Best CPU cooler 2018: top CPU coolers for your PC

Best CPU cooler

What’s cooler than being cool? That’s right, keeping your PC components ice cold. Here at TechRadar, we love building and overclocking the best gaming PCs we can get our hands on – and we know that the best CPU coolers will help you squeeze every drop of performance out of even the best processors, as the lower CPU temperatures allow your PC to run faster and last longer. 

The best CPU coolers will come in every shape and size, and what you need for your build will largely depend on what you’re going to do with it. Luckily, there are awesome CPU coolers at every price point – so you don’t need to let your budget hold you back. If you’re overclocking the best processors, you should consider investing in a beefy liquid cooling solution, so you don’t break anything.

No matter what kind of CPU cooler you’re in the market for, we here at TechRadar will help you find it with this list of the best CPU coolers you can buy in 2018 – each one tested and ranked right here.

Noctua NH-D15

Best CPU cooler

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)

Whisper quiet
Six-year manufacturer’s warranty
Too big for some PC builds

The Noctua NH-D15 tops our list for one simple, yet compelling reason: it may not be a liquid cooler, but it can perform just as well as – if not better than – some all-in-one coolers. Now, you might not be overly familiar with Noctua’s name, they’re relatively small in the CPU cooler game, but their entire business is centered around designing coolers, so you know that when you buy one of their products, you’re getting a product by people who really know their craft. Not only will you get stellar cooling performance from this thing, but you’ll also get extremely diminished fan noise as well. When you combine all of that with their six-year warranty, you have a recipe for one of the best CPU coolers you can imagine. 

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Best budget CPU cooler

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

A constant reminder of the age-old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a mainstay in pretty much any budget build, as its one of the most affordable CPU coolers you can buy today. Although it only features four heatpipes and an aluminum fin structure, this renowned CPU cooler has proven itself time and again to be as efficient as any liquid cooling system. These air coolers are designed to make heat dissipation a breeze, whether you’re playing Destiny 2 at max settings or reading TechRadar in a web browser. 

  •  This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noctua NH-D15 
Noctua NH-D15
TRD
$79.90
TRD

Noctua NH-L9

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)

Ultra compact
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

Best CPU liquid-cooler

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.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB

The best compact liquid cooler

Type: Liquid cooling system | Compatibility: Intel LGA 775 – LGA 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2+ | Rotation frequency: Up to 2000 RPM | Noise volume: 6dbA – 30dbA | Dimensions (W x D x H): 83.6 x 71.8 x 52.7mm

 Luminous RGB lighting 
 Premium build 
 A little expensive 

There isn’t a single component that can’t be made better with RGB, and Cooler Master knows this – jumping on the RGB bandwagon with the MasterLiquid ML 120R RGB. What’s more, it integrates some of the first addressable LEDs seen on a liquid cooler. This all-in-one liquid cooling solution isn’t just about aesthetics either – as it features an oxidation-free pump and an efficient radiator. This means that not only will it last longer – but it’ll keep your CPU cooler, and all without giving up too much case real estate.

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)

Strong performance
Inexpensive
Somewhat noisey
Few features

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. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF 
Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF
TRD
$79.95
TRD

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

NoFan CR-95C

Best fanless CPU cooler

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
Exorbitantly massive
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. 

  •  This Product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noctua NH-L9 
Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF
TRD
$79.95
TRD