As users start to get their hands on Intel’s new Comet Lake CPUs, many are bound to have questions regarding which cooling solutions are best for their new systems. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Core i7-10700K and the best cooling options available for it.
With the 10th Gen Core i7, Intel has raised their baseline TDP from 95W to 125W, which is already reasonably high, meaning you’re going to need some excellent cooling for the best and most stable performance with this chip. It’s also important to note that the potential TDP is even higher still (230W+) if you’re considering an easily achievable, all-core overclock to 5.0GHz+.
This drastic increase in power consumption is thanks to the design tweaks Intel has made to their 10th Gen K-Series processors to compete with AMD’s Zen 2 in production workloads and to maintain their crown in FPS performance. Props to Intel’s engineers here, as the increased TDP of their even further refined 14nm process does not also come with out of control thermal performance. By decreasing the height of the CPU die, and increasing the thickness of the integrated heat spreader (IHS), Intel has managed to reign in their historically scorching 14nm process. Still, we’re going to want to keep the 10700K as cool as possible to ensure we can leverage the overclocking headroom afforded to us.
Without further ado, here are our recommendations for the best CPU coolers to snag alongside the Core i7-10700K.
Best Coolers for i7-10700K – Our Recommendations
|Best Liquid Cooler||Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280||$115|
|Best Air Cooler||Noctua NH-U12A||$100|
|Best Entry-Level Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper 212 BlackEdition||$39|
|Best Low-Profile Cooler||Noctua NH-L12S||$50|
Best Liquid Cooler for the i7-10700K
We’ll start by offering one of the best AIO/CLC (all-in-one or closed-loop cooler) options on the market today: The Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280. The Liquid Freezer 280 gives even some 360mm AIO models a bad name, with S-Tier cooling performance across the board, active VRM cooling courtesy of an additional fan on the CPU block, stellar acoustic performance compared to most other liquid and air coolers, all at a very reasonable price.
The main reason the Liquid Freezer II 280 stands apart is the level of performance you get with a 280mm radiator. While not for every user, nor every PC case, a 280mm radiator is likely to fit in a plethora of mid and full-sized ATX towers, and even some of the more premium mATX mini-towers and SFF cases. 280mm also seems to be the AIO sweet-spot, where anything larger becomes too unwieldy or flat-out incompatible with all but the most gargantuan case towers, and anything smaller becomes hard to justify against premium air coolers.
What Arctic sacrifices in the aesthetics department (and ease of installation, more on that later), they certainly make up for in terms of raw thermal performance. The Liquid Freezer series is proof that when you’re less concerned with pretty lights, you can end up with a most impressive balance between thermals and noise. This balance is due primarily to the efficiency of Arctic’s radiator/fan combo, which ends up being most efficient for cooling well before their fans’ max 1600RPM. The ability to drop the fans to around 1200RPM without any significant hit to thermal performance means that you’re getting extremely competitive heat dissipation without the added sound of a fighter jet on your desk.Where the Liquid Freezer, unfortunately, isn’t the best, is with its mounting hardware. If you don’t build with your motherboard on a flat surface, there isn’t anything to hold the mounting plate in place… besides some tape. However, once you manage to get everything secure, you’ll have one of the best cooling solutions for any CPU on the market, including the 10700K.
Best Air Cooler for the i7-10700K
Anyone familiar with premium air coolers should know our pick for the best air cooler manufacturer, though they may not have guessed the correct model: The Noctua NH-U12A. It seems it takes the best to rival the best, as the NH-U12A is a shockingly powerful and silent 120mm air cooler. This unit’s claim-to-fame is that it competes against 140mm coolers, and thanks to the included NF-A12x25 PWM fans, it lives up to that hype.
The secret sauce of these fans is the material developed by Noctua (Sterrox) for the fan blades, which allows for their distinct curve and an extremely short distance from the frame. This specific design means the NF-A12x25s can spin at a much higher RPM while remaining extremely quiet. When coupling these fans with a cooling tower that has 7 heat pipes, compared to the 6 found on units like the Noctua NH-D15 or the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, you’re genuinely met with a comparative performance from a significantly smaller product.
With the NH-U12A compared to the NH-D15, you end up trading just a few degrees and dBA in thermal and noise performance, respectively, for a massive increase in hardware and case compatibility. When comparing the NH-U12A to the Dark Rock Pro 4, it may still fall short in terms of noise performance; but be quiet!’s silence holds it back from really competing when it comes to thermals.
Overall, Noctua may have just set a new standard in CPU cooling that could lead to user’s questioning whether they even really need some liquid coolers, let alone beefy dual-tower air coolers. Thus, the NH-U12A is our best recommendation if you’re looking for the ultimate air cooling solution for your 10700K.
Best Entry-Level Cooler for the i7-10700K
Some of you may not need every last clock cycle from your 10700K, especially those only interested in gaming. If you’re just looking to replace Intel’s severely lacking stock cooler, then look no further than the Cooler Master Hyper 212 BlackEdition. There’s a good reason for the Hyper 212 series’ popularity over the years, and that’s exceptional price-to-performance. Especially now that Cooler Master offers one of the most dominant entry-level CPU coolers ever made in a completely blacked-out gunmetal finish, there almost isn’t any better option under $40.
The best example of the level of price-to-performance offered by the Hyper 212 is when you compare it to something like the be quiet! Dark Rock Slim, another 120mm cooler with an included PWM fan and 4 heat pipes. The Dark Rock Slim is roughly 60% more expensive for nearly identical thermal and acoustic performance, and with the Hyper 212 BlackEdition, be quiet! doesn’t even win out in the aesthetics department. This level of price disparity leaves the Hyper 212 BlackEdition the clear winner, especially when you consider the option of taking that savings and opting for an additional Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 PWM fan for a push/pull configuration.
With the single included fan, the Hyper 212 BE is more than capable of cooling the 10700K at stock speeds, with the option for some conservative all-core overclocks if you decide to snag another Silencio fan, for which there is an extra set of mounting clips included. We’re confident you’ll be hard-pressed to find any better option for the 10700K at this price.
Best Low-Profile Cooler for the i7-10700K
Finally, our best low-profile recommendation goes to the Noctua NH-L12S. While you can sort of cheat thermal performance by slapping the NF-A12x25 fan on something like the Scythe Big Shuriken 3 for the ultimate in low-profile air cooling, we’re looking to keep costs down with out-of-the-box quality and performance, and that crown always goes to Noctua.
SFF PCs are skyrocketing in popularity thanks to the advancement of PC hardware, where components seem to offer the same level performance with increasingly smaller options, and it’s evident with the NH-L12S that cooling isn’t any different.
While you may not be setting any overclocking records with the NH-L12S, you can still confidently run even the Core i9-10900K in a mini-ITX system and never have to worry about things like additional points of failure or coolant evaporation over time.
Best Liquid Cooler: Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 – If you’re looking for the best all-in-one cooler, the Liquid Freezer 280 is it. With active VRM cooling and best-in-class thermal/noise performance, it’s undoubtedly worth the somewhat frustrating installation. Note: installation hassle is mitigated by having your motherboard flat against your build surface, or by holding the mounting plate in place with some tape, temporarily.
Best Air Cooler: Noctua NH-U12A – This is a more recent offering from Noctua that challenges even the NH-D15 in terms of thermal and noise performance. It may even leave some questioning whether they truly need to opt for liquid cooling or massive dual-tower air coolers.
Best Entry-Level Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 BlackEdition – The entry-level king returns with a fresh coat of gunmetal paint. With best-in-class cooling at an insanely low price, you’re not going to find many better options if you plan on leaving your processor at stock for gaming. If you want to push some conservative overclocks, be sure to pick up an additional Cooler Master Silencio FP 120mm fan for a push/pull configuration!
Best Low-Profile Cooler: Noctua NH-L12S – The best out-of-the-box performance of any low-profile cooler to ensure whatever processor you’ve chosen stays in check if you’re planning on building an air-cooled SFF system.