Are you on the lookout for the Best CPU Coolers For i9 12900K?
If you’ve managed to get your hands on a 12900K, congratulations. In many people’s heads, it’s the best processor that you can buy right now in terms of its overall performance. While that whole discussion is up for debate, it’s hard to disagree considering its results.
Intel’s 12th Gen platform, also known as Alder Lake, now supports DDR5 memory. Not only is DDR5 able to achieve higher frequencies, but it can also do so while maintaining an overall more efficient power draw. Of course, you’ll need a good Z690 motherboard to take advantage of this, so consider taking a look at the best motherboards for Core i9 12900K as well.
Now we all know that cooling an enthusiast-grade chip that has this much power is not that easy. Especially if we throw overclocking into the mix. Needless to say, Intel’s flagship processors have always been notoriously difficult to maintain when it comes to thermal issues, and this one is no different.
With all of that considered, here are our picks for the best CPU coolers for i9 12900K.
Best CPU Coolers For i9 12900K – Our Picks
Choosing between the dozens of excellent options for the best CPU coolers for i9 12900K requires a lot of thought, analysis, and of course, research. The 12900K is a power-hungry unlocked processor with a lot of potential in terms of overclocking. As such, you want to make sure that you tame this beast properly. That can only be done with proper cooling.
DDR5 is another benefit of the Alder Lake platform, so you’ll want to check out how memory overclocking works for even better performance.
So, after looking at some of the top coolers on the market today, our priorities were mainly to focus on cooling performance. Aesthetics and form factor are worth considering as well, but performance will always be more crucial than anything to someone who buys a 12900K.
Plus, it turns out some of the best-performing coolers also look great. So, it’s a bit of a win-win situation. We tried to cover different types of coolers, while also trying to focus on what works within different form factor builds. This creates a lot of diversity in the roundup.
Before we begin, custom loops are also something you should look out for. Have a look at the differences between custom loops and AIOs.
1. NZXT Kraken Z73 360
Best Overall CPU Cooler For i9 12900K
- Fantastic overall performance
- Modern minimalistic looks
- Ingenious LCD display on CPU block
- Superb RGB implementation
- Quite expensive
Type: 360mm AIO | Dimensions (Radiator): 121 x 394 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4, sTRX4, TR4 | Fans: 3x 120mm AER RGB 2 | Lighting: RGB
Many things need to go into consideration if we were going to pick just one product as the best CPU cooler for 12900K. Obviously, performance is important. However, none of our picks in this roundup will ever thermally limit the 12900K in realistic usage, as intensive as your workload may very well be.
So, it turns out that besides performance, aesthetics, overall value, and of course reliability come into play here as well. If we were to recommend just one CPU cooler to 12900K buyers that performs well, looks good, and will do both years down the line, then that would be the Kraken Z73.
NZXT’s current lineup can be broken up into the X-series and Z-series of coolers. The Z-series comes with that fantastic 60mm LCD display on top of the CPU block. The Z73 is their premium flagship model, and it ticks all of the right boxes.
Now, let’s talk about the design. All of the current coolers in NZXT’s lineup are based on the Gen 7 pump and radiator design from Asetek. Of course, NZXT takes the design to the next level with that customizable LCD display, AER RGB 2 fans, and an overall appearance that is sophisticated and minimal. It works well if you’re trying to give your PC that modern clean look.
As we just said, the Kraken Z73 RGB is based on the Asetek Gen 7 design. It uses an aluminum radiator, a copper cold plate, and of course, rubber tubing that is re-inforced. An NZXT logo is present on the top and bottom of the radiator near the fan mounting brackets riveted to the radiator itself.
This cooler features fixed tubing and braided sleeving along with the rubber tubing beneath it. The fittings on the radiator end are articulating 90-degree fittings, which makes installation much easier. Furthermore, the block features a 14-pin connector for the SATA power, fan splitter, and RGB channel.
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Moving on, the base of the cooler comes pre-installed with an Intel mounting bracket, which saves a lot of time. The cold plate underneath features a circular design and it uses a copper finish.
It comes with a coating of thermal compound pre-applied, which some people like to replace with their own for slightly better performance. However, that whole idea is up for debate and subject to scrutiny.
Since this is a 360mm cooler, it comes with three 120mm fans. The Z73 uses AER RGB 2 fans, which as the name suggests, feature fantastic RGB lighting. You get a PWM/aRGB fan connector in the box as well. They use fluid dynamic bearings, and they push out a lot of air.
Performance-wise, the Kraken Z73 is excellent. It can keep the 12900K relatively cool even when you’re pushing it pedal to the metal. In fact, it surprisingly performs better than the Arctic Cool Liquid Freezer II in some tests.
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It’s got the looks, and it’s got the performance. With a dash of innovative features, the Z73 easily takes the top spot. Of course, the only downside here is the price.
2. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360
Best Value 360mm CPU Cooler For i9 12900K
- Incredible price-performance ratio
- Innovative pump design
- Tried and true reliability
- Quite affordable for a 360mm AIO
- Design not for everyone
Type: 360mm AIO | Dimensions (Radiator): 120 x 398 x 38mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4 | Fans: 3x 120mm P-Fans | Lighting: None
It’s quite the toss-up between our first three choices when it comes to the best CPU cooler for the i9 12900K. While the Kraken Z73 certainly performs well and looks superior in some people’s opinion, the price is quite steep. On the flip side, the Arctic Liquid Freezer II is the more sensible choice, but it gets rid of a few bells and whistles. Both of them are excellent coolers, but for different types of buyers.
The Arctic Liquid Freezer II is for those folks who care about the price-to-performance ratio a lot. We know some people don’t like RGB either, so this one is surely a bit interesting.
So, Arctic is no stranger when it comes to cooling components for PCs. They are the minds behind the popular MX-4 thermal paste. Their Liquid Freezer line is sort of a cult classic, but they are a bit underrated.
The first thing that you’ll notice is that there’s not a lot going on with the design of this CPU cooler. While many companies try to cram in as much RGB as possible these days, the company went a completely different route with a stealthy and muted look. They do make an RGB version, but there’s no lighting on the pump, only on the fans.
You might be wondering why we’re not recommending the RGB version here. Well, while the performance of the fans on that version is quite good, the RGB lighting is just a subtle afterthought.
RGB fans are much more interesting these days than just a simple lighting setup. For design uniformity reasons, you’re much better off getting fans separately for this version as you can match them with the other case fans.
Now, let’s talk about the design for a bit. Arctic has decided to go with a custom design for the pump found on this CPU cooler. Many companies rely on Asetek for their pumps, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, Arctic went to great lengths to perfect their in-house developed pump, and it pays off quite well.
For starters, this cooler is nearly silent, even when it is working at maximum load. That’s not something you see every day, and it’s a testament to the engineering shown off here. They are also using a thick 38mm radiator, one with a high fin density. This allows more water to move through the system, making cooling more efficient.
As for the tubing, it is fiber-reinforced and the length is quite good. These tubes also feature cable management channels, and this allows you to easily hide the PWM and RGB cables. So, it may not look all that flashy, but a lot is going on with the design here.
The fans here are great as high static pressure fans, and they can spin up to 2000RPM. They never get too loud, and that’s a huge plus point. They don’t vibrate too much, nor do they make much noise.
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All of these decisions end up paying off when it comes to performance. This 360mm cooler is certainly quite impressive, and the fact that it can easily handle the 12900K is impressive. Certain aspects might not make it for everyone, but the value proposition is ultimately too good to ignore.
3. EKWB EK 360 Elite D-RGB
Best Enthusiast CPU Cooler For i9 12900K
- Impressive RGB implementation
- Come with six fans out of the box
- Unparalled performance
- Cable management is a mess
- Very expensive despite the features
Type: 360mm AIO | Dimensions (Radiator): 120 x 396 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4 | Fans: 3x 120mm EK-Vardar fans | Lighting: RGB
So, we now get to the third cooler on our list and one that might be the most impressive in terms of its performance. As ridiculous as that naming scheme may seem, it almost seems surprisingly fitting for a cooler that is this complex. While the two options above might be more impressive in some regards, enthusiasts will cherish the features of this Elite 360 cooler.
EKWB is not new to this game, as they have been making water cooling components for gaming PCs for a long while now. While most of their product lineup consists of components for custom loops, they have managed to create something truly phenomenal here with this closed-loop solution.
A gigantic cooler like this does not come without its downsides. With that said, this thing is quite well designed, purely with performance kept in mind. Before we get into that, let’s clear some things up. EK has a lot of different models when it comes to AIO. For those with 360mm radiators, you have the Elite D-RGB 360, D-RGB, and the EK Basic.
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The one we’re looking at comes with 6 fans and a fan controller. The non-elite version comes with three fans and lacks a fan controller, while the Basic version neither has RGB nor a fan controller. Yeah, the product stack here is quite confusing. We feel it’s important to clear up so you don’t get the wrong version.
Finally, let’s get to the design. The immediately obvious highlight here is the shiny black nickel housing found on the pump, which also features a subtle EKWB logo with RGB lighting. It also features rotary fittings for easier tube adjustment near the pump/block.
Compatibility is quite good, and if EK hasn’t already added an LGA1700 mounting kit, you can contact them and easily get one for cheap. Not a big deal in the long run. The cooler takes advantage of a 360mm aluminum radiator. It has a thickness of 27mm, and it supports up to six 120mm fans in a push-pull configuration. It even features a small fill-port for maintenance.
Fin-density is quite great since they are stacked close to each other. This provides a better surface for dissipating heat. EK is also using their in-house design for the pump, rather than going with an Asetek design. The entire combination is quite heavy, and it would deal some damage if you were to ever drop it.
Last but not least, the package includes six EK Vardar S 120mm fans, allowing for a push-pull type configuration. Going with this will give you marginally better performance. Speaking of which, this cooler is at the top of its game in that regard. It can handle the 12900K, no problem, even with crazy overclocks.
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If we were to make a comparison, this cooler is only beaten by some of the gigantic 420mm AIOs out there. On top of all of that, the fans work quite well as they are not loud and look great thanks to the RGB design.
This high-end AIO is not for everyone. Cable management is quite the hassle, and the entire package ends up being quite expensive. However, if you want the best possible build quality, performance, and high-end looks, we think this is the one for the enthusiasts.
4. Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black
Best Air Cooler For i9 12900K
- Impressively wide compatibility
- Best-in-class performance
- Sleek and stealthy design
- No Threadripper support
- Gigantic size makes it problematic for RAM clearance
Type: Dual-tower air cooler | Dimensions: 161 x 150 x 165mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD FM1, FM2/+, AM2/+, AM3/+, AM4 | Fans: 2x140mm NF-A15 | Lighting: None
It should be no surprise to hardware nerds that this cooler made the cut. Many Noctua products are held to a very high standard, one that makes a lot of other manufacturers envious, for sure. Critics, average consumers, and enthusiasts all swear by the brand’s cooling products. The NH-D15 chromax.Black is their masterpiece, and you could say it’s the pinnacle of air coolers.
Noctua makes CPU coolers, case fans, thermal paste, and more cooling accessories. With that said, a lot of people struggle to accept their design language. While the brown and beige color scheme is what made them popular in the first place, it’s obvious this does not work with the majority of custom builds out there.
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The NH-D15 is the cooler we all know and love. However, as the naming convention implies, the chromax.Black version gives us this same great cooler with a new coat of paint on it. So, the all-matte-black design proves to be enough of a reason for everyone to pay attention to this air cooler.
Design-wise this thing is quite a behemoth. It features six 6mm copper heat pipes, a dual-tower design, with aluminum fin stacks that are 150mm wide. In terms of aesthetic value, this thing is quite the looker. Everything from the fans, heat pipes, and fin arrays to the anti-vibration pads and fan clips is painted black. The uniformity in the design shows that they went the extra mile here.
It comes with two NF-A15 PWM which are also painted black. Much like the original version, the chromax.Black comes with a fan installed in the middle of the cooler. One thing you’ll notice is that the first fins near the bottom are asymmetrical, allowing for better RAM clearance.
Coming back to the fans, the NF-A15 uses SS02 bearings. These are lubricated bearings that take advantage of magnetic stabilizers. It also includes anti-vibration pads, and the blades provide airflow that is quite simply put, extraordinary.
These fans can spin up to 1500RPM, but they don’t get too loud, which is great for acoustics in your overall build. Moving on, the base of the cooler is made of copper, and it uses steel here and there for retention. The heat pipes are nickel-plated, and of course, they are painted black as well.
There is a minor annoyance with the design here. The part numbers for the fans are visible on the top, which might annoy some of those folks who have OCD about this stuff. Compatibility is quite good, fortunately.
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Even for first-time PC builders, installation is quite easy thanks to the SecuFirm 2 mounting system. This is something not common in many air coolers, so it’s great to see here.
Finally, the performance is very impressive. This thing can match many 240mm and even some 280mm coolers out there. Proof that not everything that glitters is gold. It can handle the 12900K at full load without any issues.
The massive size might be a bit problematic for some RAM modules, and it’s more expensive than many air coolers. However, it’s more reliable than most of them, and that’s something hard to beat.
5. EKWB EK 240 AIO Basic
Best Budget CPU Cooler For i9 12900K
- Sleek and minimal looks
- Surprisingly great performance
- Easy to maintain and install
- Design won't be for everyone
- Lacks many bells and whistles
Type: 240mm AIO | Dimensions: 275 x 120 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4 | Fans: 2x 120mm EK-Vardar fans | Lighting: None
At first thought, it seems counterproductive to recommend a budget CPU cooler for an expensive processor such as the 12900K. Surely, someone who is willing to spend that kind of money on a processor won’t want to skimp out on the processor, right?
Well, we would expect that to generally be the case. However, let’s assume you just can fathom wasting money on RGB, push-pull configurations, or even on fancy pump designs. Maybe it’s not about the budget, it’s about having a simple liquid cooler that performs well and is reliable. Whatever the case may be, if the value is important to you, the EK AIO Basic 240 is worth looking at.
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We already talked about this before in the other EK cooler we mentioned above, but this “Basic” AIO is the entry-level option in EKWB’s AIO lineup. It uses mostly the same design as the EK Elite D-RGB while cutting back on a few, non-essential features. The result is a cooler that still performs well, but without the bells and whistles.
We think this is the more mainstream option. Not everyone has the space for a 360mm cooler, as their current chassis may not allow that. However, almost everyone can easily fit a 240mm cooler into their build. This price-conscious cooler is compact, and the design doesn’t require any maintenance.
It’s a surprise then that this one is so underrated. However, it’s likely because of the simplicity. So many are drawn to flashy RGB and aggressive designs these days, so it’s harder for some to appreciate a minimal design. With that said, this cooler is certainly more reliable than a wide majority of AIOs out there.
For example, you don’t need to worry about RGB LEDs failing or playing around with cumbersome software to adjust the software. Now we know the lack of RGB isn’t suited for everyone, so this will affect some people’s buying decisions.
Other than that, this cooler uses the same excellent design found on the EK Elite D-RGB cooler above. For instance, the pump design is quite similar. This Monoblock looks great even if it’s lacking RGB. The almost matte-like appearance gives it a premium look. Of course, it uses nickel-plated housing.
Furthermore, the hoses feature reinforced braided sleeves over the inner rubber tubes. The cooler even features rotary fittings on the end of the tubes so that you can adjust things on the fly.
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Apart from that, the performance is quite surprising. Since this 240mm has a stronger pump design and a higher quality radiator than most neat this price, it’s able to outperform many 240mm AIOs. It can even beat a handful of 280mm AIOs. Not bad at all for a budget liquid cooler for the i9 12900K. It should handle the flagship 12900K with ease.
Of course, there are a few downsides. The lack of RGB is an obvious one, and the fans on this version seem to be louder for some reason.
How To Choose The Best CPU Cooler For i9 12900K
A CPU cooler is just as important as the motherboard or even the processor itself. All three components are interdependent. So, it is imperative that while searching for a CPU cooler, you find one that is suitable for your needs and compatible with the other two components we just mentioned.
This is even more important when we are talking about a high-end processor like the i9 12900K. The 12th gen processors are certainly impressive, but right now they can prove to be hard to justify for some people. You have to take into consideration that you’re not only buying the new CPU, but you’re also buying into the new platform entirely.
For an unlocked chip like the 12900K, you’ll need a Z690 motherboard. Since you’re already aiming for the best performance possible, you’ll also need DDR5 RAM. For the entire cost of just these three components, you can put together a very capable PC on its own. So, the value aspect is a bit skewed.
Of course, the processor isn’t just for gamers. It’s for content creators, working professionals, and hardware enthusiasts. That makes it even more important that you find the best CPU Cooler for i9 12900K.
Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling
As someone who has been involved within the PC building community for a while, I’ve seen this question come up time and time again over the years. It’s a long-running discussion between both newcomers and veterans. So, what’s the right answer.
Well, the thing is that the entire decision is quite subjective. If you’re going with a beefy 360mm cooler for a low-end processor, that does not make any sense. On the other hand, if you’re using a cheap entry-level air cooler with the 12900K, then that decision escapes common sense as well.
Both have their advantages. For example, some might say air coolers are simpler and hence more reliable. They don’t have as many moving parts and are less prone to failure. For example, if a fan fails, that’s an easy replacement. On the other hand, if the pump on an AIO fails, you’ll have to RMA it or abandon it completely.
Liquid coolers or AIOs also have their obvious advantages. You get a radiator that can store water and with the help of tubes, carry it to and from the CPU block. This might do a better job at cooling, depending on the performance and quality of the components used. To some people, they also look better.
So, you can hopefully figure out how these things are subjective. Some prefer the reliability of air coolers; others may find that liquid coolers perform better. Of course, there are always exceptions on either side.
That should bring you up to speed, but we have covered this topic in depth if you are more interested.
Compatibility between components
This is even harder to get right given the current global situation. If you’re not already aware, there is a shortage of computer parts going on. Even though things are slowly getting better, we don’t know for how long that’s going to be the case.
Of course, you need powerful cooling for a processor that is as demanding as the 12900K. Then again, case compatibility can be a bit of an issue. For ITX or mid-tower cases, fitting a gigantic dual-tower cooler like the NH-D15 can be a problem at times. Some cases might not have support for 360mm radiators either, so many of the best coolers are already out of the equation.
Fortunately, many liquid coolers offer nearly the same level of performance, just with 240 or 280mm radiators. Those tend to have better compatibility with a vast majority of PC cases out there.
With air coolers, RAM clearance is something to worry about. Gigantic dual-tower air coolers can sometimes interfere with or even block RAM slots. If you plan on using RAM modules that are taller than usual, this can be a bit of an issue. Some manufacturers such as Noctua and Cryorig address this quite well.
Well, if you’re spending this much on putting together the ultimate gaming/workstation PC, it would be a crime if you did not care about aesthetics. This is something worth considering when shopping for the best CPU cooler for i9-12900K.
Some may care about aesthetics in the form of flashy RGB fans or aggressive designs. Others prefer a more muted and stealthy look, something similar to the NH-D15 chromax.Black. Looks are certainly subjective, and that is why it is all the more important that you buy a cooler that you won’t mind looking at years down the line.
There are a lot more options out there than just the five of the ones we have picked as the best CPU coolers for i9 12900K. For example, coolers like the Scythe Mugen 5 and Corsair H115i Elite Capellix at least deserve an honorable mention. However, to keep things clear and concise, we aimed to keep the list under 5. These are hands down the best fit for the 12900K, depending on your use case.
If you want to get even more performance out of your 12900K build, or are into putting more into custom PC build, check out custom loops. We have some great roundups such as the best PC radiators and best GPU Coolers. Our coverage on stuff such as the best water blocks for RTX 3080 is also worth taking a look at.
Best CPU Coolers For i9 12900K - FAQs
To harness the full potential of the i9 12900K, many believe that a strong AIO liquid cooler is needed. Well, that’s a good recommendation, especially if you are going to use the system for content creation or production workloads. However, a beefy air cooler can do the job just as well.
Something like the Noctua NH-D15 or the Arctic Liquid Freezer II is what you’ll need for an i9 processor. There are other great options out there, but in general, you do not want to skimp out on cooling performance if you want to have access to all the glory of the i9 12900K.
Many people tend to believe that they must need a 360mm AIO for the i9 12900K. This certainly isn’t the case, as certain 280mm AIOs can prove to be enough for the i9 12900K. Coolers like the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 and EK 280 AIO D-RGB are proof of this.
On paper, DDR5 provides twice the bandwidth and a lower power draw than DDR4. In the long run, it should be worth it. However, for gaming, we are yet to notice a noticeable increase in performance. This likely comes down to optimization, and it will certainly get better down the line.
If not cooled properly, the i9 12900K can hit temperatures above 95°C in all-core workloads. So yes, the 12900K does run quite hot. To mitigate this, it is important to get a powerful CPU cooler. This is even more important if you plan to overclock.