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Best CPU Coolers 2020: Air and Liquid

Best closed-loop liquid CPU coolers at a glance:

1. CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB
2. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280
3. Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT
4. NZXT Kraken M22
5. Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4
6. Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB
7. Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

Best Closed-Loop Liquid CPU Coolers

CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB

1. CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB

Best 360mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

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

Excellent cooling ability
Sleek design and aesthetics
Lower price than other 360 AIOs
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

Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 (Image credit: Arctic)

2. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280

Best 280mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

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

Great cooling performance
Unique pump and auxiliary fan design
Low operational noise levels
Attractive price
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

Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Corsair H100i RGB PRO XT

Best 240mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

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

High-performing 240mm AIO cooling
iCUE software suite allows for customized cooler and lighting control
Priced well for premium performance
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

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

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.

NZXT Kraken M22

4. NZXT Kraken M22

Best 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

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

Great cooling for a compact AIO
Handsome, sleek design
CAM software is attractive &
intuitive
$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

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4

5. Enermax Liqtech 360 OC TR4

Best AMD Threadripper

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

Excellent cooling performance
Aggressive pricing
Easy installation
Full coverage of Threadripper CPUs
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

Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB

Best Reconfigurable Closed-Loop Cooler

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

Quick disconnects for no-spill expansion
Solid thermal performance
Built with DC-LT pump and copper radiator water cooling components
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

Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

7. Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45

Best Custom Cooling Kit

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

Great cooling performance
Professional-grade components
Very good value for a full watercooling kit
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

  • 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