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The best CPU coolers to buy for every budget

Noctua NH-D15
Noctua NH-D15
The best CPU air cooler
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Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L v2
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2
The best 240mm liquid cooler
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Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE ARGB CPU Air Cooler, 6 Heat Pipes Cpu cooler, Dual TL-C12C-S PWM Fan, Aluminium Heatsink Cover, AGHP Technology, for AMD AM4/AM5/Intel LGA1700/1150/1151/1155/1200
Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE
The best value CPU air cooler
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Noctua NH-L12S
Noctua NH-L12S
The best small form-factor CPU cooler
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Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360
Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360
The best CPU liquid cooler
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be quiet! Pure Rock 2
Be quiet! Pure Rock 2
The best silent CPU air cooler
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Corsair iCUE H170i Elite CAPELLIX XT
Corsair iCUE H170i Elite Capellix XT
The best high-end CPU liquid cooler
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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've compiled a list of CPU coolers that will keep every processor nice and cool, including some of the top CPUs.

The Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler.
Noctua / Amazon

Noctua NH-D15

The best CPU air cooler

Pros
  • Excellent cooling
  • Vast compatibility
  • Relatively quiet even at full RPM
Cons
  • It's really bulky
  • Not the cheapest cooler

Why should you buy this: If you have a midrange or even high-end CPU, but don't want a liquid cooler.

Who's it for: Gamers and other users in need of efficient cooling.

What we thought of the Noctua NH-D15: Noctua produces some of the best CPU coolers available. The NH-D15, with its dual heat sink and fans, offers performance that rivals or exceeds some of the best all-in-one (AIO) coolers in the world while retaining that off-the-beaten-track color scheme that has defined Noctua since its debut. (If you're not into brown and beige, it's also available in black at a small premium.)

This cooler has been around for many years now, but it's still able to compete against newer cooling solutions, and that's even on recent processors. This is a 160mm fan with a TDP of 220 watts and a RPM that maxes out at 1,500. It's efficient, capable, and fairly quiet for a fan of this size and performance.

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. Keep in mind that if you're an overclocker, switching to a liquid cooler might be a safer option.

Noctua NH-D15
Noctua NH-D15
The best CPU air cooler
CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2 liquid cooler.
Cooler Master / Newegg

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2

The best 240mm liquid cooler

Pros
  • Affordable for a liquid cooler
  • Reasonably easy to install
  • Efficient cooling
Cons
  • Not powerful enough to handle massive overclocking
  • It can be a bit loud

Why should you buy this: It's an efficient AIO cooler that's nowhere near as bulky as bigger options.

Who's it for: Gamers who like a bit of RGB and have a CPU that needs more than just an air cooler.

What we thought of the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2: When you first step into liquid cooling, the whole process might seem a little intimidating. If you're working with a massive cooler, there are also many more considerations, such as the fit and the installation process. That's why, for many users, the MasterLiquid ML240L v2 is a great entry into the world of AIO cooling that's a lot more hassle-free than 360mm or 420mm options.

This is an improved version of a previous Cooler Master model that was also a bit of a fan favorite, and this one follows in its footsteps. It offers a larger radiator surface area for better heat dissipation, an upgraded pump for enhanced performance, and improved SickleFlow RGB fans. The fan speed is rated at 650 RPM to 1,800 RPM, and it has a massive life expectancy.

Cooler Master's AIO cooler is a fairly inexpensive, and yet efficient, liquid cooler that will fit in most mid-tower and full-tower setups. It's an upgrade over many air coolers, so if you've got one of the best processors, it's worth considering.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L v2
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2
The best 240mm liquid cooler
Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE ARGB CPU cooler.
Thermalright / Amazon

Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE

The best value CPU air cooler

Pros
  • Extremely good value
  • Low noise levels
  • It can tackle even high-end CPUs
Cons
  • Not recommended for overclocking at higher TDPs

Why should you buy this: It's an inexpensive CPU cooler suitable for all kinds of builds, from entry-level to high-end.

Who's it for: Gamers and professionals who want a powerful cooler at a reasonable price.

What we thought of the Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE: When you want a cooler that suits both the latest CPUs and those from a couple of generations back, there are lots of options to choose from. However, if you want one that's actually great, compatible with most processors, and cheap, it gets trickier. Fortunately, this Thermalright cooler ticks all three of those boxes.

The Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE comes with a dual-tower heat sink and two 120mm fans that hit a maximum of 1,550 RPM. As far as coolers go, it's fairly easy to install, and it's not as bulky as the Noctua NH-D15, although you'll still struggle to fit it inside a mini-ITX case.

Although its price falls in the $35 to $45 range, this is an efficient cooler that can handle even high-end AMD and Intel processors. At higher TDP values, you might want to avoid overclocking, but for day-to-day use, this one is hard to beat.

Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE ARGB CPU Air Cooler, 6 Heat Pipes Cpu cooler, Dual TL-C12C-S PWM Fan, Aluminium Heatsink Cover, AGHP Technology, for AMD AM4/AM5/Intel LGA1700/1150/1151/1155/1200
Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE
The best value CPU air cooler
Noctua NH-L12S CPU Cooler
Noctua

Noctua NH-L12S

The best small form-factor CPU cooler

Pros
  • Fits in small cases
  • Suitable for SFF and HTPC builds
Cons
  • RAM clearance can get tricky
  • Not suited for high-end CPUs

Why should you buy this: Anyone building a small form factor PC that needs some cooling.

Who's it for: Gamers and regular users with a PC inside a tiny case.

What we thought of the Noctua NH-L12S: If your PC is lightweight or low-profile, then you need a low-profile CPU cooler to take the most 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 and mini PCs. However, make extra sure that there's enough headroom for the RAM, as some users run into issues with RAM clearance.

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.

Noctua NH-L12S
Noctua NH-L12S
The best small form-factor CPU cooler
Arctic Liquid Freezer II CPU cooler.
Arctic / Amazon

Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360

The best CPU liquid cooler

Pros
  • It can handle all CPUs at high TDPs
  • Ready for overclocking
  • Good value
Cons
  • Won't fit in every case
  • The installation process isn't the easiest

Why should you buy this: Those who have a high-end PC suited for heavy workloads and want to try overclocking.

Who's it for: Gamers and power users who need the best cooling available without breaking the bank.

What we thought of the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360: This Arctic liquid cooler is the first one on our list that will undoubtedly handle just about anything you throw at it. Priced below $140 at the time of writing, it's a huge, well-rounded cooling solution fit to keep even the most demanding CPUs running smoothly.

It's a bulky cooler equipped with three 120mm fans, although smaller options of the same model are also available, as are variants with ARGB lighting. Even when placed under high load, this Arctic model can keep your system nice and cool thanks to its thick radiator and high-performance fans.

You can also rest assured that it works with both Intel LGA1700 and AMD AM5 sockets. The installation process can get a little tricky, in part due to the aforementioned thick radiator, but if your case can fit it, this is the best CPU liquid cooler right now.

Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360
Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360
The best CPU liquid cooler
The be quiet! Pure Rock 2 CPU fan.
be quiet! / Amazon

Be quiet! Pure Rock 2

The best silent CPU air cooler

Pros
  • Affordable pricing
  • Not too massive
  • Remarkably silent
Cons
  • May struggle with high-end CPUs
  • Limited overclocking potential

Why should you buy this: It's an excellent cooler suited for all kinds of PCs, including gaming builds.

Who's it for: Users who value quiet fans while maintaining efficient cooling.

What we thought of the be quiet! Pure Rock 2: Much like Noctua, Be quiet! is known for its top-notch cooling solutions. This CPU cooler is no exception. It combines a decent price (below $50), reasonable size, and straight-up cooling excellence to deliver a versatile fan.

It's fairly small, measuring 87 x 121 x 155mm, meaning that it can even fit in some mini-ITX cases, not to mention mid-tower options. Despite its size, the build quality of this cooler makes it capable of delivering good cooling performance. It's also really quiet compared to some of its counterparts -- including some that cost more -- even at high loads.

While this fan can tackle CPUs with a higher TDP, it might be better to avoid it if you've got yourself a beefy processor and your plan is to overclock. In those cases, it's always better to go with a liquid cooler.

be quiet! Pure Rock 2
Be quiet! Pure Rock 2
The best silent CPU air cooler
The Corsair iCUE H170i Elite CAPELLIX XT Liquid CPU Cooler.
Corsair / Amazon

Corsair iCUE H170i Elite Capellix XT

The best high-end CPU liquid cooler

Pros
  • It'll handle everything you throw at it
  • It looks beautiful in aesthetic builds
  • Incredibly high max TDP
Cons
  • It's really expensive
  • You'll need a massive case

Why should you buy this: If you need the absolute best cooling capacity available.

Who's it for: Enthusiasts with expensive PCs that tend to heat up.

What we thought of the Corsair iCUE H170i Elite Capellix XT: If your PC sports a high-end processor like the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D or the Intel Core i9-14900K, adequate cooling isn't just an option -- it's a necessity. With components that feed on electricity like it's candy, everything tends to heat up, even in a huge PC case. In those scenarios, an enthusiast-level cooler like this Corsair model is the way to go.

This is a beautiful cooler with a 420mm radiator that rivals some of the best graphics cards in size. With a pump speed reaching up to 2,700 RPM and the ability to handle extreme overclocking, this is the one of the best AIO coolers you can get.

Its performance is undeniably good, but this cooler is not without flaws. It's really pricey -- you'll usually find it for around $240. A 420mm radiator isn't always necessary, and it definitely limits the ways in which you might be able to install this cooler. However, if you have a roomy case and a PC that needs to stay cool, this is the go-to for enthusiasts.

Corsair iCUE H170i Elite CAPELLIX XT
Corsair iCUE H170i Elite Capellix XT
The best high-end CPU liquid cooler

Frequently Asked Questions

Is AIO better than air cooling?

AIO liquid coolers typically provide better cooling than their air counterparts, but that doesn't make them inherently better. They are better for the PC builds that require it, meaning high-end and midrange computers with CPUs that tend to heat up. Many users with PCs in the lower midrange to entry-level bracket have zero use for AIO coolers, and for them, a reliable CPU fan is all that's necessary.

Which is the best gaming CPU cooler?

Gaming CPUs, especially those that are overclocked, tend to heat up a lot. If you're using one of AMD's top processors, meaning the Ryzen 7 7800X3D or the 7950X3D, a liquid cooler like the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360 is a great way to ensure that your PC won't overheat. However, if you're sticking to processors like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D or the Intel Core i5-13600K, air coolers are often a better option, such as the Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE mentioned above.

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, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. At Digital Trends, he's written everything about computers, from how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. He began his online writing career cranking out news, reviews, and previews based on the Sega Dreamcast console.

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