Where there is planning, there are shavings: our grandparents knew that too. It is no different with processors. These work at peak performance and are supposed to get faster and faster.
Although the efficiency of current processors is constantly improving, it will never be possible to avoid converting the energy supplied by electricity into thermal energy.
Especially in summer, you should pay attention to good cooling of the CPU so that working on the PC is clouded without heat problems and resulting crashes.
Before you buy
You should know two things as a basic requirement in order to find the right CPU cooler: First of all, the socket of the CPU or the mainboard must be determined. Many manufacturers only offer CPU coolers for certain sockets, since the installation can be completely different for the different sockets.
As a result, manufacturers who want to offer coolers for different sockets must pay attention to the respective socket assembly standards.
There are basically two major manufacturers of processors: AMD builds its CPUs for sockets AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, and FM2 – Intel for sockets 775, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 1366, 1700, 2011 and 2066, although bases that are too old have not been named.
The advantage of AMD is that the designations of the sockets have changed since socket AM2, but not the mounting properties and dimensions. An AM2 cooler also fits on the AM3+ socket.
With the current AM5 socket, however, things are a little different. Only the CPU coolers are directly compatible here, which have already been installed on the AMD backplate ex-work with AM4. Alternatively, some cooler manufacturers offer corresponding AM5 conversion kits on their websites.
In addition, when choosing the right cooler, you also have to consider that it can cool the new CPU sufficiently. At Intel, only sockets 115x and 1200 are compatible with each other when it comes to mounting the CPU cooler.
The same applies to the base 2011 and 2066, where the hole spacing is also identical. The CPU cooler manufacturers usually supply many different mounting kits that match the respective sockets.
Many manufacturers have conversion kits for the new Socket 1700 and AM5: Here is a small selection: Enermax, be quiet, Arctic, Noctua, Scythe, Alpenföhn, and SilentiumPC Meanwhile, new CPU cooler models as well as new revisions usually have a mounting kit for socket 1700 or socket AM5 directly from the factory.
Once you have found out which socket you have, the next step is to look at which case you have and how much space is available for the cooler in the case.
Because depending on the cooling performance, a current CPU cooler can weigh more than a kilogram and reach dimensions where you get space problems with most PC cases.
Once the two most important facts have been clarified, you can approach a first selection of CPU coolers. Another important point is the type of assembly:
While smaller, lighter coolers can be assembled using a clamping mechanism (AMD) or push-pin technology (Intel), larger, heavier coolers have to be screwed to the mainboard using a backplate with the necessary contact pressure and stability can be guaranteed.
Depending on the case, this can mean that the entire mainboard has to be removed if the case does not have a corresponding recess on the mainboard tray.
Installation using the push-pin methodSource: coolermaster.de Mounting via screwable backplateSource: alpenfoehn.de In addition, you should pay attention to the maximum TDP (thermal design power -> power loss) noted by the cooler manufacturer, if specified.
This can range from 13 watts with extremely energy-saving processors to 250+ watts with the Intel Core i9-12900K. Effective cooling is hardly possible with normal air cooling.
However, since many cooler manufacturers do not specify the maximum cooling capacity, you can often only rely on tests or field reports. A note on the manufacturer’s website, which CPU is supported at most, can also be helpful.
Once these things have been clarified, we now turn to our recommendations. In order to make the advice as clear as possible, we list three CPU coolers for the maximum possible CPU cooler height. We distinguish between “entry-level”, “value for money” and “high-end”. We also link corresponding test reports to the CPU coolers.
Basically, before buying a CPU cooler, to be on the safe side, you should check on the respective CPU cooler and/or mainboard manufacturer’s website directly on the product page whether there are any incompatibilities with the mainboard you have.
All CPU coolers for the Intel socket 115x & 1200 All CPU coolers for the Intel Socket 1700 All CPU coolers for d en Intel socket 2011 or 2066 All CPU coolers for the AMD socket AM3+ All CPU coolers for the AMD socket AM4 All CPU coolers for the AMD Socket AM5 All CPU coolers for the AMD socket TR4
CPU cooler up to 5 cm high
Many PC cases in Mini-ITX or micro-ATX format hardly have more than 5 cm of space for the CPU cooler. We particularly recommend the Noctua NH-L9a for AMD or NH-L9i for Intel CPUs with very flat housings.
The 3.7 cm flat top-flow cooler, which is not exactly cheap at just under €39, can also be adjusted to the desired volume thanks to the PWM fan and low-noise adapter. Furthermore, the Alpenföhn Silvretta should be mentioned.
The 4.5 cm high and 250-gram light CPU cooler is very cheap at 19 euros. Last but not least, the new Black Ridge from the same company is another recommendation.
With a height of only 4.7 cm, it can cool up to 95 watts, making it the most powerful cooler with a height of up to 5 cm. NOCTUA NH-L9i Best offer from: €49.79 incl. Shipping 24 other prices and providers EKL Alpenföhn Silvretta Best offer from: €26.84 incl.
Shipping 17 other prices and providers EKL Alpenföhn Black Ridge (84000000156) Best offer from: €49.98 incl. Shipping 13 more prices and providers All CPU coolers up to 5 cm high in price comparison
CPU cooler with a height of 5 – 10 cm
This height is also mostly used in desktop and HTPC cases. With a height of 5.7 cm, the Samuel17 from Prolimatech is certainly a space-saving, but with a purchase price of around 40 euros, it is not a cheap entry.
With a weight of approx. 400 grams, it is one of the heaviest coolers of its size. It is suitable for 120mm fans, but comes without a fan! One of the most popular CPU coolers up to 10 cm high is the Shadow Rock LP from BeQuiet, which is 7.6 cm high and has a 120 mm fan. But then you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for 35 euros.
The Noctua NH-L12S is a bit heavier, but flatter, and weighs an impressive 520 grams. In terms of price, the Leisetreter starts at €70. PROLIMATECH Samuel17 Best offer from:33.89€incl.
Shipping 12 other prices and providers Be-Quiet! Shadow Rock LP TopFlow (BK002) Best offer from:47.44€incl. shipping 31 other prices and providers Noctua NH-L12S (NH-L12S) Best offer from: 69.90 € incl. Shipping 19 more prices and providers All CPU coolers with a height of 5 – 10 cm in price comparison
CPU cooler from 10 – 16 cm high
This class is the most common and most confusing class of CPU coolers. Our first recommendation here is the Endorgy SilentiumPC Fera 5, which shines above all with its very good socket compatibility. In addition, the height is only 15.5 cm.
For around 30 euros you get a CPU cooler that is both quiet, cools well, and is also inexpensive. If you like it a little smaller, you can also use the Ben Nevis Alpine föhn.
The Enermax ETS F40 Silent, which is only 15.6 cm high and is available for 30 euros over the virtual counter, is at the same price level. The Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 is a 15.5 cm high high-end CPU cooler in a double tower design, which is one of the best you can buy up to a height of 16 cm.
In addition to the standard design, there are two ARGB models to choose from. ENDORFY SilentiumPC Fera 5 CPU fan (SPC303) Best offer from:36.98€incl.
Shipping 13 other prices and providers Enermax ETS-F40 Silent Edition (ETS-F40-FS) Best offer from: 33.99 € incl. Shipping 19 other prices and providers Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE All CPU coolers with a height of 10 – 16 cm in price comparison
CPU cooler from 16 cm height
Now we come to the absolute premier class of CPU coolers. Our first recommendation here is the Enermax ETS-T50 Axe, which cuts a good figure in tests and is not really expensive at just ~40 €. This is also available as an RGB edition in white or black.
The 16.3 cm high Bequiet Dark Rock Pro 4, which currently costs at least 70 euros, is even better in terms of cooling performance. The Noctua NH-D15 is a bit more expensive, and slightly cooler, in the usual shades of brown or completely in black.
The huge double tower with two quiet and powerful 140 mm fans is available for around 85 euros. With a height of 16.5 cm, it also needs a lot of headroom. Enermax ETS-T50 AX Silent Edition (ETS-T50A-FSS) Best offer from:44.02€incl.
Shipping 18 other prices and providers Be-Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 (BK022) Best offer from:86.45€incl. Shipping 39 other prices and providers Noctua NH-D15 chroma.Black Best offer from: 117.90 € incl. Shipping 25 more prices and providers All CPU coolers from 16 heights in price comparison
CPU cooler with RGB lighting
CPU coolers with freely adjustable LED lighting are very trendy. In terms of price, these colorful cooling machines are relatively high – according to the motto: If you want to be beautiful, you have to suffer. Nevertheless, Arctic offers a relatively cheap entry into the world of colorful LEDs, cools well, and even supports socket 1700 ex-works.
For AMD there is the Arctic A35 ARGB. The Enermax ETS-T50 AX, which promises a lot of power with quiet operation, is a little more expensive, larger, and has better cooling. If you are willing to invest more, you will get a very strikingly designed and powerful CPU cooler for gaming with the Scythe Mugen 5 ARGB Plus -Look, but has to put a lot more on the virtual counter.
ARCTIC Freezer i35 A-RGB (ACFRE00104A) Best offer of:40.45€incl. Shipping 15 other prices and providers Enermax ETS-T50 AX ARGB CPU cooler Best offer from:51.02€incl. Shipping 36 other prices and providers Scythe Mugen 5 ARGB Plus (SCMG-5102AR) 4 other prices and providers All CPU coolers with RGB lighting in a price comparison
The hardware Scot says:
The scope of delivery always includes instructions, mounting material, and thermal paste. And don’t worry: installation is usually easier than you think.
Only if the mainboard has to be removed, the installation can be very tedious depending on the case. But at the end of the day, you should give your CPU the cooling it needs to have a long and productive life ahead of it.