Buying guide: Which Noctua CPU cooler should I buy?
Noctua offers a wide selection of CPU coolers for various demands and purposes. Use the following criteria to select the model that works best for you:
- CPU socket: Which CPU socket are you using? Select a cooler model that fits your socket using our socket compatibility chart.
- Motherboard: Which motherboard are you using? Select a cooler model that fits your motherboard using our motherboard compatibility list.
- CPU TDP (Thermal Design Power), overclocking and noise: Which CPU are you using? Do you want to overclock? Do you want your system to run as quietly as possible?
As a rule of thumb, the bigger a cooler is, the bigger is its cooling performance: Whereas some of our compact, low-profile cooler models are only suitable for lower TDP CPUs, the bigger models are ideal for high TDP CPUs and overclocking.
Also note that cooling performance and noise go hand in hand: By choosing a cooler that offers plenty of performance headroom for your CPU, you will be able to run the fan(s) at very low speeds and noise levels. By contrast, if you choose a cooler that will be fully maxed out by your CPU, the fans will run at higher or maximum speeds more often when your CPU is under full load.
Please refer to our CPU compatibility list and TDP guidelines for detailed information and select a cooler that fits your CPU’s TDP class, possible overclocking ambitions and demands on quietness of operation.
- Case compatibility and cooler height: Different PC cases offer different amounts of clearance for CPU coolers. Please refer to the case manufacturer’s website to check the specified clearance for CPU coolers or measure the clearance if you already have the case at hand. You can then select a cooler that will fit your chassis using our TDP & cooler height guidelines or by referring to the height specifications on the individual product pages of our website.
- RAM compatibility: With some of our bigger cooler models, either the heatsink itself or one of the fans may overhang the RAM slots on some motherboards. This is not a problem with standard height RAM modules (up to 33mm), so as long as you stick to these, you won’t have to worry about RAM compatibility at all. It can, however, limit the compatibility with memory modules that feature taller heat-spreaders (more than 33mm height). If you would like to use RAM with taller heat-spreaders, please check our remarks regarding RAM height restrictions in the cooler descriptions and choose an appropriate cooler model. For example, the NH-D15S is compatible with RAM modules of up to 64mm height, and popular models such as the NH-U12S, NH-U9S and NH-D9L are compact enough not to overhang the memory slots at all and thus offer 100% compatibility with RAM modules of any height.
- PCIe compatibility: On some motherboards, bigger coolers may overhang the top PCIe slot. Note that this depends both on the size of the cooler and on the location of the CPU socket and top PCIe slot on the motherboard. For example, coolers with 120mm or 92mm size fans generally don’t overhang the top PCIe slot on ATX or µATX size motherboards. On ITX motherboards, where the CPU socket is often closer to the PCIe slot, coolers with 120mm size fans may overhang the slot. Please refer to our motherboard compatibility list to check which coolers overhang the top PCIe slot on a given motherboard. Models such as the NH-U9S, NH-D9L, NH-L9x65 and NH-L9i are compact enough not to overhang the top PCIe slot on any motherboard and thus offer full compatibility in all cases.
- Popular choices and recommendations: Still undecided? Here’s a list of our most popular models that have proven to work extremely well for the vast majority of users:
- NH-D15: our flagship model, providing the best possible performance for overclocking and silent-enthusiasts. Check case, memory and PCIe compatibility though.
- NH-D15S: performs very close to the NH-D15 but offers full compatibility with RAM modules up to 64mm height and has hardly any PCIe compatibility restrictions on ATX and µATX size motherboards.
- NH-U12S: excellent quiet cooling performance for up to 165W TDP and moderate overclocking, 100% RAM compatibility and 100% PCIe compatibility on ATX and µATX size motherboards.
- NH-U9S: good quiet cooling performance for up to 165W TDP, mild overclocking with lower TDP CPUs, only 125mm height, 100% RAM compatibility and 100% PCIe compatibility on ITX, ATX and µATX size motherboards.
Still unsure which model to buy? If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.