After more than 60 hours of research—including three separate interviews with fan engineers and product testing experts as well as several days measuring air circulation, airflow velocity, and decibel levels with HVAC equipment—we think the Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40″ Tower Fan is the best fan for most people.
Of all the fans we tested, the Seville struck the best balance of performance and price. It did not outshine the other fans in any one category, but it was the only one to be solid in every category. It’s one of the quietest fans we’ve tested, and its performance on short-range air velocity and whole-room circulation is competitive with many pricier tower fans and air circulators. It includes the strongest remote control in our test group, and it has the second-longest sleep timer (up to 7.5 hours) and the third-widest oscillation range (75 degrees). Consistently priced around $60, it’s also a great value—a major reason this has been our pick in previous versions of this guide. Since naming this a pick, some readers have complained about the UltraSlimline’s long-term reliability, but Seville told us the fan has a low overall return rate, and the company’s one-year return policy is reassuring.
The Vornado 630 moved more air than our pick and was one of the most powerful in our test, with a vortex-like design that circulates a huge volume of air at high velocities. It’s a bit louder than some of the tower fans we tested, but it comes at a price that can compete with our top pick. Like its cousin the 660, a former runner-up pick in this guide, the 630 does not oscillate—but due to the way it moves air throughout a room, it doesn’t really need to. We would’ve appreciated the convenience of a remote or a sleep timer, but this fan’s bare-bones functionality offers its own sort of charm.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, capable fan to use at your desk on on a small table, the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan is a fine choice. It’s a little louder than our pick on the highest of its two settings, but it’s easy to clean, has a compact footprint, and can oscillate or lock into place. Its power and features fall short compared to our other picks, as you’d expect at such a low price.
The Dyson Air Multiplier AM06 may seem like a gimmicky product, but in addition to being the quietest fan we tested, it is one of the most powerful. In our whole-room tests, the AM06 was able to circulate more air than both our runner-up and top picks, even though its overall velocity score proved middling. The AM06 can oscillate in a 90-degree arc, it has a versatile sleep timer, and its 10 speed settings (more than any other fan) help you dial in exactly the right level of air. It looks and feels polished, with a handsome bladeless design and a small remote that magnetically clips to its side. Of course, the asking price is really hard to justify.
We spent dozens of hours researching, testing, and living with fans to initially publish this guide several years ago, and we’ve continued testing our picks for several summers. More recently, we interviewed a slew of experts with intimate knowledge of fans—Rob Green, senior design engineer at Dyson; Bill Kahale, a product manager at Seville; Jim Kline, an engineer and quality supervisor at Intertek; and Brian Cyr, an acoustical engineer also at Intertek.
Author Tyler Lynch has attended nearly a dozen consumer products trade shows and has tested and evaluated everything from high-end ranges to upholstery cleaners in five years as a professional journalist. Seamus Bellamy, this guide’s original author, covered this category for years and conducted several rounds of head-to-head and long-term fan testing.
The first thing we did was break down fans into two basic groups: room fans designed to cool a larger space (bedroom, living room), and desk fans designed for use in smaller, personal spaces (cubicle, bedside table). Then we took to the internet to see which fans from each category were most popular on sites like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and Costco. To trim down the massive number of fans, we decided that only products with more than 100 reviews would be considered, and of those, we’d only include items with an average rating higher than four stars.
Doing this dramatically reduced our pool of potential test hardware, but we still had 12 devices to test for this guide’s initial version—seven fans for a large room and five for small personal spaces. Since then, we’ve watched for new products by regularly checking in with manufacturers—reading press releases, emailing contacts, and meeting at trade shows. The most promising contenders have gone up against our picks in some head-to-head testing; many more have been dismissed as competitors.
For the 2017 update to this guide, we performed another round of testing on our existing picks and some promising new entries to the market. These fans are all designed for cooling an entire room:
Our test space in 2017 was a small apartment in Boston, where we were able to build a rudimentary wind tunnel out of cardboard and duct tape. The wind tunnel, essentially an oversized duct, measured six feet in length and had a 14-by-14-inch opening on each end. With a fan blowing from one end and a handheld digital anemometer fastened to a microphone stand at the other, we were able to collect some basic airflow and velocity readings. Based on a description, the engineers at Intertek said our simple test rig was good enough to get a general idea of each fan’s airflow performance.
For each fan, we took a series of five velocity readings in feet per minute (fpm): lower left, lower right, upper left, upper right, and center. These figures were then multiplied by the square footage of the duct opening, averaged, and weighted according to the air velocity measurements recommended by engineers at Intertek (loosely described here). This gave us some airflow readings in cubic feet per minute (CFM), which is the standard unit of measurement used by HVAC contractors to determine the volume of air moving through a duct system.
The third key metric was tested was noise—how loud each fan was at both its highest and lowest settings. We used a basic iOS noise meter app and measured the output of each fan in dB(C). (That’s the C-weighting of the decibel scale, which most closely follows the frequency sensitivity of the human ear at high noise levels.)
Though less critical, we looked at remote control performance for the fans that came with remotes. This was basically just a matter of how clear a line of sight the remote needed to activate the fan, and had us separating the two by 15, 20 and 25 feet. We did not weight this test as highly as noise, airflow, or air circulation, but it did help settle a few ties.
Finally, we checked the ergonomics and safety of each fan. Was it easy to pick up and carry? Did its temperature get dangerously hot after running all day? Did the safety grate surrounding the fan prevent you from fitting your index finger in far enough to touch the blades? (That was mostly a consideration for anyone with children around—curious little fingers and spinning blades don’t mix.)
Of all the fans we tested the Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40″ Tower Fan struck the best balance of performance and price. It did not dominate the other fans in any specific category—in fact, it proved middling in our airflow and circulation tests. But the Seville was the only fan we tested that did not suffer a significant flaw with regards to airflow, circulation, noise, price, build, stability, quality, design, or convenience. It scored well across the board, emerging as one of the quietest fans we tested, one of the most stable, and one with a wide oscillation range and a more powerful remote control. Basically, the UltraSlimline is a straight B student. It’s a very good value, and its approximately $60 price tag is a major reason it has been our pick for several years now.
Our decibel meter registered an average 57.2 dB(C) on the UltraSlimline’s highest setting. The only fan that was significantly quieter was the Dyson Air Multiplier (a very expensive alternative); the weaker tilt version of the UltraSlimline was slightly quieter at an average 55.2 dB(C), a negligible difference.
The fan’s remote control was the most powerful one we tested. In our first round of testing, it worked in both sitting and standing positions up to 13 feet away and in an arc of roughly 40°. In our most recent tests, it bested both the Dyson and the tilt version of the UltraSlimline in our line-of-sight test. The remote is not backlit, but it has clearly marked buttons and an LCD display that makes it easy to see and use in all but the darkest rooms. If you’re not using it, you can store the remote on the (poorly designed) hook at the top of the fan’s cowling. If you don’t need the remote (or if you lose it), you can get up and change the fan’s settings with fairly easy-to-use onboard controls instead.
A few more B grades: The UltraSlimline has a sleep timer of up to 7.5 hours—a figure that was tied by the tilt version of the UltraSlimline, and bested only by the Dyson’s (excessive) 9-hour timer. It also has the third-widest oscillation range (75 degrees), but as the non-oscillating Vornado fans show, that metric is not as important as a real-world test of how much air it can propel throughout a room.
For a tower fan, it’s very stable, with a balanced, well-built body that was harder to topple over than all but one of the tower fans we tested (the tilt version of the UltraSlimline). One of our biggest complaint about tower fans (like the Lasko, Ozeri, and Dyson fans) is that because they’re so tall and thin, they tend to be wobbly. By comparison, the Seville fan felt stable on carpeted or tiled floors. Most of the other tower fans we tested could all be pushed over with little more than a fingertip’s worth of pressure. Doing the same thing with the Seville took maybe 50 percent more force. It simply has a more solid build quality than most of its competitors. Nothing on the fan feels loose or flimsy, and there’s very little give when you knock into it.
For its solidity and heft, it’s not bulky. Other contenders in this category have more compact footprints (the Dyson AM07 and Ozeri Ultra 42 inch Wind Fan are 9.1 by 9.1 by 39.6 inches and 9.5 by 7.2 by 38 inches, respectively), but the Seville’s svelte 11-by-11.25-by-39-inch dimensions can still fit into most spaces without getting in your way.
The Seville has four settings, which was the norm for fans in this category. (The only exceptions were the two Dyson fans, which had 10.) During the day, the Seville’s maximum power setting easily kept us feeling cool in a 78 °F test environment; at night, running the fan on its second-lowest setting made the bedroom comfortable enough to doze off. One nice bonus feature is a built-in shutdown timer that works in 30-minute intervals up to a maximum 7.5 hours (some other fans we looked at came with timers as well).
Safety isn’t a problem with this fan. We couldn’t bend the grate holes, and we couldn’t get a finger anywhere near the blades, so we doubt any small children in your house could, either. Plus, the stable design described earlier could stay standing if a toddler tries to push it down (or it could at least buy you some time to tell the kid, again, to stop pushing the fan).
Not a lot of trusted editorial sources review fans, and the Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40″ Tower Fan is no exception. But it’s consistently averaged around four stars on Amazon over some 460 reviews. It was also reviewed favorably on Seville’s homepage and Overstock.com. There were a few troubling complaints among Amazon reviewers that we’ll cover in the next section.
We have two real complaints and one long-term reliability issue.
First, dusting the surface of the machine or the nooks and crannies of its front grate or back plate is easy, but it’s staggeringly difficult to take apart and give it a thorough cleaning. (To be fair, just about every other tower fan is just as difficult to clean.) You can get in there with a Q-tip and clean out the holes, but it’s still a lot of work. A determined individual posted a step-by-step video on how to do it on YouTube.
Next, on the back of the fan, behind the on board control panel, a plastic hook is designed to hang the remote control. Everything else about the Seville seems so well-considered, but the hook feels like a clunky afterthought. It works well enough so long as the fan’s stationary, but put the remote in your pocket if you plan on picking up the Seville to move it.
Since around 2016, when the UltraSlimline had recently become our pick, we’ve noticed a steady trickle of Amazon reviews complaining about the motor failing after only a few months of use. As of May 2017, 64 out of a total 464 reviews gave the UltraSlimline one star. (262 gave it five stars.) Our editor in chief also experienced the exact same problem: One month into use, the motor stopped working.
We reached out to Seville for comment, and they told us they were aware of these complaints, and that they “intend to address any issues” they find. They said the return rate for the UltraSlimline remains low, and were quick to highlight Seville’s one-year return policy on all Seville products. So keep that receipt! We’re testing Seville’s return policy on our defective unit and will update this guide with any notes on the outcome.
If you’re really turned off by these reliability concerns, we recommend going with the newer tilt-version of the UltraSlimline. It’s fairly similar, with a few differences and shortcomings that we’ve highlighted in the competition section. It also has a five-year, rather than one-year, return policy.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to return the UltraSlimline, here’s a quick rundown of the return policy according to the PR we spoke to: For online purchases, you will have to ship the entire fan back to the manufacturer, but Seville will cover the freight charge of the replacement fan. They also typically ask for some proof of purchase. For in-store purchases, use the store’s return policy (Home Depot’s is typically a 90-day policy), or contact Seville directly.
If you want more powerful performance, but still have an eye on price, go with the Vornado 630. It outperformed our top pick in both our airflow and air circulation tests, has better reviews, is backed by a better warranty, and only costs around $5 more. The 630 is not our pick because it does not have a remote or a sleep mode, and it does not oscillate. There are also only three speed settings (a point of simplicity that may actually appeal to some more no-frills buyers).
Vornado fans, or “air circulators,” are not designed like traditional fans—they’re built to rotate, disperse, and recollect air through an inlet, which in turn accelerates a high volume of air through the fan blades, creating a sort of vortex. That may sound like a bunch of nonsense, but you can’t argue with the results: A Vornado moves a lot of air, and does it at high speeds without any oscillation. Apart from the high-velocity Lasko tower fan—which is obscenely loud, unstable, and ugly—the Vornado 660 and 630 were the top performers in our most recent round of airflow and circulation tests. We prefer the more affordable 630 over the 660, a former runner-up in this guide, because the 630 is cheaper than the 660 by about $30 and at a price that’s much closer to our Seville pick.
In our airflow test, the 630 registered an average CFM of 781.30—only the Vornado 660 and the (loud, unstable) Lasko High Velocity Fan (#4930) were able to beat that. In our whole room air circulation test, the 630 was able to move five out of seven ribbons—better than both versions of the UltraSlimline, and quite an impressive feat considering the 630’s diminutive, non-oscillating design.
The Vornado’s lack of a remote was the key difference that ultimately convinced us the UltraSlimline was better for most people. However, if you’re not at all concerned about the lack of a remote or the noisier operation, we fully recommend the 630 as an alternate to the UltraSlimline. We also found it was much easier to clean; like its cousin the 660, you only need to pry off a few latches with a screwdriver, pull off the grill, then wipe the blades down with a towel or some soapy water. (Cleaning tower fans, on the other hand, is a much more complicated process that involves disassembling the base and removing a number of different screws and panels.)
The Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan is the best option for a small space like a desk or a bedside table. This wasn’t the most powerful desk fan we tested, but it proved to be the most pleasant one to use, thanks to the steady breeze it produced from both 5 and 10 feet away. In addition to this, you get a pivoting head, two power settings, and the ability to oscillate in a wide 40° arc. These features aren’t unique to the Holmes, but the combination gives you more than you get with any other fan at this size and price. Often sold for less than $20, it’s a steal.
In the 5-foot cubic feet per minute (CFM) test, the Lil’ Blizzard produced a CFM reading of 274 on its highest setting. We didn’t get a chance to test the Lil’ Blizzard (or any other desktop fans) in our 2017 tests; these figures are from an earlier version of this guide. That said, 274 CFM is still a respectable amount of circulation for a device only designed to cool a space as large as a desk. The Lil’ Blizzard was a better performer at a distance of 10 feet, with a breeze that felt comfortable and natural, while competitors felt rough and distracting.
Beyond the power, the big distinguishing detail is that the Lil’ Blizzard can oscillate in a 40° arc or can pivot and be locked into place to blow in only one direction. None of the other small fans that we looked at could do this, with the exception of the pricy Dyson AM06. The Lil’ Blizzard has two power settings, which are controlled by a chunky, easy-to-turn knob. On its lower setting, we found the Lil’ Blizzard perfect for keeping cool while working at a desk.
Most of the complaints about the Lil’ Blizzard concern the build quality of the fan. People complain that it’s made of flimsy plastic, and we’re not going to lie—it totally is. Despite that, it still managed to pass our fingertip safety test, and none of the other fans in this category did that (with the exception of the Dyson AM06, which doesn’t have any blades).
One other flaw: The Lil’ Blizzard was the loudest fan in its category. From 5 feet away, we were able to register a reading of 70 decibels. At night, the quality of the noise is distracting, with enough peaks and valleys in frequency that it can be a nuisance to sleep with.
The Dyson Air Multiplier AM06, while expensive, was far and away the best desk fan we found. Although we initially tested it as a smaller personal fan, it’s absolutely powerful enough to be considered alongside the whole-room fans. It was the quietest fan we tested, and its blade-less design makes it super easy to clean and an elegant piece of decor for any room. But, with all the Air Multiplier has going for it, the price is hardly justifiable.
In our 2017 testing we recorded an average CFM of 569.11, which is actually lower than the Seville UltraSlimline—and the lowest CFM of all the whole-room fans in our 2017 test. But here’s the thing: The Dyson is a perfect example of why wind tunnel airflow tests are not enough to gauge a fan’s overall power, because in our whole-room air circulation test, the Air Multiplier was among the best fans we tested. It moved six out of seven ribbons in our 285-square-foot test room, and it was the only fan we tested (apart from the loud, ugly, unstable Lasko) that was able to move the ribbon placed directly behind the fan. This device may not deliver the highest velocity of airflow, but when it comes to actually circulating air throughout a room—making the room feel cool, rather than just the space in front of the fan—it’s exemplary.
The Dyson Air Multiplier is the quietest fan we tested, registering a mere 49.7 dB(C) on its highest setting. Compare that to the next-quietest fan, the tilt-version of the Seville UltraSlimline, which registered 55.2 dB(C). On its lowest setting, the Air Multiplier was barely audible at 41.4, and was, in fact, competing with the ambient noise of our test environment. A lot of the fans we tested produced a distracting, alternating pitch, but this one sounded different (possibly because it doesn’t have blades disrupting as much air). This is actually a point Dyson engineer Rob Green stressed in an interview: “It’s important that the frequency and tones that are produced are pleasant to the user,” he said, adding that the range of fan speeds and settings allows you nicely balance the airflow with white noise.
Like the rest of Dyson’s fans and heaters, the AM06 has an IR remote control that allows users to turn the fan on or off, control its various power levels, set it to oscillate, or activate a sleep timer. We found the remote to be just about as responsive as the one that comes with our pick, the Seville Classic. The remote is compact, simple, and attractive, and it magnetically clips to the top of the fan’s circular exterior (which is good, because it’s small enough to easily lose).
The Dyson’s sleep timer, like its speed settings, is among the most versatile we found. It can be set to turn the fan off in a range anywhere from 15 minutes to 9 hours. And the oscillating feature is nice as well—it turns over a roughly 90° angle and can be stopped at any point along the way to focus its stream in a single direction.
Keeping the Dyson AM06 clean is also pretty simple. As there’s no grill or external fan blades to clean, it can all be wiped down with a damp cloth or dusted. Like the larger Dyson AM07, the fan isn’t designed to be opened up and cleaned on the inside.
Unlike its competitors, the Dyson AM06 has received attention from editorial reviewers. CNET’s Ry Crist awarded the AM06 3.5 stars out of five, citing the fact that it is “so quiet that the Noise Abatement Society awarded it with the Quiet Mark, an award for noise-conscious product design.” Samuel Gibbs of The Guardian newspaper noted the AM06’s quiet operation as well, saying, “On low levels, around the one to three out of 10 mark, the fan is particularly quiet and sounds like a quiet laptop fan.” PC Magazine’s Will Greenwald called the fan excellent, saying “the Dyson Cool AM06 is a remarkable desk fan that stands at the top of the heap in both quality and price.”
For all of the great things about the Dyson AM06, it is ridiculously expensive. As much as we like the performance, aesthetics, and even the sound of the AM06, this is a lot of money to spend when you consider that a device at a fraction of the cost will serve a very similar function and perhaps even cool a larger room faster.
The Vornado 660. Of all the fans we tested, it provides the most tremolo when you speak into it. Give it your best, “Luke, I am your father.”
The Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator was the runner-up pick in a previous version of the guide, but after our most recent round of testing, we were convinced that the comparable performance of the much-more-affordable Vornado 630 was good enough to replace the 660 as our new runner-up. The 660 is also slightly louder and has a larger footprint than the 630. Those two are the same in that they can’t oscillate and don’t come with a sleep timer or a remote. That said, the 660 was one of the most powerful fans we tested. It has some easy-to-use controls, a robust build quality, and a reassuring 5-year warranty.
The Vornado 733 was the second-most-powerful fan we tested in our first round of tests. That was the extent of what we liked about it. Unlike its cousin, the Vornado 660, the 733 can’t pivot. The build quality also seemed inferior to that of the 660, and it costs more than our main pick. The plastic also flexes—we were easily able to bend the grate aside to reach an index finger in up to the second knuckle.
The Seville UltraSlimline Oscillating Tower Fan with Tilt Feature is relatively new to the market and is billed as a step-up from our top pick. It performed nearly as well as the standard UltraSlimline, with a slightly inferior airflow (velocity) and an identical air circulation score (four out of seven ribbons). It’s also ever-so-slightly quieter, and it tilts, allowing you to angle the airflow upwards in a room. Despite all that, we didn’t think it was worth an extra $15, and it doesn’t seem as easy to find as the older model. One main thing in its favor is that this model has a five-year return policy, rather than one-year policy on our pick. So if you’re especially concerned about reliability, this could be seen as a safer bet. That said, we have no way of knowing yet if this model is any better (or worse) than our pick on long-term performance.
The Lasko #2554 42-Inch Wind Curve Fan with Remote costs just as much as our main pick but did a worse job of circulating air. It’s also ugly, with a faux-wood paneling, and a piece of the cheap-feeling plastic body had broken off in transit. The remote had trouble doing its job, failing to register a command with a clear line of sight.
The Lasko 4443 40″ Hybrid Fan looks better than its cousin, the #4930, but it just doesn’t perform very well. It fared well in our airflow (velocity) test, but it was considerably louder than our top pick, and it proved the worst performer in our whole-room air circulation (ribbon) test. It’s also a bit wobbly and comes with cheap-feeling remote (which, frustratingly, did not include batteries).
The Dyson AM07 Tower Fan is less powerful than the Seville, and it was considerably wobbly on both carpet and hard flooring. Moreover, the smaller AM06 is powerful enough to function as a whole-room fan but costs about $150 less.
The Ozeri Ultra 42 Inch Wind Fan has consistently positive reviews on Amazon, but we found it was incredibly top-heavy. We gave it a gentle push and it wobbled back and forth like an inflatable punching bag clown. It’s also less powerful and more expensive than our main pick.
We also looked at a number of pedestal fans from the likes of Rowenta and Lasko but could never justify the price tag or the footprint they required, so we dismissed them outright in favor of the tower design. We also looked at some of the Honeywell Comfort Control tower fans, and while we may come around to testing them in the future, we dismissed them this time due to lack of remote. We’ve also spotted some issues in user reviews complaining about the fans being too wobbly—something we’ve also experienced ourselves with a few Honeywells different staff members have owned.
The Honeywell TurboForce HT-900 Fan is one of the most popular fans on Amazon, and it proved more powerful than the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard. But it takes up more space than the Holmes, it cannot oscillate, it has an annoyingly small control knob, and it failed our safety test with a grill that was easily bent with a finger’s worth of pressure.
The Honeywell Whole Room Air Circulator HT-908 produced a CFM reading of 367—6 more cubic feet per minute that the company’s TurboForce HT-900 Fan. However, we don’t think the extra cost is worth such a small increase in power, especially with the HT-908’s other shortcomings. At 72 decibels, it was the second-loudest fan we tested. The plastic on the fan’s front grill bent far too easily, which let us (or kids) easily get a finger inside, posing a safety risk.
The Vornado Zippi Personal Fan is well-built, and at 51 decibels on high, it was one of the quietest fans we tested. But it doesn’t oscillate and its fabric blades are not very effective—we were unable to register a CFM reading at the 5-foot mark, and had to get within two feet to feel any measurable wind.
The Lasko Personal Fan 2002W is inexpensive and well-reviewed on Amazon, but it delivered a comically low CFM reading of 64 from 5 feet away, and a thumbscrew on its body came loose throughout our test. The Lil’ Blizzard, for around the same price, is a better buy.
Vornado launched a new line of energy-efficient fans called the Energy Smart DC circulators, which have brushless DC motors that Vornado claims use 80 percent less energy than a standard motor. The cheapest one we’ve found costs $100, but with a 10-year satisfaction guarantee, they may last long enough to make the investment worthwhile.
Vornado has introduced a tower fan—an odd looking thing that costs roughly double that of our main pick and suffers from lackluster user reviews and limited availability on Amazon. Vornado also released a new vintage fan with three color options (gray, white, and teal), ranging in price from $40 to $55. It’s not currently available. We’ll consider both for testing if their availability becomes more reliable.
Lasko has two new fans for 2017. One is a 4-Speed Tower Fan with limited availability on Amazon and only one user review on Target (which happens to be 5 stars). The other is a tower fan with a fresh air ionizer option; it costs about the same price as our top pick (on Amazon as of this writing, it’s actually more expensive).
No more losers.