There are a mere two days left until the mystical Black Friday, and you know what that means: it’s time to upgrade to the best CPU cooler around. Even if you don’t really need a new cooler (which, let’s face it, who does?), it would be nice to have at a discount. Besides, if you’re a first-time builder, or a prospective one at that, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get your hands on a system fan or a liquid all-in-one unit right now.
After we’ve tested and ranked all of the coolers you’ll find below, complete with specs, pricing and a brief synopsis for each, we are confident that you will not be disappointed with our choices. The best processor coolers around come in various shapes and sizes, and they don’t all cater to the same budget either. Rather, if your budget is bigger, you’re going to want a liquid cooling system, whereas a fan and heatsink will do just fine if your pockets aren’t as deep.
Introductions out of the way, below you will find our picks of the best CPU coolers money can buy in the year 2017. No matter your budget and style preference, you can count on us to have provided. So whether you want the NZXT Kraken X62, what with its gorgeous but gaudy LED lighting, or something simple like the Noctua NH-D15, rest assured, you will be satisfied with your purchase for you or a loved one this holiday shopping season.
Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 775 – LGA 2066; AMD AM2 – AM3+, FM1 – FM2+ | Rotation frequency: Up to 1500 RPM | Noise volume: 19.20dbA – 24.60dbA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 160 x 150 x 135mm | Weight: 2.91 pounds (1.32kg)
Six-year manufacturer’s warranty
Too big for some PC builds
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.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 775 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM3+, FM1 – FM3+ | Rotation frequency: Up to 2,000 RPM | Noise volume: 9dBA – 36dBA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 120 x 120 x 25mm | Weight: 1.26 pounds (0.57kg)
Balanced cooling performance
Heat pipes ideal for conduction
AM4 bracket sold separately
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.
Best low-profile CPU cooler
Type: Fan and heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 1156/1155/1151; AMD AM2/AM2+/AM3/FM1/FM2 | Rotation frequency: Up to 2500 RPM | Noise volume: 14.8dbA – 23.6dbA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 206 x 184 x 37mm | Weight: 1.03 pounds (0.47kg)
Six-year manufacturer’s warranty
Only 92mm fan
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.
NZXT Kraken X62
Type: Liquid cooling system | Compatibility: Intel 2011 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2+ | Rotation frequency: Up to 1,800 | Noise volume: 21dBA – 38dBA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 315 x 143 x 30mm | Weight: 3.2 pounds (1.45kg)
Dead silent and high performing
RGB lighting is gorgeous
Price range out of bounds for some
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.
Arctic Liquid Freezer 120
Best budget liquid-cooler
Type: Liquid cooling system | Compatibility: Intel LGA 2011 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM3+, FM1 – FM2 | Rotation frequency: Up to 1350 RPM | Noise volume: 22.5dBA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 120 x 120 x 25mm | Weight: 2.65 pounds (1.2kg)
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.
Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF
Best low-profile CPU liquid-cooler
Type: Liquid cooling system | Compatibility: Intel LGA 115x; AMD FM2 – FM2+ | Rotation frequency: Up to 1,800 RPM | Noise volume: 36dBA – 42dBA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 167 x 57 x 84mm | Weight: 2 pounds (0.91kg)
Guaranteed leak-free tubing
Compact, all-in-one form factor
Blower style cooler
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
Type: Passively cooled heatsink | Compatibility: Intel LGA 775 – 1156; AMD AM2 – AM3+; FM1 | Noise volume: 0dBA | Dimensions (W x H x D): 180 x 148 x 180mm | Weight: 1.6 pounds (0.73kg)
You won’t hear a peep
Works well with low-power CPUs
95W TDP limitation
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.