The 120mm CPU Cooler Shootout: Arctic, be quiet!, Corsair, Noctua & Scythe
Here at TBG, we have a thing for coolers. In fact, at this point, we’ve tested more coolers than any other PC component, with nearly 50 under our belt. That means we have a very good sense of what the best models are, and what makes for a great cooler. And while it’s true that coolers can live much longer lives than most PC components, the technology does in fact improve over time, which means the cooler that someone named “best ever” in 2010 or 2013 almost certainly isn’t worth buying today. And that’s why we keep at it, testing cooler after cooler in order to make sure we can always give you, or readers, the best advice.
So it’s with great pleasure that we share our Best 120mm CPU Cooler Shootout for 2020. This review features eight of the newest coolers on the market from the very best names in the cooling business: Arctic, be quiet!, Corsair, Noctua, and Scythe. We’d like to thank each of these companies for providing the samples used in this review.
Our test bench consisted of an AMD Ryzen 5 3600X CPU running at 4.125MHz. A special thank you to Corsair and MSI for providing the fantastic test bench used for this review:
- Case: Corsair iCUE 465X White
- Power Supply: Corsair RM850X White
- Sleeved PSU Cables: Corsair Premium Starter Kit
- RAM: Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200
- SSD: Corsair MP600 1TB
- Motherboard: MSI X570 Gaming Pro Carbon
Here’s the full lineup of competitors, with prices noted:
- Arctic Freezer 34 ($36)
- Arctic Freezer 34 Duo ($48)
- be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 ($50)
- Corsair Hydro H60 2018 ($80)
- Noctua NH-U12A ($100)
- Noctua NH-U12S chromax.black ($70)
- Scythe Fuma 2 ($60)
- Scythe Mugen 5 ARGB Plus ($80)
As with all of our reviews at this point and going forward, this review appears exclusively on YouTube, which you can see below. Not only do we show you what comes in the box and share some impressive benchmarks, but we give you a good look at each cooler as well!
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Here’s the full list of winners:
- BEST OVERALL 120MM COOLER: Scythe Fuma 2 ($60) – this cooler was the quietest, tied for the best temperatures, was the easiest to install, was among the least expensive, and offers fantastic compatibility with motherboard components.
- BEST BUDGET COOLER: Arctic Freezer 34 Duo ($48) – this is the best cooler under $50, bar none. It comes in a wide variety of colors, and offers fantastic performance, with the only tradeoff being higher noise levels than average.
- BEST FOR COMPACT PCs: Corsair Hydro H60 2018 ($80) – while this cooler is fairly loud and only offers lower performance than most of the coolers in this shootout, it’s also the only one that will fit in most small form factor mini-ITX cases.
As always, check out our CPU Cooler Buyer’s Guide, updated quarterly, for all our latest recommendations.