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The best CPU coolers for 2020

Choosing a CPU cooler for your build is harder than it looks. Should you go with air or liquid? Where is the best placement for it and which brand is the best? There are plenty of wrong answers, but the right answer comes down to your budget, your setup, and your performance standards.

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.  

Best overall CPU cooler: 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 (LxWxH) 161mm x 150mm x 165mm
Weight 1,320g

Noctua has produced some of the best CPU coolers the world over for years and it hasn’t missed a beat recently. Its NH-D15 with its dual heatsink and fans offers performance that rivals or exceeds some of the best watercoolers in the world and it retains that off-the-beaten-trail color scheme that was so defined Noctua since its debut.

The NH-D15 is a heavy cooler and quite a bulky one, so it isn’t perfect for every system. It’s also quite expensive. But 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 a great looking, powerful cooler, that 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
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150
AMD: AM2, AM3, AM4, TR4
Dimensions (LxWxH) 276mm x 120mm x 27mm  (radiator) 32mm (block height)
Weight 1,987g (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 waterblock 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 (although there are 280mm and 360mm versions available) with a sleek look and great overall performance. It’s quiet (with zero fan spin at idle) is easy to fit in most cases, and with recent price drops, it’s much more competitive with not only Corsair’s other AIO coolers, but from other companies too. And it has some light RGB lighting effects for good measure.

Alternatives 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.

Best low-profile CPU cooler: Noctua NH-L12S

Noctua NH-L12S CPU Cooler
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150
AMD:  AM2, AM3, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions (LxWxH) 146mm x 128mm x 70mm
Weight 520g

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 to use it 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.

Best budget CPU cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black

Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA2011, LGA1151, LGA 1150, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1366
AMD:  AM2, AM3, AMD3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions (LxWxH) 120mm x 79.6mm x 158.8mm
Weight 700g

Cooler Master has been making some of the best budget CPU coolers for years, with the iconic Hyper 212 range acting 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 paintjob and a similarly dark fan, this cooler has an understated look, with solid all-round performance. With eight heatpipes 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.

But the big selling point of this 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.

Best RGB CPU cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGB

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R AIO
Socket compatibility Intel: LGA2066, LGA 2011, LGA 1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA 1150, LFA1366
AMD:  AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+
Dimensions (LxWxH) 277mm x 119.6mm x 27mm (radiator) 80.3mm x 76mm x 42.2mm (block)
Weight 1,215g

Most closed-loop all-in-one water coolers have some form of lighting to them, 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 fans on the radiator. Everything else is an understated, sleek black, to give all the appropriate attention to the glowing portions of your new AIO.

Performance of this 240mm AIO is solid, with plenty of headroom for even the most toasty of overclocked processors, and installation is easy thanks to a simple bracket system and an extensive selection of bundled screws and mounts for each component in the kit. It even comes with a removable block head so if you accidentally mount the pump upside down you can swap that around to make sure the logo is the right way up.

If you need more or less cooling ability, or have more or less space to incorporate your AIO cooler, the MasterLiquid RGB is also available in 120mm and 360mm forms.

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