This article is part of the Hardware Buying Guide series:
- Buying an SSD: What to Look Out for
- Buying a Monitor: What to Look For
- Buying a Keyboard: For Work, Play, and Everything in Between
- Buying a Mouse: DPI, Sensors and More
- Buying a Processor: What You Need to Know
- Buying a Case: Drive Bays, Form Factor and More
- Buying a Motherboard: Form Factor, Ports, More
- Buying Memory/RAM: What to Know
- Buying a Power Supply: Wattage, Efficiency and More
- Buying a Sound Card: Benefits, Pricing and More
- Things You Need to Know When Buying Ethernet Cables
- What You Need to Know When Buying a Router for Your Home
- Graphic Card Buyer’s Guide 2019: What to Look for When Buying a GPU
- How to Choose the Right CPU Cooler
The processor is the centerpiece of any desktop computer build, but without a CPU cooler it wouldn’t run at all. Providing your CPU with a safe, controlled environment in which it can function goes beyond improving performance – doing so keeps it from self-combusting. An improperly cooled CPU can burn itself up in a matter of seconds.
Most of the time your CPU will come with stock cooling equipment of some kind, but an aftermarket option can seriously help. The following are a few tips for acquiring the perfect CPU cooler as well as some excellent options that are currently available.
What to Look Out For
Getting your CPU and motherboard information together can save you a lot of time and frustration right from the start.
Most important is the maximum amount of heat your CPU can generate. Knowing this helps to accurately inform your decisions on a cooling unit. Anything over about 60°C makes purchasing a large cooler a good idea.
Remember to check the specifications of the cooling unit you are currently considering as well for precise socket compatibility. This information is typically provided in a clear list on the manufacturer’s website.
Besides the above, the following aspects should be considered as well/
Where the mechanics of the cooler are concerned, a few key elements ought to be considered.
Powerful fans can make a dramatic difference in performance, but more power isn’t necessarily the best option for your rig.
High power can negatively impact noise levels, making your machine a lot louder than you might have intended. If noise is an issue, it may be beneficial to choose a cooler with multiple fans instead of just one. The more fans there are (and the bigger each of these is), the slower each individual fan needs to turn. Multiple slower fans make for quieter performance while operating at the same temperatures as a single fast fan.
All-in-one liquid cooling units are more efficient than air cooling options, but they might not be necessary for your machine if your processor runs relatively cool.
The same guideline of 60°C or above should help you decide on what is needed for your PC. Also, keep in mind that the pump of a liquid cooling unit tends to be much quieter than a fan, making these good choices for minimally noisy builds.
Heat Sink Design
Certain materials conduct heat better than others and CPU coolers make use of a variety of materials to conduct heat away from the motherboard. Copper is an excellent option and used often in high-end coolers, but it carries a higher price tag than the standard aluminum options.
Size and Dimensions
Know your computer case’s dimensions, especially depth, ahead of time. Fitting a massive aftermarket cooler into a tiny box is an assembly contortion game you don’t want to play.
Densely populated motherboards call for the use of narrow or high-standing cooler designs, but less clutter allows for a multitude of designs to be used.
Radiator and pump dimensions of your chosen unit matter as well – certain motherboards could place RAM nearby and smaller cases can completely rule out larger units altogether.
Cooling units come in a variety of form factors ranging from cubes to towering rectangles and more. Besides ensuring the shape of your chosen unit is satisfying, you should also consider lighting options.
Customizability and color options can make a great impression in your finished build.
Are preset cooling color modes available? If so, you can enjoy a nifty light show whenever your computer is in use.
Which CPU Coolers Are Best?
The following cooling units are designed for use with both Intel and AMD motherboards/sockets. However, not all socket and motherboard options are supported, so remember to check for compatibility.
Each of the options below features advanced cooling technology for highly efficient operation, plus a pretty cool appearance to boot.
1. Noctua NH-D15
This dual tower air cooler boasts of smooth, quiet performance thanks to its large fan blades. A single-fan mode allows this unit to accommodate taller RAM with 64mm of clearance.
2. NZXT Kraken X72
This multi-fan all-in-one liquid cooling unit comes with more than powerful hardware.
The CAM software control system allows you to completely customize this cooler’s functions. There are also multiple lighting options and pump modes to choose from.
3. Cryorig M9 Plus
This particular CPU cooler features a compact design to allow for any kind of RAM modules to be used alongside it without getting in the way.
Two fans maximize efficiency, while a tower design simplifies installation.
4. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240P
This all-in-one liquid cooler features a neat transparent pump and customizable lighting for a memorable look.
A silent driver keeps noise below 20db for extremely quiet performance.
There are quite a lot of CPU coolers available these days and a great many of them could suit your personal build just fine. Keep the tips covered above in mind and give the models mentioned here a look before making your final decision to ensure you get the best cooler you can.