Intel’s Alder Lake CPU lineup recently arrived and managed to get back on the gaming and productivity performance throne. The Core i7-12700K belongs to the middle of the pack. While it’s not the best value for gaming (that award goes to the 12600K), the Alder Lake Core i7 is the best bang-for-the-buck CPU when it comes to productivity performance. The good news is that, while only lacking four efficiency cores compared to the flagship Core i9-12900K, the 12700K consumes considerably less power and can be efficiently cooled with a quality single tower heatsink. But which CPU coolers are the best to use for cooling the 12700K? Find out below. We have a wide selection of both air and AIO CPU coolers.
1. ID-Cooling SE-226-XT: Best budget air cooler for 12700K
While the SE-226-XT from ID-Cooling isn’t a proper budget cooler (you have heatsinks out there that cost half as much, even more), it’s a budget option when we account for the CPU price. Besides, while technically you could use a cheaper cooler for the 12700K, a more affordable option would probably end up sounding like a jet engine. On the flip side, the SE-226-XT can both cool the CPU and be relatively quiet while doing it. The most significant advantage of this heatsink over other ones is the out-of-box LGA 1700 compatibility.
The six-heat pipe design is chunky enough for the 12700K. Those six heat pipes continue into a fairly wide heatsink. The cooler uses a 120mm ARGB fan that you can easily replace with a higher-performing case fan (if you have one) for even better thermal performance. Another positive is the height of only 154mm. Lower height means you can fit this cooler inside most cases out there, even many SFF cases. This heatsink is a fine choice if you’re a gamer and don’t use your CPU for heavy multithreaded work. If you plan on using the 12700K for serious work and/or prefer ultra-silent operation, check out the next pick.
2. Scythe Fuma 2: Best silent budget air cooler for 12700K
The Fuma 2 from Scythe is dead silent even when its fans run at max RPM. This cooler features a two-tower design with six heat pipes and the same price as the ID-COOLING SE-226-XT. In other words, if you’re looking for a dead-silent 12700K cooling solution that won’t burn a hole in your pocket, this is the one to get. Despite the two-tower design, the Fuma 2 is compatible with tall RAM sticks, which we always like to see. The heatsink is 154.5mm tall and should fit inside most cases.
RGB fans won’t find much to like here since the super-silent Kaze Flex fans have zero RGB LEDs. A handy addition to Fuma 2 is an extra fan clip, allowing you to strap a third fan on the back of the cooler. It won’t improve thermal performance by much, but it could shave off a couple of degrees off of peak CPU thermals. Do note that the front fan is a 15mm slim version of the Kaze Flex. In other words, if you decide to replace it with a 25mm one (the usual thickness of 120mm case fans), it might induce clearance issues with taller memory sticks. Finally, while Scythe doesn’t sell this cooler (yet) with an LGA 1700 mounting bracket in the box, you can order it free of charge with proof of purchase (cooler + Z690 board or any Alder Lake CPU).
3. Noctua NH-U14S: Best single-tower air cooler for Core i7-12700K
The Noctua NH-U14S is very expensive for a single-tower cooler. However, this premium CPU heatsink from Noctua has a couple of things going its way. First of all, Noctua is one of the few manufacturers already selling their coolers equipped with LGA 1700 mounting brackets. You don’t have to order one; you’ll get it in the box with the cooler. Next, the NH-U14S is very silent, even at max load. It doesn’t reach the Fuma 2 level of quiet operation, but it’s close enough for most users to not care about the difference.
The main reason for this is a quality, 140mm case fan found on this cooler. Further, we have a six-heat pipe design coupled with a relatively slim but very tall heatsink. Height of 165mm is in line with, for instance, the NH-D15. In other words, make sure your case can house one of these before pulling the trigger. The biggest downside of the NH-U14S is its very high price. However, considering Noctua’s track record with timely updates to new CPU sockets, investing in this cooler might be a good idea long-term.
As you can see, the NH-U14S is a perfect match for the 12700K, especially for users who want an air cooler and plan to sweat all 12 cores found in the CPU. And yes, running this CPU with power limits disabled just isn’t worth it. A massive rise in power consumption is followed only by about a 4 percent performance increase in Cinebench. In other words, unless you plan on overclocking the 12700K, keep the power limits on and don’t go for an overkill cooling solution.
The legendary Noctua NH-D15 is one of the coolers selling with LGA 1700 brackets in the box. This alone makes it an excellent choice for everyone who wants their new cooler to work with their new CPU right away. The second reason for getting this cooler is, well, this is the best air cooler you can get. It’s super effective at cooling any CPU (you can even use it for cooling the beastly 12900K) while being super quiet even at max RPM.
Downsides include a height of 165mm and, more importantly, a substantial width that can cause clearance issues with many taller memory sticks. So, either make sure you can fit it alongside your memory or get a low-profile memory kit. Overall, this is the best air-cooling solution to combine with the 12700K. And don’t forget that Noctua offers the NH-D15 in, a bit pricier but much more attractive, cromax.Black version.
5. Noctua NH-D15S: Best NH-D15 alternative for 12700K
Instead of recommending an even larger cooler as an alternative to the NH-D15 – as we did in our list of the best coolers for the 12900K – we’re recommending a single fan version of the flagship Noctua heatsink, the NH-D15S. Overall, this is a better choice for the 12700K than the regular NH-D15. Firstly, the D15S is cheaper. Next, it comes with one fan instead of two, which means no clearance issues with taller RAM sticks. Also, this is yet another cooler that ships with an LGA 1700 mounting bracket. Finally, the performance is almost the same as the NH-D15, while the cooler is as quiet as its two-fan cousin. And yes, the NH-D15S is also offered in slick cromax.Black variation.
6. Arctic Liquid Freezer II: Best 12700K AIO cooler for most users
The Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240 is one of the best performing 240mm AIOs on the market. Impressive performance is married with equally impressive noise results. Finally, the cherry on top is the low price; cheaper than almost every other 240mm AIO on the market and in line with, for instance, the Noctua NH-D15S. That’s a lot of cooling for less than $100. Overall, this is the sweet spot for users who want a liquid cooler for their 12700K and do not care about RGB. Do note that, at the moment, you have to order an LGA 1700 bracket from Arctic. It’s free of charge with proof of purchase.
7. NZXT Kraken X53 RGB: Best 240mm RGB AIO cooler for Core i7-12700K
Now, if you want RGB, the Kraken Z53 RGB from NZXT is the, subjectively (these things are always subjective), prettiest RGB AIO of them all. We love the infinite mirror effect and the rich RGB effects found on AER RGB 2 fans. The white version of the AIO looks astonishing and is a perfect match for any white PC case on the market.
This triumph of RGB design doesn’t have subpar thermal performance. The Kraken Z53 RGB isn’t the best in class, but it’s performant enough to compete with other 240mm and 280mm solutions. The only negative, when it comes to performance, is high noise output at 100% RPM. Not loud enough to bother most users, but high enough to bother those who accept nothing short of near-inaudible performance under load.
The cooler’s pricey. This amount of RGB goodness doesn’t come cheap. But if you’re ready to pay the price premium, this is one of the best 240mm AIOs on the market with exceptional RGB implementation. Note that while NZXT should start supplying the new LGA 1700 mounting kit with coolers that support it (X53 being one of them), you may have to order one from the company if it doesn’t come with the AIO.
8. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S280: Best 240mm/280mm AIO for 12700K with out-of-box LGA 1700 compatibility
The new CoreLiquid S280 from MSI is an excellent AIO with one big issue. It’s extremely pricey. Other than that, it’s an excellent solution for any CPU, including the 12700K. First of all, it comes with LGA 1700 mounting kit in the box. Next, its thermal performance is superb. The cooler’s also very quiet, thanks to the new Silent Gale P14 fans from MSI. These 140mm fans are also pretty quiet, another plus for the S280.
The cooler doesn’t have RGB fans, but it packs a massive, 2.4-inch LCD screen that can show all kinds of animated GIFs and regular system info. MSI placed a VRM fan below the display. The two, along with the pump and the cold plate itself, make for an extremely thick and tall contraption that could have clearance issues when installed in some compact cases. For instance, we can imagine that a side-mounted radiator in the NR200 could cause clearance issues with a CPU cover as tall as this one.
Overall, this AIO has fantastic thermal performance. It’s one of the best 280mm coolers out there and very close to the performance of its bigger cousin, the S360. And considering the S360 noise results and the fact that 140mm fans are quieter, on average than 120mm units you can expect excellent noise levels with this AIO. If you’re looking for a powerful yet quiet 240mm/280mm AIO that features an LCD screen and LGA 1700 out-of-box, this is the one to get as long as you don’t mind the eye-watering price.
9. Arctic Liquid Freezer II: Best 360mm AIO for overclocking 12700K
The Liquid Freezer II 360 is among the best 360mm AIOs. It’s super quiet, packs a massive cooling punch, and is ridiculously affordable considering what you get. The only downside is the lack of RGB. With that said, the linked listing has RGB options in case you need a light show to be a part of your CPU cooler. This is a perfect match for an overclocked 12700K. You can also use it with a stock 12700K. If that’s the case, though, we recommend the 240mm version over this one. You’ll save some cash, and the noise difference won’t be noticeable since even the 240mm version has more than enough cooling potential to keep the latest i7 cool while being silent as a mouse.
9. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360: Best 360mm AIO for 12700K with out-of-box LGA 1700 compatibility
Almost everything we said about the CoreLiquid S280 stands true for its bigger cousin, the CoreLiquid S360. Eye-watering price, out-of-box LGA 1700 compatibility, fantastic cooling performance, low noise, and a large 2.4-inch LCD screen. Potential clearance issues shouldn’t concern S360 buyers because chances are you won’t try to fit this version inside a compact SFF case. If you want a powerful AIO to run an overclocked 12700K and don’t care about the price, the CoreLiquid S360 is a superb choice.
CPU coolers & LGA 1700 compatibility
As we already mentioned at the start of this piece, you can cool the 12700K with a quality single tower air cooler, while gaming and performing serious, multithreaded, work. The 12700K doesn’t transform into an all-devouring beast when you switch from gaming to, let’s say, Blender, unlike the 12900K. Running the CPU without power limits nets you next to zero performance boost. You’ll also get a minimal performance boost if you overclock the 12700K. In other words, any quality single or dual tower air cooler, or a 240mm AIO, should do the trick since we don’t recommend overclocking the CPU. Get a 280mm or a 360mm AIO only if you want to play with OC limits.
Why buy Core i7-12700K
Let’s keep this short. The Core i7-12700K is, at the moment, the best bang-for-your-buck CPU when it comes to multithreaded performance. It’s just a few percentiles behind the 12900K while costing about 50 percent less and having much lower power requirements when used for serious work. That means you don’t have to use a 360mm AIO; even a single tower heatsink is enough for this CPU.
Suppose you plan on using the CPU for tasks such as video editing, rendering, or any other scenario that involves sweating all 12 cores found in the 12700K (8 performance cores with multithreading and four efficiency cores that don’t support multithreading) and don’t want to pay the flagship premium. In that case, the 12700K is the best choice on the market. If you only plan on using this CPU for gaming, we recommend the 12600K over the 12700K. The 12600K has almost the same gaming performance as its bigger cousins while using less power and needing a less powerful cooling solution.