The Best Budget CPU Coolers

Air or water? That is the question.

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Updated June 2018

When building a gaming PC, keeping your CPU cool will keep you from baking your processor and turning that $1,000 PC into nothing more than an elaborate end table. While the stock cooler that comes with some CPUs is fine and all, an aftermarket CPU cooler will run quieter, keep your CPU a bit more chilly and thus allow for overclocking, and can also add a bit of flair to the interior of your rig as well.

Given all these benefits along with semi-low pricing, you really can’t afford to not run one of these coolers.

Best Cheap CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

No roundup of CPU coolers is complete without the Hyper 212 EVO. The 212 EVO is one of the most common CPU coolers for gamers, and for good reason: it’s surprisingly effective, whisper quiet, and it’s surprisingly affordable at just $30. The 212 EVO fits a huge variety of CPU brackets for both AMD and Intel chips, including AM4, although you will need a separate bracket from Cooler Master.  The 212 Evo is everything most gamers need at a sweet price.

Cryorig H7

Why would I even bother suggesting a cooler that cost $10 more than the 212 EVO when I already said the 212 EVO is all you need? The main reason is the H7 offers a bit more clearance which makes swapping RAM sticks easier, and it just takes up less room, so your build looks better. Plus, its smaller size doesn’t really come with any drawbacks; the H7 is slightly quieter and runs as cool (if not cooler) than the 212 EVO. The H7 fits both AMD and Intel sockets, although again, you will likely need a bracket for AM4. There is a lot of debate as to whether the H7 is an “EVO killer,” and honestly a lot of people are just tired of the 212 EVO as it’s been around forever. So, if you’re willing to spend $10 more, and are tight on space, the H7 is the way to go.

Corsair Hydro Series H60

Interested in liquid cooling, but not ready to spend a ton of money, or deal with priming and filling? All-in one liquid coolers like the Corsair H60 are a great choice to make the leap to liquid cooling with minimum hassle. Liquid coolers put less weight on your CPU and motherboard, and utilize air from outside your case to cool rather than recycled air from the case. The result is a frosty CPU, with less noise, and if space is really tight around your CPU, no air cooler will leave a smaller footprint. However, it is likely that you won’t much get lower temperatures than with a 212 EVO or an H7, but you will usually get a bit less noise under load.

Noctua NH-D14

Seventy dollars for an air cooler?! Yes, it’s not a typo, but in its defense the NH-D14 is one of the most powerful CPU coolers available thanks to its dual-fan, push-pull configuration. There are only two major problems, however: Noctua’s insistence on using the ugliest possible colors for its fans, and the NH-D14’s size. To say it is large is an understatement. It is enormous. It is the size of a european car. However, if you’re building a gaming rig and want to overclock, the Noctua will cool it as well as a liquid cooler.

be Quiet! BK019 Dark Rock Pro 3

The be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 is true to its name, and is one of the quietest CPU coolers money can buy. If that label causes you to think it can’t handle serious overclocking, think again; the company says it can whisk away up to 250w of heat, which is an excessive amount (a core i7-7700K has a TDP of just 91w). It can do this thanks to its massive size — it weighs 3 lbs. — and its dual fans. You can even attach a third fan as well, as be Quiet! provides clips for it in the package. It’ll set you back a pretty penny, making it one of the most expensive air coolers on the market, but if you demand silence, this is the cooler for you.


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