If you want your CPU to perform to its full capacity, you’ll need to keep it cool. Modern CPUs create lots of heat when working. Unfortunately, excessive heat is bad for electronics and can cause your CPU to slow down, crash, or even burn out in the long run. This is why when building a new computer or upgrading an existing PC, it is important to use a CPU cooler in order to ensure your processor is protected.
Thankfully, CPU coolers do not have to be expensive, and there are several models that do a great job keeping your CPU frosty cool while running for under $100. To help you find a great deal on your next CPU cooler, we compiled a list of our favorite CPU coolers available for 2020.
- Choosing Your CPU Cooler
- Best Cheap CPU Coolers Under $50
- Best Cheap CPU Coolers Under $100
- Guide to Buying the Best Cheap CPU Cooler
- Final Considerations
Choosing Your CPU Cooler
If you are building a PC on a budget, your object should be to buy a CPU cooler that is powerful enough to keep your processor safe and running quickly without spending money that could go towards upgrading a different component. Here are some things you should consider before you begin shopping.
- Size of PC Case: Especially if space is limited in your build, you will want to pay careful attention to the size of your cooling system. You may discover that you can automatically eliminate some CPU coolers you are considering simply because they will not fit in your computer.
- Type of Processor Socket: The CPU cooler mounts directly to the bracket that holds your computer’s processor in place and should be attached with thermal paste. Many of the coolers on our list are universal and fit Intel and AMD CPUs of all types. However, some only fit correctly on specific brands or models.
- Type of CPU Cooler: There are two ways that the CPU coolers listed below get the job done, sing liquid or air. Traditional CPU coolers use a fan to circulate air onto a CPU. A liquid cooling system uses water or another liquid to cool the CPU. Because the liquid creates a much more efficient heat transfer, liquid cooling systems tend to be more effective and quieter. Liquid cooling is more expensive than air cooling, but recent advances have led to liquid CPU coolers becoming much more affordable. You can even pick up an all-in-one liquid cooling system for under $50.
Picking the Best CPU Coolers
With so many similar options to choose from, picking the top cheap CPU coolers for 2020 was not a simple task. Here is what we considered while reviewing each option.
- Design: A well-designed CPU cooler is easy to install, provides enough power to get the job done, and takes up a minimal amount of space in your PC case. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have lighting or other design features that make your PC look really cool.
- Performance: The most important part of reviewing a CPU cooler is figuring out how well it gets the job done. The cooler your processor runs, the smoother your PC will run as well.
- Noise Level: A noisy computer can ruin the vibe in a room. We give the edge to CPU coolers that do their job as quietly as possible.
- Control: Especially for power users looking to overclock their processor, having total control over the speed of the CPU fan is a big help.
Now that you have an idea what to look for, here are the best cheap CPU coolers to buy for your PC in 2020
Best Cheap CPU Coolers Under $50
When you are on a limited budget, you can still benefit from a great cooler made for lower running CPU temperatures.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA 2011, 1366, 1151, 1150, 1155, 1156
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: FM2+, FM2, FM1, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, AM1, AM4
Fan Speed: 600 – 2,000 RPM (PWM) ± 10%
Noise Level: 9 – 36 dBA
The dimensions of the Cooler Master Hyper LED is 4.7 x 4.7 inches, which accommodates most PCs. It is designed to optimize for performance. The system alternates active cooling power with passive cooling. There are four pipes built with direct contact, which are designed to accelerate surface-to-surface thermal transfer. This reliable solution does not require an energy source to cool.
The Cooler Master Hyper LED CPU Cooler has a patented design. It is recommended for users who want a good cooler, but also take pride in unique products. The fan of the cooler is also different from your typical product in the price range. It has been made with unique wave-shaped blades which produce improved airflow.
The outstanding fan design can reduce the running temperature 25 degrees lower than the ambient temperature. These are outstanding tangible results. Furthermore, it can adapt to another 120 mm attached cooler for even more sophisticated games or software.
Your purchase won’t come with any thermal paste, so you’ll need to buy that separately.
The Cooler Master Hyper LED CPU Cooler is one of the best on the market for the price paid considering the innovative pipe design and patented blade technology.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA2066, LGA2011 v3, LGA2011, LGA1151, LGA1150, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1366
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1
Fan Speed: 22.63 CFM
Noise Level: 30.0 dB
The Cooler Master MasterAir G100M is produced with one of the most complex designs given its price range. The cooler is impressive with its heat column technology. However, if you prefer heat pipes you can select from versions with two, four, five, six, or eight pipes on the Cooler Master MasterAir G100M.
The MasterAir G100M CPU Cooler is also extra stylish. The LED lighting showcases the newest addition to your PC. You should invest in a see-through case if you haven’t already to show off the hardware. Additionally, the aluminum fins are excellent for heat dissipation.
The heat column is highly recommended when it comes to contact surface size with the CPU. The impressive 41.2 mm diameter for the contact surface is hard to match with another affordable option. The 41.2 mm diameter is 7x the size of traditional heat pipes. The rapid heat transfer is highly dependable. The lone drawback is that it’s a bit hard to install, and the poorly-written instructions don’t help with that.
The heat column technology of the Cooler Master MasterAir G100M is terrific. It is hard to find a better model in the price range capable of managing operation temperature so effortlessly.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: 130W LGA20XX, LGA1366, LGA115X, LGA775
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: 125W AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1
Fan Speed: PWM: 900±150 – 1500±10%RPM
Noise Level: 17.8 – 30 dB(A)
The Deepcool Gamaxx 400 CPU Air Cooler is manufactured with direct contact heat pipes. Consequently, it is dependable for heat management. The rapid heat transfer is enabled since the pipes are in direct contact with the CPU. The pipes are fitted in copper which makes them extremely durable as well as incredibly efficient. Additionally, the high-density aluminum fins help with rapid heat dissipation.
One of the most convenient features of the cooler is the specialized fan clips. The clips are practical and fit closer to the heatsink than other products. The clips are also easy to install and remove, but they might not hold as tightly as they should. In fact, the entire cooler can get installed without removing the motherboard. It is why we designate the Deepcool Gamaxx 400 CPU Air Cooler as an easy product to install.
The high-performance PWM fan is constructed with high static pressure and produces a large amount of airflow. The LED lighting is a wonderful stylistic choice, and the cooler gives gamers a fair balance between performance and lower noise levels. The cooler is also available in multiple colors to fit personal taste.
The Deepcool Gamaxx 400 CPU Air Cooler is a complete system with a simple installation process, reliable fan, and included cooling pipes. It is very affordable for all the things it addresses.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: AM4
Fan Speed: Unlisted
Noise Level: Unlisted
The Noctua NH-L9i Premium CPU Cooler is ultra-compact and low-profile. The unit only takes up a height of 39 mm. So it is ideal for building with HTPCs, ITX, and Small Form Factors. The highly optimized NF-A9x14 slim 92 mm fan is of high quality. It features PWM support with limited feedback and noise. The automatic speed control helps reduce noise levels.
The device is 100 percent compatible with RAM and PCIe. Why? The 95 x 95 mm footprint does not hang over the RAM or PCIe slots, unlike a lot of other CPU coolers on the market. The construction is designed for Intel LGA115x based HTPCs and small form factor systems. It also delivers full compatibility with tall RAM modules and VGA cards on mini-ITX mainboards. But, it won’t fit into any other form factors.
The CPU cooler is very simple to install. The SecuFirm2 mounting system is straightforward and doesn’t require an advanced understanding of technology. The NT-H1 thermal compound makes a great addition to the unit and fuses everything together.
Noctua is known for being a highly dependable manufacturer, which is why they offer a six-year warranty. You will be hard-pressed to find a better warranty on the market for such an affordable price!
Noctua NH-L9i Premium CPU Cooler is such a compact unit you can add other improvements to the hardware for a supercomputer approach. The device also is quiet and dependable, much like the larger Noctua NH-D15.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: All
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: All
Fan Speed: 600-1700 RPM
Noise Level: 16.1-27.7 dbA
Ready to use out of the box, the upHere High-Performance Water Liquid CPU Cooler comes with all the hardware needed to mount to any CPU, regardless of make or model. Unfortunately, installing this cooling system is not as straightforward as some other options, so we only recommend it for advanced computer builders. There is a single fan above the high-density aluminum fins that is adjustable with a top speed of 1,700 rotations per minute. The tubing is made from tough EPDM rubber and will not leak.
While the upHere High-Performance Water Liquid CPU Cooler does a good job of keeping your CPU fan cool, we wish that it had a little more power. With only one fan, the cooling system stays quiet but does not cool as efficiently as some of the slightly more expensive options. This should be fine for most computer users, but advanced builders looking to overclock their processors will want to choose a CPU cooler with a little more power.
An important milestone in computing, the upHere High-Performance Water Liquid CPU Cooler is a capable liquid cooling system for under $50. It’s definitely one of the best cheap CPU coolers on the market, but overclockers and builders with expensive CPUs may want to spend an extra $20 or $30 for more power and flexibility.
Best Cheap CPU Coolers Under $100
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: Intel Socket 1151, 1150, 1155, 1156, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: None
Fan Speed: Up to 3000 RPM
Noise Level: 21-38 dBA
With a unique infinity mirror design and a vibrant color-changing LED, the NZXT Kraken M22 looks great in any PC case and fits a wide variety of Intel CPU sockets. Unfortunately, this fan is not compatible with AMD processors. The cooling system is engineered to provide maximum cooling while keeping noise to a minimum. With premium build quality backed by an impressive 6-year warranty, the NZXT Kraken M22 can be trusted to protect your expensive CPU.
The NZXT Kraken M22 provides impressive cooling performance at an excellent price. The included CAM software allows unprecedented control of your CPU cooling. This is especially helpful for users intending to overclock their processors. This software is compatible with Windows 10 only. The pump is quiet and consistent.
With superior cooling power at an excellent price, the NZXT Kraken M22 is our favorite liquid CPU cooling system priced under $100. It’s an excellent choice for anyone building or upgrading a PC with an Intel processor.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: AM2(+), AM3(+) FM1, FM2(+) AM4
Fan Speed: Unlisted
Noise Level: Unlisted
The dual fan design is highly recommended when it comes to ultimate durability and cooling capacity. It is not the most compact CPU cooler at 140 mm. However, the extra size does translate into lower running PC temperatures. The unit is equipped with PVM and automatic speed control. So you can tailor it to your specific running needs. The dual fans and six heat pipes combine to offer dependable heat dissipation.
The performance of the cooler is worth mentioning. Many users manage to keep their modern computer coolers at a performance of 2.400 RPM. It is so proficient that some people rely on it to replace water coolers. The system has been noted to manage temperatures below 75 degrees Celsius. For normal use, it can cool the CPU at 41-45 degrees. You will need to supply your own heat sink cover plates, however.
The dual fan design and improved cooling capacity needed for demanding software and games is fantastic. The Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler is one of the best products available under $100.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA 1150/ 1151/ 1155/ 1156/ 1366/ 2011(-3) square iLO/ 2066
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: AM2(+)/ AM3(+)/ AM4/ FM1/ FM2(+)
Fan Speed: Unlisted
Noise Level: 21.4dB(A)
The be quiet! BK021 Dark Rock 4 CPU Cooler is constructed with six copper heat pipes. The high-quality copper disperses heat efficiently. The cooler has withstood some pretty impressive tests where it continued to reduce overall CPU running temperature despite extreme demands. The wave-contoured cooling fins are unique, and the small dots on the surface of the fins create an ergonomic design. It ultimately improves heat dissipation.
The cooler is loaded with convenient features. It is sold with a coating of ceramic particles, a practice that other industries like auto production use to correctly manage heat transfers. The single 120 mm tower works proficiently. Or you can add a second cooler (assuming it fits your computer) for even more cooling power.
The be quiet! BK021 Dark Rock 4 CPU Cooler operates under PVM. It means that the speeds vary more often compared to a voltage-controlled fan. However, it ultimately leads to lower running temperatures. It also helps keep the noise level way down, a notorious characteristic of annoying and poorly built CPU coolers. Lastly, the modern Intel i7 chipsets allow the CPU to sit idle at 33 degrees which helps with performance.
The be quiet! BK021 Dark Rock 4 CPU Cooler is a single fan unit that is optimized in terms of design and ceramic coating. It is a dependable CPU cooler for under $100.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: All
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: All
Fan Speed: Unlisted
Noise Level: Unlisted
The fan is effective at both airflow optimization and air turbulence reduction thanks to the Hive Fin System. The product also has a larger than ordinary air dispersion area. However, it is not the most compact cooler with a 140 mm fitting. So make sure it fits your case before investing in the Cryorig H7 Tower Cooler.
The Cryorig H7 Tower Cooler performs better than expected for such an affordable price thanks to three copper heat pipes. The pipes help balance the cooling system. The fan uses an optimized hive fin structure, making it effective and dependable. The bearings are produced for improved airflow and lower operating temperatures. When combined with the Quad Inlet technology, the air intake is increased.
You may want to take the product to a professional for installation. It is not considered the easiest to install into an existing PC. If you do decide to self-install, make sure the thermal paste is applied to the processor evenly—the included spreader isn’t the best. Also make sure the old paste is removed entirely, even from the back of the processor. The product also includes a six-year warranty for peace of mind.
With unique designs and patented technologies, the cooler is recommended for most users who need an affordable solution which runs with low noise and which comes with a consistent warranty policy.
Compatible Intel CPU Sockets: LGA 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011
Compatible AMD CPU Sockets: AM2, AM3, AM4, FM1, FM2
Fan Speed: 600-1,700 RPM
Noise Level: 28.3 dBA
The modern, engineered blades provide a solid cooling capacity. It helps to reduce the overall idle temperature of the Intel or AMD CPU to around 30 degrees Celsius. The cooling system is self-contained so it requires little to no maintenance. The water is already filled, so all you need to do is install the Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU Cooler and let it get to work.
The cooler has what some may define as daring concepts. The micro-fin copper plate is a unique yet innovative feature. The plate is responsive to heat and helps make a good addition to the cooling system. The device is also incredibly compact. There are a lot of bulky coolers on the market, some of which have trouble or do not fit in your CPU case. As a result, the Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU Cooler is a great alternative. The noise level is not bad either.
The only problem with the Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU Cooler is you need to continuously run the software in order to manage your preferences. It does take up some space on the PC, yet is not too consuming with any modern Intel or AMD chipset.
The Corsair Hydro Series H60 AIO CPU Cooler has a compact design with a sealed coolant. The micro-fin copper plate is a great addition. As a result, you will find that it’s a decent solution for most needs.
Guide to Buying the Best Cheap CPU Cooler
It is not always easy to find the best cheap CPU cooler with so many great designs. Furthermore, it is not easy to compare CPU coolers with different operations. For example, a water-based CPU cooling system is substantially different from a heated pipe design. It doesn’t necessarily make one version better than the other, however, you will likely find one type of CPU cooler suits your needs better than the other.
Here are a few features to consider when shopping for the best CPU cooler under $50 or $100:
Size of CPU Cooler
The size of the cooler is one of the most pressing issues to consider. Consumers that are new to buying CPU coolers often underestimate their size. Coolers can range from 120 mm to 140 mm. As a result, there are many different cooling solutions to consider. Gamers have the option between single and dual fans.
Of course, you need to make sure the dimensions fit. Then, you also must make sure the rest of the computer is compatible. Will your PC get impeded by the RAM or the video card when installing a more sophisticated cooling system?
It is important to note the size of the cooler does not guarantee improved performance. The biggest cooler is not exactly the best for every PC. In fact, some large coolers actually have problems with excess noise which makes them unpopular among gamers.
Components of CPU Coolers
- Heat Pipes: Heat pipes are an excellent addition to a CPU cooler if they are designed correctly. It is hard to say what number of pipes is the best solution. Cheap coolers generally have between two and eight copper pipes. The role of the heating pipes is to transfer some of the heat from the CPU as soon as possible to avoid meltdowns. The heat transfer happens very fast in the most effective CPU coolers.
However, not all pipes are designed with the same size of effectiveness. As a result, some people prefer a copper heat column. Copper heat columns are easy to work with and have a larger CPU contact area compared to pipes. Both systems are effective at cooling your system when installed in the right PC.
- Water Pipes: Water pipes are still popular and are not likely to disappear anytime soon. Although there are a few horror stories about broken water pipes and damaged video cards, most manufacturers design fairly reliable water pipe coolers these days. Some will even cover any damages that might occur with an extended warranty.
The good news is that many affordable coolers are equipped with completely self-contained systems. You do not need to add water to them so they require very little maintenance. A water cooling system is also fun to watch. A see-through case with LED lights can impress your friends as well.
- Fins: Fins are so complex and different they are worth mentioning. Fins might seem low tech at first glance, yet the design has greatly improved over the last several years. New fins are sold with futuristic designs, including ceramic coating. The type of coating is used in other industries to deal with extreme heat, like automakers. Fins also help disperse heat in different directions to avoid wear and tear on the PC.
- Intel vs. AMD: Most coolers can run on both Intel and AMD chipsets. However, there are exceptions. It is why so many manufacturers try to market their products towards a single type of chipset. In the end, it is up to you to make sure the parts on the cooler are compatible with your PC.
- Temperature: The most important role of the cooler is to reduce the running temperature of your CPU. The discussion here is nearly endless. Some argue that the reduction of heat isn’t all that important. Others counter that only a significant temperature reduction makes it worthwhile to invest in an advanced CPU cooler. Regardless, the general consensus is affordable coolers are an improvement over the stock system.
The temperature reduction varies from product to product. In most cases, the best cheap CPU coolers are able to bring the temperature down to around 30 degrees Celsius when idle. However, it also depends on the purpose of the PC. The most demanding software found on video editors and games hijack the CPU and quickly escalate operating temperatures.
Water coolers are not necessarily superior to other designs, but they can offer an indication of how the temperature is actually being cooled. Meanwhile, other coolers can indicate temperatures across different points of the pipes for closer examination.
Lastly, the effectiveness of the cooler also depends on how well the product is installed. It is why many manufacturers advise you to take your time when installing the hardware. Make sure you clean the CPU from dust and from the thermal paste before introducing the new unit. Some CPU coolers include an installation kit to help you out.
How to Choose a Great CPU Cooler
Installation: The best CPU coolers are DIY projects. The most amount of time spent on installation is usually removing the old unit. The thermal paste needs to get properly cleaned. Some people new to installing CPU coolers find them a hassle. There are a few problems that may arise.
If you are attempting to install an oversized cooler that doesn’t fit your computer there is little you can do to remedy the situation. Meanwhile, some struggle to attach the flimsy fin clips to the fan. The instruction manual is not always straightforward either.
If you are uncomfortable installing the unit you may want to hire a professional or consult a knowledgeable friend.
Parts: The materials used in the manufacturing process are considerably different today. They are better and more reliable. For example, many rubber pipes are now reinforced against the explosion. The fins are made from aluminum, which is a quick thermal conductor. It heats up quickly, but it also cools just as fast. Additionally, the aluminum is sometimes coated with ceramics, which maintains the same thermic values.
If the fan is made from plastic due to its lower weight, the bearing system is produced from quality metal to offset the problem. Additionally, the heat pipes are made from copper for the most part. Copper is very reliable for heat transfer. So piping that is in immediate contact with the CPU can withstand high temperatures over long periods of time. It is a necessary feature for elite gamers.
Maintenance: The last thing you want is to spend time maintaining your cooler. You got a game to play! Thankfully, the best cheap CPU coolers under $50 to $100 are practically maintenance-free. Water pipe coolers are self-contained and do not need much attention in 2020.
However, the software still needs your personal attention. Some coolers are produced with dedicated programs that allow you to manually set the cooling capacity. In theory, it offers maximum freedom. Regardless, it takes some time and energy to control the settings and space for the program to run constantly on the desktop.
Software: The software used to control and monitor the cooler is minimalistic most of the time. However, it does give you some control over how the system functions with your PC. It is possible to review the number of rotations and other data related to CPU coolers. The overall CPU temperature is also available for quick review.
The software can also dictate the movement of the fan. The biggest knock with cheap CPU coolers is they sometimes lack the customization of higher-priced units. For example, it may force the user to keep the software running on the desktop because there is no way to save your preferred settings. Also, the software is rarely upgraded compared to more advanced coolers.
Warranty: The warranty policies are very different even for products priced in the same category. The best cheap CPU coolers under $50 or $100 have relatively good warranties for the price paid. The minimum warranty for a water cooler, even a cheap one, is at least three years. Some of the best warranties on water coolers expand to six years or more.
Buying the best cheap CPU cooler is not as complicated as it seems. You do not need to be a computer whiz to make an appropriate purchase. It is also possible to self-install as long as you reference some online tutorials or a knowledgeable friend.
A good CPU cooler lowers the running temperature while also adding to the design of the PC. LED lights and transparent tubes show off the device to friends and family. Regardless of your choice, you should always stay protected and only choose the products with a strong reputation and adequate warranty. The good news is there are plenty of reliable CPU coolers, even those priced under $100.