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They're effective at moving air, but everybody knows those silver floor ones are noisy cunts, so don't expect a quiet, modern motor or fan design.
Desk fan design these days seems to be more concerned about the depth of the blades. I guess this is a balancing act - no doubt it's unpopular with consumers, who'd rather everything be tiny and wafer thin, but it's intuitive that a deeper fan is more efficient and thus quieter. I'm a very picky sleeper, but during the hottest last summer I could literally only just hear my desk fan (a Meaco 650, cost me about £60) pointed at me at night in bed.
I put up with one of the attached for years, and a variety of the vertical column ones, and I really fucking wish I had spent a little bit more a little bit sooner.