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5 Best CPU Coolers For i9-12900K

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. Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE LCD

Best Overall CPU Cooler For i9 12900K

Pros

  • Fantastic overall performance
  • Superb LCD display
  • Unique RGB lighting
  • Quiet fans

Cons

  • Very Expensive

1,905 Reviews

Type: 420mm AIO | Dimensions (Radiator): 140 x 450 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4, AM5, sTRX4, TR4 | Fans: 3x 140mm Corsair ML RGB ELITE | Lighting: RGB

Our primary pick is the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm AiO liquid cooler, which is a high-end liquid CPU cooling solution that is designed to offer superior cooling performance for the Intel Core i9 12900K processor. It features a 420mm radiator, three 140mm ML series PWM fans, as well as integration with Corsair’s iCUE software that allows for advanced control and customization of the cooler’s features.

Of course, the cooling performance of the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm cooler is excellent. It is designed to handle high-end processors like the Intel Core i9 12900K, and it does so with ease. The large 420mm radiator and three 140mm fans ensure that heat is dissipated quickly and efficiently, keeping the CPU cool even under heavy loads. The radiator has a very dense fin structure, which is ideal for efficient heat dissipation.

The Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm cooler provides unlocks the maximum overclocking headroom for your Intel Core i9 12900K processor. The combination of the large radiator and powerful fans allows for stable and high overclocks, pushing the processor to its limits without any thermal throttling.

Best CPU Cooler for i9 12900K
Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE LCD

Moreover, the noise levels of the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm cooler are low, thanks to the use of Corsair’s ML series fans. These fans are designed to offer high static pressure while maintaining low noise levels, making them ideal for use in a liquid CPU cooler.

One unique feature of the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm cooler is its LCD screen, which displays real-time system information and can also be used to display custom images or animations. This is one of the hallmark features of this cooler, and it is not just for show. The cooler also features customizable RGB lighting, which can be synced with other Corsair components for a cohesive lighting setup.

Speaking of the looks, The Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE cooler has a sleek and modern aesthetic that will appeal to many PC enthusiasts. The cooler features a black finish on the radiator, fans, and pump head, which gives it a clean and professional look.

One of the standout aesthetic features of the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE cooler is its customizable RGB lighting. The cooler comes with lighting on the pump head and the three 140mm ML series PWM fans, which can be customized using Corsair’s iCUE software. Of course, the LCD screen also adds a futuristic and high-tech element to the cooler’s aesthetic, making it a great addition to a high-end system build.

While the Corsair iCUE H170i ELITE 420mm cooler offers excellent cooling performance and tons of unique features, it is also very expensive. Its supremely high price tag makes it a poor value for money compared to other liquid CPU coolers on the market. While it is our pick for the best overall CPU cooler for i9 12900K, it might not the ideal choice for everyone due to its pricing.

2. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360

Best Value 360mm CPU Cooler For i9 12900K

Pros

  • Incredible price-performance ratio
  • Innovative pump design
  • Tried and true reliability
  • Quite affordable for a 360mm AIO

Cons

  • 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.

Best CPU Coolers For i9 12900K
Arctic Liquid Freezer II

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.

More AIOs: Best AIO Coolers

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. Lian Li GALAHAD AiO 360 RGB White

Best Designed CPU Cooler For i9 12900K

Pros

  • Unique white design
  • Superb performance
  • Excellent RGB lighting

Cons

  • Quite expensive
  • Cable management can be complicated

351 Reviews

Type: 360mm AIO | Dimensions (Radiator): 123.5 x 397.2 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 1366, 775, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4, AM5 | Fans: 3x 120mm UNI Fan SL120 | Lighting: RGB

You might also want to consider the Lian Li GALAHAD 360mm AiO cooler, which is Lian Li’s high-end liquid CPU cooler that is designed to offer solid cooling performance for the most demanding modern processors. Our selected variant features a 360mm radiator, three 120mm Lian Li UNI fans, and customizable RGB lighting. This cooler is also notable for its unique white design, which is not commonly seen in liquid CPU coolers.

The Lian Li GALAHAD 360mm AiO cooler delivers superb cooling performance, thanks to its large radiator and efficient CPU pump block combination. The cooler is designed to handle high-end processors like the i9 12900K, and provides effective cooling even under heavy loads. Its high-performance pump ensures that coolant is circulated efficiently, ensuring optimal heat dissipation from the CPU.

If you are comfortable with overclocking, the Lian Li GALAHAD 360mm AiO cooler provides decent overclocking headroom for processors like the Intel Core i9 12900K. However, its performance in this regard is not exceptional compared to some other high-end liquid CPU coolers. Nonetheless, the cooler can still allow you to test out high overclocks for most processors without thermal limitations.

Best CPU Cooler for i9 12900K
Lian Li GALAHAD AiO 360 RGB White

Furthermore, the Lian Li GALAHAD 360mm AiO offers superb acoustics, thanks to the use of its low-noise UNI fans. The cooler’s three 120mm UNI fans operate quietly even at high speeds, and its pump is designed to reduce noise levels as well. As a result, the cooler produces very little noise even under heavy loads.

Aesthetics can be considered the strong point of the GALAHAD AiO cooler. The product features customizable RGB lighting that can be controlled using Lian Li’s software. The software allows for a wide range of lighting effects and colors, which can be synchronized with other Lian Li components for a unified lighting setup. Additionally, the cooler features a unique white design that stands out from most other liquid CPU coolers, making it an excellent choice for those who value sophisticated styling.

The cooler’s white finish and customizable RGB lighting make it a visually impressive addition to any system build. Additionally, the Lian Li UNI fans feature a sleek and sophisticated design that will appeal to many PC enthusiasts. They are somewhat unorthodox in their shape and style, but the overall look of the cooler with the fans is definitely extraordinary.

At the end of the day, the Lian Li GALAHAD AiO cooler is a high-end liquid CPU cooler that offers solid cooling performance as well as unique design features. However, its price is relatively high compared to alternative liquid coolers on the market. Additionally, the cooler’s cable management can be complicated, which can add to the installation time and difficulty.

Nonetheless, the cooler’s sophisticated styling and superb acoustics may be worth the investment for those who prioritize aesthetics and noise levels. The GALAHAD is also a perfect choice for an all-white PC built around the Core i9 12900K.

4. Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black

Best Air Cooler For i9 12900K

Pros

  • Impressively wide compatibility
  • Best-in-class performance
  • Sleek and stealthy design

Cons

  • No Threadripper support
  • Gigantic size makes it problematic for RAM clearance

12,488 Reviews

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.

For custom loops: 5 Best D5 and DDC Pumps

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.

Best CPU Coolers For i9 12900K
Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black

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.

More coverage on custom loops: Best CPU Reservoir

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. Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2

Best Budget CPU Cooler For i9 12900K

Pros

  • Sleek and minimalistic design
  • Very affordable
  • Silent operation

Cons

  • No RGB lighting
  • Mediocre thermal performance

7,569 Reviews

Type: Tower Air Cooler | Dimensions: 62 x 121 x 155mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 115X, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AMD AM4 | Fans: 1x 120mm be Quiet! Pure Wings 2 | Lighting: None

Our last pick is an affordable air cooler that can get the job done without breaking the bank. The Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 air cooler is an affordable option for those looking for a reliable air cooler for their CPU i9 12900K. It might not be the most stylish or premium option, but it is a good budget choice for stock use with the Core i9 12900K.

It features a tower-style design with a single 120mm fan and a maximum TDP of 150W. The cooler is designed to be easy to install and provides acceptable cooling performance for most processors. While it may not provide the same level of cooling performance as high-end liquid coolers, it can still handle most processors without experiencing thermal throttling.

Of course, the Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 air cooler provides limited overclocking headroom compared to high-end liquid coolers. However, it can still provide stable overclocks for most processors without experiencing thermal issues. It is worth noting that overclocking the Core i9 12900K may not be possible with this cooler, and users may need to consider a more powerful cooling solution if they plan to push their i9 12900K to its limits.

Best CPU Cooler for i9 12900K
Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2

On the flip side, the Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 air cooler offers exceptional acoustics, thanks to its Pure Wings 2 120mm fan. Be Quiet! is known for its acoustics as is evident by its name, and the trend continues with this product. The fan operates quietly even at high speeds, making it an excellent choice for those who value low noise levels in their system.

In terms of aesthetics, the Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 air cooler has a minimalistic and understated all-black design, without any RGB lighting or flashy features. This can be appealing to those who prefer a clean and simple aesthetic for their system. Additionally, the cooler is easy to install with wide compatibility, thanks to its mounting kit and clear instructions.

You may want to double-check the compatibility of the Pure Rock 2 with your particular case before making the purchase decision. While it is not the biggest air cooler out there, it is still pretty tall at 155mm and may conflict with your case’s side panel. You may also want to check its compatibility with your memory modules.

In essence, the Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2 air cooler is an affordable option for those looking for a reliable air cooler for their i9 12900K CPU. While it may not provide the same level of cooling performance as high-end liquid coolers, it still delivers acceptable performance for most Intel 12th Gen processors.

This cooler is ideal for those users who want to run their Core i9 12900K CPU at stock settings, without any custom voltage settings. You may also want an air cooler simply for reliability or aesthetics, which are both valid reasons in this case. Of course, the primary pull of this cooler is its low price tag, which can help you maximize the value you get for your money.

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.

Aesthetics

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.

Final Thoughts

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

Does i9 12900K need liquid cooling?

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.

What CPU Cooler do I need for an i9?

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.

Is 280mm AIO enough for 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.

Will DDR5 be worth it?

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.

Does i9 12900K run hot?

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.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hassam Nasir


As a managing Editor, I run, operate, and implement a substantial amount of work at Appuals.com. I supervise a team of enthusiastic geeks and also create content strategies. Whenever I am not at my work desk you'll find me tinkering around PC hardware and retro gadgets.