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The Best CPU Coolers for 2022: Top Air & AIO Coolers Reviewed

Best CPU CoolersWe rated, reviewed, & compared some of the best CPU coolers on the market. The guide takes a look at both the best air-based CPU coolers & the best closed-loop liquid coolers.

If you don’t plan on overclocking and you don’t mind the look of a stock CPU cooler, it is not absolutely necessary to go out and get an aftermarket CPU cooler. However, CPU coolers really aren’t that expensive (especially if you go with an air CPU cooler) and they can give you better cooling and help put the finishing touches on a nice-looking build.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best CPU coolers for gaming for 2022 and beyond. We have looked at a handful of different air coolers and closed-loop liquid coolers.

For liquid coolers, the absolute best-case scenario for extreme builders is a custom loop liquid cooling setup. However, these aren’t as simple and straightforward as the closed-loop options (AIOs) currently available. And, custom cooling setups are really only options for people that are looking to do some extreme overclocking, or for people who really want to build something aesthetically superior.

And, for the most part, air coolers compete fairly similar to closed-loop liquid coolers, despite costing less. Although, if you’re going for a really clean look, perhaps nothing can accomplish that more than a closed-loop liquid cooler.

Ultimately, if you aren’t planning on going with a custom liquid cooling setup, but you want something a little more than the cheap stock fan that your CPU will come with, this guide will help you make the best choice for your needs.

FAQ: Questions to Ask Before You Choose A CPU Cooler

If you’re in the market for a new CPU cooler and you’re unsure of what you should be looking for, in this section, we’ve highlighted a handful of the most commonly asked questions about CPU coolers. So, whether you want to know what a CPU cooler does, or you’re debating between whether you should get an air cooler or a liquid cooler, the questions below will point you in the right direction.

1. What Does A CPU Cooler Do?

A CPU cooler, well, keeps your CPU cool. Your computer’s processor is arguably your system’s most important component. The problem is that, left to its own devices, your processor would get too hot to function properly. Without anyway to keep your CPU cool, you really wouldn’t be able to use your computer.

Also Read: Safe CPU Temps: How Hot Should My CPU Be?

So, CPU coolers serve the role of removing heat from your processor so that your processor can keep functioning properly.

There are two types of CPU coolers: air CPU coolers and liquid CPU coolers.

Air CPU coolers draw heat away from your processor with the help of a large heatsink and a fan (or two). Liquid CPU coolers draw heat away from your processor with liquid, a radiator, and one or more fans.

2. How Do I Choose A CPU Cooler?

The CPU cooler that is right for your setup will depend on a few different things…

  1. Compatibility with your other components
  2. Your budget
  3. Your aesthetic demands

There are a variety of compatibility issues that you need to be aware of when you are choosing a CPU cooler. The first one is whether or a not a specific cooler is compatible with your other components. Certain CPU coolers are designed to only work with a specific set of CPU sockets. Nowadays, most CPU coolers come with different brackets that make it compatible with most modern CPU sockets. However, you shouldn’t just assume that a CPU cooler will work with your motherboard socket.

Clearance issues can also be a concern for some air coolers that have a larger heatsink. We’ve discussed those potential issues in the section below.

The other thing to consider is how much you have to spend. Whether you’re upgrading the cooler on an older system or you’re building a brand new PC, your budget will determine what kind of CPU cooler you can get. For most, the stock cooler that comes with the processor (although, some processors do not come with a stock cooler) is decent enough for casual use.

Also Read: How Much Does A Gaming PC Cost?

However, if you want to get better thermals on your CPU, an upgraded third party cooler is worth considering. If you have between $20-$50 to spend, you will be limited to a third party air cooler. If you have more than $50 to spend, you can opt for either a higher-end air cooler or a liquid cooler.

And, while a higher-end air cooler will outperform most similarly-priced 120mm or 140mm AIO coolers, aesthetics will also play a role in what CPU cooler type will work best for you. Some people like the cleaner look that a 120mm AIO cooler offers, while other prefer the looks of a nice-looking air cooler.

For more information, check out our guide How to Choose A CPU Cooler.

3. Will Any CPU Cooler Fit in My Computer?

If you’re planning on building a PC inside of a compact mini-ITX case, you’ll have less clearance for your CPU cooler and therefore will have less options to choose between. One quick way to tell whether or not a specific air cooler will fit inside of a specific case, is to check the height on the CPU cooler in question and the CPU cooler clearance allowed on the case in question (both can be found on each product’s spec sheet.)

Larger liquid cooling radiators won’t fit in every case either. So, before you drop ~$150 on a 360mm AIO cooler, you need to make sure that the case you’ve chosen can accommodate a 360mm radiator.

Some bulkier air coolers might also conflict with memory kits that have tall heat spreaders. So, if you’re going to buy a bulky air cooler, it would be a good idea to choose some lower-profile memory to ensure that no conflicts exist.

4. Is Water Cooling Better Than Air Cooling?

I’ve discussed it above, but the option between liquid cooling and air cooling is more of a personal decision that will come down to how much you have to spend, compatibility and clearance limitations (or lack thereof), and your preference on aesthetics.

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a CPU cooler, you’ll probably be limited to your CPU’s stock cooler or a budget-friendly air cooler.

Also Read: Do You Need a CPU Cooler for Your PC?

If you have a larger budget, you can opt for either a higher-end air cooler or a liquid cooler.

If you have clearance restraints because you’re building a mini gaming PC, you’ll probably be limited a low-profile air cooler or a smaller AIO cooler.

If you want to go extreme with your setup, you might want to consider putting together your own custom liquid cooling loop.

If you’re still on the fence on whether or not liquid cooling or air cooling would be better for you, check out our guide Liquid Cooling vs. Air Cooling: Which Style CPU Cooler is Right for You?

Our Picks for the Best CPU Coolers

The table below represents our top choices for the best CPU coolers across various use cases and price points. We’ve chosen our pick for the best air CPU cooler, the best AIO cooler, the best value AIO, the best budget air cooler, and the best budget AIO cooler.

NAME SPECS RATING
BEST AIR
NOCTUA NH-D15 chromax.Black

Noctua NH-D15

  • Dual Fans
  • 140mm Fans
  • Intel/AMD
  • 6.5″ Tall
9.3/10

Check Price

Read Review »

TOP AIO
NZXT Kraken X73

NZXT Kraken X73

  • Triple Fan
  • 120mm Fans
  • Intel/AMD
  • 15.5″ Long
9.2/10

Check Price

Read Review »

280MM AIO
EVGA CLC 280

EVGA CLC 280

  • Dual Fans
  • 140mm Fan
  • Intel/AMD
  • 12.2″ Long
9.2/10

Check Price

Read Review »

VALUE AIR
Arctic Freezer 33 eSports Edition

ARCTIC 34 eSports

  • Dual Fans
  • 120mm Fans
  • Intel/AMD
  • 5.9″ Tall
8.9/10

Check Price

Read Review »

VALUE AIO
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L RGB V2

MasterLiquid ML120L

  • Single Fan
  • 120mm Fan
  • Intel/AMD
  • 6.1″ Long
8.6/10

Check Price

Read Review »

*To read more about our picks for the best CPU coolers listed above, just click the “Read Review »” button to hop to our overview on that cooler. You can also keep scrolling to find more air and AIO options.

1. Noctua NH-D15

The best high-end air CPU cooler

NOCTUA NH-D15 chromax.Black
  • Dual 140mm Fans
  • Intel & AMD
  • 6.5-Inches Tall
  • 6-Year Warranty

Our Rating: 9.3/10

Check Price on Amazon

High-quality components, excellent cooling, and amazing noise control. The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the few air coolers that can actually match up to the cooling power of a closed-loop liquid cooler, and it does so without putting a hole in your wallet.

Setting up and installing the cooler is incredibly simple as it will easily fit on any AMD socket, and accepts all Intel sockets released after 2011, including LGA 1700. The cooling is provided by two Noctua NF-A15 140 mm fans, installed in a standard two-fan push-pull configuration. And, there is the option to add a third fan, as well.

The fans come with automatic speed control and won’t rev up until your CPU needs the extra speed, thus keeping system noise to a minimum when not under load. When under load, the fans can hit speeds up to 1500 RPMs  to help keep your system cool. And all of this happens while keeping the sound levels under 24.6 dB-A. And if you install the low noise attachment (included), the noise levels go further downwards to just 19.2 dB-A.

The NH-D15 measures 165mm x 150mm x 161mm (height, width, and depth.) There is also an impressive 6-year limited warranty on this cooling unit.

Overall, if you’re looking for one of the CPU coolers on the market and you’d prefer an air cooler over a custom liquid cooling setup or an AIO, then the Nocture NH-D15 is an option we’d recommend considering.

2. NZXT Kraken X73

The best large AIO CPU cooler

NZXT Kraken X73 360mm
  • Triple 120mm Fans
  • Intel & AMD
  • 15.5-Inches Long
  • 6-Year Warranty

Our Rating: 9.2/10

Check Price on Amazon

The NZXT Kraken X73 is an excellent option for anyone who has a large budget and is looking into a case that can hold a 360mm radiator. It also comes with three NZXT Aer P radiator fans that can operate between 1,600-2,800 RPM and it has a bunch of RGB lighting options.

NZXT clearly stands by their Kraken series AIOs, as they all come with 6-year warranties—which is longer than all of the other AIO coolers on this list.

This 360mm AIO cooler also comes with longer tubing that will help you fit it inside larger full tower cases and it is compatible with all modern Intel and AMD sockets.

The Kraken X73 does come in at a premium, though, costing a little under ~$160. That’s pretty much to be expected for a 360mm AIO, though. But, if you don’t have the budget, or you’d rather get a more affordable 280mm or 240mm option, you probably won’t lose too much cooling performance overall.

3. EVGA CLC 280

An excellent value AIO cooler

EVGA CLC 280
  • Dual 140mm Fans
  • Intel & AMD
  • 12.2-Inches Long
  • 5-Year Warranty

Our Rating: 9.2/10

Check Price on Amazon

Despite the fact that EVGA’s CLC series is the company’s first attempt at producing an AIO liquid cooler, they have done an exceptional job of delivering three coolers that can compete with companies who have been making closed loop coolers for years.

EVGA offers their closed loop coolers in sizes of 280mm, 240mm, and 120mm.

The coolers didn’t originally come with support for AM4 motherboards right out of the box, but they do now come with AM4 brackets. So, if you do want to use these coolers on a Ryzen-based build, you can definitely do so.

In terms of cooling performance, the 280mm option does offer the best thermals. However, if you are working with a case that doesn’t support a 280mm radiator, the 240mm option will work well, too.

Also, like the other top AIO coolers out there, EVGA’s CPU blocks contain EVGA’s logo and it is RGB friendly. And, if you have an EVGA graphics card with RGB lights, you can actually sync the two items together.

Ultimately, in our review of EVGA’s 280mm AIO, we determined that they offer some of the best price-to-performance in liquid cooling currently on the market.

4. ARCTIC 34 eSports

The best value air cooler

Arctic Freezer 33 eSports Edition
  • Dual 120mm Fans
  • Intel & AMD
  • 5.9-Inches Tall
  • 10-Year Warranty

Our Rating: 8.9/10

Check Price on Amazon

The ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports is our choice for the best value air CPU cooler currently on the market. For just under $50 you get an insanely quiet air CPU cooler that comes with dual 120mm fans that can operate in a range of 200 to 1,800 RPM.

The design of the ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports is also worth noting as not all air coolers are as nice-looking as this bad boy is. The heatsink itself is all black and the fans are also all-black, but come with either white, yellow, green, or red accents.

At 4.8″ x 4.0″ x 5.9″, this air cooler is a bit on the bulky side. However, it is compatible with most RAM heatsinks and in most mid-tower or larger cases.

ARCTIC also offers an insane 10-year warranty on the Freezer 34 eSports cooler. While air coolers do typically last a long time, most companies don’t back their products with that long of a warranty. As an example of that, the next highest warranty on this list is 6-years (the Noctua NH-D15).

Overall, if you’re looking for a really good value air CPU cooler that looks nice, performs well, and is backed by an incredibly long warranty, then the ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports edition cooler is the option for you.

5. CM MasterLiquid ML120L

The best budget AIO cooler

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L RGB V2
  • Single 120mm Fan
  • Intel & AMD
  • 6.2-Inches Long
  • 2-Year Warranty

Our Rating: 8.6/10

Check Price

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly AIO cooler the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L is worth checking out. At just under $70, it is one of the cheapest 120mm AIO coolers on the market. And, while 120mm coolers typically lag behind even moderately-priced air coolers, they do offer some unique features that make them worth considering over an air cooler…

First, many prefer the aesthetics of AIO coolers over bulky air coolers. And, secondly, for anyone looking to build a mini gaming PC and are limited on how tall of a CPU cooler you can put in your build, a smaller AIO cooler might end up being your only option.

So, if either of those scenarios apply to you, a budget-friendly 120mm AIO cooler like the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L is an excellent option. Along with its low-profile design and solid cooling capabilities, it also comes with an RGB fan and an RGB block to help you system stand out.

Ultimately, though, no 120mm AIO cooler is going to offer extreme cooling performance. However, they provide adequate cooling in a compact design at an affordable price. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, the ML120L is a great option.

What is the Best CPU Cooler?

Right now, the best CPU cooler is the Noctua NH-D15 or the NZXT Kraken X73 depending on whether or not you want an air cooler, or an AIO cooler. The EVGA CLC series AIO coolers, the ARCTIC 34 air cooler, and the MasterLiquid M120L AIO cooler are also excellent options if you are working with a lower budget.

Ultimately, though, the first decision you need to make when choosing a cooler for your new gaming computer build is whether or not you’re okay with sticking with your stock cooler or if you need something a little bit more powerful.

Also Read: How to Build A Gaming PC (Step-by-Step)

Then, if you have decided you want a better CPU cooler, your next step is to decide whether or not you want an aftermarket air CPU cooler, a closed-loop liquid cooler, or if you want to build your own custom liquid cooling setup. (For more information on the differences in cooler styles, check out our guide on liquid cooling vs. air cooling.)

And, if you are looking for an air cooler, or a closed-loop liquid cooler, this guide will help you find an option that will work for you.

Hey, I’m Brent. I’ve been building computers and writing about building computers for a long time. I’m an avid gamer and tech enthusiast, too. On YouTube, I build PCs, review laptops, components, and peripherals, and hold giveaways.

5 thoughts on “The Best CPU Coolers for 2022: Top Air & AIO Coolers Reviewed”

  1. no dark rock 4 pro/non pro??? (cheaper than the noctua chroma for the exact same performance)
    no Arctic liquid freezer II??? (better in AIO cooling than the one in the list, and cool the VRM too!!! for less noise than the others)

    Reply
  2. Question:
    What do you think about mid-tier coolers? As a rather new builder, I have opted into an AMD Ryzen 5 2600X with a Macho Rev B. and it handles itself relatively well. I was curious if you could test it against some of the other mid-tier air coolers, such as the hyper 212 and the price range around $50 USD. It would be beneficial especially as a new builder it is tempting to go with an AIO but the price point is better to go with an air cooler.
    Thank you,
    I look forward to your response.
    Beard

    Reply

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