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Choosing The Best CPU Cooler - A Buyers Guide

This guide highlights the pros and cons of some of our best selling and great value CPU coolers, comparing some of the best CPU coolers for every budget.

A buyers guide to choosing the best CPU cooler.

 

Getting the most out of your brand-new AMD or Intel processor means you need to invest in adequate cooling. Not only will this prolong the life of your processor, but it will also ensure performance remains as high as possible when you’re thrashing around in Cyberpunk 2077 on Ultra settings… or exploring the open-world of Skyrim with all your weird and wonderful mods installed. For high-end gaming, a quality CPU cooler – either AIO water cooling or air cooling – is absolutely paramount.

Who Makes The Best CPU Cooler?

While there are some brands that are household names dominating the CPU cooler market, they don’t always represent the best value. Cooler Master, for example, have always nailed the performance aspect of CPU cooling, but have not necessarily made the grade in terms of value for money.

We tend to see brands like be quiet!, Corsair, NZXT, Noctua, and Lian Li appearing in benchmarks that also factor in low to mid-range budget, and making sure you get as much value in your investment as possible.

We’ll cover our most popular brands in terms of sales and customer satisfaction and check out how they stack up against each other in terms of value & performance.

Noctua CPU Coolers

 

Pros
Durable design
Runs quiet, even at higher RPM
Excellent customer service
Superior warranty (up to 6 years)
Smart design to reduce mechanical failure
Good power control
Low voltage
Redux range for lower budgets

 

Cons
Higher performance range is expensive compared to competition
Mostly basic & functional design (mostly brown)

 

Noctua have an enviable reputation among PC builders, enthusiasts and hobbyists, owing to their durable design and focus on ultra-quiet operation. Suitable for everything from gaming PC builds to high-end workstations, Noctua have designed a range that will meet all needs.

The Noctua Redux range of products are capable of delivering quiet performance at a lower price, being able to compete with manufacturers who have had this end of the market sewn up for some time. Companies like Cooler Master and NZXT have the purchasing power to bring down the overall cost of a CPU cooler, and for a long time, their dominance has been felt by brands such as Noctua.

By solidifying their place in the market through sheer performance, Noctua are now a trusted brand, and will feature in the most high-end gaming builds.

Best Selling Noctua CPU Cooler

Noctua NH-U12S Ultra-Quiet Slim CPU Cooler with NF-F12 fan

 

A Noctua NH-U12S CPU cooler.

 

  • 120mm slim-tower design for cooling performance
  • Highly optimised NF-F12 120mm Focused Flow fan
  • PWM support
  • Low-Noise Adaptor offering auto speed control and ultra-quiet operation
  • High-end NT-H1 thermal paste included
  • SecuFirm2 mounting system for easy installation on Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1200, LGA2011, LGA2066 and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+)
  • 6 year manufacturer’s warranty
  • Compatible with Intel Core i9, i7, i5, i3 and AMD Ryzen
  • Intel 12th-Gen optional mounting upgrade available seperately

Cooler Master CPU Coolers

Cooler Master are a brand that need no introduction, but I get paid by the word, so I may as well, right? As a brand, Cooler Master have made a huge name in the PC case and fan categories, with their new AiO water cooling systems getting plenty of limelight in recent months, too. Regularly in the top ten lists of best CPU coolers, the Cooler Master secret sauce has seemingly been to intertwine themselves with high-end PC modding and system building. By having a name that is mentioned in the same breath as these cash cow sectors, the brand implies high quality and performance.

 

Pros
Always show up in Top 10’s for CPU coolers
Durable designs
Modern and eye-catching designs
Good power control
Products are focused on low noise
5-year warranty
High Thermal Design Power
Prices to suit most budgets

 

Cons
Customer service is somewhat lacking
Sometimes difficult to install if backplate is not compatible

 

Best Selling Cooler Master CPU Cooler

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240 Liquid CPU Cooler

 

A Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240 AiO CPU cooler.

 

  • Dual Chamber Design: A low-profile dual chamber pump design for cool and quiet operation, having cool and quiet operation
  • Performance Tubing: Robust and durable FEP tubing which is kink-resistance, ensuring optimal full flow-rate, eliminating potential for evaporation in tubes
  • Master Fan Pro Air Balance 120mm fan for high static pressure/low noise level
  • Easy install for fast installations

Be Quiet! CPU Coolers

With a name that alludes to the unique selling point of their CPU coolers, Be Quiet! do indeed manufacture some of the most silent-running coolers on the market. With a raft of RGB and styling options, their low, mid-range and high budget CPU coolers are functional but also pretty darn nice to look at.

 

Pros
Well-respected and trusted brand
Affordable, quality built products
Great looking – even at low budget end
Good power control
Designed to be near-silent running
3-year warranty
Very quiet, even at higher power
Excellent TDP performance
Great choice for multiple budgets

 

Cons
Does not move as much air as some competitors
Higher spec CPU coolers expensive in comparison to competitors

 

Best Selling Be Quiet! CPU Cooler

Be Quiet Pure Rock Slim 2 Air Tower CPU Cooler

 

A be quiet! Pure Rock Slim 2 CPU cooler.

 

  • 150W TDP cooling performance
  • 4x powerful 6 mm heat pipes using HDT technology
  • Asymmetrical construction to give memory more space
  • Pure Wings 2 120 mm PWM fan max. 26.8dB(A)

Corsair CPU Coolers

Corsair are known for being a premium brand, though it is arguable that most of their products are built to last. Founded in 1994, most PC builders who remember floppy disks know the name well and the power Corsair wields in the DIY PC market. With a range of products that span cases, coolers, memory and even gaming chairs, Corsair are deeply embedded in high performance gaming, mostly through their availability, pedigree and many sponsorships.

 

Pros
Well-respected and trusted brand
Modern & eye-catching designs
Innovative company

 

Cons
Overpriced in like-for-like comparisons
Can be louder than competitor CPU coolers
Short 2-year warranties on air cooling

 

Best Selling Corsair CPU Cooler

Corsair iCUE H100i RGB PRO XT 240mm All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

 

A Corsair iCUE H100i RGB PRO XT AiO CPU cooler.

 

  • 2x 120mm CORSAIR ML (Magnetic Levitation) Series fans for improved airflow and CPU cooling performance.
  • 16x Individually addressable RGB LEDs lighting pump head
  • 400 to 2,400 RPM on each fan
  • Zero RPM allows fans to stop entirely at low temperatures to eliminate fan noise.
  • iCUE Software for temperature, speed and RGB control
  • Supports Intel 1200, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2066, AMD AM4, AM3, AM2, sTRX4, sTR4

MSI CPU Coolers

MSI are the award-winning manufacturer you turn to when you want absolutely no compromise on product quality and durability. Usually there is a compromise on price when it comes to components, but MSI have constantly maintained their market share since 1986 by slotting products into every available budget window. MSI gaming laptops remain at the top for market share, with almost 20% of the market sewn up, which is no mean feat considering ASUS are bringing their laptops in a close second place with 15% of the market. The cooling in mobile technology is what separates the big players, and MSI have constantly been on the bleeding edge when it comes to cooling systems. This has now allowed them to step into the combative AiO cooling arena with ease.

 

Pros
Beautiful aesthetic across all product ranges
Products focused on gaming performance
Low noise and efficient fans/water pumps
Well regarded for customer service
Maximum compatibility for coolers
Innovative and highly respected products
Easy to fit

 

Cons
Short warranties
Price can be high on some higher performance products

 

Best Selling MSI CPU Cooler

MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R CPU AIO Cooler

 

A MSI MAG CoreLiquid 240R AiO CPU cooler.

 

  • Striking aesthetic, high performance and brand quality at low cost
  • High TDP (Thermal Dissipation Performance)
  • Compatible with a majority of AMD & Intel sockets
  • Integrated pump design built inside the radiator for noise reduction.
  • Durable 3-phase motor for minimal vibrations and long-lasting performance
  • 274 x 120mm aluminium radiator block cooled by 120mm fans
  • Unique paired blades for optimal air pressure (2.39 mmH20) and impressive airflow (78.73 CFM)
  • 270-degree rotating blockhead inlaid with ARGB lighting
  • 400mm water cooling tubes with triple-layered netted plastic covered in reinforced mesh sheathing
  • MSI's GI (Gaming Intelligent) software constantly adjusts fan speeds based on system temperatures reducing noise during low demand, and can be customised with PWM fan compatible motherboards

NZXT CPU Coolers

NZXT are more than capable of fitting in with any DIY PC build, at all budget levels. The company made sure they entered the market in 2004 able to compete at all ends of the market, with innovative PC case design, RGB control and of course CPU coolers. NZXT’s Kraken range of AiO coolers feature some of the most advanced controls of any water cooling system, and a feature-set that appeals to both the end-user’s performance needs and NZXT’s market share.

 

Pros
Great aesthetic and ARGB designs
6-year warranties water cooling
Young but well-established brand
Product specific customer service is good
Solid performance across all performance levels
Low noise when using at lower RPM
Easy to fit

 

Cons
High noise levels at high RPM on some models
Water cooling AiO pump noise can be annoying
Short 2-year warranties on air cooling
Poor CPU controller software (NZXT CAM)

 

Best Selling NZXT CPU Cooler

NZXT Kraken X53 240mm AIO CPU Water Cooler

 

A NZXT Kraken X53 AiO CPU cooler.

 

  • Aer P radiator fans designed for optimal liquid-cooling. Features chamfered intake and fluid dynamic bearing to provide quiet operation
  • Fine nylon-mesh sleeves cover rubber tubing for durability and protection
  • ARGB and LED provides a striking aesthetic
  • 12 volts

Lian Li CPU Coolers

The difference between a budget and high-performance gaming PC build can be vast. It is not often a CPU cooler can be classed the same in both instances, but the Lian Li range of products manage to do this. Lian Li have found their sweet spot in the market by having great aesthetic, high durability and performance, and doing all of this within a tight budget to maintain affordability wherever you are on the scale.

 

Pros
Aesthetic and ARGB are among the best in the market
Reputation built on excellent PC cases
Excellent reviews from respected, impartial critics in the industry
Solid performance across all performance levels
Easy to fit

 

Cons
Noise issues without settings tweaking
Water cooling AiO pump noise can be annoying
Short warranties on CPU cooling compared to most competitors

 

Best Selling Lian Li CPU Cooler

Lian Li Galahad 360mm RGB CPU AiO Liquid Cooler in White

 

A Lian Li Galahad 360mm AiO CPU cooler.

 

  • Radiator comprises 14 rows of aluminium tubes, for maximum amount of liquid to pass through and transfer the heat out of the system efficiently - High-density fin folds between aluminium tubes, ensures surface area for heat dissipation is significantly increased.
  • High static pressure fans for extreme cooling with low noise
  • Reinforced 400mm leak-proof, braided tubes
  • Universally compatible with CPUs
  • Modular mounting bracket for maximum compatibility and ease of fitting

Best CPU Cooler Brands

Best Air Cooler

For affordability, peace of mind and aesthetically appealing design, our choice of CPU cooler is the Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 Black Air Tower CPU Cooler and the Be Quiet Pure Rock Slim 2 Air Tower CPU Cooler if you require a slim version of this excellent CPU cooler.

 

A be quiet! Pure Rock 2 CPU cooler. A be quiet! Pure Rock Slim 2 CPU cooler.

 

Best AiO Water Cooler

The MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R CPU AIO Cooler is the one to beat in terms of popularity and reviews, but as far as performance and quality, there are few AiO coolers in this price bracket to compare.

 

A MSI MAG CoreLiquid 240R AiO CPU cooler.

 

Available for under £80, the MAG CORELIQUID 240R represents MSI’s ability to snap up a market share at the drop of a hat, bringing with it the aggressive aesthetic we all know and love.