Liquid vs Air Cooling – Which is Better?

AMD reignited the processor wars with their Zen Architecture release. They’ve fought tooth and nail with Intel for any scrap of market share available over the last few years. But as time went on, both had increased the number of cores and boost frequencies to see who would win out in the end- and it was clear that one party would eventually prevail. In order to do so however, there were really only two options- either designing a more efficient architecture or making things easier for yourself by simply boosting watts instead of trying something new. The history of this option shows that it is not a good option.

It’s true, did you know that heat builds up when processing data? And because we’re building faster computers, it has become more difficult to cool them. Liquid or air cooling – which is best? Keep reading if you want to find out.

What is Liquid Cooling?

CPU Liquid Coolers use liquid as a way to take away heat from the CPU. There are many different types of these, such as open reservoirs and hard or soft tubing that can be designed any way you would like; however, AIO (closed loop) units are the most common kind used. This is due to its simplicity- all you need is a radiator inside which the air flows around and gets cooled by water circulating at the bottom while sandwiched between fins. They’re quite efficient and quite easy to maintain compared to other options out there!

Some popular AIO coolers:

  • Velocity Micro Liquicool 8
  • Corsair Hydro Series
  • EVGA CLC

What is Air Cooling?

An air cooler is a type of cooling system used for processors that contains a heat sink and fan to blow away excess heat. Many different types exist, from small cases such as the ones you see packaged with Intel or AMD CPUs when you buy them at your local store to beasts like the Noctua NH-D15 – but they’re all not made equally.

Some popular air coolers:

  • Noctua NH-D15/14
  • Arctic Cooling Freezer 7
  • Phanteks PH Series

Liquid vs Air Cooling – Pros and Cons

Liquid Cooling Pros:

  • More efficient heat dissipation – utilizing both 240mm and 360mm radiators, liquid coolers are far better at getting rid of excess CPU heat than any traditional fan-based cooling methods. Additionally, these radiators typically exhaust hot air out the backside of the case, while an air cooler would release it out the top or front side which could be detrimental to other components.
  • Quieter – Though liquid coolers might not be completely soundless, they’ll typically be a lot quieter than air coolers when functioning at full power.

Liquid cooling Cons:

  • While all-in-one (AIO) coolers are more expensive than typical air coolers, they’re typically less costly than other types of units.
  • Leakage/Maintenance – Sealed AIOs are leak-proof and maintenance-free, but this is not the case for custom loops. These complex coolers require yearly refills and constant monitoring for leaks

Air cooling Pros:

  • Cheap – for those who do not want to invest in an expensive computer, it is cheaper and just as effective to use an air conditioner instead of using water cooling.
  • Easier upgrading – Because there’s no mounted radiator or tubes to manage, component upgrades are generally easier in air-cooled systems.
  • Versatility – Some cases may not be able to house a liquid-cooled radiator. For example, rack-mounted computer systems do not always offer space for an air cooling device.

Air Cooling Cons:

  • Higher ambient case temps – because air coolers dissipate their CPU heat into the case rather than through radiator exhaust, they can lead to higher internal case temps especially in builds with high-end graphics cards.
  • In contrast to water cooled machines, air cooled machines are notorious for being louder than other computers. The noise originates from the heat-sync fan used to pull hot air away from processors and case fans that exhaust it outside of the system.

Which is Better?

In regards to whether you should invest in a liquid or air cooling system for your new PC, it really depends on what type of system you’re building. For gamers and professionals who use high-end processors/graphics cards that don’t run as efficiently with air cooling units, liquid cooling is often the better option. If you can’t afford expensive water-cooling rigs or feel squeamish about it all running through your computer case though – there are options for those types of people too; but they might not be quite as efficient at keeping things cool.

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