5 Best CPU Coolers 2018 – Air and Liquid Cooling Systems

best cpu cooler for gaming

Trying to find the best CPU cooler for gaming wasn’t too difficult. All we had to do was round up the best options across various price ranges and present them here for your convenience.

Now that we’ve done that, it’s up to you to decide what’s the best CPU cooler for gaming is. Or, more specifically, what the best one according to your needs is.

By taking size, compatibility and cooling performance into consideration, you’ll find the best cooler according to your case and your needs. With no further ado, let’s hop into the contenders.

Finding The Best CPU Cooler For Gaming: Breakdown

#1Corsair Hydro H75

Corsair Hydro H75

  • compatibility: Modern Intel and AMD (Contact For AM4)
  • size: Low-Profile, But Requires Space For Radiator
  • cooling type: Closed-Loop Liquid Cooling
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#2Noctua NH-U12S

Noctua NH-U12S

  • compatibility: Modern Intel and AMD, No AM4
  • size: 158mm
  • cooling type: Air Cooling
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  • compatibility: Modern Intel and AMD (Contact For AM4)
  • size: 145mm
  • cooling type: Air Cooling
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#4Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

  • compatibility: Modern Intel and AMD (Contact For AM4)
  • size: 159mm
  • cooling type: Air Cooling
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#5Alpine 11 Pro Rev 2

Alpine 11 Pro Rev 2

  • compatibility: Modern Intel
  • size: Only Low-Profile (77mm)
  • cooling type: Air Cooling
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Corsair Hydro H75

Last but not least on this list is the Corsair Hydro H75. With this entry into the world of liquid cooling, your CPU will have lower temps than ever before, even while under load in intensive applications.

Using the Hydro H75, expect whisper-quiet performance and plenty of room to overclock your CPU. Additionally, you’ll also enjoy a low-profile CPU cooling experience without any performance penalties.

If you’re using Ryzen, though, you’ll still need to visit Corsair’s Ryzen page to get a compatible bracket for this build. It’s an unfortunate downside of staying on the cutting edge, but it happens.

Fortunately, Corsair will ship the Ryzen bracket to you, free of charge, to make up for the trouble.


Noctua NH-U12S

The Noctua NH-U12S is one of the best air cooling solutions on the market. If you aren’t going to go with a liquid cooling setup, this is probably one of the best options you can go for.

With this air cooler, not only will your CPU temps be significantly lower than any stock cooling solution, but you’ll finally be provided with some overclocking headroom, too.

If you can’t afford extra for liquid cooling or don’t want to bother, Noctua’s offering here is a good one. Unfortunately, it’s one of the larger coolers out there, and fitting it into low-profile cases may not be possible.

Be sure to double-check case compatibility before buying this cooler. You don’t want to risk it not fitting into your build.

As a user of this CPU cooler myself, I’ll also add that it’s probably a good idea to mount your RAM first. This heatsink is wide enough to make mounting RAM slightly troublesome on Micro ATX motherboards, so keep that in mind when doing your build/upgrade process.



The Cryorig H7 is another great air cooling option and typically retails for around $35.

Thanks to its heatsink design and fan speed, it outperforms the 212 EVO. It does so while being smaller, allowing easier installation in smaller builds.

While it’s still too large for, say, a small form factor ITX machine or an HTPC, it should fit into most cases. Be sure to run measurements to ensure that it does before you make your purchase.

The H7 is also compatible with AM4, but will require you to call up the manufacturer if you want to get an AM4 Bracket. This is an unfortunate reality of most CPU coolers released before the Ryzen release.


Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is one of the most popular budget CPU coolers on the market, thanks to its great cooling performance and low price. At the time of writing, you can get this cooler at just $25, which is a steal for its cooling performance.

There’s really only a few downsides. One is that this is the largest air cooler on offer in this article which means that it’s the least likely to be able to fit into a smaller case.

Downside two is that you have to contact Cooler Master themselves to get an AM4 bracket. An unfortunate downside of adopting AMD Ryzen at this point in time is that most coolers won’t ship with Ryzen compatibility out of the box, requiring you to order an adapter from the manufacturer.

While most manufacturers will do this job for free, it’s still tedious to deal with.

If you want one of the best budget-minded CPU coolers, though, this is it. It should also have some slight overclocking headroom.


Alpine 11 Pro Rev 2

The Alpine 11 made it on this list because it’s not only a great budget option, but it’s also low-profile and a more-than-suitable replacement for an Intel stock cooler that’s starting to show its age.

While the Alpine 11 will perform better than an Intel stock cooler and keep a low-profile form factor, it does come with a few downsides.

The main downside that comes into play is the lack of AMD compatibility. If you want to use an AMD motherboard, this cooler won’t work with it.

Secondly, while it will be better than an Intel stock cooler, it won’t perform nearly well enough to allow overclocking headroom on your Intel CPU. If you want that, you’ll need to buy a liquid CPU cooler or the Hydro H75 that we’ll provide later on in this article.

Selection Criteria

Form Factor and Size

The size of your cooler is worth taking into consideration, especially if you’re working with an ITX or micro ATX build. The smaller your case, the smaller you’re going to want your cooler to be.

For especially small cases, you’ll want to go with a small form factor cooler. This can be something like the Alpine 11 Pro on the low end or the Corsair Hydro H75 on the high end.

If your case is larger, a large air cooler should be fine. However, you’ll want to check the measurements of your case versus the measurements of your cooler before making a purchase.

For the most part, size won’t make a huge difference once it’s compatible with your build. However, if the heatsink on a cooler is too large, it may block a RAM slot or two.

Keep in mind the width of the air cooler before purchasing if this is a concern.

Liquid or Air?

Another prominent question when purchasing a CPU cooler is whether to go with liquid cooling or air cooling. While you don’t necessarily need a liquid CPU cooler in a gaming rig, it does come with certain benefits.

Air coolers are typically large, relying on big heatsinks and fans to dissipate heat from the CPU. Low-profile air coolers are also popular (Intel’s stock cooling being a prominent example), but they don’t perform quite as well as larger air coolers do.

A high-quality air cooler will keep your system cooler than a stock solution, while allowing some overclocking headroom.

However, if you really want to overclock your CPU, you’ll want to go with a liquid cooling solution. Liquid coolers are far better, from a performance standpoint, than air coolers.

Unfortunately, liquid coolers are also much more expensive than air coolers and a little bit more difficult to install in some cases. Because of this, liquid coolers aren’t often used outside of enthusiast builds.

Liquid cooling is also good for low-profile builds, too, since it doesn’t require as much room for good cooling performance. Liquid cooling is also much less noisy than air cooling solutions, if you want your computer to stay silent during your gaming sessions.

Making Your Choice

Ultimately, which of these CPUs you choose is up to you.

If you want the best performance out of your cooling solution, the NH-U12S or the Hydro H75 should both provide favorable overclocking while keeping your temps low.

Meanwhile, the Alpine 11 Pro makes a fine Intel stock heatsink replacement.

The Hyper 212 EVO is one of the most highly-praised and purchased CPU coolers on the market. At its price, it’s hard to beat.

But if you want something a bit better and smaller, the Cryorig H7 will do that job for you.

Again, which CPU cooler you go with depends entirely on your personal preference. Comment below and let us know which one you picked!

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