Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling for PC What to Choose

Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling for PC What to Choose

The Hotly debated Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling , When it comes to personal computers, we all have plenty of choices to make based on our needs or wants. Specifications matter, from RAM, storage, graphics card, down to the tiniest detail. And of course, coolers also matter because nobody wants their computer to overheat.

Because once that happens, it could potentially be the death of your precious PC or laptop (and yes laptop comes with its own cooling, but that is a topic for another day)

There are two categories of PC coolers to choose from: liquid cooling or the traditional air cooling method. Both have their pros and cons that are worth looking over to see which one would work best for you and your computer.  There are plenty of options out there, so weigh your choices before you settle on one. Let us help you out with that.

Why is Cooling so Important?

As anyone who’s ever had a computer, either a desktop or a laptop, would know that they have a tendency to get warm when used for a prolonged time in. Computers work thanks to the “movement of electronic pulses”. When the computer’s warmth level is still normal, these impulses also travel at a normal rate. But when it gets hotter, they travel slower. This causes the computer to crash, because the impulses do not get to their destination when they should.

With the latest computer parts in the market becoming more expensive and more sensitive, it has become more imperative to take care of cooling, lest they become fried. That is why cooling is essential so that the computer can remain stable.

What is Air Cooling?

Air cooling is the more traditional way of making sure your computer does not get too heated up. CPUs of old and new come equipped with one inner fan that does the job. Designs for every brand or model vary, but these fans can usually be found in four locations: at the front, at the back, at the top, at the bottom.

They all serve to make sure that the inner parts of the computer do not get too hot, as well as to expel any hot air so they do not accumulate inside.  

Air cooling can be effective when fans are positioned well, and work together to normalize the CPU’s temperature. However, there are those that may have more fans than needed that could render function of other fans useless.

Also, you will have to consider in what environment your PC will be in, to ensure cooling effectiveness.

What is Liquid Cooling?

Another method that has become popular these days in cooling computers is liquid cooling. As the term suggests, it requires the use of liquid in the process. When it comes to chemistry, liquid is way more efficient compared to gas when it comes to creating thermal energy. That’s why machines, in particular CPUs, using liquid cooling keep up desired temperature levels better.

Liquid cooling is also not something a computer set-up amateur should do. It requires skill—but is rewarding because at the end, you will have a cooling system that is efficient and even aesthetic.

One great thing about this set up is that it does not need a lot of space compared to fans. Add to that the fact that they aren’t as noisy at all!

In Comparison

Still, there are pros and cons to either method. Here, we discuss their cost, compatibility, acoustics, reliability, performance, and aesthetics to help you decide which one is more suitable for your system, your budget, your needs, and of course, your artistic sense.

Cost

How much are you willing to shell out to keep your CPU in good working temperature? With air cooling, not much. That is because when you buy a ready-made CPU, it comes with all the fans necessary to cool the internal components. Even graphic cards and processors come equipped with their own coolers, so it is not necessary to install more fans for their benefit.

And even if you want to build your CPU from scratch, fans are the less expensive choice. They can come a8s cheap as $ in a popular shopping site. Even the more expensive ones just range from $50 to $100. But if you choose to keep it efficient and low-cost, fans will not break the bank at all.

Liquid cooling, on the other hand, is a not-so-cheap alternative. Water is not expensive but a kit is. A complete set starts at almost $200 and that is one of the more economical ones. The highfaluting ones go beyond the $300 mark up to $550 or more.

If you want to be more adventurous after that, tubes and other parts also raise the cost. Not to scare you, but if you are not very careful during the set-up process, you risk damaging not just a part or some of your liquid cooling kit. The components of your CPU are at risk too. And that is another cost factor, too.

But as long as you do careful work with your hands and follow instructions to the letter, then you will not have to worry about wrecking your system. All you have to think about afterwards is careful and thorough maintenance.

Compatibility

No CPU models are made alike. Therefore, one size does not fit all. That is one thing to consider when going either the air or liquid cooling route. With the air method especially, you have to take into account the size of your CPU and the placement of parts before you can even think about replacing your stock fans.

Even after that, you will still need to look for fans that are best compatible with your system. Some of the ones in the market are too big to fit inside most cases. To accommodate them, you will have to acquire a PC case wherein the fan could fit.

There is also the matter of each of your fans being compatible with each other. If you want to have more than four fans, then by all means do so. However, you have to check if they don’t cancel out each other and render the other an ineffective air cooler. That said, you may want to consider a fan, especially the side one, with only enough strength to get the air inside going.  

In the case of liquid cooling, size also is no trivial matter. Careful research of kits is needed to find one that would fit with your system. But once you’ve found it, you’re ready to go. Big problems with compatibility only begin to arise if you’re doing a custom set-up. There are all these parts you need to ensure work well with each other. This way though, you open yourself up to more options for a spiffing cooling structure.

Acoustics

Air coolers are noisy. There is no going around that. A case fan alone can already be distracting—factor in other fans, especially the graphic card and processor ones, and you will have a whole ambient sound coming from your CPU.

You can rest assured that your computer parts are getting enough air but you will have to deal with the noise the fans generate.

However, there are quieter options these days. If you prefer to build a PC from scratch, then you have a plethora of options in front of you. Some manufacturers now make case fans that are still as powerful, but less noisy or even totally silent compared to the old ones.

With liquid coolers, you do not have to worry about them making clunking noises and looking for replacements for parts that do. Though you will have to choose your kit carefully, if you intend to build your liquid cooling system from one. That is because some kits tend to have clunky water pumps. But if you do not mind, then you can just get a part and replace it while building or do it at a later time.

Although generally, pumps included in kits tend to be silent already. If you choose to go with a liquid cooling system, then you can focus more on enjoying your game or whatever you do on your PC than be distracted by high RPM fans.

Reliability and Performance

Air coolers can always be counted upon to do its job of keeping CPU parts running at optimum temperature levels. Stock fans are enough for regular users, but for gamers and other people who like to run heavy programs, they just won’t cut it. That is where aftermarket fans come in.

They perform better compared to coolers that came along with the CPU because they use copper base plates. This plates allow the heat to spread evenly throughout via pipes. What’s more, aftermarket air coolers also dispel heat at a better rate with the help of high-functioning fans. These fans are not like stock cooling fans, rather they have fins that are designed specifically to blow heat away at a greater degree.

Another pro when it comes to using air coolers is that there are less parts moving around your CPU. There is the heatsink and then there is the fan. Even when your fan becomes dysfunctional or decides to die completely, the heatsink will still continue to operate so you will at least retain a cooler.

On top of that, the movement of the air does cool parts of the motherboard, such as the voltage regulator module or the VRM since they are normally situated between the cooler and the exhaust.

A drawback to take note though, is that air coolers tend to get dusty quickly, so regular maintenance is a must. And you also have to remember that the favorable number of fans is four. More than that is still okay, but the degree of improvement will not be so high.

One more important point of consideration is the environment. You have to avoid placing your CPU on a carpeted floor, as it just makes accumulation of dust and fibers faster. Some sort of CPU boxes or cubby holes are also bad for your system. There would be no point in beefing up your air cooler if you will just enclose them—instead of cooling, your CPU will just overheat.

Lastly, for gamers who like to indulge in smoking, do so away from your computer or else the cigarette smoke will just add up to the dust accumulated over time. Plus, cigarette smoke cannot be cleaned easily, as it clings to components. These would result to them getting damaged faster.

In comparison, liquid cooling considerably lowers the temperatures of the core, the RAM, and even the VRM. Most set-ups, however, focus only on cooling the CPU. But if you have a custom liquid cooling system, then it can get to not just the above-written parts, but to the northbridge, southbridge, and other components as well.

Simply put, water cooling is the way to go when you want to drive your PC to its optimum performance level. And if you are thinking of overclocking, then this method can be counted upon to make sure your CPU parts do not get fried.

The downside of liquid cooling, or risk rather, is that one wrong move during the complicated set-up process could get your CPU parts wet at a later time.

Aesthetics

If there was a beauty contest wherein air coolers and liquid coolers are pitched against each other, then the latter would surely win. Since there are limitless possibilities to components, you can mix-and-match all you want, and even choose components of different colors or go with a single color theme.

When all that’s done, what you’ll have is not just a high-performing liquid cooler, you’ll also have a piece of art right inside your CPU.

But that does not mean air coolers can’t be cool to look at. There are those that light up when booted up, and they can come in different colors too. But still, most of them are chunky in size and that would not look too appealing.

In conclusion, liquid coolers are more beautiful to look at than air coolers.

Sources:

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/why-is-it-important-to-keep-your-computer-cool/

https://www.extremetech.com/computing/128313-extremetechs-guide-to-air-cooling-your-pc

http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/l/liquid-cooling.htm

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2028293/liquid-cooling-vs-traditional-cooling-what-you-need-to-know.html

http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2012/02/10/the-big-cooling-investigation/1

http://blog.nzxt.com/2016/09/liquid-cooling-vs-air-cooling-a-cpu/

http://www.tested.com/tech/pcs/454619-cooling-your-new-pc-water-cooling-options-explained/

http://lifehacker.com/its-been-a-fun-ride-but-im-done-water-cooling-my-pc-1689683422

http://lifehacker.com/5940236/a-beginners-guide-to-water-cooling-your-computer

https://www.ekwb.com/guides/why-liquid-cooling/

https://www.monitornerds.com/best-cpu-coolers-for-gaming/

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