If you’re going to be pushing your CPU a little (or a lot) beyond its base speed, cooling is something you need to take seriously. Even if you’re not, a good cooler will extend the lifespan of your CPU and reduce the likelihood of crashes. Even the humblest aftermarket cooler can knock 20 degrees or more off your processors’s temperature under load, and ultimately mitigate the expansion and contraction of the underlying metal.
All-in-one water-cooling systems have made liquid cooling just as accessible as air. Systems like this work in a closed loop, much like the
radiator on your car. The big block with the fans attached contains a radiator, which disperses heat away from your PC as air is blown through
it. It’s connected to the heatsink via a long tube. Simply attach the radiator block to your case and the heatsink to your CPU.
There are plenty of high-quality coolers to choose from. Let’s assess a few of them.
Corsair Hydro Series H100x
+ Simple, robust design
+ RGB pumphead
– Lacks sophisticated controls of ‘smart’ coolers
This cooler comes with a 240mm high-density radiator, on to which a pair of Corsair’s SP-series PWM fans are mounted. Each runs between 600 and 1,700 RPM, making it easy to strike a winning balance between noise and airflow.
As you might expect, Corsair also provide a gorgeous LED-illuminated pump head, complete with the famous pirate-ship logo. Installation is simple, and a range of mounting options are included to cater to AM4, LGA 1151 and 2066 sockets. What you won’t get is some of the advanced controls found on some of the more expensive coolers. Since most of us won’t ever explore the depths of such controls, a simple, effective design like this one is usually preferable.
Be Quiet! Silent Loop
+ Excellent performance
+ Tubes can be detached
– A little pricey
This cooler features a copper radiator for maximum heat-transference, and it’s fantastic for demanding applications and overclocked systems. The base plate is nickel-plated and thick enough to soak up the heat from the top of your CPU, and both of the tubes running from the radiator to the CPU can be easily removed for maintenance if you’re so inclined. Ideally, you don’t want to have to carry out cooler maintenance, but the option to do so is great.
This device performs excellently, with precision engineering and high-quality materials really making a difference in the case. If you’re
planning on overclocking, it’s a fantastic choice.
EVGA CLC 120
+ Customisable LEDs
+ 120mm radiator makes a great match for smaller cases
-The features might take a while to learn
This cooler incorporates a few aesthetic lighting options that’ll brighten up the interior of your case. Colour profiles even save to firmware, so
once you’ve got things configured to your liking, you’ll be able to leave them as they are.
Fan speed is controllable via EVGA’s Flow Control GUI, through which you’ll be able to monitor temperatures and create custom profiles (as well as control the onboard LEDs). If you need maximum cooling at any given time, whether it’s for overclocking or for intensive gaming, you’ll be able to crank the fan speed up using K-boost .
These features offer considerable depth for advanced users to explore, but learning how to get the best from all of them might take some time. If you’re looking for something to get your hands dirty in order to fine-tune your set-up, this is a cooler that’ll allow you to do it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a quick start, you might want to look elsewhere.
Antec H1200 Pro Kühler
+ Fantastic value
+ Winning performance
Antec are a big name when it comes to cases and power supplies – but they’ve made welcome forays into the cooling market that you should be aware of. A brief inspection reveals the use of quality materials. For example, the hoses offer a fair amount of flexibility while being
reassuringly solid and the fans come with graphite bearings, ensuring that they’ll remain whisper-quiet for years to come.
The design is otherwise simple and unfussy; you’ll get pretty blue LEDs, but you won’t get the full RGB treatment offered by more prestigious
coolers. With that said, this cooler does offer a substantial upgrade from your stock cooler – and if you’re unconcerned with how the interior of your case looks, it has plenty to offer.
+ Excellent performance
+ RGB lighting
-Your wallet will take a hit
This cooler from Coolermaster is compatible with the usual array of CPU sockets, and comes with a selection of mounting hardware. You’ll have a choice of plugging the cooler directly into your motherboard’s 4-pin headers or into the Coolermaster RGB controller. For maximum control over the colours displayed, you’ll need a compatible motherboard, but the included controller is still sufficient if you’d just like pre-set lighting patterns.
Masterliquid is the brand under which Coolermaster’s premium offerings are released, and this pedigree shows in this design. This cooler manages to leverage performance on a par with larger 360mm devices, and it comes with fluoroplastic sleeving that’ll keep the liquid contained for the lifespan of the product. The addition of RGB lighting is just a bonus – and a welcome one.
An all-in-one water cooler provides superior performance, generally speaking, to an air-based one. The radiator can be made much larger, and
therefore it’ll soak up heat more effectively. This means lower temperatures during demanding games and benchmarks – but it also means
you’ll be able to get the same performance while keeping fan speeds lower.
Your choice of cooler will depend on your budget and your personal needs. Each of the devices we’ve listed will make a substantial upgrade on the stock cooler that came with your CPU, and many come with additional flourishes that’ll make the interior of your case look fantastic, too.