Major CPU Cooler Brands Ranked Worst To Best
Jul 23, 2023
Modern technology means that computers are becoming ever more powerful while components shrink in size. Although this is great for users using these machines for intensive gaming or rendering processes, it poses problems for manufacturers. After all, the various parts inside the computer tower still have to be kept cool. This is essential as overheating may not only cause a computer to run slower but could cause damage to the various components. Nowhere is this more important than with the CPU.
The central processing unit acts as the brain of the computer, carrying out calculations and performing the processes needed for every action. Out of the various components inside a computer, the CPU is arguably the most vital for performance. The capabilities of this part influence everything a computer can do, making it one of the most demanding when it comes to cooling. Without a way to dissipate heat effectively, the CPU will likely throttle its abilities, leading to less performance.
Many brands offer CPU cooling, with options that range from traditional air cooling to more high-tech liquid cooling. Whether it's a series of fans, vents, and heat sinks or an advanced coolant to transfer heat away from the cooler, there are some trustworthy brands that computer users can depend on to keep their CPU in top condition.
Zalman is a South Korean technology company probably best known for its various cooling products. However, it has a wide-ranging portfolio, including everything from monitors to headphones. Despite being a relatively new entrant in the market, having been established in 1999, Zalman has cemented its place and demonstrated that it can release reliable and high-quality cooling components.
Although this brand doesn't offer the best-performing CPU coolers and isn't a leader, its value is exceedingly good, considering it mainly produces budget products that won't break the bank. The CNPS10x Performa Black, for example, has received positive reviews, while the CNPS20x was named among the best available CPU coolers by Tweak Town. Buyers also have good things to say about the cooling systems offered by Zalman, while potential customers can rest easy knowing that most Zalman products come with a two-year warranty.
The company has faced some financial difficulties in the past. After defaulting on a multi-million dollar loan, Zalman was forced to restructure and lay off more than half of its employees. This wasn't a direct result of any problems at Zalman but rather the result of fraud and mismanagement at the firm's parent company, Moneual. With the problems fixed by 2015, Zalman has largely put these issues to bed, and they shouldn't make anyone reconsider a potential purchase.
Cooler Master Technology is one of the older brands that produce CPU coolers. Set up in Taiwan in 1992, the company is well known for its affiliation with esports events and its award-winning drive for innovation and design. As you may have guessed from its name, the company initially specialized entirely in cooling components for computers and other electronic devices.
However, in recent years, it has expanded into selling a wider range of accessories and peripherals, including keyboards, gaming chairs, and monitors. Cooling Master is generally a trusted brand when it comes to its cooling products and has a reputation for efficient and good-value fans and liquid cooling systems — although that isn't the case with its entire line. There has actually been some criticism of its keyboards and other peripherals.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is widely considered one of the best budget CPU coolers of all time, with the company recently releasing a second iteration that has received plenty of praise. Meanwhile, even its liquid-based cooling systems are competitively priced while delivering great performance, such as the Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240.
Cooler Master's warranty policies vary by product, with most liquid coolers coming with a five-year warranty, while air-based CPU coolers will likely have a two-year warranty at most. Reviews from users online suggest that the company could do much better in customer service as well, although, with the build quality of the products it offers, customers shouldn't have to deal with them much.
Specializing only in air cooling, Noctua is renowned for its performance. Founded in Austria, the company focuses mainly on CPU coolers and general computer fans. Aimed at enthusiasts rather than professionals, Noctua coolers generally offer a decent cooling solution at a mid-range price — some are even considered among the best on the market. That may make them more expensive than many budget options, yet the effectiveness and quality of Noctua components are usually worth the extra money.
Noctua has a wide variety of CPU coolers in an array of sizes and prices, so there's something for everybody. These include the all-around option, the Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black, which has great cooling performance and impressive build quality, and the Noctua NH-P1, whose passive design makes it entirely silent and suitable for heavy loads with high-end CPUs.
One factor that may put some customers off is that the company has long been associated with a rather bland color scheme of brown and beige — perhaps in reference to its owl mascot. Many people have criticized the brand for this design choice, although it also has some fans. In recent years, Noctua has begun to offer more color options, but many products are still only available in brown.
The brand also has a reputation for reliability and longevity, so there shouldn't be much worry about a CPU cooler suddenly breaking. For added peace of mind, almost all Noctua products come with a full six-year warranty, far longer than is typically offered by competitors.
Founded in 2001 in Germany, Be Quiet! doesn't have a particular focus on any specific product — although it did only release power supply units during the early life of the brand. Nowadays, it has a wide range of accessories and computer components available, including CPU coolers, case fans, and PC cases. Be Quiet! began releasing its first line of CPU coolers in 2008 and quickly expanded up until 2016 with the release of several water coolers.
As the brand's name suggests, it emphasizes noise reduction as its biggest selling point. Be Quiet! has developed several noise-minimizing techniques and designs, with several patents and awards for its innovations. These include custom-developed fans and anti-vibration decoupling to keep sound to an absolute minimum. That means any CPU cooler from this brand is perfect for those wanting to use their PC without any excess noise. Both the entry-level Pure Rock 2 and the more high-end Dark Rock Pro 4 have received a lot of praise in the last two years.
Be Quiet! CPU coolers are not the cheapest, though customers can be certain they are getting reliable and well-built components that should operate under heavy load and last for a long time. The majority of products from the company also look great, with stylish designs that won't look out of place in expensive PC setups. The brand offers three-year warranties on most of its CPU coolers and has solid customer service.
Established in 1996, Deepcool is a Chinese computer hardware brand. In addition to CPU coolers, it sells power supplies, computer cases, accessories, and case fans. Although Chinese brands often have a reputation for mass-produced peripherals that don't have great build quality, Deepcool is committed to releasing high-performance products and doing so in an environmentally conscious way.
Deepcool offers both air and water cooling systems as part of its CPU cooler range and is generally regarded as delivering great value in terms of offering decent cooling performance without breaking the bank. In that sense, the brand is a good choice for those looking at budget CPU coolers or mid-range options. The Deepcool Assassin III is a great example of this and is one of the best-reviewed CPU coolers of the last few years, thanks to its reasonable price and brilliant cooling ability.
Meanwhile, the Deepcool Gammaxx L240 V2 and the Deepcool AS500 Plus have been praised for their almost silent running and the way they perform well above other CPU coolers at the same size and price. The vast majority of Deepcool cooling products also come with a three to five-year warranty, so if something goes wrong during the lifetime of the cooler, it should be covered.
Previously known as Arctic Cooling, before a rebrand saw the company lose the second word, this German company was originally founded in Switzerland. It has been selling products since 2001 and is well known for its array of cooling systems for graphics cards and CPUs. In fact, the brand has often teamed up with GPU manufacturers to create built-in coolers for cards, including with leading brands such as Inno3D and Sapphire, demonstrating how it's trusted by recognized companies. In recent years, Arctic has also expanded to offer a more comprehensive selection, including audio devices and computer peripherals.
Arctic CPU coolers have a good reputation among users online and offer great value for money. Even the most expensive high-end products are often significantly cheaper than their counterparts from other brands, while the budget offerings are among the cheapest good quality coolers you can find. With a large amount of air and all-in-one liquid coolers available, Arctic also gives customers plenty of choice. Its Freezer range is notable for running quietly and providing excellent cooling performance. The brand has a Trustpilot rating of excellent for its customer service and offers a six-year warranty as standard on all of its products.
Officially called Corsair Gaming but known almost universally simply as Corsair, this American brand is known for its various computing peripherals and components. It tends to focus on high-end products to suit gamers and so can be more expensive than other manufacturers. However, since 1994, when it was founded, Corsair has become one of the most trusted and reputable brands in the PC gaming market, selling a range of acclaimed keyboards and other accessories such as the K70 RGB Pro and the K100 RGB.
Corsair almost exclusively concentrates on all-in-one liquid CPU coolers, although it does offer a few air coolers. The Corsair iCUE H100i Elite Capellix and the Corsair iCUE H170i Elite Capellix XT have been praised by critics and touted as some of the best liquid coolers currently available. However, the company has a vast array of different models, and few could be considered bad CPU coolers.
Outside of cooling performance, the biggest draw of a Corsair CPU cooler is the built-in RGB lighting. The brand has a reputation for its bright and bold lighting, making them perfect choices for those who want to add some personality to their computers. If you already have other Corsair products, a matching CPU cooler may make a lot of sense. Especially when you consider that the iCUE series comes with a six-year warranty as standard.
Based in Taiwan, Thermalright is entirely focused on cooling products. It produces air-based heat sinks and liquid coolers, using what it calls state-of-the-art materials for every part of its coolers. Combined with the carefully designed fin array, Thermalright claims its CPU coolers can dissipate heat at a record rate, allowing for peak cooling performance. From its early days, the company has innovated with new technology and designs, ranging from copper heatsinks to passive cooling.
The Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE is regarded by many to be the best larger-sized air CPU cooler. Not only does it have exceptional cooling capacity and a competitive price of less than $40, but the system runs whisper quiet so that it won't interrupt whatever you are doing while using the computer. Considering its price, the Assassin 120 SE outperforms almost every other CPU air cooler. Customers can expect a two-year warranty for Thermalright CPU coolers, which is significantly less than some of the other leading brands.
IceGiant is somewhat of a smaller brand in the computing market, but that doesn't mean it should immediately be discounted. The company was formed in 2019 and released its first product in 2020. Based in Texas, IceGiant aims to be an innovator in terms of computer cooling, allowing the most demanding CPUs to work at their absolute best without compromising due to overheating.
The company aims to achieve this with its unique ProSiphon technology. This system uses a special liquid that takes heat away from the CPU by being boiled and rising through the evaporator as a gas. From here, air brought in by large fans cools down the fluid, turning it back into a liquid that's forced back down the condenser due to gravity.
The gravity-based design removes a common failure point to keep the cooler running effectively. The brand promises that the distinct design of its CPU coolers and the high-quality build will ensure that they last a long time. In fact, IceGiant is so confident in the longevity of its products that it offers a 10-year warranty for its CPU coolers.
Reviews for its signature CPU cooler are full of praise, lauding the way the product can keep even the most demanding CPUs operating at capacity. It works well under heavy loads, with the only downsides being its oversized design and high cost — although it can still be cheaper than some all-in-one liquid cooling solutions.
NZXT may not be a big name in the world of CPU coolers, but the company is well-established as a computer hardware manufacturer. The company has largely specialized in computer cases since its formation in 2004 but now sells everything from motherboards and power supplies to liquid and air coolers. NZXT even offers pre-built PCs to consumers through a system that assesses a customer's needs and produces a suitable computer.
For the most part, NZXT concentrates on all-in-one liquid coolers through its Kraken range. There is a lot to like about the liquid coolers, be it the older Kraken Z63 RGB 280mm AIO or the more recent Kraken 240. Almost every Kraken AIO liquid cooler has received widespread praise for its high-end performance and easy-to-install nature. Of course, there's also the fact that they are also stylishly designed, ensuring they look good in any setup. Some of the most recent models even feature LCD screens for customization and bright LED lights so they can fit whatever color scheme you have.
NZXT's liquid coolers can be expensive, but the company recently began to sell a high-powered air-cooled model in the form of the T120, which is less expensive and far more compact. With a decent customer service rating and warranties of between three and six years, this is a brand that shouldn't pose too many issues if a product malfunctions.