-frills performance, and broad compatibility. The noise levels could be improved, but at this price, we can’t complain.
If you want to add some visual flair to your project, the MakerFocus Raspberry Pi LED Fan is a stylish, performance-oriented Raspberry Pi that runs virtually silent.
Finally, the iUniker Raspberry Pi Dual Fan supercharges your cooling setup with two fans and a chunky heat sink. Adhesion issues aside, this one is made to keep temperatures low for even the most power-hungry projects.
With that, we’ll bring our guide to the best Raspberry Pi fans to an end. Feel free to get in touch with any questions or concerns via the comments section below.