Intel’s mid-range option, promoted primarily for gaming setups: The Intel i7-9700K. This CPU includes eight cores and eight threads, an L3 Cache of 12 MB, and operating and overclocking speeds of 3.6 and 4.9 GHz respectively; also built with Intel’s 9th generation 14 nm lithography. What the i7-9700K does not come with, however, is a CPU cooler, and given that this processor has a TDP of 95W, it is going to need a significant amount of cooling to maintain temperatures under 70 degrees Celsius, especially for the use of its overclocking capabilities.
Choosing the right cooler isn’t the easiest of tasks. Depending on the use of your PC setup, the demands in terms of cooling will change significantly. Some important questions to ask include: Will the CPU be under high loads regularly? Are you looking to overclock your CPU regularly? Are you simply looking to play online multiplayer games, and rarely overclock or play triple A, single player, titles? Depending on your answers to these questions, the CPU’s cooling needs will differ. Also, if you are looking to make a small form factor build in order to reduce the footprint of your PC, then you will need an appropriate CPU cooler to fit your case. Lest we forget the every so popular RGB displays on the CPU coolers, which will demand AIO water cooling, rather than airflow cooling, as choices for the former with RGB lighting and sufficient cooling are quite limited.
To help you choose the best CPU cooler for the i7-9700K, we’ve come up with the best options for SFF builds, for airflow cooling, and for RGB AIO water cooling, including multiple options for some categories, depending on your level of CPU usage with the 9700K processor.
Best CPU Coolers for the Intel Core i7-9700K – My Recommendations
Best Airflow CPU Coolers for i7-9700k
Noctua NH-D15 & NH-U12S
So, depending on how you’re looking to use your PC, the choice in this category will change. If you’re looking to play demanding games regularly and overclock your CPU often, then the Noctua NH-D15 is the best cooler for your needs. On the other hand, if you rarely overclock your CPU, and enjoy playing multiplayer online games rather than playing demanding AAA single-player games, then the NH-U12S is the cooler for your needs.
The NH-D15 uses two premium 140mm NF-A15 PWM fans, equipped with low-noise adaptors, acoustically optimized frames with antivibration mounts, and SSO2 magnetic bearings. These fans are situated onto an all-aluminum heatsink with six, nickel plated, direct-contact heatpipes attached to the CPU with Noctua’s acclaimed NT-H1 compound cooling paste. The NH-D15 is one of the most powerful CPU coolers, perhaps being the most powerful airflow cooler with the least amount of noise output, as proven by benchmarks carried out by TweakTown.
The NH-U12S is a bit scaled down in comparison to the NH-D15, but will provide sufficient cooling for the aforementioned conditions. It uses a single 120mm NF-F12 PWM controlled fan which is optimized for a high static pressure of 2.61 mmH2O, allowing it to thoroughly cool the heatsink throughout. This fan is connected to a similar aluminum heatsink with five, direct-contact, nickel plated heatpipes. Once again, TweakTown has provided benchmarks for the NH-U12S, showing that it idles at only 50 degrees Celsius, and overclocks at a slightly increased 75 degrees, a temperature which you wouldn’t want your CPU to be at for extended periods of time, but for overclocking on occasion it’ll work just fine. The noise output from the U12S ranges from 26-40 dB, so it is near silent at low to medium loads.
Depending on your needs, these two air coolers from Noctua are the best your money can buy. The NH-U12S currently sells for $64, while the NH-D15 sells for $89, both optimal air-cooling choices for cooling the Intel i7-9700K.
Best AIO (& RGB) CPU Cooler for i7-9700K
Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
Watercooling options have always enjoyed popularity for high-end, enthusiast level, gaming builds, and currently if you are looking to light your case up with some RGB glamour, then these AIO coolers are pretty much the only safe options that will not sacrifice the performance of your CPU – other of course than maybe RGB halos placed onto air coolers.
If you’re looking for such a water cooler, then worry not, the Corsair H115i Platinum AIO cooler has all the RGB style and sufficient cooling performance you’ll need for the Intel i7-9700K. The cooler uses two ML Pro Series 140mm, magnetic levitation, PWM fans, situated onto a 280mm heatsink with a low-noise design pump and a header with a thermally optimized cold plate. Performance-wise, this cooler has three controllable modes, Quiet, Balanced, and Extreme; each used depending on the level of load the CPU carries, with Quiet and Balanced modes being sufficient for most applications while maintaining noise levels low, and Extreme is suggested to be reserved for prolonged overclocking and heavy loads, as the resulting noise (~50 dB) may become annoying.
These modes are controllable via Corsair’s iCue software, which can also be used to control the lighting display of the CPU cooler. The fans and the pump head feature 16 individually controlled RGB LEDs, so there is plenty of customization to be made.
This RGB spark does come at a price, as this CPU cooler is currently selling for $169, but if RGB lighting displays and style points are important to you, then this is the cooler to buy, adding that extra visual zest to the Intel i7-9700K’s setup.
Best Low Profile CPU Cooler for i7-9700K SFF Builds
The Scythe Big Shuriken 3 is a 69mm tall, low-profile, cooler fit for SFF setups. The included fan is the 15mm thick, 120mm, Scythe Kaze Flex slim PWM fan, situated onto an asymmetrically designed heatsink (to minimize interference with other components on the motherboard), and five sintered heatpipes on a copper base layout.
In terms of benchmarks, OptimumTech has put out some tests that show us the Scythe Big Shuriken 3 operating at temperatures of 53.8 (idle) to 63.4 degrees (15-min AVX2), which can go up to 77.2 degrees when overclocking, and noise levels reaching 41.4 dB at maximum RPM. If you don’t plan to overclock often, then these results will more than suffice for your use, but if you do plan to overclock your CPU, then you might need a bit more cooling power.
Probably the coolest (ha!) feature of the Scythe Big Shuriken 3, is the fact that it allows you to change the Scythe Kaze Flex fan with another 120mm fan of your choice, and what better fan to change it with than the 120mm Noctua NF-A12x25?
Though this will increase the height of your CPU cooler from 69mm to 79mm, so it may not fit in some few cases, but if it is compatible with yours, you will always have the option to further upgrade your CPU cooler using this Noctua fan, effectively decreasing both the overclocking temperatures of the CPU, as well as the noise output of the cooler, considerably.
The Big Shuriken 3, alone, currently sells for $46, which is a great price for its performance, while you can also add the 120mm Noctua NF-A12x25 fan for an extra $31; an overall great combo to maximize the cooling efficiency of your CPU cooler, and the performance of your Intel i7-9700K build.