The Intel Core i9-10900K is the best CPU for gaming at the moment. 10 cores, 20 threads, and high working frequencies allow for the top of the line gaming performance but also solid productivity performance. If you want to build a powerful gaming machine, aimed at 1440p high refresh rate gaming, the 10900K is the best choice at the moment.
But, being the flagship CPU also means high power consumption and high operating temperatures compared to other CPUs. It also means you’ll need the best coolers on the market to keep the 10900K under check. Also, make sure to get a quality motherboard to pair with the 10900K. You should pair this CPU with the best air and AIO cooler systems in order not to be thermally throttled.
But, before we show out picks for the best 10900K air and liquid coolers let’s talk about a feature in Z490 boards that can push the 10900K over the edge, increase average working temps, and cause system instability.
Best CPU Coolers for i9-10900K – Our Picks
|The Best Air Cooler for i9-10900K||Noctua NH-D15|
|The Best Alternative to Noctua NH-D15||DEEP COOL Assassin III|
|Best Budget Air Cooler for i9-10900K||Scythe Fuma 2|
|Best Silent Air Cooler for i9-10900K||Be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4|
|Best SFF Air Cooler for i9-10900K||Scythe Big Shuriken 3|
|Best AIO Cooler for i9-10900K for Most Users||ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280mm/360mm|
|Best Budget AIO Cooler for i9-10900K||EVGA CLC 28/36|
|Excellent All-Around AIO Cooler for i9-10900K||NZXT Kraken X63|
|Best RGB AIO Cooler for i9-10900K||Corsair H115i RGB Platinum 280mm|
|Best Silent AIO Cooler for i9-10900K||Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO RGB 360mm|
Watch out for MCE setting on Z490 boards
MCE (Multi-Core Enhancement) is a feature available on Z490 boards. It removes TDP limits on CPUs, allowing them to hit higher boost clocks and reach better performance. But it also makes CPUs such as the 10900K extremely power-hungry and very hot.
Now, most board manufacturers have MCE turned on by default, with the only ASUS turning it off by default. They do that because it increases the performance of every CPU used with those boards. Further, better out of the box performance means higher place on review charts.
But leaving MCE enabled by default can lead to a suite of issues. System instability is the most common issue. You might get BSOD while loading Windows, you might experience all kinds of crashes, etc.
Further, with MCE being on by default your CPU cooler might be too weak to keep the CPU under check during prolonged heavy loads. This is especially true for air coolers, which have max TDP ratings of about 200-250W. The 10900K reaches almost 250W during torture tests, which is the limit of air coolers. This can lead to extremely high working temperatures.
If your system can handle it, leaving MCE on by default will increase performance by a slight margin. Just remember that MCE will decrease the lifespan of your motherboard since it makes capacitors to run hotter. Turning it on by default also means noticeably higher working temps, especially when overclocked. Now that we’ve explained what MCE is, let’s talk about coolers.
Best Air Coolers for Core i9-10900K
Running the 10900K with a high-end air cooler is absolutely possible. If you’re using your machine only for gaming, the CPU load won’t go into the extreme territory as it does during torture tests in reviews. This means you should be okay with running the 10900K with an air cooler and with MCE turned on. If you plan on using the CPU mostly for work, with it working under heavy loads for extended time periods, it’s better to get an AIO cooler.
Finally, for serious overclocking we recommend AIO coolers. You could achieve light to medium OC with a quality air cooler such as the Noctua NH-D15 or Deep Cool Assassin III, but you won’t be able to reach frequencies as high as when using an AIO cooler. Nevertheless, reaching 5.0GHz is doable. Working temps will be fine, as long as you’re not using any torture tests that last for an hour.
And also, remember that with an air cooler and MCE on, the CPU should pull less power than when using an AIO cooler. With MCE on, boost frequencies are limited by working temps. The more power, the better performance, and the higher working temps. Since air coolers have lower TDP ratings than AIO coolers, expect for the CPU to spend less power and to have marginally lower performance. But only in extreme loads, such as during torture tests. Regular use should see no performance difference between an air-cooled and AIO cooled CPU.
The Best Air Cooler for i9-10900K
You can’t go wrong by picking up this legend. This is still the best air cooler on the market, with just a few other models being able to reach its performance. Hell, the NH-D15 has better performance than some AIO cooling systems, being beaten only by the best 280mm and larger liquid coolers.
If you opt for the DH-D15 remember that this cooler is huge. It cannot fit inside every case and it can have issues with tall RAM sticks. But if your case can host it, and if you don’t plan on reaching the maximum possible overclock with the 10900K, the Noctua NH-D15 is the best air cooler for the 10900K on the market.
If you plan on using the 10900K at stock clocks and without the MCE, the Noctua NH-D15S could also be a great choice. It’s cheaper and has only one fan but its performance is very close to its bigger cousin. And if you don’t like the classic, cream and brown, design of the cooler get the NH-D15 chromax.Black version that looks way better.
The Best Alternative to Noctua NH-D15
Another immense air cooler, the Assassin III from Deep Cool is an air cooler that’s the closest to NH-D15’s performance. That means impressive performance for an air cooler. That also means an impressive size and weight. The Assassin III is yet another air cooler that looks like a brick and that weighs as one.
You will have a hard time mounting this one inside your case so get ready for some sweating and swearing. But once (and if) it fits, it’ll provide excellent and relatively silent cooling for the 10900K. Personally, we would pick the NH-D15 because it’s tried and true solution for a number of years already but no matter which one you end up with, you won’t make a mistake. Both are superb air coolers.
Best Budget Air Cooler for i9-10900K
The Scythe Fuma 2 is a superb air cooler for the price. It sells for noticeably less than high-end air coolers while providing almost the same performance. If you’re in the market for a budget air cooler to cool down your 10900K the Fuma 2 is an excellent choice.
You’ll be able to run the CPU on stock clocks, even apply a humble overclock. Just remember that this cooler’s TDP rating is lower compared to Assassin III and NH-D15. You can use the 10900K at stock clocks, even light OC without issues. Just don’t enable MCE and go wild with OCing the CPU.
The cooler’s also pretty large. You might have certain issues while installing it. But once you install it, the two fans will provide excellent performance and should keep the 10900K pretty cool, as long as you don’t OC it and not use MCE in combination with extreme loads over long periods of time.
Best Silent Air Cooler for i9-10900K
If you want that silent bliss, get the Dark Rock Pro 4 from be quiet! This is a very capable air cooler, another model that can come within spitting distance of the NH-D15. The Dark Rock Pro is also very quiet during normal workloads. It has almost the same noise levels as the NH-D15 while providing equally impressive results.
The catch is that, when fan RPM is set to maximum, Dark Rock Pro 4 stays virtually inaudible, below (or above?) the NH-D15 when it comes to noise levels. Dark Rock Pro 4 also has, arguably, a better design and the cooler is a bit smaller than our first two recommendations. The only thing to remember is that this cooler is tricky to install. Be ready to spend some time cursing at it while trying to hook it up to your motherboard.
Best SFF Air Cooler for i9-10900K
If you want to build an SFF rig housed inside a Mini-ITX case, the Big Shuriken 3 is your best choice. Just remember to turn off the MCE setting because the CPU will melt if you don’t limit its power draw. Also, just don’t overclock the CPU, low profile air coolers aren’t made for that.
Performance-wise the Big Shuriken 3 is excellent for a low profile cooler. If you plan on using an SFF PC build for gaming and media consumption, the CPU will run at safe temps even during long gaming sessions. The alternative for this cooler is the Noctua NH-L12S. This is another superb low-profile cooler. This one’s just as good at cooling performance but is also a bit more silent.
Best AIO Coolers for Core i9-10900K
If you plan on using the flagship 10th gen Intel CPU for work and if you plan on overclocking it while running the CPU with MCE setting enabled, get an AIO cooling system. They are more expensive but have more thermal room to run the 10900K even when it gulps more than 200W of power.
Since the 10900K can be very power hungry when overclocked, we’re recommending 280mm and 360mm AIO coolers. Get a 280mm model if you need the performance but don’t care much about noise. If you want excellent performance combined with low noise, get a 360mm AIO cooler. There are plenty of powerful AIO coolers on the market and we’ve found the five best AIO coolers for the 10900K.
Best AIO Cooler for i9-10900K for Most Users
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II is an interesting product. Arctic is known for solid budget coolers and this AIO system provides amazing performance for the money. It can keep the 10900K under check in case you want to reach and go above the 5.1GHz limit and it also comes with a small 40mm VRM fan that can lower VRM temperature for a couple of degrees. It looks like a gimmick but hey, it provides a noticeable benefit so we are fine with it.
This AIO cooler is selling for a highly competitive price. It doesn’t have RGB lighting but it costs much less than premium AIO systems while providing the same, if not better, performance. Get this one if you want great performance for an affordable price and if you don’t care about RGB.
Best Budget AIO Cooler for i9-10900K
Now, the EVGA CLC AIO cooler series is more expensive than the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II, but it does come with RGB lighting. Look at the recommendation as this – if you want excellent cooling for a budget price get the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II; if you want excellent cooling for a budget price but also want RGB, get the EVGA CLC.
Do note that there isn’t much RGB with the EVGA CLC. You get the EVGA logo on the CPU cover and that’s pretty much it. Performance-wise the EVGA CLC is an excellent AIO cooler. It has better performance than higher-priced solutions from NZXT and Corsair and for most users, that’s all that matters. Overall, this is an excellent AIO cooler for the Core i9-10900K that should allow excellent OC results.
Another great budget AIO cooler is the Fractal Design Celsius S36. It offers amazing performance along with a superb price for a 360mm liquid cooler. This one offers zero RGB effects but it’s great at its primary function.
Excellent All-Around AIO Cooler for i9-10900K
The NZXT Kraken X63 isn’t the cheapest AIO cooler around but it sells for mid-range price but comes with high-end cooling performance. Overall, this is an excellent liquid cooler that can cool the 10900K while allowing moderate to high overclock.
The RGB features include excellent lighting effects on the CPU cover, but that’s pretty much it. If you desire a complete RGB lighting show, check out our next recommendation. The X63 is pretty silent when running at default fan RPM but if you plan on applying moderate to high overclock, expect for things to get a bit noisy.
If you want low noise combined with an excellent cooling performance of the Kraken X63, get the Kraken X73. This is the 360mm version of the same cooler that offers the same performance but also lower noise. Also, the X73 is noticeably more expensive.
Best RGB AIO Cooler for i9-10900K
Users who love RGB effects should check the Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO liquid cooler. It’s shiny like a New Year’s Eve and supports all kinds of RGB effects. The performance is pretty solid. Nothing groundbreaking but more than sufficient even for those who plan to overclock the 10900K.
Price is higher than for AIO solutions that come without or with limited RGB functionality but that’s the price to pay for all that shiny stuff. If you’re looking only at performance get the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II or EVGA CLC 280mm or 360mm model. But when it comes to RGB features, the Corsair H115i RGB Platinum is the best on the market.
Best Silent AIO Cooler for i9-10900K
The Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO RGB coolers are expensive but they offer excellent noise levels. If you need a silent AIO cooler and you don’t care about the price, this is the best choice right now. Cooling performance isn’t great, mind you. For the money, you can get a much more powerful AIO cooler.
But the silence is golden for some, and this AIO cooler is one of the most silent coolers on the market, both in air and AIO segments. If you have the money and if you want to run an overclocked 10900K without hearing the cooler, get the Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO RGB.