Air vs. Liquid CPU Cooling: Which is Proper for Me?

Air cooling versus liquid cooling is a debate as outdated as time. Certainly, even the dinosaurs tens of thousands and thousands of years in the past usually argued deep within the forests of Pangaea whether or not air or liquid is the superior type of CPU cooling. With their strategies of record-keeping misplaced to time, sadly we could by no means know the conclusions they reached…

However we can offer you a reasonably good thought of which cooling methodology fits your wants the very best right here in 2022.

The Fundamentals of CPU Cooling


Let’s start by first inspecting the essential components of coolers which are fixed throughout all strategies of chilling that tiny spicy chip on the coronary heart of your construct. All coolers have the next pair of concepts in widespread:

Warmth is faraway from the CPU through conduction, which is the direct switch of warmth between two supplies involved with one another. Each air and liquid coolers use this mechanism, which is often a copper plate that whisks warmth away to steel fins or one other conducting plate, both of which might be the positioning of the next warmth trade:

The warmth drawn away from the CPU is then exchanged at an interface through convection, which is the switch of warmth by means of the continual move of a gasoline or fluid. In air and liquid coolers the media are, as you most likely guessed, air and liquid respectively. The warmth from this heat medium is then dumped into the air exterior of the system through the PC’s exhaust followers.

So, as you may see, the elemental methodology is similar in both sort of cooler; it’s solely precisely how the warmth will get from the CPU to a fluid contained in the case to the air exterior the case that differs.

Air Cooling

Build Your Own PC: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 CPU Cooler | Den of Geek

A easy, well-liked instance of an air cooler

Air coolers use a ‘block’ of skinny steel fins referred to as a warmth sink to trade warmth with the cool air arriving out of your consumption followers. Warmth radiates from the CPU by means of the copper plate and out into the fins, which have a big floor space to trade a number of warmth. Like two slices of bread in a scrumptious sandwich, a pair of followers sometimes sit on each vertical sides of the warmth sink, ideally in keeping with your case followers. Some higher-end air coolers could embody a number of warmth sinks in collection to extend their cooling potential, whereas less complicated and cheaper ones could solely embody one warmth sink and one fan.

The fundamental mechanism by which air coolers take away warmth from the CPU

Inventory air coolers, just like the one which got here along with your processor and by no means left the field, have a handful of makes use of: they’re greater than sufficient for fundamental workplace computer systems, and most of them are low-profile choices which might be nice for ‘small type issue’ builds. However for these pushing their techniques in any approach, inventory coolers are normally solely helpful to carry a system over till r/buildapcsales presents a greater cooling answer. They’ll work, however most will ultimately desire a quieter or cooler choice. Fortunately, yow will discover a wonderful air cooler for as little as $40, and I’ll go into a number of suggestions under. Air cooling generally is a quiet, highly effective, and environment friendly solution to cool your CPU.

Liquid Cooling CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i v2 AIO Liquid CPU Cooler, 240mm Radiator, Dual 120mm PWM Fans, Advanced RGB Lighting and Fan Software Control : Everything Else

An instance of an all-in-one liquid cooler

Liquid cooling operates with two distinct benefits over air cooling: liquids can soak up extra warmth than air, and the radiator might be positioned away from the CPU’s cooling plate. Whereas that first benefit is the extra apparent one, it’s solely together with the second benefit that liquid cooling turns into a really highly effective alternative. In spite of everything, if the liquid was simply sitting in a radiator on prime of the CPU and getting blasted with followers there, the entire thing could be extremely just like an air cooler when it comes to general perform.

As a result of the followers are put in on a radiator that sits flush with the within of a case wall, nevertheless, the warmth is contained and distributed instantly from the cooler itself to the outside of the case, serving to to stop heated air from staying inside the system. Furthermore, with the radiator positioned away from the CPU, area is freed up and a cleaner look is created across the heart of your motherboard.

Liquid coolers obtain this by putting a pump on prime of the CPU that continuously retains liquid flowing. After gathering warmth from the processor, the liquid will get despatched by means of a tube to the radiator the place it’s cooled off, then flows again to the pump in separate tube to gather warmth once more. The liquid used is usually abnormal water, however some loops can function ionized water, glycol options, or different electrically inert liquids.

The fundamental mechanism by which liquid coolers take away warmth from the CPU

Client liquid cooling exists in two main types: all-in-one (AIO) options and customized loops. Each function on the identical precept: utilizing fluid to comb warmth away out of your CPU to the radiator, the place the liquid flows by means of slim channels with excessive floor space to trade warmth to the air, which is in flip cycled by followers.

AIO coolers are prebuilt water cooling circuits that embody every little thing you want proper out of the field, with a design adaptable sufficient to slot in most trendy computer systems. Customized loops, alternatively, are usually not “options” a lot as “voluntary challenges”. You’re tasked with designing and constructing a whole water-cooling circuit that’s hand-crafted to your PC. And it truly must perform afterwards! (With out leaking, after all.) The first profit—past bragging rights, after all—is which you could embody your GPU within the circuit as nicely, offering highly effective liquid cooling to the most popular element in your PC. Very cool!

For 99% of PC builders that go for a liquid cooler, you’re going to need AIO cooling. As such, these would be the solely liquid coolers I like to recommend under. It’s less expensive, safer, and simpler than trying to construct a customized loop with out prolonged expertise or a decade of mentorship beneath a plumber. A customized loop is extra like a murals than a strict mechanical necessity; it’s the peak of hand-crafted pc constructing. Customized loops carry unmatched efficiency, however carry an incredible price ticket and require distinctive endurance and care to create.

Most liquid coolers, customized loop or not, will cool extra successfully than an air cooler, however it’s going to price extra money-per-degree-reduced. That is true for AIOs, and is an enormous understatement for customized loops, to say the least.

Customized liquid cooling seems to be (And is!) very fascinating, however is awfully troublesome for a novice builder. (Photograph supply: ekwb)

Liquid cooling can be arrange in a number of methods, supplying you with some alternative in the place you mount the radiator. It’s usually beneficial that you simply place your radiator both in entrance of or behind your case’s consumption followers. This implies the liquid in your radiator receives the chilly consumption air versus exhaust air that’s already been warmed by different elements if you happen to have been to mount the radiator to exhaust followers.

There’s some debate as as to whether mounting the radiator particularly in entrance of or behind the case followers is healthier, however you’ll discover equal efficiency in both state of affairs. The tradeoff, after all, is that air heated by the CPU Cooler’s radiator will now be contained in the case and liable to warmth different elements earlier than being exhausted; CPUs, nevertheless, are extra probably than different components to see a noticeable discount in efficiency as a result of warmth, so it’s nonetheless my beneficial configuration.

DO: mount your consumption followers in your radiator! DON’T: mount your exhaust followers in your radiator!

“Which is true for me? Air cooling or liquid cooling?”


This hinges on a number of elements, relying on which of the next is most essential to you.


Definitely, air cooling is the best way to go if you happen to’re budget-conscious. A $50 air cooler from Noctua or be quiet! will compete extraordinarily intently to the most cost effective doable liquid coolers, which might simply price $70+. The most affordable respected liquid coolers function radiators which are solely 120mm large, that means they will solely assist a single fan. These compact liquid coolers sacrifice an enormous quantity of cooling potential to change into as low cost as doable, making their elevated price relative to a great air cooler more durable to justify.


For a enormously elevated value, liquid cooling can doubtlessly hold your CPU cooler as a result of improved thermodynamics in comparison with air coolers. Highly effective liquid coolers actually shine when paired with beefy overclocked CPUs, which collectively can crank out unbelievable efficiency at wonderful temperatures. As well as, liquid cooling’s elevated effectivity signifies that followers don’t need to run as quick to maintain your pc equally cool, so additionally they outcome at decreased noise ranges.


This one is solely subjective, nevertheless it’s nonetheless price noting since most pc circumstances now function massive clear facet panels so that you can admire your machine’s innards. Many trendy air coolers incorporate a design that matches in higher with present pc components, however some nonetheless sport massive, cheap-looking aluminum blocks that may look dated amongst blacked-out, leading edge elements. As famous earlier than, liquid coolers lend themselves to higher seems to be—whether or not by merely getting out of the best way with an AIO, or by turning into the principle attraction with a customized loop.

“Okay, I believe I do know which methodology I choose… Now which cooler ought to I purchase?”


The next ideas are broad suggestions that can probably fulfill most shoppers at numerous costs. However don’t overlook to discover comparable fashions which will fit your wants higher!

And, as at all times, examine compatibility of those components along with your particular elements (particularly your CPU, motherboard, and case) earlier than buying! Some coolers, just like the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II, function very massive pump models that may intervene with adjoining elements relying on the format of your motherboard. As at all times, examine before you purchase! Caveat emptor isn’t only a saying; it’s a lifestyle.


Beneficial Air Coolers

Hyper 212 EVO V2 ($48)

The second iteration of what has lengthy been thought of one of many best finances air coolers of all time. A wonderful, easy unit from Cooler Grasp at an unbeatably nice value. Single fan means rather less efficiency, however lowered sound ranges in comparison with different choices. There’s quite a lot of designs, together with all-black and RGB choices at numerous costs. Any variant will do the job!

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 ($54)

be quiet!, because the identify would recommend, make exceptionally quiet air cooling models. The Shadow Rock 3 is a good, budget-oriented cooler that doesn’t sacrifice efficiency. Excessive fin density and a single-fan design retains your CPU cool and quiet when you recreation or browse in peace.

be quiet! Darkish Rock Professional 4 ($90)

This twin-fan, twin-heat-sink unit from be quiet! checks nearly each field for an air cooler. Quiet, high-performance, near-budget pricing (for a big unit), and an understated look make this inconspicuous mannequin a powerhouse of cooling potential. Onerous to not suggest!

Noctua NH-U12A ($110)

A particularly highly effective twin-fan air cooler from Noctua, that can compete with quite a lot of liquid cooling choices. Should you aren’t accustomed to Noctua, they make fantastically highly effective and dependable followers, which implies this cooler will pack a punch and final a lifetime. If beige and polished aluminum are too 70s for you, you may spend $10 extra for the all-black “Chromax” version for a extra up to date look.


Beneficial Liquid Coolers

Cooler Grasp ML240L RGB V2 ($80)

The most affordable beneficial 240mm liquid cooling unit. Cooler Grasp makes good merchandise at wonderful costs, and this ML240L liquid cooler has gone by means of a number of iterations over time to have most of the QA quirks ironed out. Many high-end air coolers will nonetheless cool higher than the ML240L, however for the worth you get fairly a powerful unit that options customizable RGB lighting and the perks inherent to liquid cooling options. Not a foul alternative!

ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 240 RGB ($112)

ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 240 RGB - Multi-Compatible All-in-one CPU AIO Water Cooler with RGB Compatible with Intel & AMD efficient PWM-Controlled Pump Fan Speed: 200-1800 RPM - Black -

A stunningly highly effective 240mm liquid cooler from a producer that tends to fly beneath the radar. ARCTIC produce liquid coolers with efficiency that blows away the competitors. This up to date mannequin options RGB lighting within the followers, and a novel pump design that appears like one thing the predator would use to struggle a terminator. But it surely’s price highlighting that the pump unit, in addition to the thicker radiator which supplies this cooler it’s attribute efficiency, could create compatibility points when you’ve got a compact case or motherboard. All the time double-check compatibility earlier than shopping for!

Corsair h100i Elite Capellix ($150)

Corsair’s liquid coolers are a number of the finest and hottest choices in the marketplace, and the h100i has lengthy been the usual in beneficial 240mm liquid coolers. Extremely highly effective cooling with almost all of the bells and whistles you possibly can ask for, at an inexpensive value. Twin high-RPM magnetic levitation followers present nice airflow by means of the radiator, and the extremely customizable lighting results by means of iCue allow you to make this cooler solely your individual.

be quiet! Pure Loop 360mm ($130)

Wonderful liquid cooler from be quiet! that gives unimaginable cooling as a result of it’s additional lengthy 360mm radiator. This design makes use of three followers to do extra liquid cooling than different liquid coolers when it cools liquid… however accordingly it requires three adjoining fan slots to be put in. Technically, it has been succeeded by the Pure Loop 2, however that unit is $100 extra. Save the Benjamins and go for the unique mannequin, if it’s nonetheless out there!


We’ve gone over numerous data! We explored how numerous CPU coolers work, the variations between liquid and air cooling, and the benefits and drawbacks of every. No matter your determination, any of the beneficial cooling choices within the earlier part ought to hold you and your processor blissful in virtually any exercise, from slaying enemies to engaged on excel recordsdata.

Didn’t see a cooler you want on our checklist? Have a query? Simply wish to inform me my hair seems to be good right this moment? Depart us a remark and inform us what you suppose! (Constructive suggestions just for the hair, please). Thanks for studying!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Best Health And Tech
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart