Here’s something you just can’t live without: a processor cooler. If there’s no way of eliminating heat, your chip will cook to the point that it becomes nothing more than a fried drink toaster.

Since you’re here, we imagine you already know about the different sizes of processors, and their related motherboard “seats,” or sockets. But just in case you’re new to building desktops, the typical seventh-generation Intel “Kaby Lake” processor sits in the 1151 socket, as does the previous “Skylake” generation, and Intel’s upcoming eighth-generation “Coffee Lake” chips. The company’s meatier X-Series chips, spanning up to 18 cores, require a larger motherboard seat called the 2066 socket.

Meanwhile, AMD’s latest Ryzen desktop processors, such as the Ryzen 7 1800X, rely on a completely different socket called AM4, along with motherboards based on the X370, B350, A320, and A300 chipsets. And like Intel’s X-Series processors, AMD’s monster Ryzen Threadripper processors are larger, requiring a bigger throne on the motherboard. This is AMD’s new TR4 socket.

What we targeted when shopping for processor coolers were their airflow and noise level numbers. You want great, focused airflow getting the heat off the processor, but that doesn’t mean you need the biggest fan made by man. The picks here are solid, reliable, affordable coolers that get the job done.

1151 Socket (Skylake / Kaby Lake / Coffee Lake)

Best CPU coolers

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO (air)
Cost: $35

You can actually purchase variants of the Hyper 212, such as a model with two fans, one with an LED, and so on. This version consists of four heatpipes that have direct contact with the processor, which pull the chip’s heat up into a towering heatsink comprised of aluminum fins. There the heat is collected and blown away with a single 120mm fan.

According to Cooler Master, the spinning fins mounted within the fan are optimized for low and high speeds ranging between 600 and 2,000 rotations per minute (RPM), which can be managed by your system. The Hyper 212 also comes with brackets, so you can add an extra fan to the cooler, if you want (it’s not included).

The Hyper 212 works on AMD’s Ryzen processors with an adapter, as well.