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Best Low Profile CPU Coolers: Reviews For All Budgets

The building of computers has come a long way in recent years. Everybody gets excited when it comes to picking out a high powered graphics card, but if you don't have the proper cooling system in place, what good can it do?

When building your gaming rig, you want all the best components on the market. Often times, people neglect the peripheral support items to handle all that power.

Investing in a top of the range cooling system is a great first step. Sometimes you may want a smaller graphics card to fit your small ITX build.

Image

Product Name

Fan Speed

Noise Level

Airflow

Check Price

Noctua NH-L9i, Premium Low-Profile CPU Cooler...

2500 RPM

23.6 dba

33.54 CFM

Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU Air Cooler, 120mm...

300 - 1800 RPM

27 - 30.4 dba

8.28 - 50.79 CFM

Thermaltake Engine 27 Low Profile CPU Cooler...

1500 - 2500 RPM

13 - 25 dba

9.2 CFM

Cooler Master MasterAir G100M RGB Top Down...

1500 - 2000 RPM

13 - 25 dba

22.63 CFM

ARCTIC Freezer 11 LP - 100 Watts Intel CPU...

500 - 2000 RPM

25 dba

22.63 CFM

Phanteks Slim Low-Profile Heatsinks, 120mm...

500 - 1800 RPM

12.5 - 30.7 dba

53.3 CFM

CORSAIR Hydro Series H60 AIO Liquid CPU...

1700 RPM

28.3 dba

57.2 CFM


Understanding Low Profile Coolers

A low profile cooler is the most compact type of cooler on the market at the moment, perfect for you gamers with limited space options in your new set up.

Due to their small size, they sacrifice some of their output power, so before investing in one of these cool products, ensure it will have the power to cool your processor.


Factors to Consider When Buying Low Profile CPU Coolers

CPU usage

When deciding which cooler you want to buy, you must first determine what you want your computer to do. Are you planning to run high graphic games? Or do you simply wish to surf the web and send emails? Answering these questions is imperative when deciding which component to buy for your perfect PC.

TDP Rating

TPD or thermal design power is used to determine the thermal output of a specific component of your PC when at full power. It is integral to find this out before deciding which cooler to use, or else you may end up overloading your rig. Make sure you have the correct cooling system in place to handle your projected TBD output.

Cooling Solution

When talking about cooling solutions, the argument devolves into liquid vs. air cooling systems, and both have their merits.

  • Air cooling systems are great at dissipating heat and relocating it from your CPU. You should bear in mind that it disperses the heat back into your computer’s housing and raises the ambient temperature of your overall rig.
  • Liquid cooling systems serve a very similar purpose just in a different way. They specialize in relocating the heat to the outside of your rig using a radiator and a fan.

Material Build Quality

When it comes to picking fans, it is the decision between a 3-pin/DC fan or a 4-pin/PWM fan. At face value, they do not seem to be that different, which is not entirely true.

PWM fans tend to be the more versatile of the two, and DC fans have issues when you change the voltage output and speed of the fan. The fourth pin on the PMW fans allows for this voltage and speed change without an issue.

Compatibility

Checking the compatibility of your cooling system is a very important step when deciding which to buy. Most CPU coolers these days are compatible with most motherboards, but it is still important to check as some still have only one socket compatibility and may not work with your current setup.

Dimensions & Advertised Clearances

Checking that your cooler is the right size and will fit into your PC setup is a must when making the decision of which to buy. Most chassis manufacturers will supply you with a guide on the maximum size of cooler you can fit in your rig.

Ease of installation

The type of cooling system you buy may come down to how simple it is to install. If you are new to pc building, it may be beneficial to opt for an AOI cooling system, as they are prepackaged and can be installed in around 20 minutes. For the more well-versed pc builders, you may choose a custom cooling system that can be much more tricky to install.

Warranty and price

Identifying how much you want to spend on your cooling system should be the first step you take before beginning to research the best one for you.

You should always check the warranty on these products before purchasing one of these products, and if something goes wrong and you need to swap out the party quickly, a warranty could really save the day.


7 Best Low-Profile CPU Coolers Reviewed

1. Noctua NH-L9i

On Sale Today
Noctua NH-L9i, Premium Low-Profile CPU Cooler...
  • Ultra-compact low-profile cooler with only...
  • 100% compatibility RAM- and...
  • Highly optimised NF-A9x14 slim 92mm fan with...
  • Easy-to-install SecuFirm2 multi-socket...

Best Low Profile CPU Cooler

Cooling Technology

Air Cooling

Fan Speed

2500 RPM

Noise Level

23.6 dba

Dimension

95 x 95 x 37mm

Airflow

33.54 CFM

The Noctua NH-L9i, Premium Low-Profile CPU Cooler for Intel LGA115x, is a top-quality, very quiet Cpu cooler. With a low profile of only 37mm and a footprint of only 95mmx95mm, it is the perfect addition to your slim PC setup.

It is compatible with tall ram modules and VGA cards on mini-ITX mainboards. It has a custom-designed mounting system called the SecuFirma9x142; this will make your installation process a walk in the park.

It boasts a highly optimized NF-A9x14 premium fan with fully automated speed controls via PWM. This makes this fan one of the quietest on the market. This is all topped off with an NT-H1 thermal compound; this combines the trademark quality you have come to expect from Noctua, with the compact technology you require for your slimline PC setup.

The heatsink used in this model is a modest 23mm, coupled with the NF-A9x14 low profile fan the NH-L9 is only 37mm tall. This makes it perfect for compact HTPC setups and people who are have serious space issues in their new PC setup.

The footprint of the NH-L9iis a mere 95x95mm, which complies precisely with the LGA115x keep-out zone. This eradicates any issues with the chipset coolers and will not get in the way of your RAM slots, and this makes it entirely compatible with tall memory modules.

In most cases with bigger coolers, you will have issues with your cooler getting in the way of your PCle slots. Due to the mini-ITX only having a 95x95mm, it can become quite a problem if you need a bigger cooler to keet your unit at an optimal temperature.

Noctua has solved this problem for you by making a cooler that fits snuggly in the slot allocated. This makes this unit fully compatible with PCle cards.

Good
  • Compact
  • Quiet
  • High fan speed
  • Compatible with all PLCE cards
Bad
  • Expensive
  • Plastic casing is easy to break during installation

2. Scythe Big Shuriken 3

Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU Air Cooler, 120mm...
  • 69mm tall perfectly fits Small Form Factor...
  • Included Kaze Flex 120 slim PWM fan (Sealed...
  • Copper base and 5 heatpipe design, the...
  • HPMS III spring loaded mounting system is...

Best Low Profile CPU Air Cooler

Cooling Technology

Air Cooling

Fan Speed

300 - 1800 RPM

Noise Level

27 - 30.4 dba

Dimension

122 x 122 x 69 mm

Airflow

8.28 - 50.79 CFM

If you have a preference towards air coolers over liquid coolers, I would suggest the Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU Air Cooler, 120mm Low Profile(69mm Tall), Intel LGA1151, AMD AM4/Ryzen. It is a reliable, compact, and good looking addition to any setup.

This compact CPU cooler comes with a newly developed Kaze Flex slim fan that puts out a high airflow and is very quiet. It boasts 5 sintered heat pipes and a copper base to ensure that all the heat is dissipated away from your CPU. The heat sink is fitted with a 15mm silent fan and has the option of a regular 25mm fan to allow for more exceptional cooling performance.

The installation of this cooler is made very easy by the new HPMS mounting system. It is a secure and easy to use installation system and is compatible with most modern platforms.

This spring-loaded mounting system is compatible with, INTEL LGA 775, 1150/1151/1155/1156, 1366, 2011(V3) Square ILM, 2066 Square ILM & AMD AM2(+), AM3(+), AM4, FM1, FM2(+). (Original backplate required for AMD sockets).

Good
  • Easy installation
  • Versatile
  • Compatible
Bad
  • Bigger than most low profile coolers

3. Thermaltake Engine 27

Thermaltake Engine 27 Low Profile CPU Cooler...
  • Low-Profile 27mm Height - Designed with 27mm...
  • Unique Metallic (Alumium Alloy) Structure...
  • Forty Fan Blade Design for Better Cooling...
  • Radial Fin Arrangement - The Engine 27 is...

Best Low Profile CPU Cooler for Overclocking

Cooling Technology

Air Cooling

Fan Speed

1500 - 2500 RPM

Noise Level

13 - 25 dba

Dimension

91.5 x 91.5 x 27mm

Airflow

9.2 CFM

If you are planning to overclock your PC, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U Low-Profile 70W Intel 60mm Low Noise PWM Fan Forty Fan Blade CPU Cooler CL-P032-CA06SL-A is the fan for you.

This cooler is compatible with Intel Socket LGA 1150/1151/1155/1156/1200 and is designed to be compact, quiet, and lightweight, addition to your CPU. It runs on a PWM fan with metallic bladers and fins designed to reduce the audio output massively.

With only a 27mm height, this cooler is ideal for smaller pc designs. Ideal for slim for applications such as 1 U server, HTPC, AIO/PIO PC, and many more.

The Thermaltake Engine 27 is unlike ordinary CPU coolers. It is made from a metallic structure with a copper base. This provides an easier route for your cooler to dissipate the heat from your overclocked CPU. Radial gaps have been installed in the unit to allow the heat to flow through the fans more economically and give you the best heat dissipation possible.

This cooler has been specifically designed with metallic radial fins. These fins aid in the transfer of heat and its dissipation away from your CPU. With 119 fins in its radial arrangement, it minimizes the gaps between the fans and the fins, so hot air can be exhausted quickly and without fuss.

This cooling system has a PWN fan installed; this means that it will adjust its speed due to the power output of your CPU. This ensures a reliable, ultra-quiet cooling system without sacrificing performance.

This system has been specifically designed so as not to interfere with your ram slots. On most slimline PC housing, you have only 95x95mm to fit your cooling system in. The Thermaltake Engine 27 is only 91.5x91.5mm, so you will have no issues with it overhanging your RAM slots.

Good
  • Copper-based for more thermal conductivity
  • compact
  • 119 Radial fins
  • 50,000 hours life span
Bad
  • Can be noisy under load

4. Cooler Master MasterAir G100M

Cooler Master MasterAir G100M RGB Top Down...
  • Heat Column: Custom Cooper Heat Column...
  • Low profile aluminum stack fins designed for...
  • RGB ring: illuminate your cooler with RGB...
  • Low profile: 74; 5mm in height, perfect for...

Best Low Profile RGB CPU Cooler

Cooling Technology

Water Cooling

Fan Speed

1500 - 2000 RPM

Noise Level

13 - 25 dba

Dimension

145 x 145 x 74.5 mm

Airflow

22.63 CFM

The best RBG CPU cooler I have found is, without a doubt, the Cooler Master MasterAir G100M RGB. It is a 74.m compact cooling system designed for compact PC rigs. It boasts Heat COlumn technology that enables amazing heat transfer. The LED RBG ring allows for full-color customization, which can be controlled simply with the wired controller.

The custom copper heat column increases the surface area of contact so that heat can dissipate more easily through it. It uses a two-phase heat dissipation system, the liquid vapor phase change (boiling/evaporation and condensation.)

This model’s super quick heat transfer is facilitated by the heat pipes being 7x the diameter of your regular heat pipes. By combining the heat pipes and the base, this model dissipates heat like nothing we have ever seen before.

This is a very versatile cooling system and it has a tool-free installation process. The universal retention brackets are included and fully compatable with Intel LGA 2066 / 2011-v3 / 2011 / 1151 / 1150 / 1155 / 1156 / 1366 / 775 AMD® AM4 / AM3+ / AM3 / AM2+ / AM2 / FM2+ / FM2 / FM1.

Good
  • Easy installation
  • Light up LEDs
  • Wired RDG controller
Bad
  • Bigger than most low profile coolers

5. ARCTIC Freezer 11

ARCTIC Freezer 11 LP - 100 Watts Intel CPU...
  • GOOD COOLING PERFORMANCE: A 92 mm PWM fan, 50...
  • VIRTUALLY SILENT: Its low noise impeller and...
  • SLIM AND LIGHTWEIGHT: With a height of only...
  • WIDE COMPATIBILITY: The Freezer 11 LP...

Best Cheap Low Profile CPU Cooler

Cooling Technology

Air Cooling

Fan Speed

500 - 2000 RPM

Noise Level

25 dba

Dimension

115 x 106 x 53 mm

Airflow

22.63 CFM

If you are building your PC on a budget, then the ARCTIC Freezer 11 LP - 100 Watts Intel CPU Cooler for Slim PC Cases, Ultra Quiet 92 mm PWM Fan, pre-Applied MX-4 Thermal Compound is the cooling system for you.

The performance of this system is astounding for the price. It has a 92mm fam with 50 fins and two copper heat pipes to dissipate the heat away from your CPU. as if that wasn’t enough, the manufacturers have gone the extra mile and applied the MX-4 thermal compound for you.

The slim, lightweight cooler stands only 55mm tall and is compatible with exhausting hot air from the sides. The near-silent system has a patented fan holder that ensures you can barely hear a noise, even when the fan is running at full capabilities.

The Freezer 11 LP is widely compatible with most PC setups. Its reduced size means it will fit into your slimline PC setup without an issue. The mounting system is so easy to use and requires minimal time to get it up and running

This new, unique push-pin installation system could not be more simple to use. It is extremely stable and can be installed in minutes, thanks to the MX-4 compound being applied for you.

Good
  • Very cheap
  • Very quiet
  • Easy to install
Bad
  • Bigger than most low profile coolers

6. Phanteks Slim

On Sale Today
Phanteks Slim Low-Profile Heatsinks, 120mm...
  • 100% compatible with high VRM Modules and...
  • Six 6mm C-Type nickel plated heat-pipes with...
  • Can withstand temperatures of up to 200...
  • MVB II enhances thermal convection inside the...

Best Low Profile CPU Cooler Mini ITX

Cooling Technology

Air Cooling

Fan Speed

500 - 1800 RPM

Noise Level

12.5 - 30.7 dba

Dimension

120 x 120 x 25 mm

Airflow

53.3 CFM

If you are building a PC using a Mini ITX chassis, you will need to save every inch of space you can. That is where the Phanteks Slim Low-Profile Heatsinks, 120mm PWM CPU Cooling PH-TC12LS, come in. This low profile cooling system provides high performance in a compact package.

This cooling system is fully compatible with VRM modules and a high RAM heat sink. This system is specifically designed for slimline HTPC builds and will save you so much space in your build, leaving you much more room for the fun parts in your PC.

This cooling system contains 6 C-type nickel-plated heat pipes with slim aluminum stacked fins. This means that the heat dissipation will be substantially more than your standard cooling system.

It can withstand temperatures of up to 200 degrees C, and it deflects heat from other sources to ensure you don't have any problems with your new rig. Phanteks PH-NDC is made from a high purity nano diamond-like particle. This greatly improves the thermal conductivity between the components.

This installation of this unit could not be more straightforward, and it has no fan clips, everything screws in from the top. It uses a Solisku Bracket system, which is compatible with Intel LGA 2011/115x/1366/775 AMD FM1/FM2(+)/AM3(+)/AM2(+).

Good
  • Easy installation
  • Well priced
  • High airflow
Bad
  • Bigger than most low profile coolers

7. CORSAIR Hydro Series H60

CORSAIR Hydro Series H60 AIO Liquid CPU...
  • New, improved SP120L fan offers lower noise...
  • Improved micro-fin copper cold plate for...
  • Low evaporation, large diameter tubing offers...
  • Intel LGA 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, and 2011....

Best Liquid CPU Cooler for Mini ITX Cases

Cooling Technology

Water Cooling

Fan Speed

1700 RPM

Noise Level

28.3 dba

Dimension

157 x 120 x 27 mm

Airflow

57.2 CFM

If you are looking for a liquid cooling system but want to build your PC in a mini ITX case, then the CORSAIR Hydro Series H60 AIO Liquid CPU Cooler, 120mm Radiator, 120mm Fan is the system for you. This compact liquid cooler is one of the best on the market right now and would make a great addition to any PC setup.

This model comes with the new, improved SP120L fan, and this offers a much higher performance rate with less noise than ever before. The upgraded micro fin copper cold plate improves the heat dissipation massively. The 120mm fan offers a better static pressure to noise ratio than previous models.

This model installation process is very easy, and the low profile pump makes it very simple to get in place. With only two screws to hold the fan in place, it could not be simpler to install this system. It also supports Intel Socket 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, and AMD Socket AM2, AM3, AM4, FM1, FM2.

Good
  • Very quiet
  • Well priced
  • High airflow
Bad
  • Bigger than most low profile coolers

Stock coolers vs. Low-Profile aftermarket CPU Cooler

Stock coolers are good at their job, that is not up for argument, but depending on what you wish to do with your PC, they may not measure up to an aftermarket low profile cooler.

A stock cooler will keep your PC from overheating and will probably last as long as your pc does. That being said, If you wish to overclock your pc, then you may have issues.

Spending the extra money on time on a low profile cooler will eliminate this problem, they run better than the stock models and allow you to customize your PC much more.


Installing Low Profile CPU Coolers

Installing a CPU cooler is not rocket science, a few YouTube videos will get you the info you require to get the job done. Simple fixing the cooler into your PC will probably get you the desired results.

However, there are other steps you can take to ensure your PC runs at a much better rate. I would advise that you thoroughly clean your CPU's integrated heat spreader and heat sink.

You should prime their surfaces and properly install high-quality thermal interface material. This will lower your CPU’s temperature significantly.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Does fan size matter?

The question is simple, but the answer is less so. Yes, fan size matters, the blogger the fan, the lower the RPM required to achieve the same airflow. That being said, if you have limited space, a big fan will not be ideal.

Are Aftermarket CPU Coolers Worth It?

This depends entirely on what you want from your PC. If you plan to use your PC for work and simple internet purposes, then you should be fine with a stock cooler. If you plan to run demanding gaming titles and things of that like, then you may wish to invest in an aftermarket cooler.

Do Low Profile CPU Coolers come with a Warranty?

Usually, these systems come with a warranty, but it depends entirely on the manufacturer with regards to how long it will last.

How long should I Expect a Low Profile Cooler To Last?

Low profile coolers should last near indefinitely. With so many parts that can be replaced when they fail, there is no real reason to have to buy a new one, unless you wish to upgrade yours. If you want to transfer your cooler to a new CPU, all you have to do is reapply the thermal paste.

What Maintenance Steps Should I Take With a CPU Cooler?

Cleaning the fan in your cooler is imperative. If you do not do this, then it will begin to malfunction and even fail. This could lead to you having to replace the fan or even the whole cooling system.


Conclusion

Choosing the correct low profile cooler depends entirely on purpose you wish it to serve and what you plan to do with your PC. In my opinion, the Noctua NH-L9i is the best low profile cooler on the market. 

It serves all your needs with its versatile build and high powered heat dissipation technology. It is easy to install and very reliable.


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