Computers, much like discrete graphics cards, require adequate cooling to prevent damage and so that it remains in tip-top shape. Heat is one of the primary reasons why computer components get damaged. Processors, especially ones that are overclocked, require a really good PC cooler to cool it down. If that overclocked processor of yours does not have sufficient cooling, you will likely reduce its lifespan, or worse, destroy the processor altogether.
- Read also our Buyers’ guide on gaming monitors
The good thing is that there are a lot of good CPU coolers on the market. Both air and water coolers have populated the market and it is now easy for you to choose one based on your preference, budget, and aesthetic appeal.
In this article, I will go over the best CPU coolers for gaming. I will recommend the best air coolers as well as AIO liquid coolers that you can buy. But before that, let me touch on the topic of which provides a better cooling performance: air or water coolers?
Both of them provide adequate cooling to your gaming PC; it basically boils down to which compromises you’re willing to take. Both of them have their pros and cons. Let’s start with the benefits of air coolers.
Benefits of Air Coolers
Air coolers were commonplace long before AIO Liquid coolers came into the market. In fact, most of the lower-end processors come with stock air cooling solutions to help quell the heat. Although stock cooling solutions are okay, it is not recommended if you are planning to overclock your CPU. That is why the newest mainstream processors, in the form of Intel Skylake processors, do not come with stock coolers in their “K” or overclockable CPUs specifically for this reason.
Now, what are the benefits of buying air coolers as opposed to liquid cooling solutions for your gaming PC?
1. Price. Air coolers are inexpensive than their liquid cooler counterparts. You often see most people recommend air coolers than liquid coolers in budget gaming PCs because they are relatively cheap and they are readily available on the market. Even the most expensive air coolers are cheaper than the midrange AIO coolers on the market.
2. Less moving parts. Air CPU coolers tend to have lesser moving parts which translate to lesser failure rate than liquid coolers.
3. Broad Area. Aside from cooling your CPU, Air coolers passively cool other components near it such as the motherboard and the graphics card.
4. Easier to Install. Air coolers are much easier to install than their liquid cooler counterparts. You only need to mount it and tighten some screws, and that’s it!
5. Aesthetics. Lastly, air coolers look sexier in a gaming PC. Popular aftermarket air coolers nowadays sport a nice aesthetic appeal and some of them even have RGB lighting on the fans!
Cons of Using Air Coolers
Air coolers are not without their faults. There are certain cons that you need to know before buying an air cooler. These cons are:
1. Size. Probably, the first thing you will notice is that air coolers are much bigger than any liquid cooling solution. That is because the thing that will eliminate the heat from the processor is the included fan from the air cooler. There are also other air coolers that have more than one fan which leads to a much bigger form factor.
2. Weight. Because of their bigger size, air coolers tend to be heavier (of course, this is not the case if you are buying a liquid cooler with a big radiator).
3. Conflict with other components. Some air coolers are enormous and that can be a problem with some motherboards and DIMM slots. If you are planning to buy a 2-fan air cooler, for example, that might get in the way with some of your RAM sticks or graphics cards.
4. Noise. Unlike liquid coolers where there is a radiator that will absorb the heat of the processor, air coolers need to work hard to cool your CPU. Because of this, most air coolers tend to be louder. And, for the same reason, people go for liquid coolers instead.
Now, what about liquid coolers? What makes them special and why are people choosing them over the air coolers? Well, let’s talk first about their benefits.
Benefits of Liquid Coolers
Liquid coolers now saturate the consumer market and a lot of people are now opting for liquid cooling solutions than air coolers. Liquid coolers cool your system because it has a coolant and a radiator. The coolant absorbs the heat from the CPU and then routes that heat towards the radiator where it will dissipate the heat with the use of a case fan. What are the major benefits of liquid coolers over their air cooler counterparts?
1. Better Cooling. Because of the way it transfers and removes heat from the CPU, liquid coolers are much more efficient in cooling your rig’s processor than air coolers. Most hardcore overclockers opt for liquid coolers mainly because of this.
2. Quieter. Since water coolers utilize a coolant and a radiator to remove heat from the processor, systems with liquid coolers tend to be much quieter than the ones with air coolers. This is not to say that your rig will be whisper quiet as a liquid cooling solution will require case fans to also do the job. But for the most part, liquid coolers are ideal not only for a better cooling performance but also for people who want a silent gaming system.
3. Looks Cleaner on the Processor side. One of the quirks of having an air cooler as opposed to a water cooling solution is that the size of an air cooler can be bulky to look at. Liquid coolers, on the other hand, are much cleaner and some of them even have lighting systems installed to further enhance the aesthetic of your gaming rig.
4. Saves space. You only need to put the water block on the processor and the radiator can be put somewhere else in your gaming PC. Because of this, you will have a much cleaner setup and it also saves space; granted that you do not use a custom water cooling solution that is.
Even though it provides a better cooling performance without too much noise, there are downsides to using a liquid cooler as well. Here are the cons of PC liquid coolers:
Cons of Liquid Cooling Solutions
1. Price. First and foremost, liquid coolers are more expensive than air coolers. Even if you buy the most inexpensive AIO liquid cooling solution on the market, for the same price, you can already get a midrange or even a high-end air cooler.
2. Some are cumbersome to install. If you are going to buy AIO water cooling solutions, then there will be no problems at all. But, if you’re going to use custom water loops, it is not only time-consuming to install but there are a lot of factors you need to consider before using one.
3. Prone to Damaging PC components. Because of the nature of the cooling solution, liquid coolers are prone to damaging PC components. I have heard horror stories from people using custom water loops. Some of the things they’ve experienced are coolants dripping on their PC’s parts, reservoirs not maintained properly, among others.
4. Maintenance. I am referring to custom water coolers as opposed to the all-in-one liquid coolers. Custom water coolers require a lot of attention and can be troublesome for people who just wants to enjoy their gaming rig without all the hassle. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a custom water loop. But, if you are able to pull it off, you will not only have a very cool PC; you will also have one cool looking gaming rig.
Now that you know the pros and the cons of air and liquid cooling solutions, I will now recommend some of the best ones on the market. I will kick off with some of the most popular air coolers that you can buy.
Best CPU Air Coolers
If you decide to buy CPU air coolers because you want the aesthetics and you want to save some money, then you’ve read the right article! Before buying one, though, you need to make sure that your air cooler of choice will not only fit your case but also make sure that there is enough space between the cooler and the DIMM slots. So, without further ado, here are some of the best air coolers that you can buy:
1. Cooler Master Hyper 212X
The original Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO was consistently recommended by PC enthusiasts to people who are on a quest of building a budget gaming PC. And rightfully so, the Hyper 212 EVO was one of the most affordable CPU air coolers on the market. Not only that but the cooler itself performed pretty well even on an overclocked processor. Of course, with the popularity of the Hyper 212 EVO, Cooler Master decided to upgrade the product and called it the new Cooler Master Hyper 212X.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212X is better than its predecessor in many ways. For one, it offers slightly better cooling performance. Even on a highly overclocked i7-6700K, the Hyper 212X managed to keep it cool at 60-78 Celcius at full load (temperature varies depending on the application being run at that time). Another improvement of the 212X from its predecessor is that it is much quieter than the 212 EVO. In fact, at 100% fan speed, you can only hear 44 dBA noise levels. That is pretty quiet for an air cooler.
Speaking of 100% fan speed, the Cooler Master Hyper 212X has a fan speed of 600-1700 RPM. It has aluminum fins and it has 50+ copper heat pipes for maximum heat dissipation. It is a bit heavy at 492 grams and it might wrestle with one of your DIMM slots, but if performance and budget are your concern, you will be happy with the Hyper 212X. It has dimensions of 120mm x 79mmx 158mm.
Installing this air cooler is pretty easy as all of the mounting brackets are already included. Furthermore, you can add an additional fan if you want although that is sold separately. The build quality of the product is solid but if there are any problems with it, it is backed by a 2-year warranty.
The price of the Cooler Master Hyper 212X ranges from $40-60. It is priced a bit higher than the original EVO but its better performance pretty much warrants the price. Should you buy the Cooler Master Hyper 212X if you already have the 212 EVO? I would say, no. But if you’re looking for an air cooler because you’re going to assemble your gaming rig and if you’re on a tight budget, then I highly recommend the Cooler Master Hyper 212X.
2. Cryorig H7
There are only a few brands that ring a bell to PC enthusiasts; the likes of Cooler Master and Noctua always dominate the air cooling space. But, a relative newcomer has become increasingly popular, mainly because it offers another bang-for-the-buck air cooler.
The Cryorig H7 is another budget offering but do not be fooled by its low price; this air cooler competes with the Hyper 212 EVO from Cooler Master. The thing about the H7 is that it is much smaller than the 212 EVO. It has dimensions of only 98 x 123 x 145mm and because of its smaller form factor, it fits fine in most setups.
What is interesting about the Cryorig H7 is that it has fan speeds of 330-1600 RPM. The company has struck gold when they were able to make the cooler work less in idle for a much quieter PC. It is also not a slouch when it comes to cooling performance. On an overclocked i7-6700K, the idle temperature is 30 celsius and on full load, the temperature hovers around 63-78 Celcius.
As previously mentioned, the company was able to make the cooler silent in most normal operations. It only produced a maximum of 43 noise levels which is pretty quiet for an air cooler. It is on par with the Hyper 212X mentioned above although this would be more beneficial for a lot of people because of its smaller form factor.
The Cryorig H7 also comes with a 3-year warranty and if you register the product, you will get an additional 3 years for the warranty making it a total of 6 years. The company stands by their product and they are pretty confident about it.
Overall, the Cryorig H7 is a very good CPU air cooler. Because of its smaller form factor and its price ($34.99), the Cryorig H7 is an enticing option for people who are looking for a good budget air cooling solution.
3. Noctua NH-U14S
Noctua is a mainstay in a lot of gaming rigs these days. This is a brand that you can trust because they specialize in air cooling solutions. Although a lot of people are now using liquid coolers, Noctua makes their products shine so that you will choose air coolers rather than AIO coolers.
There will be two entries from Noctua in this list but I will start first with the popular Noctua NH-U14S. The NH-U14S is a big air cooler, with dimensions of 165x 150x 78mm. You will also have the option to add another fan if you want but that is at the cost of space. Because of its bigger design, it might have problems hovering over the DIMM slots of your motherboard. Make sure to research on your particular motherboard and PC case first before purchasing the NH-U14S.
What makes Noctua air coolers great? They offer amazing performance and acoustics for an air cooler. That’s right, even though the NH-U14S is a few years old, it still performs exceptionally well. The reason why most people buy aftermarket coolers is because they want to overclock their processors. With the NH-U14S, you are looking at an impressive 28C idle temperature and only a maximum of 70C maximum temperature under full load. If you slap in another fan, you will drop that maximum temperature to just 67C!
Aside from its cooling performance, the acoustics of the NH-U14S is great. Even at full load and the fans running at 100%, the NH-U14S only managed to have 37 dBA in noise levels. That is truly impressive given that most air coolers sound like a jet engine on an overclocked processor at full load.
Since the default fan of the NH-U14S is 140mm, it only has a maximum RPM of 1500 and a minimum RPM of 300. This explains why it has impressive performance while also maintaining whisper-quiet noise levels as well.
The Noctua NH-U14S is a bit more expensive than the previous coolers in the list but it is pretty much warranted given its price-to-performance ratio. This air cooler currently retails for $69.95.
4. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3
When a company receives numerous awards for their products, it means that what they have to offer must be pretty damn good. The be quiet Dark Rock Pro 3 is an absolutely sexy air cooler. The air cooler has a dual tower design for maximum heat dissipation. Because of its design, the Dark Rock Pro 3 is one of the heaviest air cooling solutions on the market. It has dimensions of 163 x 137 x 150mm and it weighs about 1197 grams! Despite its form factor, the Dark Rock Pro 3 makes up for it in terms of performance and noise levels.
Cooling-wise, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 managed to stay at 28C on idle and a maximum of 73C under full load. In terms of noise levels, because you can put a 140mm fan, noise levels are at a maximum of 40 dBa only which is quite impressive. Furthermore, even if you use a 120mm fan, noise levels will just over around 40-42 which is still damn silent.
If you are going to buy the Dark Rock Pro 3, you must look at two important factors. The Dark Rock Pro 3 is massive and because of its size, it will be in conflict with some of your RAM slots. This can be remedied easily by either changing the orientation of the cooler or having low profile RAM modules. The next thing you need to look out for is the size of your case. It barely fits a standard mid tower case, so a full tower case may be necessary. Of course, small ITX cases are out of the equation.
From an aesthetics and performance standpoint, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 wins and is at the top echelon of air coolers. Yes, you might encounter some minor quirks during installation, but once this baby is installed, you will not regret that you bought one. The Dark Rock Pro 3 costs $89.17.
5. Noctua NH-D15
As previously mentioned, there are two Noctua products in this list. That is because the company’s products have been consistently ranked #1 not only by popular reviewers but also by the general public. The Noctua NH-D15 is by far the best air cooler on the market to date.
If you are veering away from liquid coolers for fear of leaks, then the Noctua NH-D15 is the right one for you. Yes, it is priced much higher than most of the air coolers in this list and it also comes at par with other AIO liquid coolers, but the fact that its performance is great actually warrants the price tag.
Let’s start off with the design. The NH-D15 sports a dual tower, dual fan design. It has an overall nickel plating and it has six copper heat pipes that connect to a massive copper base. Because of its dual fan design, heat is evenly distributed, thus making your system perform better.
In terms of acoustics, the Noctua NH-D15 is a bit noisier than the NH-U14S at around 43 dBa but it is still silent nonetheless. The color scheme is pretty similar to other Noctua coolers although I am not really a fan of it. For the specs, the NH-D15 has dimensions of 165x 150x 161mm. It is on the bigger side so you need a case that can fit the entire thing. The fans spin at 300 RPM to a maximum of 1500 RPM.
What made the Noctua NH-D15 great is its cooling performance. This air cooler managed to keep an overclocked system at full load relatively cool at 64C! Not only that but even when the fans are at full speed, it still managed to be silent as well.
Aside from all of the things I’ve mentioned, the Noctua NH-D15 also comes with the hardware that you need to install this thing without hassle. RAM clearance isn’t a problem since you can easily rectify it with the included mounting bracket. You just have to take note that you need a clearance of 165mm to fit this massive cooler. Other than that, you are golden.
Time and again, Noctua never ceases to amaze me and the overclocking public. The Noctua NH-D15 is an overclockers dream. Yes, most rig enthusiasts now use custom water cooler loops but it presents dangers that are too much for other rig builders. If you opt for the best air cooler on the market, look no further than the Noctua NH-D15. This product costs $88.39.
Side note: Before attaching your CPU Air Cooler, make sure to apply thermal paste on the CPU first before mounting it. You only need a pea-sized amount or the same size as that of a grain of rice. Do not apply too much because it might make contact with your other PC components and do not apply less than what’s required because it will hamper the cooling performance of the cooler. In most cases, you will need an aftermarket thermal paste but some manufacturers include a thermal paste with their air coolers.
Now that I’ve covered the best air coolers you can find on the market, it is now time for me to recommend the best AIO water cooling solutions.
Best All-in-One Liquid Coolers
It is now time for me to recommend some of the best AIO liquid cooling solutions on the market. Now, you might be thinking, why am I not going to include some custom water coolers? Well, for one, they are much more tedious and time-consuming to install and two, not a lot of people are going that route. Custom water loops also require a lot more maintenance and there are a lot of factors to consider because their fail rate is much higher than AIO liquid coolers. Moreover, AIO liquid coolers are pre-filled with coolants, so you don’t have to worry about them. Just install them to your system and you’re good to go.
With that being said, how does a liquid cooler function? Well, an AIO liquid cooler has a water block that is attached to the CPU. It absorbs the heat from the processor and then the heat then gets transferred to the radiator via a liquid channel. From there, heat is then dissipated thanks to some case fans.
For maximum results, get pressure-sensitive fans as they perform better than fans that are built for air cooling. You do not have to worry that much as most AIO cooling solutions come with pressure-optimized fans already. But, if you want to beautify your rig with RGB components, you may want to swap them.
Anyway, you might be excited to know the best AIO coolers, so without further delay, here are the best AIO coolers of 2016:
1. Thermaltake Water 3.0 240mm AIO Cooler
Thermaltake has been around for many years now and not a lot of people are fond of them, or at least, it wasn’t introduced as well as its other competitors. But, they make amazing case fans and they want to up their game by creating an AIO liquid cooling solution. Just a few years ago, they’ve released their RGB case fans called “Riings” and people love them because it gave their rigs an added aesthetic appeal. One brilliant idea struck the company and they’ve decided to put the Riing fans into a package to create the Thermaltake Water 3.0.
There are two different sizes for this particular product: 240mm and 360mm. I will only recommend the 240mm radiator variant as most cases will not be able to fit the 360mm radiator. Anyway, I just love the build quality of the Thermaltake Water 3.0. The tubes are braided to reinforce them. As mentioned earlier in the article, part of the reason why people stay away from liquid coolers is because of fear that water might leak out of the tubes. But, that will not be the case with the Thermaltake Water 3.0.
For its radiator, it has dimensions of 270 x 120 x 27mm. It also has two included Riing 12 fans which are 120mm RGB-lit fans. They spin at 400-1000 RPMs on its Low-Noise mode and 800-1500 RPM in its performance mode. The fans’ lighting mechanism and their different modes can be toggled with the use of a fan controller that’s included in the kit. The company also made it sure that the cooling performance will not be compromised by the light show. The Riing fans are pressure-optimized fans, by the way.
The Copper Waterblock already has a pre-applied thermal paste so you don’t have to buy one. But, in case you’re going to change it, just wipe it off completely before attaching it on your CPU. Performance-wise, the Thermaltake Water 3.0 offers pretty good performance. In a stock 6700K, it managed to have 22C in idle while it goes up to a maximum of 68C on full load. When the processor was overclocked, the idle temperature hovers around 25-28C and it managed to reach 75C, although that is the maximum.
I have mentioned that the fans are RGB fans. Both of them can be toggled using the included fan controller. There are different lighting modes to choose from. You can cycle through static colors like white, red, blue, green, or you can turn on its RGB mode where the lights cycle through a total of 256 colors. When you turn on the RGB mode and you happen to like a particular color that is not normally offered in the static mode, you can press the button again so that the color will stay there. For example, if you want the color to be purple, wait for the fans to cycle to the said color and press the RGB button again so that it will stay in purple until you want to change it again. This will truly improve the aesthetics of your gaming PC.
The Thermaltake Water 3.0 is a pretty amazing AIO water cooler. It not only performs well but it adds to the looks of your gaming rig thanks to the included Riing 12 fans. If you want an AIO water cooler with an additional light show, the Thermaltake Water 3.0 is an exciting choice. This product costs $134.99.
2. Corsair H100i V2
Corsair is a renowned PSU manufacturer before but since then, they’ve ventured to create a lot of different PC components. The Corsair H100i V2 is the second iteration of the original H100i and what’s changed is basically the pump used.
The Corsair H100 V2 has an amazing build quality and it also has braided cables for the tubing to prevent any leakage. The 240mm radiator is quite thick at 30mm but this means that heat dissipation is much improved. The radiator’s dimensions are 276 x 125 x 30mm. The looks of the AIO cooler is not loud and it translates to its performance. The design is pretty simple, really, with a corsair logo on the water block and an RGB lighting mechanism as well. But other than that, the design is pretty basic if you ask me.
This AIO cooler is one of the best on the market at a sub $150 price point. Cooling-wise, you’re looking at a maximum of only 65C on an overclocked i7-6700K (4.6 GHz at 1.38v). It is pretty impressive considering that the voltage is a little bit higher than some overclocked 6700K processors. At idle, you’re looking at temperatures below 20C which really makes this AIO cooler an enticing option.
The company also included two SP120 fans which are 120mm pressure-optimized fans. They work pretty well and they are best used for radiators. To further improve the performance of this cooler, you can add at least 1 Corsair AF120 or AF140 fans. AF stands for “Air Flow” and they distribute air in your rig’s case efficiently.
You can also download the Corsair LINK software to tweak certain parameters of the AIO cooler. You can change the lighting modes, look at the temps, adjust fan settings, and so much more. Its integration with the software is top notch and people love the Corsair Link program because it is one of the most intuitive and stable programs for AIO coolers out there.
All in all, the Corsair H100 V2 is a solid choice. A lot of people recommend it, even the most seasoned overclockers. And with a price of only $102.99, the Corsair H100i V2 is an amazing option if you want to buy an AIO liquid cooler for your PC.
3. Corsair H115i
Another Corsair product on the list, the Corsair H115i beats the H100i V2 by a margin. That is because the radiator size of the H115i is bigger at 280mm as opposed to the H100i V2’s 240mm. This also means that the company included their SP140 fans in the package as well. Their SP fans are highly regarded by rig builders because of their cooling performance.
Of course, since the H115i is a new AIO cooler, Corsair made sure to improve some few things. The pump has been improved and the fans have also been upgraded as well. The company does want you to forget about the fear of leaking tubes, so Corsair fitted its tubes with reinforced braided cables. This is to ensure that the tubes won’t leak during installation and during use.
Speaking of installation, the Corsair H115i is very easy to install. In fact, a lot of people report that it is one of the easiest AIO coolers to install mainly because you only need to mount the radiator on one side of your case, place the pump on the CPU, screw it, and that’s it!
The Corsair H115i is again controlled by the Corsair LINK software. Everything you want to tweak about the H115i can be done on the software; from controlling the fans, the LEDs, among other things. It is pretty easy enough to use and it the program is not bloated at all, meaning, it won’t slow down your system.
For temperatures, the idle temps were 18C and at full load, you’re looking at around 50-57C depending on the programs or games you’re running. As you can see, this is a marked improvement over the H100i V2. This is not to say that the H100i V2 is not good; it is just that the H115i outperforms it.
Probably, the reason why you would want to get this now is that the price has been cut by a significant amount. This AIO cooler was originally priced at $149.99 but has now received a price cut. It now costs only $118.61! If you’re looking for a great AIO cooler under $130, the Corsair H115i is definitely a must-have.
4. NZXT Kraken X62
The NZXT Kraken X61 was touted to be the best AIO cooler on the market for nearly 2 years now and the company wants to further improve it. Yes, it does come with RGB lighting on the water block but it was pretty limited. We all know that RGB PC components are slowly becoming the norm, so NZXT went back to the drawing board to improve their winning product even more.
Then comes the NZXT Kraken X62. Like any new iteration, there are bound to be newer things to warrant its new price. For starters, the NZXT X62 is now fitted with the Gen5 Asetek pump which promises better cooling performance than its predecessor. The AIO cooler also comes with the company’s new “Aer-P” radiator-optimized fans to help keep your system cool even at full loads. And the water block. Man, I just can’t get enough of the water block that comes with the product.
The water block of the X62 now has a mirror design. So, whenever it is set to a certain moving light mode, the lights will reflect off its mirror interior to create an awesome light show. There are multiple lighting modes to choose from and everything can be set in the cooler’s proprietary program.
The NZXT Kraken X62 is a 280mm AIO liquid cooler. Its radiator dimensions are 315 x 143 x 30mm. It is a bit thick but again, it will further improve its cooling capabilities. Couple that with the included pressure-optimized fans and you are going to have a monster gaming PC without the added jet engine (AKA loud fan noise).
The included Aer-P fans have a maximum RPM of 1800RPM and starts at 500 RPM. Now, if you’ve noticed, the fans that came with the product are actually slower than the X61 but it is for a good reason. Somehow, NZXT has managed to improve the cooling performance of the cooler by upgrading the pump as well as truly optimizing the fans so that it not only dissipates heat efficiently, it also means that your system will remain silent whether your PC’s at idle or at absolute full loads.
This is evident in the temperature test where the NZXT Kraken X62 managed to stay at 18-22C at idle and it managed to keep the system cool at only 45C under load! Now, that might be too low for some but just to let you know, the tests were done with ambient temps hovering around 15-20C. The temperatures will rise depending on your current ambient temps of course. But seeing this as it is, the NZXT Kraken X62 managed to pull off a relatively silent cooling solution while also providing cool temps even at max load.
The X62 is also noticeably quieter than the X61. The X61 at max fan RPMs produced 51.4 decibels of fan noise while the X62 produced only 49.6. So the question now is, if you have the X61, should you upgrade to the X62? Well, to put it simply, you don’t have to upgrade if you already own an x61 as temperature difference are minor at around 1-3C difference. But, if you want a way better-looking water block, then, by all means, switch to the X62.
Now, in terms of the software, the NZXT Kraken X62 is controlled by the company’s “CAM” software. Although the software is intuitive and easy to use, many people actually dislike it. That is because the program is pretty bloated. NZXT crammed a lot of useless things in the software such as the ability to do GPU overclocking, FPS overlays, etc. What if you just want to control the X62 cooler? You’re out of luck as the CAM software doesn’t have the option to disable all of the other features you’re not going to use. But if you do want to tweak the X62, the program offers you options like fan control, RGB lighting modes, and it also tracks the current temperature of the CPU as well.
The NZXT Kraken X62 is an absolutely incredible AIO cooling solution. Its superb performance and aesthetics are dragged down a bit by its clunky software. But, if you want a cooler with great performance and aesthetics, the NZXT Kraken X62 is hands down the best choice. The X62 costs $160. This product is also backed by a 6-year warranty.
Side Note: All AIO liquid coolers come with pre-applied thermal paste, so you don’t really need to buy an aftermarket thermal compound. They last for a long time (around 8-20 months) and are generally quite effective in cooling your CPU. Also, when buying AIO coolers, you need to take into consideration the size of your case and the size of the radiator. As you can see from my recommendations, all of them sport at least a 240mm radiator. This means that your rig’s case must have enough clearance for the radiator to fit in.
Another thing that is important to take note is the ambient temperatures and the overall temperatures. You see, most of the reviewers use different stress testing programs to truly test the cooling capabilities of the AIO coolers. You might see some huge differences from one review to another. It is important to note that programs and games test the CPU differently and they might produce different temperatures. But one thing is common with all of the coolers I’ve mentioned: none of them will ever reach more than 68C in normal loads (like games and normal applications). You will only see temperatures above 68C when you use synthetic benchmarks. So, you really don’t have to worry much about the temperatures so long as you’ve installed it properly.
Both air and AIO liquid coolers are pretty good and it all depends on certain factors such as price, the case of your PC, and the aesthetics. There are a few quirks about them and it is up to you which compromises you’re willing to take.
If you’re tight on the budget, an air cooler is a definite choice. You can get a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO or the 212X below $40 and if size is an issue, you can opt for the Cryorig H7, which is also another great air cooler. Even though you can get a $50 AIO cooler, the performance of the aforementioned air coolers is much better than the cheapest AIO coolers you can find.
How about heavy overclockers? I suggest that you look into either the Dark Rock Pro 3 or the Noctua fans for air coolers and every AIO cooler I’ve mentioned in this article should work pretty well. I happen to use the Kraken X61, an older version of the X62, and it performs really well. I also overclocked my i5-6600K to 4.4GHz at 1.34 volts. After playing for 3 hours on Overwatch, my highest CPU temperature was just around 62-65. That is pretty impressive considering that my GPU tends to get really hot.
You also have to consider the size of your rig’s case. If you have a mid tower case, all of the coolers in this list will surely fit with minimal problems. If you have a mini-ITX case, however, you may want to look at single fan coolers instead.
Also, opt to have at least 2 extra case fans to further improve the cooling prowess of the coolers. Aim to have one exhaust fan at the back and an intake fan on the front. In my setup, I actually have 5 case fans: one at the back as an exhaust, two fans on the radiator in a push configuration, and two front fans as intake fans. Of course, rig builders will have different fan configurations so it is really up to you what you will do. I am just saying that having additional case fans can really help improve the cooling performance of your CPU cooler.
Whether you choose an air cooler or an AIO liquid cooler, all of the products in this list will surely be great choices for you. If you happen to have some recommendations on the best air and AIO liquid coolers for gaming PCs, please feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments section below.
Learn about Computer cooling on Wikipedia