A Low Profile CPU Cooler is thoughtfully designed to provide the ultimate cooling performance packaged into the smallest unit possible while remaining whisper-quiet and maintaining optimal power efficiency. How does it manage to accomplish so much in such a visibly deceiving form factor? Let’s dive deeper into the details.
Low Profile coolers incorporate tiny heatsinks paired with comparatively smaller fans (running at generally higher speeds). In addition, a radiator will be horizontally sandwiched on top of or below the CPU cooler instead of the standard vertical mounting found on conventional CPU coolers. This helps maintain the miniature unit size while minimizing impedance between the CPU cooler and neighbouring PC components such as the RAM modules, M.2 SSD slot, or gigantic GPUs, providing unmatched clearance.
These small coolers also prove themselves to be the most efficient CPU coolers in terms of power consumption and noise production. Since these coolers can only handle CPUs with a specific TDP (often underwhelming), they tend to sip power in unnoticeable amounts while maintaining a virtually inaudible sound profile thanks to the radiator dampening any noise produced by the vibratory motion of the fan.
Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black
Best Overall Low Profile CPU Cooler
Specifications: Type: Single-fan Low Profile Air Cooler | Fan: 1x NF-A9x14 HS-PWM Chromax.Black | Fan Speed: 600-2500 RPM | TDP: 95W | RGB: No | Dimensions: 95 x 95 x 37mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1200, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 & AMD AM4 (with NM-AM4-L9aL9i)
1. Best-in-class performance
2. Sleek all-black aesthetic
3. Superb build quality
4. Virtually inaudible with Low Noise Adaptor
5. Unmatched RAM & PCI-e slot clearance
6. SecuFirm 2 Mounting System for user-friendly installation
7. 6-year warranty with bundled prosumer NT-H1 thermal paste
1. Slightly limited compatibility out of the box, especially for AMD users
2. Little to no overclocking headspace
Noctua needs no introduction in the realm of the PC gaming industry. Known for blessing humanity with some of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers and conventional air coolers to date, any offering from Noctua automatically earns the approval of renowned journalists worldwide, including our dedicated team’s appreciation here at Tech4Gamers.
Still discontent with the laurels it has to its name, Noctua is once again attempting to dominate the Best Low Profile CPU Cooler niche with the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black. If you haven’t put two and two together already, we want to pour our heart out regarding the positive and negative (if any) aspects of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black. Without any further ado, let’s inspect Noctua’s latest revolution for the Low Profile CPU Cooler.
Starting with thermal dissipation, Noctua has gone ahead with a slim 23mm heatsink, comprising of a pair of U-shaped copper heatpipes possessing an outer diameter of 6mm. These heatpipes make direct contact with the baseplate of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black. Speaking of the baseplate, we’re pleased to inform you that it’s made out of nickel-plated copper for enhanced heat transfer. This baseplate has a radial finish which is smooth enough for an almost mirror-like reflection.
Noctua has also symmetrically tapered off the endpoints of the heatpipes via machine-trimming to round off their Low Profile CPU Cooler with a smooth, elegant look. However, we do want to point out that these endpoints do protrude from the entire unit, slightly detracting from the overall presentation.
Moving onwards, the heatsink also houses 55 black-coated aluminium fins, which have all been densely stacked to create a high FPI (Fins Per Inch) count. These aluminium fins measure 18mm in height and 95mm in width. In conventional air coolers, these fins are press-fitted to the heatpipes. Unfortunately, due to the different thermal expansion coefficients of copper and aluminium, this fitting can loosen over years of air cooling, negatively impacting performance. Noctua, however, has implemented its 17 years of expertise and directly soldered the fins to the heatpipes for perfect contact, ensuring that thermal dissipation won’t be affected, even after several years of usage.
Adding on, Noctua has incorporated their renowned NF-A9x14 HS-PWM Chromax.Black fan in the NH-L9i. Simply said, words can’t do this fan justice. It’s a 92mm PWM-enabled fan, which means it uses a 4-pin connector and can be automatically regulated by your motherboard. The fan has a speed range varying between 600-2500 RPM, producing a maximum airflow of 33.9 CFM and 23.6 dB(A) of noise at 2500 RPM.
Still not happy with such a near-silent sound profile? No worries, Noctua’s got you covered with their Low Noise Adaptor (LNA), which reduces the maximum speed of the fan to 1800 RPM, cutting airflow down to 24 CFM but slashing the noise level by 38% to produce a mere 14.8 dB(A) at top speed. The LNA comes bundled in the packaging, saving you need from buying it separately.
The NF-A9x14 HS-PWM Chromax.Black uses Noctua’s acclaimed SSO2 (Self-Stabilizing Oil-Pressure) bearing system, which has proven itself repeatedly. Improvising upon an already industry-leading bearing, the SSO2 achieves higher precision and increases longevity compared to conventional ball, sleeve, or hydrodynamic bearings. Thanks to the additional magnet that supports the self-stabilization of the rotor axis, Noctua is able to confidently claim an outstanding fan MTTF of more than 150,000 hours which is simply insane!
Still not braking, the NF-A9x14 HS-PWM utilizes Noctua’s flow acceleration channels which speed up the airflow at the outer blade region, thereby reducing the wastage of airflow, leading to enhanced efficiency and a lower sound profile. This prized fan also sports Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) frames which feature integrated Chromax.Black anti-vibration pads, as well as Noctua’s proprietary Stepped Inlet Design and Inner Surface Microstructures, all of which combine to f produce advanced cooling performance and higher efficiency while maintaining an inaudible sound level.
The NF-A9x14 also uses a modular cabling system, coming with a pre-fitted fully sleeved black NA-EC1 cable out of the box, measuring 30cm in length. If you want to mix and match your gaming PC’s colourful aesthetic, Noctua will be more than happy to separately sell you a variety of white, red, blue, green, and yellow 30cm NA-EC1 cables on top of the corresponding NA-YC1 y-cables, which enable you to run two 4-pin PWM fans on a single fan header, letting your motherboard control the speed of both fans simultaneously.
As far as the dimensions are concerned, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black measures 95 x 95 x 37mm (LxWxH) with the fan (24mm height without the fan). Resultantly, the NH-L9i Chromax.Black boasts full compatibility with even the tallest RAM modules featuring tall heatsinks as well as GPUs occupying the nearby PCIe x16 slot.
Noctua ships the NH-L9i Chromax.Black with a tube of their reputed NT-H1 pro-grade thermal grease, the first choice of gaming enthusiasts and overclockers worldwide, offering minimal thermal resistance for superior thermal dissipation.
Moreover, we’re pleased to report that installing the NH-L9i Chromax.Black is a piece of cake, thanks to Noctua’s custom-designed SecuFirm 2 mounting system, which features a backplate-less installation procedure. Although the NH-L9i Chromax.Black is tailored to precisely fit Intel LGA 1200 & 115X motherboards; you may request Noctua for the NM-AM4-L9aL9i mounting kit, which they’ll supply you free of cost. That being said, we do feel that the NH-L9i exhibits limited compatibility out of the box. Of course, the SecuFirm 2 mounting system, just like all the other components of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black including, but not limited to, the fan, anti-vibration pads, heatsink, aluminium fins are all coated with Noctua’s custom black paint, except for the nickel-plated copper baseplate.
Noctua rates the NH-L9i at a maximum TDP of 95W, although it does recommend not using such a high-wattage processor and refraining from overclocking as well, due to the Low Profile nature of this CPU cooler. Noctua stamps its fantastic 6-year warranty on the back of the NH-L9i (metaphorically speaking), which, when combined with the mind-blowing 150,000+ hour MTTF, puts our mind at ease regarding the durability and longevity aspect of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black.
Last but not least, for trivial purposes, we want you to know that Noctua has included a metallic case badge in the packaging for you to proudly emboss on the front or sides of your gaming PC, but this badge is surprisingly devoid of the Chromax.Black coating.
What We Like:
In all honesty, it’s hard not to sound biased about the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black. That’s because Noctua has won us over with their stealthy black aesthetic combined with premium and rugged built quality.
The NF-A9x14 HS-PWM 92mm fan is running at the heart of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black. Sporting numerous advanced features such as the stepped inlet design, the inner surface microstructures, the improved SSO2 bearing, flow acceleration channels for enhanced airflow, the Advanced Acoustic Optimization frame for a virtually inaudible sound profile, a 14mm Low Profile design, which proves vital for installation in small form factor PCs such as those bearing a Mini-ITX chassis, not to forget, the optional coloured cables for customizing the colour scheme to match your PC in terms of the overall aesthetic, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black has got it all.
Featuring other goodies such as the Low Noise Adaptor, a superior 6-year warranty, best-in-class performance provided you don’t overclock your CPU, and of course, the undefeated SecuFirm 2 Mounting System, which transforms the installing process of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black into a truly joyful experience.
Finally, Noctua includes an entire tube of its terrific NT-H1 thermal compound, making future re-installations worrisome. As we said, it’s hard not to keep on going about the NH-L9i Chromax.Black.
What We Dislike:
We don’t have any serious complaints about the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black. Nonetheless, we feel that compatibility with some of the older CPUs from Intel and AMD is restricted out of the box, with Noctua forcing you to request an optional mounting kit should you want to pair the NH-L9i Chromax.Black with a newer AMD AM4 CPU. That being said, it’s not that much of a problem since Noctua will provide you with said kit completely free of charge.
The second and last qualm we have with the NH-L9i Chromax.Black is the lack of overclocking clearance for beefier processors. Noctua has rated the cooler’s TDP at 95W. Still, it recommends against using a CPU with that wattage since overheating issues may lead to curtailed performance, courtesy of thermal throttling to keep high temperatures at bay.
Keeping the factors mentioned above in mind, according to our in-depth analysis and extensive reviewing of the NH-L9i Chromax.Black including the scrutiny of real-world performance, we found that the NH-L9i managed to deliver sustained cooling performance around the 80 degree Celsius threshold when paired with an Intel Core i9-9900K at stock settings under full load, which is an earth-shattering performance for even the Low Profile CPU Cooler since it isn’t meant to be paired with such a high-performance CPU.
That being said, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black did fail to sustain temperatures once the specified CPU was overclocked past 5.0 GHz, leading to a forceful shutdown which isn’t a surprise since even conventional air coolers and liquid AIOs struggle with that kind of load. You may read our Full Detailed Review of Noctua NH-l9i Chromax.Black.
What sets the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black apart from its competitors?
Delivering record-breaking performance in an SFF profile sporting a deceivingly low height of 37mm, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black rises above the bar with its monochromatic dark look, combining whisper-quiet operation with a revolutionary mounting system backed up by a soothing 150,000 hour MTTF and an extensive 6-year warranty to grab a spot on our selective list of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers in 2022, each of which are chosen to suit differentiating needs.
There’s a lot to love about the NH-L9i Chromax.Black. Exhibiting unparalleled performance while maintaining an inaudible signature sound profile combined with an exotic all-black aesthetic, right down to the screws holding the heatsink and fan together, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black is one complete package for all your needs, tailored to deliver jaw-dropping performance in a small form factor PC, proving itself as the Best Mini-ITX Cooler.
Coupled with the simplistic yet, sturdy SecuFirm 2 Mounting system, supplemented by Noctua’s unbeaten NT-H1 thermal paste and backed up by a solid 6-year warranty with a 150,000+ hour MTTF claim, the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black lays rest to all longevity and durability suspicions, attracting the futureproofing enthusiasts in our audience, all while providing incomparable clearance for RAM and GPUs amongst the neighbouring components of your gaming PC.
In conclusion, we’re sure you can understand why the Noctua NH-L9i Chromax.Black earns a coveted seat as the Best Overall Low Profile CPU Cooler in 2022.
Cooler Master MasterAir G200P
Best Low Profile RGB CPU Cooler
Specifications: Type: Single-fan Low Profile Air Cooler | Fan: 1x Cooler Master 92mm PWM | Fan Speed: 800-2600 RPM | TDP: 95W | RGB: Yes | Dimensions: 95 x 92 x 39.4mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1200, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150, 2011, 2011(-3), 2066 & AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1
1. Snazzy RGB
2. Dedicated RGB controller included
3. Fantastic universal compatibility
4. Ultra-low profile with excellent clearance for any RAM modules
2. Detrimental performance
3. Unaesthetic cable management
4. Slightly complicated installation procedure
5. Only 2-year warranty
The name of Cooler Master is synonymous with high-end PC components such as exotic PC casings, PSUs, and of course, cooling solutions. Based out of Taiwan, Cooler Master has been coming up with some of the best conventional air coolers and liquid AIOs (All-in-One). However, this time, Cooler Master went all in, attempting to claim the award for the Best Low Profile CPU Cooler with their Cooler Master MasterAir G200P, a hyper-compact CPU cooler designed to output the best RGB lighting you’ve seen in a cooler of such small size. Evidently, Cooler Master could’ve gone with a name that doesn’t stress our tongues out. Nonetheless, let’s spill the beans to discuss whether the MasterAir G200P lives up to its name or not.
To begin with, Cooler Master is using a specialized ‘C’ or U-shaped dual-heatpipe design (depending upon the angle you view it from) for the MasterAir G200P. These heatpipes are made out of copper, and Cooler Master has graciously terminated the endpoints contributing to a cleanly machined appearance. The elegant heatpipes are paired with a black plastic backplate. Sandwiched between are a total of 55 fins measuring 88mm and 19mm in terms of width and height, respectively.
Moving on, Cooler Master implemented a proprietary 92mm 4-pin PWM fan with a low profile height of 15.4mm, which can mosey down to 800 RPM but speed up to 2600 RPM when the going gets hot. Subsequently, the MasterAir G200P produces a maximum of 35.5 CFM of airflow, which is somewhat disappointing but expected for such a Low Profile CPU Cooler. It’s essential to note that while Cooler Master boasts a sound profile varying between 6-28 dB(A), the MasterAir G200P’s fan tends to become annoyingly loud near max speeds since the cooler struggles to reduce temperatures in an efficient and effective manner.
Cooler Master has optimized the MasterAir G200P to run the 92mm fan at a maximal static pressure of 2.4 mm H2O with the fan said to sip 1.44W of power at a rated current of 0.12A, even when under full load. Unfortunately, Cooler Master rates this fan’s MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) at a comparatively lower 40,000 hours, whereas competitors claim MTTFs ranging anywhere between 50,000 to an astounding 100,000 hours!
Let’s venture into the main stronghold of the MasterAir G200P. Cooler Master has incorporated 9 white fan blades within the 92mm PWM fan, all of which have diffusers underneath because the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P can showcase the most beautiful RGB amongst any of our chosen Low Profile RGB CPU Coolers. The diffusers make sure that the RGB doesn’t tail off towards the endings of the fan blades.
Furthermore, a 4-pin 12V RGB connection needs to be established should you want to take advantage of the MasterAir G200P’s RGB capabilities. However, this 4-pin LED cable won’t be compatible with 3-pin 5V A-RGB headers on your motherboard, which slightly irritates us because the 3-pin 5V connection is the most popular one favoured by both consumers and manufacturers alike. That being said, Cooler Master does soften the blow by including a proprietary wired RGB controller in the box that allows you to control the brightness of the fan’s RGB and the ability to switch between numerous colours and various preset modes by way of three physical buttons.
It needs to be said that the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P leaves a lot of room for improvement in terms of cable management. Cables have been spread out all over the place, specifically in the fan assembly, much thanks to the addition of the LED cables. It feels as if cable management was an afterthought for the MasterAir G200P, and it shows Cooler Master’s lack of attention to detail.
Nonetheless, you’ll be happy to hear that the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P is compatible with RGB software from all major motherboard manufacturers, including ASUS AuraSync, ASRock Polychrome Sync, Gigabyte RGB Fusion 2.0, and MSI Mystic Light Sync.
With respect to the installation procedure, it is slightly complicated since the MasterAir G200P doesn’t have any hand-accessible screws, which is why there isn’t any use for the milling that’s been carried out amid the low profile cooler.
The build quality could also be improvised since the MasterAir G200P has an aluminium matte finish which has a certain degree of flex to it. However, the cooler does become more rigid when installed.
Redesigning the nuts would’ve paved the way for a more effortless installation experience. Even so, the MasterAir G200P has a slightly offset mounting position, so the interfering wires beneath don’t pose much of an issue.
Moreover, the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P sports unrivalled compatibility, offering socket support for just about all the recent CPU releases from Intel and AMD in the past several years, as stated in the enlisted specifications. However, we did notice that LGA 1700 compatibility for the newest Alder Lake CPUs from Intel isn’t mentioned, so you would be better off contacting Cooler Master beforehand to see if they’ll provide you with a mounting kit. On that note, feel free to check out the Best LGA 1700 Coolers!
It’s pertinent to mention that Cooler Master has included a tube of Cooler MasterPro thermal compound, which you’ll need to apply on the copper plate before mounting the MasterAir G200P. Lastly, Cooler Master stands by the cooler with a 2-year warranty, which, safe to say, is very disappointing considering rivals are offering comprehensive 4-6 year warranties. Consequently, this move from Cooler Master does raise doubts in our minds regarding the longevity and durability of the MasterAir G200P, which remains to be seen.
What We Like
The Cooler Master MasterAir G200P dazzles us with its RGB setup, with Cooler Master providing a wired RGB controller in the box and offering support for all RGB software designed by the major motherboard manufacturers in the industry.
Additionally, the MasterAir G200P sports universal compatibility with almost all CPUs released by Intel and AMD in the past few years, including mounting kits and separate brackets for all supported processors in the packaging.
Even though this article is focused on showing you our selection of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers specially designed for a Mini-ITX gaming PC, the ultra-compact design of the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P can’t go unhighlighted. Bearing a profile only 39.4mm tall, it’s one of the thinnest Low Profile coolers on the market and ensures a snug fit in small PCs with ample clearance for surrounding components.
What We Dislike
Firstly, the MasterAir G200P is punching way above its weight class in terms of pricing, offering perhaps one of the worst price-to-performance ratios we’ve ever seen. Speaking of performance, the MasterAir G200P severely disappoints us, with benchmarks and real-world testing showing basic stock CPU coolers from Intel at about one-fifth of the price, surpassing the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P in terms of cooling performance.
Progressing further into one of the MasterAir G200P’s quirks, it seems as if CoolerMaster forgot about the cable management system entirely until the very end, making for an unpleasant viewing experience. Coupled with the somewhat complicated installation, the MasterAir G200P slightly frustrates us.
Bundled with just a 2-year warranty, Cooler Master disappoints us again, especially if you remember that the MasterAir G200P’s 92mm fan is rated at a lower MTTF of 40,000 hours. Combined with the ‘meh’ warranty period, this does raise suspicions regarding the cooler in terms of longevity and durability, meaning users that are looking to future-proof their gaming PCs might want to search for an alternative.
What sets the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P apart from its competitors?
Cooler Master has left us agape with their starry RGB setup on the MasterAir G200P. Having kindly included a proprietary RGB controller in the packaging for users who don’t have the corresponding header on their motherboards, Cooler Master impresses us with its thoughtfulness as well as the hyper-compact profile suitable for SFF gaming PCs, proving itself a worthy contender for the Best Mini-ITX Low Profile Cooler.
Bluntly speaking, the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P has one flaw too many for us to brush them under the carpet. Performing worse than the competition while commanding an unreasonable price point bundled with a comparatively weaker warranty, the MasterAir G200P is a tough bargain for sure.
However, once you look past the MasterAir G200P’s shortcomings, and let the RGB fireworks envelop you, a department where Cooler Master has proven itself successful, the Low Profile CPU Cooler does leave some food for thought, depending upon whether you prioritize your visual aesthetic or pure performance.
The MasterAir G200P is certainly unbalanced since it leans heavily into the tricks it has up its sleeves for RGB, seemingly disregarding cooling performance. You’d really want to up the ante on your PC’s aesthetics should you decide to go with this cooler from the reputed Taiwanese manufacturer, assuming you’ll manage to swallow the price tag.
We want to finish by saying Cooler Master isn’t a new entrant to the CPU cooling industry, so it definitely knows what it’s doing. While Cooler Master offers a higher TDP rating of 95W, we recommend not using such a high-wattage CPU with the MasterAir G200P. That being said, the Cooler Master MasterAir G200P achieved what it set out to do, claiming the award for being the Best Low Profile RGB CPU Cooler in 2022.
Enermax Aquafusion 120
Best Low Profile AIO Cooler
Specifications: Type: Single-fan 120mm AIO | Fan: 1x 120mm Enermax SquA RGB | Fan Speed: 500-2000 RPM | Tube Length: 400mm | TDP: 300W | RGB: Yes | Dimensions: 154 x 120 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1200, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 & AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, FM2+, FM2, FM1
1. Unique white RGB design with support for all major RGB software
2. Dual-chamber Water Block construction
3. Extremely high airflow thanks to fan with Vortex frame design
4. Decent performance for its size
5. Low noise profile
6. Enhanced durability and longevity
7. Excellent compatibility with all recent CPUs
8. Long 400mm sleeved tubing for easier installation in large cases
9. Low Profile footprint for Mini-ITX and similarly sized small form factor PCs
1. Slightly expensive
2. Complicated installation
3. 3D Layer Design with Aurabelt may not appeal to everyone
Enermax has been throwing out PC peripherals, including PSUs, casings, and coolers (AIOs specifically), amongst various PC components. The Taiwanese-based company is renowned for creating some of the best PSUs and AIOs to date, and Enermax has done it again with the Aquafusion 120 AIO. Let’s find out why it’s the Best Low Profile AIO CPU Cooler.
Enermax is using an aluminum radiator that utilizes meticulously designed channels put together with thin aluminum fins resulting in a higher heat exchange capacity. The radiator is paired with a cold plate built from copper where the Enermax Aquafusion 120 uses a ceramic pump bearing for enhanced heat dissipation whilst reducing noise levels and increasing longevity as Enermax rates the pump’s MTTF (Mean-time-to-failure) at a decent 50,000 hours, which should comfortably net you 6-9 years of functionality, if not more, without any serious issues. The pump’s maximum voltage and current uptake are rated at 12V and 0.7A, respectively, making for an efficient operation.
Regarding the waterblock, Enermax has implemented a proprietary dual-chamber design which is also patented by Enermax. It combines a CCI (Central Coolant Inlet) structure with an SCT (Shunt-Channel Technology) on the cold plate, both of which ultimately allow the Aquafusion 120mm AIO to inject coolant at the hottest areas of the CPU to minimize the impact of heat surges. The specialized design also helps shorten the coolant flow path, resulting in increased heat dissipation, up to 30% higher.
Much to the satisfaction of our RGB palate, the improvised waterblock is complete with a 3D Layer Design utilizing Enermax’s ‘Aurabelt,’ which can display a unique rainbow effect alongside the usual suite of 16.8 million colors. When paired with the exclusive white design, the Enermax Aquafusion 120 stands out from the variety of Low Profile AIO units currently available in the market.
Complementing the sophisticated design is Enermax’s extensive support for all major RGB software ecosystems (via 3-pin RGB), including ASUS Aura Sync, Razer Chroma RGB, Gigabyte RGB Fusion 2.0, ASRock Polychrome Sync, MSI Mystic Light Sync and Enermax’s proprietary addressable RGB software as well. Don’t have an aRGB header on your motherboard? Nothing to fret over, Enermax has you covered with their own RGB control box, which allows users to choose between 10 preset lighting effects, brightness, and speed.
Enermax has incorporated one of its 120mm SquA RGB fans which feature a square-shaped addressable RGB appearance coupled with a reinforced vortex frame design. Thanks to the vortex frame design, the Enermax Aquafusion 120’s fan can generate concentrated airflow up to a maximum of 79.8 CFM, which is unparalleled for an AIO of such a small size. The enlarged blade surface contributes to the high airflow (which is 40% higher on average than traditional round-shaped fans).
As outlined in the previous portion, the fan is RGB-capable, of course, and PWM, meaning your motherboard can automatically control the fan speed between a range of 500-2000 RPM depending upon your use-case scenario. Under full load, temperatures may cross the 80C threshold, but this is to be expected since the 120mm size is the Aquafusion 120’s limiting factor in terms of performance. Nevertheless, the Aquafusion 120 performs handsomely for a cooler of its category, allowing slight overclocking clearance while maintaining a maximum sound profile of 32.6 dBA as far as the SquA fan is concerned. To our delight, Enermax rates the fan MTTF at more than 100,000 hours which is terrific news for users concerned about longevity.
Delving into further detail, we’re happy to report you won’t run into any problems should you choose to install the Enermax Aquafusion 120 in medium to tower-sized PCs, even though it was built while keeping small form factor (SFF) PCs in mind. That’s because Enermax has graciously provided 400mm worth of premium thick-sleeved tubing connecting the radiator to the waterblock. Enermax also includes Dow Corning TC-5121C thermal paste in the packaging, which admittedly won’t break records anytime soon.
Making up for the few minor quirks it presents, the Enermax Aquafusion 120 is compatible with just about all the recent CPUs from the likes of Intel and AMD released in the past several years. Moving onwards to the installation procedure, Enermax has made it slightly cumbersome, thanks to the abnormally thick tubing. You may need to strategically position on either side of the glossy acrylic waterblock depending upon the respective clearance your motherboard offers in both those areas. Finally, Enermax backs up the Aquafusion 120 with a 5-year warranty, giving potential buyers peace of mind regarding durability.
What We Like
The Enermax Aquafusion 120mm AIO has a lot going for it, including, but not limited to, the one-of-a-kind white design utilizing built-in RGB lighting and specialized dual-chamber design with CCI and SCT for much higher heat exchange. Paired with the SquA RGB fan and its reinvigorated vortex frame design, the Aquafusion 120 is a behemoth in terms of airflow circulation contributing to a satisfactory cooling experience with slight room for CPU overclocking, although be wary, temperatures might cross a dangerous threshold, as stated before. Even so, the Aquafusion 120mm AIO resides amongst some of the reasonably silent 120mm AIOs.
We’re thankful for the 400mm tubing as well since that enables users to install the Aquafusion 120 in just about any PC chassis, though it’s worth noting the Aquafusion 120 is best suited to Mini-ITX based systems. Nearing our conclusion, Enermax manages to cater to a wide variety of CPU sockets, rounding off the whole package with a reputable 5-year warranty and unmatched MTTFs.
What We Dislike
Let’s put all the positive aspects of the Aquafusion 120mm AIO aside for a few moments. We feel Enermax could’ve slimmed down the tubing a notch since it would contribute to a more user-intuitive installation experience. Adding on, the Enermax SquA RGB fan design and the Aurabelt with its 3D layer design may not appeal to everyone aesthetically speaking since, for better or for worse, the Aquafusion 120mm AIO sits in its own class in terms of looks.
Another minor qualm we have with the Aquafusion 120 is that users may find it slightly expensive compared to better-performing 120mm AIOs. That being said, the chances are you’d be buying the Enermax Aquafusion 120mm AIO mainly for its small form factor design, RGB capabilities and then for its actual cooling performance, so this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, considering Low Profile AIOs are generally hard to come by as it is.
What sets the Enermax Aquafusion 120 apart from its competitors?
Oozing a one-off, completely white-themed aesthetic capable of being lit up with customized RGB effects, the Enermax Aquafusion 120 incorporates state-of-the-art patented technologies such as the dual-chamber water block accompanied by a vortex frame design, supplemented by 400mm worth of sleeved quality tubing, sporting universal compatibility with all recent Intel and AMD CPUs on top of this to collectively exhibit top-notch cooling performance at a price point which undercuts every single other AIO vendor while maintaining an ultra-low profile, suitable for SFF or HTPCs (Home-Theatre PC).
Hoping you don’t find the installation process exhausting and the general design of the AIO itself somewhat quirky, you’ll be good to go with the Aquafusion 120. Offering what may be subjectively classified as the most graceful White 120mm AIO, revamped with improved cooling performance, playful RGB capabilities and extensive compatibility, not to mention the main strength of this AIO i.e. the ideal Low Profile construction, we hope you’re thinking along the same lines as us. All in all, we formally bestow the Enermax Aquafusion 120 with the Best Low Profile AIO Cooler award.
Thermaltake Engine 27 1U Low Profile
Best Looking Low Profile CPU Cooler
Specifications: Type: Single-fan Low Profile Air Cooler | Fan: 1x 60mm Thermaltake | Fan Speed: 1500-2500 RPM | TDP: 70W | RGB: No | Dimensions: 91.5 x 91.5 x 27mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1200, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150, 775
1. Unique kinetic cooling concept
2. Ultra-compact form factor for maximum clearance
3. One-of-a-kind aesthetic
4. Premium workmanship
5. Easy installation
1. Extremely expensive
2. Annoying sound signature
3. Restricted compatibility, especially for AMD users
4. Disappointing 2-year warranty
Thermaltake commands a sizeable percentage of the market cap to attract gamers towards its extensive suite of PC peripherals, such as casings, CPU Coolers, and PSUs. Known for capturing the true essence of CPU Coolers, Thermaltake once again tries to rise above the threshold and impress, with their Thermaltake Engine 27 1U, aiming to be crowned as the Best Looking Low Profile CPU Cooler.
The Thermaltake Engine 27 1U is based on the Sandia Cooler, which breaks away from traditional coolers, opting to rotate the entire heatsink in a circular motion to maximize heat transfer away from the CPU without a physical spinning fan.
The unconventional cooling method described above is better known as ‘Kinetic Cooling,’ where the cooler, bearing a Low Profile form factor, will sacrifice a fan to cut down on noise pollution by way of minimizing vibrations while increasing power efficiency and thermal dissipation since the heatsink’s surface area is hugely increased.
Thermaltake is the first manufacturer to commercialize the conceptual Sandia Cooler, offering their own take with the Engine 27 1U, which works on the basis of Kinetic Cooling albeit with a proprietary 60mm fan comprising of 40 metallic blades, capable of being adjusted between a comparably shorter speed range of 1500-2500 RPM.
Diving deeper into the details, the fan blades are positioned in a radial manner where air is pulled in and pushed out towards the more traditional heatsink mainly built out of metal, consisting of a blistering 119 L-shaped aluminium fins for competitive heat dissipation while maintaining a deceivingly tiny footprint of 27mm in terms of height.
The 60mm fan uses a standard 4-pin PWM connector, so automated speed regulation should take some burden off your hands. That being said, Thermaltake has employed an 8-pole motor in the fan hub, which means you’ll have to divide the RPM readings obtained via BIOS by a factor of ‘2’ to find the actual RPMs of the fan since the BIOS thinks it’s getting the readings from a 4-pole motor which used to be the standard for PWM fans.
Thermaltake assures us that the Engine 27 1U should stay within a noise level between 13-25 dB(A) depending on the fan speeds. However, we’ve inspected the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U’s real-world performance and acoustical data with a microscope to find that the Low Profile cooler will get irritably loud should you push the fan speeds above 70-80%. That’s because the decibel reading may not be very high, but the Engine 27 1U’s sound signature resembles a less tolerable high-pitched whine in conjunction with a louder hum.
Thanks to the radial positioning of the fan blades and outer aluminium fins resting in the heatsink, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U can operate at a comparatively high air pressure of 3.1mm-H2O, which compensates for the alarmingly low airflow of 9.2 CFM. Thermaltake rates the Engine 27 1U at a TDP of 70W, which is to be expected for even the Best Low Profile CPU Cooler. Sipping a low 1.1W of power at a specified current of 0.09A, the Engine 27 1U rises above the industry standard in terms of cooling performance keeping its Mini-ITX form factor in mind.
Thermaltake is able to claim an MTTF of 50,000 hours for the fan, courtesy of the kinetic bearing being utilized. The contravening fan is connected to a nickel-coated copper coldplate through a layer of thermal paste (which comes along in the packaging), impeding what would otherwise be a wide air gap.
Progressively elaborating, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U comes with a detailed user manual with visual guidelines, which paves the way for a simplistic and user-intuitive installation experience, marred only by the rudimentary CPU support, which caters only to the recent releases from Intel, except for the latest LGA 1700 socket. It’s advisable to contact Thermaltake beforehand to confirm if they’ll provide you with an upgrade kit should you wish to utilize the Engine 27 1U on a 12th Generation Intel Alder Lake processor.
Thermaltake has exclusively collaborated with ‘CoolChip‘, a brand famous for specializing in Kinetic Cooling, for coming up with the Engine 27 1U Low Profile Cooler, the first commercial CPU cooler based on the conceptualized kinetic cooling system. The Engine 27 1U is supported by a meagre 2-year warranty from Thermaltake, whom we wish would’ve extended the warranty period since it doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the Engine 27 1U from a long-term aspect.
What We Like:
First of all, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U steals the spotlight with its unique open-style aesthetic construction. Even the competing Best Low Profile CPU Coolers fail to match the Engine 27 1U’s breathtaking visual appearance.
Moving on, Thermaltake managed to commercialize the intelligent Kinetic Cooling concept, of which there were only prototypes till now. Even with highly restricted airflow, the Engine 27 1U tends to manifest decent cooling performance for a Low Profile cooler evincing one of the world’s tiniest footprints of just 27mm (in terms of height). Hence, Thermaltake confidently establishes that the Engine 27 1U won’t interfere with RAM modules, GPUs, M.2 SSDs, or any other surrounding components.
On top of these incredible feats, Thermaltake manages to evince some of the most exquisite artisanship by way of the premium aluminium alloy structure. Put together with an easy-to-follow unambiguous installation process, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U demonstrates quite a few peerless selling points.
What We Dislike:
Agonizingly speaking, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U incurs our wrath with an extremely high price tag. Depending on the region you’re located in, you’d be able to procure some of the Low Profile CPU Coolers from industry-leading manufacturers such as Noctua or even the Low Profile AIO Cooler from Enermax within the same price range.
Moving on, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U may not become unbearably loud in terms of pure decibel levels. However, the sound profile of the Engine 27 1U is such that it will definitely express an annoying high-pitched whine which, after a certain period of time, becomes intolerable when coupled with the loud hum that is also emitted when you push the fan speeds to 70-80% and above. Even though the Engine 27 1U is one of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers, it has its limitations, and you will find yourself being forced to run the fan at high speeds or face thermal throttling otherwise, leading to depleted CPU performance.
Thermaltake misses the opportunity again to make up for the few but significant flaws of the Engine 27 1U. AMD users will have to forgo this Thermaltake-exclusive offering since the Engine 27 1U only supports a collection of Intel CPU sockets.
Just as importantly, we feel Thermaltake should’ve offered a lengthened warranty period instead of promising a measly 2-years’ worth of after-sales services and support.
What sets the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U apart from its competitors?
Thermaltake has left everyone astounded, being the only one brave enough to bring the ‘Kinetic Cooling‘ concept out into the open, building upon the legacy the Sandia Cooler left behind. Sporting one of the world’s lowest profiles in conjunction with a unique aesthetic which displays the premium handiwork undergone in collaboration with ‘CoolChip’ to produce the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U, one of our picks for the Good Looking Low Profile CPU Coolers in 2022, complemented by an installation process that consumes minutes at most.
In conclusion, Thermaltake has outperformed the competition in terms of creativity. Taking a substantial risk by producing a commercialized version of a Low Profile CPU Cooler which was only seen in prototypes or similar limited editions till this point, the Engine 27 1U has now been openly available for quite a few years. It’s primarily aimed at gaming enthusiasts wanting to experience the thought process behind Kinetic Cooling while showing off the most idiosyncratic design the cooling industry has seen in a few decades on a commercial scale.
Presuming you’ll be able to break out your wallet and ignore the vexing sound profile of Thermaltake’s latest revolutionary cooler, you’ll be good to go, provided you don’t use a power-hungry processor and start overclocking to add to the cooler’s misery.
Collectively speaking, the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U, inter alia all the flaws, poses a reasonable bargain considering you want to showcase your cooler’s beauty. We’re sure you agree with us as we formally place the Thermaltake Engine 27 1U on our selective list as the Best Looking Low Profile CPU Cooler. People have always paid the premium for visuals and will continue to do so.
Best Budget Low Profile CPU Cooler
Specifications: Type: Single-fan Low Profile Air Cooler | Fan: 1x 92mm ID-Cooling | Fan Speed: 600-2500 RPM | TDP: 100W | RGB: No | Dimensions: 93 x 101 x 45mm | Socket Support: Intel LGA 1200, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 & AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1
1. Unbeatable value for money
2. Excellent performance
3. Intuitive cable management
4. Easily detachable for cleaning
5. Two-tone design
1. Insubstantial overclocking room
2. Slightly noisy at higher speeds
3. Lack of backplate for installation
4. Unsatisfactory 2-year warranty
ID-Cooling, a relatively new entrant to the cooling industry, was born in the world at the 2013 edition of the annual computer-hardware based event, ‘Computex.’ Comprising several PC veterans teamed up, ID-Cooling has diversified its portfolio into various forms of cooling, such as traditional air coolers, liquid AIOs, and even casing fans.
However, ID-Cooling now looks towards commanding a certain degree of respect in the cooling industry, having launched the ID-Cooling IS-40X, their take on attempting to manufacture the Best Budget Low Profile CPU Cooler. Let’s head on straight into all the technical aspects of the IS-40X.
The ID-Cooling IS-40X represents almost 9 years of technical and practical expertise cultivated into a budget Low Profile CPU Cooler through premium craftsmanship. The IS-40X measures at a decently low height of 45mm, which is still taller than offerings from competitors. Nevertheless, ID-Cooling assures us that the IS-40X will maintain 100% compatibility with RAM modules bearing large heatsinks and dual-fan GPUs.
Keeping the IS-40X cool-headed (no pun intended) is a proprietary 92mm fan with a diverse speed range varying between 600-2500 RPM. The fan consists of 11 white blades, culminating the ID-Cooling IS-40X into a two-tone black & white design, enabling the entire unit to exhibit an alluring presence.
Thankfully, the 15mm tall fan is powered by a standard 4-pin PWM connector for automatic speed adjustment by your motherboard. Unfortunately, the IS-40X doesn’t reveal any fancy RGB lighting. Instead, it sacrifices RGB favoring an aesthetically pleasing cable management system since the IS-40X only bears a single 4-pin PWM cable, measuring 310mm in length for connection. Admittedly, the cable could’ve been slightly shorter since this cooler is designed specifically for Mini-ITX chassis. However, you may tuck the wire underneath the two clips holding the fan together, making the long cable less of an issue.
Furthermore, the fan has a two-tone ID logo embossed in the middle, enhancing the elegance of the IS-40X. As mentioned before, two clips are holding the fan together, which may be removed at any time within seconds, thereby detaching the fan and heatsink for an effortless disassembly, should you wish to clean the fan and heatsink after a long period of operational use.
Speaking of the heatsink, it comprises an immeasurable number of evenly stacked black-coated aluminium fins for maximum thermal dissipation. Supplementing these fins are 4 copper heatpipes measuring 6mm in outer diameter, all of which make direct contact with the copper baseplate for efficient heat conductivity, away from the CPU.
If we speak once more of the fan, it’s able to produce 44.3 CFM of airflow at top speed while perpetuating a maximum static pressure of 3.24mm-H2O, supported by a hydraulic bearing for increased longevity.
Sporting a noise profile differing between a sound level of 14.0-33.4 dB(A), the IS-40X will only be audible towards the higher end of the spectrum in terms of fan speed. That’s when you’ll be running your CPU under full load or overclocking it, which isn’t advisable since, at the end of the day, the ID-Cooling IS-40X still remains a Low Profile Cooler.
Taking the previously mentioned key points into consideration, we find it essential to say that although the IS-40X is designed for a Small Form Factor scenario, it is still rated for a TDP of 100W. We can confidently confirm this number thanks to our dexterous research involving real-world performance benchmarks and temperatures. However, we would still never advise overclocking a CPU using any Low Profile cooler or running a high-power CPU such as an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X or Intel Core i9-11900K with TDPs ranging from 105-125W+.
Nearing the end of our overview, we’re delighted to report that installing the ID-Cooling IS-40X won’t burn through your brain cells, thanks to the included user manual, which shows visually demonstrated guidelines to simplify the installation process. Nevertheless, it’s essential to note that ID-Cooling has gone with a backplate-less mounting system, which, according to our analysis, reveals that a significant portion of AMD users may experience difficulties fitting the IS-40X, including potentially permanent disfigurement of their AMD motherboards.
We recommend tightening the mounting screws to a midpoint, which will release stress on the motherboard. Since the IS-40X only weighs a lightweight 310g, you won’t have any concerns with the cooler loosening up or displacing over time. Finally, ID-Cooling rounds off the IS-40X with a dispiriting 2-year warranty which does raise suspicions, especially when you consider the fact that ID-Cooling doesn’t provide an exact figure for the MTTF of the fan or unit, which would’ve otherwise helped in keeping longevity and future-proofing concerns at bay.
What We Like
ID-Cooling has come a long way in a relatively short time period. The IS-40X impresses with its enhanced cooling performance, aided by the 4 copper heatpipes making perfect contact with the copper baseplate, combining to perform an optimal heat transfer.
Since the IS-40X doesn’t have RGB, it only has a single protruding 4-pin PWM cable needed to power the fan, resulting in a well-thought-out cable management system that allows you to hide the 310mm long wire inside the two fan clips. Unified with the two-tone design, the ID-Cooling IS-40X is a black & white beauty to behold. Make sure to also read our Best White CPU Coolers.
Thanks to the aforementioned two fan clips, the entire unit can be easily disassembled for deep-cleaning purposes, ensuring that the IS-40X will continue to perform consistently until the end of its lifespan.
Lastly, we can’t praise ID-Cooling enough for the unbelievably low price of the IS-40X. Coming in at under half the price for a similarly performing Noctua Low Profile cooler, the IS-40X forces us to turn a blind eye towards the few shortcomings it’s unable to hide, making the cooler an excellent bargain with an unbeatable price-to-performance ratio.
What We Dislike
Despite the comparatively high performance of the IS-40X, Low Profile coolers still have to abide by the laws of physics. As such, the IS-40X is also unable to provide any headspace for overclocking at all, although this is essentially nitpicking at this point, considering the ultra-low price of the ID-Cooling IS-40X.
Furthermore, the IS-40X does get audibly loud at higher fan speeds, but again, this is a physical limitation of the tiny footprint. Otherwise, you’ll have to sacrifice cooling performance in return for a silent sound profile, a compromise the majority of gaming enthusiasts are unwilling to make.
Adding on, ID-Cooling does surprise us by not including a backplate for a strengthened placement of the cooler, a fact AMD users, in particular, should be wary about since the specific positioning of the motherboard components are such that irreversible damage may arise from a long-term aspect, if the screws are over-tightened or another part of the installation goes wrong.
ID-Cooling also lands a soft blow with a dismaying 2-year warranty period. ID-Cooling only upsets us further by not specifying an exact MTTF for the fan or the unit, which would’ve been able to give an approximate idea as to how long the IS-40X will last under real-world conditions.
What sets the ID-Cooling IS-40X apart from its competitors?
The unmatched price-to-performance ratio amongst a contrasting black and white aesthetic distinguishes the IS-40X as one of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers in the industry, aided by some clever cable management. It’s fortified by thoughtful construction, which results in easy user accessibility for opening up the ID-Cooling IS-40X to clean any layers of dust seeking refuge between the heatsink’s aluminium fins and the fan blades over a passage of time. This detachability ensures sustained performance alongside increased endurance for the ID-Cooling IS-40X.
Finalizing our handpicked list where we pick out the Low Profile CPU Coolers for each category, one by one, the ID-Cooling IS-40X will be rounding off this portion of the article by earning our respect since we judge it to be the Best Budget Low Profile CPU Cooler in 2022.
Showcasing phenomenal performance for such a Mini-ITX based cooler, second to perhaps only a rival offering from Noctua, the IS-40X boasts incomparable bang for the buck with a neat overall aesthetic. Provided you’ll refrain from overclocking with the IS-40X, you won’t be disappointed since it also ensures durability thanks to the intuitive detachability, marred only by the lack of a backplate, asides from the audible sound profile and dismaying after-sales support.
Nevertheless, the price is why we forgive every negative aspect of the IS-40X, and we’re sure you’re in agreement with us as we repeat that the ID-Cooling IS-40X is undoubtedly the number one choice for Budget Low Profile CPU Cooler. The competition just doesn’t offer enough oomph.
Benefits of Low Profile CPU Cooler
Low Profile CPU Coolers are best suited to miniature gaming systems, the majority of which sport a Mini-ITX form factor or similarly designed chassis with airflow that is usually restricted at best.
Thanks to their tiny heatsinks and concise sizing, all of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers leave plenty of space for the remaining PC components such as the RAM modules, M.2 SSDs, and of course, your precious GPU.
Smaller fans are notoriously reputed for being louder since they have to spin at comparatively higher RPMs to maintain optimal airflow. However, Low Profile coolers obliterate this myth since they’re famously silent and give even some of the best conventional air coolers from Noctua and BeQuiet! a run for their money. If you haven’t put two and two together already, this is thanks to the horizontal positioning of the radiator on top of or below the fan. Thus, the radiator serves a dual purpose by acting as a sound dampener as well.
It’s essential to note these smaller fans might still be audible when being run at top speed, which you’ll get used to since even moderately heavy usage scenarios will get the fans ramped. Sound profiles will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Drawbacks of Low Profile CPU Cooler
Sadly speaking, even the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers will generally struggle to give you some overclocking headroom, if any, at all. These CPU coolers already work hard enough as it is to keep high temperatures at bay under typical workloads, let alone gaming or overclocking usage scenarios. This is because manufacturers are forced to compromise on the cooler’s heatsink and radiator in order to package the unit into one nifty size, which ultimately results in comparatively sacrificed airflow and reduced performance.
As with all other Mini-ITX compatible components, the Low Profile CPU Coolers won’t come cheap, generally speaking. High-performance Low Profile Coolers from industry-leading manufacturers such as Noctua lead the way in terms of pricing. You’d be able to snag a moderately strong to high-end conventional air cooler for the same price with a far better price-to-performance ratio, but then you’d be dealing with a larger overall profile as well.
There’s nothing new about the fact that the smaller fans employed in Low Profile coolers are constantly run at comparatively higher speeds. That’s why you might be looking at a potentially earlier fan failure than other conventional air coolers on the market since the smaller fans are subject to more stress. This does raise durability and longevity concerns, but as you’ll see further in this article, we’ll be explaining and detailing the methods in which manufacturers back up their offerings for the Low Profile CPU Coolers, including, but not limited to warranties and after-sales services.
Who Should Get These
Gamers seeking a competent cooling solution to fit inside a Mini-ITX chassis should definitely consider purchasing a Low Profile CPU Cooler. These cheap CPU coolers are usually the easiest to install, thanks to their highly insignificant size. This makes it a no-brainer choice for anyone having potential problems with RAM clearance or perhaps installing an M.2 SSD due to interference from the CPU Cooler’s heatsink. You won’t run into any issues should you wish to install even the most monstrous triple fan GPUs from the likes of Nvidia and AMD. Low Profile coolers also aid air circulation in gaming systems with restricted airflow.
Bear in mind, gamers looking to eke out every last percent of performance out of their CPUs and collectively entire gaming PC via overclocking would fare better with a conventional CPU cooler, or perhaps a 240mm or larger AIO (All-in-One) cooling solution if you can manage to snag one. Those coolers tend to feature comparatively massive heatsinks, coupled with larger radiators and fans amongst other vital components for optimal airflow and enhanced heat dissipation to give you slight-to-extreme overclocking headspace.
On the contrary, gamers prioritizing to make use of the smallest spaces available or for building a Home-Theatre PC on the off-chance would be satisfied with a Low Profile CPU Cooler since these coolers focus on maximizing space savings through minimizing unit sizing, slimming down on the radiator, fan, and heatsinks to achieve such a tiny form factor.
How We Tested
All of the chosen Low Profile CPU Coolers undergo comprehensive research here at Tech4Gamers, after which we take into account our proficient analytics, combined with in-house reviewing and testing (if possible). We also compare real-world performance benchmarks under idle, typical, and heavy/gaming/overclocking workloads. Not to forget, we cross-match noise levels to present a completely objective perspective of each Low Profile cooler in every aspect.
How We Picked
Selecting the Best Low Profile CPU Cooler isn’t a job well-suited for the faint-hearted since you’ll need to consider several factors. Nevertheless, you’re the one who has to make the decision ultimately. For your convenience, we’ve mentioned and explained a couple of crucial points to brood over while attempting to complete your quest for handpicking the Low Profile CPU cooler in accordance with your unique workflows.
Every Low Profile cooler will introduce itself at a unique price point, determined by its relative cooling performance, build quality, general design, and aesthetics (including RGB capabilities, if any), not to forget manufacturer support and bundled accessories, which varies amongst even the Best Low Profile CPU coolers. Therefore, it’s essential to keep a specific budget in mind, so you’ll know whether it’s feasible for you to splurge on some of the fancier Low Profile coolers around or compromise on perhaps RGB lighting, for example, going ahead with a functionality-oriented high-performance cooler instead.
An essential aspect of a Low Profile cooler would be the relative performance it offers. The fan’s specs, including the max RPMs alongside the amount of airflow it produces, are of utmost importance, not to mention the size of the heatsink and the FPI (Fins Per Inch) count (the higher, the better).
For a Low Profile AIO (All-in-One) CPU Cooling solution, you should keep the pump speed in mind as well. Generally speaking, the higher the pump speed, the cooler your CPU will run. Some of the Best AIOs will even offer dedicated VRM fans for keeping the VRMs (Voltage Regulator Module) on your motherboards cool, which helps within heavy usage/overclocking scenarios.
Even the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers will differentiate from each other in terms of operational efficiency. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a CPU Cooler with the capacity (and some extra clearance) to capably cool down your entire PC alongside the CPU without needing to induce thermal throttling to maintain satisfactory temperatures.
For example, if you happen to be running an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, the TDP (Thermal Design Process) for that processor is rated at 105W, so you should be searching for a cooler rated at 110-130W+ so as to give you slight overclocking clearance as well, should the day ever come for that.
Smaller fans have a tendency to be noisier, so it’s for the best if you choose a Low Profile cooler with a larger fan since it’ll be able to spin at lower speeds but produce the same amount of airflow, albeit with far less noise.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
Manufacturers tend to distinguish their respective offerings for the Low Profile CPU Coolers by offering their unique take on the cooler’s aesthetics and build quality. Some brands might opt for more premium construction and dazzling RGB capabilities, leading to a higher price tag. In contrast, others may favour a slightly unexotic or more practical approach, sacrificing their design flair for perhaps improvised cooling performance and, with luck, a lower cost price.
It’s no surprise that even some of the Low Profile CPU Coolers will not be compatible with your particular CPU since every cooler has a differing mounting procedure and installation process. Manufacturers may launch two variants of the same cooler, one for Intel and the other for the AMD guys and gals. That’s why it’s essential to cross-match your desired Low Profile cooler’s support for the processor you’re planning to pair it with. As you must’ve already noticed, for your convenience, we’ve already highlighted all the CPU sockets that are supported by each of the Low Profile CPU Coolers.
(Sidenote: If you’re showing off the all-new Intel Alder Lake CPUs, you may reach out to the coolers’ manufacturers to see if they’ll provide you with an upgrade kit for the LGA 1700 socket, should you wish to utilize any of the Low Profile CPU Coolers listed above, and of course, assuming the manufacturer hasn’t already included the kit in the packaging.
That being said, have a look at our recognized list of the Best LGA 1700 CPU Coolers as well!)
We make it a habit of closely scrutinizing each of the Low Profile CPU Coolers listed in terms of after-sales customer service care provided by each manufacturer, keeping in mind past experiences and track records while also inspecting the MTTF of individual components such as the fan, pump (if any), and the entire unit itself. Of course, we don’t let warranty periods slide by, actively encouraging manufacturers to stand by their products for an extended period of time, often up to 6-years.
Did the previously enlisted Low Profile CPU Coolers not live up to your expectations? No worries, we’ve given a shoutout to all the units that couldn’t make it to our list of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers but maintain their dignity as respectable alternatives. The cherry on top, we’ll continuously refine the following list as time goes on and worthy candidates appear.
A much-requested variant of the famous NH-L9i Chromax.Black, our objective pick for the Best Low Profile CPU Cooler in 2022. Noctua has graciously catered to the AMD portion of our audience with the NH-L9a-AM4, tailored to precisely fit AMD motherboards bearing Ryzen CPUs based on the AM4 socket out of the box, offering almost identical performance at the same price. Check out our detailed Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 review where we cover the Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 with exclusive hands-on experience.
Another ground-breaking innovation from Noctua, the NH-L12S strives to deliver performance comparable to that of a conventional high-profile air cooler or even a 120mm AIO, albeit with an increased height of 70mm, which may result in some clearance issues with DIMM slots or GPU fittings. Nevertheless, feel free to look at our Noctua NH-L12S review where we go hands-on with the Noctua NH-L12S, putting it to the test.
Why You Should Trust Our Judgement
With over twelve years of experience in the tech and gaming industry, our dedicated team has been refined consistently to produce a potent group of knowledgeable individuals who are known to relay the most accurate information to our valued consumers, thanks to the extensive research and reviewing we conduct before we publish every piece of journalism.
In addition to this, we have been explicitly featured on a majority of the top-notch gaming and tech brands, such as Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, DeepCool, just to name a few, as reliable and trusted sources for Hardware and Technology.
Subsequently, we instill confidence in our esteemed consumers, who may rely on us to give them the best advice for building, customizing, and modifying their personal gaming computers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Low Profile CPU Coolers will generally outperform Stock CPU Coolers from Intel and AMD. That’s because the aftermarket low profile coolers are specially designed to deliver cutting-edge performance using the smallest spaces available, making use of advanced radiators with a high FPI count, high-speed fans, premium copper heat pipes, to name a few components, which keep high temperatures at bay much better comparatively speaking.
You should only splurge on one of the Best Low Profile CPU Coolers if you’re fully geared towards building a Mini-ITX gaming system. These CPU coolers tend to sacrifice with much thinner and less-dense heatsinks in order to be packaged into a tiny unit. This is why conventional CPU coolers would usually outperform some Low Profile CPU coolers in any given situation.
Generally speaking, it’s not recommended to overclock your expensive CPU using Low Profile CPU Coolers. That’s because these low-profile coolers are designed for tiny gaming PCs which have restricted airflow with the primary aim to keep the CPU temperatures down. You’d fare much better with a conventional air cooler from reputed industry-leading manufacturers such as Noctua or BeQuiet, for example, should you want to push your CPU to its limits via overclocking since these traditional coolers have much larger heatsinks and denser radiators for enhanced thermal dissipation. These factors combine to provide you with comparatively improved overclocking clearance.