Best CPU Cooler For The i7 9700k (Liquid vs Air) Compared

If you are rocking an i7 9700k or looking to add one to your new rig then you need to supply that monster with some high-quality cooling.

Luckily for you, you have come to the right place because we are going to take deep dive into the best CPU coolers for the i7 9700k.

Depending on whether you are looking for an air cooler or AIO/liquid cooler there will be something on the list that suits your needs.

For anyone in a hurry, the top picks can be seen below. These are considered the best available in terms of value and cooling performance.

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Which Is Better: Air Coolers vs Liquid AIO Coolers

To help you decide between these two it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages they have to offer.

Air Coolers

Air coolers are the most common because they are more affordable and generally speaking there is a wider variety to choose from. They have a much higher value to performance ratio compared to AIO liquid coolers.

They are also much more easily maintained and simple to install because you literally screw them down and plug them in. Liquid coolers have a bit more finesse to them and require more set up.

As liquid coolers become more and more efficient, air coolers are beginning to lag behind. Water cooling provides better cooling overall but not by much which is where the price difference comes into play.  A bigger problem some might find is that air coolers are much larger than AIO liquid coolers.

I only just managed to fit my Noctua NH-D15 into my case by a couple of millimetres because that thing is a tank!

So if you have a smaller case or you are looking for a more minimalistic set up then you might want to consider a liquid cooler over an air cooler.

Liquid Coolers

Liquid coolers are spiking in popularity thanks to their low form factor and customisation options. They also have the best performance in terms of raw cooling potential. Water cooling can also run a lot quieter with zero fan noise which some may find annoying.

The drawbacks of Liquid cooling is that they are much more expensive compared to air coolers. This price difference can sometimes outweigh the benefits a liquid cooler will provide you depending on the product you choose.

An often worrisome thought when it comes to liquid cooling is the prospect of them bursting, leaking or breaking down in some fashion. Nowadays though liquid coolers have come a long way and it is safe to say this is a rare occurrence and should not be something you should be concerned about.

Best CPU Coolers For The i7 9700k

Let us take a look at the best options you have right now in terms of cooling for the i7 9700k. We will first break down the top picks for liquid cooling, followed by the air coolers. Overall I recommend sticking to air coolers unless you have the budget to splash out on a liquid cooler.

I have used the Noctua NH-D15 for years and it has served me very well. Noctua has also released a black version of it which looks much more aesthetically pleasing compared to the older brown and cream version.

It is also worth mentioning that most liquid coolers will perform around the same. They generally all use the same Asetek pumps.

Best Liquid AIO CPU Coolers

#1. Corsair H115i Pro

For liquid cooling an i7 9700k, the H115i Pro is the best liquid cooler available. A dual-fan 280mm monster with a touch of RGB makes it still the king of water cooling. It has dual 140mm fans to assist the 280mm radiator and the ‘i’ in the name corresponds the LINK software which allows you to configure and customise this all-in-one cooler until your heart’s content.

While providing ample cooling performance, the two ML 140mm fans run a quiet 20 dBA noise level so it runs silently (almost).

There is also ‘ZERO RPM MODE’ which is a coolant profile that allows the fans to stop at low temperatures again reducing any noise.

With temperature tests showing around 39 degress under heavy load the Corsair H115i Pro performs very well for its price point and is why it is sitting in the number one spot.

#2. EVGA CLC 240

Sitting in the number 2 spot is EVGA with their high-value dual-fan cooler. The EVGA CLC runs a little louder compared to the Corsair H115i Pro but practically meets it in terms of cooling performance.

Be careful when picking between the 240 or 280 because you will need to consider space inside your rig if you want to go for the larger of the two. Under heavy load, it manages to keep temperatures down to around 39 degrees (for the 280 version).

In terms of cooling performance value, the EVGA CLC 240 is the best due to its cheaper price point compared to the H115i Pro.

EVGA also provide the EVGA flow control software which allows for control over your fan speed curves, pump control, RGB lighting and custom profiles.

#3. NZXT Kraken X52/X62

NZXT also made the list with their highly popular Kraken series. Another dual fan setup with 120mm radiator attached to one end. The two fans are Aer 120s.

Under heavy load, the X52 provides coolant temperatures of around 39 degrees with the X62 reaching as low as 37 degrees.

According to GamersNexus the X52 runs quieter than both the Corsair H115i Pro & EVGA CLC 240/280.

Using NZXT’s CAM software you can configure and customise the X52 or X62 as you see fit. This allows you to control the RGB lighting, fan speed and curve.

Liquid (AIO) Coolers Verdict

At a slightly cheaper price point, the NZXT X series provide great value for money and should be considered as a more budget-friendly pick. It really comes down to whether or not noise is a big factor for you and what deals you can get for each model.

Most of these AIO all use the same pumps so they are all similar in terms of performance. Each has its own software and RGB so you should also consider which of them you like the look of most.

Best Air CPU Coolers

Air coolers provide better value for money compared to Liquid coolers as they are generally cheaper and boast similar temperatures in terms of performance.

There has been one king of air coolers for as long as I can remember so its no surprise they are sitting in the number one spot.

Best Air Cooler Overall - Noctua NH-D15

When it comes to air cooling, Noctua is a name that everyone knows and for good reason. They create reliable, performant and affordable coolers that stand the test of time. The Noctua NH-D15 is a testament to that having been going for years now and still considered the market standard in terms of air coolers.

The Noctua NH-D15 is a dual tower cooler consisting of two NF-A15 140mm fans which have built up a reputation as one of the best 140mm fans available.

It rivals all the AIO liquid coolers in terms of temperature performance for a fraction of the cost. It runs surprisingly quiet too, not as quiet as an AIO liquid cooler but impressive nonetheless.

The cooler also has 64mm of ram clearance so although it is a huge cooler it should not get in the way of your ram sticks.

It comes with Noctua’s NT-H1 thermal compound which is renowned for its pro-grade thermal resistance capabilities.

Overall the Noctua NH-D15 is my personal pick and its served my very well over the years.  I have managed to get great temperatures while maintaining a constant high overclock on the i7 9700k.

#2. Dark Rock Pro 4

Known for its silent operating levels the Dark Pro 4 is another highly popular air cooler. It runs at a very impressive 24.3 db when the fans are at max speed which is similar to most AIO coolers under high load.

There are two primary fans, one 120mm and one 135mm. One of the fans is situated in the middle of the tower to help pull heat away to assist with cooling.

It is priced around the same as the Noctua NH-D15 but is more aesthetic.  It also runs quieter so if noise is an issue for you then consider the Dark Rock Pro 4.  

#3. Best Budget Air Cooler - Cryorig H5 Ultimate

If you are on a tight budget then the Cryorig H5 Ultimate is your go-to air cooler. At around $50 it still maintains excellent cooling performance even though its at the lower end of the scale.

Cryorig has their own ‘DirectCompress’ soldering that increases the contact surface between the heat pipes and heat sinks fans which aid in cooling.

The tower is split into two with the loose air intake and the high-density exhaust section. The exhaust section helps speed up the removal of the hot air.

At around 160mm high the fan should fit into most medium-sized cases too and is around the same height as the Noctua NH-D15. Overall a great budget pick for the i7 9700k.

#4. Best Low Profile Air Cooler - Noctua NH-L12

For some of you trying to fit a Noctua NH-D15 into your rig just won’t be feasible particularly if you are looking at an ITX or ATX build. 

The Noctua NH-L12 is the perfect low profile air cooler to provide extensive cooling for your i7 9700k. However, I recommend that you do not overclock too much using this cooler as it is not designed for extreme overclocking.

At only 93mm high this is a very small fan consisting of 1 NF-F12 and 1 NF-B9 fans.  Even though it has a small form factor it will comfortably cool an i7 9700k providing you don’t go overboard with overclocking.

Air Coolers Verdict

It is really difficult to see past the quality of the Noctua NH-D15 cooler.  It provides such consistent performance for an affordable price it is the best cooler available if you can fit it into your case.

A budget alternative though is the Cryorig which will still perform admirably at a cheaper price.

Final Word

Picking a CPU cooler for your i7 9700k can be difficult with the amount of choice out there. The main things to keep in mind is whether or not you think it is worth getting an AIO liquid cooler over an air cooler.

An air cooler will provide you with better performance for your money but liquid coolers are more aesthetic, can run quieter and are more low profile. Overall I think its hard to see past the Noctua NH-D15 with its amazing performance and price point. If you can fit it into your build this would be my go-to pick.

Last Price Update on 2023-12-13 / Data taken from the Amazon Product API

Barry H

Barry H

Barry is the sole writer here at GamingGem. Having played games since the age of 7 he is a gamer at heart. His mission is to make GamingGem the primary resource for gamers to find accurate and unbiased reviews on the latest gaming and tech gear.

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