CORSAIR iCUE QL RGB Fans: More Addressable RGBs Than Ever
More RGBs Than You Can Shake Two Sticks At
While there are some who don’t appreciate the rainbow power of RGB everything, it’s undoubtedly the trend, and CORSAIR has been making use of RGB lighting effects for years now. Cases and coolers alike have received the treatment, of course, and the effect can be subtle – such as the customizable lighting on the top of the Hydro Series H110i Pro pump – or they can steal the show with a product like the iCUE 465X case or (the big one) the Hydro X Series.
RGB fans have certainly come a long way since the first models, which could only produce one (!) color at a time. But that’s ancient history, now, thank goodness, and models such as CORSAIR’s LL120 RGB provide 16 individual lighting zones per fan. But we have to ask ourselves, is 16 lighting zones per fan really enough? As impressive as those LL120 RGB fans already are, CORSAIR understands that sometimes there just isn’t enough RGB. And they freaking did something about it.
The iCUE QL120 and QL140 RGB: 34 Lighting Zones Per Fan
With Windows 3.0 Microsoft proclaimed that the 640KB memory barrier had been broken. And today, CORSAIR has broken their own 16-zone addressable RGB lighting barrier. Which milestone is more important from a historical context? Only time can answer that question. For now, rather than simply being amazed that 34 individually-addressable RGB LEDs (“across four distinct light loops”) have been crammed into a single computer fan, we should actually open the boxes and see what’s inside. And then, you know, power them on and stuff.
CORSAIR iCUE QL120
- Fan Model: QL Series
- Fan Size: 120mm x 25mm
- Bearing Type: Hydraulic
- Flow Type: Static Pressure
- LED Color: RGB
- Operating Voltage: 6V – 13.2V
- PWM Control: YES
- CORSAIR iCUE Compatibility: YES
Speed: 1500 ±10% RPM
Sound Level: 26 dBA
Power Draw: 0.30 A
Static Pressure: 1.55 mm-H2O
Adaptive Sync: RGB
Fan Airflow: 41.8 CFM
Package Quantity: 3
Fan Warranty: Two years
CORSAIR iCUE QL140
- Fan Size: 140mm x 25mm
Bearing Type: Hydraulic
Flow Type: Static Pressure
LED Color: RGB
Operating Voltage: 6V – 13.2V
PWM Control: YES
CORSAIR iCUE Compatibility: YES
Fan Model: QL Series
Speed: 1250 ±10% RPM
Sound Level: 26 dBA
Power Draw: 0.30 A
Static Pressure: 1.4 mm-H2O
Adaptive Sync: RGB
Fan Airflow: 50.2 CFM
Package Quantity: 2
- Fan Warranty: Two years
“Give your PC spectacular lighting from any angle with CORSAIR iCUE QL120 RGB PWM fans, equipped with 102 individually addressable RGB LEDs – 34 in each fan – across four distinct light loops.”
“Give your PC spectacular lighting from any angle with CORSAIR iCUE QL140 RGB PWM fans, equipped with 68 individually addressable RGB LEDs – 34 in each fan – across four distinct light loops.”
The CORSAIR QL RGB Fans
We received both the QL140 RGB and QL120 RGB kits, with the former including a pair of 140mm fans and the needed lighting controller, and the latter with three 120mm fans and the controller.
I installed these QL RGB fans inside a brand new case that CORSAIR had sent us for review, the iCUE 220T mid tower, and while this case includes triple SP120 RGB PRO fans up front, these have a mere 8 zones per fan. It’s nice, but it’s not 34.
Before removing these stock fans I did snap a photo of the lighting in action, and it’s certainly not your average RGB fan. But when you consider that these three fans have a combined 24 lighting zones between them, and just one of the QL RGB fans has 34, well, you’ll know why I instantly tore these fans out of the case.
Again, nothing to really complain about with the iCUE SP120 RGB fans, but I swapped in the iCUE QL120 RGB fans anyway. And then, just because it supports them, I added the two 140mm fans up top, connecting all five fans to one of the included iCUE lighting controllers. The result of this is very bright, and very RGB.
The extra lighting rings on the inside of the fans really helps light up the build inside the case, and pretty much eliminates the need for additional lighting strips (in my opinion, anyhow). And pictures really don’t do these justice.
The QL RGB fans look even better in person, no matter how much I experimented with different shutter speeds and Lightroom settings… Though this photo (taken with a 1/640 exposure) turned out pretty well, and the high speed of the shot makes the fan look like it’s not moving:
Getting up and running with these fans is simple, as the included lighting controller connects to an available USB header on your motherboard. After installing the latest version of the iCUE software I went through the process of selecting these QL RGB fans, and telling the software how many I was connecting. Certain effects rely on the order in which the fans are installed for scrolling and other similar effects, and here the numbered ports on the hub help if you’re going all-out like this.
iCUE is a very polished piece of software, and I have no complaints about its features or design. I also appreciate that it’s available as a standalone download from CORSAIR which is constantly being updated (unlike another player in the accessory space who shall remain nameless that require you to use the Microsoft Store to download their required software for lighting effects).
So what does all of this mean? And, since these are fans, after all, what sort of airflow and noise characteristics do they have? Ok, let’s be honest: if you’re spending $139.99 on a 3-pack of fans with a lighting controller, you’re probably not just worried about noise and airflow. Still, these are every bit as quiet as their predecessors, and CORSAIR fans have long been a solid low-noise option for case fans.
Bottom line: CORSAIR has a unique offering here, and this isn’t your typical set of case fans. There are options out there that offer lower noise (though with PWM fans like these that’s pretty much up to you and your fan profiles), and there are fans with higher airflow. But are there fans with four lighting rings and 34 individual lighting zones per fan? Thermaltake’s Riing Trio fans come close with three rings and 30 zones, but CORSAIR seems to have the lead right now in the (apparently) highly competitive world of ARGB fan lighting zones and rings.
And yes, this was a very high level, lighthearted look at some unique fans that are absolutely all about that RGB. Once you’ve seen just how much more lighting this put out in all directions you might be tempted. CORSAIR has posted a video showing off these fans in all of their RGB glory here as well, if you would like to see them in action with better lenses than I have at my disposal.
I’m giving these our “gold award” with excellent overall quality and easy configuration of the lighting effects using CORSAIR’s iCUE software, with the only drawback to this launch really being the price. Eventually fans like these will come down, but for now it will cost as much as an inexpensive GPU to outfit your system with these, and that means their mainstream appeal will be limited – even if they are the coolest (fan puns) looking fans I’ve ever seen.