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CPUs have gotten more powerful than ever before. But does that mean you have to pay more in order to achieve benchmark-setting performances? Not necessarily. In the Intel world, 9th generation core i9 processors are a great value for the money. Intel i9 9900K, in specific, is a total bang for the buck as it packs top-tier computing prowess at a considerably justifiable price point.
Intel launched the Core i9 9900K CPU in Q4 2018 and since then its price has dropped to a significant extent. But despite the drop in price, the CPU stacks up well against other recent 9th generation Intel Core i9 processors.
Here’s a short comparison:
However, the one downside to the Intel i9 9900K CPU is it doesn’t come with its own dedicated cooler, just like the way it is with Intel CPUs of various generations in the K and X series. And as you may know, proper cooling is important for the proper functioning of the CPU.
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What’s included in the Intel i9 9900K CPU package?
The Intel i9 9900K CPU package includes just the Intel i9 9900K processor and a manual. Intel hasn’t included a dedicated cooler with this CPU.
GIF credit: Zack’s Stuff YouTube
One good news is Intel has made significant improvements in terms of heat dissipation in this processor with the use of Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM).
Image credit: Tom’s Hardware
But even then, it’s important to have a dedicated cooling system in order to help the CPU achieve optimum performance levels in normal as well as overclocking speeds.
Intel i9 9900K CPU heating analysis
Despite the soldered design of the thermal interface material, Intel i9 9900K tends to get very hot, especially during multi-core performances. Here is a 6 core test comparison between Intel i9 9900K that uses thermal solder and Intel i7 8086K that uses thermal paste.
Source: Hardware Unboxed YouTube
Intel i9 9900K showed considerably good heat improvements over Intel i7 8086K at 4.5 GHz in auto voltage and 1.35 volts. However, the heating difference between the two was marginal at an overclocking speed of 5.1 GHz.
Heat levels reaching 91°C at an overclocking speed of 5.1 GHz despite the use of thermal solder still makes Intel i9 9900K hot enough to require a high-performance cooling system.
According to Der8auer in his Intel i9 9900K heating analysis video, the thermal die of the CPU is significantly thicker which increases thermal resistance.
Image credit: Der8auer YouTube
Best CPU coolers for i9 9900K: liquid/AIO coolers
Liquid coolers, specifically AIO coolers, are the real deal when it comes to achieving professional-level cooling. Compared to air, water has better thermal conductivity and is more efficient at maintaining safe operational temperatures for the CPU.
The high level of cooling efficiency of AIO coolers comes with a catch, and that is higher prices. If you have the budget, it’s definitely worth going for a liquid cooler to ensure optimum cooling for Intel i9 9900K CPU.
Here are 5 best AIO coolers for 9900K that are perfectly compatible with the LGA 1151 socket that the Intel i9 9900K CPU uses:
1. Cooler Master Masterliquid ML240 Illusion – check it out here (Best CPU cooler for i9 9900K)
When exploring a liquid cooler for a high-end CPU such as the Intel i9 9900K, it’s important to choose a model that has at least two fans with dedicated radiators. And out of several two fans-enabled liquid coolers, Cooler Master Masterliquid ML240 Illusion is one of the latest high-performance models that you can get your hands on.
Although this model is designed to be compatible with various types of sockets, it is well-suited for Intel i9 9900K as its expanded dissipation surface area works great for the comparatively larger dimensions of the CPU. The 3rd generation dual-chamber pump of this cooler works great in significantly lowering CPU temperatures while maintaining a quiet operation.
- Improved internal impeller and housing used
- Large-sized dissipation surface area
- Customizable RGB lighting
- Installation is not beginner-friendly
- Many gamers may not prefer the stock fans
2. MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R – check it out here (Next:Best CPU cooler for i9 9900K)
Another dual fan and radiator-enabled liquid cooler in the high-performance category is the MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R. Similar to some of the best water coolers for i9 9900K and other top-tier CPUs, this model’s pump is integrated directly into the radiator which improves noise reduction and overall longevity.
Another cool feature of the radiator of this cooler is a split pathway which significantly improves heat dissipation. The rotating design of the cold plate makes it possible to adjust the cooling of this model as per your preference. Also, the three-phase pump motor works great in lowering vibrations down to a significant level.
- Split chamber design improves radiator heat dissipation
- Liquid cooling tubes reinforced with evaporation proofing
- Versatile socket compatibility
- Not the easiest to install
- Can get noisy at top speeds
3. Corsair iCUE H15Oi Elite Capellix – check it out here
If you want to achieve the best possible cooling performance in order to prevent your Intel i9 9900K CPO from crossing the 90° celsius temperature mark, you cannot go wrong with Corsair iCUE H15Oi Elite Capellix. As one of the best liquid coolers for i9 9900K, this model delivers everything you need for optimum cooling performance.
The three fan architecture, in combination with a copper cold plate that has a split flow, helps this cooler maintain optimal cooling performance which, in turn, helps the CPU sustain overclocking performances. Despite the powerful cooling performance, this model has a relatively low operational noise, thanks to its low noise centrifugal pump.
- Cooling fans have a magnetic levitation design
- Zero RBA mode feature included
- Modular design ensures easy installation
- Price can be a bit high for some
- Can be overkill for normal applications
4. NZXT Kraken Z73 – check it out here
NZXT Kraken Z73 is similar to Corsair iCUE H15Oi Elite Capellix in the sense that it delivers top-tier cooling performance with uncompromised accessibility and customization options. However this model comes as one of the best CPU coolers for i9 9900K and other high-end processors with it myriad of additional features, with one of the most important ones being the LCD display. Apart from displaying cooling temperature and other data, the LCD display also offers the option of customizing the look with images and GIFs.
The triple-fan setup of the NZXT Kraken Z73 takes advantage of the chamfered intakes to ensure powerful cooling. What is interesting to know is that the radiator fans of this model are specifically designed for liquid cooling. Also, the fluid dynamic bearings ensure low noise operation even when the fans reach top speeds.
- Silent and powerful cooling performance
- Dedicated LCD display integrated on the cold plate
- Superior radiator heat dissipation
- Hoses are small when compared to several other liquid coolers
- Can be overkill for normal applications
Best CPU coolers for i9 9900K: air coolers
Liquid coolers can be overkill if you aren’t a heavy user and don’t have extensive usage requirements. However, even if you do have heavy usage requirements, modern air coolers have improved to the point that they can suffice for extensive use cases. What’s best is they are significantly lower priced than their liquid cooler counterparts.
Here are the 4 best air coolers for Intel i9 9900K that are compatible with the LGA 1151 socket that the processor uses:
1. Noctua NH D15 – check it out here
If you prefer high-performance cooling in an air cooler, you cannot go wrong with dual tower models, such as the Noctua NH D15. This model comes on par with liquid coolers in meeting extensive usage requirements with its high-end cooling performance that’s enabled with its dual 150 mm fans. The cooling fans take advantage of the expanded heat pipe in order to improve heat dissipation over a wide surface area.
A total of 6 discrete heat pipes make Noctua NH D15 highly efficient and result-oriented. This model also uses the brand’s widely coveted NT-H1 thermal compound that comes with a full 6 years warranty. Also, this model is versatile in terms of socket compatibility.
- Dual tower design improves cooling performance
- NT-H1 thermal compound used
- Relatively silent operation
- Not the most silent operation
- No RGB lighting
2. Cooler Master MasterAir MA610P ARGB – check it out here
MasterAir MA610P ARGB is one of the latest dual tower air coolers from Cooler Master, and it’s certainly one of the most impressive models in terms of performance. The combination of dual fans and 6 optimized heat pipes helps this model outperform its predecessors in terms of cooling performance.
One of the most interesting bits about Cooler Master Masterair MA610P ARGB is its copper plate that has a complete coverage which, in turn, improves heat dissipation. The minimized vibration of the cooling fans works great in maintaining a silent operation. Also, the customizable RGB lighting of this model makes it aesthetically pleasing.
- Dual fan setup with redesigned curved blades
- 6 discrete heat pipes with expanded heat sink
- Customizable RGB lighting
- Can get a bit noisy at top speeds
- Not the easiest to assemble and install
3. Corsair A500 – check it out here
It’s quite a tough challenge for companies to combine high-performance with affordability, but Corsair has nailed this combo with its A500 air cooler. With a dual fan setup, this air cooler helps you achieve high-performance cooling at an affordable price tag. Similar to high-end air coolers, the heat pipes of this model have a direct contact design which improves airflow as well as heat dissipation.
Corsair A500 maintains a relatively low operational noise even during max performance settings, thanks to its dual cooling fans that use magnetic levitation bearings. The magnetic levitation bearings also lower friction to a significant extent which translates to higher cooling performance efficiency. Also, its wide dimensions make it one of the best air coolers for i9 9900K as the CPU too has broad dimensions.
- Magnetic levitation bearing fans used
- Corsair XTM50 thermal material applied
- Suitable for motherboards that use increased height RAM modules
- No dedicated RGB module
- Large-sized overall dimensions
4. Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – check it out here
There’s much fuss about the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 online, and rightfully so. It comes as one of the best air coolers for Intel i9 9900K with top-of-the-line air cooling performance. It takes dual power air cooling performance to the next level with a funnel-shaped frame that significantly improves air pressure. Working in combination with the unique frame design are 7 discrete heat pipes that use thermally conductive copper for lower thermal resistance.
Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 works great in helping Intel i9 9900K and other high-end CPUs in sustaining overclocking performances with airflow optimized fans that use fluid dynamic bearings for higher cooling efficiency and low noise operation.
- Improved air pressure with a funnel-shaped frame
- Option to add a third fan
- One of the most silent air cooling operations
- Easy to assemble and install
- Price is a bit on the higher side
- Installation may seem advanced to some
How to attach the Intel i9 9900K CPU to the motherboard?
If you are new to installing a CPU and cooling unit to your PC’s motherboard, it is first important to know how to attach the CPU itself. Fortunately, the steps are very easy.
First, open the bracket by unlocking the retention arm/bar.
To make sure that you attach the CPU in proper orientation, align its downward facing arrow symbol with that of the housing.
Give the CPU a firm press to make sure that the attachment is secure.
Lastly, close the housing bracket and lock it with the retention bar located at the side.
Image credit: Zack’s Stuff YouTube
How to install a cooling unit in the PC?
After you figure out how to properly attach the CPU to the board, the next important step is to properly install the cooling unit. Keep in mind that the best CPU coolers for i9 9900K are the ones that have LGA 1151 socket compatibility.
Installation tips for AIO for i9 9900K
The first step is to find the spot in the PC tower case where you want to install the AIO unit.
The second step is to install the fans on the radiator unit using the mounting hardware included in the package. When doing this, make sure that the fans face towards the radiator unit so that it draws heat out of the motherboard and tower case.
After you are done attaching the fans, mount the whole radiator unit on the spot of the tower PC case that you have chosen. Prior to doing this, make sure to first run the power cables correctly.
The next step is to attach the backplate of the main pump on the back of the motherboard.
After attaching the backplate, use its mounting posts to securely attach the pump on the front of the motherboard.
The final step is to connect the USB and RGB lighting header on the motherboard.
Image credit: Coalition Gaming YouTube
Installation tips for air cooler for i9 9900k
Installing an air cooler is similar to installing an AIO unit. The first step is to mount the back plate on the back of the motherboard.
The next step is to attach the mounting brackets on the bottom section of the air cooler.
After this, the next step is to line up the mounting brackets of the cooler with the mounting poles of the backplate.
Once you have lined up all the four posts, secure them by tightening the screws.
GIF and image credit: Gear Seekers YouTube
Regardless of the type of CPU cooler that you plan on going for, there are several ways how you can optimize its performance in order to achieve the best cooling possible. One primary way is to use a high-quality thermal paste in order to improve the thermal conductivity. You can use a thermal paste in both AIO and air coolers.
Image credit: Gear Seekers YouTube
Another important step is to use the performance setting calibration software of the cooler in order to make the right adjustments. If you have the technical expertise, you can also adjust settings on the BIOS of your PC to optimize the cooling for single core as well as multi-core performances.