Every overclocker and gamer knows that a solid CPU cooler can make a real difference in benchmarks and in games, so for that extra edge, you need a good aftermarket CPU cooler. There are lots of good coolers, fancy coolers, but what makes a CPU cooler good? It’s simple, a CPU cooler needs to transfer lots of heat from your CPU to the outside of your case and keep your CPU as cool as possible. There are 3 main types of CPU coolers:
- air coolers
- fan-less coolers (also known as heatsinks)
- water coolers
So, I tried to make a list of the best known air coolers in the market. Based upon performance mostly, but also upon noise and other aspects. So here they are:
1. Noctua NH-D14/SE2011
In my opinion, the Noctua NH-D14 and the SE 2011 (for the new LGA 2011 from Intel) are the best air coolers right now. It combines exquisite craftsmanship with the very best materials, copper heatsink and 6 heatpipes with aluminum cooling fins and 2 Noctua fans with 1300 RPM. It provides excellent heat dissipation and can handle any CPU and overclock you can throw at it. I’ve included the 2 models of this cooler available, NH-D14, available for all Intel (except LGA 2011) and AMD sockets, and the SE2011 with the special adapter for the new LGA 2011. A cool feature of this cooler is the fact that it mounts on the motherboard with screws, instead of push pins. The excellent results and the almost 300 awards attest to this cooler’s performance.
2. Spire Thermax Eclipse II
An impressive cooler with great looks and the performance to back them up. The Spire Thermax Eclipse II is one of the best coolers you will ever get your hands on. It features a dual fan configuration with quality materials like:
- dark nickel plated aluminum fins
- copper heatpipes
- aluminum base with exposed heatpipes
All of this wrapped in a gorgeous look that provides your CPU with the best cooling ever. The coolest feature is the fact that the heatpipes actually touch the processor, thus, conducting the heat better and faster. The only bad thing i have to say about this cooler is the mounting system for the fans (rubber screws), I would love to see something like the Noctua mounting bracket, apart from this, a really good cooler.
3. Noctua NH-C14
Another entry from Noctua, this time with the low profile NH-C14. This cooler has 2 horizontal mounted Noctua fans, and, as the NH-D14, 6 copper heatpipes with aluminum cooling fins. It provides excellent cooling capabilities, handling almost any workload, with the best materials available and the awesome industrial look that all Noctua coolers have. You can get this cooler for any socket, including LGA 2011 with the special adapter (must request when buying). This cooler is perfect for cases that have side exhaust fans, and if you have a plexiglass panel, it will look awesome.
4. Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme
Tuniq has accustomed us with gorgeous looking products in the past, but with this CPU cooler they have really amazed us. the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme is, in my opinion, one of the best looking tower coolers in the world (or, definitely in top 5). It has dark nickel plated aluminum fins with something like a wave design with a 120mm blue LED fan hidden in the heart of the beast. The looks are amazing, but what about the performance? Well,the performance has ranked it number 4 on my list because it can outperform many CPU coolers to date. It features 5 heatpipes (3x 8mm diameter and 2x 6mm diameter) with exposed aluminum fins on the CPU heatsink. The copper heatpipes also come in direct contact with the CPU and they transfer huge amounts of heat towards its many fins.
5. Prolimatech Megahalems
This CPU cooler is all about innovation. Traditionally, the heatpipes of a CPU cooler run in a “U” shape, but in the Prolimatech Megahalems, they run in 2 “I” shapes, each with its own cooling fins, so, in some ways, this cooler is actually 2 smaller coolers put together. The heat transfer of this cooler is really good, and with the possibility to run it in dual fan configuration makes it one of the best CPU coolers out there. The thing I like most about this cooler is the mounting mechanism, it features 3 metal struts that hold it into place really good, making a firm contact between the heatsink and CPU.
6. Cooler Master V10
The Cooler Master V10 is a real monster of a cooler. When they designed this beast they went for the biggest number of cooling fins they could put in it and still make it fit into a PC case. And, by doing that, they made a huge cooler with a huge heat transfer power. The cooler also cools the RAM memory, but be careful if you plan on buying it, some high DDR radiators might not fit. At first I thought that was a problem, then I saw that you don’t need heavy duty radiators for your RAM, the V10 cools everything around it. As like the V8, it has a nice cover, and with the extra cooling fins, it actually looks like an engine. This is for sure on of the best air coolers around, but a word of advice, due to its massive size, it won’t fit in any case, so do take the time and do some measurements before buying it.
7. Zalman CNPS12X
This is a really nice cooler developed by Zalman. It features 3 120mm fans that do an excellent job in cooling your CPU. Although it has that flimsy look that most Zalman coolers have, it is a great cooler and it can handle almost any workload on any processor (including LGA 2011). It has all the features that an enthusiast CPU cooler should have: nickel plated copper heatpipes, aluminum fins, and lots of airflow over them. All of these, make the Zalman CNPS12X one of the best coolers to have and in my opinion, better than most Extreme labeled Zalman coolers.
8. Evercool HPJ-12025 Transformer 4
The Transformer 4 is a really good CPU cooler, it has many features that make it one of the best CPU coolers around:
- direct heatpipe to CPU contact
- good materials
- push-pull configuration with 2 120mm fans
- low noise
Above all this, it has good looks too. If you are in the market for a good CPU cooler, don’t forget to take into consideration the Evercool HPJ-12025 Transformer 4. In my opinion, a really good cooler that can handle a pretty high overclock.
9. Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
I must admit, I was never a fan of Zalman coolers, I do not know why, but I just didn’t like them, and I still don’t, but the purpose of this top is to give everyone a list of the best coolers they can have, and this Zalman is one of them. As far as coolers go, this one is a really great cooler. It provides users with excellent heat transfer, and also low noise (it has only one fan). This enthusiast class cooler is a really good idea if you want to get the upper edge when overclocking your PC. The downsides of this cooler are the fact that you cannot add another fan for extra heat transfer and that if it breaks, you cannot install another one, because it has a special, Zalman designed fan.
10. Alpenfohn Matterhorn
Alpenfohn Matterhorn is the rookie in our top and in the world of performance cooling. This cooler has surprised me in every way possible. First, the design of the cooler, at first look, it’s not that remarkable, but when you look closer, you can see all the things it make it really awesome (cable sleeving, rubberized fan mount and screw holes, mirror finish etc) and the features do not end here, this cooler features a copper base, push-pull configuration with 2 120mm fans running at up to 1500 rpm and it produces next to no noise. It has all the things that make a cooler into a great cooler.
Keep in mind that these coolers are all the very best, it was hard to assign each of them a position, so if you are in the market for a CPU cooler and can’t afford some of them , do not worry, they are all great and the performances are close.