We all need to cool our computers and since you can't just chuck 'em into an ice bath, we use fans to move hot air away from vital components. But fans have issues of their own. They're loud and they wear out over time.
But there's actually a type of fan out there, that's super quiet and will probably last longer than the rest of your PC. They're called magnetic levitation, or MAGLEV, fans. And yes, they operate on the same principle as those ultra-fast trains in Japan and stuff.
You see, every fan needs a bearing near its center to hold the fan shaft in place, and allow it to spin in the proper direction. And the way that magnetic bearings work is really cool. Maglev bearings do not require any physical contact between the fan shaft and the bearing itself. Instead magnets both keep the fan balanced and calibrated in mid-air, so it doesn't go off access, and also make the fans spin with differences in magnetic polarity. Very similar to how a maglev train is suspended off the tracks by magnetic repulsion, and polarity differences on the rail, both push and pull the train forward.
But unlike a train, the big advantage of maglev fans isn't about going at crazy speeds. Instead, the fact that the shaft doesn't make any physical contact with the bearing, means there's almost no friction. Most bearing types commonly found in computers involve contact between the shaft and the bearing itself, which creates both unwanted noise, as well as wear and tear. Common sleeve bearing and ball bearing fans, try to cut down on these issues by using oil lubricant, but ultimately, friction and lubricant loss will get the better of these fans and they'll need to be replaced at some point.
But since maglev fans don't really have these issues, they can last a really long time. Corsair, one of the big manufacturers of maglev fans, claims a 200,000 hour mean time before failure. Yes, that's nearly 23 years of continuous operation, continuous, and I'm guessing you probably won't be using your next computer for quite that long.
Of course, the lack of friction doesn't mean it'll last forever. Dust and dirt can still damage the fan, and the underlying electronics that make the fan blades turn, can also wear out over time. But at the end of the day, most users won't have to worry about searching for a replacement fan within the lifespan of the computer. So, that's just one less thing.
The other big advantage of a maglev fan is the reduced noise output. Because the moving parts of the fan aren't actually touching anything, the only noise you'll hear is the sound of the air moving through the fan blades, meaning maglev fans can be nearly silent at lower RPMs and quieter than competing fan types, once you crank them up during a gaming session or editing session.
There's another big advantage to the maglev fans that you'll see immediately, but are there any disadvantages? It turns out there actually are not, really, any trade-offs versus other fan types in terms of performance and features, but as you might imagine, they are among the most expensive computer fans available. If you're looking for the cheapest fans, check out our video on the other bearing types, but be careful as one common type is not suitable for being mounted horizontally. Do you have this fan in your PC? I don't know.
Couple of other caveats that don't involve price. Since maglev fans are less common than the other fan types, it may be more difficult to find them in exactly the aesthetic that you want for your build. And also remember that maglev fans typically don't give you a big increase in cooling performance, above the other fan types. So while their long life and low noise are nice, don't expect them to magically make your temperatures plummet.