Your CPU needs to stay cool to work and stay working, so if you plan to try overclocking or just want to be sure you’re operating at safe temps, you’ll want one of the best CPU coolers you can get in your rig. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on this vital PC part.
These are the current best CPUs for gaming to build your rig around.
CPU coolers generally come in two varieties. The first is an air cooler, which comes with a big metal heat sink that pulls heat away from the CPU, which is then blown away by a fan. Before you pick an air cooler, you need to consider your CPU socket type, RAM clearance, your PC’s case dimensions.
The other, more extravagant option is liquid cooling, with the most common being AIO (all-in-one). The coolant passes through a closed-loop via a plate attached to your CPU to cool it down. Liquid cooling is often a more efficient choice and can lead to some flashy-looking components with wild RGB lighting options, and even OLED screens.
If you’re feeling especially courageous, you could also create a full custom water cooling loop, which can include GPU as well as CPU cooling, but that way lies tube-bending and a whole lot of installation effort—though the end result of all that work is pretty cool.
We’ve listed our favorite of air and AIO coolers below, which cater to both high-end and budget builds. If you’re looking for other ways to help increase your system’s ventilation, you can check out our guide to the best PC fans.
Corsair was one of the first hardware manufacturers to bring all-in-one liquid coolers to market. It’s only fitting that its latest cooler has dethroned our previous king. The H115i has always been a strong contender for the throne of best liquid CPU cooler, only narrowly beaten by NZXT’s Kraken X62.
The updated H115i Pro is a definite improvement, but NZXT’s infinity mirror CPU block design was and still remains one of the most beautiful RGB implementations we’ve seen in any product. It hasn’t been until seeing Corsair’s latest contender, the H115i Platinum, that we’ve been able to let the Kraken go. But the new NZXT Kraken Z63 is in the lab now so that might change in the coming weeks…
For now though it’s all about the excellent Corsair AIO. The H115i Platinum is available in black or a stunning white with a set of addressable RGB LED fans and CPU block. It’s a real head turner in any build but also has excellent software and performance to back it up.
It may be one of the most expensive air coolers we’ve tested but Noctua’s flagship NH-D15 is our top choice for high-end air coolers. Based off of the company’s award-winning D14, the NH-D15 performs just as well as a handful of all-in-one liquid coolers and even beats a few of them both in performance and noise levels. The cooler features a dual tower heatsink and comes with two high airflow 140mm fans.
Even working at 100 percent speed the cooler ran quieter than just about all of its competitors. If you aren’t a fan of liquid cooling or don’t have the space to mount a radiator, the NH-D15 is about as good as it gets for air cooling. The only downside we could find is its bulkiness which could potentially cause problems with tall RAM modules clearance.
EVGA’s latest CLC liquid coolers are our favorite mid range pick because of their excellent performance per dollar. Matching cooling of the latest chip-chillers from Corsair and NZXT, the 240mm CLC costs a fraction of the price while only sacrificing on a few features. The included fans can get very loud at full speed, but we found the cooler to run well enough without ever reaching those levels.
While you won’t get the fancy addressable RGB lighting you’d find in NZXT, Thermaltake or Cooler Master’s latest designs, the EVGA CLC does have the same sleeved tubing and a single RGB light on the pump head that can be controlled through the software. If you don’t care for all of the bells and whistles, EVGA’s CLC 240 offers exceptional performance with little compromises.
Credit: Best CPU coolers