Finding the right one is tricky — a cool breeze is a given — but you want something that’s quiet and controlled enough to not disturb your office neighbours, and compact enough to belong on a desk in the first place. There are also, like, a million different kinds of desk fan. So we narrowed them down to a few core categories: The tower, the traditional spinner, an open style that looks like a windmill, and a borderline insane tube type from Japan. Let’s start blowing.
Each fan was placed roughly two feet from my face, and turned on. After coming in from a hot summer walk and climbing the 67 stairs up to the Gizmodo office, I sat there and let it blow me. The feeling of relief was a subjective call, but exact wind speeds were measured using a wind gauge. An anemometer, if you want to get technical. The SkyMate WeatherHawk tracked our breezes to the nearest 0.1 MPH.
4. Desktop Fan
This fan, sold by the MoMA Store — usually a purveyor of awesome stuff — is just called “desktop fan.” The same effort that went into naming it apparently went into designing it, because it’s completely horrible in every way. It requires self-assembly, including a very frustrating process of fitting flimsy foam fins into small plastic snaps, unscrewing and re-screwing tiny screws, and then pressing the whole thing together. After all that, it produces a marginal amount of breeze (4.82 KPH) while also generating a surprising amount of whine. It’s powered via USB, so that’s nice if you’ve got a USB port to spare — otherwise you’re stuck using AAA batteries, which may or may not still exist.
Fortunately, this thing looks pretty. Like a pinwheel. That is it.
Material: EVA Blades, ABS Plastic
Dimensions: 11h x 4w x 3.5″d.
Price as Tested: $US15
3. Westpointe Electrical Co.
This little number looks terrific — a classic grille-and-blade design, a hushed operation, a reliable 6.4 KPH of breeze, and a handsome black construction. Unfortunately, that construction is shoddy, and the Westpointe soon began to suffer from constant electrical problems — as in, starting up and stopping inexplicably. If you hit it, it usually starts working, but God, that’s no way to live. Gizmodo Editor-in-Chief Joe Brown also reported being shocked while unplugging this fan, so, do not buy it.
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 4.2 inches
Price as Tested: $US13
2. Yuento Mini Elefan
If this bizarre device from Japan didn’t cost a steep $US75, it would be our Bestmodo. Alas, it is quite expensive — but quite awesome. Way more awesome than a desktop fan should be. Rather than a direct spinning-blades-pointed-at-you mechanism, the Elefan’s wind is generated by suction. The air is then funneled at you via a long, flexible hose. It looks like an elephant’s trunk. An Elefan’s trunk. Y’know?
Although this looks a bit goofy, it means you can point the breeze any direction you want — head, face, neck, arms, whatever. This is nice if you tend to sweat more in one particular spot, or if you need to dry your fingernails after painting them (that’s actually one of the uses shown in the instructions). The Elefan packs three modes (low, high, and “rhythm,” which alternates). It works as a room freshener, fragrance pod included! And, pointed vertically, it can perpetually spin a floating sphere about the size of a ping-pong ball. This little toy, a frequently admired and mesmerizing feature, will warm your heart after cooling it.
The Elefan is supreme goofy, yes. It will look strange on your desk, yes. But it’s weird in a delightful way, and adds levity to an otherwise bleak environment. And with speeds of 6.4 and 12.9 KPH (low and high), it does a damn good job of cooling you off. If only it weren’t $US75.
Material: ABS plastic
Dimensions: 7″ W x 8″ H x 4″ D
Price as Tested: $US75
BESTMODO!!! Seville Classics 12-Inch Tower Fan
It doesn’t have the surrealist splendour of the Elefan, but Seville’s monolith is about everything you can ask for in a desktop breeze maker. It’s cheap — $25. It’s modest — matte black plastic with subtle grilles. You’ve probably used a tower fan much like this one at some other point in your warm life, so you’ll be right at home. This one is just shrunk down to a desk-friendly 12 inches tall.
The junior Seville Classic has three speed settings. The highest cranks out 12 KPH — probably too loud for an office — but the lowest still delivers 6 KPH of breeze at a whisper. It oscillates, too! And, unlike the Westpointe, Sevilles tiny tower is built sturdily enough to swivel back and forth on your desk for quite some time. It may blow longer than your job.
Dimensions:4.9 x 5.4 x 12.2 inches
Price as Tested: $US25