The retro Black + Blum Propello designer fan features a grille-free design thanks to soft, rubber blades, and the rest of the 10-by-10-inch fan is made of cast aluminum. Black + Blum also says it uses "the highest quality" motor. Professional reviewer Jean Aw seems to be on-board with the designers' claims, saying the fan is "virtually silent." It is also listed in a more recent round-up of stylish fans on ApartmentTherapy.com.
Consumers, however, haven't jumped on the bandwagon. Just a few owners post reviews at Amazon.com, giving the fan 3 stars; while they like its style and high quality, they say it lacks real-world features. Its sole airflow setting makes it too powerful to have at a close distance on a desk, and too loud to use during the night. One reviewer also says the powerful engine can create a lot of heat, while another says the tilt function is difficult to control.
While still considered very stylish, the Dyson AM01 Table Fan (*Est. $230) offers more power settings and more easy-to-use tilt controls. The Vornado Zippi (*Est. $17) is far less expensive and may be just as effective for a desktop if a sleek design isn't as high a priority.
Amazon.com is the only site we found with consumer reviews of the Propello. Still, the fan gets just a handful of reviews, with an overall 3-star score. While all reviewers say the fan is very stylish, they don't all agree on its effectiveness. With only one speed setting, one user says it's too powerful to have on a desk and must be kept across the room, and another says it's too loud on its only setting.. All owners say the construction is very high quality and the fan seems very sturdy, though one reviewer says the motor can produce more heat than the fan cools.
Review: Black+Blum Propello 12-3/4 by 12-3/4 by 6-1/2-Inch Desk Fan, Grey, Contributors to Amazon.com
Jean Aw rounds up 10 stylish (mostly designer) fans that she says are both effective and easy of the eyes. While she says the Propello is quiet and praises the soft rubber blades, it's not clear how the fan was tested. This fan is listed first of the 10, but it isn't obvious whether this is a ranking or coincidence.
Review: 10 Less Than Ordinary Fans to Keep Cool, Jean Aw, June 27, 2007
3. Apartment Therapy.com
ApartmentTherapy.com lists several "well designed" fans, providing a photo of each one -- but there's no discussion of performance and no indication that the fans were tested. While the review is relatively recent, several products are discontinued.
Review: Best Table Fans 2011, Mat Sanders, July 27, 2011