Guide to the best air CPU coolers
The battle between system supporters a liquid and those to aria it will never end, also because there are advantages and disadvantages that affect both systems. It follows that the choice is purely personal, since everything is dictated by individual needs, as the best performing solution is not always the most suitable. To these two sides is then added a third, that of the supporters of custom loop, which however satisfies specific needs and requires very different skills, it follows that this does not compete with the other two. If you still have some doubts, and want a clearer overview of the different processor cooling solutions, ours guide to the best CPU coolers could help you make the correct choice. You will find different models divided by price range and type with a simple and quick explanation to guide you in the best possible way.
In this Buying Guide we focused exclusively on air solutions, dedicated to those who have already decided which type of heatsink to rely on, but are still undecided on the specific model. It should be emphasized, in fact, that the models included in the list represent the best present on the market from the point of view performance. From this point of view there is very little to evaluate on the performance front, as the differences are absolutely negligible since they are top of the range equivalent to each other. All that remains is to evaluate the purely subjective aspects, based on the aesthetic taste and hardware already in possession. Only the latest model falls within the mid-range, as we believe it is essential to have a reference also for those who want a valid product, but not necessarily a top of the range with extreme performance.
Best CPU Air Coolers
So let’s go and see 6 models of air coolers which, in our opinion, represent the best solutions currently available on the market:
Let’s start immediately with the undisputed king of air coolers: the Noctua NH-D15. This is the top of the range of the Austrian company, characterized by a double tower with a high density of lamellae. The heatpipe they are well 7, soldered, and accompanied by two huge fans from 140mm. This is a cooler that has undoubtedly made and continues to please the most demanding users, and with good reason considering the overclocking margins among the highest in the industry. However, it is undeniable that this is a decidedly cumbersome solution, and that with high-profile RAM it could give some annoyance in the assembly. In short, if sizable size isn’t an issue and you want the best possible cooling capabilities for an air cooler, Noctua’s solution is exactly what you are looking for. Finally, if the color should represent an obstacle (after all, the eye also wants its part), Noctua offers the variant Chromax.black which in a completely black guise is well suited to any configuration.
Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
The Dark Rock Pro 4, the current top of the range of the Be Quiet!, is another uncompromising heatsink, which however finds its strength in something different than Noctua: the silence. The performances are of course top notch, however Be Quiet! has made silence its workhorse and this heat sink does not disappoint expectations. While performance remains a few degrees away from Noctua, the fans are practically inaudible. Also not to be underestimated are the dimensions, which although generous, are slightly smaller than those of the NH-D15. Be Quiet !, in fact, uses an interesting solution with two fans of different sizes. Inside, between the two towers (also in this case assisted by 7 heatpipe), we find a fan Silent Wings 3 PWM da 135mm, while on the outside of one of the two we find the same fan in the variant from 120mm, in order to ensure perfect compatibility with RAM.
Deep Cool Assassin 3
There are those who love it and those who hate it, Deep Cool it is one of those fluctuating companies that sometimes amazes with solutions of great value and an incredible quality / price ratio, while others leave a bad taste in the mouth. In the case ofAssassin 3 has certainly hit the mark, developing one real alternative to the Noctua NH-D15. Two huge fans from 140mm, 7 heatpipe and two towers give this colossal cooler an aggressive look and class-leading efficiency. It manages to dissipate a TDP up to 280W, matching (or even surpassing) some liquid AIO systems. Good silence as well as the form factor that simplifies assembly, even with the RAM already installed. Even the design, albeit minimal, is decidedly sophisticated with two plates depicting the Deep Cool logo on each of the towers. If you want the best possible performance, while saving a few euros, the Assassin 3 will not make you regret it.
Cooler Master Master Air AM620M
We have come to Cooler Master AM620M, the only one among the air coolers that, although efficient, puts performance in the background in favor of a more refined and clearly more refined aesthetic aspect. To be clear, we are still talking about a top of the range that in terms of dissipation offers first-rate performance and is able without difficulty to cool even the most demanding processors, such as an Intel Core i9 or an AMD Ryzen 9. Unlike others, however, do not make numbers a priority, but rather of visual impact. Shape octagonal gives a much more futuristic look, maintaining a minimal and elegant style, with a single fan from 120mm retractable which makes the double tower appear as a single block. Idea aided by the fully illuminated top panel with LED ARGB and that in the central part shows the traditional hexagonal logo of Cooler Master. It is therefore one of the very few solutions that combines efficiency and aesthetics to satisfy RGB lighting lovers, who, however, are not willing to give up air cooling in favor of AIO solutions for which LEDs have become an inevitable equipment.
Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo
Our guide closes with a point of reference when it comes to the quality / price ratio among air coolers. This is theArctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo, one of the most popular solutions in the sector not only for its highly respectable efficiency, but also for a decidedly captivating aesthetic, more “sporty” than traditional monochromatic heat sinks. This heatsink has a single tower with a good density of blades e 4 heatpipe. The block is completely black, while inside the package they are supplied two fans gives 120mm of color black and red. This is the classic combination of colors that characterizes most products dedicated to gaming and which consequently goes well with a large number of configurations to which it is addressed. Of course, the performances are different from the offer of high-end products seen so far, however, considering the price, this is certainly one of the most interesting solutions on the market. It is a perfect inexpensive alternative for those who want to cool the CPU adequately, but don’t need to push frequencies high with overclocking.
Noctua NH-P1 100% passive
The Noctua NH-P1 represents the new frontier of air coolers, as it is currently the only CPU cooler completely passive. This means that it has no fan, but only a huge heat sink capable, by itself, of dissipating the entire heat load developed by the CPU. Of course, this type of product is not aimed at performance fanatics, as the absence of fans inevitably limits cooling capabilities, but rather for those who want absolute silence for their setup. Being a passive heatsink it produces absolutely no noise, which allows to drastically reduce the noise produced by the PC. It can be the perfect solution for those looking for a high performance solution compared to a Mini PC, but do not want to give up the silence of the latter in their fanless variants. The 7 heatpipe guarantee excellent heat exchange, while the asymmetrical design it provides virtually universal compatibility, and is also ready for the new AMD and Intel platforms. However, there is no lack of the possibility of adding one 120mm fan to increase its efficiency. The price places it among the top of the range, but considering that it is currently the only fanless solution for desktop CPUs, it is understandable.
How to choose the heatsink
Choosing a heat sink is not always easy, as some factors come into play that cannot be absolutely overlooked. In particular, compatibility with the socket, and performance of course, are aspects to keep in mind to make the correct purchase.
Although in principle, all heatsinks offer practically universal compatibility, it may happen in some cases that the purchase of any adapters is to be made separately. There is also no shortage of heatsinks dedicated to specific platforms, as in the case of some models dedicated to the socket TR4 by AMD. The advice is therefore to verify in any case that your own socket is listed among those supported, or at most that any adapters for your platform are actually available separately, if you really do not want to give up a particular model. It is a simple extra attention, almost never necessary, but which we recommend you have.
Heatpipe, towers and fans
The efficiency for a heat sink is essential, and it is therefore essential to have a structure that is able to collect as much heat as possible, in the shortest possible time, and that is able to dissipate it quickly. In this regard, the aspects to consider are 3: the number of towers that make up the heat sink, the number of heatpipes which transfer the heat from the plate to the heatsink and the quantity and size of fans which disperse the heat. Inevitably, having two towers means having a larger surface on which to distribute the heat produced by the CPU. Likewise, having a large number of heatpipes corresponds to a faster and more well distributed heat transfer. Finally, having a greater number of fans means having a greater air flow that allows rapid heat dispersion.
Of course, everything goes hand in hand with the processor available and the way in which you intend to use it. We must therefore carefully evaluate what we need, in order not to incur unnecessary purchases, such as an oversized or undersized heatsink. If the intention is to push onoverclock, or we will simply tend to harness the full power of a high-end CPU consistently, then a dual-tower, dual-fan cooler may prove to be the only way forward. Conversely if we have a processor with a TDP rather content, and there is no intention of going to touch parameters like voltage e frequency, then we could be satisfied with a more modest heat sink, able to fully perform its function. This is a fundamental aspect because a cheap cooler is not always able to satisfy our needs, just as a high-end one is not always actually necessary.