Liquid Cooling vs. Air Cooling a CPU

September 19, 2016 | By @IVANZXT | PCDIY

Regardless of the type of PC you decide to build, you’re going to have to cool the CPU. And while there are many different types of PCs you can build, there’s only two ways to cool a CPU: either with air or with liquid.

So what’s the best way to cool a CPU?

The Pros and Cons of Air Cooling a CPU

Air coolers use pipes to transfer heat away from the CPU.

Air coolers use pipes to transfer heat away from the CPU.

Most CPU’s include a stock air cooling solution that that exhausts air onto the CPU. While this type of cooling is satisfactory for casual PC users, gamers often upgrade to aftermarket air coolers that provide higher cooling efficiency. Some of these builders also upgrade because these CPU coolers often look better and makes their PC more unique.

Aftermarket air coolers provide improved performance over stock air cooling solutions by using copper base plates to spread heat through pipes. To increase heat dissipation even further, aftermarket air coolers include high performance fans that carry hot air away from the CPU through specially designed fins. For most gamers, an aftermarket air cooler will provide more than enough power to keep their CPU running at optimal temperatures.

Air cooling isn’t without its drawbacks though. Some of these aftermarket air coolers are massive and won’t even fit inside a lot of PC cases unless you’re using a case specifically designed to accommodate larger CPU cooling options. You should also keep in mind that some fan options could also run louder than stock air coolers.

The Pros and Cons of Liquid Cooling a CPU

All-in-one liquid coolers provide all the benefits of water without the hassle.

All-in-one liquid coolers provide all the benefits of water without the hassle.

Liquid cooling is the best way to cool a CPU because water transfers heat much more efficiently than air. Liquid cooling also makes your PC run quieter because you won’t have fans constantly running at a high RPM. However, liquid cooling a PC can also be dangerous if water leaks onto hardware.

To keep things safe and simple, I recommend an all-in-one liquid cooler that provides all the benefits of water in one convenient package. This type of liquid cooling includes everything you would get out of a custom liquid cooling solution without the need to bend tubes, adjust fittings, or drill holes in your PC case. All-in-one liquid coolers are also conveniently available in a variety of different sizes so you’ll be able to find exactly what you need.

All-in-one liquid coolers aren’t just limited to your CPU either. With the addition of a liquid cooling mounting kit, you’ll be able to reap the same benefits of water on a GPU. And as any gamer can tell you, cooling a GPU is often more important than cooling a CPU during intense gaming sessions.

What’s the Best Way to Cool a CPU?

Both air coolers and liquid coolers provide increased cooling performance over a stock CPU cooler. However, the cooling solution you decide to use inside your PC build will usually depend on a variety of different factors to go alongside performance.. Things like price, compatibly, and looks will usually also play a role in your decision.

And while liquid cooling does outperform air cooling in various scenarios, you should probably base your decision on what you actually need. There’s no reason to use liquid cooling if your CPU doesn’t run hot and there’s no reason to use an aftermarket air cool if you’re not even gaming. The important thing is that you figure out what hardware you need for the PC you’re using.

There’s really no “best” way to cool a CPU because their is no “best” way to build a PC. Every PC is unique to its builder’s needs and the CPU cooler is just one of many different choices you have the power to control. So I guess the best way to cool a CPU is up to you!

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@IVANZXT

@IVANZXT

Ivan is the community manager at NZXT. He likes to build computers and play video games. Chat with him on the official NZXT Discord server.
@IVANZXT

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