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CPU is the most critical part of your PC and you need to do just one thing to make it perform efficiently:
Keep it cool.
Cooling down your CPU is one of the most important things that you have to take care of.
Yes, Intel and AMD do sell stock coolers with some of their CPUs but if you are looking to overclock your processor, or if you are buying a processor that inherently runs hotter, you are going to need a good CPU cooler to get the job done.
Best CPU Coolers 2020 Buying Guide
But if you've ever searched online for a CPU cooler, you'd know that it's not that easy.
There are different types of coolers in terms of technology, and also in terms of sizes, like 120mm, 140mm etc.
For those confused people, today we are going to look at some of the best CPU coolers 2020 available in the market.
Best CPU Cooler 2020 Review Guide
In order to make sure that we are being fair, we are reviewing both air coolers, as well as AIO liquid coolers. So, let's begin.
NZXT Kraken X72: Check Price On Amazon
Best 360mm Liquid Cooler 2020
The first cooler that we are going to be looking at is the NZXT Kraken X72. This is the 360mm version of the famous Kraken X52 and X62. NZXT has done a great job with their coolers, making them one of the best in the market, for a great price as well.
The good thing about the Kraken X72 is that it actually comes with a great performance that allows you to not worry about your CPU. I have tested this cooler on the Intel Core i7 8700K, that happens to be one of the hottest processors available in the market.
Additionally, the cooler’s water block looks one of the best in the market, making this cooler one of the best looking and best performing options in the market.
Last but not least, the NZXT Kraken X72 comes with full support for AMD’s TR socket, meaning that you will not have to separately purchase the bracket for Threadripper processors.
Overall, the NZXT Kraken X72 is one of the best 360mm coolers available in the market. The only downside for me is that you have to use NZXT’s CAM software. It should not be a problem, but the software itself is not stable, and that can be an issue for many people.
- Great performance.
- Supports AMD Threadripper socket out of the box.
- The waterblock is one of the best looking
- NZXT CAM is hit or miss.
Corsair H100i Pro: Check Price On Amazon
Best 240mm Liquid Cooler 2020
It was great to see when Corsair decided to revamp their lineup of hydro coolers.
For the longest time, Corsair was creating some of the best coolers in the market. However, their coolers were getting old. Plus, there were not enough higher-end options available.
So, here's Corsair H100i Pro. It's one of the best 240mm coolers available in the market.
To start off, the performance remains one of the greatest benefits of H100i Pro, and it manages to outperform some of the top performers in the market.
Not only that, the waterblock looks absolutely stunning, and if you have other RGB equipment from Corsair, you can have that cohesive element without any issue.
Corsair does include powerful fans as well, ensuring high airflow. The Corsair Link has improved a lot and now works in tandem with Corsair’s iCUE software, ensuring that you get the best possible performance.
I do not think there are any shortcomings present in the cooler that could make the overall user experience any worse.
- Great performance.
- The fans that come with the cooler are actually really good.
- The waterblock looks one of the best with cohesive and even lighting.
- Can sync with other Corsair components with ease.
- Software control is great.
EVGA CLC 280: Check Price On Amazon
Best 280mm Liquid Cooler 2020
The tech world was in a shock when EVGA came with their own closed loop liquid cooler. Mainly because, before that, we only saw graphics cards, power supplies, and motherboards from EVGA.
So it was surprising to see the company releasing a closed loop liquid cooler in the mainstream market.
EVGA CLC 280, as its name suggests, is a 280mm liquid cooler that gets the job done for those who are looking for a decent cooling performance.
It comes with PWM fans as well as its own fan controller. However, you can also connect the fans to the motherboard and would still get full control over the fans.
One noticeable downside I found in CLC 280 is that, on full speed, the fans tend to get noisy. However, that should not make your overall experience bad, because you can always change the fans later down the road should you wish to.
- Exceptional performance.
- Onboard fan controller.
- Great cooling for VRMs.
- Fans are noisy.
Cooler Master ML120R RGB: Check Price on Amazon
Best 120mm Liquid Cooler 2020
Cooler Master’s revamped list of liquid and air coolers have made quite a name for themselves in the market and they made it for all the good reasons.
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB is a budget-oriented, 120mm liquid cooler with proper RGB lighting that makes things right for a lot of people looking for aesthetics.
However, is the cooling performance actually good?
Surprisingly, it offers one of the best cooling performance in the 120mm bracket. Additionally, the addressable RGB lighting on the water block along with the fan is looks really good.
The pump itself is low noise so you will not run into any noise-related issues.
While the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB is certainly a great cooler, there are some drawbacks. For starters, you will have a lot of cables to deal with, and the software isn't much polished, as of now.
Overall, the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB is a great liquid cooler for anyone who is on a budget but still wants good looks.
- Decent performance.
- Looks great with addressable RGB.
- Great value for money.
- Comes with two RGB fans.
- Too many cables.
- Unpolished Software.
Noctua NH-D15: Check Price On Amazon
Best Air CPU Cooler 2020 Overall
There are many people that don't like liquid cooler because they think that the leaks might happen, or the pump might die.
For those people, here's the Noctua NH-D15.
It's one of the best coolers from Noctua, and it actually is one of the top performers. In fact, In many situations, the NH-D15 is more powerful than much expensive liquid coolers.
Additionally, the overall noise factor is on the lower side as well so I can assure you that this one will not be making a lot of noise.
Another great factor is the price here as the Noctua NH-D15 is cheaper than the competition and manages to easily outperform some of the heavy hitters in the market.
Last but not least, the Noctua NH-D15 is backed with the trusty Noctua warranty.
On the flipside, I have some concerns in the form of its weight, which is 3 lbs, and you might have some clearance issue with taller RAM modules.
- Great thermal performance.
- Low noise.
- Competitively priced.
- Comes with trustworthy Noctua warranty.
- The cooler is on the heavier side.
- Might run into some clearance issues.
Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi: Check Price On Amazon
Best Midrange Air CPU Cooler
Cryorig is another company in the long run of great companies making some great coolers available for different types of consumers.
Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi is the successor to the famous H7 that has been one of the leading coolers in the market.
The H7 Quad Lumi is made for people who are looking for performance as well as some RGB lighting for their build.
It performs better than most of the others in its price range, and also runs fairly quiet.
Additionally, it offers great clearance so you can install it without running into any issue. It does come with dual fan support and is backed by 3 years of warranty that extends to 6 years upon registering.
Now comes the drawbacks.
If you are already using the original H7, then the Quad Lumi is not a big improvement, and the bundled fans do not come with RGB lighting and that can be a concern for some people.
- Runs quiet for the most part.
- Great cooling.
- The RGB lighting is tastefully done and not over the top.
- 6-year total warranty.
- Can support up to two fans.
- Can be installed without clearance issue.
- Not a substantial upgrade over the original H7.
- The bundled fans are not RGB.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO: Check Price on Amazon
Best Budget Air CPU Cooler
If you're looking for something that is cheap and gets the job done exceptionally well, then Cooler Master has something for you.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO has been the mainstay for people who are looking for a budget cooler that performs really, really well and allows you to overclock your CPU on a budget.
It does not come with the fancy RGB lights and looks that are becoming more and more common with modern day CPU coolers but apart from that, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is perfect
The overall build quality is surprisingly good for the price you are paying. The mounting system is also pretty flexible
There are some downsides, like installing the cooler is a bit finicky, and support for AM4 socket is not available right out of the box.
But if you are okay with these minor setbacks, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is one of the best cheap coolers available in the market.
- The performance is impressive, especially with the low price tag.
- Great build quality.
- Decent overclocking potential.
- Great price.
- Has support for another fan.
- No support for modern sockets out of the box.
Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3: Check Price On Amazon
Quietest Air CPU cooler 2020
Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 is a tower CPU cooler that promises on silent operations, and more importantly, great value for anyone looking for a great performance.
Although the performance is obviously its strong suit, more surprising is the fact that despite having 2 fans, the cooler manages to remain silent throughout most of the operations.
All thanks to the amazing Silent Wing fans that come with the cooler. The build quality is one of the best I have seen, and the cooler itself looks great with its muted, black looks. Lastly, it is backed by a 3-year amazing Be Quiet! Warranty.
There is nothing wrong with the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 that can potentially break the experience, but RAM clearance is an issue too hard to be ignored.
- Exceptionally quiet.
- The performance is consistent.
- Looks great.
- The 3-year warranty is a saving grace.
- Comes bundled with 2 fans.
- The RAM clearance can be an issue for taller RAMs.
Things To Look For In A CPU Cooler
Now we are going to discuss different factors to consider while buying a CPU cooler.
1. Use Case
Before anything else, you need to ask yourself about the purpose of that CPU cooler.
If you have a budget-oriented PC build, and you don't have any overclocking plans, then an entry-level cooler (or even the stock CPU cooler) should suffice. New Ryzen CPUs, in particular, run OK with their stock cooler even if you do a little bit of overclocking.
On the other hand, if you want to get as much power juice out of your processor as possible, there's no option other than having a good quality high-end CPU cooler.
On average though, more powerful CPUs demand better (or expensive) coolers.
2. Air vs AIO Coolers
The other thing you need to decide is whether you want an air CPU cooler or a water CPU cooler.
This debate is endless among PC building community, and there are strong arguments on both sides. So we'll try to give you the best advice without being biased towards any method.
First one is air coolers. They have two main components: a) Fan b) Heatsink.
The heatsink is usually made up of some thermo-conductive metals, and its purpose is to draw the heat away from the CPU and absorb it into itself.
The fan, then, spins continuously to move the cooler air through the heatsink and dissipate the heat (and prevent the heatsink itself from overheating)
Note: For more info, check this PC Case fans guide.
Highlights of Air Coolers
- They are less expensive than liquid coolers and have more durability
- Require virtually no maintenance
- Give you a greater price-performance ratio.
- Suitable if you don't want to get into overclocking.
- High-end air coolers tend to be bulky, and can have clearance issues with your motherboard, PC case, or RAM memory etc.
Liquid coolers work on a bit different principle, and usually involve following parts: a) Pump b) Radiator c) Hoses d) Fan e) Coolant reservoir
The pump pushes the water (or some other coolant) into tubes which are attached to the CPU. After this, the pump pushes the water into the radiator, and that radiator cools it down because of fans pushing the air through that radiator.
The heat then goes from the radiator to the case, and now it's the duty of your case fans to move that heat out from your PC. The water goes into the hoses again, and this process continues.
Water cooling is further divided into three types.
- AIO or All-In-One coolers
- Cooling Kits
- Custom Loops
Here on this roundup, we'll only discuss AIO coolers because they come pre-assembled, and are inexpensive and easier to install.
Highlights of AIO Coolers
- Keep your CPU much cooler as compared to air coolers.
- Have more gorgeous looks than air coolers
- Suitable if you want extreme CPU overclocking
- Give a lower price-to-performance ratio when compared to air coolers.
- They require slightly more maintenance than air coolers
3. Thermal Design Power
Thermal Design Power (TDP) is the maximum amount of heat a component (such as CPU) can produce under heavy work-load that can be dissipated by a cooling system.
Both CPU and CPU Cooler come with a TDP rating that's listed in the specs area or the manual that comes along with those components.
Ideally, your CPU cooler should have a higher TDP rating than your processor because if it's the other way around, your cooler won't be able to cool down your CPU.
Some argue, however, that having a cooler with a slightly less TDP than that of your processor would be fine too because your processor won't able to hit its maximum potential all the time.
But, in my opinion, it's better to play safe here and go with the convention, especially if you're planning for some overclocking.
4. Compatibility And Clearance
Although most CPU coolers in the market will fit with most of the CPU sockets, there exist some exceptions where a cooler will only be compatible with a certain socket.
So, to avoid any mishap, do prior research about what CPU cooler(s) your motherboard and CPU support. You can find that information by simply reading your motherboard's and CPU's specs sheets.
Apart from this, you also need to make sure a few other things.
- If you're going for a large cooler, make sure that your case is big enough to fit it.
- Make sure your selected cooler isn't too bulky for your case. Too bulky coolers can cause problems for other components sometimes, such as RAM modules (especially if these modules come with heat-spreaders).
- If you're going for an AIO cooler, make sure that your PC case has the ability to adjust the radiator of that cooler. Smaller cases can't have big radiators in them. If you're not sure, head over to the specs sheet of your case, and check the biggest radiator size it can accommodate.
- In some mini ITX builds, where the PCIe slot is situated slightly closer to the CPU socket, there's a chance of bulky liquid coolers overhanging the slot. In this case, you should try to change the location of the cooler.
When it comes to PC building, aesthetics play a big role. Bigger than what many think.
To be honest, there's no one size fits all solution in this regard because every one of us has his own preferences. I like low-profile AIO coolers but you may think otherwise - in favor of custom cooling loops, for example.
If you're wondering how a particular cooler will look once it's inside your build, do look for finished build pictures others have shared on the internet, or you can also ask on PC building forums or sub-reddits.
6. Noise Level
A majority of PC builders want to make their PCs as quiet as possible, and due to being equipped with fans, CPU cooler is one of loudest PC components out there.
A typical solution of having a quiet cooler is to buy one that has larger fans because larger fans don't have to spin as faster as their smaller counterparts, in order to produce a similar amount of airflow.
You can also check out a cooler with multiple fans, which means those fans won't have to run as fast as a single fan would do.