“Ah don’t spend too much on it. It’s only a CPU cooler.”
“You don’t need to spend a lot of money on CPU coolers.”
Believe it or not, first time PC builders are more likely to choose generic CPU cooler brands for one or more of the following reasons:
- They don’t know enough about CPU coolers to make an informed decision.
- They don’t know that there are really good CPU cooler brands in the market.
- They don’t know that cooling performance is often dictated by how well the CPU cooler is built.
But don’t you worry. If it’s your first time to build your own PC, or if you’re thinking about replacing your stock CPU cooler, we have created this list of recommendations for the best CPU cooler brands in the market right now.
Why You Should Never Ignore Your CPU Coolers
Think of it this way. Would you work in an office or study in a classroom if it’s hotter than normal? Would you be able to concentrate at 100%?
The same logic can be applied to your CPU. When the CPU gets hot enough, performance gets severely affected. In worst case scenario, the CPU suffers catastrophic failure from heating up past its limit.
This is where CPU coolers come in. By design, their job is to absorb the heat coming from the CPU and expel it through their exhaust fan (if you’re using air CPU coolers) or with the help of fluids (if you’re using a liquid cooler).
Doing office work or browsing the Internet might not strain the CPU a lot, so the CPU coolers won’t have too much heat to dissipate. But if you’re gaming, editing a video, or doing any CPU-intensive tasks, then the CPU generates a lot of heat. The CPU coolers kick in and do their job by making sure that the CPU’s temperatures are within a reasonable range.
If the CPU cooler doesn’t do its job right, you end up with an overheating CPU, which leads to gradual CPU degradation over time. Instead of your CPU lasting you five years or more, this gradual degradation can reduce its lifespan by half.
With that being said, it’s important for you or anyone to invest in the best CPU coolers that money can buy.
What Are The Best CPU Coolers In The Market?
We’re going down through the best CPU coolers that money can buy. Because we’re talking about the best, expect them to be a little bit on the pricey side. But don’t worry, investing in any one of these CPU coolers is going to be worth it.
Best Overall CPU Cooler In The Market. Period.
Why Is It The Best?
- It’s a powerful air cooler and it’s capable of cooling even the most powerful CPUs in the market right now
- Quiet operation
- Two fans for the best cooling performance possible
- Competitive against liquid coolers
- Costs you about $109 for brand-new units
What’s The Downside?
- It’s one of the bulkier air coolers and may block out RAM slots
First on our list is the Noctua NH D15 is quite possibly the best air cooler that you could get your hands on. The design of the Noctua NH D15 is intended to make sure that it dissipates large amounts of heat in a short period of time.
The Noctua NH D15, or any of the Noctua coolers, comes with a 6-year warranty, which also makes it one of the most reliable air coolers in the market. The Noctua NH D15 comes with everything you need, from thermal paste to a mounting system that works with even the latest CPUs (like the Intel i9 or the AMD Threadripper). It’s also assumed that the Noctua NH D15 is compatible with the upcoming Intel 12th gen processors and AMD Ryzen 7000 series.
Noctua NH D15 comes in brown and black colors, but we’re featuring the black colorway simply because it easily blends into the system without drawing in too much attention.
But the Noctua NH D15 proves to be a challenge for mid-sized to small-sized computers because of its immense size. Coming in at 150mmx135mmx160mm (WxDxH), it might block out a RAM slot for typical PC builds. If your RAM kit is taller than 32mm, then you’ll need to remove the outside fan to make room.
Best for Gaming Overall
Why It’s the Best
- A quiet cooler even when doing some heavy gaming sessions
- Mid-to-high performance category
- Minimalist design
- About $94 retail
What’s the Downside?
- Might not be powerful enough for Intel i9 or Ryzen 9 CPUs
For gamers, this might be the best AIO cooler in the market: the Be Quiet! BW006 Pure Loop 240mm. For its size, it’s capable of cooling both Intel i7 and Ryzen 7 CPUs without producing a lot of noise. Be Quiet! is a computer peripheral company known for its minimalistic components and cases, so it’s no surprise that the BW006 Pure Loop follows the company’s product philosophy.
Unlike most completely closed loop coolers, the Be Quiet! BW006 Pure Loop 240mm is easy to maintain. You can just unscrew the fill port on the radiator and add your coolant to make sure that the system is always up and full.
The Best High End AIO Liquid Cooler
Why It’s The Best?
- The best high end liquid cooling system in the market
- Categorized as a high performance AIO liquid cooler
- Comes with high-pressure RGB fans and built-in LCD screen
- Priced at $240
What’s The Downside?
- Really expensive
Almost more than double the price of the first two CPU cooling systems above, the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD is probably the most expensive liquid cooling you could ever get your hands on. With a $240 price tag, the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD can definitely cool down the Intel i9 processors and AMD Threadrippers easily even when both are overclocked.
The Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD is equipped with a 2.1-inch LCD screen that’s fully customizable and will show you either your current temperatures or different LCD animations. The three high-performance fans have a set of 48 customizable LEDs, all controlled via the iCUE configuration software.
Price-to-performance ratio of the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD is excellent, given that Corsair is just one of those brands that know their way around high-quality computer peripherals.
Best Budget Air Cooler
Why It’s The Best
- Cooler Master is a recognized brand for computer peripherals
- A solid mid-sized air cooler
- Very affordable
- Solid cooling performance
- Fits a lot of standard PC builds
- Priced at $49
What’s The Downside?
- Needs a special bracket if you want to use it for Intel’s 12th gen CPUs
- Not exactly powerful enough for high-end CPUs
Because we’re talking about the best CPU coolers, it would be unfair to not include the best budget cooler. And just because it’s on the budget side doesn’t mean it’s an underperforming cooler.
For the list, we have the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo and it’s almost always one of the few air coolers that even the most expert rig builders recommend to first-time builders.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a mid-sized cooler and is decent enough for Intel i7 and Ryzen 7 5000-series processors. For any midrange CPU, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a solid pick but don’t expect this air cooler to do well against the high end AMD or Intel CPU (Threadripper or i9, respectively).
Which Is Better? Liquid CPU Coolers or Air Coolers?
If you ever wanted to start a debate on the Internet, ask which one is better: air cooling or liquid cooling, and you’ll get an entire forum riled up for hours.
But in all honesty, both CPU coolers are good in their own right and have their own benefits and drawbacks.
What’s So Good About Air Coolers?
Air coolers are commonly used by a lot of people, mostly for those on a budget or those who don’t want the fancy aesthetics that liquid coolers have.
Usually, air coolers come with two common components: a metal heatsink that draws heat away from the CPU and a fan that blows out the hot air from the heatsink. This hot air is expelled out of the case with the help of the case’s exhaust fans. Quite a simple solution to a complicated problem.
But the downside to these air coolers is that they’re bulky and take up a lot of space. For high-powered CPUs like the Intel i9 and AMD Threadripper, you’d need large air coolers(something like the Noctua NH D15). Noise is also an issue for an air cooler. As the processor generates more heat, the fans need to work overtime (both the CPU fan and the exhaust fans).
Unless you don’t mind the noise and the aesthetics, then an air cooler might be a solid pick for you.
What’s So Good About Liquid Cooling?
Liquid cooling has become a popular alternative to air coolers, simply because they become easily accessible every time a company releases a new AIO cooler and the older models become cheaper.
Are liquid coolers and AIO coolers one and the same? Yes, they are. In fact, liquid cooling goes by many names such as:
- AIO cooler (all-in-one)
- Closed loop liquid coolers
Liquid cooling systems are equipped with water pumps, radiators, and fans to absorb and expel heat from the CPU. Liquid coolers come in different sizes, so you can choose what size to fit your PC case.
Performance-wise, AIO coolers are better than air coolers but the marginal difference isn’t that high. But there are instances where high-performance air coolers like the Noctua NH D15 provide better cooling performance than an aftermarket AIO cooler. If you want something for the aesthetics, well look no further than having a liquid cooling setup.
The downside to a liquid cooling setup is that it’s more difficult to install compared to air coolers. There’s also the added risk of the liquid itself leaking to other components, which damages other components. Leaks rarely happen, but it’s still something to consider if it’s your first time using it.
But How Much Cooling Do You Really Need?
We mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t hold out on spending for your cooling system, but it doesn’t mean that you should also go overboard. Think like Goldilocks: you don’t want less, but you also don’t want more. You just want something that’s right.
How much cooling you need will depend on how much work is being done from your CPU. If you’re just doing some light gaming sessions on top of office productivity tasks, then air cooling is sufficient.
On the other hand, heavy gaming sessions combined with tasks such as video editing or 3d modeling might have you either going for a high-performance AIO cooler or an air cooler.
The brand and make of your CPU will also play a huge role in determining what kind of cooling power you need. High-powered CPUs will always require high-end air coolers or high-end liquid coolers.
So what’s the best CPU cooler for you and what can we recommend? If you want the best air cooler, we recommend the Noctua NH D15. For about $100, you’re getting the best cooling performance and power for the latest Intel and AMD processors.