What’s cooler than being cool? That’s right, keeping your PC components ice cold. And, here at TechRadar, we love building and overclocking the best gaming PCs we can get our hands on – and we know that the best CPU coolers will help you squeeze every drop of performance out of even the best processors. Even if you don’t ever find yourself staying up late at night, obsessing over your BIOS settings, buying one of the best CPU coolers is still a great idea, as the lower CPU temperatures they allow will mean you PC will run faster and last longer.
The best CPU coolers come in every shape and size, and what’s best for your PC will largely depend on what you need. Don’t get caught up on your budget either – there are plenty of air cooling solutions out there that will perform admirably without burning cash. And, if your budget permits you can still pick up a high-end liquid cooling solution that will make even the best processor think its in Antarctica. Regardless of what you’re looking for, we here at TechRadar will help you find it with this list of the best CPU coolers you can buy in 2018 – each one tested and ranked right here.
But, enough with the introductions, let’s dive into what you’re all here for – the best CPU coolers of 2018. Regardless of your budget, no matter what kind of cooler you’re looking for, no matter the aesthetics, we’re confident you’ll be satisfied with our choices here. So, whether you’re in the market for an elaborate, complicated beast like NZXT’s Kraken X62, or you want something a little more subdued and inconspicuous like the Noctua NH D15, you’ll find something here.
The Noctua NH-D15 tops our list for one simple, yet compelling reason: it may not be a liquid cooler, but it can perform just as well as – if not better than – some all-in-one coolers. Now, you might not be overly familiar with Noctua’s name, they’re relatively small in the CPU cooler game, but their entire business is centered around designing coolers, so you know that when you buy one of their products, you’re getting a product by people who really know their craft. Not only will you get stellar cooling performance from this thing, but you’ll also get extremely diminished fan noise as well. When you combine all of that with their six-year warranty, you have a recipe for one of the best CPU coolers you can imagine.
A constant reminder of the age-old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a mainstay in pretty much any budget build, as its one of the most affordable CPU coolers you can buy today. Although it only features four heatpipes and an aluminum fin structure, this renowned CPU cooler has proven itself time and again to be as efficient as any liquid cooling system. These air coolers are designed to make heat dissipation a breeze, whether you’re playing Destiny 2 at max settings or reading TechRadar in a web browser.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noctua NH-D15
This CPU cooler is among one of the smallest we’ve ever used for our own Mini ATX builds. It come from an Austrian company as our best CPU cooler that specializes entirely in PC coolers and fans, which means no compromises are made in the way of quality assurance despite its low-profile form-factor.
Known best for its cases, such as those produced in collaboration with Asus and Razer, you may be surprised to learn that NZXT’s CPU coolers are every bit as impressive as the hardware which encloses them. The Kraken X62 is no exception, being one of the few 280mm all-in-one liquid coolers to feature RGB lighting. Given that the radiator comes pre-attached and the thermal paste pre-applied, the NZXT Kraken x62 is awfully easy to set up too. The packed-in CAM software, which lets you tweak settings on the fly, is merely icing on the cake.
2018 is the year of RGB everything, and Cooler Master is jumping on this trend with the MasterLiquid ML 120R RGB. What’s more, it integrates some of the first addressable LEDs (meaning you can control it through the motherboard and other software) seen on a liquid-cooler. This all-in-one liquid cooling solution isn’t just about the looks, as it features an oxidation-free pump and an efficient radiator. This means that not only will this cooler last a long time, but it will keep your CPU ice-cold the entire time – without taking up too much space in your PC.
For less than 70 big ones in both US dollars and British sterling, the Arctic Liquid Freezer 120 is a deal you can’t pass up if you’re on the prowl for a liquid cooler that won’t break the bank. While it lacks the bells and whistles of pricier, more extravagant liquid coolers, like the NZXT Kraken, the Arctic Liquid cooler is enough to get you by, not to mention it’s still a massive step up from the classic fan and heatsink pairing. So, while you can’t expect RGB lighting or software – or even hardware-based fan control, the 120mm variant of the Arctic Liquid Freezer will keep your system refrigerated at a (mostly) quiet volume.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF
Even if you have a budget that allows for some of the more serious liquid cooling solutions, even some of the sweetest PC cases don’t permit the sheer mass of a bulkier, dual-fan or even a single 120mm radiator. That’s where the Hydro Series H5 SF proves building small doesn doesn’t mean you have to give up on liquid cooling. NZXT Kraken X62
Unless you’re already neck deep in the rabbit hole that is silent PC assembly, you’ve probably never heard of NoFan, a South Korean component company that specializes in helping enthusiasts reach that 0dBA silent sweet spot. In doing so, of course, you can count on severely limiting yourself in terms of power, with its CR-95C fanless solution being limited in compatibility to processors whose TDP fall below 95W. Still, the NoFan CR-95C is worth a shot for those sporting low-power rigs that prioritize tranquility over raw horsepower.
- This Product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noctua NH-L9
- We’ve also ranked and reviewed the best gaming keyboards of 2018