Best CPU liquid cooler

Computer Accessories & Peripherals

The liquid inside the tubing and radiator of a CPU liquid cooler is distilled water. A certain dye is also available to change the water’s color if you use transparent tubing.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which CPU liquid cooler is best?

Electronics tend to run a bit hot when used for a long time. However, when it comes to computers, you can’t simply switch them off when the internal temperature starts to climb. To keep everything cool and regulated, a CPU liquid cooler will do the trick.

One of several fans in a computer case, this particular cooler is attached to the CPU and dedicated to the prevention of its overheating. CPU liquid coolers come in different sizes and configurations, but check out the EVGA CLC 240mm, as it is compatible with a host of chips.

What to know before you buy a CPU liquid cooler

Compatibility

Computer components are, for the most part, universally interchangeable. This means you don’t have to buy specific parts if you have a particular RAM or storage device, but where it does matter is in graphics cards and CPU coolers. Make sure that you get a CPU liquid cooler that is compatible with the Intel or AMD chip socket on your motherboard.

Case clearance

Free space is a limited commodity inside computer cases, and there usually isn’t a lot of wiggle room. The last thing you want to find out is that you don’t have enough open space in your case for the CPU liquid cooler. The radiator sizes can be rather deceptive, so make sure that you know how much clearance you have. 

Maintenance

Every computer needs to be cleaned out every so often. Dust and dirt particles can contribute to the internal heat of the case, which will result in the CPU cooler having to work harder. In the long run, this can shorten the lifespan of the fans and the efficacy of the liquid. Consider how often and easy it would be to clean the fans and the radiator.

What to look for in a quality CPU liquid cooler

Temperature regulation

As its primary function, the ability to keep the CPU cool is vitally important. CPU liquid coolers with double or triple fans tend to be more efficient than those with a single fan. However, the correct setup for your computer will depend on the number of internal components and usage. A good CPU liquid cooler will be able to successfully regulate the temperature, even when it hits 185 degrees. 

Variable fan speed

The great thing about CPU liquid coolers is that the speed of the fans can be regulated. Not only does this prevent the cooler from working unnecessarily hard, but it can also be switched off when not needed. Through the manufacturer’s software, the CPU liquid cooler can be programmed to engage the fans at different temperature levels and speeds.

Adjustable RGB lighting

To give your case a bit of personality, many CPU liquid coolers have built-in RGB lighting. Whether it is a static color or a rainbow selection of psychedelic pulsing, it can be changed through the software to fit your preferences. Of course, you don’t need to use it, and some models allow you to switch off the lighting effect completely.

How much you can expect to spend on CPU liquid cooler

The average cost of a CPU liquid cooler will depend on several factors. The number of fans, the additional features and the manufacturer will all play a role. Entry-level CPU liquid coolers retail for around $80, while serious, triple-fan coolers are closer to $300.

CPU liquid cooler FAQ

Does a CPU liquid cooler require maintenance?

A. That will depend on the type of CPU liquid cooler you get. By far the most common liquid cooler is an all-in-one (or closed-loop) system. This will require no maintenance once it is installed. Open-loop coolers, on the other hand, will need to have the liquid topped up occassionally.

Are liquid coolers better than air coolers for a CPU?

A. Yes, because liquid is far more efficient at dispersing heat than air. Air coolers can also struggle to operate if the ambient temperature is too high. An additional benefit of a liquid CPU cooler is that it can be combined with a graphics card cooler to create a giant regulating system. 

What’s the best CPU liquid cooler to buy?

Top CPU liquid cooler

EVGA CLC 240mm All-In-One

EVGA CLC 240mm All-In-One

What you need to know: This cooler is sleek and powerful, so you won’t need anything more.

What you’ll love: Compatible with a wide range of Intel and AMD chip sockets, the 240-millimeter, double-fan radiator features adjustable RGB lighting. Through the included software, the lights can be synced to other EVGA components. The fans have been designed to reduce noise, but the speed can also be adjusted.

What you should consider: Some users have mentioned that the fans appear to be of cheaper quality, and the software can bug out at times.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top CPU liquid cooler for your money

NZXT Kraken X63

NZXT Kraken X63

What you need to know: An affordable, midtier cooler that looks and works great. 

What you’ll love: The all-black radiator and fans will fit in perfectly with any computer case color scheme. The pump head features a 10% larger infinity mirror compared to the previous model, and the color of the NZXT logo can also be changed. The liquid tubing is made from rubber and enclosed in thin nylon mesh.

What you should consider: The tubing is only 15.7 inches in length, which might be a bit short for some setups. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix

Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix

What you need to know: Perfect for heavy gamers, this model gets the job done with little effort.

What you’ll love: With a triple fan configuration and adjustable RGB lighting, the H150i is perfect for gamers as well as power users. The powerful pump head is low in noise and features 33 LED lights around the edge. Through the included software, the RGB lighting can be changed to any combination you like, and the fan speed can be adjusted. The fans measure 120mm each and feature eight LED lights. The radiator is a rather lengthy 15.6 inches wide. 

What you should consider: The pump head is only compatible with selected Intel and AMD chip sockets.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Charlie Fripp  writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.