Best CPU cooler in 2023 – air and AIO cooling tested

We've tested the best CPU coolers that'll keep your processor chilled to its metallic bone and your gaming PC running smoothly.

The best CPU cooler is the MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360, seen here shining purple.

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You’ll want the best CPU cooler by your side when the heart of your gaming PC starts heating up. Much like the human body, the more you push your processor, the more it works up a sweat. Let it get too toasty and you could see your PC shut down or you might shorten its lifespan. A good CPU cooler keeps those temperatures at bay and stops it from overheating. Not just any old blower will do the trick, though. To choose the right one for the job, you first need to know air cooling from your AIO liquid cooling.

Air coolers do what they say on the tin. They sap the warmth away from the best CPU using a metal heatsink, then cool it with air using connected fans. They’re the most common and affordable solution but struggle with the temperatures of an Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen Threadripper.

Liquid coolers use fluid to transfer the heat from your CPU. It travels from a water block through tubes to the connected radiator, where fans once again do the cooling. This method used to be reserved for DIY enthusiasts building fully-watercooled rigs, but the rise in AIO (all-in-one) solutions has made it far more accessible. It’s more ideal for overclocking and high-end CPUs but you’ll pay a little more for the pleasure.

Once you know which route you want to go, it’s all about space. Most air coolers are bulky, and you’ll need to be mindful of their height. AIO coolers are much slimmer, but the attached radiator needs to fit somewhere in your case – usually the front or top. Either way, you’ll need to note your PC case dimensions or whip out the tape measure to be sure. Don’t worry too much about whether you’re Intel or AMD. Our tried and tested CPU coolers have brackets for all kinds of sockets.

At a glance

  1. MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360 – best CPU cooler
  2. be quiet! Dark Rock Elite – best quiet air cooler
  3. Noctua NH-D12L – best space-saving air cooler
  4. DeepCool LT720 WH – best looking AIO cooler
  5. be quiet! Pure Loop 2 – best 280mm AIO cooler

Best coolers for CPUs

Our best CPU cooler, the MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360 AIO, sitting in a gaming PC, glowing purple.

1. MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360

The best CPU cooler.

FansUp to three 120mm
Fan speedUp to 1,800rpm
NoiseUp to 52.6dBA
Radiator size (L x W x H)394mm x 119mm x 27mm
Sockets supportedIntel: LGA 1150/1151/1155/1156/1200/1700
AMD: AM4/AM5/TR4/sTRx4
MSRPFrom £94.99

Our top cooler was always going to be an AIO, given liquid cooling offers unrivalled performance. If you’ve ever splashed your face with water to cool yourself down, you know how effective it can be. The MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360 stands out above the rest, with the best temperatures and performance in most of our tests, especially at a higher TDP.

Using the Intel Core i9-13900K at 153W, the MAG CoreLiquid E360 consistently managed to stay cooler with the fans spinning at a lower rpm. There are a few AIO CPU coolers out there with a higher max rpm that lop a degree or two off, but we prefer our gaming PC stealthy rather than sounding like a helicopter. It even managed to keep a cool enough head at 253W, below the 90°C mark.

It’s not all function, though, as it also looks the part. Coming in both black and white, it features a sleek RGB-driven faceplate. Take a peek at an angle, and it looks a little like a glowing crescent moon, and we’re big fans. Speaking of which, the blowers include white blades to better reflect the lighting, transforming the radiator from a slab of metal into something a bit more fetching.

Even the price point is pretty slim for a cooler of this capacity, sitting at £94.99 for the dual-fan E240 and £119.99 for the triple-fan E360. It’s a shame there’s no E280 so you can use 140mm fans, but it doesn’t get much better than this.

Read our full MSI MAG CoreLiquid E360 review here.


Enthusiast cooling
Black or white
Incl. spare parts
Quiet pump
RGB fans


No 280mm model
Fans noisy when fast

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Our best CPU cooler for air cooling, be quiet! Dark Rock Elite, glowing pink and orange in a gaming PC.

2. be quiet! Dark Rock Elite

The best quiet air cooler.

FansTwo 135mm
Fan speedUp to 2,000rpm
NoiseUp to 41.8dBA
Size (W x H)136mm x 168mm
Sockets supportedIntel: LGA 1700/1200/1150/1151/1155
AMD: AM4/AM5/TR4/sTRx4
MSRPFrom £109.99

be quiet! Dark Rock Elite lives by its name, keeping acoustics hush. Single-tower options are usually more muted, but two premium 135mm Silent Wings PWM fans are better than one. It’s the quietest dual-tower we’ve tested with a Core i9-13900K, which is no small feat. All the best air coolers struggle with Intel’s beast.

When the gaming gets tough, performance mode is on-hand to crank the fans up to their maximum 2,000rpm. Toggling quiet mode resets them back to 1,500rpm, all without having to head into BIOS. It’s a luxury-level of control that means you can scale depending on the balance you want. It’s a little shy of Noctua’s most performant CPU coolers, running 2.4% hotter, but it’s up to 14.9% quieter. That’s a trade-off we’re personally willing to make.

Dual-tower air coolers have a nasty habit of looking a bit unwieldy with their bulk. Dark Rock Elite sidesteps this with an attractive RGB-covered black mesh shroud. It still sits pretty close to the tempered glass panel on your PC case with a 168mm height, but it doesn’t dominate. It’s one you’ll be proud to showcase on your desk.

The high-end air cooler isn’t cheap, costing you triple figures. You get what you pay for, however, which is a hassle-free setup, sleek look, and whisper-quiet performance. It’s the ideal air cooler for anything other than the most demanding processors.

Read our full be quiet! Dark Rock Elite review.


Near silent
Elegant RGB lighting
Simple installation


Struggles with Core i9
Basic warranty

Club386 may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase products through links on our site. This helps keep our content free for all.
Rest assured, our buying advice will forever remain impartial and unbiased.

3. Noctua NH-D12L

The best space-saving air cooler.

FansUp to one 120mm
Fan speedUp to 2,000rpm
NoiseUp to 38.1dBA
Size (W x H)125mm x 145mm
Sockets supportedIntel: LGA 1851/1700/1200/1156/1155/1151/1150
MSRPFrom £80

Noctua NH-D12L is a short stack that offers the best of both worlds. It’s not as tall as an ordinary dual-tower at 145mm, but doesn’t come with low-profile performance sacrifices either. It’s the perfect companion for the growing number of Mini- and Micro-ATX PC cases out there, keeping HTPCs cool.

Equipped with a single NF-A12x25r fan, the Noctua NH-D12L is one of the quietest solutions we’ve tested. It manages to keep in the same ballpark as the Corsair iCUE H115i Elite Capellix when running an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X. Of course, it doesn’t quite hit the same temperatures as an AIO, but at 3.2% hotter at 600rpm and 13.7% at 2,000rpm is a pretty slim difference considering its form factor. You can add a second NF-A12x25r to drop temperatures a further 6°C, narrowing the gap, but this is sold separately and increases both height and noise.

We’ve been waiting over a year for a edition of the cooler. For better or worse, you’re stuck with the brown-and-beige paint job for the time being. At the very least, the signature colour scheme signifies quality, even if it doesn’t go with the RGB that’s likely in your rig. Give it some consideration, though. After all, the fan is on display at all times near the centre of your gaming PC.

While we initially wished for it to be a little cheaper, the fan alone is worth 31% of the entire package. With that in mind, it packs pretty good value. Just be careful of it hanging over your RAM slots on LGA 2066 motherboards, as it’s small… but not that small.

Read our full Noctua NH-D12L review.


145mm height
Excellent build quality
Decent performance
SecuFirm2 mounting
Six-year warranty


No black version
Second fan taller

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Rest assured, our buying advice will forever remain impartial and unbiased.

4. DeepCool LT720

The best looking CPU cooler.

FansUp to three 120mm
Fan speedUp to 2,250rpm
NoiseUp to 53.3dBA
Radiator size (radiator L x W x H)402mm x 120mm x 27mm
Sockets supportedIntel: LGA 1150/1151/1155/1156/1200/1700/2011/2011-v3/2066
AMD: AM4/AM5/sTR4/sTRx4
MSRPFrom £110

DeepCool LT720 is a prime example that it’s not always a choice between form or function. You can have both, and shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s also a testament that less is more in the ARGB department, sticking with block coloured fans and relegating any glowing bits to the CPU block.

You have a choice between black or white. We’re partial to the bleached model given its clean look and the contrast of black and white in the waterblock. The original model stands out itself, though, with a grey block instead. Ultimately, this will depend on your gaming PC setup, but it’s nice to have choice.

LT720 is the second-best CPU cooler we’ve tested in Cinebench using a Core i9-13900K at 253W. There’s a bit of a trade-off with noise when the fans are full pelt at 2,300rpm, but DeepCool’s blades also spin quicker than any others on this list. Clocking in at a more reasonable 1,200rpm, it’s around 4dB quieter than our MSI top pick.

Overall, it’s one of the most compatible CPU coolers we’ve tried. It features brackets for most Intel processors over the past 15 years. AMD support is a bit spottier, focusing on AM4 onwards, so your mileage may vary. Still, for the price you pay, it’s a jack-of-all-trades that looks the part in any system.

Read our full DeepCool LT720 WH AIO review here.


Enthusiast cooling
Black or white
Neo-retro design
Simple installation
Five-year warranty


No spare paste
No 280mm option

Club386 may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase products through links on our site. This helps keep our content free for all.
Rest assured, our buying advice will forever remain impartial and unbiased.

5. be quiet! Pure Loop 2

Best 280mm AIO cooler.

FansUp to three 120mm
Fan speedUp to 1,800rpm
NoiseUp to 46dBA
Size (radiator)277mm x 120mm x 27mm (52mm incl. fans)
Sockets supportedIntel: LGA 1150/1151/1155/1200/1700/2011-v3/2066
MSRPFrom £84.99

Credit where it’s due, be quiet! caters to a wide market. Not only does Pure Loop 2 start with a 120mm option despite dinky devices falling out of favour, but there’s also a fantastic 280mm model for larger fans. Sure, there are 240mm and 360mm choices too, but they’re a dime a dozen.

The biggest benefit of a 280mm model is that you can slip 140mm fans in. You don’t need as many of them to push the same amount of air, and they can spin slower. In our how to make a PC quieter guide, we describe them as essential if your goal is a silent system.

As its second generation of mid-range CPU coolers, Pure Loop 2 swaps white LEDs for ARGB, makes the pump PWM adjustable, and upgrades fans to the latest high-speed Pure Wings 3. There’s also a Pure Loop 2 FX model with Light Wings fans instead, if you want something a bit brighter.

You won’t notice much of a perceptible difference in performance between most AIO coolers on this list. You will hear a difference, however, which is where the Pure Loop 2 excels. Combine silence with a small starting price and be quiet! has gotten CPU coolers down to a fine art.

Read our full be quiet! Pure Loop 2 review.


Minimalist design
Tames an i9-13900K
Spare paste and coolant
Simple to install
Pure Wings 3 fans


No 420mm option

Club386 may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase products through links on our site. This helps keep our content free for all.
Rest assured, our buying advice will forever remain impartial and unbiased.

CPU cooler FAQ

Which CPU cooling is best?

Liquid coolers are the best devices to keep a CPU chilled. This can be open loop, like custom watercooled systems, or closed loop such as AIO coolers. Air coolers do a good job at moving the heat away from the processor, but liquid can simply move more quicker. Besides, air cooling comes with the risk of raising the ambient temperature of the PC, which isn’t too bad for general gaming but becomes problematic when cranking the settings up.

Is there a risk that an AIO cooler will leak?

No technology is perfect. There’s an inherent risk, albeit tiny, that closed-loop systems might spring a leak. Just as a car tyre might suffer a puncture, an AIO cooler’s risk stems from its very design – a symphony of pumps, tubes, and liquids working in harmony to siphon away the heat. This is why it’s important for you to buy from manufacturers that put their coolers through rigorous quality assurance testing. We’ll only recommend devices that are reliable and are bolstered with a warranty just in case.

If you do come across a leak, take swift action:

  1. Power down the system – pull the emergency brakes and shut your PC down fully without hesitation.
  2. Disconnect the power supply – remove the kettle lead from the back of the PC. This is crucial to avoid short circuiting.
  3. Find the leak – spot where the drip is so you can patch it. This stops you from further damaging the system when removing it.
  4. Carefully remove the AIO – ground yourself and pull the AIO from your PC.
  5. Inspect the damage – don your detective hat and investigate to see if any component is wet.
  6. Dry your system thoroughly – gently dry your components with a lint-free cloth and leave them a couple of days just in case.
  7. Test components individually – once dry, test each component separately where possible. Start with the motherboard, then try with the CPU, RAM, then graphics card.
  8. Contact the manufacturer – reach out to the brand’s support, present your claim, and use your device’s warranty.

Is an AIO quieter than air cooling?

AIO coolers are generally quieter than air coolers at idle speeds. Liquid stays cooler for longer, and the fans on the radiator shouldn’t start spinning until things start heating up. AIO coolers can be louder than air coolers when gaming, however, as the radiators often pack more fans and there’s the sound of the pump. Ultimately, it depends on the rpm of the fan and how far you crank those fan curves.