To help you find the best CPU fan, we purchased 20 different options and spent over 20 hours testing them within our own PCs. This led us to our best CPU fans of 2020. This testing included best installation and performance in a variety of different conditions, including overclocking your processor. During our tests, we focused on ease of installation, reliable performance and design aesthetics. We also took into account product warranties and air vs. liquid cooling. Overall, by the end of our guide, you’ll know enough to purchase one of the best CPU coolers for yourself.
In the end, the Noctua NH-U12S CPU fan is our top pick. This cooler works well with even the fastest processors, including the Intel Core i9-9900K. It’s also ultra quiet and provides an extra-long warranty. Keep reading below to learn more about the Noctua CPU fan and the other best CPU fans on our list.
Top 6 Best CPU Fans
#1 Noctua NH-U12S CPU Fan
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Noctua CPU fan does a fantastic job of keeping your CPU cool, even the highest-performance options like the Intel Core i9-9900K. It’s also quiet and easy to install, making this an excellent choice for beginners and pros alike.
- Best for i9-9900K
- 6 year warranty
- Ultra-quiet operation
- Mounting system compatible with Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066 & AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) FM1, FM2(+), AM4
- Bland design
- More expensive than other options
The Noctua NH-U12S is a CPU cooler that offers premium performance in spite of its single fan configuration. This is a traditional 120mm tower-style CPU cooler made from premium components, including aluminum fins and nickel-plated copper heat pipes and base. The Noctua’s simple design is supposed to work with any RAM set up. While the Noctua only has a single fan by default, you have the option of adding a second fan if you want, which is nice for power users. The only thing we would improve about the Noctua’s design is its color scheme. The browns are bland, but they don’t inhibit the CPU cooler’s performance in any way. This 120 mm fan is powerful, and will keep your device working powerfully. The Noctua CPU Cooler is at the top of our list for a reason.
When it comes to performance, the thing that stood out the most to us during our testing was just how quiet the fan was, even during heavy usage. It even stays quiet with a second fan attached. The Noctua performs well at both stock and overclocked conditions, keeping your CPU cool at any given moment. This performance is why the Noctua is the best CPU cooler for i9 9900K processors, but it’s also compatible with AMD Ryzen processors. You could also consider the Noctua NH-D15 if you’re looking for an upgrade. To top everything off, this CPU fan is covered by a whopping 6-year warranty, so you can rest assured you’ll be covered in the even the fan fails due to manufacturer defect. Also, have a look at the best gaming computer processor.
#2 Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO CPU Fan
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Cooler Master CPU fan provides excellent performance in both stock and overclock conditions for a much more affordable price. It’s also lightweight and features a direct contact design that improves overall performance.
- Continuous direct contact heatpipes
- Easy installation
- Doesn’t include thermal paste
- Loud when overclocked
Cooler Master is of the most well-recognized and well-reviewed brands on the CPU cooler market today. The Hyper 212 series of CPU fans has been a staple in the customer PC building community for years, and the 212 EVO has only improved on years of reliable quality and performance. The first, and our favorite, feature that has been improved over previous iterations is the proprietary Continuous Direct Contact technology that the heatpipes employ. This has eliminated the gaps between the EVO’s four heatpipes for maximum cooling efficiency when attached to your CPU.
The Cooler Master 212 EVO is easy to install, although your purchase doesn’t include any thermal paste, oddly enough. It’s also lightweight, creating less of a physical burden for your CPU. The performance was mostly excellent with the EVO, especially at idle and stock loads. During overclocked loads, the EVO had to work much harder to keep temperatures down, which resulted in higher fan noises. The CPU cooler was able to keep temps down, but we still recommend finding the right balance between noise and performance so you don’t have to hear the fan the entire time. You could also upgrade this to the Coolmaster Hyper 212 Black Edition. Either of these fans would be perfect for the best computer for vr.
#3 Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU Fan
Award: BEST LIQUID
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Corsair liquid CPU cooler is an all-in-one (AIO) CPU fan that includes everything you need for a complete cooling solution in a single package. It’s the best AIO CPU cooler on our list and even includes an illuminated pump head for enhanced aesthetics.
- Best All-In-One
- Easy installation
- Quiet pump and fan
- Single fan only
The Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU cooler may be more expensive than other options on our list, but it brings the performance and aesthetics to match the price point. For starters, the Corsair is an AIO liquid cooler, which means you won’t need to purchase anything extra before installation. The H60 is also one of the easiest to install, with a tool-free modular design that’s compatible with all LGA 2066, LGA 1151 and AM4 CPU sockets.
As you might expect from liquid CPU coolers, the Corsair H60 provides incredible performance at stock, idle and overclocked settings. The Corsair kept our processor at acceptable temperatures the entire time. It’s also whisper-quiet, both in the fan and the pump, which really helped to make it the best CPU liquid cooler on our list. Unfortunately, you only get one fan on this cooler, but the liquid cooling should be more than enough for most needs. Finally, you can rest assured that this CPU fan will last you a long time with the 5 year warranty that the Corsair carries. Also check out the best computer cases.
#4 Arctic Freezer 34 eSports DUO CPU Fan
Award: BEST FOR OVERCLOCKING
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Arctic Freezer CPU fan combines value and performance in a single, well-designed package. Its dual-fan set up is also quiet and the extra-long warranty protects your investment for years to come.
- Excellent value and performance
- Outstanding 10 year warranty
- Quiet fans
- No RGB lighting
- Limited support for some AMD and Intel CPUs
There’s no two ways about it. The Arctic Freezer 34 eSports DUO CPU fan stands out in a crowd. Simply put, the CPU looks great, no matter what color you chose out of the available 6 configurations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include any kind of RGB options, but this isn’t a deal breaker by any means. The Arctic Freezer features a dual-fan design with push-pull functionality for increased cooling performance. And if you aren’t already impressed with this fan’s design quality, you still get a 10 year warranty to cover you in case anything goes wrong.
The Arctic Freezer 34 eSports DUO is the best CPU cooler for overclocking because of this push-pull design. Our tests indicate better cooler performance with a push-pull CPU fan, especially when you overclock your processor. We were most impressed that the Arctic Freezer CPU cooler was able to do all this without making a ton of noise. It’s actually one of the quieter fans on our list. While the Arctic CPU fan is easy to install, be aware that it’s only compatible with AM4 AMD sockets and Intel’s 2066, 2011x and 115x sockets. You also need the best graphics card.
#5 DeepCool Gammaxx GT BK CPU Fan
Award: BEST QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re looking for a CPU fan that offers solid performance and RGB lighting options, the DeepCool cooler is here to wow you. This CPU fan will take your PC build to the next level without sacrificing too much performance.
- RGB lighting system
- Supports dual-fan configuration
- Solid GPU clearance
- Could use better overclock performance
- Short 1 year warranty
The DeepCool Gammaxx GT BK CPU fan is one of the highest performing and quietest RGB coolers we’ve tested. You should expect all RGB coolers to sacrifice some cooling performance in order to power the internal lighting and give you that pro gamer look to your PC. However, the DeepCool CPU fan doesn’t sacrifice as much of that performance as other RGB fans we tested. It keeps your CPU cool at stock and idle conditions with ease, but struggles to keep up during overclocking. You’ll still get overall decent performance when overclocking your CPU, but not as much as other fans.
The RGB lighting isn’t the only thing about the DeepCool Gammaxx’s design that we liked. It’s also built from premium quality materials. The mounting hardware is easy to use during installation and the cooler includes extra fan clips so you can install a second fan if you’d like. Unfortunately, you won’t get a long warranty here. The fan carries a disappointingly short 1 year guarantee. Luckily the fan is made well enough that you shouldn’t run into many problems for years to come.
#6 Thermaltake Gravity i2 CPU Fan
Award: BEST BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Thermaltake is the best low profile CPU cooler on our list. It offers solid, quiet performance on a budget in both stock and idle conditions.
- Best low profile
- Quiet operation
- Excellent idle and stock performance
- Installation can be complicated
- Middling overclock performance
The Thermaltake Gravity i2 is the best budget CPU cooler on our list. Combine this affordability with its overall performance metrics and you’ve got a CPU fan that’s a great choice for both beginners and seasoned veterans alike. During our testing, we found that the Gravity i2 performed best at stock and idle conditions, keeping your CPU within acceptable temperature ranges with no problem at all. Unfortunately, the fan struggled a little with overclocked CPUs, but that’s to be expected at this budget price point.
This CPU fan is also designed exceptionally well. In the first place, it looks great, but even better than that, it’s low profile. This means it can fit easily in your PC case with plenty of clearance for your GPU and RAM. The Gravity i2 features universal socket compatibility for both AMD and Intel processors, which is an added bonus. The only downside to the fan’s design is the somewhat complicated installation process. Unfortunately, the fan doesn’t include installation instructions, so you’ll need to turn to YouTube or other parts of the internet for help, like we did.
How We Decided
After receiving the CPU fans we purchased, we installed them into our own PC builds to start our testing process. As such, we first started rating the coolers based on their overall installation process. The best CPU fans include clear instructions, mounting brackets and hardware. Even seasoned PC builders want an easy installation process, but if it’s your first PC build, you’ll especially want a CPU fan that isn’t complicated.
Next, we measured each CPU based on its ability to do its job and keep your CPU cool. Whether via liquid cooling or fan cooling, each CPU cooler should, at the very least, keep your CPU within acceptable temperature ranges at both idle and stock conditions. However, the best CPU fans can keep your processor’s temperature in check during overclocked conditions, too, when temperatures are most likely to rise more than usual.
Finally, we rated CPU coolers based on their overall design and build quality. PC components are designed to look cool, for a lack of better word, and that’s what most PC builders are looking for. However, it’s just as important to get a fan that has a solid build quality. You won’t want it wearing out after a year or two. And if it does, you’ll want an option that also provides a warranty longer than a year. No matter which cooling system you choose, this guide will leave you satisfied.
Best CPU Fan Buyer’s Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
- Your PC Setup
The first thing you need to consider when purchasing a new CPU cooler is your current PC setup. For starters, consider what you want to get out of your CPU fan. Are you looking to overclocking your processor to get maximum performance or are you working with a budget gaming rig that you want to equip with just enough hardware to play most games on average settings? Since CPU fans come in all shapes and sizes, the answers to these questions can help you find a starting point. You should also consider the technical specifications of your computer. CPU socket compatibility and clearance are both very important considerations. You won’t want to buy a new CPU fan just to find out it’s not compatible with your processor or that it won’t fit in your PC case. High end coolers tend to be much bulkier than their budget-friendly counterparts, so before you click buy, check the CPU fan’s measurements to see how they stack up against your PC case’s measurements and ensure everything fits.
- Air Cooling vs. Liquid Cooling
There are two main methods of cooling down your CPU with a CPU cooler: air cooling and liquid cooling. It is important to understand the differences in each cooler type. Each carries its own pros and cons, but let’s take a little bit of a closer look at both methods:
- Air Cooling: This is the most common form of cooling, and also the most affordable. Air coolers pull heat from the top plate of the CPU (known as the integrated heat spreader, or IHS) through heat pipes that are connected to a heat sink elevated off the motherboard. So a quality air cooler is necessary. Then, a fan blows cool air onto the heatsink to dissipate the heat. This method of heat dissipation is typically very effective. Air cooling is very effective but if you’re looking for high-performance cooling, you’re going to be faced with a very large and bulk unit. Air cooling may be best if you’re on a budget.
- Liquid Cooling: This type of cooling works similarly to air cooling in the fact that it pulls heat away from your CPU’s IHS via the cooler’s baseplate. However, the baseplate on liquid coolers is attached to a water block filled with coolant liquid, which absorbs the heat and then moves through tubes until it’s exposed to air and can cool back down. The coolant then makes its way back to the water block for further cooling. Liquid cooling is very effective for high-performance PCs and offers a much lower profile, meaning they can typically fit better into a wider variety of PC cases. Liquid coolers typically require more maintenance, though, especially when compared to air coolers.
- TDP Rating
TDP stands for thermal design power and is the measurement of the maximum amount of heat that your CPU fan can handle. Both your CPU and your CPU fan will have a TDP rating. In order to create the maximum amount of cooling efficiency, you should buy a CPU fan that has a TDP rating equal to or higher than the TDP rating on your CPU, especially if you’re planning to overclock your processor.
- Noise Levels
As you can imagine, a constantly spinning fan is bound to make noise, and this is especially true during extended periods of use or when your processor is getting hotter due to games with higher graphical needs. Consider what kind of noise level you’re comfortable with before making your purchase. CPU fans with larger blades are quieter than smaller options because they won’t need to spin as fast to generate the same amount of cooling capacity. Most CPU fans are also rated with a decibel level, so you can see for yourself how much noise they make on average.
Warranties for CPU fans can vary greatly in length, depending on the manufacturer. While you should expect at least a one year warranty to come with your purchase, the best CPU fans carry warranties as long as 5 to 6 years.
CPU Fan FAQs
What CPU cooler to use for overclocking?
Overclocking your processor will inevitably heat it up more than usual. This is where an extra-efficient CPU fan comes into play. On our list, the two best CPU fans for overclocking are the ARCTIC Freezer 34 eSports Duo and the Thermaltake CLP0556-B. Both of these CPU coolers performed very well in our overclock testing without hesitation or added noise levels.
What makes a good CPU cooler?
The mark of a good CPU fan is mainly measured by its compatibility with your PC and its ability to cool down your processor with ease. However, you can also compare various CPU fans by their TDP rating, noise level and overall bulkiness. You want something that isn’t too noisy for comfort or too bulky to fit in your PC case.
Is liquid cooling worth it?
If you’re looking for high levels of performance that can keep your processor cool during even the most intense gaming or creative application sessions, then liquid CPU coolers are absolutely worth the higher price point, especially when you look at CPU cooler benchmarks. They also tend to be less bulky than CPU air coolers, so if you don’t have as much space in your PC case, liquid coolers can be an excellent option.
What CPU should I get for i5 9600k?
The Noctua NH-U12S is compatible with most Intel processors, including the i5 9600K. It’s easy to install and features automatic speed control as well as ultra-quiet operation. The Noctua can easily keep up with the higher speeds the Intel Core i5 9600K can accomplish.