HSF / CPU Cooler Recommendation Chart

Computer CPU Cooler Recommendation Comparison Chart Helping you find the best CPU Cooler for your particular PC build

Last updated: October 2018

A heatsink and fan (HSF), also known as a CPU Cooler, sits atop the CPU to draw heat away from the CPU and disperse it, because CPUs produce heat while operating. Most CPUs will come with a free “stock” HSF; but if you buy a CPU that comes without a cooler and/or if you plan to overclock your CPU, you will need to buy an “aftermarket” HSF like one of those listed in the chart below.

Things to note:

Before you read the table of HSFs below, please keep in mind the following points:

  • The budget, mid-tier, and high-end columns are for air-cooling. Closed-loop-coolers (CLCs), or liquid coolers, use water to cool the CPU instead of air.
  • If you're not overclocking, stock HSFs are fine. If your CPU runs warm, stock HSFs tend to get loud because the fans spin faster.
  • Spending more money will get you better cooling and quieter operation.
  • Stock HSFs are sometimes simpler to install. Aftermarket HSFs usually include screws and other small parts.
  • CLCs are divided into two categories: 120mm units and 240mm units, as shown here:
  • 120mm CLC units perform somewhere between mid-tier and high-end air coolers, but they are often priced as high as the high-end. They offer less value, but take up much less space.
  • 240mm coolers compete with high-end air HSFs, and can be superior in cooling. However, they are very expensive, and do not fit in all cases. Never buy a 240mm unit until you have made sure that you can install it in your case.
  • Many CLC units are made by the same manufacturer (Asetek), with the main difference being the type of fans that are used.
  • If your budget is constrained, you can always stick with stock HSFs, and buy an aftermarket cooler later when you have the money.

Recommended Heatsinks/Coolers:

Brand Budget ($0-$35) Mid-tier ($35-$65) High-end (>$65) CLC (120mm) CLC (240mm)
AMD Stock ($0)
Wraith Spire ($46)



Antec


Kuhler 750 ($55)
Kuhler 1250 ($120)
be quiet!
Shadow Rock 2 ($50)
Dark Rock 4 ($75)
Dark Rock Pro 4 ($90)


Cooler Master T4 ($25)
212 Evo ($32)
Hyper 412R ($43)
MasterAir G100M ($50)
MasterAir 620P ($50)

MasterLiquid Lite 120 ($50)
MasterLiquid Pro 240 ($110)
Corsair


H60 ($68)
H80i ($85)
H105 ($110)
CryoRig C7 ($30)
H7 ($35)
H5 Ultimate ($47)
R1 Ultimate ($90)


Intel Stock ($0)
CPU Cooling Fan ($12)




NZXT


Kraken M22 ($84)
Kraken X52 ($160)
Noctua
NH-U12S ($58)
NH-U14S ($64)
NH-D14 ($75)
NH-D15 ($90)


Phanteks
PH-TC12DX ($50)
PH-TC14PE ($80)


Raijintek Aidos ($28)
Ereboss ($50)
Nemesis ($125)


Scythe Kotetsu ($35)
Fuma ($47)
Mugen 5 ($50)
Ashura ($55)



Silverstone Argon 02 ($35)
Argon 03 ($56)

Tundra 03 ($65)
Tundra 02 ($82)
Thermalright
Macho ($50)
Silver Arrow ($80)


Thermaltake Contac Silent 12 ($21)
NiC-C5 ($48)

Water 3.0 Performer ($58)
Water 3.0 Extreme S ($80)
Zalman CNPS10X Optima ($30)
CNPS10X Performa ($63)



Stock HSF:

AMD Wraith Spire Stock CPU Cooler

Many people think the stock HSFs are bad. They are actually adequate for stock settings, will work fine, and are free. If you overclock significantly, however, stock HSFs become quite loud. And if you live in a hot area without air conditioning, you may need something better than the stock HSF.

Non-stock HSF:

Aftermarket HSFs cost money, but are typically much quieter, and have better heat dissipation, meaning you can overclock heavily. If the stock HSF is good enough, you do not need an aftermarket HSF.

Compatibility:

  • Make sure the HSF is compatible with your motherboard + CPU socket. For example, a HSF that is compatible with AMD's socket AM3 is not necessarily compatible with Intel's socket 1150. Multiple sockets sometimes use the same mounting system. Intel sockets 1150, 1151, 1155, and 1156 all use the same HSF mounting system, so they share compatibility.
  • Make sure the HSF you buy will fit your case, and will not disturb the other components in your PC (your RAM, specifically).

Water Cooling:

Done properly, water cooling can give you better cooling with less noise than the best air cooling. However, electricity and water don't mix well, so it can be dangerous. Do your research. More reading can be found in links at the bottom of this guide. Corsair makes some high-quality closed-loop solutions, like the H80i and H100i, which will fit in many of the cases we recommend. We'll do a proper water cooling guide eventually. If you would like to try writing one, email us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

Thermal Paste:

Modern thermal paste is usually very good. Use whatever comes with your heatsink. Replacing the thermal paste on your stock heatsink may actually decrease cooling performance. If you want every last bit of cooling performance, do your research before buying thermal paste, because different pastes will perform differently based on your application method and the mounting pressure of your heatsink. You may also want to check out these thermal paste performance benchmarks.

More info:

Check Frosty Tech and Silent PC Review for high-quality heatsink and fan reviews.