Best CPU Coolers (Air Cooling Under $50 – $100) for Overclocked Processors
Overlocking is something gaming PC enthusiasts are serious about. While you can get small bumps in performance by overclocking any CPU, the best results are only possible with unlocked gaming processors like the i5 6600K or any other series with a ‘K’ in the name.
However, you don’t just need an unlocked CPU for overclocking, you also need a compatible motherboard and a CPU cooler to keep your over-performing processor cool under peak usage.
If you’ve bought a CPU already, you must have gotten a stock cooler with it. The stock CPU coolers fulfil the minimum requirements for airflow and heat dissipation and are not recommended for overclocked systems (they are also quite noisy).
Running an overclocked CPU with a stock cooler will results in temperatures consistently hovering around 90C or more, which can reduce the processor’s life and also lead to throttling and overall system heating, especially in summers.
When it comes to CPU cooling, you have liquid and air cooling solutions. Liquid cooling has its issues, including a high risk of leakage and increased maintenance, while air coolers, not quite as efficient as liquid cooling setups, are much more convenient and easy to set up and maintain.
So if you’re considering overclocking your processor for maximum performance, you should also look into after market CPU air coolers, and today we’re going to help you pick from the best CPU air coolers for overclocking that will allow you to get the most from your unlocked CPU while keeping temperatures under control.
How do CPU air coolers work?
Before we list the best cpu coolers, here’s a little introduction for those of you who are curious to find out how cpu air coolers work.
Basically every CPU air cooler has a heat sink and a fan. The fan’s job is to bring cool air and push it into the heat sink, which is designed in a way to increase the surface area using a metal which is good at heat conduction (copper and aluminum mostly).
The air from the fan helps cool down the heat sink, which essentially loses head by dissipation, and draws it from the CPU again through its contact point with the aid of thermal gel.
This essentially becomes a cooling cycle, where the CPU loses heat to the heat sink, which then loses heat due to the fan throwing air into it. The diagram below shows how this works in stock CPU coolers, but the mechanism is the same for any air cooler.
#1. Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
This is one of my personal favorites and also, in my opinion, the best CPU cooler under 50 dollars. It’s bigger and improved over the previous versions but given its budget pricing, it is not a full copper build.
It’s got copper pipes however, leading to an aluminum heat sink with a 120mm fan to facilitate dissipation.
The heat sink is fairly large but as long as you have a standard mid-tower case you shouldn’t have to worry about clearance.
Max fan RPM for the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is 2000rpm, which is relatively low, but results in less noise and is compensated for by the large heat sink.
This cooler is ideal for i5 processors but works well with overclocked i7 CPUs as well. The recommended overclocking range for this CPU cooler is around 4.5GHz and given its low price, it’s ideal for a $500 budget gaming rig.
#2. Noctua NH-D15
Now let’s take a look at a performance cooler, the Noctua NH-D15. This is a CPU cooler for overclocking enthusiasts who want to push the limits of their unlocked processors.
Even though it has an aluminum heat sink, this cooler features two 140mm fans for maximum heat dissipation. Make no mistake though, this is a beefy unit, featuring 6 heat pipes, but clearance levels are not bad because of its wider build (compared to vertical footprint).
It’s not as fancy looking as the Cooler Master V8, which is such a beast, but performs at par with it, if not better.
The fans on the NH-D15 run at max speeds of 1500rpm, which makes for a very quiet system.
The best thing about this cooler is its ease of installation, the detailed user manual and the extra components the company has taken care to include.
You get thermal gel with the package along with the second optional fan (you can put it on if you want) and if you don’t have two fan connectors on your motherboard, this comes with a Y connector for your convenience.
All in all, this is one of the best air coolers money can buy and the only downside for most people is its bland appearance. However, if performance is what you’re looking for, this is a great buy.
#3. Cooler Master GeminII M4
If you have a mini-ITX compact case, you can’t afford a fan with high clearance requirements. That’s where the Cooler Master GeminiII M4 comes in.
It’s built for top-down cooling in mini cases and needs only about 60mm on the top, making it one of the best low profile CPU coolers.
The short height is made up by the wide aluminum heat sink at the bottom which is connected to 4 copper heat pipes.
Fans on the GeminiII M4 run at max speeds of 1600rpm, which makes this one of the quietist CPU coolers on the market.
It is engineered well and does not hinder memory installation, while there are other alternatives for mini cases as well, but the GeminiII M4 is fully compatible with the latest motherboard sockets and makes our list for the best mini-ITX CPU air cooler on the market.
#4. Scythe SCNJ-4000 Ninja 4
The folks at Scythe have been making CPU coolers for a long time now and the Ninja 4 is a result of their experience over the years. This is quite a large CPU cooler though and you’ll need at least 140mm clearance on top while it has a 155 x 153mm footprint over all.
It features 3D airflow pass through and a 120mm fan comes with it. The unique feature here is that you can move the fan around on all 4 sides of the aluminum heat sink to match the overall airflow design of your rig.
This is not a cheap cooler, but not very expensive either. It falls within a decent budget range and drops copper use in favor of a full aluminum build. However, it delivers solid performance for overclocked i5 and i7 CPUs and if you’ve had any experience with Scythe in the past, you can go ahead assured that you’re getting a quality product.
#5. ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev 2
ARCTIC coolers are known to be reliable and the Freezer 7 Pro Rev 2 is no different. Its not a high-performance CPU cooler per se but focuses on delivering a relatively quiet experience for budget PC builders who want to overclock their CPUs.
The round-back aluminum heat sink is connected with 3 copper heat pipes and has a small, 92mm fan which runs at 2200rpm at max speed.
If you look at the specifications, it’s not much, but the cooler performs very well, especially given its budget price range. Installation is also very easy and it is compatible with almost all Intel and AMD sockets.
#6. Cooler Master Hyper TX3
This is the cheapest CPU cooler from Cooler Master and delivers decent performance at a low budget.
You get 3 copper pipes connected to an aluminum heat sink which is not very chunky but reasonably big enough for improved heat dissipation when compared to stock CPU coolers.
The fan is small at 92mm but runs fast at 2800rpm on max speed. This can be a little noisy, but you still get a better experience when compared to stock coolers.
On the plus side, you can also attach a second fan to the other end of the heat sink and optimize your air flow.
All in all, if you’re looking for a good CPU cooler on a budget, you can’t go lower than this.
That’s all for now folks. This list of the best cpu coolers features all kinds of coolers, including low profile coolers for mini cases. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below and let us know.