Keeping your components cool is a concern for any builder as it impacts performance and longevity of many of the parts of a PC. Different style coolers at different budgets provide different levels of cooling performance, and depending on the power/heat output of a rig and any plans for overclocking, different types of coolers may be most effective. Outside of custom exotic cooling solutions like liquid nitrogen or major custom liquid loops, there are two main types of mainstream coolers for the central component of any build, the CPU: air coolers that use heatsinks coupled with fans; and All-In-One (AIO) liquid coolers that use fans, a radiator, and a pump. These two types of coolers have different advantages and disadvantages, and both types come in a variety of sub-styles that offer a diverse choice of sizing, technology, and of course, aesthetics.
And one of the most important aspects of aesthetics is the inclusion of RGB lighting. Often customizable, both air and liquid AIO coolers can feature lighting choices to brighten up any rig and add a bit of glitz to couple with the base function of a CPU cooler. While there are a few options for RGB CPU Coolers, not all are created equal. As a cooler is before all else a functional item, we are looking for coolers that are able to keep temperatures in line (relative to their price). At the same time, RGB can be well-implemented …or not so well-implemented. So we also want good customizable RGB that looks nice. And finally, and this is most important with AIOs, we want high build quality to ensure good quality control and value. For AIOs, this is also to avoid any spills or leaks that could damage other components as well.
So with all those criteria in mind, these are recommendations for best air and liquid RGB CPU coolers:
Best RGB CPU Coolers – My Recommendations
Best Budget RGB Air CPU Cooler
Air coolers come in all shapes and sizes, and at all different levels of pricing. The most important part of a CPU cooler is its performance, even if we are focusing on coolers with an RGB option. Air coolers are interesting in that even modest tier options can be very effective, and unless you are building in a very small case, almost all air coolers come with mounting solutions that make them usable for a wide variety of sockets and motherboards. So if we want an RGB capable air cooler (and not a poor implementation of RGB!) and still good performance at the budget-tier pricing level, there really only is one cooler to consider: the Deepcool Gammax GT BK.
Deepcool is a pretty well-known producer of cooling parts for PCs, focusing on CPU coolers (air and liquid) and case fans. And amongst all of their products, the Gammax GT BK is one of the best-known thanks to its very effective performance, its well-thought out implementation of RGB, and the quality of the construction. The RGB is not just based on an RGB 120mm fan, which nearly any cooler could in theory use, but also a subtle-but-elegant cover that gives a synchronized shine-through lighting to match with the CPU fan (and other components through software like Mystic Light or Aurora). It may not have the pure performance of a Noctua DH-15, but the Gammax GT BK will still provide plenty of cooling for the vast majority of users.
And as this is the ‘budget-tier’, the Gammax GT BK is eminently affordable. At $35, the Gammax is a serious step-up from stock coolers at a reasonable price. For anyone searching for some extra lighting with top-notch performance without breaking the bank, the Gammax GT BK is a very strong option.
Best Performance RGB Air CPU Cooler
If we are able to spend a little more money on our CPU cooler, air coolers offer some of the best bang-for-your-buck performance at the mid-tier and high-end level. While liquid coolers have some interesting aspects to them (which we will cover next), air coolers have proven themselves very effective at a more reasonable price in almost any review available today. And luckily, some of these high-end air coolers offer integrated RGB to keep your rig cool, while also looking cool. Of these available choices, our favorite and recommendation for best high-end RGB air CPU cooler is the CoolerMaster MasterAir MA410M.
Aside from being quite the mouthful as far as naming goes, the MA410M is a truly beautiful CPU cooler. Using two RGB fans in a push/pull configuration and RGB on both the side and top of the heatsink cover, there is more than enough lighting (and all of it addressable!) to keep your PC looking fresh. The push/pull configuration helps keep your CPU chilly and provides plenty of performance for every-day use or moderate overclocking. CoolerMaster is known as a reliable manufacturer, so you can trust that the build quality will be top-notch. We would have liked to see 6 heatpipes instead of the basic 4, but the entire cooler is plenty thick so the 4 direct contact pipes are well-implemented.
Overall, this is just an eye-catching example of how nice a CPU cooler can look. The performance is there, the RGB is there, and at $60, the price is still very affordable amongst higher-end air CPU coolers. If you want plenty of RGB and have the money, but are still hesitant to jump into liquid CPU coolers, the MA410M is a great choice.
Best 240mm AIO Liquid RGB CPU Cooler
You might be saying “Hey wait, you skipped 120mm AIO coolers!”, and you’d be right. But there is a reason for that! 120mm AIO CPU Coolers are almost always shown to worse in performance than even high-quality budget air coolers. So unless you have a very specific need for a 120mm liquid CPU cooler, go for an air cooler or step-up to the 240mm size. And even then, the main reason to choose a 240mm AIO CPU cooler is because of the aesthetics. Both of the coolers above will likely be just as effective as a 240mm AIO, but might not look quite as nice. So if you want to go liquid but only have the space for a 240mm radiator, our recommendation for best 240mm AIO RGB CPU COOLER is the Gigabyte AORUS 240mm AIO.
This AIO is absolutely stunning. The customizable LED on the pump block, the glowing RGB on the two included fans, and the compatibility with the RGBFusion software for full synchronization are all beautifully done. But, and it’s a big but, this thing costs $190. That’s as much as many people spend on their CPU itself. So, although this thing is truly magnificent, we can also recommend the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R. It still has plenty of performance and RGB, while costing a much more affordable $100.
Best 280mm AIO Liquid RGB CPU Cooler
The 280MM AIO is where you start to see serious gains over air coolers (except for some of the absolute highest end ones like Noctua DH-15 or Dark Rock Pro 4). The 280MM size uses a beefy radiator combined with the high airflow of 2 x 140MM fans to create some serious cooling power for even heavily overclocked CPUs. There are some really great 280MM AIOs on the market, and almost all of them have some level of RGB on either the pump block or the fans, but our recommendation is well-known and does everything well: the Corsair H115i RGB Platinum.
Corsair is a well-known factor, and in the best possible way. There are products are consistently great, and the H115i is no different. The best part of the H115i is…well…everything. The AIO does everything well and nothing badly. The RGB is well done and accompanied by the best RGB software on the market, iCue. The performance is great and the two ML140mm PRO fans are top-notch in both static pressure/airflow and noise performance, and the build quality is fantastic to help you sleep easier and not worry about leaks from the pump block. There really isn’t anything we can point at and say Corsair messed up, it is just a well thought out product.
And even better, the H115i is by no means cheap, but it is also not overly expensive. At $140, you are getting quite a bargain considering all of the advantages and lack of disadvantages inherent to this AIO CPU cooler. We honestly can’t say that we would recommend a different RGB 280mm AIO over this one, even if it means saving a few bucks, so if you are looking for a 280mm AIO with great RGB and awesome performance, look no further than the H115i.
Best 360mm AIO Liquid RGB CPU Cooler
Finally, we get to the big boys, the 360mm AIO coolers. These guys are THICC, with big radiators and 3 x 120mm fans to match. But, thanks to the size of the radiator and the amount of air the three fans can push, the 360mm AIOs are amongst the absolute strongest cooling solutions you can find for your mainstream battlestations. While the bigger versions of the H115i (H150i) and the MasterLiquid ML240R (ML360R) are both very capable coolers, our choice for best 360mm AIO liquid RGB CPU cooler is the Thermaltake Floe DX 360mm AIO.
Thermaltake (often shortened to TT) is a well-known producer of components, with a focus on cooling solutions like fans and AIOs, but also producing PSU’s and cases. This particular AIO brings together a variety of their highest grade components to show off exactly what TT is capable of. From the Riing 120mm fans with their beautiful RGB implementation and strong performance to the ASETEK based pump design to the TT RGB Plus software and lighting hub, this AIO is a combo of everything that TT has to offer in the realm of cooling. The RGB is plentiful and beautiful, the performance is top-notch, and the build quality/reliability is as good as any other manufacturer on the market.
But, all this comes at a price. Even when considering the inclusion of the fans and the lighting hub, the selling price for this guy is high at $240. The reason we recommend it comes down to the reality that anyone buying a 360mm AIO likely has a nice budget for cooling, or they would be looking at smaller AIOs and air CPUs. Having said that, if you really like the look from TT, there is a less expensive AIO called the Thermaltake Floe 360mm AIO (non-DX) that still provides a lot of the same quality at a much more affordable $175. Depending on your budget, either of these options is great for a 360mm AIO RGB cooler.
There you have it, whether you are looking for a budget air CPU cooler or a massive 360mm AIO, we have you covered for a strong cooling solution that will also brighten up your rig with plenty of RGB. When it comes down to choosing between air and liquid, the most important factors will be pricing, aesthetics, and how much space you have to devote to the CPU cooler. But once you have made up your mind and are ready to think about which product you need, these recommendations should help you find the perfect RGB CPU cooler to keep your components chilly and your rig looking cool.