Buying guide CPU coolers
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, and performance/noise considerations:Which CPU are you using? Do you want to make full use of its turbo mode (if available)? Do you want your system to run as quietly as possible?
As a rule of thumb, the bigger a cooler is, the greater its cooling performance: Whereas some of our compact, low-profile cooler models are only suitable for lower power CPUs, the bigger models are ideal for high power CPUs, extensive turbo mode usage and overclocking. We specify the thermal performance of our CPU coolers using the Noctua Standardised Performance Rating (NSPR), which allows you to assess and compare their efficiency at a glance (the higher the NSPR, the better the performance). At the same time, in the CPU database of our compatibility centre, we classify each heatsink’s performance on a particular CPU using an easy-to-understand classification scheme that allows you to get a good idea about how much turbo or overclocking headroom you can expect with each cooler model.
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 for detailed information and select a cooler that is compatible with your CPU. Pick one of the models that offer the highest turbo/overclocking headroom if you want to make full use of your processors turbo mode and/or if you want the cooler to run as quiet as possible.
- Case compatibility and cooler height: Different PC cases offer different amounts of clearance for CPU coolers. Please refer to our case compatibility list to select a cooler that fits your case.
- 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, which limits compatibility with taller memory modules. Please refer to our RAM compatibility list to check which modules are compatible with which CPU cooler models on a particular socket. Note that many popular models such as the NH-U12A, NH-D12L, 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. If this is the case, we indicate it in our motherboard compatibility list. 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. Due to its size, we highly recommend checking case, memory and PCIe compatibility before purchase.
- 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-U12A: performs very close to the NH-D15 but offers 100% RAM compatibility and 100% PCIe compatibility on ATX and µATX size motherboards.
- NH-U12S: excellent quiet cooling performance for CPUs with moderate heat-output, 100% RAM compatibility and 100% PCIe compatibility on ATX and µATX size motherboards.
- NH-U9S: good quiet cooling performance for CPUs with moderate heat-output, 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.