Best gpu Cooler: Are GPU coolers worth it?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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Graphics cards produce a lot of heat. This heat needs to be dissipated effectively to avoid thermal throttling which reduces performance. Using one of the best GPU coolers is essential to keep your graphics card running at peak efficiency.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits of aftermarket GPU coolers, explain different types of GPU coolers, and recommend the best models currently available. We’ll also look at whether basic air coolers are sufficient or if upgraded coolers are worth the investment.

Why Use an Aftermarket GPU Cooler?

The stock cooler that comes with most graphics cards is just adequate. It allows the card to function without overheating but often runs hot and noisy as a result.

An upgraded aftermarket GPU cooler can provide the following benefits:

Lower temperatures – Aftermarket coolers have larger heatsinks and fans that are more efficient at dissipating heat. This allows the GPU to run cooler, avoiding thermal throttling.

Improved performance – Cooler operation allows GPUs to boost higher, sustain peak clock speeds for longer and overall perform better.

Quieter operation – Aftermarket coolers typically have larger, quieter fans that don’t need to work as hard to keep temps down.

Aesthetics – Many high-end GPU coolers feature RGB lighting and attractive shroud designs that can complement your build.

Futureproofing – A good aftermarket cooler can potentially be transferred to a future GPU upgrade.

For enthusiasts who want lower noise, the best possible performance, overclocking headroom, and aesthetics, an aftermarket GPU cooler is recommended. The only real downside is the added cost.

Types of GPU Coolers

There are three main types of GPU coolers available:

Air Coolers

Air coolers work by using aluminum heatsinks to absorb and dissipate heat, and fans to exhaust that heat out of the case. They are the most common type of cooler due to being affordable and effective.

High-end air coolers feature large heatsinks with multiple fans and heat pipes that transfer heat away from the GPU die. Top-tier air coolers rival liquid cooling performance while being cheaper and lower maintenance.

Liquid Coolers (AIO)

All-in-one liquid coolers are closed-loop systems where liquid coolant circulates between a pump and a radiator. The pump circulates coolant through a water block mounted directly on the GPU die. The radiator then exhausts heat out of the case via fans.

AIO liquid coolers can achieve very low GPU temperatures thanks to the direct die contact and large radiator space. However, they are more expensive than air coolers and carry a small risk of leakage.

Full Custom Liquid Cooling

Extreme enthusiasts can build fully custom liquid cooling loops for graphics cards. This involves mounting a water block to the GPU and connecting soft tubing to a separate pump and radiator.

Custom loops offer the best-cooling potential but require advanced knowledge to build and maintain. They are overkill for most users.

6 Best GPU Coolers 2023

Keeping your graphics card cool is essential for peak performance and longevity. With modern GPUs outputting more heat than ever, having a good cooler is a must.

Arctic Accelero Extreme IV

  • Huge triple-fan air cooler
  • 400W cooling capacity
  • Easy to install

Arctic’s Accelero Extreme IV is the best air cooler you can buy for graphics cards. It tames even the hottest, highest-wattage GPUs like the RTX 3090 without breaking a sweat.

This beefy air cooler spans nearly the entire length of most cards and packs a huge heatsink array cooled by three ultra-quiet 100mm fans. Heatpipe direct touch technology and a large backplate help transfer heat away from critical components.

With a cooling capacity of 400W, the Extreme IV can handle any consumer graphics card. Installation is also straightforward thanks to the included backplate and mounting kit. Overall it provides exceptional cooling at a reasonable $100 price point.

360mm AIO: NZXT Kraken G12 + Kraken X53

  • Compatible with most GPUs
  • Plugs into 360mm radiator
  • Seamless software control

For all-in-one liquid cooling, we recommend combining NZXT’s Kraken G12 mounting bracket with one of their 360mm Kraken AIOs like the X53.

The G12 allows you to securely mount the X53’s water block to your GPU die for dramatically improved cooling. The 360mm radiator then exhausts heat from your system using three quiet 120mm fans.

NZ XT’s software lets you monitor temps and fan speeds, and customize the RGB lighting on the pump head and fans. It’s a premium cooling solution that also looks fantastic through your case window.

Installation does require removing the stock cooler, so it’s more complex than air options. But for max cooling with minimal maintenance, a 360mm GPU AIO is highly recommended.

ARCTIC Accelero Twin Turbo II

  • Excellent value under $50
  • Dual 92mm fans
  • 200W cooling capacity

For budget-focused buyers, the ARCTIC Accelero Twin Turbo II is a great value aftermarket GPU cooler. It costs just $35-50 while providing a big upgrade over stock coolers.

This air cooler features a dense aluminum fin array covered by two 92mm fans. While not as beastly as the Extreme IV, it can still handle up to 200W GPUs very effectively. The low-profile design also makes it compatible with small form factor cases.

Installation is quick and tool-less. Overall it’s a great entry-level aftermarket cooler that comes at a budget-friendly price and even includes a 6-year warranty. It’s ideal for mid-range GPUs like the RTX 3060 or RX 6700 XT.

Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360

  • 360mm AIO with RGB fans
  • Stunning visual showcase
  • Compatible with any GPU

For buyers who want maximum bling to show off through their case window, Thermaltake’s Floe Triple Riing RGB cooler is sure to dazzle.

It boasts a vibrant 16.8 million color 360mm AIO liquid cooler with three premium Riing RGB 120mm fans. The glossy pump head features a sharp OLED display to highlight temps or custom graphics.

Compatible with any graphics card, it offers premium cooling capabilities in an eye-catching package. The Riing fans feature compression blades and hydraulic bearings for silent, powerful airflow.

Matching Thermaltake’s extensive TT RGB Plus ecosystem of fans and accessories, it’s the ultimate cooler for aesthetics enthusiasts. The reasonable $190 price tag makes it attainable for most builders.

Noctua NH-L9a-AM4

  • Only 37mm thick
  • Specific for AMD GPUs
  • Ideal for ITX systems

The Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 is an ultra-low-profile cooler perfect for small form factor systems. At just 37mm thick, it can fit in the tightest ITX cases with room to spare.

Designed specifically for AMD GPUs, it sports a compact heatsink and 92mm fan ideal for Radeon cards up to 100W. The premium Noctua fan uses advanced blade geometry and SSO2 bearings for top-tier efficiency in silence.

For cramped SFF builds, it’s the best choice to keep your GPU cool under load without rattling your case or taking up space. It punches above its size for only $40. Noctua’s 6-year warranty provides peace of mind.

EVGA Hybrid Cooler

  • Plug-and-play 120mm AIO
  • Designed for EVGA cards
  • Easy snap-on installation

EVGA’s Hybrid Cooler is a simple 120mm AIO that comes pre-mounted to fit EVGA’s GeForce RTX cards. Just snap it onto compatible cards like the 3080 or 3090 for an instant temperature drop.

The self-contained pump and radiator easily keep GPUs 30-40C cooler than stock. It also prevents the PCIe slot from overheating with the mid-board pump location. The cooler ships with a 120mm radiator but supports 120mm, 140mm, and 240mm sizes.

Priced at $130, it’s a solid value for the cooling benefits. However, it only fits EVGA cards. For universal GPU compatibility, other options like the NZXT Kraken are recommended instead.

Are Air GPU Coolers Enough?

Air coolers have come a long way and the best models can cool all but the most outrageous GPUs. Modern high-end cards like the RTX 3080 or RX 6900 XT will perform just fine under most air coolers.

Even entry-level models like the Accelero Twin Turbo II can handle mainstream cards with ease. And the Arctic Extreme IV can tame pretty much any consumer GPU you throw at it.

Here are some benefits of air coolers compared to liquid:

Cheaper – Air coolers cost $50-100 while liquid starts around $150.

Easier to Install – Most air coolers use simple mounting mechanisms versus fully removing GPU coolers.

Leak Proof – No chances of catastrophic liquid damage to your GPU and other components.

Reliability – Air coolers have no pumps or seals that can fail over time.

For all but the most extreme overclockers, air coolers offer great cooling in the most reliable, cost-effective package. Liquid certainly looks flashy and benchmark numbers are slightly better, but air gets the job done for most.

Are Aftermarket GPU Coolers Worth It?

Aftermarket GPU coolers can range from $50 up to $200 for liquid AIOs. Are they actually worth buying over stock coolers?

For high-end cards, an upgraded cooler is definitely recommended:

  • Flagship GPUs like RTX 3090/3080 run extremely hot with loud stock cooler fans. An aftermarket cooler lets them run cooler for better performance.
  • Overclocking headroom is greatly improved with the extra thermal dissipation capacity.
  • Silence-focused buyers will appreciate larger, quieter fans
  • Aesthetics enthusiasts can pick coolers with RGB lights and display screens.

The one downside is voiding your GPU warranty in some cases by removing the stock cooler.

Mid-range GPUs like RTX 3060 or RX 6700 XT are powerful enough without the need to overclock, so the upgrade is more optional. The stock coolers adequately cool these cards, just at higher noise levels.

Entry-level GPUs have coolers sufficient for their specs and won’t benefit much from aftermarket options.

So for high-end cards, upgraded coolers are strongly recommended. For mid-range models, they are optional but can provide better acoustics. And for low-end GPUs, they are generally not worth the cost.

1. What are GPU coolers?

GPU coolers, also known as graphics card coolers, are aftermarket cooling solutions designed to regulate the temperature of a graphics processing unit (GPU) by dissipating heat more effectively than the stock cooler.

2. Why do GPUs need cooling?

GPUs generate heat while processing graphics-intensive tasks. If the heat isn’t managed properly, it can lead to performance throttling, reduced lifespan, and potential hardware damage.

3. Are stock GPU coolers sufficient?

Stock coolers that come with GPUs are generally sufficient for regular usage. However, they might struggle with heavy workloads or overclocking, making aftermarket coolers a consideration for enthusiasts.

4. What benefits do aftermarket GPU coolers offer?

Aftermarket GPU coolers often provide better heat dissipation, quieter operation, and more headroom for overclocking, resulting in improved performance and longevity.

5. Do aftermarket coolers void warranties?

Installing an aftermarket cooler might void your GPU’s warranty, as it involves modifying the original hardware. Check your manufacturer’s warranty terms before making any changes.

6. Are GPU coolers difficult to install?

The difficulty of installation varies depending on the cooler and your technical skills. Some coolers offer straightforward installation, while others might require more advanced knowledge.

7. Do GPU coolers fit all graphics cards?

Aftermarket coolers are designed to fit specific GPU models or series. You’ll need to ensure compatibility between the cooler and your graphics card before purchasing.

8. Are GPU coolers noisy?

Aftermarket coolers often come with larger fans and better fan designs, which can result in quieter operation compared to stock coolers. However, noise levels vary among different aftermarket models.

9. Are GPU coolers expensive?

The cost of aftermarket GPU coolers varies widely, ranging from affordable options to high-end solutions. Consider your budget and cooling needs when making a decision.

10. Do GPU coolers improve gaming performance?

While GPU coolers themselves don’t directly improve gaming performance, they can prevent thermal throttling, allowing the GPU to maintain its optimal performance levels for longer periods during gaming sessions.


Installing an upgraded aftermarket GPU cooler can unlock higher performance and overclocking, lower noise levels, and give your rig a more aesthetically pleasing look.

Air coolers provide excellent cooling at reasonable prices and most avoid the risks of liquid leakage. Models like the Arctic Accelero Extreme IV can handle even the hottest flagships with ease.

Liquid AIOs push the limits of cooling performance but carry a higher price tag. Units like NZXT’s Kraken coolers add stylish RGB flair as well.

For most buyers, air coolers hit the sweet spot of performance, compatibility, and affordability. With options available at every price point, there’s a capable upgraded cooler for nearly any GPU you want to keep cool!

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