Get sweet relief from the summer heat with the best desk fans from £25
The summer might come late or when you least expect it but, when it does, those soaring temperatures aren’t always a blessing. It’s no picnic trying to get work done when the heat is stifling, while humid, muggy rooms can make it hard to rest or relax. A fan is the obvious answer. If you’re looking to keep a particular room nice and breezy, a tower fan might be the best choice. However, if you’re looking for something to cool you down while you’re sitting at your desk, working in the kitchen, are slumped on the sofa or trying to grab some shuteye, a desk fan is the fan for you.
Forget the rickety, noisy and lacklustre desktop fans you might remember. Today’s best models are powerful enough to cool a decent area and perfect for keeping one or two people chilled, while still being easy to pick up and shift from room to room. Drop one on your desk or bedside table and it’ll keep a breeze moving your way without freezing everyone in the vicinity. In some ways, they’re the ultimate in personal cooling.
How to choose the best desk fan for you
It comes down to a trade-off between budget, size and features: the bigger desktop fans take up more space, but tend to deliver more cooling airflow with lower noise levels than the smaller fans, partly because the fan doesn’t need to spin as fast. Motor technology and designs have evolved over the past few years to bring us some fans that work more efficiently at smaller sizes, but there’s still a reason why the best desktop fans tend to be the slightly larger models.
Almost all desk fans will give you a choice of speeds, so you can run them low and slow when you need the edge taken off the heat in the evening, but fast with a blast when it’s just too hot in the daytime. Up to a point, the more speeds you have, the better chance you have of finding that all-important balance between cooling and noise. Many desk fans will also offer a choice between straight directional and oscillating modes. With the former, you point the fan in your direction and let it do its work. With the latter, you can set it to slowly rotate back and forth from side to side, so it can cool a wider area.
Are there any practicalities to look out for?
Size and weight are important if you want to lug that fan around, but some might prefer a more stylish model on their desk or bedside table. Being able to tilt the fan up and down gives you the option of placing it on the floor when there’s no suitable platform. Otherwise, the other thing to look out for is the power cable. Generally speaking, you’re likely to have a power socket near your desk or table, but having a longer power cable gives you a bit more flexibility. Interestingly, some of the models on test use a USB connection for power, opening up a range of other ways to run your fan.
Are there any other features worth having?
Controls vary from basic to fairly complex, and a few desktop fans now come supplied with a remote, which can be handy if you want one that will moonlight as a floor fan when you’re relaxing in the lounge. Otherwise, you may find some fans offering different fan modes, such as an eco mode, a natural mode or a night setting. These run the fan at a lower speed to minimise power, vary the fan speed for a more natural effect or make the noise less disturbing while you sleep. These modes aren’t always that useful or convincing, though, so don’t focus on them too much.
How we test desk fans
We put desktop fans through a battery of tests. We measure the speed of the airflow through the fan at a distance of 1m with an anemometer, being sure to test at both maximum and minimum speed settings, plus a medium setting in between. We also measure the sound levels at these settings, along with power consumption at the highest and lowest. From there, we use the fan in a variety of rooms to gauge how effectively they work in different situations and layouts, using different modes and oscillation settings where available. We also try out any “special” modes and get to grips with both the built-in controls and the remote control, if supplied.
READ NEXT: The best portable air conditioners
The best desk fans you can buy in 2023
1. Meaco MeacoFan 260c: Best rechargeable desk fan
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at AmazonYou might not think a battery-powered fan would be particularly effective but the MeacoFan 260c is here to change your mind. It can generate a powerful gust of cooling breeze at maximum settings and, at low settings, it’s barely audible. There’s even a night light built into the base – just hold down the power button for a second or two to turn it on or off.
Best of all, though, this fan is rechargeable and can run for up to 16 hours at a time before needing to be recharged – while it’s charging, you can just run it on USB power. For such an appealingly low price, it’s a great deal.
Key specs – Dimensions: 166 x 140 x 269cm; Weight: 490g; Oscillation angle: No; Sound level: Up to 30dB; Cord length: 1.2m micro-USB cable supplied; Warranty: 2yrs; Power: 4W
2. Honeywell HT900E: Best no-nonsense desk fan
Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at AmazonBilled as a Turbo Fan, the Honeywell HT900E isn’t playing around. This desk fan can push out huge amounts of air at its highest speed, and with a stand and 90° tilting fan head it can work on a desk or table, the floor or even while wall-mounted. You can hear the mechanism clicking as it tilts and the fan is held firmly at your chosen angle.
There are downsides: while Honeywell claims that it’s 25% quieter than the previous model, the HT900E still makes a racket at its highest setting and even the medium speed isn’t exactly restful. Luckily, the slowest setting isn’t uncomfortably noisy and still puts out a respectable breeze. There aren’t any extra features whatsoever, so if you want a fan that oscillates or offers variable speeds, look elsewhere. Is this a problem? Not necessarily. It’s incredibly simple to operate and we rather like the rock-solid build and no-nonsense approach. Put it all together and you’ll struggle to find more cooling power for this kind of money with any other fan.
Key specs – Dimensions: 277 x 277 x 159mm; Weight: 1.35kg; Oscillation angle: No; Sound level: Up to 39dB; Cord length: 1.6m; Warranty: 3yrs; Power: 40W
3. NSA UK Compact Cool: Best small desk fan
Price when reviewed: £44 | Check price at NSA UKThis little desk fan lives up to its name, being very compact while keeping you nice and cool. It doesn’t have much in the way of features or settings, with just three speeds and a 90-degree oscillation option, but it puts out a lot of airflow at its maximum speed, and enough to keep one person cool, even at its lowest setting.
At that speed, it’s pretty quiet, too, with the fan noise only just above ambient sound levels. The timer can be awkward to use, and it uses more power than some rivals, but if you’re after an unobtrusive but effective little desk fan, this one takes some beating.
Key specs – Dimensions: 295 x 240 x 210mm; Weight: 1.5kg; Oscillation angle: 90˚; Cord length: 1.6m; Warranty: 2yr; Power: 35W
4. Meaco MeacoFan 360: Best value all-rounder
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at John Lewis Okay, Personal Air Circulator is just a fancy way of saying “fan”, but the MeacoFan 360 is arguably the best value desk fan out there. It’s compact at just over 20cm across, easily fitting on your desk or bedside table, and it’s near-whisper quiet at its lowest setting, so great for snoozing, playing games or getting work done. Turn it up – there are 12 speed levels – and the airflow keeps increasing until you’re at the point where no sheet of paper will be left lying on your desk, and you’ll be positively chilled to the bone by the breeze. That’s impressive for such a diminutive model. In between, you’ll find quiet settings that still put out a ton of air, so it’s easy to find a balance that works best for you.
You can adjust that speed using touch-sensitive controls and an LED display, and also switch on oscillation to keep the fan sweeping back and forth through roughly 70°. There’s even a timer to turn it off after up to six hours. The big surprise, though, is that it’s USB-powered, allowing you to run it from the supplied charger, your laptop or a handy power bank, and we had no problems powering it from all three. It’s a little more expensive than your average desk fan, but well worth the extra if you want a feature-packed, low-noise fan that can cool you down fast.
Key specs – Dimensions: 209 x 298 x 214cm; Weight: 1.36kg; Oscillation angle: 71°; Sound levels: 15-50dB; Cord length: 1.2m; Warranty: 2yrs; Power: 10W
5. Xpelair XPA360CF: Best desk fan for versatility
Price when reviewed: £65 | Check price at AmazonIt might be louder than the MeacoFan 360 or the NSA UK Compact Cool, but the Xpelair XPA360CF has a fantastic design and some useful features. It’s a good-looking fan, in a two-tone matte white and gloss-black plastic, and it comes with a handy remote control. At nearly 30cm across, it’s a little big for the average desktop, but the clever stand helps minimise the bulk. The fan itself tilts upwards as far as 90°, with a mechanism that feels incredibly robust, and this model’s party piece is that it can also oscillate not just through 90° or 180° like other models, but through a full 360° if you desire. Stick it on a coffee table and it will keep the whole lounge cool, provided your lounge isn’t massive.
For some, the volume levels might be a deal-breaker. At its lowest speed, it’s surprisingly quiet, but at the highest of its three settings, it gets pretty noisy – we measured 50dBA at full whack. You can live with it at low or medium settings – where the noise levels drop to around a far more reasonable 34dBA – and even then there’s still enough airflow to cool not just a desk but a good-sized room. What’s more, it has a timer, with one-, two-, four-, and eight-hour settings, plus natural and nighttime modes for a gentle, changing breeze or for minimal noise. This is a solidly built fan, crammed with features, that can work as either a desk or floor fan, with all the control you could ask for.
Key specs – Dimensions: 275 x 340 x 204mm; Weight: 1.9kg; Oscillation angle: 30°-360°; Sound levels: Up to 55dB; Cord length: 1.8m; Warranty: 3yrs; Power: 20 to 34W
6. Meaco MeacoFan 650: Best fan for quiet cooling
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at AmazonLooking for the highest cooling power at the lowest noise levels? Look no further than the MeacoFan 650. It’s a little on the large side for most desks but that size means huge amounts of airflow at lower speeds, with an ultra-efficient DC motor that keeps noise levels as low as 20dB. This thing really is incredibly quiet, despite putting out a good breeze even at its lowest setting. And as you turn it up the sound still doesn’t get unbearable; we had to hit level eight of its 12 speed settings before we reached potentially aggravating noise levels, and top speed before it got close to the noise put out by the Honeywell or Dimplex fans. At that point we had loose papers and plastic bags blowing around the room.
The extra cash gets you some extra features too, including a circular remote that clips magnetically to the centre of the fan, an auto shut-off timer that goes up to six hours in half-hour increments and an eco-setting, which controls the fan speed according to the ambient temperature. The only mild disappointment is the oscillation range, which is limited to just 70°. Like the MeacoFan 360, it’s also powered by USB, giving you all the same options for power. Put it all together and you have a cracking premium desk fan that’s as good for the bedroom as the lounge or office.
Key specs – Dimensions: 260 x 254 x 343mm; Weight: 1.6kg; Oscillation angle: 70°; Sound levels: 20-50dB; Cord length: 1.2m; Warranty: 2yrs; Power: 12W
7. Duux Globe: Best desk fan for quiet work and snoozing
Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Hughes The Duux Globe is perfect for the office or the bedside table, with a classy spherical design, a choice of three speed settings and 90 degrees of oscillation on both the horizontal and vertical axis. The phrase whisper-quiet doesn’t even cover it: on its lowest speed setting it registered no sound output above the ambient levels, and my (quiet) laptop made more noise. Yet it still pushed out a cooling breeze of roughly 1.2m/sec at a distance of one metre.
If you need more power, you’ve still got it at your disposal. At the top speed we measured airflow at 2.7m/sec, with a noise level of just 42dB. You’ve got a choice of touch-sensitive controls on the fan itself and a slightly cheap-feeling remote, while the efficient DC motor keeps power consumption to between 2W and 8.1W. While not as powerful as the Dimplex 360 or MeacoFan 360, this is the fan to go for if you prize your peace and quiet above all else.
Key specs – Dimensions: 380 x 280 x 280mm; Weight: 2.5kg; Oscillation angle: 80˚ vertical/90 ˚ horizontal; Cord length: 2m; Warranty: 2 years; Power: 14W
8. Stadler Form Q: Best designer fan
Price when reviewed: £169 | Check price at AmazonSome want their desk fans as unobtrusive as humanly possible. Others are looking for a design statement. Well, design statements don’t get much clearer or more stylish than the Stadler Form Q. Shaped like the letter after which it takes its name and finished in stainless steel and aluminium, it’s one beautiful piece of cooling kit. Stadler has also kept it deliberately simple, with just three speed settings and no oscillation or variable speed features. It cools what it’s pointing at and that’s it.
Within those parameters, it’s still a great desk fan. It’s noisy at its highest settings, putting out nearly 60dB at full tilt, but at lower levels it’s fine for daytime use. The Meaco and Dimplex fans will dish out more airflow, but the Q will easily cool an area of a room and you can happily leave it on low if you’re sitting nearby. What’s more, the removable grille makes it easy to clean the fan and keep it in top-notch condition. If all you care about is function, you can save some cash by buying something else – but if form and style matter more in your home, the Q is the designer fan to get.
Key specs – Dimensions: 430 x 150 x 360mm; Weight: 4kg; Oscillation angle: No; Sound levels: 41-58dB; Cord length: 1.8m; Warranty: 2yrs; Power: 40W