If you want to get your CPU far enough to ask for mercy, you need a good cooler. As with most PC components, there are various options for users with different wishes and requirements. For example, you don't want to force a massive tower into a micro ATX case, and you don't need a $ 160 water cooler if you want me to, I'll never overclock. In our opinion, we have summarized the best results in each category, taking into account performance, price, noise level and design.
Best air cooler
Noctua has an excellent reputation when it comes to CPU coolers, and for good reason. Although it's been a while (a repeated recommendation from Catrachadas), you will struggle to find an air cooler that works as well as the Noctua NH-D15.
Thanks to its six aluminum heat pipes and two 140 mm fans (with PWM support), you not only get exceptional cooling from this component, which offers performance comparable to many liquid coolers, but also the advantage that it is exceptionally quiet and quiet is volume between approx. 34 dBA and 43 dBA depending on the load.
The user-friendly SecuFirm 2 mounting system from Noctua makes installation child's play. However, one of the best features of this cooler is the six-year manufacturer's warranty.
However, there are some limitations: This is a massive, heavy unit. With a size of 160 x 150 x 135 mm and a weight of almost 3 pounds, it takes up a lot of space – you have to be careful when moving a PC with this interior. And despite its performance, some people may not be willing to spend that much on an air cooler, although there are more expensive options.
The Noctua supports most modern Intel and AMD sockets and currently costs around $ 90 on Amazon.
With a similar size, weight, and price to Noctua's offering – albeit a little louder – the CryoRig R1 Ultimate offers an optional third fan. And if you're ready to sacrifice a little cooling for a cheaper price, check out the Scythe Mugen 5 Rev. B, which costs $ 48.
Budget coolers that are much better than stock
If you're not looking for the highest cooling performance (i.e., not overclocking heavily), but still want to improve your standard CPU cooler's offering for as little money as possible, here are three proven options for around $ 30.
But first, you should know that AMD's Wraith Spire is surprisingly good for a production cooler (almost matching the venerable Hyper 212 Evo). On the other hand, Intel's serial coolers are to be replaced by enthusiasts.
Still, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is perhaps the most popular affordable CPU cooler you'll find. He's rocking it back in 2011! It's a good choice for around $ 30.
Two options with similar prices are almost as popular and probably a little better: The Cryorig H7 offers superior cooling performance and produces less noise than the CM 212 and only costs $ 35. Finally, the DeepCool Gammaxx 400 is a popular option, though perhaps darker and more underground than the other two, which is normally sold for around $ 25.
Best low-noise cooler
If you are looking for this perfect combination of low noise levels and maximum cooling performance, you can choose the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3. Although there are a handful of coolers that are a bit quieter and cheaper, this is an ideal choice for those who want to overclock their PCs and keep everything as quiet as possible. According to the company, the noise is 26 dBA even with a 100 percent PWM function.
Although the Dark Rock Pro is one of the quietest air coolers on the market, the NH-D15 still offers a chance in terms of pure performance. Not surprisingly, it also has roughly the same weight and price (for the most expensive model) as Noctua's top cooler and is similarly bulky, although installation is probably not that easy.
The Dark Rock Pro is supplied with two SilentWings PWM fans (120 mm and 135 mm) and supports an additional 120 mm fan. Buyers also get a 3-year warranty. It also looks a lot more stylish than the beige and brown color scheme of the NH-D15.
The alternatives include Noctua's NH-U9S. In addition to its excellent performance, it reduces noise through its only more efficient NF-A9 fan and comes with a low-noise adapter that reduces the maximum fan speed for even quieter operation.
Best low profile cooler
Thanks to the popularity of HTPC and Mini-ITX systems, there are a large number of low-profile CPU coolers on the market, which made the selection not easy. For peak performance and low noise, however, it is another entry from Noctua with the NH-L12S.
This cooler – a successor to the popular NH-L12 – has not been on the market for long. The slim NF-A12x15 120mm fan offers better cooling performance compared to the 92mm model of the previous version. The fan can be installed above the slats to ensure a greater distance for RAM modules up to 48 mm, or under the slats so that the total height is only 70 mm. It also offers PWM support and low-noise adapters for automatic speed control and extremely quiet operation.
The NH-L12S fits almost every old and new CPU socket. Even if caution is required with CPUs with more than 95 W TDP, it has been shown that it works without problems if it goes beyond this point.
At around $ 50, the price is competitive with similar coolers. But like the NH-D15, brown and beige are probably the only thing that scares people.
Other high quality low profile coolers are the Silverstone Argon AR06 and the Thermalright AXP-200R. And if you have enough space for one in your case, that's Be Quiet! The Shadow Rock LP series offers excellent performance in relatively small packages.
Best all-in-one liquid cooler
It seems that most people today prefer all-in-one liquid coolers. They tend to perform better than their cousins in the air and are less problematic than custom loops. Therefore, there are numerous options to choose from.
The Kraken X62 from NZXT offers the best performance you get from an AIO with a 280mm cooler, but it also looks absolutely stunning. Not everyone loves RGB lighting, but the ability to control effects via CAM + software and combine the brilliant Infinity Mirror design makes this cooler the perfect cooler to showcase yourself through your glass side panel.
Unlike its predecessors, the X62 is also one of the quietest AIOs. There is hardly any noise to be noticed even in the performance mode of a strongly overclocked CPU. Add to that a simple installation process and compatibility with a large number of sockets, and you get what is arguably the best AIO cooler available.
Although a handful of buyers have reported problems with the X62's pump, this additional product comes with a six-year warranty. And while not everyone is a fan of the occasional skittish CAM + software, the price tag of over $ 160 (more if bought through third-party Amazon sellers) may turn people down. But if you want the best, be prepared to pay for it.
The AlphaCool Eisbaer 240 vies for the top spot in this category, with which users can add other components to its loop, but do not have the appearance of the octopus. If you're looking for something cheaper, Corsair's H100i v2 performs great and is currently on Amazon for just $ 109.
Best budget all-in-one cooler
If you choose liquid instead of air, you don't have to spend more than $ 100. You can take full advantage of an AIO without the high price by opting for Corsair's Hydro Series H60, which is available from Amazon for just $ 60.
After using one of these coolers myself for many years, I can confirm its quality. The H60 kept my overclocked CPU cool with its updated static pressure fan based on Corsair's SP120, and the noise was not noticeably loud even at maximum speed. It also looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.
One of the best elements of the H60 is its simple installation process. This was by far the easiest cooler I've ever had to install, also thanks to its magnetic multi-platform mounting bracket kit. And thanks to the pre-applied thermal paste, things become faster and easier (and cleaner).
This is a budget AIO. So don't expect the performance you find in liquid coolers that are more than twice the price. But the H60 should still be enough for everyone except the most enthusiastic overclockers. For a great all-rounder who does an excellent job, looks elegant and doesn't cost a fortune, Corsair's reliable offering is just the ticket.
Another AIO budget to watch
A close contender for the top position in this category is the Arctic Liquid Freezer 120. For ~ USD 10 more, this device is supplied with two fans and offers solid performance and low noise levels, although its build quality may not quite match that of the H60.