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Best CPU Coolers 2021: AIO and Air Coolers

Best Closed-Loop Liquid CPU Coolers You Can Buy Today

Best 360mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler: CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB

1. CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB

Best 360mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

Specifications
Thickness: 1.1” (2.3" w/fans)
Width: 4.8" (120.7mm)
Depth: 15.5" (393.7mm)
Fans: (3) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1366, 115x, 775, AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+)
Warranty: 2 years
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cooling ability+Sleek design and aesthetics+Lower price than other 360 AIOs
Reasons to avoid
-Cable / controller management could be better

When it comes to keeping overclocked CPU load temperatures in check, Cooler Master’s MasterLiquid ML360R RGB is the new chilling champ. As the 360 variant of our previously reviewed MasterLiquid ML240R RGB, the newly available MasterLiquid ML360R adds 33 percent more radiator surface area for even more cooling prowess. The result? It cools even better than the mighty NZXT Kraken X72.

Power users, gamers, system builders and overclockers in the market for a new large CPU cooler should take note. The Cooler Master ML360R RGB is our current 360 AIO thermal performance leader. And while $160 isn’t exactly cheap, there are plenty of competing products that cost more while delivering less-impressive performance.

Read: CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB review

Best 360mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler Alternative: Corsair H150i Elite Capellix (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. Corsair H150i Elite Capellix

Best 360mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler Alternative

Specifications
Dimensions: 400.1 x 120 x 28.6mm
Pump Height: 2.125 inch / 54.0mm
Weight: 56.4 oz / 1598g
Fans: (3) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1200, 115x, AMD AM4, sTR4, sTRX4
Warranty: 5 years
Reasons to buy
+Great cooling performance+Includes Commander CORE module
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy at 100% fan speed-Corsair 4-pin RGB compatibility required

The Corsair H150i Elite Capellix is no cooling slouch, easily keeping pace with some of our best-rated 360mm coolers. Toss in the included Commander CORE unit to manage pump speed, PWM fan curves, logging, alerting and monitoring as well as RGB lighting and you have an excellent liquid cooler setup in the H150i Elite Capellix, plus the ability to manage a few extra Corsair case fans.

While this does nudge users to expand their PC horizons by utilizing the Corsair iCUE and RGB ecosystem, it still makes a compelling argument by providing centralized management of the H150i Elite Capellix cooler as well as additional components. Power users want full control of their systems, and the ability to have a simplified, centralized setup with granular administrative control is always an appealing option.

Read: Corsair H150i Elite Capellix review

Best 280mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler: Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 (Image credit: Arctic)

3. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280

Best 280mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

Specifications
Thickness: 1.5" (2.75" w/fans)
Width: 5.5" (139.7mm)
Depth: 12.5" (317.5mm)
Fans: (2) 140 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 115x; AMD AM4
Warranty: 2 years
Reasons to buy
+Great cooling performance+Unique pump and auxiliary fan design+Low operational noise levels+Attractive price
Reasons to avoid
-Boxed unit ships with pump and fans managed by single PWM splitter-Lack of RGB lighting (for those looking for the option)

While our thermal measurements indicate that it's integrated voltage regulator fan is little more than a gimmick, great CPU temperatures at ultra-low noise levels prove the Liquid Freezer II 280 far-more-valuable than its far-costlier rivals.

Read: Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 AIO review

Best 240mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler: Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT

Best 240mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

Specifications
Thickness: 1.0" (2.13" w/fans)
Width: 4.75" (120.7mm)
Depth: 10.9" (277mm)
Fans: (2) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1366, 115x, AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+), TR(X)4
Warranty: 5 years
Reasons to buy
+High-performing 240mm AIO cooling+iCUE software suite allows for customized cooler and lighting control+Priced well for premium performance
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy fans at 100% speed-Awkward, small screws used to secure fans to radiator-RGB lighting is pump-only

The Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT takes over where the H100i Pro left off by providing enthusiast levels of thermal load management from a 240mm AIO and making use of Corsair’s iCUE software suite for RGB lighting control, fan curve configuration and pump performance settings.  Paring the capability of the cooler with a set of user-friendly software tools provides a great deal of value for system builders of any technical proficiency, in real time. 

Read: Corsair H100i RGB Pro XT review

Best 240mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler Alternate: Deepcool Gamer Storm Captain 240 Pro

The Gamer Storm Captain 240 Pro makes up for in low noise what it lacks in cooling power compared to Corsair's H100i Pro, to the point that the Captain 240 Pro has a significantly better cooling-to-noise ratio.  We favor it for anyone who needs virtual silence at 50% fan speed, where most users in most environments won't hear it. Even those able to push a CPU hard enough to require 100% fan speed will find its hushed murmur less than half as noisy as the H100i Pro.

Best 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler: NZXT Kraken M22

5. NZXT Kraken M22

Best 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

Specifications
Thickness: 1.1" (2.25" w/fans)
Width: 4.75" (120.7mm)
Depth: 6.15" (156.1mm)
Fans: (1) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1366, 115x, AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+)
Warranty: 6 years
Reasons to buy
+Great cooling for a compact AIO+Handsome, sleek design+CAM software is attractive &+intuitive
Reasons to avoid
-$99.99 price is higher than other 120mm AIO solutions-RGB controls only apply to CPU block face-CAM software sends data to NZXT cloud services

The NZXT Kraken M22 is an incredibly compact, high-performance liquid cooler that delivers sleek styling and vibrant RGB lighting options, while offering support for current AMD and Intel processor sockets. Specifically, if you're building a small home-theater PC or a compact gaming build, the Kraken M22 offers surprising cooling potential in a condensed cooling package.

Just don't try to strap one to your Threadripper system. The demanding thermals and massive surface of those high-end CPUs aren't supported by this cooler.

Read: NZXT Kraken M22 review

Best AMD Threadripper: Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4

6. Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4

Best AMD Threadripper

Specifications
Thickness: 1.125" (2.25" w/fans)
Width: 4.75" (120.65mm)
Depth: 15.50" (393.7mm)
Fans: (3) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: AMD TR4, SP3
Warranty: 2 years
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cooling performance+Aggressive pricing+Easy installation+Full coverage of Threadripper CPUs
Reasons to avoid
-No software UI for real-time management-No RGB or LED lighting on fans (might be a plus, for some)

In the Liqtech 360 TR4 OC, Enermax has graced the Threadripper world with a cooler that covers these large enthusiast processors in full, providing performance similar to custom liquid cooling with the easy installation and moderate cost of an AIO cooler. Enermax also keeps costs down by avoiding RGB lighting and the relevant software integrations. The lack of lighting might turn away some buyers who prefer millions of colors and a software UI. However, Threadripper fans seeking excellent cooling performance, and who wish to set up some simple fan-cooling curves, will find just that in the Liqtech 360 TR4 OC.

Read: Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4 review

Best Reconfigurable Closed-Loop Cooler: Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB

Best Reconfigurable Closed-Loop Cooler

Specifications
Thickness: 2.25” (57.2mm)
Width: 4.88” (124mm)
Depth: 10.75” (273mm)
Fans: (2) 120 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1366, 115x, AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+), TR4, C32, G34
Warranty: 2 years
Reasons to buy
+Quick disconnects for no-spill expansion+Solid thermal performance+Built with DC-LT pump and copper radiator water cooling components
Reasons to avoid
-Tubing length could be longer to allow for more diverse installations-Pump has coolant top-up port, but coolant must be purchased separately

Alphacool's Eisbaer is a factory-filled hybrid design, featuring a closed-loop-style pump and CPU cold plate with open-loop style fittings that including an anti-leak, in-line quick connector. Alphacool offers wide range of factory-filled companion parts, from additional radiators to GPU blocks, to suite nearly any expansion need. It's perfect for buyers who lack the time to assemble, purge, and leak test their own scratch-built component systems, as well as those who have more cash than self-confidence.

Read: Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB review

Best Custom Cooling Kit: Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

8. Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

Best Custom Cooling Kit

Specifications
Thickness: 1.8” (45mm)
Width: 5.75” (146mm)
Depth: 18.5” (470mm)
Fans: (3) 140 x 25mm
Socket Support: Intel 2066, 2011x, 1366, 115x, 775, AMD AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+), TR4
Warranty: 2 years
Reasons to buy
+Great cooling performance+Professional-grade components+Very good value for a full watercooling kit
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey compared to AIO alternatives

With an enormous 3x 140mm radiator, this kit allows for enough thermal expansion of the loop to include a graphics card waterblock (or even two), if desired. By using industry standard G1/4 threaded fittings for all components, the cooling loop almost begs you to add more components to the party. A radiator of this size and potential allows for this kind of load because of the quality design and engineering that went into building it. A pump of this pedigree pushes coolant like few others are capable. Quality-milled components and attention to detail are seen on each and every piece within the kit.

For anyone looking for a complete, high-quality watercooling kit in a single box, this Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45 kit is an excellent choice for those with room in their chassis for the monstrous 3x 140mm radiator and large pump/reservoir combo.

Read: Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45 Review

MORE: Best Air CPU Cooling

MORE: How To Choose A CPU Cooler

Matt Safford
Matt began piling up computer experience as a child with his Mattel Aquarius. He built his first PC in the late 1990s and ventured into mild PC modding in the early 2000s. He’s spent the last decade covering emerging technology for Smithsonian, Popular Science, and Consumer Reports, while testing components and PCs for Computer Shopper and Digital Trends. When not writing about tech, he’s often walking—through the streets of New York, over the sheep-dotted hills of Scotland, or just at his treadmill desk at home in front of the 50-inch 4K HDR TV that serves as his PC monitor.
  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3707693/cooling.html
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Thanks for including a down-draft cooler. I feel better having direct airflow on the VRM, which tower-style coolers don't provide. RAM temps also typically benefit.

    An interesting test would be to measure the difference that occurs when you reverse the fan direction of such a cooler. So, flip the fan and run it as an updraft cooler. The rationale is that case exhaust fans are often right next to the CPU, in which case they'd be fighting the airflow of a downdraft cooler. However, if you instead run it in the updraft direction, the airflow rate should benefit and more of the hot air should get exhausted.
    Reply
  • Carsten_3
    I wonder why you link a 5 month old review, instead of reviewing the latest ENERMAX LIQTECH TR4 II serie?
    As the old Enermax LIQTECH TR4 360mm AIO Liquid CPU Cooler got 35% 1 star customer reviews on Amazon.
    Reply
  • madymadme
    why is swiftech water cooler included here ?
    Reply
  • fredfinks
    Should be stated that gunk builds up on the insides of liquid coolers. Also theres chance of pump failure & leaks.

    A big dumb block of metal, combined with a top notch fan (i.e. the noctua - guaranteed for 7 years) will function for a LONG time.
    The only thing stopping it being mounting kit obsolescence. (low & behold noctua will send out a mounting kit in future if you ever need it, for free anywhere in world)
    Indefinite lifespan. Eff liquid AIOs. (custom loops go ahead)
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21349247 said:
    A big dumb block of metal, combined with a top notch fan (i.e. the noctua - guaranteed for 7 years) will function for a LONG time.
    The enemy of air is dust. Of course, this also applies (somewhat) to liquid cooling radiators.

    Bigger, slower fan = less dust buildup.

    I also run a positive-pressure case setup, with removable dust filters behind the intake fans. This has worked remarkably well at keeping the case clean.

    Of course, it also helps not to have pets.
    Reply
  • medicjambi
    It would be nice to see stats on how much cooling each one provides. As in how many watts of energy it can dissipate or cool, etc. I've not been able to find the cooling capacity on these coolers. I understand the larger the radiator and more fans equal more cooling capacity, but it would be nice to see how much each is able to cool.
    Reply
  • medicjambi
    I have the Liquid Freezer 240 and I was able to find the stats that it is able to dissipate 300 Watts TDP. Information like that should be listed in a review like this. That's quite the oversite there Tom's Hardware. You guys are slipping.
    Reply
  • jill.and.molly.bff
    The most important aspect of a cooling system is its heat dissipation capacity, which CPU makers express as Watts TDP. If the cooler's TDP capacity does not at least equal the CPU's, the CPU will overheat under heavy load. Can't even imagine why this important fact is entirely omitted from the article...
    Reply
  • Chupacabra69
    Err where are the cooling performance comparisons.. is this an opinion or marketing piece?
    Reply