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If you’re planning to overclock or CPU or just want it to operate at lower temperatures, you should consider looking at CPU coolers. CPU coolers were once considered an optional item, but now they are an essential part of any custom-built mid to high-end desktop PC.
There are different types of CPU coolers available, but we still think that air CPU coolers are the most reliable due to their safe operation, cost-effectiveness, and quiet performance.
Best Air CPU Cooler Reviewed
There are lots of options to choose from in air coolers for your CPU, but it’s a slippery slope as you’ll be tempted to buy more expensive liquid coolers if you delve too deep. Not all air coolers perform cooling functions as well, and some are just downright gigantic.
We’ve handpicked the 5 best air CPU coolers available in 2021. To help you understand the intricacies of air cooling and why it’s still preferred by many over AIO liquid cooling, there’s a detailed buyer’s guide after the product reviews.
The Noctua NH-D15 is by far the best air CPU cooler you can buy. It is the perfect alternative to liquid cooling if you lack the space to mount radiators in your rig.
There’s no sugarcoating it: the Noctua NH-D15 is hands down the best CPU air cooler you can buy. It is one of the quietest air coolers out there and can support just about any modern socket.
It is indeed expensive for an air CPU cooler, and it doesn’t quite have the amazing looks you’ll find in other CPU coolers (particularly ones for gaming), but it performs better in the cooling function than any other air cooler and is the quietest among its competitors.
All of this is possible thanks to its six heat pipes that run through a dual tower heat sink. Two high airflow 140mm fans run at speeds from anywhere between 300 to 1500 RPM for optimal convection. The result is cooling that can match many all-in-one liquid coolers and even beats a few of them in performance and noise levels.
Anyone looking for an alternative to liquid CPU cooling in an air cooler format won’t find a better product than the Noctua NH-D15. Just make sure you can fit this behemoth in your desktop case without troubling your RAM cards.
- Very quiet performance
- High quality components
- Fantastic cooling
- Supports almost all types of chipsets
- Gigantic and heavy
With a price point around 40$, it is hard to find a CPU air cooler that performs as well as this one does, low audible and high cooling performance fan, the ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports DUO compares greatly to others while having a flair of its own.
So the single tower double fan air cooler by Arctic is one of the best available in the market at this price point. This air cooler falls just one degree short from the famous Noctua NH-D15, which is our crown king. The two fans are 120mm with a max speed of 2100 RPM, which is quite a lot of speed.
The push and pull feature allows for a great cooling mechanism, the bearing on the fan is a fluid dynamic bearing that keeps operations hush at a 28 decibel while operation.
It runs short in the heat pipe department but that is because the 4 heat pipes come directly in contact with the CPU die to conduct heat as much as possible.
You can get the fans in different color or just get a white one if you are going for a white PC build, so plus point in our books for the great looks. Sad to say this fan is more about performance than gamer aesthetics as it lacks the RGB that is the rage of the gamer community these days.
In the end, our verdict is that this fan is one of the best fans you can get under $50 that performs as well as our top pick.
- Low Noise
- Push-Pull with dual fan
- Great cooling for price point
- No RGB
- Compatibility issues with some sockets
Cryorig isn’t as well known as companies like Noctua, Cooler Master, or Corsair, but they do make some great CPU coolers. Our favorite CPU air cooler from these guys is the Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi. This is an RGB air CPU cooler that can support almost all modern Intel and AMD sockets.
The cooler itself is mid-sized, sitting comfortably between the mega-giants like the Noctua NH-D15 and narrower ones like the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo. It features a 120mm fan that cools off a quad heat pipe setup. The cooling performance is decent for the price and will allow for great overclocking.
The RGB lighting on the cooler is embedded in the heat sink, which is an odd design choice. This means that the fan itself doesn’t light up. Instead, your motherboard and the Cryorig logo will be the ones with the disco show.
- Dual channel RGB lighting
- Great design that doesn’t interfere with RAM
- Good cooling
- Fan isn’t RGB
This monstrosity is a real looker. Be Quiet’s Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU cooler maintains an old school air cooler look in a stylish finish that suits all types of builds. If the Noctua NH-D15’s beige and brown colors are spoiling your PC’s internal looks, the Dark Rock Pro 3 is a great alternative.
Its performance is very similar to our top picks. It has an extremely quiet operation and utilizes a whopping seven heat pipes with aluminum caps. Packed in this monster are two black 120mm fans. It has a very high capacity, a TDP of up to 250W.
The Dark Rock Pro 3 will, however, demand a premium price. It is priced similarly to the Noctua NH-D15, and Noctua’s CPU cooler has larger fans and quieter performance. Aesthetically though, the Dark Rock Pro 3 looks much better, especially in gaming rigs. You couldn’t go wrong with either one, and that’s why it’s hard not to include the Dark Rock Pro 3.
- Quiet performance
- Fantastic cooling
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Very heavy and bulky
- Difficult to install
Scythe Mugen 5 Rev.B is somewhat an underdog when it comes to CPU air coolers, which is actually a really decent performer. It has one of the most silent operations in all the CPU coolers we tested and performs greatly regardless of the low RPMs.
So we compared it to other quiet CPU coolers like the Noctua and Cooler Master air coolers, but this was the quietest of them all while giving a nice cooling. It comes with a single 120mm Kaze-Flex seal fan, which is an award-winning fan by Scythe. The single tower air cooler fits in fine with most motherboards leaving enough space for the RAM and PCI slots.
The 120mm Fan has a high speed of 1200 RPM, which is not really that great, but when we checked the cooling performance of this CPU air cooler, it was comparable to that of the high-end ones. It also comes with brackets to install a second fan for a push-pull feature. So if you want to take the temps even further below you can definitely do it by installing another fan with the CPU cooler if you have enough space.
It is highly affordable and for the price point, it gives other CPU coolers a run for their money. This fan is for those silent operation lovers who like to tinker with their overclocking. You will see further temperature drops if you plan to attach another fan to it, which is always a nice option to have if you have enough clearance for other components.
All in all this CPU cooler is a really great choice for people on a budget and for the price point, it is a deal you would not want to miss.
- Super Quiet
- Added bracket for another fan
- Low RPMS
- No RGB
CPU CoolerBuyer’s Guide
Air Coolers vs Liquid Coolers
This is probably going to be the biggest question in your mind. Should you go for an air CPU cooler or an all-in-one liquid cooler?
There’s a clear winner here when it comes to overall cooling performance: liquid cooling. However, Liquid coolers take up more space due to the pipes and radiators and are often a tad noisier than air coolers. Perhaps most importantly, they are much more expensive.
Air coolers remain a popular choice among many users because they provide quiet operation despite their enormous size. They cost less as well and are more easily available.
Additionally, there is a small risk with liquid coolers. In case of any failure, a liquid cooler will spill all its juice on your precious, expensive rig. Although reliable companies do offer full coverage warranty in case of such mishaps, no one wants to go through that experience.
One of the main reasons anyone would want to go for an aftermarket cooler is the noise. Stock coolers are noisy, and they need to be running at higher speeds at all times to keep the CPU, which only makes things worse.
Aftermarket air coolers are specifically designed to operate more quietly, despite the larger fans and elaborate heat sinks/pipes. If noise is an issue for you, make sure you buy the quietest possible air CPU cooler.
Any aftermarket CPU cooler will be much better at cooling your CPU than the stock cooler. Modern CPUs tend to run at lower power when they reach temperatures above 90C. A good CPU cooler will keep your CPU’s temperature below 70C. A great one will keep the temperatures below 60C. Bear in mind these are temperatures when the CPU is running at 100%.
Finally, there’s the size. You don’t want to buy a CPU cooler only to embarrassingly find out it doesn’t fit in your PC case, or that your tall RAM is in constant contact with the fan housing. You should only buy a CPU air cooler once you’ve finalized all the other parts. This way, you can determine what cooler size fits your casing.
Should I invest in a CPU cooler even when I won’t overclock my CPU?
Yes, though you won’t need a very big or expensive one. Any kind of intensive tasks such as gaming, video editing, or simulation will put a huge load on your CPU. Stock CPU coolers are just not designed to provide adequate cooling for prolonged periods while the CPU is running at 100%. If you plan to do any sort of CPU intensive task on your computer, you should invest in a CPU cooler.
Does the number of heat pipes determine the effectiveness of a CPU cooler?
Yes and no. The effectiveness of a CPU cooler comes from how all the components work together. This includes the heat pipes, the heat sink, the base, and the fans. Determining the effectiveness of a CPU cooler just from a single component is naïve.
Is fan speed important?
Fan speed measured in RPM (revolutions per minute), and the higher fan speeds range from anywhere between 1500 to 3000 RPMs for CPU coolers. It’s easy to think that fan speed is very important. After all, a higher fan speed means more airflow, right? It’s not quite as simple as that.
The job of the fan is to continuously cool the heat sink. The heat sink and the heat pipe’s design is actually more important than the fan speed.