Keeping your hardware, especially the vital parts such as the processor, cold is one of the major priorities when we are talking about the computers. Therefore, CPU coolers present a very important part of any custom PC build, and particularly, overclocking machines.
Choosing the best CPU cooler isn’t any easier than choosing the best PSU or the best RAM. It all comes up down to what you need and want, and of course, what level of investment your wallet allows. Since there is a wide variety of shapes, sizes and features, these searches have a tendency to turn into an exhausting and time-consuming marathon that nobody wants.
Because we know that, we’ve come up with a list of a couple of things to pay attention to when buying a CPU cooler. This should help you at least a little in your search.
How to Choose a CPU Cooler
Type of a Cooler
The choice between the air cooler and the liquid one mostly depends on your budget and what it will be used for. If you can, and if you are into overclocking, always go for the liquid solution – they generally offer better performance but cost more. On the other hand, there are air coolers that will do a decent job for much less money.
Among the most important aspects of any CPU cooler is its socket support. You can have the best CPU cooler at your disposal, but what is the point if it doesn’t fit your motherboard. Therefore, do your “homework” and there will be no trouble.
Some people don’t care about it, others can’t stand it. Because of that make a decision according to your preferences and, of course, your budget, but also be aware of the fact that noise can increase stress levels and negatively affect your psychic. Therefore, generally go for the more silent ones.
The last thing you need is a piece of hardware that cannot fit into your rig, so be careful about what you buy and be absolutely sure it can be installed inside of your PC case.
RGB lighting by itself isn’t that important from the practical point of view, but solely for esthetical reasons. They are just cool, simple as that. Nobody really needs them, but everybody wants them.
1. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R
Since most of the liquid coolers are pretty similar, manufacturers are trying to find ways to make their products stand out from the crowd. In the case of Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R, they have done it through its super cool RGB lighting. Thanks to the 28 LEDs positioned all across the pump and the fans, this cooler offers high customization of lighting, allowing for unique and versatile light effects. The only problem with all those LED lights is the amount of cabling, that can prove to be a bit troubling.
Other than the great RGB LED performance, this CPU cooler doesn’t offer anything brilliant. It is easy to install, it supports the majority of the modern socket types, its 120mm fan radiator delivers solid performance, but overall there is nothing that separates it from the whole bunch of similar products. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R isn’t the best budget CPU cooler, or the best closed-loop CPU cooler. This is a cool looking but a limited piece of hardware. If that’s fine with you, go for it, but before that just think through it all one more time.
- eye-catching LEDs
- quiet pump
- good cooling
- questionable software quality
- too many cables
2. DEEPCOOL CAPTAIN 240EX
DEEPCOOL CAPTAIN 240EX delivers all you would expect from a CPU cooler: interesting design, good cooling performance and an easy install. Equipped with a 274mm radiator and two silent TF 120 double-blade, high-volume airflow fans on top, this liquid cooler has a lot of extra capacity for quality overclocking, giving the opportunity for a lot of fun to the overclocking fans.
Silent, with a very competitive price, this CPU cooler offers a decent cooling performance that is not among the best CPU cooler results but is still pretty good, especially when its price is also taken into consideration. It is in the class of Corsair H100i GTX and the Noctua NH D15 air cooler, which is a respectful result.
DEEPCOOL CAPTAIN 240EX doesn’t offer anything revolutionary (although its design is a bit different from the bunch, which is very rare these days), or anything new. We would say that it is a decent, affordable liquid CPU cooler that won’t disappoint you, but won’t delight you either.
- great looks
- decent cooling performance
- easy install
- good price
- not that great customer service
3. EVGA CLC 120
EVGA is known for having some high-quality products and EVGA CLC 120 is definitely one of them. Based on the new more cost-effective pump-block design that improves the flow of the coolant and offers higher heat dissipation, and with the help of Teflon Nano Bearing 120mm fan and the top quality radiator, this cooler offers great cooling performance and terrific overall value for the money.
With a five year warranty, high-quality manufacture and the support for most CPU sockets, including AM4 and TR4, this cooler guarantees for years of use without any trouble. At the same time, EVGA CLC 120 also offers easy and fast install, silent work, and quality EVGA Flow Control software that is a bit buggy in temperature readings, but other than that it works flawlessly. All that is needed for the liquid cooling newbies or experienced users is there.
- easy install
- good noise levels
- great value for the money
- buggy software
4. CORSAIR HYDRO SERIES H115i PRO RGB
CORSAIR HYDRO SERIES H115i PRO RGB is a result of continuous upgrade and polishing of the Hydro Series that made this cooler a great configuration with both a quality cooling and attractive looking RGB lighting. Its 280mm radiator, with the help of the two 140mm low-noise fans, offers silent work and quality cooling even under the default setup. The only issue is a pump that makes a small grinding sound and needs to be placed in a quiet mode with the LINK software in order to create the full no-sound experience.
Other than that, this cooler is almost the perfect product, thanks to its support for the majority of sockets, easy installation, five-year warranty, quality LINK software, and a better performance than most of the competitors, that include Kraken X62 and EK-MLC Phoenix 360. On top of all that, it has some great lighting features. Without any doubt, CORSAIR HYDRO SERIES H115i PRO RGB is one of the best AIO CPU cooler options out there.
- five-year warranty
- easy installation
- low noise levels
- great all-around performance
- wires are a bit short
- it’s expensive
5. NZXT Kraken X72
NZXT Kraken X72 is made for a top-notch performance. Its large 380mm aluminum radiator, with the help of the high-performance fans and re-engineered pump, guarantees for premium cooling of your CPU. If you are into overclocking, there is no better option than this piece.
Made out of quality materials and with a six-year warranty, NZXT Kraken X72 is a sure thing when you are trying to buy yourself the best CPU cooler. With this one, there are almost no mistakes; it features a lighting system that impresses, low acoustic, and a top-notch performance. The only downsides are a bit quirky CAM software for RGB coloring, and too many wires that surround the cooling block. But that’s something anyone can live with.
If you purchase the NZXT Kraken X72, you will get yourself a great deal, but be aware that for less money you can buy NZTX Kraken X62 with a 280mm radiator, which delivers pretty similar performance, but for a more acceptable price. This fact deserves a bit of thinking.
- amazing cooling performance
- sleek design
- too much cabling
6. Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 TT
There are not that many coolers on the market that can brag with an excellent, top of the chart performance, silent work and an amazing LED lighting, very uncommon even for the custom loops… and all that in one package. Well, such as the Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 TT is one that can. Thanks to its 360mm highly efficient radiator and the superior performance water block that is accompanied by the durable sleeved cables, this cooler just blasts the competition. There is no better solution for cooling your lovely CPU than this one.
Although silent, it doesn’t offer totally no-sound performance like the competition; on the other hand with its LED lighting, it is the best AIO CPU cooler you can get for your gaming machine. List of its downsides consists only of the lack of easier controls for the RGB LED and the fact that using fan modes is a bit tricky. That’s it – everything else, including support for different socket types, is among the best, and performance and the lighting are the best you can find.
- excellent cooling
- low noise levels
- good RGB options
7. DEEPCOOL FRYZEN
Get ready: the best AM4 CPU cooler is in front of you. Brand new on the market, DEEPCOOL FRYZEN is made only for the two socket types: AMD’s TR4 and AM4. Although designed for just one small portion of the market, it offers great heat dissipation and an excellent overall cooling performance much needed for the high-performance Ryzen processors.
DEEPCOOL FRYZEN is made out of the finest materials, it has a tower-type heatsink with six heatpipes for a better heat distribution and aluminum fan frame with a high-performance 120mm fan inside – all the elements needed for a good cooling performance are there. Not too big when it comes to its dimensions, it allows for problem free installation of the other hardware, while its RGB lighting and cool looks make it a desirable choice for any tempered glass PC case.
- good looks
- great performance
- cool lighting
- it supports only TR4/AM4 socket
8. Cooler Master MasterAir MA620P
First of all, Cooler Master MasterAir MA620P is a very attractive piece of hardware. Its big dual tower heatsink with six heatpipes and two 120mm RGB fans delivers a plenty of cooling power, the most of all the Cooler Master CPU coolers. On the other hand, when compared to the competition its positioning isn’t that good. Although good for a showing off in tempered glass PC cases, there are various coolers that just perform better.
Don’t get wrong, it is not bad, on the contrary, it will do the excellent job, especially with the mainstream chips and modest overclocks. It also has a very low noise level and it supports for all the major socket types, its major weakness it that there are alternatives such as Be quiet! Dark Rock 4 and Arctic Freezer 33 eSports Edition that is just better.
Its complicated installation and RAM compatibility issue (its dimensions allow only for 40-53mm high RAM modules to be installed) doesn’t help it either and make it not a that attractive choice, unless you are hypnotized by its sheer attractiveness, or want that specific brand.
- attractive design
- decent performance
- RAM compatibility
- tricky installation
9. be quiet! BK022 Dark Rock Pro 4
The Dark Rock Pro 4 from be quiet! is definitely one of the larger coolers on our list. It’s designed for consumers that need serious airflow but want a system that’s almost silent in the case. Well, we’re pleased to say this one does not disappoint in either of those areas.
With a funnel-shaped frame and brushed aluminum top cover, this slick cooler will look good in your case. It’s also hard to miss considering the heatsink measures 146mm x 136mm x 163mm, and there are two of them. They are made from aluminum and seven 6mm copper heatpipes tie them together which keeps things nice and cool with some help from the fans.
There are two Silent Wings PWM fans in the Dark Rock Pro 4 with 120mm front fan and 135mm inner fan. You can slap another 120mm fan onto the backside for some extra airflow as well. Those fans have a top speed of 1,600 RPMs, and at full speed, they ’re rated at 24.3 dBA which is impressive.
The Dark Rock Pro 4 is rated at 250 TDP and compatible with a wide range of sockets from both Intel and AMD. It’s overall size and height at 163mm may rule it out for some, but it’s an amazing option if you need a large, quiet cooler. The be quiet! BK022 is backed by a 3-year warranty.
- Dual heatsinks
- Slick design
- Mounting system
- Quiet Silent Wings fans
- The price
10. CRYORIG H7
CRYORIG H7 is simply an impressive cooler. Its humble 145mm in height may look deceiving, but its performance is just amazing. A tower heatsink with three pure copper heatpipes, and the help of the 120mm airflow fan proves to be enough for this little CPU cooler to fight the more expensive liquid and air coolers and even outperform some of them, such as Cooler Masters MasterAir Maker 8 and Hyper 212 LED.
Built as the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO “killer”, CRYORIG H7 offers plenty of cooling power for its moderate size and really quiet work, especially when idling. Characteristics such as its sleek looks, good socket compatibility, and performance that can be compared even with the best in the class, and only one disadvantage, presented in the more complicated installation process that requires for holding the cooler upside down, make this piece one of the best CPU air cooler options on the market right now.
- good looks
- it can compete even with liquid coolers
- great price
- installation is a bit tricky
11. DEEPCOOL GAMMAXX 400
DEEPCOOL GAMMAXX 400 isn’t among the “cool looking crowd” of the CPU coolers, but its performance beats most of the competition, such as Noctua NH-U12S and Be Quiet! Shadow Rock Slim, by a wide margin. When its great performance to price ratio is also taken into consideration, the advantage over the rivals gets even bigger, positioning it as the best CPU cooler under 50$ you can find for your rig.
With support for all the mainstream sockets and equipped with a 120mm airflow fan and a tower heatsink with four copper heatpipes for a faster heat distribution, DEEPCOOL GAMMAXX 400 presents a great option for any enthusiast out there. Its modest two-year warranty maybe doesn’t offer much confidence in its longevity, but when you realize that you can buy two of these for the price of one Noctua NH-U12S, or Be Quiet! Shadow Rock Slim, its value becomes even higher.
- great cooling
- excellent value for the money
- moderate size
- a bit loud
- it looks slightly unfinished
12. Noctua NH-D15
Things are pretty much straightforward when talking about Noctua NH-D15. This is just the best CPU air cooler you can buy. Its performance can be compared even with a large number of liquid coolers and many of them, such as DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Captain 240, Cooler Master Nepton 240M, and Corsair H100i GTX, etc. are outperformed in both noise levels and cooling efficiency.
Thanks to the great design, which is inspired by its highly successful predecessor D-14, and with the help of a dual tower heatsink and two great 140mm airflow fans, Noctua NH-D15 delivers great cooling results, and at the same time, a quiet work even at full loads. On top of that, it supports almost all the sockets beside the AMD AM4.
Basically, the only downsides of this cooler are its bulkiness, and the price, which is among the highest of all the air coolers. On the other hand, when you look at its performance and the fact that it can compete and beat some of the best liquid CPU coolers out there and that its price, although high, is just a fraction of the liquid cooler pricing, you come to the conclusion that it is actually worth that money.
- extremely quiet
- six years warranty
- the package includes dual 140mm fans
- too big for some configurations
Finding the perfect solution for your processor is a tricky task. If this review has helped you at least a little bit in that search, then it has fulfilled its mission. No matter what, always be careful in your purchases and research the wanted product – trust us, it will pay off.