Best CPU Cooler

When it comes to CPU cooling, there are two basic designs you can look at and choose from: liquid-cooling and air-cooling. In either system the goal is simple: to transfer heat away from the CPU in your computer and dissipate it through liquid or air. Both liquid and air-cooling systems work great and can help keep your CPU within safe performance conditions. These are primarily high-end products that are great for powerful computers and work well for overclocked systems that can produce higher heat than some other setups. Some of these models are fairly large so look at their listed sizes and your computer tower to be sure you have space enough for the cooler in your system.

These CPU coolers reduce heat efficiently thanks to fans that spin at rates of at least 1200 RPM for optimal performance. The fans that run in these coolers are at least 92mm in size, which helps provide at least 45 CFM of airflow, though many of these offer much greater performance. They run quietly with a maximum noise level of no more than 40 decibels (dBA).

NZXT Technologies Kraken X61 280mm All-in-One Liquid Cooling System

This is an absolute beast in terms of performance and CPU cooling. If you heavily overclock your system and need as much cooling as possible, this is an excellent option thanks to a pair of 140mm fans that offer tremendous airflow and speeds up to 3600 RPM. It's a bit much for a lot of computer users, since the size of the radiator can be impractical for some computer towers, but it has an impressive six-year warranty. Read Full Review

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    Why it's best:

    In terms of raw cooling power, this is a very impressive unit that can work in a wide range of systems. It has a 280mm cooler that offers some of the best possible cooling in a liquid-based CPU cooler. This is one of its biggest strengths, but can also be a drawback. This large size is great for some machines, but is impractical for smaller computer cases and towers. You get a software controller with this cooler and it has a variable speed pump, which keeps it running quietly while still removing heat from your CPU. It comes with two 140mm fans, which spin at between 2400 and 3600 RPM to produce up to 106 CFM of airflow. This cooler also fits a wide range of CPU sockets, for both Intel and AMD processors. At low speeds, this cooler only produces about 29 dBA of sound, which is very quiet. The six-year warranty is just the icing on the cake, offering more protection than pretty much any other manufacturer.

    NZXT Technologies Kraken X61 280mm All-in-One Liquid Cooling System

    Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler

    This is a fantastic piece of hardware, offering some of the best liquid-cooling for a CPU on the market. It fits a wide range of both Intel and AMD CPU mounts, and includes everything you need to set it up quickly. The two 140mm fans spin at up to 2000 RPM, a USB cable provides fan control functionality, and it has a five-year warranty. Read Full Review

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      This is an excellent CPU liquid-cooler with a 280mm radiator, utilizing two 140mm fans to keep your CPU incredibly cool even if you overclock your system as much as possible. It has all the hardware you need for installation, including low-evaporation tubing. The mounting bracket on it works for many different Intel and AMD CPU mounts, so you can use this with a wide range of motherboards. If you have an older system, or an unusual motherboard, you may still want to check with Corsair for compatibility with your CPU mount. The 280mm radiator can be a bit large for some computer cases and towers, so make sure it will work with your hardware and any fans you might already have in place. This cooler comes with two 140mm fans that run at up to 2000 RPM producing up to 104 CFM of airflow, keeping your system nice and cool. It produces about 40 dBA of noise which is a bit loud but not terribly excessive. The five-year warranty on this model is about as good as it gets and helps protect your investment.

      Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler

      Cooler Master V8 GTS High Performance CPU Cooler

      This cooler has a unique design and look, but doesn’t sacrifice performance to achieve its striking appearance. There is no liquid cooling with this one, but it has a pair of 140mm fans that provide up to about 80 CFM of airflow. Even at high speeds, noise levels with this cooler only reach about 36 dBA maximum, meaning it runs much more silently than many other coolers. Read Full Review

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        With a design inspired by the look of a car engine, this is one of the more unusual air-cooled CPU coolers on the market. Cooler Master didn’t sacrifice performance in creating this unique design, thanks to a pair of 140mm fans that provide excellent cooling, spinning at up to 1600 RPM. While this may not be as fast as something like the fans in the Kraken x64 by NZXT, it still creates up to 82 CFM of airflow, which is more than enough for even high-performance systems. Even though this cooler has two fast, powerful fans they do not produce too much noise, creating only up to 36 dBA of sound, even when running at their limit. This may not be silent, but it is definitely quiet enough for most builds and computer users. While this is not a liquid-cooled model, it is pretty sizable, so be sure it can fit in your case, and the one-year warranty is far from impressive.

        Cooler Master V8 GTS High Performance CPU Cooler

        Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler

        This is a great air-cooled unit that has two 140mm fans and two radiators to cool your CPU as quickly and effectively as possible. The fans run at up to 1200 RPM, which is a bit low, but they generate up to 78 CFM of airflow. It is easy to install, runs very quietly, and is covered by a five-year warranty. Read Full Review

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          Why it's best:

          There are a number of reasons to choose air-cooling rather than liquid, such as affordability and ease of installation. This is certainly an easy CPU cooler to set up, and it comes with all the hardware you need to install it onto a wide range of Intel and AMD sockets. It has two 140mm fans, with two radiators alongside them for optimal cooling. It's a little large, but should still fit comfortably in most computer towers without obscuring any sockets or ports on the motherboard. It comes with thermal compound from Phanteks, though it's not pre-applied so you can use your own if you prefer another type. The fans spin at up to 1200 RPM, generating up to 78 CFM of airflow, and less than 20 dBA of noise during use. The five-year warranty is excellent and protects your investment for about as long as you should expect a CPU cooler to last.

          Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler

          Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU Heatsink

          If you don't need a high-end cooler such as a liquid cooled model, then this is a great choice. It has only a single 92mm fan, but it can run fast and still pushes a good amount of air through the cooling radiators. The single fan requires a low amount of power, however, and only produces about 23 dBA of noise even at full speed. Read Full Review

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            This is a great choice for a low or mid-range computer, but it probably does not provide enough cooling for a high-end overclocked computer. It has a single fan that is only 92mm in size, quite a bit smaller than the fans in a lot of other coolers. This single fan, however, can still cool a CPU quite well thanks to maximum speeds of up to 2200 RPM that can push up to 45 CFM of airflow. Since it only has a single fan, it requires much less power than larger radiators and fans and does not produce much noise, only about 23 dBA even when running at high speed for optimal cooling. Despite this model’s name, it fits a number of both Intel and AMD CPUs, and ARCTIC covers this model with a six-year warranty.

            Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU Heatsink
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            2 comments

            Air, water, or peltier?

            Posted on 3/8/2009 10:36 am | Reply

            Air usually has the least amount of headache; no worry about spills, leaks, or refilling reservoirs. I've always been a strong advocate of simplest is best, and air cooling certainly achieves that. Sure, it might have higher temperatures by a few C, but remember, no matter how fancy a liquid cooler may be, it can't bring it below ambient temperatures. A lot of times, good air coolers trump more expensive (entry-level) liquid coolers.

            Posted on 3/26/2009 7:36 pm | Reply