Building a custom gaming or workstation PC is an expensive investment, however, it is quite worthwhile. One thing which is often overlooked in the process of building a new PC is cooling. Now, cooling is an extremely important facet of building a new PC, because it has a long lasting impact on the lifespan of your machine. The cooler your PC is, the longer it will live, because its components won’t deteriorate too fast.
Many Intel and AMD processors come with their own coolers right out of the box, however efficiency of these coolers is often unsatisfactory. Loud noises coming from your PC, sensors indicating system overheating, and weird errors such as the “Blue Screen of Death“, all indicate that your CPU might be requiring a better cooling solution.
Must read: The Best Software to Monitor CPU Temperature
Luckily, there are plenty of aftermarket coolers available out there. Also, they are very easy to install, so you shouldn’t hesitate about buying one. However, since there are plenty of models out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed with a variety of offers. Some CPU coolers are quite expensive, some of them include extra features such as RGB lightning or dual fans. If you are just looking for coolers whose purpose is to “get the job done”, then you are on the right place. We’ve compiled a list of best budget CPU coolers in 2023. Scroll down to take a look.
Best Overall: Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 3
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1200, 1700, 2011(-3), 2066; AM4, AM5 | Dimensions: 121 x 130 x 163 mm | Weight: 710 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Max. TDP: 190 W
- Very good cooling performance
- Affordable price
- Compatible with Intel and AMD CPUs
- Quiet operation
- Easy to install
- Very tall
- Complicated AMD mounting procedure
Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 3 is a simply lovely and affordable CPU cooler that is able to offer impressive cooling performance and quiet operation. The cooler features five 6 mm high-performance nickel-plated copper heat pipes with HDT technology which allow it to cool beefy CPUs with TDP of up to 190 W. It also features one huge 120 mm Shadow Wings 2 PWM high-speed fan that emits only around 24.5 dB of noise at maximum speed.
One of the biggest advantages of this budget CPU cooler is that it’s easy to install, especially on Intel CPUs. The cooler supports the latest 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs, as well as Ryzen 7000 CPUs. It ships with all necessary mounting hardware, and due to its compact footprint, it has no clearance issues with RAM or I/O shield on majority of motherboards.
Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 3 can easily handle hot CPUs such as Intel Core i5-10600K or AMD Ryzen 5 3600. The two major flaws of this great budget cooler are its height and the fact that its fan doesn’t have a sleeved cable. The cooler measures 163 mm in height and is fairly tall, so if you don’t have enough clearance in your PC case, you’ll have to pass on this one.
Best Buy: Arctic Freezer A35 A-RGB
Supported Sockets: AM4, AM5 | Dimensions: 158.5 x 133 x 91 mm | Weight: 734 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 200-1,700 RPM
- Affordable price
- Easy to install
- ARGB lighting
- Nice aesthetics
- Supports AM5 socket
- Mediocre cooling performance
- Short fan cable
If you own an AMD Ryzen processor and want to replace the Wraith Prism cooler with something a bit more efficient and interesting, then you’ll love the Arctic Freezer A35 A-RGB. This CPU cooler supports both AM4 and new AM5 CPU socket, meaning that it works with Ryzen 7000 CPUs. The cooler features aluminum, copper and plastic elements, and weighs 734 grams. There are also four copper heat pipes which are here to draw away heat from your CPU.
The cooler features a 120 mm fan mounted on a black clip-on shroud. The fan features fluid dynamic bearing, and can reach speed of up to 1,700 RPM. The cooler can also boast with great RAM clearance, and there are also twelve A-RGB LEDs which you can adjust to you own liking. Freezer A35 A-RGB also comes with six-year warranty, which is a big plus.
Performance-wise, the A35 A-RGB isn’t as efficient as the Freezer 34 eSports DUO, however, it is capable enough of keeping temps of overclocked Ryzen 3600X at bay. Overall, this is a very nice-looking budget CPU cooler with built-in RGB lighting, that should provide decent cooling performance to your AMD Ryzen CPU.
Most Popular: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1366, 2011x, 2066; FM1, FM2(+), AM2(+), AM3(+), AM4* | Dimensions: 159 x 120 x 80 mm | Weight: 569 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 600-2,000 RPM
- Good cooling performance
- Can be upgraded with another 120 mm fan
- Cheap and reliable
- Complicated installation process
- Might not be compatible with all motherboard configurations
Cooler Master Hyper 212 has been known as a well-proven CPU heatsink for a long time. After its first launch in 2009, Hyper 212 went through many upgrades from which “EVO” is one of the major ones. This great CPU cooler comes with its own thermal paste, all-in-one mounting solution, and one 120 mm fan. Great thing about this heatsink is that it can be upgraded with an additional 120 mm fan, so that you can increase your cooling performance. This heatsink also features 4 heat pipes, which are at the base combined into a one virtual vapor chamber array for better contact with the CPU. Cooler’s fan also has rubber dampening pads which prevent unnecessary vibrations and make fan more silent.
Speaking of performance, Hyper 212 is a solid, but not very efficient CPU cooler. Under full load, it can keep overclocked i7-8700K at around 90°C, which is better than stock cooler, but not by much. Cooling Ryzen CPUs seems to be more efficient, as Hyper 212 will on average shave off 10°C more than AMD’s Prism Wraith stock cooler. Another big disadvantage of this cooler is its very complicated installation process which can get quite frustrating. Overall, Hyper 212 is still a decent and cheap CPU cooler, however, its golden days are over.
Most Silent: Noctua NH-U12S Redux
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1200, 1700, 2011(-3), 2066; AM4, AM5 | Dimensions: 158 x 125 x 71 mm | Weight: 710 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 450-1,700 RPM
- Excellent cooling performance
- Very low noise output
- High-quality build
- Easy to install
- No pre-applied thermal compound
- Dull aesthetics
- No RGB lighting
For a CPU cooler that has no RGB lighting and features very dull aesthetics, the Noctua NH-U12S Redux is a pretty expensive cooler. However, it is by far the most affordable cooler that Noctua ever made. Sure, it has no pre-applied thermal paste, and is a bit rough around the edges, but this is fantastic CPU cooler nevertheless.
The Noctua NH-U12S Redux weighs around 710 grams, and features one 120 mm fan. Despite “cuts”, this is still a well-machined CPU cooler that is able to offer excellent cooling performance. The cooler can easily handle CPUs with a TDP of up to 130 W, and is able to generate only around 25 dB of noise at maximum speed. With these noise levels, this cooler is without a doubt one of the quietest 120 mm coolers on the market, and should be a top pick for everyone who can’t stand CPU cooler noise.
Overall, the Nocuta NH-U12S is an excellent budget CPU cooler, despite its dull looks. It is a cost-effective and plug-and-play solution that should satisfy most PC users.
Cool Looks: NZXT T120 RGB
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1200, 1700; AM4, AM5 | Dimensions: 159 x 120 x 66 mm | Weight: N/A | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 500-1,800 RPM
- Solid cooling performance
- Clean and elegant design
- Compact dimensions
- RGB lighting
- High noise at high speed
- High price compared to alternatives
The NZXT T120 RGB is an entry-level CPU cooler with great aesthetics. The cooler features one 120 mm fan equipped with adjustable RGB lighting, and comes with aluminum heatsink that features four copper heat pipes. The NZXT T120 RGB can boast with compact dimensions, and shouldn’t cause any clearance issues with RAM modules on most motherboards. The cooler is compatible with both Intel and AMD CPUs, and features simple mounting procedure.
When it comes to performance, this cooler performs decently, and should provide more value besides its looks. Its fans support maximum rotational speed of 1,800 RPM and produce noise of around 39 dB under full load. The cooler is capable enough of cooling CPUs with TDP of 100 W. The NZXT T120 RGB is on par with the Freezer 34 and be Quiet! Pure Rock 2, which is pretty good performance. Overall, this is a very nice looking CPU cooler that performs better than Hyper 212 EVO, and can boast with affordable price and good looks.
Best Low Profile: Be Quiet! Shadow Rock LP
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1200, 1366, 2011(-3); FM1, FM2(+) AM2(+), AM3(+), AM4 | Dimensions: 134 x 122 x 75.4 mm | Weight: 395 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 300-1,500 RPM
- Low profile
- High-quality build
- Good cooling performance
- Low noise
- Not good for overclocking
- Clearance issues on some motherboards
Be Quiet! Shadow Rock LP is a decent low-profile CPU cooler for users who need to cool down their CPUs inside small PC cases. This cooler features simple design with a silver and black color combination. The main two features of this cooler are its low-profile format and top flow design. The cooler measures only 75.4 mm in height, and can boast with dual stack heatsink design, which is quite rare in sub-$50 price range. The cooler features four copper heat pipes and pack a total of 54 aluminum cooling fins.
The performance of this cooler isn’t quite spectacular, but its pretty decent. The Shadow Rock LP can officially cool CPUs with a TDP of up to 130 W. For a low-profile cooler, this is pretty impressive, however, we don’t recommend using it on CPUs that you plan to overclock. The Shadow Rock LP can handle CPUs like the Core i9-9900K at stock speed, and will produce around 34 dB of noise, which is quite manageable. Overall, this is a pretty decent cooler that will be most useful to owners of small and tight PC cases.
Easy Install: Be Quiet! Pure Rock Slim
Supported Sockets: 115X; FM1, FM2(+), AM2(+), AM3(+), AM4 | Dimensions: 125 x 97 x 82 mm | Weight: 360 g | Fans: (1) 92 mm | Fan Speed: 0-2,000 RPM
- Easy to install
- Very quiet
- Very cheap
- Worse than Hyper 212 EVO
Be Quiet! Pure Rock Slim is an ideal cooler for compact and quiet multimedia systems. This cooler features 120W TDP cooling efficiency, three 6 mm heat pipes with aluminum caps and 92 mm PWM variable speed fan. Thanks to its asymmetrical and compact design, Pure Rock Slim is a perfect choice for PC cases with limited space. This cooler also provides great RAM clearance, so you don’t have to worry about securing extra space for your RAM sticks.
Speaking about its efficiency, this cooler offers solid performance for its price. It can keep fiery i7-4790K at 75 degrees Celsius under full load, which is fine, however, it doesn’t beat Hyper 212 EVO which is louder than Pure Rock Slim. If you take into consideration that Pure Rock Slim is more than $15 cheaper than Hyper 212, then performance it offers starts to look very reasonable. Overclocking your PC with this cooler is highly inadvisable, but if you are looking for a small and cheap cooler for your HTPC, than Be Quiet! Pure Rock Slim is a solid choice.
Budget Underdog: Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE
Supported Sockets: 115X, 1200, 1700; AM4, AM5 | Dimensions: 155 x 125 x 110 mm | Weight: 850 g | Fans: 1 x 120 mm | Fan Speed: 500-1,550RPM
- Outstanding cooling performance
- Performs the same as some liquid coolers
- Can handle CPUs with TDP of up to 200 W
- Comes with two 120 mm fans
- Inexpensive price
Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE is a seriously underrated CPU cooler with a weird name. Produced by Taiwanese company Thermalright, which was founded in 2001, the Peerless Assassins is a cooler that was built on top of years of engineering experience. The cooler itself features a dual-tower radiator and comes with two 120 mm fans. The total mass of the cooler (with the fans) is around 850 grams, which is quite a lot. The cooler supports both AMD and Intel sockets, and is fairly easy to install.
When it comes to performance, this cooler is quite simply incredible. It can handle CPUs with TDP of up to 200 W, and produces only around 25.5 dB of noise at maximum speed. Despite being an air cooler, this cooler is almost on par with the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240, which is an AIO liquid cooler. It is perfectly suitable for cooling beefy CPUs, such as the Intel Core i9-12900K. Overall, this is a pretty fantastic budget CPU cooler than can compete with AIO liquid coolers and will cost you less than $40.
If you are in search of the best budget CPU cooler in 2023, there is a variety of options at your disposal. Whether it’s fan size, RAM clearance or easiness of installation process your main priority, there is plenty of coolers that’ll suit your needs. And all that for the lowest price possible. We hope our buying guide helped you in search of the information you were looking for. If you still feel confused, and need advice about buying, feel free to post comment below. We will try to help you.