Best CPU air coolers | PC Gamer

The best CPU air cooler will keep your PC cool and operating at full power. The best CPU air coolers keep your chip extremely chill and do it without making much noise. All-in-one liquid coolers are great, but air coolers don’t slouch.

In some cases, you may not even need a fan at all.

Below, we’ve outlined six of our favorite air coolers, carefully selected from the dozens that we’ve tested over the years. The idea is to cover a wide selection that’ll fit different cases and, more importantly, different budgets. 

So, how do you choose the best CPU air cooler? Following the bigger is better mantra is a good start, but you need to make sure it fits your case before getting your wallet out. Of course, don’t forget to consider some RGB that’ll add some pizzazz to your rig. And if you’re an overclocker, there’s an air cooler specifically for you. 

Best CPU air cooler

  1. Deepcool AS500 Plus


A fantastic all-round cooler that won’t empty your wallet


Socket support: Intel 1200, 1150, 1151, 1155, 2011, 2066, AMD AM4, AM3, AM2, FM2 & FM1 compatible

Fans: 2x 140 mm PWM

Fan speeds: 500-1200 RPM

Dimensions (L x W x H): 140 mm x 102 mm x 164 mm

Noise level: Max 31.5 dB(A)

Reasons to buy


Great value


Low noise levels


Efficient cooling


Build Quality


Reasons to avoid

Not built for high-end overclocked CPUs


The Deepcool AS500 received worthy attention when released, but the AS500 Plus with its additional fan elevates it to the point where it can compete with any single tower cooler on the market. At the same time, it undercuts competitors in price. There aren’t many dual-fan ARGB supporting coolers at this price. Even if you spent double the money on a premium single tower cooler, your cooling performance wouldn’t be better.

Its cooling ability belies its compact dimensions. Only more expensive dual-tower coolers beat it, and even then, not by a whole lot. Its dual-fan design no doubt helps. It’s also surprisingly quiet. Even when pushed hard, the cooler doesn’t get excessively loud. Cooling and low noise levels are welcome, then add to that excellent build quality and subtle ARGB good looks, and there’s nothing to complain about. It even comes with its own ARGB controller, and there’s a white version, too, if you like.

The Deepcool AS500 Plus punches above its weight (and price). It cools very well. It’s got excellent build quality, a subtle ARGB splash with its controller, etc. And finally, it is an excellent value relative to many dual-fan single tower coolers. Short of stressing it with a heavily overclocked high-end processor, the AS500 Plus ticks all the boxes. It was highly recommended. 

  1. Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2


An affordable and effective cooler that really can be quiet


Socket support: Intel LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM3 & AM4 compatible

Fans: 1x Pure Wings 2 120mm

Fan speeds: Up to 1500 RPM

Dimensions (L x W x H): 87 mm x 121 mm x 155 mm

Noise level: Max 26.8 dB(A)

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Reasons to buy


Tranquil operation


Great price


Good build quality


Reasons to avoid

Super basic looks

150W TDP is a touch optimistic


If the brand name didn’t already give it away, the Be Quiet Pure Rock 2 is quiet! It’s a single tower cooler equipped with its highly regarded Pure Wings 2 PWM fan, which carries a low 26.8 dB(A) noise rating. That means it’s hushed indeed. It feels excellent, too, an indicator of good build quality and comes in at a low price.

We wouldn’t describe the Pure Rock 2 as the most beautiful cooler on the market. But if you do have a windowed case, you could consider the black version, which is undoubtedly more attractive than the plain aluminum finish of the base version. The Pure Rock 2 is primarily designed to cool – unseen and unheard. It’s rated to cool CPUs with a 150W TDP. 

Though perhaps this is a touch optimistic, that’s down to the CPU manufacturers and their ‘real’ TDPs. An Intel Core i5 11600Kor AMD Ryzen 7 5800X won’t present a Pure Rock 2.

The Pure Rock 2 will keep your chip calm and quiet for anything other than high-end CPUs. If you’re not interested in bling and want something a step up from bundled coolers, the Pure Rock 2 is a fantastic choice. It will cool out of sight, mind, and earshot.

  1. Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better performing air cooler than the Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black


Socket support: Intel LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4, AM3, AM2, FM2 & FM1 compatible

Fans: 2x NF-A15 HS-PWM

Fan speeds: 300-1500 RPM

Dimensions (L x W x H): 161 mm x 150 mm x 165 mm

Noise level: Max 24.6 dB(A)

Reasons to buy


Awesome cooling performance


Quiet under typical loads


Solid build quality


All black good looks


Reasons to avoid

It’s quite large

Louder than you might expect under load


The Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black is considered by many to be the best air cooler on the market. We love it too, and it’s an easy inclusion on our list of recommended coolers. It performs brilliantly; it’s got excellent fans that are a welcome black color instead of that rather unsightly beige and maroon (sorry, Jacob). Its build quality is fantastic, and Noctua’s packaging, accessories, and documentation are second to none. 

Only 360mm AIO coolers outperform it. If you want an air cooler that can handle any consumer CPU on the market, you might find one to match the Noctua flagship, but you won’t find anything that genuinely beats it.

Under regular operation, the NH-D15 can be considered genuinely silent. When pushed hard, it becomes louder than you might expect, such as you might get when hammering out an AVX load, but we don’t mind having some optional cooling headroom when you need it. Even a 5GHz+ Core i9 11900K will result in quiet running while gaming. 

So why isn’t it number one on our list? Its expense, and the perhaps sheer size, are the only things that count against it. Notably, Noctua has a long tradition of adding support for new sockets. An investment in an NH-D15 Chromax Black means you’ll have a top-shelf cooler that will last you for many years.

  1. Cryorig C7


An excellent choice for a truly tiny system; don’t ask too much of it


Socket support: Intel 1200, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, AMD AM4, AM3, AM2, FM2 & FM1 compatible

Fans: 1x 92mm Quad Air Inlet

Fan speeds: 600-2500 RPM

Dimensions (L x W x H): 97 mm x 97 mm x 47 mm

Noise level: Max 30 dB(A)

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Reasons to buy


Truly tiny size


Cools better than you’d expect for its size


A quiet low load operation


Reasons to avoid

Not one for overclocked, high core-count CPUs


The Cryorig C7 has been on the market for some time, but it’s been updated to support newer sockets. It’s perfect for a compact small form factor system thanks to its 47mm height and adherence to ‘keep-out’ zones, where it will not interfere with other system components.

The C7 destroys the stock Intel cooler. It’s rated for up to 100W but is better suited to 65W class CPUs up to six or eight cores. This leaves it a bit of headroom for turbo bursts. If you’re overclocking or using a high core-count processor, you can give it a pass, but that’s to be expected. It will stay surprisingly quiet for its compact size with the correct CPU. Its top flow design will help to cool the VRM and M.2 SSD, too, something that can be neglected in compact systems.

The Cryorig C7 is a niche cooler, no doubt about it, but the cute little C7 does an admirable job for the tiniest builds. If you want a little bit of extra TDP headroom, there are copper and graphene-coated versions that feature TDP ratings of up to 125W, though they’re more expensive. The C7 is an excellent choice for the minor form factor systems.

Quiet computing enthusiasts, look here.


Socket support: Intel LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4, AM3, AM2, FM2 & FM1 compatible

Fans: N/A

Fan speeds: N/A

Dimensions (L x W x H): 152mm x 154 mm x 158 mm

Noise level: 0 dB(A)

Reasons to buy




Every aspect of it is premium.


You can add fans if you want to


Reasons to avoid

It needs good case cooling.

Pricier than your regular air cooler


Noctua’s NH-P1 passive cooler is very much a niche product and one that fans of quiet computing have been looking forward to for some time. It’s expensive, bulky, and generally limited to CPUs in the 65W range. Sounds like a dud? Hell no. its appeal may be limited, but if you’re a user who values silence above anything else, then the NH-P1 will be what you’re looking for.

The NH-P1 is an excellent match for something like an AMD 5700G. You could omit a discrete GPU and play e-sport titles in silence. The NH-P1 will keep this class of CPU boosting to its max, but only if you have at least some airflow. The chances are you have a rear case fan that’s just a few cm away from it anyway. You can still opt to attach a fan if you want. Without any system fans, proper passive cooling would require dropping to 35W class CPUs.

The NH-P1 is built for a specific purpose. Fans of quiet computing will love it. If you sleep near your PC or run a lounge room media center, the NH-P1 will ensure that your PC is genuinely silent. It’s not meant for everyone, though.

  1. Be Quiet! Dark Rock TF 2


Cooling for your whole system


Socket support: Intel LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM3 & AM4 compatible

Fans: 1x Silent Wings 3 135mm, 1x Silent Wings 135 mm

Fan speeds: Up to 1400 RPM

Dimensions (L x W x H): 163 mm x 140 mm x 134 mm

Noise level: Max 27.1 dB(A)

Reasons to buy


Downward blowing for additional system cooling


Quiet operation


Good build quality


Reasons to avoid

Heavy overclocking is beyond it.


Keeping your CPU cool is vital, but so is overall system cooling. This can often be overlooked in AIO cooled systems that lack good airflow over the motherboard, particularly if you have a GPU heating up your speedy NVMe drives, too. A cooler like the Be Quiet Dark Rock TF 2 blow air downwards, which helps to keep hot-running M.2 drives, and your vital motherboard VRMs running cool.

The Dark Rock TF2 performs much like other single tower air coolers, and though it’s on the pricey side, it’s not unreasonably so given the inclusion of two high-quality fans. Its ability to mount a fan above or below the heatsink (or both) adds a lot of installation flexibility. You can use it in all systems, from powerful gaming PCs to compact SFF systems. 

In the Be Quiet tradition, the Dark Rock TF 2 is very quiet, particularly under low loads, and with a rating of up to 230W, it can handle all modern CPUs, though heavy overclocking will be beyond it.

Downward blowing coolers have fallen out of favor compared to tower coolers, but with one or more hot PCIe 4.0 SSDs to cool, a motherboard needs decent airflow too. The Dark Rock TF 2 can be considered a system cooler and not just a CPU cooler.

CPU air cooler FAQ

Which is better, AIO or air cooler?

Anyone looking at picking a cooler for their rig asks this question: Air or water cooling? Water cooling tends to be viewed as the premium solution, but air cooling remains perfectly viable unless you’re into heavy overclocking with higher core count CPUs. Air coolers are generally cheaper, more reliable, and more straightforward. They can be bulky relative to an AIO, but radiators are also sturdy and require significant cases. You don’t have to worry about the (admittedly tiny) possibility of leaks or pump failure with air coolers. Noise levels are highly dependent on the fans used, but if you choose wisely, there’s no reason an air cooler won’t be as quiet or even quieter than an AIO due to the lack of pump whir.

Are CPU air coolers effective?

A high TDP processor or CPU overclocking will require something big to absorb and dissipate heat. But a dual tower or dual fan model will be just as capable of cooling as an all-in-one liquid cooler. 

If you want something quiet, a big cooler with a high cooling capacity will also suit, but pay attention to the noise levels and RPM rating of its fans. Then you get into things like your case size. You’ll need to go with a more compact cooler if you’re running a mini system, so look at the dimensions. 

There’s also an argument to be made for downward blowers. The components around your CPU, such as the power circuitry and NVMe SSDs, can get hot and throttle if they’re not adequately cooled. And with a liquid cooler, they get no help, but an excellent downward blowing CPU air cooler will chill your processor and other parts on the motherboard.

How do I pick a CPU air cooler?

There’s so much to consider. It would be easy to go for the biggest one you can get, but that ignores case constraints, the TDP of your processor, your budget, and aesthetics. At least you can rest assured that our picks will serve you well with the appropriate accompanying hardware.

You know you’ve made a good choice when you’ve gone months of happily gaming away or doing whatever you do on your system with barely a thought about your cooling. The best cooler you can install in your particular rig, give it a stress test under a high heat load, tune the fan curves if necessary, and forget about it. RGB models excepted, a good quality air cooler is unseen and never draws attention.

What CPU sockets do air coolers work with?

Not all coolers support all CPU sockets. Cooling for AMD Threadripper CPUs can be tricky, for example. Also, Intel 12th Gen LGA1700 compatibility is more important these days. So, if you’re planning on building an Alder Lake system, pay close attention to the list of supported sockets. Stock from earlier in 2021 will lack support. You can expect manufacturers to offer compatible mounting kits and updated SKU’s but if you’re planning on upgrading to 12th Gen, make sure you check with the retailer or manufacturer to ensure your choice of cooler includes LGA 1700 support now or if it will work in the future.

Stay Cool, Gamers!

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