After a spending spree sweeping up a speedy new CPU such as Intel’s i7 9700k (curse those 10th-gen shortages), shopping around for a suitable cooler can often feel like grunt’s work. While the dizzying array of options out there can trigger fits of exasperation in even the most seasoned PC building veterans, it’s a necessary step.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re aware of the crucial role that cooling plays in getting the most out of a CPU, and by extension, hitting those buttery smooth frame rates, and ensuring your build serves you well for years to come.
In that spirit, we’re focused today on unearthing the very best CPU cooler for the i7 9700k on the market. This should help take some of the stress out of making that all-important choice and sidestep the tedious part to make way for the fun of building and firing up that new build for the first time. Let’s jump in.
How We Picked
As always, we intend to sniff out the very best products suitable for a range of budgets and requirements, sifting through the good and the bad to find those that won’t leave you with a pesky case of buyer’s regret. While the ultimate decision is always yours, we aim to offer an authoritative verdict on what can be an frightfully broad range of options.
While choosing our top picks for the best CPU cooler for an i7 9700k, we focused on a few key aspects and their ability to get the most out of Intel’s chip. In particular, budget, cooling capability (notably when tapping into the i7 9700k’s overclocking potential), build quality, and noise levels steered our decision-making process, and to a lesser extent, desirable but non-essential features, such as RGB lighting.
These served as adjudicators of whether or not a model is worth the investment, leaving us with four of what we deem the four best CPU coolers for Intel’s i7 9700k.
Best CPU Cooler For i7 9700k in 2021
Low noise levels, even overclocked.
Noctua build quality.
Excellent temperature control.
Pricey for an air cooler.
To kick things off, we have the Noctua NH-D15. This i7 9700k compatible CPU cooler is, in our estimation, hands down the best for all the right reasons. The Noctua name comes with heaps of well-deserved acclaim as the premier CPU cooler manufacturer, and the Noctua NH-D15 follows that tradition. It’s been around since 2014 but remains virtually unmatched in performance, efficiency, and build quality when it comes to traditional air cooling.
In terms of specifications, the Noctua NH-D15 features a six copper heatpipe dual tower design, two NF-A15 140mm fans with aluminum fins, a wide 150 mm fin stack, a single fan mode, 64mm clearance for tall memory heatsinks, and PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptors. Throw in a 6-year manufacturer’s warranty and a tube of Noctua’s praised NT-H1 thermal compound, and the NH-D15 is the complete package.
These specs combined mean the NH-D15 keeps noise levels to a minimum, with decibel levels rarely surpassing 25 dB – the equivalent of a whisper. This is thanks to the Low-Noise Adaptors, which cut the fan from 1500 rpm to 1200 rpm, and the components’ quality. Similarly, temperatures remain within more than respectable ranges, with high loads rarely pushing the CPU beyond 75 centigrade. With the i7 9700k’s overclocking pushed to its limits, temperatures hit a maximum of 85 centigrade, well below the chip’s T-junction of 100 centigrade.
While the cooling capabilities of the Noctua NH-D15 pump extra longevity into the i7 9700k, Nostua ensures a long life-span for the cooler itself. Noctua’s SecuFirm2 ensures compatibility with a range of both Intel and AMD sockets, and an optional mounting kit even means it can also fit with older sockets. Rather more pertinent for those worried about future-proofing, Noctua says it aims to provide updated mounting kits for any future sockets.
As a side note, the fans’ unsightly beige and maroon color scheme, which, for better or for worse, is Nostua’s hallmark, can be off-putting and break up the visual cohesion of a build. Fortunately for the aesthetically-minded among you, the Austrian manufacturer now offers the cooler in an all-black variant, dubbed the NH-D15 chromax.black.
It’s worth noting that the Noctua NH-D15 cooler does come at a premium; as such it may be out of reach for those that need to keep within a lower budget.
Moving on to our next top pick for the best CPU Cooler For i7 9700k, we have the Corsair Hydro H150I Pro. The merits of liquid cooling need no introduction, and Corsair’s offering taps into that technology with an All-in-One closed-loop CPU cooler suitable for an i7 9700k, albeit in a large footprint. The Corsair Hydro H150I Pro features a 360 mm radiator adjoined to three Magnetic Levitation Series 120 mm fans running at a max of 1600 rpm.
The AOB design bears its fruits from the outset, with near-silent operation thanks to Corsair opting for a well-chosen triplet of PWM fans capping out at 25 dB in the most demanding of situations. Additionally, a Zero RPM Mode cuts off the fans at low temperatures as defined by the versatile Corsair iCUE software bundled with the cooler. In other words, the cooler is efficient enough to keep the CPU cool even when the fans are churning away. We are looking at one of the quietest AIO solutions on the market. Temperatures are surprisingly respectable for a product with a heavy focus on keeping noise levels down.
Part of the appeal of the Corsair Hydro H150I Pro is the ease of installation thanks to Corsair’s modular, tool-free mounting bracket, which in a way runs counter to the inherent complexity we’d usually associate with liquid cooling. It’s worth noting that the radiator is chunky. There’s simply no way around this, and it will gobble up some serious real estate. This may not be to the liking of all, but the cooling benefits outweigh possibly investing in a larger case.
Visually, the Corsair Hydro H150I Pro is very much in keeping with Corsair’s reputation for putting out good-looking products, including a sleek design, clean overall look, and an RGB LED pump head.
Compared to air cooling options, the Corsair Hydro H150I Pro hikes up the price by almost double, if not more. Whether that extra spend is worth it is a matter of each builder’s budget and situation, but there’s little in Corsair’s AIO that will lead to disappointment for those taking the plunge.
Noctua build quality.
Not suitable for serious overclocking.
For our top value choice, we look once more to the skilled folks over at Noctua. The Noctua NH-L12 is a low profile air cooler predominantly geared towards small form factor builds but perfectly adequate for larger cases.
Much like its larger brother, the Noctua NH-L12 features a dual PWM fan setup – one 120 mm and one 92 mm. The smaller fan can be removed for even more headroom if required. The fans sandwich a chunky radiator with copper heat pipes and aluminum fins that deliver efficient cooling to an i7 9700k. Much like the NH-D15, it comes with a set of low-noise adaptors, a tube of NT-H1 thermal paste, and a mini-ITX mounting kit.
Acoustic output caps out at 22 dB for near-silent operation even a high CPU loads. Cooling capability matches Noctua’s other products, with excellent temperature control. It’s worth noting that Noctua doesn’t recommend the Noctua NH-L12 for overclocking with a maximum TDP allowance of 95 W.
We won’t beat around the bush; we are looking at a lower-priced option, albeit a quality one, and you always get what you pay for, and it may not be suitable for those wanting to push the envelope of the i7 9700k’s performance. With that said, for those on a tight budget, it’s hard to find better than the Noctua NH-L12.
Our final pick among the best CPU coolers for the i7 9700k is the Cryorig H5. While Cryorig may not have the same reputation as the more mainstream manufacturers, it’s output is well worth considering for those who want to venture off the beaten path and land on an under-appreciated gem.
Where the Cryorig H5 deviates is in the design of the heatsink structure. Using a proprietary Hive Fin structure, the Cryorig H5 carries hot air out of the heatsink faster than traditional setups. The result is excellent heat dissipation. Allied to this is a 140 mm XT140 fan running at up to 1300 rpm fitted with acoustic vibration absorbers and HPLN bearing, which keeps noise levels down to under 24 dB.
The only real point of contention with the Cryorig H5 is its unconventional size. The 25mm width can infringe on precious RAM heatsink clearance and cause a headache when installing. Any issues are easily avoided by measuring up before purchase. For those eyeing up more compact builds, it may be advisable to opt for the Cryorig H5 Universal model, which exists alongside the larger Ultimate variant. While packing the same performance, it features smaller, more manageable dimensions thanks to Cryorig incorporating an asymmetric slanted heat pipe layout and a 13 mm fan.
Things To Consider
Cooler Size and Case Size
A word of warning: always check dimensions, notably if you’re opting for a small form factor build, or risk trouble when it comes to fitting your brand new CPU cooler. It’s an easy oversight to make, especially when caught up with the excitement of ordering a new PC component, but one that can cause quite the headache.
For example, let’s take the Noctua NH-D15, which boasts a chunky profile. You may have trouble squeezing it into a Mini-ATX case or other smaller experimental shells. Nothing quite saps the joy out of a new build than the dread-inducing realization that you can’t fit your panel back on without it touching or, worse, pushing down on the cooler. As such, allow enough clearance for a good fit with some space to spare to ensure good air circulation. Any issues are easily avoided by looking up the cooler dimensions provided by the manufacturer and cross-referencing them to the depth of your chosen case.
While choosing a cooler up to the task of cooling your i7 9700k, thermal paste is also an important consideration. Opt for a cheap compound, and delving into the guts of your PC to apply a fresh layer may come around sooner than expected.
Coolers often come with a tube of thermal paste, but they vary significantly in quality. We recommend doing some homework before settling for what comes bundled with your cooler of choice. In some cases, such as a Noctua product, the paste will be more than fit for purpose, but it may be worth investing a few extra dollars for a higher quality option for coolers.
In the same vein, master the art of applying thermal paste or draft in the expertise of a versed friend or builder to ensure the first application hits the mark, saving you time and extending the longevity of your i7 9700k CPU.
If you have a generous budget, then the Noctua NH-D15 is the ideal companion to the i7 9700k, whether you plan to overclock or not, granting it a firm berth as our recommended i7 9700k cooler. The Corsair Hydro H150i Pro will pair beautifully with Intel’s CPU and has the looks to match for those with an eye on liquid cooling with a splash of flair. As for the best value pick, it’s hard to go wrong with the Noctua NH-L12, while another worthy alternative is Cryorig’s excellent H5 cooler.
With that, we’ll wrap our best CPU cooler for the i7 9700k guide. We hope the above has helped steer your attention towards the best options on the market, taken some of the trouble out of making that all-important choice, and remember, never skimp on cooling. The long-term benefits far outweigh the small sum you’ll save initially, and your i7 9700k will thank you when it comes to keeping it nice and cool when running the most demanding games.
Should you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comment section just below, and we’ll be happy to help.