It’s easy to forget about the humble CPU cooler, especially when you choose to use the one that came with your Intel or AMD processor. While stock coolers can help keep temperatures at bay under normal conditions, you’ll want to invest in the best CPU cooler available if you want to boost fps and maximise gaming PC performance.
When it comes to choosing the best CPU cooler, there’s a diverse range of options that cater to both casual users and PC gaming enthusiasts. Looking to keep things cool while playing the latest Steam games? A well-designed air cooler should yield pleasing results. However, if you’re planning on overclocking, you’ll want to dip your toes into the realm of water cooling and opt for an AIO cooler.
The world of gaming PC CPU coolers may seem daunting, but fear not! We’ve assembled a list of the best CPU coolers from reliable brands like Noctua, Cooler Master, Be quiet!, MSI, and NZXT. We’ve even crafted a dedicated guide just for the best AIO cooler options, and if you’re pondering how to actually overclock your CPU, we can lend a helping hand with that too.
Here are the best CPU coolers for Intel and AMD processors:
- Noctua NH-D15
- Deep Cool Gammaxx GTE V2
- Be quiet! Dark Rock 4
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition
- Noctua NH-L9 series
- MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360
- NZXT Kraken X63
- Cooler Master MasterLiquid ARGB
- NZXT Kraken M22
- Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD
The best air cooler is the Noctua NH-D15.
This Noctua CPU cooler is a hefty thing, consisting of two 140mm fans and two heatsinks with compatibility for both AMD and Intel sockets. Despite its drab brown and beige colour scheme, it’s the best air cooler in the business, with temperatures almost identical to some water cooling solutions under full loads – it’s still pretty quiet under all situations. It’s a genuinely top match CPU cooler at a reasonable price, and if you’ve got one of the best gaming CPUs then its high TDP (thermal design power) rating means it’ll be more than capable of the job.
The pre-applied and highly praised Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste has a life of five years. In smaller PC chassis, you might have space issues due to the size so double-check the dimensions before you buy.
What we like…
Rivals water cooling
Two 140mm fans
Deep Cool Gammaxx GTE V2
The best budget CPU cooler is the Deep Cool Gammaxx GTE V2.
Deep Cool Gammaxx GTE V2 is proof that good budget CPU coolers exist. Not only will this stylish cooler feel at home within your shiny new PC case, but it’ll keep temperatures super low without breaking the bank. It’s even clad with white LEDs, so it should look pretty impressive whirling away inside your rig.
If you’re planning on sticking the Deep Cool Gammaxx GTE V2 onto an Intel Alder Lake CPU, the cooler’s included brackets should help simplify the process. Sure, if you’re aiming to overclock the blue team’s best CPU, you’re going to need to splash out a little more cash. Nevertheless, if you’re simply looking to prevent your processor from thermal throttling, this budget CPU is more than up to the task.
What we like…
Great performance for the price
Stays relatively quiet
Big improvement over stock coolers
Be quiet! Dark Rock 4
The best quiet CPU cooler is the Be quiet! Dark Rock 4.
Want a virtually silent air cooler? The Dark Rock 4 from be quiet! – there’s a hint in the name – fits the bill perfectly with a sound level of just 21.4dB under full load, the equivalent of a whisper. Despite this it still gives pretty respectable temperatures compared to its stock counterparts. With its stealthy black design, this cooler can neither be seen nor heard.
What we like…
One of the quietest coolers you can get
Sleek black design
Ability to add second fan
Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition
The best RGB CPU cooler is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition.
You’ve likely already got RGB on your best gaming mouse, so why not go all out and put it on your CPU cooler too? This is based on the same cooler we picked as our top budget option, but as the name suggests, the fan has been swapped out for an addressable RGB fan and black aluminium cover for extra pizazz, with a small price increase for the privilege.
What we like…
Low price tag
Noctua NH-L9i / Noctua NH-L9a
The best low profile CPU cooler is the Noctua NH-L9 series.
Breaking down the confusing model names first, the NH-L9i will fit Intel sockets and the NH-L9a will fit AMD sockets, but both are the same heatsink and fan design. We believe this to be the best low profile CPU cooler you can purchase.
You won’t have to worry about any size issues, with Noctua claiming 100% compatibility with all RAM sticks and the best graphics cards on Mini-ITX boards, and a total height of just 37mm. The built-in 92mm PWM-controlled Noctua fan stays nice and quiet, too.
MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360
The best AIO cooler is the MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360.
Water cooling your processor is great for overclocking and getting uncompromised performance without the added noise tax, and what better way than to avoid the hassle of a custom loop and go for a plug-and-play AIO cooler instead? None are better than the MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360, which packs three Silent Gale P12 fans onto one of the coolest and quietest solutions available, and even goes a step further with a 60mm fan on the pump to keep your motherboard’s VRMs from overheating.
While there’s no RGB in the mix here, there is a fancy 2.4-inch IPS screen that manages to top other display-infused AIO solutions. Simply dive into the MSI Center, and you can showcase your system temperature, personalise your gaming PC with your favourite GIF, and you won’t be able to hear them but you can even play .mp4 videos. And better yet, you won’t struggle with Intel’s latest 12th generation CPUs as all modern CPUs are seamlessly supported straight out of the box.
If money’s no object, no other AIO cooler hits all the same heights as the MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360.
What we like…
The best IPS screen
Supports the latest sockets
As quiet as a mouse
NZXT Kraken x63
The best AIO cooler is the NZXT Kraken X63.
If you’re taking a serious look at overclocking your CPU then an AIO water cooler is the one of the best options. This 280mm liquid cooler from NZXT is our pick. The virtually silent fans on the radiator have fluid-dynamic bearings, giving them a longer lifespan and quieter operation than any other fan technology. Naturally, there’s RGB lighting on the pump cover so people know you’re not running any old stock solution.
With the X63 you’ll see idle and load temps in another league to air coolers. If you are overclocking, make sure you’re picking up one of the best gaming motherboards to match, and make sure you pick up the best PC case that has space for that 280mm radiator.
What we like…
Great thermal performance
Near silent fans
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ARGB
The best RGB AIO cooler is the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ARGB.
There’s no reason you can’t be serious about your cooling and want to add a splash of colour to your gaming PC in the process – after all, the best gaming keyboards and best gaming headsets all have RGB nowadays, so why shouldn’t your CPU cooler match?
Cooler Master’s MasterLiquid series does this beautifully with its bright CPU block, and it comes in a handful of different sizes to make your next CPU upgrade a bit easier. The MasterLiquid ML360R has plenty of surface area and three 120mm fans to dissipate heat across its large radiator, but if you don’t have space for that in your case, then the MasterLiquid ML240R with dual 120mm fans might be more your pace.
What we like…
Choice of size
NZXT Kraken M22
The best 120mm AIO cooler is the NZXT Kraken M22.
It’s true that the bigger the radiator, the better the job an AIO cooler can do, but sometimes you just don’t have the space for one. This doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the chilling effects a liquid cooler offers, however, as there are smaller options to choose from that might be easier to shimmy into your case.
The NZXT Kraken M22 is the little brother to our favourite AIO cooler and comes with many of the same perks. It keeps things quiet, goes easy on your wallet, and keeps your CPU at the right temperature for gaming, but best of all, it could be considered the most compatible AIO cooler you’ll find with its small form factor and support for all modern Intel and AMD CPUs.
What we like…
Wide range of compatibility
Corsair iCUE H150i Elite
The best LCD AIO cooler is the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite.
What’s cooler than being cool? Well, we think the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite’s built-in LCD screen is ice cold. This frosty AIO cooler’s dinky display will transform the inside of your PC case into more than just a light show, enabling you to show off anything from animated gifs to vital CPU stats.
Novelties aside, the iCUE H150i Elite is also one of the best AIO coolers on the market, complete with a low-noise pump that should keep your CPU in check. Naturally, it’s also clad in Corsair’s impressive RGB lighting, and it even comes with an iCUE Commander Core controller that can help you wield control over all your PC’s lights and fans.
What we like…
Impressive RGB lighting
Do I need a CPU cooler?
Most Intel and AMD CPUs come with stock coolers, and they’re not necessarily that bad. If you’re planning on using your gaming PC for no thrills gaming or non-intensive tasks, you can probably just go ahead and use the fan that came with your processor. Of course, if you want to squeeze every drop of performance from your gaming PC, whether through overclocking or just playing games at 4K, you’ll want to opt for a cooler than can bring temperatures down as low as they go.
Do I need a liquid cooler?
AIO coolers, on the other hand, do wonders for those that plan to overclock their chip. Even if you don’t want to tinker with your gaming PC but can afford the price hike, they offer much more headroom, chipping degrees from your peak temperatures.
The main question on everyone’s mind is whether it’s worth the risk of putting liquid in the innards of your system, but leaks the size of which could damage your components are much rarer than you’d think. Besides, you’ll always be backed with great aftercare and warranties if you encounter any hiccups along the way.
Do CPU coolers come with mounting brackets?
Your CPU cooler should come with a selection of mounting brackets, but processor designs and shapes are continually evolving. If your cooler of choice was released before the new Intel Alder Lake series, you might find it doesn’t come with a suitable LGA 1700 bracket. Thankfully, you can pick up a new bracket fairly easily, and newer cooling options should be an issue.
Are stock CPU coolers good enough?
Long gone are the days of the included coolers sounding like a jet taking off once you boot up a game. The latest stock coolers from Intel and AMD are more than adequate if you’re not looking to overclock, or you’re trying to build the best cheap gaming PC.
Best CPU cooler deals
Our top picks will serve you better than most, but if you’re looking to save some money then there are plenty of CPU cooler deals to feast your eyes on:
Fans & Coolers