Picking one of the best CPU coolers is a must if you\’ve picked a high-end processor and/or plan to do any kind of overclocking with your CPU silicon. Tweaking the clocks off your PC is going to make it run hot, so you should make sure you have a decent CPU cooler to keep your chip running efficiently and stop it burning a hole in the sice of your computer\’s case. 

Silicon dreams

(Image credit: Future)

These are the current best CPUs for gaming to build your rig around.

There are essentially two types of CPU coolers to choose from. The first is an air cooler, which has a big metal heat sink, normally with a huge fan, that pulls air away from your processor. You\’ll need to check your CPU\’s socket type and also make sure the dimensions are compatible with your PC case. CPU fans don\’t need to be loud either—the volume should be on the box and this is certainly something you should check before committing to a purchase.

The second option is a liquid cooling system. The most common is often known as an \’all-in-one\’ or AIO liquid cooler and, as the name suggests, they pass coolant in a loop via a plate attached to your CPU, where it pulls out heat, and around a radiator where that heat is dissipated. Liquid coolers tend to be more efficient and are generally the quieter option, but can be trickier to install and are often more expensive. 

You could also create a full custom water cooling loop if you\’re feeling brave, which can include GPU as well as CPU cooling too, but that way lies tube-bending and a whole lot of installation effort. But damn, it can look seriously cool. Pun not intended. But it works, so it\’s staying.

We\’ve listed a good selection of air and AIO coolers below, which cater to both high-end and budget builds, and will help keep your gaming PC running cool. If you\’re looking for other ways to help increase your system\’s ventilation, you can check out our guide to the best PC fans. 

Best CPU coolers

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

1. Corsair H115i RGB Platinum

The best liquid CPU cooler

Type: Liquid cooling | Compatibility: Intel 1366, 115x, 2011, 2066; AMD AM2, AM3, AM4, sTR4 | Fan speed: 360-2200RPM | Noise volume: 28-50dBA | Dimensions: 280 x 120 x 30 mm | Weight: 1.8 lbs (830g)

Prime$169.99View at AmazonSee all prices (2 found)2 Amazon customer reviews

RGB lighting on fans and CPU blockAvailable in a stunning white variationTop notch cooling performance

Corsair was one of the first hardware manufacturers to bring all-in-one liquid coolers to market. It\’s only fitting that its latest cooler has dethroned our previous king. The H115i has always been a strong contender for the throne of best liquid CPU cooler, only narrowly beaten by NZXT\’s Kraken X62.

The updated H115i Pro is a definite improvement, but NZXT\’s infinity mirror CPU block design was and still remains one of the most beautiful RGB implementations we’ve seen in any product. It hasn\’t been until seeing Corsair’s latest contender, the H115i Platinum, that we’ve been able to let the Kraken go. But the new NZXT Kraken Z63 is in the lab now so that might change in the coming weeks…

For now though it\’s all about the excellent Corsair AIO. The H115i Platinum is available in black or a stunning white with a set of addressable RGB LED fans and CPU block. It’s a real head turner in any build but also has excellent software and performance to back it up.    

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

2. Noctua NH-D15

The best air cooler in 2020

Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 1150 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2+ | Fan speed: 300-1500RPM | Noise volume: Up to 24.6dBA | Dimensions: 165 x 150 x 161 mm | Weight: 2.91 lbs (1.32kg)

Prime$79.90View at AmazonPrime$89.95View at AmazonPrime$99.95View at AmazonSee all prices (7 found)543 Amazon customer reviews

 Super-quiet performance Dual 140mm fans included Bulky and heavyPricey for an air-cooler  

It may be one of the most expensive air coolers we\’ve tested but Noctua\’s flagship NH-D15 is our top choice for high-end air coolers. Based off of the company\’s award-winning D14, the NH-D15 performs just as well as a handful of all-in-one liquid coolers and even beats a few of them both in performance and noise levels. The cooler features a dual tower heatsink and comes with two high airflow 140mm fans.

Even working at 100 percent speed the cooler ran quieter than just about all of its competitors. If you aren\’t a fan of liquid cooling or don\’t have the space to mount a radiator, the NH-D15 is about as good as it gets for air cooling. The only downside we could find is its bulkiness which could potentially cause problems with tall RAM modules clearance.

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: EVGA)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: EVGA)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: EVGA)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: EVGA)

3. EVGA CLC 240

Liquid cooling at an affordable price

Type: Liquid cooling | Compatibility: Intel LGA2066/2011/2011-v3/1150/1151/1155/1156/1366 AMD AM2-AM4, FM1-FM2, TR4 | Fan speed: 500-2400RPM | Noise volume: 16-40dBA | Dimensions: 276 x 122 x 53 mm | Weight: 1.8 lbs (.82kg)

$106.99View at Newegg$122.36View at AmazonPrime$133.52View at AmazonSee all prices (4 found)534 Amazon customer reviews

 Very affordable  RGB pump head  Very loud at full speed 

EVGA\’s latest CLC liquid coolers are our favorite mid range pick because of their excellent performance per dollar. Matching cooling of the latest chip-chillers from Corsair and NZXT, the 240mm CLC costs a fraction of the price while only sacrificing on a few features. The included fans can get very loud at full speed, but we found the cooler to run well enough without ever reaching those levels.

While you won\’t get the fancy addressable RGB lighting you\’d find in NZXT, Thermaltake or Cooler Master\’s latest designs, the EVGA CLC does have the same sleeved tubing and a single RGB light on the pump head that can be controlled through the software. If you don\’t care for all of the bells and whistles, EVGA\’s CLC 240 offers exceptional performance with little compromises.

Best mid-tower case | Best RAM for gaming | Best SSD for gaming  
Best gaming monitor| Best CPU for gaming | Best gaming headset

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Corsair)

4. Corsair H60

All-in-one liquid cooling for the price of air

Type: Liquid cooling | Compatibility: Intel 115x, 2011/2066; AMD AM2-AM4 | Fan speed: 600-1700RPM | Noise volume: Up to 28.3dBA | Dimensions: 157 x 120 x 52 mm | Weight: 1.32 lbs (.6kg)

Prime$79.99View at Amazon$79.99View at NeweggSee all prices (3 found)

 Excellent performance  Compatible with most cases  Single color pump LED 

Corsair was one of the first manufacturers to bring all-in-one liquid cooling to the masses. Nearly a decade after the company first launched its Hydro series, Corsair is once again leading the charge with the updated H60 as our top choice for liquid cooling on a budget.

Often priced $20 cheaper than our best high end air cooler, the 120mm H60 offers nearly identical thermal and noise performance at a fraction of the cost. The updated cooler features a white LED illuminated pump head, 120mm radiator and one of Corsair\’s latest 120mm PWM fans. Our tests put the performance of the new H60 far ahead of its other 120mm competitors and even in line with a few 140mm and 240mm coolers.

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

5. Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Longtime king of budget air cooling

Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 775 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM3+, FM1 – FM3+, AM4 | Fan speed: 600-2000RPM | Noise volume: 9-36dBA | Dimensions: 120 x 79.7 x 158.5 mm | Weight: 1.3 lbs (0.59kg)

Prime$34.99View at Amazon$54.14View at AmazonSee all prices (3 found)24 Amazon customer reviews

 Very affordable  Added AM4 compatibility  Loud at 100 percent speed 

Cooler Master\’s budget-friendly Hyper 212 CPU cooler has been around for well over ten years now. With experience like that it comes as no surprise that the newer Hyper 212 Evo has become a renowned pick for affordable performance. Priced around $30, the latest update to the Hyper 212 Evo features four direct contact heatpipes, an improved aluminum heatsink and a 120mm high airflow fan.

From our testing we found that the Hyper 212 Evo reduced CPU temperatures by up to 20 degrees celsius when compared to stock cooling. Another added benefit is the fact that the cooler itself isn\’t a whole lot larger than a stock one, meaning it tends to stay out of the way of larger RAM modules. With such a low price point, we can\’t find any reason why we\’d stick to a stock cooler over this. 

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Noctua)

6. Noctua NH-L12S

High-performance air cooler for low-profile builds

Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 1150 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2+ | Fan speed: 450-1850RPM | Noise volume: Up to 23.9dBA | Dimensions: 128 x 146 x 70 mm | Weight: 1.14 lbs (0.52kg)

Prime$49.90View at AmazonSee all prices (2 found)79 Amazon customer reviews

 Quiet performance Very low profile  Hard to replace RAM while installed 

Noctua is a brand that has become synonymous with high performance air cooling. With their iconic brown fans and premium build quality, the company\’s coolers often find themselves at the top of our testing charts. The NH-L12S came in as our best choice for a compact cooler that\’s designed for mini-ITX and small form factor builds. It\’s extremely low-profile, measuring as low as 70mm with the slim 120mm fan installed underneath the heatsink.

In high-profile mode, the fan is installed on top and provides more than enough clearance for most RAM modules. While we wouldn\’t use the NH-L12S on a performance CPU with a TDP higher than 110W, it\’s very quiet and provides a significant boost over stock coolers so we\’d highly recommend it for all HTPC and small form factor builds. 

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: Cooler Master)

7. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360R

A giant radiator for extra-quiet cooling

Type: Liquid cooling | Compatibility: Intel LGA2066, LGA2011 v3, LGA2011, LGA1151, LGA1150, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1366, AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1 | Fan speed: 650-2000RPM | Noise volume: 6-30dBA | Dimensions: 394 x 119 x 27 mm | Weight: 5.6 lbs (2.56kg)

Prime$141.99View at Amazon$145.76View at AmazonSee all prices (3 found)

Stealthy CPU block logoAffordable 360mm all-in-one solutionSoftware is lackingTubing can be a little short

When you’re looking for the best liquid cooling options available, efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to heat dissipation are of utmost importance. The best way to approach this is to use a radiator with the largest surface area possible. For most modern mid-sized cases and full towers, this means a 360mm radiator. Equipped with three 120mm fans, these coolers take up quite a bit of space and can be relatively costly when compared to a single 120mm liquid cooler.

Cooler Master’s 360mm MasterLiquid ML360R is our favorite choice. It features a beautiful CPU block design with a muted centerpiece logo which makes for a really clean lighting setup. Combined with three addressable RGB fans, the ML360R cools well and runs quiet while providing some sexy lighting for your whole build.

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: GAMERSTORM)

Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: GAMERSTORM)

Image 3 of 4

(Image credit: GAMERSTORM)

Image 4 of 4

(Image credit: GAMERSTORM)

8. GamerStorm Deep Cool Assassin III

Best Budget Big Air Cooler

Type: Fan and Heatsink | Compatibility: AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+, LGA 2011, LGA 1150, LGA 1151, LGA 1155, LGA 1366, LGA 2011-v3, LGA 2066 | Fan speed: 400-1400RPM | Noise volume: 34.2 dBA | Dimensions: 165mm x 138mm x 25 mm | Weight: 3.2 lbs

$89.99View at BHPhotoNo price informationCheck AmazonSee all prices (2 found)

Thermal performance QuietPriceNo RGB

The GamerStorm Deepcool Assassin III may sound like someone’s terrible username, but it’s an impressive big-air cooler. This big boy houses twin cooling towers, seven heat pipes, and a pair of quiet 140mm fans. For less than $100, you can get yourself a quiet CPU cooler with exceptional thermal performance. Surprisingly, there’s no RGB lighting, making the Deepcool Assassin III a rather tame looking piece of hardware despite the flashy name.

Choosing the right CPU Cooler

Like most components, choosing the right CPU cooler depends on several variables, including performance requirements, case compatibility, budget restrictions, and aesthetics. To find the best CPU coolers for you, we tested all coolers\’ performance using Prime95 and a mixture of modern PC games for extensive stress testing. Our top selections were made based on thermal performance, noise, value, and overall feature sets.

If you aren\’t sure whether you need an air cooler or a liquid cooler, it comes down to budget and compatibility. Until AMD released its Wraith coolers, we\’d never recommend a stock cooler to any PC gamer. Still, now those on tight budgets don\’t necessarily need to consider an aftermarket air cooler. If you have a little bit more spending room, liquid coolers can offer a whole lot more—from advanced RGB lighting to intelligent software control.

Some of you may be wary about putting liquid near your expensive components, but rest assured all of the coolers recommended in this guide are backed with excellent warranties that will cover you in the event of a manufacturer failure.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here