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The 6 Best Air Coolers for CPUs: Ultimate Guide

If you are using a budget build or a small form factor build, or if you have terrible temps with your CPU with the stock cooler, you’re most likely looking for a better air cooler. This list eases your next purchase when it comes to buying one of the best air coolers available in the market.

The Top-Rated Air Coolers for CPUs

Editor's PickCoolerScore
Top PickCooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition91%
Runner UpNoctua NH-U14S90%
Budget Pickbe Quiet! BK008 Pure Rock Slim88%
Luxury PickNoctua NH-D15 chromax.Black93%
Best Low ProfileNoctua NH-L9i88%
Honorable MentionARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports DUO87%

Top Pick: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition

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Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition
  • Direct contact technology: 4 Heat Pipe with exclusive direct contact technology effectively provides excellent heat dissipation; Air flow: 57.3 CFM; Noise level: 26.0 decibels
  • Precise air flow: Stacked fin array ensures least airflow resistance which allows cooler air flow into the heat sink
  • RGB LED controller: The wired RGB LED controller allows for customizable colors and effects with just the touch of a button
  • Smart Fan sensor for jam protection: Never worry about your cables getting snagged or components being mucked up ever again
  • Snap and play: Intuitive fan bracket design makes upgrading and removing the fan a breeze

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition is one of those nifty coolers that ensures that your PC doesn’t thermal throttle and also helps in the longevity of the CPU as well. This cooler is also versatile and can be used on a wide array of Intel and AMD sockets as well, which means that this cooler can be used for your next build. It comes with a customizable 120mm RGB fan and a stealth-like black color which would certainly help the overall aesthetic of your build. 

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition comes with four heatpipes which delivers efficient cooling and also remains fairly silent. The issue with this is that it is quite close to the RAM slots and only allows low-profile RAM sticks. The other issue with it is that it doesn’t come with pre-applied thermal paste on the cooler as well. One of the best coolers out there, this takes the top pick.

Runner-Up: Noctua NH-U14S

Noctua NH-U14S
  • Award-winning, slim 140mm single-tower design combines outstanding cooling performance with superb quietness of operation and excellent RAM compatibility
  • Does not overhang the RAM slots on LGA2066 and LGA2011 motherboards, ensuring full compatibility with tall modules
  • Highly optimised NF-A15 140mm fan with PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptor for automatic speed control and ultra-quiet operation
  • Includes high-end NT-H1 thermal paste and SecuFirm2 mounting system for easy installation on Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1200, LGA2011, LGA2066 and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+)
  • Renowned Noctua quality backed up by 6-year manufacturer’s warranty, deluxe choice for Intel Core i9, i7, i5, i3 (e.g. 10900K, 10700K, 10600K, 10980XE) and AMD Ryzen (e.g. 3950X, 3900X, 3700X, 3600X)

The Noctua NH-U14S is a brilliant air cooler and it is also fairly large enough, since it does come with a 140mm fan. Noctua is a brand that is well known for its cooler and this is no exception. It has excellent cooling thanks to the 140mm fan while also remaining quiet, even during extended gaming sessions. Thanks to the cooling of this fan, it ensures that your CPU remains cool enough and also improves the life span of the cooler. It comes with a fairly good design that isn’t all flashy and also quite basic compared to most other coolers out there.

The cooler is quite versatile and like the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Cooler, this can be used on a wide variety of sockets as well, including both Intel and AMD. This cooler is most suited to Intel builds as it has great RAM compatibility and just about stays away from the RAM slots. Overall, if you need the larger fan and the RAM clearance in a cooler, this is the one to get.

Budget Pick: be Quiet! BK008 Pure Rock Slim

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be Quiet! BK008 Pure Rock Slim
  • A high 120W TDP cooling efficiency
  • Full configuration of RAM Memory banks in PC cases with limited space
  • Three high-performance 6mm heat pipes with aluminum caps
  • Silence-optimized, seven Blade 92mm be quiet! fan (Max. 25.4Db(a))
  • Pwm Variable speed operation to help balance cooling and quietness

The be Quiet! BK008 Pure Rock Slim is a little cooler but don’t be fooled by its 92mm fan. It is very efficient for budget processors while also remaining quiet. It comes with three heatpipes which helps in its efficiency and helps in making the processor remain cool. It does have a great design which is simple, efficient and like most other coolers, it helps the PC in the long run. The temperatures even under load remain really good and considering the fact that this is a budget oriented one, this is a great cooler.

It is quite versatile as it can be installed in most recent Intel and AMD motherboards, although AMD users might have a hard time installing. Small, well designed and efficient, this is one of the best budget CPU coolers. 

Luxury Pick: Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black

Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black
  • Proven premium heatsink (more than 300 awards and recommendations from international hardware websites), now available in an all-black design that goes great with many colour schemes and RGB LEDs
  • Extra-wide 140mm dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and dual fans provides maximum quiet cooling efficiency on a par with many all-in-one watercoolers, ideal for overclockers and silent-enthusiasts!
  • Dual-fan design with renowned, award-winning NF-A15 140mm fans with Low-Noise Adaptors and PWM for automatic speed control: Full cooling performance under load, whisper quiet at idle!
  • Includes high-end NT-H1 thermal paste and SecuFirm2 mounting system for easy installation on Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1200, LGA2011, LGA2066 and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+)
  • Renowned Noctua quality backed up by 6-year manufacturer’s warranty, deluxe choice for Intel Core i9, i7, i5, i3 (e.g. 10900K, 10700K, 10600K, 10980XE) and AMD Ryzen (e.g. 3950X, 3900X, 3700X, 3600X)

The Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black is one of the best looking coolers from a reputable brand. This specific cooler comes with two fans that can be used at the same time depending on your motherboard size (i.e: ATX, micro-ATX etc.). It has six heatpipes helping in efficient cooling and with the additional two 140mm fans, it ensures that the processor remains very cool, even under immense loads. It even surpasses some AiO coolers making this a very good cooler. It is versatile and can be used on newer Intel and AMD sockets as well.

The design is really good, coming in an all black color and it goes well with RGB fans as well, if you plan on installing some. The cooler remains silent for long periods of usage as well. It also allows RAM sticks up to 32mm and it can be customised using the optional NA-HC3 and NA-HC4 heatsink covers and the NA-SAVP3 anti-vibration pads that help color coordinate your PC. It blows most of the other coolers but at a premium price.

Best Low Profile: Noctua NH-L9i

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Noctua NH-L9i
  • Ultra-compact low-profile cooler with only 39mm total height – ideal for HTPCs, ITX and Small Form Factor builds
  • 100% compatibility RAM- and PCIe-compatibility due to 95x95mm footprint, does not overhang the RAM or PCIe slots
  • Highly optimised NF-A9x14 slim 92mm fan with PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptor for automatic speed control and ultra-quiet operation
  • Includes high-end NT-H1 thermal paste and SecuFirm2 mounting system for easy installation on Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1200
  • Trusted Noctua quality backed up with 6-year manufacturer's warranty

The Noctua NH-L9i is the best cooler for small form factor PCs as it allows you to easily install the cooler in a tiny space while also being a very efficient cooler. It has a 95mm x 95mm footprint, making it really small and compact. It comes with a 92mm fan and even if it might seem small, it is perfect for a small form factor build. This particular model is compatible with Intel motherboards but the Noctua NH-L9a AM4, which has a very similar design to this one, is compatible for AMD builds.

The design is similar to other Noctua coolers, featuring a brown fan and a wooden-like pale color. There are other variants of this cooler available,for both Intel and AMD, in a stealthy black color which most people would prefer. Overall, this is the best low profile cooler if you plan on building a small form factor build.

Honorable Mention: ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports DUO

ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports DUO
  • IMPROVED HEAT DISSIPATION: Evenly spread direct-touch heat pipes and an optimised heat sink design with 54 cooling fins lead to an ideal heat dissipation for the Freezer 34 eSports DUO
  • FOR HIGH-END CPU: The contact surface of the Freezer 34 eSports DUO heat pipes does not cover the full heatspreader, but is right where the processor DIE is and covers even the largest versions (18 core)
  • EASY INSTALLATION & SECURE HOLD: Fast and easy to install, the mounting system of the Freezer 34 eSports DUO is compatible with Intel and AMD sockets, thanks to a backplate and its low weight it's also transport safe
  • IDEAL AIRFLOW: The 2 BioniX P-fans of the Freezer 34 eSports DUO work in push-pull-mode, the resulting increase of airflow ensures that the heat from the CPU is dissipated even faster
  • COMPATIBILITY: The Freezer 34 eSports DUO is compatible with the Intel Sockets: 2066, 2011(-3), 1155, 1151, 1150, 1200 and AMD Socket: AM4, If you are experiencing AM4 assembly problems, please stop and visit our FAQ

ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports DUO is a really good cooler that does the job well. It remains fairly silent and is also very easy to install. It has two 120mm fans and the cooler comes in a wide variety of colors which would certainly help if you plan on building an aesthetic build. The cooler is built quite well and it can be used for high end processors as well. It can be used with both AMD and Intel sockets which is a huge plus.

The cooler comes with a couple of anti-vibration pads and thermal paste which is certainly an added bonus and for the price, this is a really good cooler.

What to Look for in Air Coolers for CPUs

Most air coolers for PCs might seem similar but there are a lot of different coolers in the market that might not be compatible with your PC. This guide helps you avoid common mistakes that happen while you purchase an air cooler for your CPU.

Socket Compatibility

Certain coolers are only compatible with a specific socket. For instance, the Noctua NH-L9i is a cooler that can be used only on Intel based motherboards whereas Noctua sells the same cooler but for AMD based coolers. Always check the compatibility for your motherboard before buying a cooler.

RAM and Case Clearance

There are coolers that might seem bulky and sometimes won’t fit into your case or it might touch the RAM sticks. Some coolers allow your RGB or thick RAM sticks to stay in place and perfectly fit into the case, while not touching anything else like the case’s side panel or RAM sticks. It is recommended to measure the cooler’s dimensions before purchasing a brand new cooler for your CPU.

Overclocking

Some PC enthusiasts might be interested in a little overclocking down the road and in those cases, one should always buy a proper cooler since overclocking the CPU would also produce a lot of heat. To avoid thermal throttling and other issues that come with the extra performance gains, investing in a high quality cooler and thermal paste would be a smart choice.

Last Updated on March 1, 2021