When we talk about cooling your CPU, there are mainly two ways you can do this; air cooling and water cooling.
If you have ever built a PC, then you might have encountered this situation where you have to decide which cooling option you have to go with. Unfortunately, no general formula can give us a clear winner of air-cooled vs. liquid-cooled PC, as both methods have their pros and cons.
So water cooling vs. air cooling, which one should you pick for your PC?
If that's the question on your mind, you are at the right place. Here we will compare air-cooled vs. liquid-cooled PCs to help you determine which is best for you. So without further ado, let's get started!
Liquid Cooling Vs Air Cooling 2023 - Which One Is Better?
Before determining and concluding which one you should pick, it is essential to know more about the basics of these systems, how they work, and their pros and cons.
How Does Air Cooling Work?
If we talk about air cooling specifically, in this form of cooling, heat is transferred from the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) of the CPU to the applied thermal paste. From the applied thermal paste, heat is then transferred into a conductive baseplate made out of aluminum or copper.
After the transfer of heat to the baseplate, the thermal energy moves into the attached heat pipes. Through the pipes, the heat moves into the heatsink, which is raised off the motherboard, freeing space for other PC components. Finally, these pipes deliver the heat energy to thin metal fins which make up the heatsink.
These metal fins are designed to ensure maximum exposure to the air cooler. The air cooler absorbs heat from the metal, and an attached fan then pushes all the (warm) air away from the heatsink.
There are certain factors that determine the effectiveness of an air cooler. Some factors include the material used to construct air coolers and the size and number of fans attached to the heatsink. Larger air coolers release heat better, but you won't always find room for large air coolers.
Benefits Of Air Cooling
- Cost: Air cooling is much cheaper than liquid cooling, thanks to its simple operation. So if you are on a budget, air cooling is your cooling option.
- Maintenance: Air cooling rarely requires maintenance. If you set up an air cooler, you would only have to clean the dust from your PC once every few months.
- Installation: The installation process of an air cooling system is comparatively more straightforward. So if you are a beginner PC builder with an air cooling system, you wouldn't have to worry about water leaking into your system.
Drawbacks Of Air Cooling
- Noise: Air coolers are noisier than liquid cooling systems and can be annoying while gaming.
- Visuals: An air cooling system can ruin all the aesthetics of a PC build, as the heatsink of an air cooler is quite bulky.
- Performance: Air cooling systems aren't as efficient as liquid cooling. However, it's still not a bad option for overall PC cooling.
How Does Liquid Cooling Work?
The concept of cooling with liquid is relatively simple. The fundamental working principle of both CPU cooling liquid vs air cooling is more or less the same. Just like air cooling, the process of liquid cooling starts with the baseplate.
The baseplate is connected to the IHS of the CPU along with a layer of thermal paste. In liquid cooling, the metal surface of the baseplate is part of a water block; this part is to be filled with a coolant. The coolant's job is to absorb all the heat from the baseplate as it moves along the water block.
The coolant then moves through the system and shifts upwards in one of the tubes leading to a radiator. The radiator cools the liquid by exposing it to air. The radiator also has a fan attached, which helps it to cool by moving all the heat away from the cooler. Lastly, the coolant re-enters the water block, and the cycle begins again.
Benefits Of Liquid Cooling
- Faster Heat Dissipation: A Liquid cooling system transfers heat better than an air cooling system. This results in better thermal performance.
- Potential To Overclock: Liquid cooling gives you a higher overclocking potential, as the components with liquid cooling are comparatively cooler.
- Consistent Performance: Under heavy loads, liquid cooling systems are more consistent. This also eliminates the risk of thermal throttling.
Drawbacks Of Liquid Cooling
- Complexity: Liquid cooling systems are more complex to install, and you might need a professional to do the job. They require proper tubing to ensure optimal fluid flow.
- Size & Compatibility: Liquid cooling can be more extensive and sometimes incompatible with all computer cases. This can limit your options to a certain extent.
- Maintenance: Liquid coolers require more maintenance than air cooling systems. You have to check coolant levels regularly, and you would also have to flush the system from time to time to prevent buildup and corrosion.
Conclusion - CPU Cooler Liquid Vs Air, Which One Should You Pick?
The winner of water cooling vs. air cooling PC all comes down to you and your conditions. The price of an air cooling system is generally low, but the performance and aesthetic of a liquid cooling system are comparatively better.
The installation process of an air cooling system is pretty straightforward, but you don't get to customize it like you could in a liquid cooling system. In liquid cooling systems, you get to decide the complex flow route, and you can decide which components get the coolant and which don't.
If you have a small PC and don't have problems with noise, then an air cooler would be a better option. However, a liquid cooling system is better if you want more efficiency for your workload.
It all comes down to you and how you want your PC to be. So ensure that you have all the factors in mind for both cooling systems before you make your final choice.