A key part of almost any modern computer is its cooling system. Both top-end and budget processors require heat sinks and coolers to keep operating temperatures at a safe level, especially if you’re planning on overclocking. Usually, the cooler that comes in the box with the CPU is enough, but more powerful and capable cooling systems are often installed in powerful PCs.
Cooling of the central processor can be organized in different ways – using a conventional air cooler, an all-in-one liquid system, or a self-built liquid cooling system. The latter will best cope with top-end CPUs in overclocking, but it is very difficult to organize it correctly – you need skill, experience, and additional money. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at the difference between air cooler vs liquid cooler.
What To Look For Before Buying?
There are many factors to consider when buying a CPU cooler. For example, low-cost solutions will often limit the maximum overclocking speed of flagship Core i9 and Ryzen 7.
If money isn’t a problem for you, then there is nothing to worry about. It is enough to choose one of the top Noctua models or Corsair – they will easily cope with their task even in those cases that aren’t well ventilated. The next step is cooling with liquid nitrogen.
If your budget is tight, you will have to think more. It should be noted that during serious overclocking, water cooling systems generally lower the maximum processor temperature better, but top-end air coolers practically don’t lag behind them, and sometimes even bypass them.
If you’ve already chosen your new PC case, then you know the maximum cooler size you can use. So, when it comes to compact cases for motherboards of the mini-ITX form factor, the installation of large “tower” cooling systems is often impossible – in this case, it would be better to use an AiO water cooler with a medium or large radiator, which is mounted on one of the sides. Housing.
The noise level should also be taken into account – large fans of radiators for water systems will almost always be quieter than any conventional coolers. However, you cannot call them silent either – if you want to achieve absolute silence, you will have to forget about overclocking (and also use some crazy heavy Chinese case, entirely made of aluminum and externally resembling a grater).
If you are worried about the appearance of your PC, you will find models with beautiful RGB lighting among both air coolers and AiO solutions. However, nothing beats a brilliantly built custom system with rigid pipes, but this will have to spend a lot of money and nerves (or entrust the case too expensive professionals who still need to be found).
Is Liquid Cooling Better Than Air Cooling?
Well, it’s time to talk directly about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of cooling systems.
Let’s start with conventional air coolers. Such models consist of two main parts – the radiator and the fan itself. The heat sink is made of a metal that conducts thermal energy well (for example, expensive copper or cheaper aluminum) and directly adjoins the processor surface. It dissipates heat over a plurality of metal fins, which in turn are cooled by the flow of air from the fan. The latter needs to be connected to the corresponding power port on the motherboard.
Benefits of air cooling:
- availability (comparable water cooling systems are almost always more expensive);
- easy to use (regularly enough to gently rid them of dust);
- the absence of fluid leaks (for obvious reasons);
- price-performance ratio.
Disadvantages of air coolers:
- possible high noise level under load (even large models can be heard without much effort if they work with top-end processors);
- large dimensions and heavyweight (“tower” coolers are especially bad at this);
- in most cases – a noticeably limited maximum cooling level (when it comes to top-end Core i9 and other very hot CPUs);
- they don’t look so pretty (this is a subjective point, but water systems give more freedom in the design of the overall appearance of the PC).
Now let’s talk about all-in-one water cooling systems and why water cooling is considered by many to be the best option for your computer. They already consist of four parts – a radiator, fans, a pump, and hoses through which water moves (by the way, using something other than distilled H20 is strictly not recommended if you don’t want to do system maintenance much more often than you would like – any liquid with dye will eventually leave an unpleasant and harmful plaque on the inner walls).
The processor heat is transferred to a small metal radiator, on top of which there is a special “water block” – water is distilled through it. A pump is needed in order to keep it moving, and a fan (or several) to cool it.
When shopping for an AiO system, it is very important to ensure that your chassis supports the correct size of radiators – top, front, or rear.
Advantages of AiO water cooling systems:
- higher overclocking potential (a good AiO cooler cools better than most air models);
- better suited for small cases (if the installation of an appropriate radiator is supported);
- more attractive (again subjective).
Disadvantages of AiO water cooling systems:
- usually are more expensive (simply because of the higher complexity in manufacturing);
- more complex maintenance and installation (however, proven options from well-known manufacturers are still quite simple even for beginners);
- the possibility of leaks (it should always be taken into account, even if you choose a very reliable and expensive model).
Custom water cooling systems with flexible or rigid tubes can easily be written in a standalone article or even a series of articles. The most important thing to understand for a person who doesn’t call himself an “enthusiast” is that they are many times more complex and noticeably more expensive, but they can provide a more interesting appearance and even higher overclocking potential. However, it all depends on the selected components – pipes, water block, pump, radiators, and so on. In addition, a video card can be connected to such a system, which, as a result, can also be overclocked more. On the other hand, you can also find on-sale AiO systems designed specifically for video cards (it is important to make sure that the chosen model is compatible with your GPU).
Conclusions Are Liquid Coolers Worth It
If your budget is noticeably limited, then there isn’t much choice either – air cooling will adequately cope with its task and will cost much less than water cooling. If you have the money to spare to maximize the performance of your brand-new computer, feel free to choose an AiO water cooler – in this case, its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. This is where you understand why liquid cooling is more popular, even in spite of the cost.
Finally, if you are assembling a “dream system” and are ready to spend as much money on it, it makes sense to look for experienced specialists who will build an extremely efficient and at the same time unusually beautiful system of rigid pipes, pumps, and radiators inside the selected case. Such a PC will delight both with a high clock speed of the CPU and a pleasant design that can fit into any interior.
Surely you were able to make your own priorities for these cooling systems. In turn, he will recommend the liquid method, taking into account all the pros and cons of liquid cooling. We are sure that many of you have drawn similar conclusions. Isn’t it?
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