As tempting as it may be to skip getting the best CPU cooler so you can spend more money on the sexier internals, you shouldn’t. If you’re blowing all that cash on the PC components and getting a cheap cooler, you might as well burn all that money. After all, those best graphics card, best processor and best motherboard you’ve just spent a lot of money on need a reliable cooler to not only work optimally, but also stay in excellent condition.
In other words, the best CPU cooler is an integral part of building a PC, whether it's a gaming PC you’re after, one of the best computers, or just a budget one. They’ll keep your internals cool and keep them from failing or worse, catching fire. That doesn't necessarily mean you need the most expensive one you can find – there are affordable options out there that are just as effective in meeting your PC’s cooling and overclocking needs.
Keep it cool, no matter your need, with one of the best CPU coolers 2021 has to offer. Make sure to also check out our price comparison tool to find the best deal before pressing that buy button.
The best CPU cooler at a glance
- Noctua NH-D15
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition
- Noctua NH-L9
- NZXT Kraken Z-3
- Corsair iCUE H115i Elite Capellix
- Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240P Mirage
- Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB
- Arctic Liquid Freezer 120
- Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF
- NoFan CR-95C
- MasterLiquid ML360 Sub-Zero
The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the best CPU coolers you can buy in 2019 simply because it performs just as well as – if not better – than some liquid coolers, while costing a fraction of the price. You might not be too familiar with Noctua’s name, as they’re relatively small in the CPU cooler world, but its business is revolves 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. On top of delivering a fantastic cooling performance, the NH-D15 is nearly silent as well.
Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 CPU RGB cooler is back with a vengeance, and sporting a sleek gun-metal black brushed aluminum finish to boot. It’s not only jet black look that’s upping this CPU cooler’s cool factor – though it does help what with that aluminum top cover and nickel plated jet black fins to complete the look. It’s also easily one of the best CPU coolers on the market with its stacked fin array that ensures least airflow resistance, four heat pipes that boast Direct Contact Technology to better battle the heat, and a wide speed range for fine-tuning cooling performance and silent operation.
Noctua is an Austrian manufacturer that does one thing, and one thing only: make the best CPU coolers and fans. What this means is that even though the Noctua NH-L9 is tiny, it is still more than capable of insane cooling with no compromises. This is a fantastic cooler for anyone with a smaller build, or even if you’re using a ton of large components, and you’re not comfortable with liquid cooling.
Whether you’re going for 360MM or 280MM, the NZXT Kraken Z-3 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for liquid cooling. First of all, thanks to its vibrant 2.36-inch LCD screen that’s capable of displaying 24-bit color, this liquid cooler allows total customization so you can fine-tune settings as well as display your favorite images and animated gifs. More importantly, it delivers impressive liquid cooling performance and is easy to install.
The Corsair iCUE H115i Elite Capellix continues Corsair’s tradition of outstanding liquid coolers. It couples excellent cooling, thanks to its split-flow copper cold plate and its low-noise centrifugal pump, with bright RGB lighting, due to the use of Capellix LEDs. And, the RGB lighting is, in true Corsair style, customizable through the company’s proprietary iCue software. If you want a powerful liquid cooling system that looks good too, the Corsair iCUE H115i Elite is a perfect choice.
With the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240P Mirage in your gaming rig, you won’t only end up playing for hours on end without worrying about thermal throttling or overheating. You might just an hour or so admiring your CPU, especially if you have one of those glass-window cases, as this CPU cooler is indeed hypnotically pretty. It’s mostly thanks to its transparent pump design that lets you see the impeller spinning while bathed in different RGB lighting, like a colorful spinning wheel at a funhouse. Performance-wise, it definitely deserves a spot in our best CPU coolers list, with its PPS+ glass fiber housing and nozzle that provides temperature and liquid resistance, EPDM rubber O-Ring that helps eliminate liquid emission, and a low-resistance radiator that increases flow rate, heat exchange efficiency and cooling performance.
There isn’t a single component that can’t be improved through RGB, and Cooler Master is well aware – 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 – 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, which is why it’s made our best CPU coolers list.
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 makes our best CPU coolers list as it 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
Even if your budget will allow you to really go all-out on a serious liquid cooling solutions, if you have a smaller PC case, you’ll likely not have enough space. That’s where something like the Corsair Hydro H5 SF comes into play. Even on the smallest PC cases, you’re able to use this CPU cooler to keep your CPU chilled, even if you have some beastly overclocks happening. Plus, because it’s a closed loop, you don’t even need to worry about maintenance. Set it up, and let it do its thing – you won’t be disappointed.
Rounding out our best CPU coolers list is the NoFan CR-95C. You’ve probably never heard of NoFan – unless you’re already neck deep into the rabbit hole that is silent PC assembly. The South Korean component company specializes in helping enthusiasts reach that 0dBA silent sweet spot. In doing so, of course, will severely limit your set-up 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 if you want to build a low-power computer that completely blends into the background.
- 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
Powered by Intel’s Cryo Cooling Technology, the MasterLiquid ML360 Sub-Zero from Cooler Master allows increased performance for Intel’s high-TDP chips by letting them reach higher frequencies at lower voltages. This liquid cooler boasts a 360mm radiator and fans that are able to spin at low rpm while delivering a high air pressure to air flow ratio. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer who loves to overclock or a content creator with demanding processing needs, this is the best CPU cooler for you.