A PC’s lifespan and performance depend on the cooling system. The better designed the ventilation system, the better the health of your system. CPU coolers are subdivided into two main categories; Air and Liquid cooler. The air coolers are the oldest, simplest, and most popular solution for meeting your CPU cooling demands. It consists of a heatsink attached to a fan (or multiple fans), and the whole assembly is coupled to the CPU via a thermal paste and mounting system. If you are looking for the best air cooler for your CPU, you are in the right place. We will review some of the best available options to maximize your PC cooling. They are usually the most economical and affordable solution for average and high-end consumers.
Liquid coolers are expensive and complex equipment that consists of a radiator, a pump, and fans as an all-in-one (AIO) solution. Their primary target market is elite users and enthusiasts. Optimum ventilation is accomplished by cooling all the PC components that are prone to getting hot. These include CPU, GPU, Motherboard, and hard drives. The most critical component of them is the CPU. It is the processing house of your PC that processes all instructions received from components and applications. General usage CPUs often come with a stock cooler that is usually enough for low-level workloads. You should consider an aftermarket best cpu cooler for moderate to high-level workloads to acquire the required performance and longevity you seek.
As we are focusing on the masses today, our focus will be on the air coolers. We will discuss some tips to ease up the selection process for the best cpu air cooler.
Quick Shopping Tips:
Purpose: The most obvious question that arises in mind is air cooler better or the liquid cooler? The answer is not so simple. It all depends on your utilization purpose. The air coolers are a superior selection for value-centric users that want to acquire good performance at an economical price. The liquid coolers are less noisy, premium, and expensive and are not recommended for average users due to the higher performance to price ratio.
Price: Your budget dictates the type of cooler you can buy and the features it carries. It is often wise to spend as little as possible on coolers so you can spend more on CPU, GPU, and other performance-enhancing components, as they will have more impact on overall performance. Air coolers are the most obvious choice to budget users, while elite users can get the best performing cooler with the latest attributes.
Thermal performance: The most critical step in cooler selection is figuring out the optimal requirements of cooling. The best practice is to get a cooler with a cooling capacity of 1.25x the TDP of your CPU. That way, you leave enough headroom for overclocking your CPU without getting into trouble. If your cooler capacity is less than the maximum heat load of your CPU, you won’t be able to overclock it, and the CPU will keep throttling to lower speeds.
Noise: The PC consists of multiple components that may produce noise; these include GPU fans, case fans, hard drives, etc. No one likes other noisy equipment to add to the overall noise. Noise levels should also be considered as they will hamper your immersive gaming sessions or other creative tasks requiring immense focus and serenity.
Aesthetics: Everyone appreciates beauty and the best cpu cooler is the title that goes to the cooler that is the quiet and cool performer but the aesthetically pleasing. You might want to become the center of attention with a cool-looking cooler or do it for yourself; it all depends on your desire. An attractive design integrated addressable RGBs, and color scheme all affect the overall appeal of your PC.
Best CPU Air Coolers at a glance:
- Deepcool Assassin III
- Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M
- Noctua NH-U14S
- be quiet! Pure Rock 2
- Noctua NH-D15
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition
- Noctua NH-L9i
- Cryorig H7
The Best CPU Air Coolers You Can Buy Today
Best Big Air CPU Cooler
Dimensions: 161×140×165 mm | Base Height: 165 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 3.23 Pounds | Fans: 2 | Warranty: 5 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Massive cooling at 280W
✓ Symmetric twin towers design
✓ Equipped with 7 high-tech heat pipes
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ No RGB LEDs
✗ Louder than competitors
Air coolers usually cover up to the mid-range market, and the top-end market is often left alone for liquid coolers. High-performance air coolers that can compete with liquid coolers in performance and quality are rare. Deepcool Assassin III is one of those highest performing air coolers with a massive thermal capacity and is the Best Big Air CPU Cooler available in the industry. It is so powerful that it can beat many major competitors without breaking a sweat. The Deepcool features a dual tower design with each heat sink attached to a 140mm fan.
The cooler height is 165mm, which is a bit higher than compact case requirements, so mini-ITX users should stay away. For the rest of the performance users, Deepcool is the best air cooler that will allow the ultimate overclocking of your flagship CPU with a massive 280W thermal capacity. Additionally, it’s compatible with all major Intel and AMD sockets and processors. Even though it is packed with dual fans, you can install an additional fan on the spare side of the heatsink to enhance the capacity even further.
These dual fans peak at 1400 RPM at full throttle and allow PWM speed control out of the box. The larger fan size did help in moderating the noise level; it is still a bit higher than liquid coolers of similar stature. The cooler also allows a low noise mode that reduces the noise to below 30 dBA and hurts the performance. Deepcool is a gamer’s dream come true, delivering flagship cooling at an acceptable price.
Best Mid-size Air CPU Cooler
Dimensions: 111.8 x 130.9 x 165.1 mm | Base Height: 165.1 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 1.81 Pounds | Fans: 2 | Warranty: 5 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Air guide Armour
✓ Thermal Detection Sensor
✓ Impressive aluminum fin design
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Only four heat pipes
✗ No low-noise adapter included
Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M was marketed as part of the ASUS TUF alliance, where ASUS showcased their complete gaming case with their proprietary motherboard, power supply, and Cooler Master cooler. It was marketed as the best Mid-size Air CPU Cooler for AMD and Intel CPUs you can buy at an economical price. The model is offered in the ‘performance’ and ‘TUF gaming’ editions, where both have similar performances but different outlooks and themes.
Cooler Master is the best cpu cooler that has integrated a massive 28 addressable RGB LEDs in the coolers for direct lighting effects and ambiance. The customization profiles also include a temperature follow mode where the color changes with the CPU temperature in which red being the highest and blue being the lowest. The fans are configured in push-pull design to counter pressure drop across the heatsink and improve airflow through the cooler.
The sleek heatsink design allows RAM clearance of up to 35mm. That’s not very promising but can fit all standard-sized performance RAM modules except the XMP modules. The noise produced during testing was around 36 dBA which is on a moderate level considering its lower price point. The cooler is designed especially for the middle segment of the market, and its pricing and performance confirm that. It’s a moderately performing cooler with exceptional aesthetics and appealing RGB lighting effects.
Best AMD Threadripper Air CPU Cooler
Dimensions: 78 x 150 x 165 mm | Base Height: 165 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 2.06 Pounds | Fans: 1 | Warranty: 6 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Anti-vibration ear pads
✓ Multi-socket mounting system
✓ Fully automatic speed control
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Limit access to expansion slots
✗ No sTRx4 & TR4 & SP3 support
Noctua NH-U14S is the bigger brother of Noctua’s most popular NH-12S cooler featuring the award-winning U tower design refined throughout its life. The primary difference we see in this cooler compared to the already perfected NH-12S is that it’s the best AMD Threadripper Air CPU Cooler. However, it needs a threadripper specialized TR4-SP3 mounting system that isn’t compatible with the standard AMD sockets due to its larger base area.
Noctua’s best cpu air cooler has an enormous cooling power that can cool the powerful threadripper even during overclocking bouts. The cooling ability is well documented to go beyond 250W of TDP that is usual in air coolers and only found in high eng AIO liquid coolers. This feat is performed by adding an extra heat pipe to the already perfected U-tower design and adding bigger A15 140mm silent fans to the cooler for quieter operation.
The Threadripper temperature remained below 55C with noise kept around an impressive 25 dBA on maximum load, satisfying all the boxes for high-end gaming. The cooler comes affixed with a single 140mm fan, but an additional fan can be attached to the other side in a push-pull arrangement for supplemental improvement of the airflow. It can enhance the already enormous cooling capacity of the cooler and make it a well-liked option for extreme gamers and enthusiasts.
Best Budget Air CPU Cooler
Dimensions: 87 x 121 x 155 mm | Base Height: 155 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 1.26 Pounds | Fans: 1 | Warranty: 3 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Larger RAM clearance
✓ Brushed aluminum finish
✓ Pure Wings-2 Super silent fans
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Single fan design
✗ No Y-Cable connecter
While searching for the Best Budget Air CPU Cooler, we came across Be quiet! Pure Rock 2. It astonished us with its marvelous performance for mid-range PCs and low noise functioning, all at a small price. Moreover, it offers vast compatibility for AMD and Intel Sockets. The box comes packed with a fan and a cooler, along with all the accessories, screws, mounting brackets, and thermal paste to make installation a pleasant and trouble-free experience.
The heatsink comprises aluminum finned stacked arrays with 6mm quad heat pipes that transfer the heat from the CPU to the heatsink, exhausted to the atmosphere via a fan. It also permits the attachment of supplementary silent fans to enhance airflow and performance. The CPU mounting system is pretty simple and requires only two screws. The fan used in this best air cooler features turbulence reduction and rifle bearing. This results in noise levels average below 27 dBA on 100% RPM, which is barely audible between GPU and case coolers.
The maximum capacity of the cooler is around 150W, which is fair enough for moderate usage, though overclocking headroom for the high-end processors is limited due to capacity issues. AMD processors stand a better chance of overclocking with this cooler due to their lower TDPs (avg around 105W) than Intel CPUs, which consume more power during overclocking. An additional fan may increase the cooling capacity a bit but also decrease clearances at the same time. In short, Be quiet is unmistakably the best option for mid-range PCs.
Best CPU Air Cooler
Dimensions: 161 x 150 x 165 mm | Base Height: 165 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 2.86 Pounds | Fans: 2 | Warranty: 6 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ SecuFirm2 mounting system
✓ 2 Low-noise adapters included
✓ Past and future sockets compatible
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ No backplate for FM2+ sockets
✗ Block top PCIe slot in smaller motherboards
Noctua’s have always been making waves in the gaming world due to their exceptional quality coolers and low noise fans. Noctua NH-D15 is no doubt the best CPU Air Cooler that displays exemplary thermal profile and functionality. The cooler showcases a modernized design, but the color scheme is limited. The dual fan setup ensures higher static pressure and enormous airflow to keep your high-end processors within their thermal range and keep noise at a meager value.
A dual fan setup is recommended for users due to balanced performance, noise, and RAM clearances. The best clearance is achieved with a single fan which reduces noticeably as fans are increased. The clearance height with a single fan is 64mm that can accommodate all types of XMP and taller RAM modules, while a dual fan setup reduces the clearance to 32mm only. A third fan can also be affixed for extreme cooling but may limit clearance even further.
Noctua utilizes patented noise reduction techniques that comprise AF series 140mm silent fans, anti-vibration pads, optimized airflow channeling, and fluid bearings. To top it off, LNA (low noise adapter) reduces the fan speed to 1200 RPM to further curb noise. They have also produced the perfect mounting system (SecuFirm-2) that guarantees even pressure on the CPU to promote maximum heat transfer. It is an ideal cooling solution for professional high-end rigs.
Best Cheap Air CPU Cooler
Dimensions: 120 x 79.6 x 158.8 mm | Base Height: 37.8 mm | Socket Support: AM4, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, LGA 115x | Weight: 1.54 Pounds | Fans: 1 | Warranty: 2 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Direct contact technology
✓ Universal mounting kit design
✓ Optional push-pull fan configuration
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ No powder coated fan
✗ Not suitable for fancy builds
Every recommendation is meant for a specific market and price bracket. Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition is the Best Cheap Air CPU Cooler we have found for the mid-range segment. It is a recommended upgrade over a bundled Intel and AMD cooler to improve cooling margin and allow overclocking on middle segment CPUs. It has a balanced outlook, an excellent thermal profile for its price, and acceptable build quality.
The heatsink is a 55 fin array with quad copper tubes to transmit heat from the CPU to the fins. The fan is installed on one side of the heatsink, although another can be connected and may cause problems with VGA cards. A maximum of 39mm RAM clearance is allowed even with a single fan, so say goodbye to taller RAM modules. However, given its target segment, it’s rare to install XMP RAM modules, so it should be an issue for most consumers.
Cooler Master presents its best cpu air cooler that comes with a top thermal limit of 150W, which is quite reasonable for modest overlocking on mid to high-level CPU depending on their maximum TDPs. For reference, it is adequate for up to 5800X on AMD and equivalent Intel CPUs on the stock limits. Or you can push the entry-level CPUs to their edges comfortably on this cooler. Overall, It is the perfect option for value-centric consumers with a clear focus on functionality on a tight budget.
Best Air Low-Profile Cooler
Dimensions: 95 x 37 x 95 mm | Base Height: 37 mm | Socket Support: AM4, LGA 2011, LGA 1200, LGA 115x | Weight: 0.85 Pounds | Fans: 1 | Warranty: 6 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan
✓ NT-H1 thermal compound inbox
✓ Super compact low-profile design
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Unappealing color scheme
✗ No EMB coating technology
Noctua NH-L9i is the smallest and the Best Air Low-Profile Cooler available in the market right now. It is specifically designed and manufactured for mini-ITX and some compact micro-ATX builds that suffer from compatibility and clearance issues on regular cpu coolers. It has a maximum height of only 37mm to permit all types of taller RAM modules up to 95mm and VGA cards on smaller form factor PCs.
The fan used in the cooler is a specially designed 92x92mm sized slim fan with only 14mm in height. The fan also includes an SS02 bearing with a longer life of 150K hours and produces almost zero noise while spinning. The smaller fan and heatsink design restrain the maximum loading capacity to 65W, effectively throwing overclocking out of the window. Nonetheless, we can use mid-range AMD and Intel CPUs like 5600X and 11500K with this cooler without any thermal issues as they have a maximum TDP of 65W.
Compact cases are mostly general-purpose builds and don’t require a lot of cooling, so this cooler is designed to keep that in mind. Looking at its target market, we should keep our expectations sensible and shouldn’t expect high-end performance. While the price is slightly higher, noise levels are below noticeable, and build quality is first class, so you won’t have to spend money on replacements and repairs later. It’s a recommended premium selection for entertainment and general-purpose compact rigs.
Best Hyper 212 Alternative
Dimensions: 98 x 123 x 145 mm | Base Height: 145 mm | Socket Support: LGA 1151, LGA 1200, AM4 | Weight: 1.57 Pounds | Fans: 1 | Warranty: 6 Years
REASONS TO BUY
✓ High-performance air inlets
✓ Turbulence Reduction System
✓ Super efficient Hive Fin design
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Deficient socket support
✗ No PWM control over fan
Cryorig was formed less than a decade ago, and it made its name as a dependable cooler manufacturer. Previously we reviewed the Cooler Master Hyper 212, which was our best budget pick. Cryorig H7 offers almost identical performance benefits and is the Best Hyper 212 Alternative for our users at a slightly higher price. The thing where Cryorig shines is the height of the cooler. It has only 145mm top height and is effectively the smallest tower heat sink design featuring a 120mm fan size.
Another aspect that highlights this best air cooler is the unconventional heatsink design part of its performance and appeal. The high five fin construction uses patented accelerated jet airflow and turbulence reduction technologies to optimize airflow and enhance the heat efficiency of the cooler. On top of that, the asymmetric tower design allows ultimate RAM clearance and full compatibility for taller RAMs.
The cooler support processors with a maximum thermal dissipation of 150W are in line with most mid-level processors. We can add additional cooling capacity via adding another fan in the push/pull config but not recommended. The noise level is moderate as expected but will rise with another fan. At this price, it’s unfair to ask too much from a cpu cooler. For people needing an economical subcompact cooler for their mid-level rigs, Cryorig is the way to go.
With the ever-increasing demand for higher-end processors, their heat dissipation is also increasing steadily. The competition for the highest clocks, multiple cores, and the fastest processors has led to a massive inrush of high TDP CPUs. The demand for economical higher capacity coolers is ever rising. Liquid coolers, however, provide premium and high-capacity cooling services, but they are pretty expensive and don’t offer extended warranties like air coolers. Due to their simplistic design and high performance to price ratio, air coolers remain the most popular consumer choice to date.
We have further segregated our recommendations into two main categories, the best and the economical. The best air cooler if money is not a problem is the Deepcool Assassin III. It has the highest thermal dissipation capacity of 280W, ample for overclocking even the most power-consuming flagship CPUs like 5950X. For general users, it’s overkill and also very expensive. Cryorig H7, on the other hand, is reasonably priced and is our budget pick for the rest of the users. It has an excellent thermal efficacy of 150W that can cool mid to high-level CPUs effectively. Overclocking, however, is limited to mid-range CPUs only due to thermal limitations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which air cooler is best for CPU?
The best CPU cooler is the one that can cool the CPU during all modes of operation, and that includes the peak loading as well. If you plan on overclocking, the maximum heat dissipation will also increase, and that should also be covered by the cooler to avoid throttling. Be quiet! Pure Rock 2 is an all-rounder CPU cooler with affordable pricing, low noise function, and modest performance. It is recommended for mid to high-end builds.
What is the coolest air CPU cooler?
The coolest CPU air cooler is the Cryorig H7. It has a unique design and features an unconventional hive fin heatsink that optimizes airflow channels and reduces turbulence. The overall ambiance of the cooler is pleasant, and noise levels are moderate. The cooling capability is modest with 150W of TDP. Even so, Cryorig offers this cooler at a very pocket-friendly price, making it a viable recommendation.
Is it worth getting an air CPU cooler?
The stock cpu coolers often have mediocre capacities and are not recommended for overclocking your build even a little. On the other hand, liquid coolers have greater cooling capacities but are expensive and unaffordable for everyone. It leaves us air coolers that are right within the budget of most buyers. A budget cooler like Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition is a recommended buy for people using stock coolers to give their CPU the ability to breathe and perform better.
Which is the best air cooler?
Noctua NH-D15 is the best CPU cooler for high-end rigs. It comes with a U tower design coupled with a single fan configuration which you can upgrade to a dual-fan setup if needs arise. The RAM clearance of 64mm is comprehensive on a single fan configuration permitting all types of XMP modules and taller sizes. The noise level is modest on a single fan and almost inaudible with LNA enabled, additionally increasing the value provided by the cooler.