Best CPU Coolers Buying Guide 2017
Whether you’re overclocking or if your PC is just running loud and hot, your best bet for keeping your computer cool and running properly is to get a CPU cooler. CPU coolers tend to come in either air cooler or liquid cooler forms when we talk about a cooler that goes beyond the capabilities of the standard fan and heatsink that come with your computer. Choosing an air cooler over a liquid cooler or vice versa mainly comes down to your needs, goals, personal preference, and what you’ve been doing with your computer. Below, we will review the best air and liquid CPU coolers on the market at the moment.
How to choose the best CPU cooler for your needs
There are a lot of great CPU coolers out there, but the best CPU coolers are the ones that suit your specific needs. Here are some tips to find the best CPU cooler for your PC:
- When looking at CPU coolers, ensure they are compatible with your processor and sockets so that installation is successful and results are ideal.
- Which is best for you and your PC: An air cooler or a liquid cooler?
- Many of you will already have in mind which way you are leaning, but for those who don’t, it’s important to read as many reviews and product specs as you can to make the right decision.
- Consider how much cooling power you need? The harder you are on your computer, the more cooling power you’re going to require. It’s simple physics. In this case, it’s better to overestimate than underestimate, because your computer is what’s at stake. Underestimating your needs can wreck your setup, so be careful on that front.
- If you’re considering a liquid cooler, do you have a preference for coolant type? For instance, is it important to you that the liquid is water, ammonia or something else? The liquid involved directly affects the tubing material. (For instance, copper is best for water.) So, it’s not a big deal for most, but for those who care, keep that in mind as well.
- Is it important to you that your cooler is mounted inside or outside the case? Most people don’t care about this, but then again, many do, so it makes it worth considering.
- Do you care whether your cooler is aesthetically pleasing? For instance, do you want it to have a cool design or LED lights or something that makes it special looking and visually exciting? To be blunt, some models just look cooler than others.
However, this is not the first thing to consider when shopping for a CPU cooler. It is, however, something that can help you narrow down between two coolers that have great specs for your PC but you can’t decide between them since they both function equally well. That is when you consider aesthetics—after you put in the work checking out specs.
Best Air CPU Cooler Reviews
Top 5 – Best Air CPU Cooler Comparisons Table
The retail Intel Core i7-4770K I use for testing at stock is set to load-optimized defaults with the CPU’s voltage at a static 1.15 V. Overclocked, the processor is running at 4.2 GHz on the CPU and 3.9 GHz on cache, with respective voltages set to 1.20 V and 1.15 V. During all these tests, fans are set to run at 100% in the BIOS, with temperatures being recorded by AIDA64.
The idle test will consist of the CPU sitting idle at the desktop for 15 minutes. This will allow for a stable temperature reading that will be recorded at the end of those 15 minutes.
Wprime’s and AIDA64’s CPU test represent typical multi-threaded loads. Both offer consistent results, with one being a benchmarking application and the other a stability test. Both are run for 15 minutes before the peak reading during the test is recorded and taken as the result. This test lets enthusiasts know what temperatures they can expect to see with games and applications. Wprime is set to eight threads while AIDA64 is configured to stress the CPU, FPU, cache, and system memory.
AIDA64 offers maximum heat generation when set to stress just the FPU in the stability test, which will really push the CPU. This test represents extreme loads much like LinX, Prime95, and other extreme stress tests many users are familiar with.
Noctua NH-D15 6 heat pipe with Dual NF-A15 140mm fans review
Features – Overall Best CPU Air Cooler for the money
Thanks to its asymmetrical design, the Noctua NH-D15 is highly compatible with a variety of processors. As long as your RAM is standard height, the NH-D15 should fit beautifully in your case.
Powerful component cooling
With a six heat pipe dual radiator design, and its dual NF-A15 PWM (pulse width modulation) 140mm fans, the NH-D15 is even more powerful than its predecessor, the lauded NH-D14. The NH-D15’s setup allows for exceptional cooling, making it one of the best CPU coolers on the market today.
Efficient and quiet
The heat pipe layout and the 140mm fans allow for automatic speed control, making it an extremely effective cooler. When the fans slow down when you’re putting less strain on your computer, it saves energy as well as wear and tears on your air cooler. The setup also makes your PC super quiet, which is great for those who are bothered by noise.
Superior to its predecessor
Sometimes when a new model of anything comes out, the changes are superficial, but this isn’t the case with the NH-D15, which performs significantly better than the NH-D14, thanks to better fans, air flow, and general cooling power.
ProsWhat to like about the Noctua NH-D15:
- Well-respected brand: Noctua’s older fan model, the NH-D14, is very highly regarded and the NH-D15 builds on that legacy.
- Runs quietly
- Six heat pipe layout for superior heat conductivity
- Dual NF-A15 PWM 140mm fans for powerful cooling
- Noctua is regarded by many as one of the most reliable air CPU coolers on the market.
- Easy to install
- SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system for secure installation
- Great customer service at Noctua, if you have questions.
- 6-year manufacturer warranty
ConsWhat to consider:
- According to the manufacturer, the DH-15 should be used with standard height RAM (32mm). This isn’t a problem unless you don’t have standard height RAM—it’s just something to note for those who don’t.
MasterAir Maker 8 High-end CPU Air Cooler. Featuring 3D Vapor Chamber Technology and Customizable Cover Designs review
Features – Best Premium Air CPU Cooler for the money
Quiet, high capacity fans
The MasterAir Maker 8 comes with top quality Silencio FP fans amped up with Cooler Master’s Silent Driver IC, which is tech exclusive to their brand, that you can’t find anywhere else. All of this combines for a very pleasant, quiet experience, and cements the Master Air 8 as one of the best CPU coolers when it comes to the quiet factor.
Other nice cooling aspects of the MasterAir Maker 8
The fans and Silent Driver IC aren’t the only things to like about the MasterAir Maker 8’s cooling technology. There’s a reason it’s called the MasterAir Maker 8: It features eight heat pipes, four of which are situated on the base. On top of the heat pipes, fan and driver, the MasterAir Maker 8 also features a large heatsink and a 3F vapor chamber to disperse further any residual heat that might linger.
One of the unique things about Cooler Master’s air cooler is its high level of artistic customization the customer has access to. For instance, the top covers can be either clear or aluminum plate, depending on your style preference. Meanwhile, you can 3D print creative designs to accompany your air cooler. Even if the visual appeal does nothing for you, Cooler Master gets points for uniqueness on the customization game.
Fan compatibility and adjustability
The MasterAir Maker 8 supports both 140mm and 120mm fans, and you can adjust and remove the fans quickly due to their easy bracket setup.
ProsThings to like about the MasterAir Maker 8:
- Some readers will like the notion that it seems Cooler Master has all their bases covered when it comes to air cooling technology.
- Cooler Master’s exclusive Silent Driver IC technology
- 3D vapor chamber
- Quiet fans
- Supports 140 and 120mm fans
- Fans are easy to remove, replace and adjust
- Visual customization options
ConsWhat to consider:
The customization is purely visual. However, this doesn’t affect how the fan works—just how it looks. And many users may find they don’t care how it looks, as long as it does the job they need it to do.
Slightly larger than some of its other competitors, though this isn’t a problem as long as it fits your RAM and works.
PHANTEKS PH-TC14PE 5x8mm Dual-Heat-Pipes Dual 140mm Premium Fans and Quiet CPU Cooler with patented P.A.T.S coating review
Features – Affordable Air CPU Cooler
Phanteks’ PH-TC14PE CPU cooler is composed of nickel-plated aluminum with their patented P.A.T.S. (Physical Antioxidant Thermal Shield) and C.P.S.C. (Cold Plasma Spraying Coating) technologies, with copper base and 5mm x 8mm heat pipes.
The fan blades on Phanteks’ CPU cooler are made with the Maelstrom Vortex Booster design; the 140mm fans are capable of reaching 1200RPM +/- 10%, and have the ability to reach a max air flow of 78.1 CFM. The fans on this model are supported by the Updraft Floating Balance bearing and use the Maelstrom Air-Fort Optimization drive system to ensure powerful airflow.
Thanks to an anti-acoustic rubber pad and rubber bar, the fan emits low-weighted decibels (dBa). This makes the overall sound from the fan a lot quieter.
The Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU cooler featured two patented technology from Phanteks: P.A.T.S. (Physical Antioxidant Thermal Shield) and C.P.S.C. (Cold Plasma Spraying Coating).
P.A.T.S. is a nontoxic bit of technology that deflects thermal radiation away from other heat sources in a computer (like the GPU) and can tolerate temperatures up to 200 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, C.P.S.C. works to dissipate heat through better conductivity; combined, these two patented technologies enhance the cooling experience from Phanteks’ CPU cooler.
ProsWhat to like about the Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler:
- Quiet, thanks to anti-acoustic mechanisms
- 140mm fans capable of reaching 1200RPM with Maelstrom Vortex Booster design
- Physical Antioxidant Thermal Shield and Cold Plasma Spraying Coating Technology enhance the Phanteks’ cooling ability
ConsWhat to consider:
- The Updraft Floating Balance bearing is a sleeve bearing. Sleeve bearings don’t bother most these days, but it’s important to note that that’s what UFB means.
- Bigger than some CPU air coolers, however as long as it fits in your case and works with your RAM, you’re good to go—and it does tend to work for most people.
Be quiet! BK010 SHADOW ROCK SLIM Silent Wings CPU Cooler – 160W TDP review
Features – Best Quietest Air CPU Cooler for the money
A CPU cooler made for compact PCs
The dimensions on the BK010 are smaller than many of its competitors, allowing those with compact computers to get the benefits of having a quality CPU cooler that wouldn’t normally be available to them.
High capacity cooling
Despite being a CPU cooler for compact PCs, be quiet!’s BK010 has a cooling capacity of 160W TDP (thermal design power), making it one of the best CPU coolers in its class.
The be quiet! The model comes with a 135mm cooling fan with the ability to support an additional 120mm fan to maximize its cooling capabilities.
6mm heat pipes
The BK010 comes with four 6mm heat pipes that conduct the heat away from the base, promoting additional cooling capacity.
ProsWhat to like about the be quiet! BK010 Shadow Rock Slim CPU Cooler:
- Works for compact PCs
- Thermal paste is included
ConsWhat to consider:
- Some people have lamented that the installation instructions are extremely confusing. If you have installation questions, try calling the company or connecting with them through their website or social media instead. (It’s important to note that the poorly-written installation instructions do not have any bearing whatsoever how the CPU cooler works when properly installed.)
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO – CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan (RR-212E-20PK-R2) Review
Features – Best Budget Air CPU Cooler
Patented Continuous Direct Contact (CDC) heat pipes
The Hyper 212 EVO features Cooler Master’s patented Continuous Direct Contact (CDC) heat pipes, situated at the CPU cooler base, acting as a “virtual vapor chamber” that conducts heat away from the from the CPU.
Aluminum Fin Optimization
Fin optimizations provide perfectly balanced high-speed and low-speed cooling operations.
Uniquely-designed, powerful fan
The pulse width modulation fan features wave-shaped blades, allowing for superior airflow. The fan speed ranges from 600-2000RPM, making it one of the best CPU coolers when it comes to fan speed.
The Hyper 212 EVO has a life expectancy of 40,000 hours, making it a great choice for those who are looking for value in their purchase.
ProsWhat to like about the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO:
- 40,000-hour life expectancy
- Thermal paste included
- Compatible with a variety of processors
ConsWhat to consider:
- Larger than some alternatives. However, this isn’t a problem, providing it fits your specs. Also, it’s not that large, so, again, it depends on your personal specs.
Best Liquid CPU cooler reviews