When you’re in the quest to update or build a PC for games, it’s easy to end up concentrating all your energy on the graphics card, processor and RAM. After all, these are the components that will determine how fast your games will run.
But some users do not realize that maintaining the system at the right temperature will benefit it with better performance while increasing the useful life of the various components.
Here are the best cooling systems for your CPU, by air and liquid, which we have tried to keep your CPU running well under the stress of modern games.
High quality liquid cooling system with superb RGB lighting.
Type: Liquid cooling
Compatibility: Intel 1150-1156,1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 AMD TR4, FM1-FM2 + AM2-AM4
Fan speed: 500-1800RPM
Noise level: 21-38dBA
Dimensions: 315 x 143 x 56 mm
Weight: 1.29 kg (2.84 lbs.)
● Great performance/software
● Excellent RGB lighting
● Not compatible with all cabinets
Like Corsair, NZXT was one of the first manufacturers to launch all-in-one liquid cooling systems. The original Kraken X40 and X60 of the company were the first to integrate software-controlled RGB lighting in the pump head, so it is logical that NZXT was also the first to introduce the addressable RGB lighting with the Kraken X42 and X62.
Available for almost two years, the Kraken X62 has developed an excellent reputation thanks to its superb performance and aesthetics. The pump head features an infinite mirror design that genuinely accentuates the addressable RGB lighting, while the sleeved tubes and elegant fans also help to make this liquid cooling solution stand out from the crowd.
We chose the 280mm X62 due to its balanced performance and price, but the X72 models of 360mm, X52 of 240mm, X42 of 140mm and M22 of120mm are also great options that use the same beautiful design.
Currently the best air cooling you can buy.
Type: Fan and dissipator
Compatibility: Intel LGA 1150 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2 +
Fan speed: 300-1500RPM
Noise level: Up to 24.6dBA
Dimensions: 165 x 150 x 161 mm
Weight: 1.32 kg (2.91 lbs.)
● Silent with excellent performance
● 140 mm double fans included
● Big and heavy
● Very expensive
It may be one of the most expensive air-cooling systems we’ve tried, but Noctua’s flagship, the NH-D15, is our best choice for those looking for the best high-end air-cooling system. Based on the company’s award-winning D14, the NH-D15 performs as well as some liquid cooling systems and even outperforms some of them in both performance and noise levels.
The cooling system has a double tower heat sink and comes with two 140 mm high air flow fans. Even working at 100 percent speed, the cooler ran more quietly than almost all of its competitors.
If you are not a fan of liquid cooling or you do not have the space to mount a radiator, the NH-D15 is currently the best option on the market when it comes to air cooling. The only disadvantage we could find is its size, which could cause problems when wanting to update the RAM modules in some motherboards.
3. EVGA CLC 240
An excellent liquid cooling system at an affordable price.
Type: Liquid cooling
Compatibility: Intel LGA2066 / 2011/2011/2011-v3 / 1150/1151/1155/1156/1366 AMD AM2-AM4, FM1-FM2, TR4
Fan speed: 500-2400RPM
Noise level: 16-40dBA
Dimensions: 276 x 122 x 53 mm
Weight: 1.8 lbs. (.82kg)
● Pump head with RGB lighting
● Very affordable
● Very noisy when demanded
The latest CLC liquid cooling systems from EVGA are our favorite mid-range selection due to their excellent performance/price ratio. The 240 mm CLC, which matches the performance of the latest Corsair and NZXT cooling systems, costs a fraction of the price, while only sacrificing for a few features.
The included fans can get very noisy at full speed, but we found that the system works well enough without reaching those levels. Although you will not get the elegant addressable RGB lighting you’ll see in the latest NZXT, Thermaltake or Cooler Master designs, the CLC EVGA has the same jacketed tubing and an RGB light on the pump head that can be controlled through the software.
If you do not see it, the EVGA CLC 240 offers exceptional performance with few compromises.
Mid-range air cooling system with RGB lighting.
Type: Fan and dissipator
Compatibility: Intel LGA 1150 – 2066; AMD AM2 – AM4, FM1 – FM2 + |
Fan speed: 330-1600RPM
Noise level: 10-25dBA
Dimensions: 145 x 123 x 98 mm
Weight: 1.56 lbs. (0.71kg)
● RGB lighting with two channels
● Does not interfere with RAM
● Requires CAM NZXT software
● The included fan is not RGB
When it comes to systems for cooling the CPU, Cryorig may not be as recognizable a name as Cooler Master or Noctua, but the new company knows how to do the job. The original Cryorig H7 proved to be a formidable air cooling system, beating several well-known brands in its price range.
The new H7 Quad Lumi takes performance even further with the addition of another direct contact heat pipe, improving performance by 15 percent. The company also added an elegant RGB lighting that can be controlled through the NZXT CAM software.
If you’re looking to spend a bit more on a high-performance air cooling system that looks great too, the H7 Quad Lumi is your best choice.
Liquid cooling system all in one for the price of an order by air.
Type: Liquid cooling
Compatibility: Intel 115x, 2011/2066; AMD AM2-AM4
Fan speed: 600-1700RPM
Noise level: Up to 28.3dBA
Dimensions: 157 x 120 x 52 mm
Weight: 1.32 lbs. (.6kg)
● Excellent performance
● Compatible with most cabinets
● Single colour LED pump
Corsair was one of the first manufacturers to bring liquid cooling all in one to the masses. Almost a decade after the company launched its Hydro series for the first time, Corsair once again leads the charge with the updated H60 (2018) as our best option for liquid cooling with a limited budget.
With a somewhat lower price than our best high-end air cooler, the 120mm H60 offers nearly identical thermal and acoustic performance at a fraction of the cost. The updated liquid cooling system features a pump head illuminated with white LED, a 120mm radiator and one of the latest Corsair 120mm PWM fans.
Our tests put the performance of the new H60 well ahead of its competitors of 120 mm and even in line with some cooling systems of 140 mm and 240 mm.
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How to choose the right CPU cooling system:
Like most components, the choice of cooling system for the CPU depends on some variables, including performance requirements, compatibility with cabinets, budget constraints and aesthetics.
To find the best CPU cooling systems, we tested the performance of all systems using Prime95 and a mix of modern PC games for comprehensive stress testing. Our main selections were based on thermal performance, noise, value and general feature sets.
If you are not sure if you need a liquid cooling system, it is about budget and compatibility. We would never recommend a stock system to any PC player, so those with tight budgets should consider a more economical air cooling system.
If you have a little more resources to spend, liquid cooling systems can offer much more, from advanced RGB lighting to intelligent software control.
Some of you may be careful about putting liquid near your components but are assured that all the liquid cooling systems recommended in this guide are backed by excellent warranties that will cover you in case any part of a manufacturer fails.