Your processor may be at the heart of your computer, but in order to let your gaming PC truly run at its maximum potential, you need need to keep it properly cooled.As your processor works, it can start to get incredibly hot. Once it reaches a high enough temperature, it will dial back its performance levels to cool down. A good CPU cooler ensures your processor stays cooler for longer, so it can run at its fastest speeds as much as possible. That means programs and games that can benefit from your processor ramping up to its clock speeds for maximum performance. With a robust enough cooling solution, you can even keep running at those high speeds indefinitely or push your processor beyond its factory settings. Some can even keep your processor cool without making a ton of noise.We’ve picked out a range of coolers from capable air coolers to liquid coolers, giving you options that will work in many different types of PC builds.
TL;DR These are the Best CPU Coolers:
1. Noctua NH-D15
Best CPU Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200. LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 165mm x 150mm x 161mm Heatpipes: 6 Materials: Copper baseplate and heat-pipes, aluminum fins Fans: 2 x 140mm NF-A15 Fan Airflow: 82.58 CFM Fan Pressure: 1.51 mmH2O (each) Fan Noise: 24.6 dBA
OK, so paying $90 for an air cooler may sound like a lot you can get a budget processor for that price but the Noctua NH-D15 does a lot to earn its keep. For one thing, you can use it on a broad range of processors new and old, so you can get extra value from it by keeping it over multiple PC upgrades. Secondly, it’s incredibly powerful, so you can relax about running into thermal throttling on your processor.What’s the secret to the Noctua NH-D15’s power? Well, it’s not much of a secret, as it’s plain to see this cooler features two massive sets of aluminum radiator fins and six heat pipes to pull heat away from your CPU. Those aluminum fins would do a little passively, but Noctua has slapped two of its 140mm fans on (and they’re some of the best fans in the business). The push-pull setup of the fans keeps plenty of air flowing through the cooler for over 82 cubic-feet-per-minute of airflow while keeping noise limited. And, if you don’t need all that cooling power, you can run the fans with a low-noise adapter.
2. Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition
Best Cheap CPU Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 120mm x 79.6mm x 158.8mm Heatpipes: 4 Materials: Nickel-plated aluminum fins, Copper baseplate Fans: 1 x Silencio FP120 120mm Fan Airflow: 42 CFM Fan Pressure: 2.9 mmH2O Fan Noise: 6.5-26 dBA
There’s a good reason the Cooler Master Hyper 212 cooler has such incredible staying power: its design is simple, its performance is solid, and its price is low. That’s no less true with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition, which updates the classic cooler with an all-black design. This cooler is ready to kit out AMD and Intel builds alike with support for the latest Intel sockets and the longstanding AM4 socket for AMD processors.The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition will make a strong fit for more mid-range PC builds. It features four heat pipes to draw heat away from your processor and send it out to a single stack of nickel-plated aluminum fins. This kit includes a 120mm Silencio FP120 fan that can run quietly while pushing plenty of air past the fin array. It really is an incredible value that should get you plenty of mileage, especially if you’re not quite up to overclocking high-power processors just yet.
3. Corsair Hydro Series H100i Pro
Best Liquid CPU Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 27mm x 120mm x 276mm radiator; 120mm x 25mm fan Materials: Copper cold plate, Aluminum radiator Fans: 2 x ML120 120mm Fan Airflow: 75 CFM Fan Pressure: 0.2-4.2 mmH2O Fan Noise: 37 dBA
Corsair is the first name that comes to mind when it comes to liquid CPU coolers. The Corsair Hydro Series H100i Pro is the company’s latest and greatest liquid cooler offering great amount of cooling and RGB lighting at the same time.It’s also very easy to install and only costs a relatively reasonable $125. This 240mm liquid-cooler should fit into almost every setup from full tower PC cases to even the smallest Mini ITX cases.
4. Corsair Hydro Series H75
Best Compact Liquid CPU Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 120mm x 152mm x 25mm radiator; 120mm x 25mm fan Materials: Copper cold plate, aluminum radiator Fans: 2 x SP 120mm Fan Airflow: 54 CFM Fan Pressure: 2.8 mmH2O Fan Noise: 31.4 dBA
Interested in liquid cooling, but not ready to spend a ton of money, or deal with priming and filling? All-in one liquid coolers like the Corsair H75 are a great choice to make the leap to liquid cooling with minimum hassle. Liquid coolers put less weight on your CPU and motherboard, and utilize air from outside your case to cool rather than recycled air from the case.The result is a frosty CPU, with less noise, and if space is really tight around your CPU, no air cooler will leave a smaller footprint. However, it is likely that you wont much get lower temperatures than with a Cooler Master Hyper 212 or an H7, but you will usually get a bit less noise under load.
5. Noctua NH-L9i
Best Low-Profile Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151 Size (h x w x d): 95mm x 95mm x 37mm Heatpipes: 6 Materials: Copper baseplate and heat-pipes, aluminum fins Fans: 1 x NF-A9x14 Fan Airflow: 33.8 CFM Fan Noise: 23.6 dBA (14.8dBA with Low-Noise Adaptor)
While many tower cases have more than enough space for beefy coolers, many mATX and ITX cases have constraints to how much you can pack in. In those cases, you’ll need to think carefully about what kind of CPU cooler you can fit. Noctua’s NH-L9i cooler is an extra low-profile option that can let you build out that sleek, small form-factor PC of your dreams.The Noctua NH-L9i may not be offering as serious of cooling as other contenders on this list, but that’s more or less a given for a compact PC. That said, it is still offering a sizable radiator and packs on a quality Noctua fan. The combination is enough to cool a wide variety of Intel chips, excluding many of Intel’s unlocked models and Extreme Editions. With a separate mounting adapter, it can even support AMD chips on an AM4 socket. And, where compactness is only one piece of the puzzle, an included adapter will let you run the fan in a low-noise mode that drops the fan speed to 1,800RPM to lower the max fan noise down to just 14.8dBA.
6. Cryorig H7
Best Hyper 212 Alternative
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 145mm x 123mm x 98mm Heatpipes: 3 Materials: Copper heatpipes, copper baseplate Fans: 1 x QF120 120mm Cooling Capacity: 140W Fan Airflow: 59 CFM Fan Pressure: 1.65 mmH2O Fan Noise: 10-25 dBA
Why would I even bother suggesting a cooler that cost $10 more than the 212 EVO when I already said the 212 EVO is all you need? The main reason is the H7 offers a bit more clearance which makes swapping RAM sticks easier, and it just takes up less room, so your build looks better. Plus, its smaller size doesnt really come with any drawbacks; the H7 is slightly quieter and runs as cool (if not cooler) than the 212 EVO.The H7 fits both AMD and Intel sockets, although again, you will likely need a bracket for AM4. There is a lot of debate as to whether the H7 is an EVO killer, and honestly a lot of people are just tired of the 212 EVO as it’s been around forever. So, if youre willing to spend $10 more, and are tight on space, the H7 is the way to go.
7. be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
Best Silent Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 163mm x 136mm x 146mm Heatpipes: 7 Materials: Copper heatpipes, aluminum heatsink Fans: 1 x Silent Wings 3 120mm, 1 x Silent Wings 135mm Cooling Capacity: 250W Fan Noise: 12.8-24.3 dBA
The be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 is true to its name, and is one of the quietest CPU coolers money can buy. It can whisk away up to 250w of heat, which is an excessive amount (a core i9-9900K has a TDP of just 95W). It can do this thanks to its massive 6mm copper heat pipes.More importantly, it’s designed to operate in near silence. Even with two or three fans strapped on and spinning as fast as possible, it’ll only achieve a maximum 24.3dBA. It’ll set you back a pretty penny at $90, making it one of the more expensive air coolers on the market, but if you demand silence, this is the cooler for you.
8. Corsair A500
Best Flexible CPU Cooler
Compatibility: LGA1200, LGA1151, LGA2066, AM4 Size (h x w x d): 144mm x 169mm x 171mm Heatpipes: 4 Materials: Copper heatpipes, aluminum heatsink Fans: 2 x ML120 120mm Cooling Capacity: 250W Fan Airflow: 75 CFM Fan Pressure: 4.2 mmH2O Fan Noise: 36 dBA
If you want a cooler that’s easy to install, can work around the rest of your kit, and will look great in your case, then the Corsair A500 is our pick. It puts two 120mm fans onto a hefty aluminum heatsink with four heatpipes to handle cooling on CPUs with up to 250W TDP. It manages that by blowing a considerable 75 cubic feet of air across the heatsink every minute. A solid perk of this heatsink is that it can flex to fit your rig if you’re using extra tall memory modules. The fans use a sliding and locking mechanism, so it’s easy to move them to exactly the right position. The cooler also supports a wide range of Intel and AMD sockets.Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark