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The best CPU coolers

Choosing the best CPU cooler for your next build isn’t easy. Between liquid and air options, a variety of different form factors, and differences in performance, it’s important to choose a cooler that will keep your processor at a reasonable temperature.

There is no one-size-fits-all option. To help narrow down your search, we made a list of the top CPU coolers on the market, including the Noctua NH-D15 because it’s powerful and has a six-year warranty.

The best CPU coolers at a glance

Noctua NH-D15

Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011-0, LGA2011-3, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150
AMD: AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+, AM4
Dimensions (length by width by height) 161mm by 150mm by 165mm
Weight 1,320 grams

Noctua produces some of the best CPU coolers the world over. The NH-D15, with its dual heatsink and fans, offers performance that rivals or exceeds some of the best watercoolers in the world while retaining that off-the-beaten-trail color scheme that has defined Noctua since its debut.

The NH-D15 is both bulky and heavy, so it isn’t perfect for every system. It’s also quite expensive. However, if you want the ultimate in air cooling on just about any socket of recent generations, you can’t go wrong with the NH-D15. It’s great-looking, powerful, and even comes with a six-year warranty, so you can feel assured that it won’t let you down any time soon.

Best closed-loop AIO CPU cooler: Corsair H100i Pro

Corsair h100i
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150
AMD: AM2, AM3, AM4, TR4
Dimensions 276mm by 120mm by 27mm  (radiator) 32mm (block height)
Weight 1,987 grams (block and radiator)

Closed-loop, all-in-one coolers might not offer a dramatic increase in cooling power compared to the best air coolers, but they are much more minimalist. They push the heatsink fins and their intrinsic surface area to the edges and boundaries of your case, leaving an attractive and low-profile water block on your CPU itself. There are a number of great AIOs out there, but our favorite for the cost is the Corsair H100i Pro.

It’s a 240mm AIO with a sleek look and great overall performance. It’s quiet, with zero fan spin at idle, and it’s easy to fit in most cases. With recent price drops, it’s much more competitive with not only Corsair’s other AIO coolers, but with those from other companies, too. It even has some light RGB lighting effects for good measure.

Alternatives to the H100i like the H115i are more capable, with slightly reduced noise and better thermals, but for as much as $40 more, it’s not really worth the upgrade. If you need a bigger version, Corsair offers 280mm and 360mm models as well.

Noctua NH-L12S

Noctua NH-L12S CPU Cooler
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150
AMD:  AM2, AM3, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions 146mm by 128mm by 70mm
Weight 520 grams

If your PC is lightweight or low-profile, then you need a low-profile CPU cooler to take the best advantage of it. That’s where Noctua’s NH-L12S really shines. At just 70mm tall, it will fit into the most diminutive of mini-ITX chassis, making it a great option for those looking to cool a powerful CPU in a small system build.

It supports a wide array of Intel and AMD sockets from the past few generations and uses a simple clip mechanism to lock its fan in place. Attractive, lightweight, and capable, this is the best CPU cooler for low-profile builds.

The only caveat with this cooler is that it doesn’t have the same thermal headroom as some others on this list. Noctua advises using the NH-L12S with “care” with CPUs over 95W TDP or when overclocking, as it may not be able to keep the temperatures low enough to remain safe.

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black

Image used with permission by copyright holder
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1151, LGA 1150, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1366
AMD:  AM2, AM3, AMD3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions 120mm by 79.6mm by 158.8mm
Weight 700 grams

Cooler Master makes some of the best budget CPU coolers, and its iconic Hyper 212 range serves as a true flagship in that arena. Unfortunately, the 212 Evo isn’t compatible with the last generation of AMD’s CPUs without an upgrade kit, which adds a few more dollars to the cost, pushing it over $40. Fortunately, the 212 Black supports just about everything right out of the box and is just as capable.

With a nickel-black paint job and a similarly dark fan, this cooler has an understated look, plus solid all-round performance. Using eight heat pipes, it wicks heat away from the CPU core quickly and efficiently, cooling the expansive fins with a 120mm fan. There’s also the option of adding a second in a push-pull configuration for slightly improved airflow.

The big selling point of the Hyper 212 Black cooler is the cost. It’s a significant improvement over the stock cooler offered by either Intel or AMD, yet it costs well under $50.

MasterLiquid ML240R RGB

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R AIO
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA 2011, LGA 1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA 1150, LFA1366
AMD:  AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions 277mm by 119.6mm by 27mm (radiator) 80.3mm by 76mm by 42.2mm (block)
Weight 1,215 grams

Most closed-loop, all-in-one water coolers have some form of lighting, but none are quite as unicorn-certified as the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGB kit. It features RGB lighting around the rim of the CPU pump block and on the radiator fans. A minimalist design helps the cooler blend in, and the black finish gives it a discreet, sleek vibe. The cooler’s look, a combination of modern and simple, bring the RGB lighting front and center as a design element for a uniquely colorful result.

The 240mm AIO triumphs with fantastic performance. This kit includes screws, mounts, and a bracket system. You can mount the pump with the logo displayed correctly by using the removable blockhead.

You can get the MasterLiquid RGB in 120mm and 360mm versions. Get a larger pump if you need a big cooling boost, but opt for the 120mm version to save money.

The MasterLiquid ML240R’s 360mm version is a great option for those needing additional cooling, while the 120 mm version would be better for users who don’t have a lot of space.

Editors' Recommendations

Kevin Parrish
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then…
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