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Desk fans offer a convenient way to take control of the climate around your workspace. When it’s hot and stuffy, focusing on work is near impossible. You don’t want to be a sweaty mess on those Zoom calls and you certainly don’t want a loud, disruptive, and distracting window A/C sputtering in the background—an absolute work-from-home nightmare. Desk fans are a great way to offset hot summer months without breaking the bank with cooling bills. And if you don’t have A/C at all, small desk fans should be mandatory in every household! While desktop fans don’t actually cool the air like air conditioning, they help circulate airflow around the room to create a wind chill effect, helping your body cool itself. The best desk fans are quiet, powerful, compact, and budget-friendly, so we rounded up some of the best options available to keep you comfortable.

How we picked the best desk fans

Choosing the right desk fan for your setup really depends on your own needs and personal tastes. For this list, we picked some models that work for just about anyone and others geared toward specific users. All of the entries on this list, however, promise reliable build quality, solid airflow, generally quiet operation, and compact sizing. We relied on a mixture of personal experience, peer suggestions, user impressions, editorial reviews, and spec comparisons to choose models from reputable brands. 

Related: Best fans

The best desk fans: Reviews & Recommendations

A small, compact desk fan does not need to be expensive to be effective. You can find solid and simple designs for under $20, but more stylish designs will have a higher price tag. More speed settings and stronger power will also up the price, but you should really never be paying more than $100 for even the best desk fans.

Best overall: Vornado Pivot Personal Air Circulator Fan

Billy Cadden


Why it made the cut: Style, power, and brand reputation align in this highly rated small fan! It’s got three speeds, clocks in at under 2 pounds, and has a sleek, modern design. 


  • Product Dimensions: 5.1″D x 5.7″W x 6″H
  • Item Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Number of Speeds: 3


  • Budget-friendly
  • Stylish
  • Great brand reputation
  • 3-speed, multi-directional airflow


  • Highest setting is noisy
  • Can be difficult to clean

Designed with a cool, aviation-inspired look, the Vornado Pivot looks expensive without breaking the bank. Standing at only 6 inches tall, it’s a great choice for a desk or nightstand that produces concentrated airflow without overpowering the space. It features three speeds, multi-directional airflow, and several colors to suit your vibe. Reviewers love that it’s durable, not too loud (especially the lowest setting), and can “blow 11ft across my bedroom, even on medium.” Note that it can be a bit hard to clean, and the highest setting is definitely the noisiest if you’re trying to take a video call or are a light sleeper.

Best retro: Vornado VFAN Vintage Whole Room Air Circulator Fan



Why it made the cut: With a green and gold painted finish, this retro-inspired desk fan offers a groovy vibe with your cooler air. It’s got three speeds, lots of positive reviews, and a full-action pivot head for multi-directional airflow.


  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 Inches (H) x 11.8 Inches (W) x 8.1 Inches (D)
  • Item Weight: 7.9 pounds
  • Number of Speeds: 3


  • 3 speeds
  • Pivot head for multi-directional airflow
  • Tough, sturdy, well-built
  • Lots of 5-star online reviews
  • Vintage feel


  • Cleaning the inside can be challenging
  • Pricier than other options
  • Vintage look (not actually vintage)

A vintage feel with the benefits of modern technology, this green-and-gold painted fan is strong yet compact enough to fit on your desk. With Vortex technology for whole-room circulation, three speeds to suit your preference, and a strong brand reputation, this desk fan is the perfect choice for anyone who has a more retro design style. It’s made from durable metal with no assembly required—just plug it in! Note that this is a retro feel, not an actual vintage fan. 

Best compact: Vornado 133 Compact Air Circulator Fan



Why it made the cut: With over 5,000 positive Amazon reviews, apartment dwellers and space savers will love this mini, 2-pound desk fan with two speeds and deep-pitched blades. 


  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Item Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Battery Required: No


  • Lightweight (2 lbs)
  • Mini, compact, space-saving
  • Sturdy
  • Moves air up to 25 feet
  • Budget-friendly 


  • Noisy
  • Only 2 speeds

The 133 Compact Air Circulator features Vornado’s features deep-pitched blades, two speeds, and an inlet guide code with an enclosed air duct that moves air about 25 feet around the room. That’s pretty good for a fan that’s only 2 pounds! It comes with an adjustable tilt head so you can direct air right on your face during hot months; however, it only moves up and down (not sideways). Reviewers like that this mini desk fan is sturdy, compact, and budget-friendly at under $40. It’s a “good little fan” that’s pretty decent for home office use or a child’s room. Note that some found it to be noisy when on the higher speed. This isn’t ideal for light sleepers or noise-sensitive folks. 

Best whisper-quiet: Kovhzcu Air Circulator Fan



Why it made the cut: With a max sound of 25 dB, this rechargeable oscillating desk fan offers great value for your money, at a fair price point.


  • Product Dimensions: 8″D x 8″W x 11″H
  • Material: Plastic
  • Noise Level: 25 dB


  • 4 Speeds
  • 45 dB – whisper quiet
  • Fairly priced
  • Compact yet durable
  • Rechargable 


  • Some don’t see enough difference between levels 2 & 3

With four wind speeds (normal wind, natural wind, sleep wind, baby wind) for a customizable experience, this whisper-quiet desk fan is only 45 dB when running. It features an intelligent oscillating fan with turbine technology for more concentrated blowing. While the high-performance DC motor makes for a powerful fan, the low noise output is perfect for light sleepers, video calls, and those who are easily irritated by noise. Reviewers absolutely rave about this little fan—many note that they love the LED function, how quiet it is, and that it’s small enough to be compact while large enough that it’s not flimsy. It’s also fairly priced at under $50!

Best budget: Gaiatop USB Desk Fan



Why it made the cut: For under $15, you can get a three-speed, quality, USB plug-in desk fan that’s got over 11,000 positive reviews to back it up.


  • Product Dimensions: 3.07″D x 4.57″W x 5.43″H
  • Item Weight: 8 oz.
  • Number of Speeds: 3


  • Super inexpensive
  • Over 11,000 positive Amazon reviews
  • 3 speeds
  • Powerful yet compact
  • Anti-slip base


  • Not the most stylish
  • Included 3-foot cords are short

For a simple and straightforward desk fan that won’t break the bank but will deliver powerful circulation, look no further than the Gaiatop compact desk fan. For under $15, you get a small but strong fan with three speeds, USB plug-in, and one button for simple controlling. The anti-slip rubber pad base helps to reduce noise and prevent scratching your table or desk surface. Note that the three-foot cord can be a bit short for plugging into some outlets, depending on how your desk is situated. One reviewer had trouble fitting other plugs into the tiny fan’s USB outlet, so make note of this when purchasing. 

What to look for when choosing the best desk fans


Your tabletop desk fan should be compact enough that it won’t be taking up your entire workspace! We’d recommend considering size first and foremost when shopping for your desk fan—around 6- to 8-inches high is a good starting point.


You don’t want some big, heavy, chunk to lug around from desk to desk or around your house. Look for a lightweight design that’s easy to move.


Noise for fans can be measured in decibels. You’ll want around 40-50 dB for quiet, discreet noise levels.


We prefer fans that have at least 3 speeds, so you can customize your experience and noise level depending on your preferences.


Q: Does a desk fan cool the air?

Desk fans don’t cool the air like an air conditioner but, rather, circulate air around the room. Fans create a wind chill effect and increase “the maximum amount of evaporation possible in a given environment,” which means sweat will evaporate off your skin quicker and help cool your body.

Q: Are bladeless fans better?

Bladeless fans are generally safer, especially if you have children (there’s less risk of cutting yourself on the blades). They tend to be stronger, as well, but also more expensive. If budget is the main concern, bladeless fans might not be the better option for you.

Q: Is it cheaper to have fans or air conditioning?

Fans are cheaper than air conditioning. However, they do two separate things. Fans circulate air around a room, while air conditioning actually cools the air. If running the fan feels sufficient, it will definitely be cheaper overall. But if it’s unbearably hot, you will only be able to actually cool the air by using the AC.

Final thoughts about the best desk fans

Stop sweating through work meetings, long nights writing, or brainstorming sessions at your desk. Keep cool in higher temps with these compact, affordable, and convenient desk fans that’ll make you feel comfortable and cool without spending a ton on AC bills!

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.