What’s cooler than being cool? Keeping your PC components ice cold. You heard us, and here at TechRadar, we love building and overclocking the best gaming PCs that we can get our hands on. And if you’re like us, you’ll know that the best CPU coolers will help you squeeze out every drop of performance that the best processors are capable of. And even if you don’t find yourself staying up late into the night fiddling with your BIOS, buying one of the best CPU coolers is still a great idea, as the lower CPU temperatures that they afford will usually mean your PC will have a much longer life.
The best CPU coolers are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and the best one will depend on your own personal needs. As far as budget, if you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, you can pick up a high-end liquid cooling solution that will blow your mind with its low temps. However, if you don’t want to break open your piggy bank, air-cooling solutions are still worth their weight in salt. Regardless of what you’re going for, we’ve created a list of seven of the best CPU coolers available today – each one tested and ranked in-house at TechRadar. So if you’re rocking one of the best processors, do yourself a favor and buy one of the best CPU coolers today.
But, enough with the introductions, let’s dive into what you’re all here for – the best CPU coolers of 2018. Regardless of your budget, no matter what kind of cooler you’re looking for, no matter the aesthetics, we’re confident you’ll be satisfied with our choices here. So, whether you’re in the market for an elaborate, complicated beast like NZXT’s Kraken X62, or you want something a little more subdued and inconspicuous like the Noctua NH D15, you’ll find something here.
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)
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)
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.
- 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
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)
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)
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.
- 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
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)
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
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)
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
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