8 Best Budget AIO CPU Liquid Coolers in 2021 – 120mm, 240mm, 280mm & 360mm Options

Best Budget AIO CPU Coolers

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Keeping your CPU cool without burning a hole in your wallet is quite the challenge in 2021. Thankfully, we have compiled a list of the 8 Best Budget AIO CPU liquid coolers in 2021, so you don’t have to spend hours bouncing back and forth between Amazon and Newegg tabs on Chrome.

Each of the eight coolers is AIO (all-in-one or closed-loop) and will give you the best bang for your buck while still keeping your gaming rig frosty as ever. For each cooler, we are going to analyze them based on a few key factors, mainly cooling performance, size/compatibility, design, quality and of course, price.

We will also list them from best to worst, based on the criteria we mentioned. Here are the best budget AIO coolers!

Best Budget AIO Liquid Coolers in 2021 Round Up

The table below will give you a quick look at our selections for the 8 best budget AIO liquid coolers currently available on the market. To read a full review, simply click on ’review>>’ in respective row.

Product

Image

Rating

1. ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280
''Best budget 280mm AIO cooler'' 

9.9

2. ID-COOLING ZOOMFLOW 360X ARGB
''Best budget 360mm AIO cooler''

9.7

3. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2
''Best budget 240mm AIO cooler''

9.6

4. Thermaltake TH120 ARGB
''Best budget 120mm AIO cooler''

9.5

5. Cougar Aqua 280
''Best budget 280mm AIO cooler Runner-up''

9.4

6. ID-COOLING AURAFLOW X 240
''Best budget 240mm AIO cooler Runner-up''

9.3

7. DEEPCOOL Castle 360EX
''Best budget 360mm AIO cooler Runner-up''

9.2

8. EVGA CLC 120mm
''Best budget 120mm AIO cooler Runner-up''

9.2


1. ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280

Radiator Dimensions: 317 x 138 x 38mm / 12.5 x 5.4 x 1.5” | Fans Dimensions: 140 x 140 x 27mm / 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.1” | Fan Speed: 200 – 1700 RPM (PWM) | Noise Volume: Up to 24 dBA | Warranty: 2 years

ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280REASONS TO BUY

  • Incredible performance
  • Near silent operation
  • High quality and durable build
  • Great price

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Only a 2-year warranty
  • No RGB

Our Rating:   9.9/10

With one of the most interesting looking yet highest performing coolers for budget shoppers, the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 is an excellent option for those who want cooling power without all the flashy lights. A quick look at the unit, and you can see how the cooler can appear sleek and mean (in a good way). Even more, the Arctic Liquid Freezer II line has a litany of price points and sizes to suit almost any buyer.

The Liquid II Freezer 280 has a 317 mm radiator but is designed to fit in a 280mm liquid cooling case chassis (this is notably different than a 240mm chassis mount). The defining factor of the Liquid II is the pump head.

While most water-coolers are designed to contact the CPU and pull away heat through the cycling of liquid, the Liquid II has a VRM fan to cool down the motherboard’s essential parts, theoretically increasing performance cooling the system as a whole. As a result, the water block is much bigger than the traditional circle or square that most other companies use.

Whether Intel or AMD, the Liquid Freezer II 280 will work for you. When you get the package, it comes with a little QR code that you can scan to download a PDF of the manual. From there, you can install the correct brackets and plating to make sure everything is secured. Always check your socket type with the companies website, but most AMD and Intel sockets are fine. Make sure that your case has the correct mounts to fit the 280mm installation.

Another element is to make sure that your motherboard isn’t too cluttered and has space for the interesting VRM fan on the water block.

The black and white look of the entire Arctic Liquid Freezer line stands in stark contrast to most coolers. There are zero LEDs or glowing elements, reinforcing the utilitarian vibes created by the hard black edges. The hoses are sheathed in a quality braided sleeve, ensuring they won’t get damaged.

The radiator houses two 140mm fans that use a PWM cable plugged directly into the motherboard. Overall, the cooler is well built and feels premium to the touch. The only complaint is the distinct lack of LEDs, which at the end of the day are preference anyway. A cooler’s metric is usually its performance, not its aesthetic.

The entire Arctic Liquid II line is known for the best performance for the price point – and the 280 is no different. One note, however, is the VRM fan and its usefulness. As Gamers Nexus tested, the VRM fan both works and doesn’t work. Yes, it does cool the voltage components on the motherboard, but that cooling doesn’t seem to affect the overall performance of the machine in a discernable way.

The cooler itself, however, is incredible. With a core i9-9900k running at 5 GHz and 100% load, the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 kept the CPU at 79 degrees celsius. Since the rest of the Arctic line has quite a bit of flexibility, especially with different case sizes and CPU needs, make sure you also check those out.

The Arctic Liquid Freezer line is our choice for the best budget AIO liquid cooling system for 2021. With solid performance, a litany of options, new tech in the form of a VRM fan, and a mean-looking design, we feel confident recommending the 280 to anyone looking to give their rig a frosty upgrade.

The only downside that we can see is that the Liquid Freezer line doesn’t have RGB options, so if you aren’t deterred by that, this is the best cooler you can get in this price range. This is the cooler for a budget gamer who wants the best performance without the flashy extras.

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You may also like: Best 240mm AIO CPU coolers 

2. ID-COOLING ZOOMFLOW 360X ARGB

Radiator Dimensions: 397 x 120 x 27mm / 15.6 x 4.7 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 700 ~ 1500 +/- 10% RPM | Noise Volume: 18 ~ 26.4 dB(A) | Warranty: 2 years

ID-COOLING ZOOMFLOW 360X ARGBREASONS TO BUY

  • Quality build
  • Great cooling performance
  • Amazing price for a 360mm cooler
  • RGB lighting
  • Longer hoses

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Large radiator
  • Only a 2-year warranty

Our Rating:   9.7/10

When talking about affordable and efficient water coolers, the ID-Cooling Zoomflow 360X deserves to be on any list. With extra roomy tubes, a slick aesthetic, and a good price point, the Zoomflow 360X deserves your consideration at a minimum.

One of the largest coolers on our list, the Zoomflow 360X can fill up a case pretty fast. The radiator measures 397mm and offers three 120mm fans seated in the chassis. It has a good weight to it, indicating well-thought construction and aesthetics.

The pump head is actually smaller than you would expect for a radiator of this size, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate reduced performance. One of the best features of this cooler is its tubing. It has slightly longer than average tubing, allowing you to “make it work” in a variety of situations without putting undue stress on the tubes.

AMD and Intel users alike can enjoy this beautifully built cooler. Almost all AMD and Intel sockets play well with the Zoomflow, but like always, check for yourself. Since this cooler is much larger than its 120mm or 240mm cousins, it’s always worth a measure if you have a smaller tower. As we mentioned in the size comparison, the tubing is a bit longer than average, allowing you to make this cooler work, even in some roomier cases.

This cooler is very well built. The hoses are covered in a softer feeling material, rather than the plasticky nylon we normally see. There is some branding on the radiator; the most “exciting thing” about it, probably. With some ID-Cooling fans to match, everything looks put together and is also designed to play well.

The top of the pump head has a clear ring where the ARGB shines through with millions of different options. It also comes with a controller so you can manually control the different color options, although it can simply be plugged into your mobo. When the lights are up and running, it truly looks awesome. If you want to level up your build even further, you can opt for the “snow” edition cooler for an incredibly cool look.

A cooler can look as good as it wants, but if its performance doesn’t measure up, it doesn’t really matter. Thankfully, this budget cooler handles stock temps like a champ. The Zoomflow 360X keeps an Intel i7-7700k running at an idle temp of 26 degrees celsius, and an under load temp of 52 degrees celsius. All situations will vary, but these are good numbers if you don’t plan to do any massive overclocking.

The Zoomflow 360X is an incredible AIO cooler with the looks to match. You don’t have to sacrifice much if you choose the Zoomflow to cool your system. For the price point, it’s hard to find something comparable for the performance you get. Since the Zoomflow 360X is a bit larger than a more compact 240 or 280, we don’t know if every budget buyer has space for it, earning it an enthusiastic second place.

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Related reading: Best 120mm AIO CPU coolers

3. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2

Radiator Dimensions: 277 x 120 x 27mm / 10.9 x 4.7 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 700 – 1500 +/- 10% RPM | Noise Volume: 8 – 27 dB(A) | Warranty: 2 years

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2_2REASONS TO BUY

  • Great cooling performance
  • Highly compatible
  • Vibrant RGB lighting
  • Excellent price point

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Only a 2-year warranty
  • Bit noisier

Our Rating:   9.6/10

Cooler Master has been in the cooling game for a long time now. There are few companies that have established themselves in a niche as they have, and as a result, you can expect a reasonable level of consistency across their products. You aren’t getting some Ali Express cooler here.

This is the second iteration (hence the V2 in the name) of the “MasterLiquid” line and should come with some improvements over the V1. The “240” in the name signifies its radiator size, coming in at 240mm.

There are two things we need to consider when looking at the size of a water cooler. The first is the radiator and the second is the actual heatsink. The radiator is a double-fan build that houses two 120mm fans.

When you combine their throughput, you get the 240mm number that we see in the title. As far as CPU water coolers go, 240mm is plenty for most buyers. There are lots of different “standards” you could abide by, but a generally good rule of thumb is to have one 120mm fan per heating element being cooled.

Most computer parts nowadays are going to be cross-platform. The Cooler Master ML240L is no different. You can expect this to fit most modern motherboards and is compatible with both Intel and AMD sockets going back almost ten years.

The cooler comes assembled ready for Intel but can be converted to AMD with the included parts. The Intel installation is straightforward and uses four connection points with knurled screws, allowing for hand-tightening.

The AMD installation, however, comes with some annoyances. It was intended to be back-compatible with AMD sockets almost ten years old now. While this is great from a utility perspective, it forces the mounting process to be a bit more involved than the Intel one and only uses two mounting sockets compared to Intels two. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s something to keep in mind.

For a budget cooler, CM did a great job with the materials and construction. The radiator itself is aluminum (highly conductive) and has a matte finish that feels quality. The tubing material is thick and covered in a braided material to help prevent punctures and the like.

Cooler Master increased the radiator fin size a bit and subsequently increased the surface area by 25% compared to the V1 (more surface area means better cooling). It also comes with RGB options in each of the fans that can be controlled with an included remote. While this doesn’t affect performance, we think its pretty cool.

All other things are peripheral when it comes to how well a cooler, well, can cool. The cooler features a new “dual dissipation pump” that allows it to cycle heat off the CPU much faster than a traditional single-chamber pump. We are happy to report that there doesn’t seem to be any hype behind the cooling capabilities of ML240V2.

On an Intel Core i5-6600K @ 2.9Ghz, the idle temp after an hour was around 20 degrees celsius. Under load, the CPU was measuring around 63 degrees celsius. These numbers are well within the acceptable limit for a budget cooler.

The Cooler Master ML240V2 is a notable improvement from the V1, mostly achieved through their new dual-chamber pump head and an updated design. While performance seems to be slightly behind the Liquid Freezer, you shouldn’t feel bad about picking one of these up for your rig. If you don’t have the space for the 360X and don’t want to forsake LEDs, the Cooler Master ML240V2 is the ideal choice for you.

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Read also: Best 280mm AIO CPU coolers

4. Thermaltake TH120 ARGB

Radiator Dimensions: 153 x 120 x 27mm / 6 x 4.7 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 1500 RPM | Noise Volume: 28.2 dB(A) | Warranty: 2 years

Thermaltake TH120 ARGBREASONS TO BUY

  • Excellent RGB lighting
  • Great cooling performance
  • Very quiet overall
  • Nice aesthetics
  • Easy to install

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Only a 2-year warranty

Our Rating:   9.5/10

One of the smaller coolers we are looking at today, the Thermaltake TH120 ARGB still packs quite the punch. With great acoustics and surprisingly strong thermal numbers, the TH120 has a lot to love in a small package.

While a few of the coolers we have looked at have been 240mm radiators with a double-fan build, the TH120 is just half that. Coming in with a 120mm single-fan and radiator build, it measures significantly smaller than its competing coolers. For small builds or cases that are already crammed with gear, the TH120 is a great way to scratch that water-cooling itch without breaking the bank to upgrade your rig.

Like most modern coolers, the TH120 is cross-compatible between AMD and Intel chips. The packaging includes the exact mounting brackets that you need as well as a good reference guide. Since this cooler is smaller than its 240mm counterparts, it gets bonus points for compatibility since it can go into a greater variety of builds just based on its radiator size.

One note is that the copper plate doesn’t come pre-applied with thermal paste (as some do) but does provide a tube in the packaging for self-application.

Thermaltake has been a big name computer parts for a while. They have consistent products, and the TH120 isn’t any different. The actual pump head itself comes equipped with an RGB ring that adds a really cool element while most coolers just have RGB’s in their fans (the TH120 has that, too).

The radiator is a black rectangular aluminum chassis that seats the matte-clear fan on the other side. When plugged in and running, the pump head and fan provide one of the coolest RGB experiences out of the group.

This is where the Thermaltake TH120 needs to establish itself as a serious competitor or risk looking like the little sibling who can’t compete with their older brother. Incredibly, it didn’t just perform well in the thermals, it also was quiet! At idle, the CPU temp was around 27 degrees celsius and under load, 53 degrees celsius.

As far as pure performance, this little cooler is as good, if not better, than many of its 240mm cousins. Even better was the fact that the fan was still quiet, even with the added stress of not working in tandem with another.

Let’s be honest. Liquid cooling isn’t always about performance, especially when it comes to smaller units. The Thermaltake TH120 is a perfect example of that. In the 120mm price range, you start to see a dip in price for performance since the radiator surface area has so much to do with cooling power.

In this 120mm price range, air coolers are much more competitive. Overall, the TH120 is a great cooler that delivers where you expect it to. If you want to be able to say you have a liquid-cooled system and are willing to pay a bit more for that, the TH120 should be your go to.

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You may also like: Best 360mm AIO CPU coolers

5. Cougar Aqua 280

Radiator Dimensions: 310 x 140 x 27mm / 12.2 x 5.5 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 140 x 140 x 25mm / 5.5 x 5.5 x 1” | Fan Speed: 600 – 1600 +/- 200 RPM | Noise Volume: Up to 34 dB(A) | Warranty: 2 years

Cougar Aqua 280REASONS TO BUY

  • Quiet and high-performing
  • Excellent pricing
  • Bright RGB lighting
  • Easy to install
  • Quality construction

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Stiffer hoses
  • Only a 2-year warranty

Our Rating:   9.4/10

For a company mostly known for its PC cases, CPU water cooling isn’t something you would expect Cougar to be good at. The Cougar Aqua 280 shows that they can make an affordable and efficient water cooler and cases to boot! With its middle of the range size and aesthetic design, there isn’t much to hate about the Aqua 280, especially its price.

The Aqua 280 is smack dab in the middle of the coolers we have on our list. The radiator comes in at a sleek 280, striking a balance between size and surface area that many budget users can appreciate. The pump head is rectangular, instead of the circular style we’ve seen quite a bit of.

The radiator houses two Vortex Omega 140s, each measuring the titled 140mm. This is a good cooler for most mid-sized builds that aren’t tight on space, but don’t have massive cases.

The Aqua 280 is compatible with Intel and AMD lovers, although it comes preconfigured with Intel brackets on the water block. The installation process is simple, especially for more modern AM4 sockets. You shouldn’t have any issues with installing the Aqua 280, especially if you follow the included manual. One thing to note is the fans don’t come with Cougar software to control them, requiring 3rd-party software to control them manually.

The Cougar Aqua 280 is a happy medium between flashy and well built. It isn’t pretty, like some coolers can be, but that isn’t an objective measurement. The RGBs on the pump head are a good balance between cool and utilitarian. Some companies go overboard with their LEDs, but Cougar was reserved in their decisions.

The radiator is aluminum, standard for budget options, and feels solid to hold. The hoses have a nylon covering and are well protected from punctures and the like. The Vortex fan system, however, is where things get spicy. The two 140mm fans are awesome. With groove patterns to direct airflow and anti-vibration tech, they move lots of air while also keeping quiet.

You can also orient the pump head depending on how you have your motherboard situated. The RGB can be controlled by an included remote, giving more options than many competitors.

All numbers are not equal. These temps, measured by ProClockers.com, use an i9-10900k, capable of speeds upwards of 5.3Ghz. At idle, the Cougar Aqua 280 measured a temp of 36 degrees celsius, and under everyday task load, 56 degrees celsius. Again, these numbers are different than something a little more… civilian, but it goes to show that the Cougar doesn’t back down from a fight. Overall, it did a great job of cooling the CPU with little to no noise.

The Cougar Aqua 280 is a phenomenal AIO cooler that delivers on all its promises. The main reason the Cougar isn’t higher on the list is the slightly less common 280mm mounting requirement (as opposed to the 240 of the Cooler Master and Auraflow). The price point is also a bit higher than its 240mm cousins, causing it to compete with the Liquid Freeze line directly. If you’re looking for a budget 280mm AIO cooler but don’t want the Liquid Freezer II, this is the option for you.

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Read also: Best white CPU coolers

6. ID-COOLING AURAFLOW X 240

Radiator Dimensions: 276 x 120 x 27mm / 10.9 x 4.7 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 700 ~ 1800 +/- 10% RPM | Noise Volume: 18 ~ 35.2 dB(A) | Warranty: 2 years

ID-COOLING AURAFLOW X 240REASONS TO BUY

  • Quality construction
  • Great cooling performance
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Easy to install
  • Budget price

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Dim RGB lights
  • Only a 2-year warranty

Our Rating:   9.3/10

The ID-Cooling Auraflow x 240 cooler is ID Cooling’s answer for budget cooling without giving up any great features. A solid and versatile cooler, you don’t have to break the bank to get decent results with this cooler.

You can get MUCH bigger than the ID-Cooling Auraflow. Thankfully, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to CPU water-cooling. Coming in with a 240mm radiator, this cooler will fit most cases without an issue and also provide more cooling than it’s 120mm counterparts.

Its dual-fan setup allows decent airflow and subsequent fin-cooling. Most rigs will need this to be mounted to either the top or bottom of the case unless yours is especially large and has room on the rear (although that still isn’t optimal for airflow purposes).

There are no surprises when it comes to Auraflow’s compatibility. Like always, check your specific compatibility with the socket list on the Amazon or website listing, but most AMD and Intel sockets in the past few years will be compatible.

Something of note is that the Auraflow is compatible with AMD’s Threadripper line, setting it apart for some AMD users considering this cooler. It’s powered by a PWM to SATA adapter, with the SATA adapter allowing the pump to run at its maximum speed if needed.

The Auraflow features an aluminum radiator chassis with a fin density that matches its price point. A great addition to the build comes in the form of anti-vibration pads seated in the corners of the fans. This helps to reduce the noise when the fans switch to a higher RPM and start to shake a bit.

The tubes are housed in a nylon sleeve and fit into the pump with a swivel fitting. Overall, the Auraflow feels like it should. Solid, sturdy, and outfitted with a few features that are nice to have, especially in a budget cooler.

There are also RGB LEDs built into the fans, but they aren’t as bright as some other brands are. Unless you want the brightest, “RGBiest” cooler around, it shouldn’t present too much of an issue for you.

Tom’s Hardware’s temperature test shows us what we can expect when it comes to performance with the Auraflow. While idling at ambient room temperatures, the cooler keeps the CPU around 29 degrees celsius and under load, 62 degrees celsius. For a budget cooler, these numbers are completely reasonable, despite running hotter than some other higher-end options. If you aren’t looking for the best thermal numbers you can get, the Auraflow 240 is a great option to consider.

Overall, the ID-Cooling Auraflow is a dependable and well-built cooler for the budget-conscious buyer. When comparing the Auraflow to the Cooler Master, it was an extremely tight race. They are competing in an identical price range and form factor, making them the closest rivals.

The only reason we put the Auraflow behind the Cooler Master is the fact that the Cooler Master beats out the Auraflow marginally when it comes to certain performance tests. If you find a deal or great warranty option for the Auraflow and can’t for the Cooler Master, however, we would wholeheartedly stand behind the Auraflow.

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7. DEEPCOOL Castle 360EX

Radiator Dimensions: 420 x 120 x 27mm / 16.5 x 4.7 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 500 ~ 1800 +/- 10% RPM | Noise Volume: Up to 32.1 dB(A) | Warranty: 3 years

DEEPCOOL Castle 360EXREASONS TO BUY

  • Great cooling performance
  • Highly compatible
  • Easy to set up
  • 3-year warranty
  • High quality build

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Extremely large
  • No RGB lighting
  • Bit noisier

Our Rating:   9.2/10

One of the largest coolers on our list, the Castle 360EX is a monster of a cooler. With RGB options, quiet fans, and a massive radiator, it’s worth a look from the budget-conscious buyer as well as power users. The biggest factor in buying this cooler is asking yourself, “Do I have room for this beast?”

This big ol’ cooler comes in with a whopping 402mm radiator and three fan build. The radiator houses three 120mm fans, making for some seriously cold fins. The pump head is another thing to consider when thinking about buying this cooler.

The pump head is much taller than your average cooler head. While headspace isn’t normally an issue when looking at water coolers, the tubes also come over the top of the pump head, making measurements a good call for all but the biggest cases out there.

The Castle 360EX is perfectly compatible with almost all AMD and Intel sockets, but as always, check the website description to ensure proper fits with your specific socket. The packaging includes a variety of brackets and screws, along with a manual to ensure that you install your specific brackets correctly.

A known issue is that you may not be able to line up every single screw with its associated mounting hole. There seems to be an alignment issue with certain cases, but even with a few less screws for the fans, the mounting process is still secure and straightforward. It also comes with thermal paste pre-applied.

The size of the cooler is matched by its build quality. The aluminum radiator is painted a sleek black with the accompanying colored fans to match. Sleeved tubes lead from the radiator and connect to the pump head, a gray and silver color with some awesome features. Besides looking really professional, the pump head offers RGB and a small remote to control it.

You can also take off the little plate logo on the pump and switch it around to match whatever your pump’s orientation is, a neat little feature. The cooler also offers Anti-leak technology that equalizes pressure inside the device (via a small plug) and increases longevity.

The Castle 360EX doesn’t balk when put to the test against even more expensive coolers. On an AMD Ryzen 2700, the Castle boasted an idle temp reading of 14 degrees celsius and an under load reading of 34 degrees celsius.

The only drawback is that the Castle isn’t able to compete with its counterparts on fan noise, primarily because smaller fans make more noise. The Castle’s competing coolers all boast slightly larger fans, but for the purposes of our list, it has comparable, if not quieter, fans than most.

The Castle 360EX is a great budget AIO cooler with little compromise. In our list, the Castle 360EX was primarily competing against the Zoomflow. When it came to price, the Zoomflow beat out the Castle by 10-15%, on average. In this budget price range, those numbers aren’t too significant, but this IS a budget list after all. The Castle also didn’t have LED options on their fans where the Zoomflow did.

Where the Castle beats out the Zoomflow is in its warranty options and Anti-Leak tech. If you want a solid warranty and a little more peace of mind when it comes to your build, it may be worth it for the slightly higher price of the Castle 360EX.

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8. EVGA CLC 120mm

Radiator Dimensions: 156 x 122 x 28mm / 6.1 x 4.8 x 1.1” | Fans Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1” | Fan Speed: 1800 +/- 10% RPM | Noise Volume: Up to 32.1 dB(A) | Warranty: 5-year limited warranty

EVGA CLC 120mmREASONS TO BUY

  • Quality build 
  • Extremely low price
  • 5-year warranty
  • Compact

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Limited compatibility
  • Plain aesthetics
  • Disappointing cooling performance

Our Rating:   8.6/10

One of the least expensive buys on our list, the aesthetically simple and straightforward EVGA CLC 120mm is for a niche crowd. With its small footprint and limited compatibility, this cooler isn’t the ideal buy for most people.

One of the best parts about the CLC 120 its size. It’s a budget cooler that, based on its price point, gives a fair fight when paired against its 240mm competition. The CLC (closed-loop cooler) has a 120mm radiator and accompanying fan.

One interesting feature is that the swivel fittings on the pump head are recessed instead of sticking out. That little tweak allows the pump head to take up less space near the surface of the motherboard, an especially useful feature if things are extremely cramped.

The CLC 120 is one of the few coolers on our list that require specialty sockets. The CLC will only work with current and future Intel sockets. If you have an AMD chip or plan to upgrade to one later, this cooler wouldn’t work with that system. One good feature is the ability for the fan to be swapped out with a new one if desired.

The CLC 120 is a well made, if not bland, cooler. It has a standard copper plate for solid conductivity that comes with pre-applied thermal paste. Its tubing is nylon sleeved, and its length is a bit short for some cases. This cooler does have the EVGA name behind it, assuring certain aspects of its build quality. This is a cooler for the utility minded individual.

Gamers Nexus ran benchmarks with the CLC 120 and gave us readings a bit differently. Instead of the flat temperature at idle and under load, they subtracted the ambient temperature from the actual CPU temps to give an equivalent temp readout (delta T), so keep in mind the actual CPU temps would be higher. For the idle temp, we have 7 degrees celsius, and under load, we see 41 degrees celsius. In combination with a loud pump when at max RPMs, the CLC 120 was a bit underwhelming.

The CLC 120 earned the last place spot on our list. We run into the same issues with the EVGA CLC 120 that we do with the Thermaltake – size usually helps when cooling CPUs. To make matters worse, the CLC isn’t compatible with AMD (sorry Ryzen users). There are a few redeeming qualities, however. The CLC offers a 5-year warranty (one of the longest we’ve seen) and is also the cheapest on our list. This bare-bones buy won’t disappoint you, but there are better options out there.

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Conclusion

Picking a liquid CPU cooler may feel like an impossible decision. When considering your options, the most important factor is compatibility. It doesn’t matter how great it is if it won’t fit your system. After that, look for quality builds that show good thermal numbers, and as an added benefit, a great warranty policy. Other than that, pick which one you think looks cooler!

About Richard Gamin 106 Articles
My name's Richard and over the years, I have personally built many PCs for myself and my friends. I love gaming, programming, graphics designing and basically anything that has to do with computers and technology. If you ever need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you out.

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