Are you building a new computer and aren’t sure which type of CPU cooler to get? This article will discuss the differences between liquid and air coolers, and the pros and cons.

You’ve made the decision to upgrade or build a gaming PC. Now you can choose your CPU cooler. You will need to decide between liquid cooling and air cooling, and which cooler is best for you.

The bad news is that deciding between liquid cooling or air cooling is not an easy decision.

The good news is that we will be covering everything you need to know about whether you should choose an liquid or air CPU cooler.

There are five things to consider before you make a decision about whether liquid cooling or air cooling.

Before we get into the pros and disadvantages of liquid and air CPU cooling, we should first discuss what factors you need to take into consideration before you can decide which cooler style is best for you.

1. What amount do you want to spend?

How much money you can afford is the most important factor when deciding whether you should buy an air or liquid cooler. On average, liquid coolers cost quite a bit more than air coolers.

Air CPU coolers are the only option if you have $60 to spare for a new gaming computer cooler.

Another important point to be aware of is the fact that smaller AIO liquid coolers perform less well than high-end air coolers.

As a rule of thumb, an air cooler will likely be more affordable if your budget is between $90 and $100.

2. Are you planning on overclocking your CPU?

You should also consider whether you plan on overclocking your CPU.

The stock cooler included with your processor is sufficient if you don’t plan to overclock your CPU or want to spend more on your system.

If you have a locked processor (a CPU that can’t overclock), it is fine to stick with the stock cooler. If you’re not planning to overclock your Intel processor, it might be a good idea to save money and opt for a locked option.

However, if overclocking is something you plan on doing, or you just want to be able to do so later, the question is How much should you overclock your CPU.

You should consider a more costly cooling solution if you want higher overclocks. High-end AIO coolers or custom liquid cooling loops work best for higher overclocks. However, there are some air coolers that can be used to help you achieve good overclocks.

You can go with a lower-end CPU cooling solution if you’re looking for mild overclocks. You can also use the stock coolers that come with Ryzen processors if you are on a tight budget. They will be sufficient for mild overclocking.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you want to overclock your CPU and, if yes, what level of overclocking you wish to achieve.

3. AIO Liquid Coolers vs. Custom Liquid Cooling

If you decide to increase the processor’s speed, you will need to determine if you would like to create a liquid cooling system or use an AIO cooler.

It will be more costly and more difficult to build a custom liquid cooling system. If done right, it will enable you to increase your processor’s overclocks more than any other cooling solution.

AIO coolers are more affordable and can be used right out of the box. AIO coolers with high-end features can also help you reach high overclocks, but not as much as custom loop cooling.

4. Clearance with Your Other Components Clearance with Other Components

You may also be unable to choose a cooler, liquid or air, if it is too big for your computer.

You’ll find it easier to find a case-cooler combination that will work if you don’t have a choice of the case you want to build your gaming PC.

If you have a case already selected for your build or you are upgrading an existing system, your case will dictate the type of cooler you can get.

You’ll find a wider selection of coolers for mid- or full tower cases.

You’ll be limited in your options if the case is smaller, such as a mini-ITX or microATX.

The larger the AIO cooler radiator, the less case options you have to support it. A 360mm radiator liquid cooler will not fit in a case that can hold 280mm radiators. (Although you can modify it, at least.)

This is also true for CPU air coolers. The main restriction for air coolers is their height. A case that can only accommodate coolers up to 5” in height will not work.

Aftermarket air coolers can sometimes cause interference with your RAM heatsinks. The problem is that the cooler can be so heavy that it extends over the RAM slots. You might also have to be careful with RAM with tall heatsinks. They may not fit under the cooler.

Before you buy any cooler, ensure it fits in your system.

5. What Aesthetic Style Do You Choose?

Last, but not least, you should consider the aesthetic differences between liquid and air coolers.

It is difficult to say which style of cooler looks better than the others because opinions vary from person-to-person.

However, in my opinion liquid coolers make a build appear more attractive than air coolers.

There are many air coolers that look great, but I’m not sure if they are as good-looking as mine.

If aesthetics are important to your build, take a look at examples of air coolers built and then liquid cooler builds to see which one is better.

You’ll be able to determine the type of CPU cooler that you need if you consider all five of these factors. These factors will determine if you should or can’t get an air or liquid CPU cooler.

However, they do not discuss the pros and cons for each type of cooler. Below, we’ll discuss both liquid and air coolers. Some of these pros and cons may overlap with those listed above. Below, I will go into detail about the overlapping factors.

The Pros and Cons of Liquid CPU Coolers

Over the past 4-5 years, liquid coolers (especially AIO coolers) have become extremely popular. This is due to liquid cooling being easier to install and use by manufacturers.

Now, liquid cooling is cheaper and more accessible than ever before.

Liquid cooling is not for everyone (both custom loops as well as AIO coolers). We will now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of liquid coolers.

Some Liquid Cooling Pros

1. Liquid coolers with high-end features can reach higher temperatures than air coolers.

A liquid cooling system will provide the best cooling performance. A custom-loop liquid cooling setup is the best.

High-end AIO coolers are the best choice for pure cooling performance after a custom-loop liquid cooling setup.

It is important to remember that even high-end AIO coolers can only provide a modest to moderate performance advantage over top-of-the-line air coolers.

If price is important to your budget and you don’t mind the differences in aesthetics between liquid and air coolers, you might consider a high-end cooler.

It’s also important to remember that smaller AIO coolers (such as the 120mm or 140mm coolers), don’t usually perform at the same level of comparable-priced (or cheaper) air coolers.

If you don’t mind the look of a CPU cooler but have less than $80-$90, an air cooler is probably the best option.

2. My opinion is that most liquid coolers look better in my opinion than most air coolers

This is my opinion. However, I believe that AIO and custom-loop liquid cooling look better in a system then air coolers.

This will differ from one cooler to the next. There are many ugly AIO coolers. There are also some very attractive air coolers.

For me, AIO coolers and custom liquid cooling systems look the best. This decision is up to you.

Some Liquid Cooling Cons

1. Liquid coolers are less expensive than air coolers.

This was something I mentioned above. However, the truth of custom-loop liquid cooling and AIO coolers is that they aren’t as expensive as air coolers.

This is a common occurrence for high-end consumer tech, especially computer hardware.

The Extreme Edition processors from Intel typically offer less performance than their unlocked high-end consumer i7 processors. A $200 case will provide more features than a $500 case, but it won’t offer as many practical features.

In the end, cooling that is as good as it gets will cost you more. It is not a price that will be matched by how much you pay.

2. Liquid coolers are more difficult to maintain and pose a risk of leaking.

Either you choose an AIO cooler or a custom-loop liquid cooling system, there are downsides to both. If any of these are concerns, then an air cooler may be a better choice.

These problems are not likely to occur because air coolers A), require very little maintenance, B) have extremely long lifespans (since they are simply a spinning fan attached with a heatsink), C) do not bring water into your system.

While custom-loops can be difficult to maintain, it is possible that you enjoy the “tinkering”.

AIO coolers require less maintenance. AIO coolers are closed off so there is very little maintenance required, other than cleaning the radiators. AIO coolers in this context are more complex than air coolers and will not last as long.

AIO coolers of high quality will last for many years before they need to be replaced. Is lifespan really an issue in AIO coolers versus air coolers? It’s not, at least in the grand scheme.

AIO coolers and liquid coolers have one problem. They can leak. Water and computer components are not compatible.

It is very rare for AIO coolers of big brands to leak. As long as the custom loop is assembled correctly, there is no high risk. It is important to note that air coolers don’t come with the same risk.

Air CPU Coolers: The Pros and Cons

Although air coolers may not be as glamorous and popular as liquid ones, they are still much more commonly used than water-based coolers. Because there are so many options for air coolers and they are also much cheaper, this is a major reason.

High-end liquid cooling is superior to high-end air cooling but the differences in performance are not as large as you might think.

We’ve highlighted the flaws of air coolers below. We also list the benefits that air cooling offers.

Here are some Air Cooling Pros

1. Air coolers provide great performance for the money you pay.

You’re in luck if you want to build a gaming computer that is budget-friendly but doesn’t require a liquid cooler. You can find a variety of high-quality air coolers that will let you reach moderate-to-high overclocks without breaking the bank.

A decent air cooler can be purchased for as low as $30-40. This will give you an upgrade to your stock cooler.

As mentioned, the performance of some of the most powerful air CPU coolers (mostly under $90-$100), is slightly lower than that of AIO coolers.

Air coolers are, in general, a better choice than liquid cooling when it comes to price and performance.

2. Air coolers are easy to maintain and last for a longer time.

Air coolers aren’t a complicated component. They are a heatsink, a fan and nothing more.

A CPU cooler can be used for a long time because most computer fans are very durable.

An air cooler requires very little maintenance other than cleaning them once in a while.

Some air cooling cons

1. For setups that require extreme cooling, air coolers won’t be suitable.

Air cooling has its downsides. If you want to reach extreme overclocks, then air coolers won’t be as effective as liquid-based coolers.

Air coolers can be great for low-to-moderate overclocking, and even higher in certain cases. However, liquid cooling is essential once you reach the extreme regions.

2. I don’t think air coolers are as beautiful-looking as liquid coolers.

This topic has been mentioned several times in this article. This is my opinion.

In the majority of cases, I believe liquid cooling is more efficient than air cooling.

However, I do know there are people who like the look of an air cooler. This one might not be a problem for you.

Air Cooling vs. Liquid Cooling? Which one is better?

There are many factors to be aware of. The debate about which CPU cooler style (liquid or air) is best is not settled. Because different users have different needs, there is no right answer.

A liquid cooler is the best option if you have a lot of money and need extreme cooling.

An air cooler is the best option for those with a smaller budget who don’t mind aesthetics or prefer the look of air coolers.

There is no wrong choice, as long as you choose a high-quality unit that is respected and well-respected.


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