Best CPU cooler 2017: top CPU coolers for your PC

The best CPU coolers are one of the first things that people overlook when they’re trying to save money on a new PC build. They’ll have all the best graphics cards lined up on Newegg, and their eye on the best motherboard for compatibility, but skimp out on a top CPU cooler to afford all those shiny components. But, we’re here to tell you ‘please don’t,’ as picking up one of the best CPU coolers is hands down the most important thing to think about when you’re building a new computer.

This is especially true if you’re looking to get one of the best processors, like AMD’s Ryzen or Intel’s Coffee Lake processors. If you don’t replace the cooler that comes packaged with your CPU, you could risk having your significant investment go up in flames as it overheats, or at the very least experience thermal throttling.

You’ll probably find the performance of your chip to be unsatisfactory – even if your CPU has six or eight cores – if you’re using the heatsink that comes packaged with your processor. Aftermarket CPU coolers, especially liquid ones, can diminish fan noise and running temperatures by a radical amount – leading to faster potential clock speeds when overclocking, and even higher boost clocks if your CPU supports it.

It’s time to focus, though, clear of any influence from the companies that manufacture them, we’ve compiled a list of the seven best CPU coolers on the market today, liquid-, air- or passively cooled. And, no matter how much room your PC case has, there will be a cooler here for you. 

The Noctua NH-D15 is at the top of our list because of one extremely compelling premise: it may not be a liquid cooling system, but it works just as well – if not better than – some all-in-one loops. Now, you might not have heard of Noctua, as they’re a relatively small name in the CPU cooler world, but one of the major advantages is that they focus entirely on designing coolers, so you can be sure that you’re not only getting stellar cooling performance, but you can also expect extremely diminished fan noise as well. Put that all on top of the included six-year warranty, and you have a winning product in every conceivable way. 

For $29 (£30, AU$43), the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is one of the most affordable CPU coolers you can buy. Given, too, that most online stores offer a rebate on this fan and heatsink combo pack, the Hyper 212 EVO is a prodigious value. Although it only features four heatpipes and aluminum fin structure, this legendary CPU cooler has proven itself to be as efficient as liquid-coolers two-to-three times more expensive than it. These air-coolers are designed to make heat dissipation, quite literally, a breeze, whether you’re playing Destiny 2 at max settings or watching YouTube videos in a web browser.

This CPU cooler is among one of the smallest we’ve ever used for our own Mini ATX builds. It come from an Austrian company as our best CPU cooler that specializes entirely in PC coolers and fans, which means no compromises are made in the way of quality assurance despite its low-profile form-factor.

Known best for its cases, such as those produced in collaboration with Asus and Razer, you may be surprised to learn that NZXT’s CPU coolers are every bit as impressive as the hardware which encloses them. The Kraken X62 is no exception, being one of the few 280mm all-in-one liquid coolers to feature RGB lighting. Given that the radiator comes pre-attached and the thermal paste pre-applied, the NZXT Kraken x62 is awfully easy to set up too. The packed-in CAM software, which lets you tweak settings on the fly, is merely icing on the cake.

For less than 70 big ones in both US dollars and British sterling, the Arctic Liquid Freezer 120 is a deal you can’t pass up if you’re on the prowl for a liquid cooler that won’t break the bank. While it lacks the bells and whistles of pricier, more extravagant liquid coolers, like the NZXT Kraken, the Arctic Liquid cooler is enough to get you by, not to mention it’s still a massive step up from the classic fan and heatsink pairing. So, while you can’t expect RGB lighting or software – or even hardware-based fan control, the 120mm variant of the Arctic Liquid Freezer will keep your system refrigerated at a (mostly) quiet volume. 

Even if you have a budget that allows for some of the more serious liquid cooling solutions, even some of the sweetest PC cases don’t permit the sheer mass of a bulkier, dual-fan or even a single 120mm radiator. That’s where the Hydro Series H5 SF proves building small doesn doesn’t mean you have to give up on liquid cooling. NZXT Kraken X62

Unless you’re already neck deep in the rabbit hole that is silent PC assembly, you’ve probably never heard of NoFan, a South Korean component company that specializes in helping enthusiasts reach that 0dBA silent sweet spot. In doing so, of course, you can count on severely limiting yourself in terms of power, with its CR-95C fanless solution being limited in compatibility to processors whose TDP fall below 95W. Still, the NoFan CR-95C is worth a shot for those sporting low-power rigs that prioritize tranquility over raw horsepower. 

  • We’ve also ranked and reviewed the best gaming keyboards of 2017

Olympus OM-D System: Creative Mobility

Polar bear, Olympus OM-D, photo by Rick Hunter
Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 300mm f4.0 IS PRO with MC-14 1.4x teleconverter. Exposure: 1/1600 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 1250.

“When I first transitioned from film to a DSLR, I remember thinking, ‘Why does my camera need to be twice as large and heavy?’” recalls photographer Rick Hunter. “Sure, I understood that the electronics required for digital capture added to the size and weight of a DSLR, but add to that the several large, heavy lenses required for the type of work I do—it didn’t take long for me to realize the advantage of a smaller system.”

Carrying 50 pounds of equipment takes its toll on your back, Hunter says. “When I switched to the Olympus OM-D system, I found I could carry what I needed without that burden. The small size and lighter weight is what initially drew me to Olympus.”

Moving from one camera system to another is something professional photographers approach cautiously. After all, their livelihoods depend on the performance of their gear. “At first,” Hunter admits, “I was concerned about having to learn a new camera’s controls and settings. But very quickly I got accustomed to the new equipment, and now using my Olympus has become second nature.”

Hunter had also assumed that the larger size of his DSLR translated to better images. Seeing the photographs his colleagues were making with Olympus OM-D cameras helped changed his mind. “I produce 30×40-inch prints—hanging on the wall, I can’t tell the difference between my images shot with Olympus compared to my previous camera.”

A key advantage of the Olympus system for Hunter is maneuverability. “With a 600mm lens on my DSLR, it’s a huge lens to begin with, and I was frequently on a tripod. With the OM-D, I’m using the M.Zuiko 300mm f4.0 IS PRO and getting a 600mm-equivalent focal length. It’s much easier moving in and out of planes or boats or hiking through a bog in Alaska.” And Olympus’ advanced 5-Axis Sync IS, which compensates for all types of camera motion to provide up to 6.5 stops of correction when shooting handheld, means Hunter now typically leaves the tripod behind. “With 5 plus stops of correction, I can shoot handheld with the 300mm f4.0 IS PRO, even at slower shutter speeds.”

For Hunter, the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO plus a 1.4x teleconverter is another favorite combination, together giving him an equivalent range of 112-420mm. This lens, along with the 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO and the 300mm f4.0 IS PRO provide an equivalent range of 24mm to 840mm (with teleconverter). “I carry less equipment than I had to carry with my DSLR system.”

One feature of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera that Hunter has found particularly advantageous is its Pro Capture Mode, which uses the silent electronic shutter to start buffering a running series of full-resolution images when you press the shutter release button halfway. Fully depress the shutter to immediately capture an image—plus the 14 previous frames—helping to ensure you never miss the decisive moment.

The combination of camera performance, image quality and ultra-sharp lenses in a lightweight system has made a huge difference in Hunter’s work, allowing him to create photographs from new perspectives that weren’t as accessible with a larger DSLR system. “Increased mobility has been a real reward.”

Hear more from other photographers who have made the switch to the Olympus OM-D system at

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Photo Of The Day By Kevin Russell

Today’s Photo Of The Day is “‘Bearly’ Autumn” by Kevin Russell. Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.
Photo By Kevin Russell

Today’s Photo Of The Day is “‘Bearly’ Autumn” by Kevin Russell. Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

“I saw this bear near Mt. Rainier feeding in the valley and preparing for winter with her cub,” says Russell.

Photo of the Day is chosen from various OP galleries, including Assignments, Galleries and the OP Contests. Assignments have weekly winners that are featured on the OP website homepage, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To get your photos in the running, all you have to do is submit them.

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