Every PC is designed with a variety of components for users that need the machine for things like gaming, music, writing, and more. Your CPU can handle a lot right out of the box, though serious computer geeks and workaholics alike have noticed that the CPU always heats up like crazy after using it for a couple hours straight. The best way to solve this? Getting yourself a new CPU cooler! It will not only increase your computer’s functionality ten-fold, but will also end the random crashes, blackouts, and freezing your desktop experiences without the right air filtration. This awesome guide will help you find affordable options with exactly what you need, while giving you tools and tips to install it all on your own – even if you’re a complete noob when it comes to computers!
Why You Need a CPU Cooler
It may seem trivial to look into buying a CPU cooling system when your computer comes with a fan already, but you’ve got to look at the facts. Gamers, avid web surfers, business folk, and students use their computers almost on a daily basis, for hours on end. The nature of the fan inside of the CPU is to last a handful of years until it’s ready to be exchanged for a new one. Imagine your bedroom fan being the same fan for 12 years, that old thing would never blow anything but dust and rust if that were the case. The main reason for searching for a CPU cooler is the fact that you need one, due to overuse.
The other reason people incorporate a new cooling system is due to the original being much too loud. Air CPU coolers are often what CPU’s come with, and they rattle in their case as the computer works harder. Gamers usually prefer buying a liquid-cooling system for this reason, but some go with air coolers due to their price range demanding something a little less advanced. Finding the right CPU cooler to fit your needs to increase the computer’s performance is very easy, without even putting a dent in your wallet.
Best CPU Cooler I’ve Picked for 2018
The Enermax LIQTECH TR4 is one of the best models on the market. Though it’s a bit pricey sitting at right below $150,, Enermax doesn’t make you regret the purchase one bit. The LIQTECH TR4 smashes other models with its dust-fighting action more powerful than lower-end models due to three fans, a liquid-tubing setup, and support for almost every CPU. Not only that, but this friendly CPU cooler takes care of over 500W+ TDP, as well as anti-vibration rubber pads, and high-pressure blades. For what it’s worth, I’d recommend investing in this gem.
How We Picked
- Designed to cover AMD Threadripper’s integrated heat spreader (IHS).
- SCT (Shunt-Channel-Technology) design allows the elimination of the “Boundary Layer,” which increases coolant flow and accelerates heat transfer
- Powerful, robust pumps (can deliver up to 450 L/h)
- Luminous LED logo
- Anti-vibration rubber pads
- High-pressure blades
- Premium 400mm weaved tubing
- Flexible polyamide rubber tubes
- CPU sockets: Intel (LGA 775, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, and 2066), AMD, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, and FM2+
The Key Players: Choose Your Best CPU Cooler
Here’s a comprehensive list of the best CPU coolers I’ve found in 2018:
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO LED CPU Cooler
- CRYORIG H7 Tower Cooler
- Corsair Air Series AF120 LED Quiet Edition High Airflow Fan (Twin Pack)
- Cooler Master MA410P
- Noctua NH-D15
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED CPU Cooler
- Arctic Freezer 33 eSports One Tower CPU Cooler
- Corsair Hydro Series H60 Single PWM Fan Liquid CPU Cooler (CW-9060036-WW)
- NZXT Kraken X62 All-in-One 280mm CPU Liquid Cooling System (RL-KRX62-02)
- Enermax ETS-T50
- Corsair Hydro Series H60 High-Performance Liquid CPU Cooler (CW-9060007-WW)
Part#1 Top 3 Best CPU Coolers in 2018 With a Budget
For this section of the article, I’ve brought to you a list of the top three choices I’ve found in 2018 that will match all your needs. For every CPU cooler, you’ll be offered a low price, great design, and awesome specs that you won’t find with other models on the market.
Remember throughout your search that CPU coolers are usually not the easiest to install for newbies, but decent fans will have instructions to follow step-by-step. In our Guide & Tips section, you can find some common ways to install the CPU fan if these products don’t seem to offer clear instructions (such as the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO series). Keep an eye on the fan dimension, socket connectivity, and amount of heat pipes before you dish out any money on a cooling system.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO LED CPU Cooler
About this CPU Cooler
Cooler Master created a profound, well-performing chassis called the Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler. This component is packed with a tower that’s been improved with a new fin design, upgraded fans, fan brackets, and four direct heat pipe layouts. Not only that, but it comes with continuous direct contact (CDC) technology, which creates a sleek surface that allows quality heat conduction. This CPU fan incorporates a wide range PWM fan, an AM4 bracket, and offers well-balanced cooling performance. Your fan is generally sized, with many outlets for a number of CPUs.
Though the machine’s got a loud-rattling noise, a common issue with pins coming loose, on top of Cooler Master having horrible customer service, this fan performs great for what it’s worth. For $30, you have all these great specs and some instructions that are hard to decipher (if you’re new to installing CPU fans) so that your computer can finally cool off. This fan can handle a decent amount of heat at once, as well as overtime due to the CDC technology stabilizing the internal temperatures.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- AM4 bracket
- PWM fan
- CDC technology
- 4 direct heat pipes
- New fin design
- Upgraded fans
- Great performance for cooling the interior of the CPU
CPU sockets: Intel LGA (2066, 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1151, and 1150), AMD, AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2, FM2+, FM2, and FM1
- Tedious installation process
- Instructions aren’t easy to follow
- Fan makes a rattling noise, somewhat loud
- Pins come loose occasionally
- Cooler Master doesn’t have the best customer service
CRYORIG H7 Tower Cooler
About this CPU Cooler
This great CPU cooler tops the Hyper 212 EVO due to CRYORIG’s great customer satisfaction, though it is a little hard to judge as the H7 Tower Cooler lacks some of the specs Cooler Master has. Hundreds of customer reviews rant and rave about the great customer service CRYORIG offers for returns and help with damaged parts (which is a possibility). Nonetheless, this CPU cooler is amongst the best out there with only three copper heat pipes, a QF120 120mm PWM fan, and both of these being supported by the HPLNTM bearing (helps maintain maximized airflow and noise control) – all under $35. Since there is so much support for the fan, the noise is not as loud as other fans on the market.
The H7 Tower Cooler doesn’t come with an AM4 bracket, but there is a way to get it for free. The removal of the AM4 bracket was CRYORIG’s way of limiting the usage of the fan, aiming to make their targeted audience those who have Intel or AMD CPUs. It was sort of a setback, but ultimately is a cheap issue to solve. Computers like Ryzen, unfortunately, can’t use this CPU cooler (fair warning), though it is available to the majority of computers available on the market.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- 3 copper heat pipes
- QF120 120mm PWM fan
- Fan dimensions: 3.86 x 4.84 x 5.71 in
- Height: 145 mm
- Great customer service
- Jet Fin Acceleration System
- Proprietary Hive Fin System
- Quad Air Inlet
- HPLNTM bearing
- CPU sockets: Intel LGA (2066, 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1151, and 1150), and AMD
- No AM4 bracket with original fan
- Ryzen computers are incompatible with this cooling system
- Faulty parts occasionally are delivered to customers but can be sent new parts if necessary without a huge hassle
- Warmer temperatures than Cooler Master Hyper Evo series, but performs just the same.
Corsair Air Series AF120 LED Quiet Edition High Airflow Fan (Twin Pack)
About this CPU Cooler
Corsair created a fantastic air cooling system, with low noise, gorgeous LED lighting, translucent blades and unrestricted spaces with at least 3 cm of room. The Air Series AF120 has ultra-thin blades that are custom-molded for maximized airflow, minimal turbulence, and little vibration coming from the case. This component requires a motherboard with an open three-pin fan connector, and many computers already do offer this connection.
The fan’s size is decent, being 120 mm, offering low static pressure and draws minimal power to activate. Luckily, if you’re not looking for a twin pack such as this product, Corsair does offer single packs for you to choose from with the same specs as this fan. This fan is programmed to exhaust heat out of the CPU, speed up graphics, and extract heat from components all over the CPU, for under $20. This crafty fan is the best option on the market, easy to set up, and barely touches your bank account.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- Fan dimensions: 120 x 25 mm
- Hardly any vibration
- Customized, ultra-thin blades
- Aesthetically pleasing – LED lighting with translucent blades
- 3-pin fan connector – connects to any motherboard offering pin connection
- Minimal power is drawn to power up
- Accelerates graphics
- Best heat-sucker for nearly every compartment in the CPU
- Offered in a twin pack, but can be sold individually
- Connectors for the motherboard, but not for direct connection to the power supply (not ideal for gamers or CPU builders)
- Fans become louder over time
At any rate, a CPU cooler chosen from this list will give you the best performance possible. However, my top recommendations out of these three would be the Brief SummaryCorsair Air Series AF120 and the CRYORIG H7 Tower Cooler. You’ll have minimal noise and vibration, little power usage, and much higher performance in every fashion.
Part#2 Best Air CPU Coolers
In this portion of the article, you’ll have a few of the best air CPU coolers on the market, with no limit on price. If your budget can handle a fan ranging between $25 and $95, take a look at all the phenomenal, top-grade cooling systems we have below! You’ll get all the great specs affordable fans offer, and much more.
While searching for a quality air CPU cooler, you’ll need to focus on the fan size, heat pipe quantity, noise control, and reliable air circulation. While the cheaper options above will work just great, these options are for serious gamers and avid computer users. Luckily, we’ve got a few options for you to choose from so you can see for yourself how they can help your CPU run much quicker.
About this CPU Cooler
Noctua’s flagship NH-D15 model is a high-end dual tower cooler with premium quality performance, offering the quietest cooling machine on the market. The NH-D15’s heat pipe layout has been expanded with six heat pipes in place and two top-of-the-line NF-A15 PWM 140mm fans, allowing amazing support for automatic speed control, nearly silent operation, and better air distribution over hot components inside the CPU. The fan is asymmetrical, designed to easily fit in your case within the computer with minimal hassle.
The NH-D15 can handle high RAM compatibility, offering the safest vessel for games and movies. While this CPU cooler sports the multi-socket SecuFirm2 mounting system and Noctua’s NT-H1 thermal compounds for installation, this fan has everything the average computer geek needs in order to safely build their own quick, quiet machine. Not only that, but the NH-D15 also comes with two built-in low-noise adapters to muffle the sound as much as possible. This gorgeous fan is available to you right under $90.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- Asymmetrical design
- Dual NF-A15 PWM 140mm fans
- 6 heat pipes
- 2 low-noise adapters
- NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
- DDR3 SDRAM memory type
- SecuFirm2 mounting system
- High RAM compatibility
- Safe installation process
- Supporting Intel (LGA115x, LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066), AMD, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM1, and FM2(+)
- A small chance of missing/broken parts (which Noctua will not help if bought through a third-party site)
- The fan may still be considered too loud for some high performing CPUs (as it will need to work much harder with these systems)
- Might be a little bulky for some CPUs with the asymmetrical design
Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED CPU Cooler
About this CPU Cooler
Similar to the Cooler Master Hyper EVO series, their Hyper 212 CPU cooler is another phenomenal option to choose from. For under $30, this high-end machine comes with a unique blade design that quietly spins with red LED lights. Not only that, but you’re able to upgrade to a dual-blade design for about $20 more, as well as any extra heat pipes required for your CPU without breaking your bank. This wide-range PWM fan supports all types of motherboard sockets, as well as excessive usage, and the utmost performance. The Cooler Master models are known to be noisy, though this model reduces clicking and vibrations with their newest quiet spin-exclusive technology.
Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 CPU cooler offers the XtraFlo 120mm PWM Fan with quick-snap fan bracket technology, four direct contact heat pipes, and CDC technology between cooler and CPU to create better airflow – all in the interest to help the installation process be much easier than the Hyper EVO series. Saving you both time and money, this great item will help your system cool off just as much as Noctua’s product would, with much more room for customization.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- XtraFlo 120mm PWM Fan
- Quick-Snap fan bracket technology
- 4 direct contact heat pipes
- CDC technology
- Quieter than previous Cooler Master products
- Dual-blade, unique design
- Red LED lighting
- CPU sockets: Intel (LGA 2011-3, 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1150, and 775), AMD, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2 and FM1.
- Cooler Master has terrible customer service
- Pins come loose occasionally
- Though there are a few modifications to the design, installation is still a tedious process
- Inferior thermal paste
Arctic Freezer 33 eSports One Tower CPU Cooler
About this CPU Cooler
This awesome CPU cooler has the new BioniX fan that creates great micro-turbulences, combined with heat pipes that are offset for maximum heat-dissipating performance. Arctic also has provides a high-quality fan has optimal noise muffling action with manual controlled speeds between 200 and 1800 RPM.
The Arctic motor is meant to absorb the vibrations, though there is a slight vibration that is still audible. Amazon says that there is no need for additional rubber spacers, though I’d recommend getting some just in case. Considering the motor temperature is 10 °C lower than the average cooler, it doubles the lifespan of your CPU.
The thermal paste that’s provided with the CPU cooler isn’t the best, so I’d recommend getting these as well. There are a couple items you may need to invest in, though it won’t break your bank while the CPU cooler will only cost you about $40 and you can get some affordable thermal paste on Amazon as well.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- BioniX fan that creates great micro-turbulences
- Extremely affordable
- A thermal coating on heat pipes
- Heat pipes offset for maximum heat-dissipating performance
- CPU sockets: Intel LGA (1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 2011, 2011-3, 2066), Square ILM, AM4 socket
- Controllable fan with PWM Sharing Technology (PST)
- 200 – 1800 RPM fan speed
- 120mm fan
- Slight vibration from the fan causes rattling of internal CPU components
- Extra rubber spacers recommended
- Poor thermal paste
- Metal wires that hold the fan in place are somewhat flimsy – must be very cautious installing this
Considering all the air CPU coolers on the market, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 is my best recommendation of our top three choices. The XtraFlo 120mm PWM fan is a major advantage over the other two, as well as leaving your bank account happy by only spending $25, maybe $45 if you decide to get the dual-blade design for extra support. Cooler Master has the ultimate budget-friendly air cooling products for every need.
Part #3: Zoom In:3 Best Liquid CPU Coolers
Liquid CPU coolers are the best coolers you can get on the market! These are full of tubes with a cooling liquid that wraps around the interior of the machine. These cooling systems are a little pricier, though they are essential if you’re serious about PC building or gaming. Make sure to measure the inside of your CPU before you put the tubes inside since manufacturers won’t replace tubes damaged during your installation process.
While looking for a liquid cooler for your CPU, you’ll need to look for a couple key features such a slim radiator, efficient mounting bracket for quick installation, a pump, and one or more fans. These systems are nearly silent since they mainly rely on a web of cooling tubes within the vessel than large fans. One thing to keep in consideration is to practice your setup outside of the CPU first since they have a possibility of popping.
Corsair Hydro Series H60 Single PWM Fan Liquid CPU Cooler (CW-9060036-WW)
About this CPU Cooler
Corsair’s Hydro Series H60 is a liquid CPU cooler designed to exercise total control over noise and airflow. This guy is built with a 120mm radiator, a white pump head with LED light, as well as a cold plate. In addition, the high-density radiator provides much more surface area for outstanding heat dissipation throughout the CPU. A heat-activated copper cold plate paired with a low-noise pump helps quietly direct heat out of the CPU.
Since there is consistent cooling and air circulation cooling every component, the computer’s performance increases with a much smaller chance of overheating. Not only that, but the mounting bracket is tool-free, which provides easy installation to the motherboard. One minor issue that I’ve seen while researching this product is a flaw in their screws that are shipped to physically install this system. If calling Corsair for a new set of screws isn’t a deal breaker then this cooling system will otherwise treat you great.
The LED-lit pump head is a brilliant aesthetic touch that Corsair added to the design. In addition, the fan can be manually adjusted between 600 and 1700 RPM with a Corsair SP Series PWM 120mm fan, which optimizes airflow and minimizes noise. You can get all of these great perks for under $90.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- Complete control over the PWM fan speed (between 600 and 1,700 RPM)
- Slim, high-density 120mm radiator
- Highly proficient cold plate
- Efficient pump with and LED-lit pump head
- Easy-to-install system
- Quality mounting bracket
- CPU sockets: AM4, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2 and FM2+, LGA 1151 and LGA 2066
- Thermal paste included
- The pump has a slight vibration
- Doesn’t include a back plate
- The radiator/fan combination is a little bulky
- Faulty screws periodically shipped out to customers from Corsair (however, you can call Corsair about possibly replacing them)
NZXT Kraken X62 All-in-One CPU Liquid Cooling System (RL-KRX62-02)
About this CPU Cooler
The new Kraken Series from NZXT offers the best specs you can find, although there are a few drawbacks. Acoustics are kept to a minimum while this advanced design cools this machine with high-quality performance and speed, as well as controlled with a fine-tuned software interface through CAM. The fan and pump have been upgraded to give you control over their performance, as well as glow with customizable light effects. Not only that, but the radiator has been enhanced to support high-performing computers for long periods of time.
There are some reviews stating that they received a system that was a bit buggy, though there is a six-year warranty on the product if you do run into this issue, later on, to have it replaced. The issues lie with a small lag here and there, building temperatures for a short period of time; this is a minor issue, which is usually fixed all on its own. The Aeer P radiator fans provide outstanding performance while giving off virtually no noise! In addition, this web of tubes is cloaked with strong, nylon sleeves. Other than that, this is a marvelous setup for any CPU builder or gamer, as the 280mm fan is muffled as it helps cool off the system immensely, and can work for hours at a time. This is a little pricey sitting over $200, though it’s totally worth the money.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- Low noise production
- Easy installation process
- CAM software (provides manual control of the fan and pump’s performance)
- Customizable light effects surrounding the pump
- Nylon sleeves covering the cooling system’s tubes (helps support the structure within the CPU’s case)
- Aeer P radiator fans (help limit noise that fans usually give off)
- CPU socket: Intel (1151, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-3),
- FM2+, FM2, FM1, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, and AM2
- Some reports of their CPU cooler lagging in performance periodically
- LED light presets reboot periodically
- Parts may need maintenance from time to time
- CAM software lags from periodically
Corsair Hydro Series High-Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H60 (CW-9060007-WW)
About this CPU Cooler
Corsair released one of the most affordable CPU coolers out there, providing high-quality specs that replicate their more expensive products. For a little over $50, you’ll get a 120mm fan with blades that provided much more efficient noise to static pressure ratio, as well as suppressing the noise levels of the working unit altogether. Not only that, but Corsair offers tubing with liquid that never needs to be replaced – completely self-sufficient, and you’ll never have to worry about constant maintenance of the tube’s water system.
The Hydro Series’ motherboard can’t have capacitors inside the space created by sink support holes, or else the cooler won’t fit in the space provided. If this becomes an issue, it’s easily fixable by sanding down the edge hanging over the capacitors about 1mm. This quality cooler offers extensive connectivity to many different computers, as well as improved copper cold plates with micro-fin technology to help dissipate heat at a quicker rate.[wpsm_column size=”one-half”][wpsm_pros title=”PROS:”]
- Flexible, large-diameter tubing offering decreased resistance and low evaporation
- Intel LGA CPUs have access to their own exclusive mounting bracket
- Intel LGA (1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, and 2011), AM2, AM3, AM4, FM1, and FM2
- Improved copper cold plates with micro-fin technology (helps dissipate heat at a quicker rate)
- Low-noise pump with easy installation and amazing airflow
- A black aluminum heat exchanger
- No back plate provided
- The model can’t fit in the space provided by sink support holes on the motherboard
- Poor mounting design
While NXZT created a top-of-the-line liquid CPU cooler with their Kraken X62 model and is truly worth investing every penny in, Corsair offers more affordable products for the average gamer and CPU builder that you can trust in as well. I would recommend buying the Corsair Hydro Series H60 CW-9060007-WW, or the upgraded version with many more specs for about $30 more, the H60 CW-9060036-WW.
Guide & Tips Times: Everything you should know about CPU Cooler
If you’re trying to figure out how to cool down your PC, this little guide will be a great resource to help you get started! I’ll go over all the basics, such as what generates heat, how heat affects the PC, different ways to bring the temperature down in different components, as well as some advice to consider while setting your cooling system up.
CPU Cooling Basics
Heat within the system
When it comes to CPUs, there are a couple components that give off a ton of heat, such as the chipset, processor, voltage regulator modules (VRM) (located around the CPU socket), High-performance RAM, and GPU.
Usually, the higher consumption of power, the more heat will be dissipated. However, this may not be the case every time. A power supply, for example, has the ability to consume 1000W or more from a wall socket. Though this is true, the power supply won’t generate the amount of heat a video card generates while consuming 250W.
Thermal Design Power (TDP) is a cited value that has major issues, such as it having no standard for measuring it other than the report from the manufacturer of that part. This value is a represents the quantity of heat energy one cooler should dissipate in order to let the processor run for long periods of time while maximizing incredible workloads. The level of TDP has an effect on the consumption rate. For example, lower TDP will generally mean that the heat generated and power consumption rate will be lower, as well.
However, even if the TDP is lower, the high temperatures generated won’t decrease. While two parts may work in concision, the higher TDP will need to work much harder in order for the temperatures to be consistent. In addition, it’s important not to confuse power consumption with TDP. Heat energy defines TDP, as it isn’t electrical. Conveniently, both forms are measured in watts, and it’s all thanks to physics.
How heat affects the CPU overtime
As time goes on, components become less reliable as heat accelerates wearing on the CPU. Consequently, the stability of the part while functioning at a certain level of performance started to be impacted by the reliability lost. If the reliability of the CPU continues to decrease, you might want to consider slowing down the performance level so the life of your unit extends a little bit. In addition, heat invokes not only wear and tear, but also thermal stress; meaning that objects expand with heat, and contract when they’re cool. The unit runs the risk of breaking from the continual cycle of heating and cooling, as this causes major fatigue on the material.
Semiconductor electronics model thermal runaway, which causes current to move through the device much more. With the resistance of the semiconductor increasing to about 160° C, the resistance starts to decrease immediately after this point. This causes the device to get much hotter until you’ve got a burned-up chip. Other than that, heat doesn’t compromise the CPU noticeably in any other way. It may cause some degradation of performance, however, the unit throttles itself around to keep it from getting any hotter.
Cooling: Three Major Types
Here are a few different ways to cool off your CPU when the rig’s components start heating up.
This is the most cost-effective cooling method I’ve found, as well as the most basic method. While air coolers need more airflow (causing more noise), they can achieve the same temperature that other cooling solutions are operating at. Better air-cooling solutions often will get heavier and bulkier.
Air cooling components
Fan: Air is the primary source of cooling, and the fan pushes the hot air out. A fan pushes air through the unit and the heatsink. If a heatsink doesn’t have a fan, it’s considered passive cooling. Otherwise, it’s active cooling.
Heat spreader: This is a metal sheet cloaking the component that’s designed to grant further surface area contact for the heatsink, assuming one would be attached. Without this metal, the heatsink would operate at a basic level.
Heatsink: A heatsink is a block of flattened metal meant to attach to some component, which increases the total surface area of that unit and allows additional air to push heat away.
Heat pipe/Vapor chamber: These components are composed of a sort of phase change cooling, which causes the inside of these two units to incorporate a working fluid designed to boil the component’s end and cool it off on the opposite side. A heat pipe and vapor chamber both allow a heatsink to perform harder within the same amount of space.
Liquid cooling always uses a type of coolant, usually distilled water as the primary instrument. With this method of cooling, heat would be picked up and carried to a radiator where air cooling brings the temperature of the liquid down. One major advantage of the liquid cooling method would be the higher heat capacity over the capacity for air, consequently holding a larger quantity of heat energy for a certain temperature. This definitely allows the liquid cooler to keep the CPU’s temperature lower than an air cooler does, all while executing the same amount of work.
Liquid cooling components
Heat block: This mechanism is meant to attach to the component while incorporating channels for liquid to run through. Inside this block are fins that aid heat transfer – very similar to those of a heatsink.
Radiator: Radiators are best described as a looped metal weaving back-and-forth loop between sections lined with metal fins, which rapidly cools off the liquid. A fan cools the liquid faster if used in conjunction with a radiator.
Pump: A vital part that keeps liquid moving throughout the whole system.
Reservoir: A part that increases the system’s holding capacity of liquid, which then increases its cooling capacity. Reservoirs can also help force air out of the CPU.
A Few Types of Liquid Cooling
Closed-loop system: An all-inclusive, self-contained compartment incorporating a pump, radiator, and the heat block. Unfortunately, these systems can’t be manually compromised, they can only have some basic maintenance beyond the initial installation.
Open-loop system: These systems are comprised of individually built pieces, resulting in being customizable and modular. A great way to use an open-loop system would be to start with a CPU cooling loop and then add a video card later on. The typical parts an open loop needs are the heat block(s), a pump, radiator, and a reservoir with some tubes to connect every part together.
Submerged system: A submerged CPU dips a majority of the hardware into a mineral-oil liquid (due to electricity with no conduction ability). The liquid can then be sent to a radiator to start cooling down.
Peltier cooling: This form of cooling is reliant on the thermoelectric principle, meaning that when electricity is applied to a Peltier cooling module, one side becomes cool, and the other side becomes hot. The cold side cools the component as necessary, and the hot side requires another method of cooling to help the temperature come down.
Phase change cooling: This mode of cooling works just like that of a refrigerator; with the vaporization of a fluid working to extract heat, as well as occasionally pumping it somewhere else. Phase change coolers also cool a unit within a variety of temperatures, even below freezing. One downside is this type of cooling can create a short electrical hazard after building up condensation over time
Cooling setup & Basic PC maintenance considerations
Before thinking about overhauling your cooling setup or assembling components for a new build, here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Choosing your cooling system: While looking at either air or liquid cooling, you should consider the costs of all the incorporated parts of either choice. You
Fans: You should consider two major properties of fans before purchasing them: noise (measured in dB), and airflow. For high airflow with minimal noise, I’d recommend buying a larger set of fans (anything 40dB and below). Usually, case fans have three pins that connect with the motherboard; others have four pins, which will need a different control method so you can manage the speed of the fan. Fan configuration is divided into two categories, which are positive and negative pressure.
Dusting: Your PC needs to be cleared of all dust once a month (at least), so air has the chance to flow without building up all over the device. Too much dust will insulate heat, coating components and causing them to become less efficient. Avoid hand dusters as they usually build up static charges that eventually damage the hardware.
Case layout: The size of the case will have an effect on the airflow inside. A larger case allows additional airflow, which made fewer places available for air obstruction. In contrast, smaller cases can be manipulated, even though components that require airflow (generally the video card and processor) will need some vents nearby. I would recommend buying a case with minimal openings to avoid fan noise and major dust build-up.
What About “Boxed Coolers”?
Manufacturer-supplied CPU thermal solutions aren’t typically designed to manage the confinement of slim cases, or the additional heat brought about by overclocking. The motherboard usually slows fans down in order to muffle the noise and responds immediately to elevated CPU temperatures by increasing the fans to maximum speed. If the fan’s speed fails to bring the CPU’s temperature and perform well, the whole system will reduce the core voltage levels and the CPU frequency; otherwise known as “thermal throttling.”
At any rate, these coolers have more surface area to reduce the CPU’s temperature. Further, the larger fans deliver additional air volume without much sound pressure. The popularity of 120mm fan in boxed coolers trumps that of the traditional, similarly-sized coolers, as it allows liquid coolers of the same size to fit a wider variety of motherboard locations and shapes. One key feature to keep in mind is that some boxed CPUs don’t include a cooler, so definitely look for one that does, or budget your money to buy the extra part.
Finding the Best Cooler for your CPU
Choosing a CPU Cooler isn’t nearly as complicated as one may think. You’ll just need to take into consideration the case surrounding it, your motherboard’s sockets, the space within your computer, and the time spent on your computer. If you only use your computer from time to time and your kids get ahold of the desktop for occasional gaming on the weekends, you might want to stick with an air CPU cooler – it’s cheaper, easier to install, and will work perfectly for this capacity. On the other hand, if you’re an avid gamer or you like to build PCs for fun, I’d suggest getting something suitable to support an excessive amount of memory, RAM, and performance over long periods of time.
Cases aren’t a defining factor as to which CPU cooler you purchase, though they do play a part in whether or not you should buy a certain product. Measuring the inside of your CPU’s components will help you identify which products are compatible with your system. Gaming tower cases are usually the least restrictive in cooler size, while the most recent case designs have grown to be wider so that they can accommodate tall tower-style CPU coolers.
Further, the size of the motherboard will play a small part in your choice of a CPU cooler. You’ll need to maximize your creativity when piecing together your units inside of the CPU’s allotted space, as it will help you save both time and money if you plan it out well. In addition, you may also save yourself a bit of a headache if you’re prepared for the installation process of your CPU cooler.
When you start looking into the market, look at the physical structure of the cooler. CPU coolers all vary in fan dimensions, connectivity, heat pipes, and reliability. The sound is a very important aspect to keep in mind for those who play to use their computers for years, as it will get louder as time goes on. The best way to suppress the sound is to find a CPU cooler that has thinner blades and a faster speed. You can always research how loud a product will be – the volume of these fans are measured in dB. Your goal is to be between 24 and 28db so that your computer doesn’t rattle like a snake.
If you plan to install more upgrades, it’s vital to figure out exactly how much space your PC has. Considering you may want to insert another item later, it makes sense to leave room for that object. Usually, you’ll just run into issues if you don’t buy the right sized components, and that is a very common mistake you won’t want to make. For example, tubing systems range from discrete to obtuse.
Some air coolers sometimes come with dual-blade technology, taking up much more space than that of a single-blade unit. Every cooler has their pros and cons, though the basics are clear: keep an eye on the inputs your motherboard gave you, every inch of free space in your CPU, noise level, and the amount of time you spend on your CPU over time.
Liquid vs. Air: Which Is Best?
So, which is better? The answer completely depends on your usage needs, as both air and water cooling have many details to keep in mind. Luckily, I’ve mapped out some information for both cooling methods to take on your search for a great CPU fan.
Fans are the simplest way to cool your CPU down since, in a lot of cases, the cooling system doesn’t have a complicated installation process. Should your system’s chassis be more high end, your chances are that the manufacturer will already have exactly what you need already installed; mainly, you’ll need a fan in front to pull the outside air in, and push it over the hard drives, as well as an exhaust fan to blow hot air out of the back of the component.
Other major factions of the air cooling system to appreciate are the graphics cards, case fans, and computer processors. Combined, all three components add up to be a loud, typical desktop computer that can handle maximum performance for decent periods of time.
A lot of people ask themselves after the consideration of water cooling whether or not air coolers are a good option. The fact is, they truly are an amazing way to go. It’s much cheaper than liquid cooling, even if you go with an aftermarket cooler for your CPU or GPU. In addition, it’s way easier to use four screws while attaching your fan to the case, rather than building your own liquid cooling setup.
Case fans don’t necessarily need to have huge fans (though they do quiet down the rig a ton), but you’ll definitely want to invest in purchasing a bigger fan to provide much more efficiency within the CPU’s performance. This way, you’ll save a lot more money without building a nice air-cooling setup, or needing to switch to a water-cooling loop.
However, traditional air cooling has three downfalls to consider. First, the fans are obnoxiously loud. Second, fans aren’t nearly as efficient as liquid cooling systems, as they usually don’t support dangerously overclocked processors or multiple graphics cards. Finally, the heatsinks get huge when they’re on powerful CPU coolers.
People who search for a liquid-cooling system define themselves as gamers or computer builders. These are some of the most advanced systems that cool your machine much more than an air cooler could. CPU cooler incorporates the use of a heatsink and fan combination, so they are a bit roomier. The best part about these systems is that they’re nearly silent since they don’t rely solely on fans, they rely on a web of cooling tubes within the vessel that cool it down.
However, we should look at the downsides of having a liquid-cooling system. One obvious fault is the price compared to air cooling systems; especially for those who have a simple setup as opposed to those who build custom PCs. Usually, air CPU coolers are between $20 and $90, while liquid-cooling systems go from $75 and $400. At any rate, I’d highly recommend investing in this type of cooling method, as it is the most effective way I’ve seen so far. They offer a degree of quality that air coolers can’t match, with a very efficient setup that’s worth every penny. These systems take up a lot of space, which helps cool down the nearby components with much more impact.
The only additional supplies you’ll need to buy would be a water block that fits your CPU’s socket, as well as coolant, tubing, fan(s), a pump, radiator, and a reservoir. Make sure that you plan accordingly for the chance that you may need to fit extra RAM, hard drives, or video cards in the future. You’ll also need to plan your loop’s layout to make sure the water is always flowing, as well as map out the room inside of the CPU so you can place every component comfortably without damaging the PC.
Since the installation process isn’t a walk in the park for noobs, you should find a way to practice your tube layout outside of the PC. Actually, everyone should, as there is the continual risk that you can accidentally pop a tube during the installation process. Believe it or not, this is a common issue amongst CPU builders with a liquid-cooling system, for newbies and aficionados. Manufacturers won’t fix your tubing if you’ve caused it to tear, and constructing an outline elsewhere is the easiest way to avoid this whole fiasco waiting to happen.
Bottom Line: Which Is Better?
Considering the facts, the best CPU cooler depends on your needs. If you’re looking for a cooler and you don’t care for the fact that it’s noisy and may need occasional maintenance, go with the air cooler. It’s cheaper, easier to install, and has less of a chance of breaking. If you’re serious about having a top-quality cooling machine with the best performance, I’d highly suggest forking out the money for a liquid cooling system. Although you need to be much more careful, and the process is a bit nerve-wracking, a water-based cooler can give you double the benefits of an air CPU cooler.
Choosing a CPU Fan
Finding the right CPU fan definitely requires some research. Not only are fans are spreading all over the market, but also a byzantine puzzle of CPU sockets that bear technologies that complicate the selection process and fan speeds. Your CPU is kept cool due to two separate parts of your PC component – the heatsink and the fan, commonly referred to as the heat-sink/fan combination (HSF). Determining which CPU fan you might need takes five easy steps, which I’ve mapped out below for you.
Match your motherboard’s CPU socket type
There’s an assortment of CPU sockets for you to choose from. Lucky for you, the majority of CPUs in 2018 are typically one of three kinds:
AMD (AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, and FM2): Conveniently, most AMD socket types in 2018 use interchangeable CPU heatsinks and fans – as long as it can handle the CPU’s heat.
Intel LGA775: Unfortunately, Intel generally differs in heatsink and fan combinations across their generations. An LGA775 socket CPU requires either an aftermarket HSF or an Intel LGA775 compatible heatsink and fan combination. One exception is the interchangeable parts between the LGA775 and LGA1155 models, as well as the occasional Haswell LGA1150 socket. Though there will be some issues with compatibility between bracketed coolers, you can use some LGA1155 heatsinks on the LGA775.
Intel LGA1155: Generally, Intel didn’t modify their fan design much with this model. Like I said before, LGA775 and LGA1155 HSFs are cross-compatible for the most part. Further, the Haswell LGA1150 socket seems to also work with LGA1155 and LGA11775 sockets, as well.
Measure your chassis height
If I were you, I’d make sure to measure from the CPU’s base up to the top of the case. Maybe some of the CPU fans will be too tall for the case you have, however, there are many options on the market to choose from to make sure the height of your chassis is appropriate. This will ensure that your CPU’s fan will work properly, as the height of your chassis needs to be form-fitted to the fan.
Check your motherboard
A few motherboards place a decent amount of components within the CPU, which would cause mounting anything besides a stock cooler somewhat impossible. I’d measure the radius that surrounds the CPU to the nearest component, as HSF won’t fit in spaces smaller than the distance between the two.
Determine your fan’s speed
A few motherboards use a three-pin CPU fan connector; this means that it isn’t given pulse-width modulation (PWM) commands, which are meant to modulate your fan’s speed in conjunction with the motherboard’s temperature. Usually, three-pin boards help fans run at top speed, and it would make sense since a three-pin CPU fan is designed to run faster than those that have four-pins. At any rate, you should remember that some motherboards have the ability to control a three-pin fan through the means of a native voltage control method.
Find your CPU’s TDP
TDP refers to the capacity of heat the fan successfully dissipates from a CPU. I’d recommend measuring the TDP, and you can measure a fan’s TDP ratings in watts. The fan and heat-sink combination usually can meet or exceed your CPU’s TDP.
How to Mount the CPU Fan
Mounting your CPU fan is broken down into a three-part process that requires a heatsink/fan combination and thermal paste. Below, I’ve listed each step so that even newbies can install their unit successfully:
Inspect the heatsink and fan combination
First, you’ll want to note the shape of the heatsink and fan combination, as well as whether or not it fits. Some CPUs don’t have the right space for the components you’ll need to use, but this isn’t an issue as long as you always note the size before ordering. Make sure to measure the inside of your CPU to make sure that you have enough room before putting in new parts. If you don’t, you might rub off the thermal paste (step two), and cause you to mount the entire HSF all over again.
The next step incorporates the thermal paste. This part of the process requires a couple steps, starting with priming surfaces of the CPU and the heat sink. Priming surfaces with a thermal compound and microfiber cloth will fill the flaws in the design to enhance the circulation of air. Your CPU and heatsink must have thermal paste between it, or your CPU will run around 20 to 30°C warmer. Although it takes a while for your CPU to overheat to the point that it shuts down right away, the lifespan of your computer will be much longer as long as you have this paste there.
When you apply the thermal compound, there are four basic patterns to choose from for the CPU model you have.
1) Horizontal line
2) Vertical line
3) Rice-sized dot in CPU’s center
4) Covering the CPU’s surface
Either method works well, it just depends on what you’re more comfortable with. If you’re reusing an old sink, you’ll have to use 90%+ alcohol solutions on a lint-free wipe to take off the remaining thermal paste on the CPU. A little goes a long way, as the paste spreads between two solids, so make sure not to apply too much. It’s important to protect your hands while exercising extreme caution while applying metal-ion thermal pastes since they are electrically conductive. Accidentally touching the motherboard with paste on your hand can cause an awfully fatal short, so be careful while using this paste.
Attach the heat-sink/fan combination to CPU
There are two methods for both Intel and AMD motherboards. Here are the steps for both machines:
Intel: First you’ll need to apply the push-pin attachment, and it’s best to do so before you attach the motherboard to the PC chassis. If you don’t, your motherboard can possibly be damaged with any further installation.
Next, you’ll need to focus on the four holes located on the motherboard, and line the heatsink/fan combination up with the pins. You’ll need to make sure that you have a power connector that is long enough to wrap from the motherboard to the fan. If you have trouble finding the fan, it will be labeled for your benefit, as well as identifiable by three or four little prongs.
Then, you’ll need to keep in mind the thumb-grips so that the top portion of the push-pins will be locked in position; simply twist these grips until they stop turning completely to secure their place on the motherboard. While inserting the push pins, the black central pin must be completely extended. Once this is done, the central spike will start to push itself out.
Make sure that all the push-pins are pushed all the way through; by now the heatsink should be completely attached. Some push-pins will require some force while completing this portion of the project. Once you complete this step, try to wiggle the contraption. If it’s a bit loose, try to go through the process all over again – this will ensure that your HSF isn’t loose once you put the CPU’s cover on. Having a loose heatsink will cause major overheating in your CPU.
AMD: These heatsink/fan combinations thankfully just clip to the motherboard. AMD offers an easy process for attaching a CPU cooler, as well as offering the possibility of reusing the heatsinks alter on. Simply hover your heatsink and fan combination above the CPU’s motherboard.
From there, you’ll notice that there is a thin metal bar that goes through the center of your heatsink; hook this bar through the protuberance of the motherboard’s material without using the handle. After this, you’ll use the black handle to hook the other end across the protrusion over to the opposite side. The final step would be to secure the HSF in its place by pulling the lever 180° clockwise.
Picking the right HSF for your computer is easy, as well as figuring out how to connect each component without trouble! Mainly, all you need to do is find your CPU’s socket, measure the height of the case, note the TDP and finding the TDP of your CPU. In regards to installing, you’ll really just need to apply thermal compound, then attach your heatsink and fan combination. Personally, I’d recommend getting a system with an AMD heatsink/fan combination since it is so easy to install and use.
If I Were You, I’d Choose the Enermax LIQTECH TR4, and Here Are 3 Reasons Why:
Anti-vibration rubber pads: Enermax offers three blades that provide amazing support for CPU’s cooling system, as well as anti-vibration rubber pads that help stabilize the vibration coming from the fan’s constant rotation. By minimizing vibrations, your CPU will be much quieter as it performs at top-speed.
Premium weaved tubing: Considering these tubes will be in your CPU for an extensive amount of time, it would make sense to get the most durable set you can. This set of tubes are less likely to rip while maneuvering them throughout the PC and will insulate cold temperatures much easier than plastic would against surrounding components.
Extensive connectivity: This CPU cooler offers sockets for the following: Intel (LGA 775, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, and 2066), AMD, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, and FM2+.
Ready For More CPU Cooler Recommendations?
In addition to all the great choices I’ve listed throughout this article, I wanted to present a couple more options on the market that you may find impressive. The Cooler Master MA410P is a phenomenal air CPU cooler, offering the same features of the Hyper EVO series, as well as awesome LED lighting, better CDC technology, and a quieter fan. There is also the Enermax ETS-T50, which offers phenomenal support for high-wattage Intel and AMD CPUs, as well as working to blowing dust out every time the fan is on. Here are some specs for each cooler:
Cooler Master MA410P
Master Fan – 120mm
- 4 heat pipes
- CDC 2.0 Technology
- LED Controller for non-RGB motherboards
- 6 Pre-Set Modes for LED lighting (7 levels of color and 5 levels of brightness)
- Compatible with any RGB motherboard
- 36 diodes and LED light modes on autoplay
- Rotatable grill for optimal airflow and directional adjustment
- Dust Free Rotation (prolongs the life of CPU Cooler)
- 5 heat pipes with asymmetrical design
- CPU sockets: Intel (LGA 775, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, and 2066), AMD, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, and FM2+
- AM4 bracket not included in the original purchase, but can be obtained by via Enermax USA support
Further Reading Time
Considering this is a bit complicated, here are a few more resources to get all the information you possibly need! Tom’s Hardware is a great website offering awesome tips and suggestions, such as their list of best gaming CPUs in 2018. In addition, Tom’s Hardware and PC World offer great advice while deciding between liquid and air CPU coolers. If you’re looking for a way to figure out how loud you’d like your fan to be, take a look at Sidewinder’s recordings of various fans on the market.
While searching for a quality air CPU cooler, you’ll need to focus on the fan size, heat pipe quantity, noise control, and reliable air circulation. The only additional supplies you’ll need to buy would be a water block that fits your CPU’s socket, as well as coolant, tubing, fan(s), a pump, radiator, and a reservoir. Remember throughout your search that CPU coolers are usually not the easiest to install for newbies, but decent fans will have instructions to follow step-by-step. As long as you remember these basics, you will have a great cooling system blowing hot air right out of your CPU for hours – handy for late night gaming sessions!