Best cpu air cooler 2022: Best CPU Coolers 2022: Air and Liquid Cooling Picks

These are the best CPU coolers you can buy in 2022

CPU coolers, as the name suggests, are designed to handle a CPU’s thermal output and keep it running cool at all times. They’re critical to avoid thermal throttling and help your CPU achieve its full potential. Not having the right cooler can also be a limiting factor when it comes to overclocking the CPU. We believe picking the right CPU cooler is just as important as, say, choosing the best PC case, best SSD, or any other core component of a PC build.

CPU coolers come in dozens of shapes and sizes, and they all fall into one of three main categories:

  • Air coolers
  • Closed-loop or all-in-one (AIO) coolers
  • Part of a custom or open-loop cooling setup

Air coolers and closed-loop liquid cooling solutions will be our primary focus for this collection. We’ll top it off with a custom cooling kit for those who want to dip their toes in the liquid cooling world. Here’s a quick look at our picks for the best CPU coolers to buy:

Navigate this article:

  • Best air cooler for your CPU: Noctua NH-D15
  • Second best air cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition
  • Best liquid CPU cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360R RGB
  • Second best liquid CPU cooler: NZXT Kraken X53 AIO
  • Best CPU cooler for unlocked Alder Lake chips: Gigabyte Aorus Waterforce x360 AIO liquid cooler
  • Best Passive CPU cooler: Noctua NH-P1
  • Best low profile air cooler: Noctua NH-L9i
  • Best compact liquid cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB
  • Best custom cooling kit: Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

Before we dive in and take a detailed look at each item, we wanted to highlight a few things to keep in mind before buying a CPU cooler :

  • Contrary to popular belief, buying an aftermarket CPU cooler isn’t a necessity — unless your CPU manufacturer didn’t include one in the box of course. For most people, the best CPU cooler might just be the stock cooler included in the box. Perhaps use the money for other peripherals like monitors, keyboards, webcam, etc.
  • It’s important to check for space before buying air coolers. Some of the coolers included in our collection demand a lot of space and clearance in your motherboard and PC case. Make sure your case is ready for your purchase.
  • Air coolers will be ineffective without proper airflow inside your PC case. Make sure it has enough vents and fans to move air in and out of the enclosure.
  • Not all PC cases are ideal for AIO liquid coolers due to the lack of proper radiator mounting options.
  • While AMD has confirmed that you can use the same CPU coolers with its upcoming AM5 platform, Intel’s Alder Lake processors will make you install a new cooler mount.
  • Lastly, a sophisticated cooling system requires a lot of space for things like radiators, pumps, coolant reservoirs, tubes, etc. We recommend only full-tower cases for such installations.

Best air cooler for your CPU: Noctua NH-D15

Specification Noctua NH-D15
Type Air cooler
Dimensions 165 x 150 x 161 mm
Compatibility: Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3, LGA1200, LGA1700, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required), AM4
Included fans: 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
Fan Speed: 1500 RPM (max)
Weight: 1.3Kg
Warranty: 6 Years

It’s no secret that Noctua makes some of the most sought-after air coolers on the market. Their flagship product NH-D15 is our pick for the best air cooler you can buy for your CPU. It’s the successor to Noctua’s award-winning D14, and there’s a lot to like about this beast of a cooler. Even without any RGB lights or flashy colors, the Noctua NH-D15 would still be the most striking component of your PC due to its sheer size. This massive cooler has six heat pipes attached to the heatsinks. The cooler’s dual tower design allows it to have two 140mm fans in between for optimum airflow.

The NH-D15 has a wide 150mm fin-stack and there’s enough space between the heat pipes to allow uniform heat distribution. The cooler also comes with two NF-A15 140mm fans for both heatsinks. These fans support PWM for convenient automatic speed control and Low-Noise Adaptors (L.N.A.) for quiet operation. In addition to moving air from the heatsink, these massive fans also provide good airflow over surrounding components.

It’s recommended that you pair this CPU cooler with a good quality airflow case for the best results. Not having optimum airflow will prevent the hot air to escape the enclosure. This is true for all air coolers since there are no tubes, coolant, or radiators involved to move the heat away from the CPU. The Noctua NH-D15 supports a variety of sockets ranging from Intel LGA1200, LGA115x, LGA2011, LGA2066, and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM1, FM2(+). The cooler also comes with thermal paste for installation. If you need any help, you check out our essay on how to install thermal paste.

What’s impressive about the Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler is it runs quiet even when the CPU is under load. Its massive size makes it look like it’ll make a lot of noise handling high temperatures, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, we think it’s one of the best air coolers if you want something that makes less noise. Most other air coolers tend to make a lot of noise with the fans rotating at high speeds under load. If you aren’t a fan of liquid cooling or don’t have enough radiator mounts in your PC case, then the Noctua NH-D15 is the way to go.

Noctua also makes an all-black version of this air cooler called the “NH-D15”. It’s perfect to cool the CPU in an all-black build to maintain the aesthetics. The only drawback of this case is that it demands a lot of space inside your case. As a result, the RAM clearance takes a hit and you’ll be forced to use the standard low-profile DIMMs. Noctua addressed that with a different version of the CPU cooler called the NH-D15S. It has an asymmetrical layout with only a single fan and it offers more clearance for RAM (up to 65mm). It’s also good for LGA20xx in which the RAM slots are distributed on both sides of the socket.

    Noctua NH-D15
    The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the most powerful air coolers on the market. It’s can handle the high performance CPUs on the market too.
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