In this article, we will help you select the best CPU fan to fit your budget and performance requirements. We have divided our picks into three price brackets ($0 - $50, $50 - $100, and $100 - $200) and included one main CPU fan and one alternative. All fans on our list are recommended by thousands of PC users from all across the world, so you can be sure that your money will be put to a good use.
$0 - $50: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO might be the most popular CPU fan today. We have already recommended this excellent CPU cooler in our Guide to Budget Fans, and we will happily recommended it again. Cooler Master has managed to strike the perfect balance between high and low-speed operations, thanks to 4 Direct Contact heat pipes with patented CDC (Continuous Direct Contact) technology and a wide-range PWM fan with a unique wave-shaped blade.The cooler can accommodate two 120mm fans for maximum performance. The package includes one 120mm PWM fan with anti-vibration rubber pads and a quick-snap cover for fast and easy installation.
If only the Hyper 212 EVO was as easy to install as the fan. The overly complicated installation procedure is the only thing that prevents us from giving this otherwise excellent cooler the maximum rating of 10 points.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA 1366 / 1156 / 1155 / 1151 / 1150 / 775 and AMD FM2 / FM1 /AM3 / AM2+ / AM2 / 939 / 754
Alternative: ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev 2
With its integrated 92 mm PWM fan, 45 fins, and 3 double-sided copper heat pipes in combination with pre-applied MX-2 high-performance thermal compound, the ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev 2 is a worthy competitor to the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. It can keep an overclocked Intel Core i5-4670K at just a little over 43 °C (anything under 50 °C is great), while remaining noticeably quieter than the Cooler Master Hyper 212 with a stock fan. The cooler is designed to be used in any direction, and the mounting system leaves only very little to be desired.
The reason why this fan is not our main pick is the irreplaceable fan. Power-users who want to push their machines to the limit will quickly find the included 3-15 dBA fan insufficient for constant exposure to high workloads. However, if you use your system mainly for work and casual web usage, this is the cooler to go with.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA 1366 / 1155 / 1151 / 1150 and AMD FM2 / FM1 / AM3+
$50 - $100: Noctua NH-D15
Our first mid-tier cooler exemplifies the dramatic increase in cooling performance that you get when you pay a bit more. CPU coolers in this price range can easily deal with pretty substantial overclocking and, particularly in the case of the Noctua NH-D15, even overvolting. You won’t believe just how monstrous the Noctua NH-D15 is until you see it in person. Noctua’s flagship features 6 heat pipes in a dual-tower configuration coupled with two NF-A15 140mm fans with PWM support for automatic speed control. The SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system makes the installation of this cooler a breeze, which is certainly a great news because the thing is very heavy and a lesser mounting system would be unable to support the weight.The Noctua NH-D15 is covered by 6 years of manufacturer’s warranty and comes with NT-H1 thermal compound. You just have to carefully evaluate whether you will be able to fit such large CPU cooler inside your case. And by the way Noctua’s fans are ugly as hell.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM) / 1156 / 1155 / 1151 / 1150 and AMD AM2 / AM2+ / AM3 / AM3+ / FM1 / FM2 / FM2+ (backplate required)
Alternative: Cooler Master V8 GTS
Featuring Cooler Master’s Horizontal Vapor Chamber Technology, the V8 GTS looks like something taken straight out of some Crisis fanboy’s dream. The generous use of angular plastic accents with bright LEDs makes this futuristic cooler truly stand out. It comes with one 140mm high-performance fan with Cooler Master's 4th Generation Polyoxymethylene (POM) bearing system for a ridiculously long lifespan of up to 160,000 hours with complete resistance to dust. The Triple Tower Heatsink with 8 high-performance heat pipes can take thermal loads up to 250W, and the Universal Mounting System provides compatibility with, basically, all popular platforms. Unfortunately, this cooler is much harder to install on some AMD sockets than it is on Intel.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA 2011 / 1366 / 1151 / 1150 / 1155 / 1156 / 775 and AMD FM2+,/ FM2 / FM1 / AM3+ / AM3 / AM2+ / AM2 / AM1
$100 - $200: Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Silentwings CPU Cooler
The highest price that most rational people would consider investing in a fan is roughly at the $200 point. Anything more and you’re probably spending money on features and specs that you won’t ever take advantage of. Up until that point, however, the money is certainly not wasted. You can expect the best components available, excellent cooling performance for even absurdly heavy loads, and very simple, user-friendly support and installation. 250W of cooling capacity, only 26.1dBA at maximum speed, support of an additional 120mm fan, and price that hovers just a tiny bit above the $100 mark. These are some of the many great features that make the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Silentwings CPU Cooler such an excellent deal. The fantastic performance is achieved by dynamic wave-contour cooling fins with small dots on the surface and 2 SilentWings PWM fans with advanced copper core fluid dynamic bearings. One fan is mounted on the inside and measures 135mm and the other one is mounted on the outside using vibration-isolating elements. No wonder the fan gets nothing but the highest praise from both reviewers and customers alike.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA 2011 / 1366 / 1151 / 1150 / 1155 / 1156 / 775 and AMD FM1 /FM2 / AM3 / AM3
Alternative: Cooler Master V8 with 8 Heat Pipes
A great-looking CPU cooler with an external fan-speed controller? We are listening. The CoolerMaster V8 with 8 Heat Pipes and internal 120mm fan that runs at 17-21 dBA is a great choice for all PC modders and everyone who wants to take a control of their cooling performance. The manual knob enables fan adjustments from 7V to 12V, and the cooling tower itself is built using 4 sets of modular aluminum fins with 8 high performance heat pipes. If only Cooler Master included a substantially better fan in this somewhat pricey cooler, we could give it a better rating. Still, the Cooler Master V8 with 8 Heat Pipes remains one of the best CPU coolers on the market.
Compatible platforms: Intel LGA 1366 / 1155 / 775 and AMD AM3 / AM2+ / AM2