Find out what's the best CPU cooler to accompany your Core i5-12600k.
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A new generation of CPUs from Intel is here, and this time, Alder Lake processors come with a new CPU socket. In other words, most current CPU cooling solutions (both air & AIO) aren’t compatible with 12th gen Intel CPUs out of the box. This makes the whole process of purchasing a new cooler trickier than usual.
If you’re planning to buy the Core i5-12600K, you’ll find the best coolers for i5–12600K, compatible with the LGA 1700 socket, down below. We CPU coolers in all price brackets, both air and AIO options. Now, while the 12600K can work with a single heat sink air cooler, we recommend such a setup only to users who don’t plan on sweating the CPU in Blender or any video editing app. A 240mm AIO or a high-end air cooler is preferred for multi-threaded loads.
We’re starting the list with the best budget air cooler for the 12600K. The SE-226-XT is a single tower cooler equipped with one 120mm PWM fan. The ID-COOLING SE-226-XT is compatible with LGA 1700 socket out of the box and is perfectly capable of cooling the 12600k at stock.
Thermals will be on the higher side when pushing the CPU to its limits in multi-threaded loads ,but, overall, they will be in check. The cooler comes with a base made of solid copper along with six heat pipes. The black-coated heat sink is quite attractive.
ID-Cooling claims that this cooler has a max TDP of 250W, but we strongly doubt it could cool an overclocked 12600K. Overall, the ID-COOLING SE-226-XT looks like more than a decent budget cooling solution for the 12600K. As long as you keep the CPU at stock, you shouldn’t experience any thermal issues.
2. Scythe Fuma 2: Best value silent air cooler for 12600K
The Fuma 2 from Scythe is a dual-tower air cooler capable of tackling beefy CPUs while staying extremely quiet. It isn’t the best performer around, but it has enough juice to cool the 12600K at stock.
You should also be able to maintain safe thermals even with a manual overclock to 4.9Ghz. We reckon you’ll need a beefier cooling solution for anything higher than that. The cooler is compatible with tall RAM sticks since its base doesn’t make contact with DIMM slots even if you have all four slots populated.
The Fuma 2 features six heat pipes and two heatsinks that are on the slimmer side. It comes with Kaze Flex 120mm fans that are extremely quiet. This cooler is a pretty good solution for users who own a case that cannot fit the tallest air coolers around since it’s only 155mm in height.
This is 10mm shorter than high-end heatsinks such as the NH-D15. Do note that, at the time of this writing, you have to order the LGA 1700 upgrade kit from Scythe along with the cooler. Luckily, the kit is free with proof of purchase.
3. Noctua NH-U14S: Best single tower air cooler for Core i5-12600K
Noctua already ships its current coolers with LGA 1700 upgrade kits. This is one of the main reasons we put the NH-U14S on this list, even though the cooler is quite expensive for a single tower design.
Still, the U14S is a capable air cooler, and it’s more than enough for the 12600K at stock. It can also keep the CPU under check when OCed to 4.9Ghz. The cooler features six heat pipes and a height of 165mm, making it incompatible with certain cases, especially SFF ones.
This is due mainly to the large, 140mm fan mounted on the heatsink. Overall, yes, the NH-U14S is quite pricey, but it comes with LGA 1700 mounting bracket, and its thermal performance is in line with many dual-tower heatsinks.
4. Noctua NH-D15: Best overall air cooler for Core i5-12600K
As always, the NH-D15 is the best overall air cooler for the 12600K. The new version comes with LGA 1700 mounting bracket, which does come at a price premium. Still, if you want the best of what air coolers can offer, this is the one to get.
Remember that the NH-D15 is pretty tall at 165mm. Further, it can have clearance issues with taller memory sticks. You should be fine if you have low-profile RAM, though. If you need a low-profile RAM kit, check out our best low-profile RAM kits list.
As for the thermal performance, when combined with the 12600K, you can expect very low thermals at stock. You should also be able to overclock the CPU to 4.9-5.0GHz without thermal throttling kicking in.
With that said, while the CPU won’t throttle, it’ll probably come close to 90 degrees Celsius. Just remember that manual OC comes with a minuscule performance increase making it more or less worthless.
5. Noctua NH-L9x65: Best low-profile air cooler for 12600K
The Noctua NH-L9x65 is one of the rare SFF air coolers that ships with an LGA 1700 bracket. With that said, if you’re rocking a mini-ITX case, we advise going with an AIO, if possible, instead of this cooler.
While the NH-L9x65 is a capable SFF heatsink, it’s not among the most compact ones with its 65mm profile. Next, while it’s technically capable of tackling the 12600K, you should expect very high thermals even at stock.
Especially if your case has less than stellar airflow. We would advise getting a 240mm AIO instead of a low-profile air cooler. But if you really want one, the NH-L9x65 is, technically, the best low-profile cooler for the 12600K at the moment.
6. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240: Best 240mm AIO for Core i5-12600K
The Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240mm is the best bang-for-buck 240mm AIO for the Core i5-12600K. Having a 240mm radiator it’s also the optimal solution for cooling the 12600K, even if you plan on moderately overclocking the CPU.
You should expect a noise-free experience coupled with very low temperatures with the CPU at stock settings, even when under maximum load. The Liquid Freezer II isn’t a looker, but if you don’t care about RGB, this should be your primary choice for the 12600K.
The fans provided with the AIO are Arctic P12 PWM units that provide the best price to performance ratio on the market. They aren’t the best compared to high-end choices such as the Noctua NF-A12x25, Phanteks T30-120, or MSI MEG Silent Gale P12. But they get the job done and are very quiet under load.
Just don’t forget that the Liquid Freezer II lineup utilizes thick radiators (63mm with fans mounted), so make sure you can fit them inside your case before pulling the trigger. Also, if Arctic didn’t start to include it in the box by the time you’re reading this, you’ll have to order the LGA 1700 mounting bracket separately from Arctic free with proof of purchase.
7. NZXT Kraken X53 RGB: Best 240mm RGB AIO for 12600K
We don’t usually include components based only on their looks, but we have to make an exception for the Kraken X53 RGB because this AIO looks incredible. This is the best RGB AIO for the 12600K, without question.
First of all, you have the radiator entirely coated in white sans the rear side, which is invisible anyway – a perfect match for any white PC case on the market. Next, the Aer RGB V2 fans aren’t the best in class, but they do look slick as hell, with jaw-dropping RGB effects.
Finally, the infinity mirror effect on the cold plate cover is yet another beautiful part of the X53. With that said, the performance itself isn’t jaw-dropping. The X53 performance is pretty good but nothing to write home about, especially if we look at the price.
The price is the biggest downside of this AIO since the X53 costs as much as many 360mm AIOs. Further, the fans can get quite loud under max load. Finally, you can’t tweak the fan curve in NZXT Cam software; you have to go into BIOS for that.
And if you’re seeing this before NZXT started to ship its Kraken AIOs with LGA 1700 mounting kit, you’ll have to order one separately from NZXT.
8. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S280: Best high-end 280mm AIO for 12600K
If you want the absolute best AIO for the i5-12600K and are ready to pay for it, you should check the MEG CoreLiquid S280 from MSI. This AIO comes with LGA 1700 bracket in the box.
The new Silent Gale P14 fans are responsible for airflow. The 120mm version of these fans is arguably the best-case fan at the moment, so we reckon the 140mm ones found here are equally performant.
When it comes to thermals, this is one of the best AIOs on the market. It’s also very silent. Combined with the 12600K, it can keep the CPU under control both at stock and moderate overclock.
The main selling point of this cooler, aside from its excellent performance, is the 2.4-inch LCD. It can show system info such as CPU thermals or frequency. It also can show animated GIFs, custom text, and custom logos.
The huge display combined with a VRM fan makes the CPU plate quite thick. If you own an SFF case, make sure this AIO can fit inside since the plate is thicker than some low-profile air coolers.
The main downside of the MEG CoreLiquid S280 is its eye-watering price. With that said, you get LGA 1700 mounting in the box, the cooler is one of the best AIOs out there both in terms of thermal and noise performance, and it does come with a huge LCD screen that can show all kinds of content. If you need something like that, the CoreLiquid is the AIO to get.
9. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360: Best 360mm AIO for 12600K
We don’t recommend getting a 360mm AIO for the 12600K unless you want to push the CPU to its limits or if you want absolutely silent performance since 360mm AIOs are complete overkill for this CPU. If you do plan on testing the OC limits of your 12600K, the best choice at the moment is the Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360mm.
All the good stuff we said about its smaller cousin stands true for the 360mm model. The best thing about the Liquid Freezer II 360mm is the price, which is lower than many 240mm AIOs sell for. Again, in case Arctic doesn’t include it in the box by the time you’re reading this, you have to order the LGA 1700 mounting bracket separately from Arctic free with proof of purchase.
10. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360: Best high-end 360mm AIO for 12600K
The last entry on this list is the MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360. The 360mm version of the cooler comes with Silent Gale P12 fans and is one of the best and quietest AIOs on the market.
Everything we’ve said about the 280mm version of the cooler stands true for its bigger cousin. The only differences are that you can use the 360mm version for extreme overclock and that it comes with smaller, 120mm fans instead of 140mm units.
Also, the CoreLiquid S360 is one of the priciest AIOs on the market, no matter the size of the radiator.
CPU coolers & LGA 1700 compatibility
You might think that the 12600K demands a pricier cooler than its Ryzen counterparts. And that’s true if we’re talking about the 5600X. A $20-$30 tower cooler, or the included box cooler, will get the job done.
The situation’s different with the 5800X. The 5800X is a pretty toasty CPU, and it requires a capable heatsink or AIO. If you only play games, the 12600K is in line with the 5600X when it comes to power efficiency.
Even when pushed to the max, the CPU uses less than 120W of power, which isn’t that much. In other words, a beefy single-tower or a budget dual-tower heat sink should be enough for cooling the 12600K at stock settings.
And no, overclocking the 12600K isn’t worth it. OCing this CPU more than doubles power consumption while netting about 5 percent higher multithreaded performance.
Now, regarding the LGA 1700 compatibility. At the moment of this writing, most current CPU coolers come without out-of-the-box LGA 1700 support. You either need a new mounting bracket offered by most manufacturers, or you have to look for a cooler that ships with LGA 1700 mounting brackets.
Noctua is the best brand when it comes to LGA 1700 compatibility. The company already sells coolers with LGA brackets included and offers free-of-charge mounting upgrades for supported coolers.
be quiet! has released a list of supported coolers for the LGA 1700 upgrade. The LGA 1700 mounting bracket is free with proof of purchase of an Alder Lake CPU or an LGA 1700 board along with a be quiet! cooler. Otherwise, you have to pay a small fee to get one.
Arctic also has a list of supported coolers, with the mounting bracket upgrade being free with proof of purchase. If you don’t have one, you have to pay 6 euros plus shipping. The same story is with DeepCool SKUs.
Cooler Master also has a list of coolers that support the new bracket, but we don’t know if the upgrade is free or not. Thermaltake doesn’t offer a free LGA 1700 mounting bracket upgrade. The company, however, did release a list of coolers that can receive the new mounting bracket.
Corsair offers upgrade kits in its online shop for a selection of its AIO coolers. Scythe is yet another company that has LGA 1700 upgrade kit available for its newer CPU coolers. NZXT offers the upgrade kit for all of its Kraken AIOs. Further, starting with mid-late November 2021, all Kraken units will come with LGA 1700 kits included.
Finally, the latest AIO models from ASUS already come with LGA 1700 mounting kits, and the company offers upgrades for selected AIOs. The only major manufacturers that didn’t yet release LGA 1700 mounting bracket upgrades are ID-Cooling and Thermalright. Sad to hear because both companies have fantastic and affordable coolers that would work great with the 12600K.
Why buy Core i5-12600K
The short answer is that the 12600K offers almost the same gaming performance as the current champion, the 12900K, for way less cash. The new i5 SKU also has a massive multi-threaded performance increase over the previous generation of Intel CPUs.
Finally, this processor trumps both the 5600X and 5800X from AMD, the latter being noticeably pricier than the 12600K. What we want to say is that if you’re looking for a gaming or productivity CPU for about $300, the 12600K is the best choice.
Sure, Z690 boards are pricier than their B550 counterparts. Still, more cores (this is technically a 10-core design despite four of those cores being smaller, efficient cores without hyperthreading), faster performance, and new features that Alder Lake brings to the table are worth the price.
An average Z690 board has loads of USB ports, double the amount of M.2 slots compared to X570 or B550 boards, better VRMs, and at least one PCIe 5.0 x16 slot.
DDR5 compatibility might be worthy for some users with specific use cases. The thing is, with current prices, DDR5 isn’t worth it. Besides, you can’t get a board that supports both DDR4 and DDR5.
Our recommendation is just to go with DDR4, especially with a lower-price CPU such as the 12600K. After all, Raptor Lake, the upcoming 13th gen Intel CPU lineup, will support DDR4, so even if you plan on upgrading to a Raptor Lake part down the line, you’re covered with a DDR4 board.