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Intel Alder Lake CPU lineup is here, with the flagship Core i9-12900K processor at the top. This sixteen-core (eight performance cores coupled with eight efficiency cores) monster packs a ton of punch and requires a potent cooler to keep it under control. Most standard cooling options won’t be enough to control this beast.
The only issue is that Alder Lake arrived with the new physical socket, LGA 1700. If you don’t want to scour the internet searching for compatible cooling solutions, scroll down and check the best coolers for Core i9-12900K, each one being LGA 1700-compatible.
If you’re interested in the Core i9-12900K CPU, we can recommend you a couple of additional articles to read. First of all, here’s our list of the best motherboards for i9-12900K. We also have a guide for the best graphics cards for Intel Alder Lake CPUs. Finally, check our list of the best RAM kits for Alder Lake CPUs.
1. Noctua NH-D15: Best air cooler for i9-12900K
While the 12900K can be an immense gas guzzler in tasks that see all of its sixteen cores under extreme load, the CPU is fairly power efficient in games. In Cyberpunk 2077, for instance, the latest i9 seeps just 30W more than the 5900X. If all you do is gaming, you can keep the 12900K under control with an air cooler.
And considering its price, we wouldn’t combine the new i9 with anything else except the best air coolers on the market. And the best air cooler for the 12900K is the legendary Noctua NH-D15.
The best thing about it is that Noctua already ships it with LGA 1700 mounting kit. If you don’t like the classic Noctua color combo, you can get the cromax.Black version of the cooler.
This cooler is a beast that can match, even surpass, many 240mm AIOs. Overall, it’s the best choice for the 12900K if you prefer air over water. Now, the caveat is that the NH-D15 is fine, but only for gaming.
If your game and use your PC for CPU non-intensive tasks (browsing the web, Microsoft Office, multimedia, etc.), the NH-D15 will cover you. But if you use the PC for rendering, video editing, or any other task that can sweat all sixteen cores of the 12900K, the NH-D15, and, in fact, any other air cooler won’t be enough.
In that case, think about getting a capable 280mm AIO or larger. Just remember that the NH-D15 can cause clearance issues when combined with tall RAM sticks. You can mediate this by lifting the fan, but you better have a case that can fit coolers taller than 165mm (the default height of the D15). To find a suitable low-profile RAM kit, read our guide for the best low-profile RAM kits.
2. Deepcool Assassin III: Best NH-D15 Alternative
If you’re fond of air coolers but don’t want to get the most popular kid in the block, there’s the Deepcool Assassin III. This is another humongous air cooler with thermal performance in line with the NH-D15. In some cases, the Assassin III can get ahead of Noctua’s flagship.
Again, this is a solution for gamers, not for users planning to sweat all sixteen cores of the 12900K. Unlike Noctua, Deep Cool doesn’t ship its cooler with the LGA 1700 mounting kit, at least at the moment of writing this list.
By the time you read it, there’s a chance the company updated the packaging to include the mounting kit for Alder Lake CPUs. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to order one (free of charge with proof of purchase) from Deep Cool.
Also, the two NH-D15-related issues can happen with Assassin III. So, either make sure your RAM sticks aren’t too tall or that your PC case is capable of housing CPU heatsinks taller than 165mm (the Assassin III’s default height is also 165mm).
3. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240: Best 240mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
The Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240 is among the best 240mm AIOs when it comes to both noise and thermal performance. This AIO is very quiet even with fans at full RPM, and its thermal performance is comparable to the best air coolers on the market, such as the aforementioned Noctua NH-D15.
In other words, the Liquid Freezer II 240 is the best AIO for the 12900K owners who plan on gaming without using the CPU for intensive multithreaded tasks. With that said, you can restrain the 12900K as long as you’re happy with CPU temperatures hovering around 90 degrees Celsius, with a 240mm AIO, even under heavy load (read: Cinebench, Blender, or any other CPU-intensive task).
Now, the Liquid Freezer II AIO lineup isn’t the best-looking. These coolers are utilitarian, with thick radiators, chunky CPU blocks, and thickly sleeved hoses. The main block also includes a small, 40mm, fan that should cool the VRM of the motherboard, at least in theory.
And it looks like you do get better VRM thermals with this cooler in practice, which is a nice benefit. Especially for users rocking Mini-ITX motherboards. This motherboard form factor has less powerful VRMs that can get hotter under load, especially when coupled with a behemoth that is the 12900K. The fans used are Artic P12 PWM units, some of the best budget CPU fans around.
If you own an SFF case or already have a 240mm AIO and don’t want to spend the extra cash, the CPU will be fine, if not a bit toasty. 91 degrees Celsius is below the thermal throttling limit. But if you have the space, we recommend getting something chunkier, especially if you live in a hot climate.
And remember, Arctic could start shipping its coolers with the LGA 1700 mounting bracket by the time you read this list. If that’s not the case, you’ll have to order one from Arctic (free of charge with proof of purchase). Finally, Liquid Freezer II AIOs have thicker radiators (63mm with fans) so make sure your case can fit one of these.
4. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280: Best 280mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
The 280mm version of the Liquid Freezer II has noticeably better thermal performance than its 240mm cousin, making it a much better choice for the 12900K if you have room for it. Most SFF cases won’t, but anything larger should fit 280mm AIOs without issues.
This is a much better choice for 12900K owners who plan on seriously sweating their CPU with rendering or video editing tasks but don’t want to get a 360mm AIO or larger. The noise output should also be lower, especially under heavy loads.
Now, we understand the Liquid Freezer lineup doesn’t feature a fancy design. If you’re looking for something more attractive and shinier, check our next recommendation.
5. NZXT Kraken X63 RGB: Best RGB 280mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
The Kraken X63 RGB looks impressive, especially the white version. The infinity mirror effect on the main block is exceptionally slick, and the Aer RGB V2 fans have one of the best RGB implementations on the market.
Overall, if you’re primarily interested in looks, the Kraken X63 RGB is the best 280mm AIO for the 12900K. But this AIO also has excellent thermal performance. It even surpasses some 360mm AIOs, which is nice to see.
Noise performance could’ve been better @100 percent fan RPM, but other than that, the X63 is an excellent choice for the 12900K. As long as you don’t mind its premium pricing. Of course, there’s the NZXT CAM software that can cause frustrations, but overall, it’s passable for controlling RGB effects.
NZXT mentioned that the company would start shipping its coolers with LGA 1700 mounting kits by mid-late November. However, if you don’t get one, you can order it from NZXT.
6. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S280: Best high-end 280mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
The MSI MEG CoreLiquid S280 has three things going in its favor. First of all, the new Silent Gale fans are one of the best options on the market. The 140mm version of the fans looks very promising considering the thermal results relative to the 360mm version of the AIO, equipped with 120mm Silent Gale fans.
Next, the cooler comes with a massive, 2.4-inch, IPS screen that can show all kinds of GIFs and personalized texts. Or, you could opt for the display to show various system information.
Thirdly, this is one of the rare AIOs that ships with the LGA 1700 mounting bracket. In other words, you don’t have to order it from MSI or look if the company started to ship its coolers with one.
Other advantages include a small fan mounted on the main CPU block that should decrease VRM thermals along with excellent noise performance. On the flip side, the main CPU assembly is thick as hell.
It might not fit inside smaller cases in vertical GPU configuration. Also, the price is eye-watering, noticeably higher than even the NZXT X63 RGB, already one of the priciest AIOs on the market.
But if you don’t mind the price and the chunkiness of the CPU cover, the MEG CoreLiquid S280 is one of the best 280mm AIOs for the Core i9-12900K. It’s great for gamers and professionals alike.
7. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360: Best 360mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
360mm AIOs present an optimal cooling solution for the 12900K for owners who plan on using the CPU for long renders and other CPU-intensive tasks. With a 360mm AIO, you get enough thermal performance to experiment with OC while staying below thermal throttling levels.
Further, 360mm AIOs will be quieter than 280mm units when all sixteen cores are pushed to their limits. And the best 360mm AIO for the Core i9-12900K is the Liquid Freezer II 360 from Arctic.
The performance of this AIO is impressive. Technically, this isn’t the best AIO on the market, but it stays in the range of just a couple of degrees Celsius against better-performing coolers, which aren’t many.
However, the Liquid Freezer II 360 is massively cheaper than other top-performing 360mm AIOs. If you don’t care about RGB, there’s no reason to get anything pricier. And even if you do care, the listing above includes both the RGB and A-RGB versions that cost just a tad bit more than the non-RGB version.
Considering both thermal and noise performance, the Liquid Freezer II 360 is by far the best bang for your buck on the market. You can get the 360mm version and a 240mm version of the Liquid Cooler II for the price of one NZXT Kraken X73 RGB, which you can find below. Just remember that the radiator is extra thick. In other words, make sure your case can fit one of these before making a purchase.
8. NZXT Kraken X73: Best 360mm RGB AIO cooler for i9-12900K
Some things are priceless, and aesthetics is one of those. And when it comes to aesthetics and general design, there are only a few AIOs that can even come close to the Kraken X73 RGB from NZXT. This is the best-looking AIO on the market and the best RGB AIO for the 12900K, period.
The good news is that the Kraken X73 RGB is not all about looks. Like its smaller, 280mm version, the X73 has impressive thermal performance. The advantage over the 280mm version is lower noise under load.
The main downside is, you guessed it, the eye-watering price. As we already said, you can get the Liquid Freezer II 360 and Liquid Freezer II 240 for the cost of the Kraken X73 RGB. If you don’t care about the price, this is the prettiest AIO on the market that’s also quite capable of cooling the 12900K. Just remember that if you don’t find the LGA 1700 mounting bracket in the package, you’ll have to order one from NZXT.
9. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360: Best high-end 360mm AIO cooler for 12900K
If you don’t care about RGB but really, like really, want a large LCD screen on your AIO, get the CoreLiquid S360 from MSI. The Silent Gale P12 fans used here are some of the best fans on the market, so you don’t have to worry about thermal and noise performance.
And everything we said about its smaller cousin, the S280, works here. The chunky CPU block, VRM cooling fan, impressive thermal performance, and ridiculous price. Still, if the price didn’t make you twitch in disbelief (and, possibly, disgust), go for it.
If we, for a moment, forget about the competition, this is a perfect choice for the 12900K. And it comes with the LGA 1700 mounting bracket in the box.
10. Arctic Liquid Freezer II 420: Best 420mm AIO cooler for i9-12900K
Now, a 420mm AIO may be overkill, even for the 12900K. But if you want dead silent performance even under extreme loads, this is the AIO to get. Further, the Liquid Freezer II 420 is also an excellent choice for those who want to test the OC limits of the CPU but don’t want to assemble a custom loop.
The cooler’s huge and chunky, so it won’t fit inside many cases. But if it fits, you should think about getting it. Lower noise and higher cooling potential are definitely worth the price that’s comparable to that of a mid-range 360mm AIO. And yes, you can get the Liquid Freezer II 420 in RGB and A-RGB versions. And they, too, cost like a mid-range 360mm cooler with RGB.
Why buy the i9-12900K
The Core i9-12900K is the flagship Alder Lake SKU, so it doesn’t make much sense to talk about bang for your buck here. Flagship parts always carry a price premium, and this time, the premium’s worth it, especially if you go with DDR4 instead of DDR5.
The Ryzen 9 5950X is a tad slower, and, as a whole package, the 12900K is a bit pricier due to the high pricing of the Z690 boards. The CPU is excellent both for gaming and multithreading work. While its power efficiency is superb when gaming, you’ll need a beefy AIO to cool it when used for video editing or rendering or if you plan to overclock it.
Now, personally, we would get the Core i7-12700K over the 12900K if getting a new CPU for work. It’s almost as performant as the 12900K, even trumps it in certain scenarios, while being massively cheaper and easier to cool.
If you want a new gaming CPU, just get the 12600K. In games, the 12600K comes extremely close to the 12900K and 12700K while sporting a much lower price. You can also cool it with a mid-range single-tower air cooler if all you plan to do is play games.
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