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 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 of 2017