Only go with liquid cooling if your case has very little ventilation or if you intend to do extreme overclocking.
Besides those specific uses, air conditioning can effectively cool a room. It’s a lot more practical, and the price is much lower to boot.
Even if it is more common with GPUs than CPUs, overclocking has entered the mainstream today. Despite this, liquid CPU cooling has become increasingly commonplace. You have likely considered trying liquid cooling at some point.
However, what distinguishes liquid cooling from air cooling? In what ways do they operate? Which one, more importantly, should you pick? Is it better to use a liquid CPU cooler or an air cooler?
With this manual, we hope to answer these and other related questions.
Getting Started: Table of Contents Show
How Do They Work?
The operation of a fan or air conditioner is straightforward. The two main factors that make this possible are:
- The fan
- Cooling fins on a heatsink
High thermal conductivity materials, such as aluminum or aluminum and copper, are used to construct the heatsink. Its job is to remove heat from the central processing unit. A heatsink can only take in so much heat before it needs to start releasing it.
In this case, the role of the fan is crucial; by constantly turning, it maintains a flow of cool air through the heatsink, preventing it from overheating.
While air cooling is relatively simple, liquid cooling requires a few more components. Some examples would be:
- The pump
- A radiator
- The hoses
- The fan
Liquid cooling takes the same approach as air cooling, but instead of air, it uses a fluid to circulate around a heatsink.
A liquid coolant, such as water, is pumped through hoses attached to the heat-generating component (the CPU, in this case). However, reusing the liquid is insufficient because it still requires a heat sink.
The radiator serves this purpose in such a system of liquid cooling. Along with keeping the air flowing over it cool, we have a fan to ensure it doesn’t overheat.
Which One Should You Choose?
So, before you decide between air and liquid cooling, let’s examine the most important factors to keep in mind.
You can definitely count on it. Since a greater volume of liquid coolant can circulate more efficiently than air, liquid cooling is much more efficient and powerful than air cooling.
But whether or not you actually need all that extra cooling capacity is the more pressing question. Air cooling is more than adequate for a CPU running at stock speeds. Liquid cooling isn’t necessary unless you’re planning on pushing the CPU to its absolute limits, which isn’t the case even if you plan on doing some light overclocking.
Air cooling has the advantage of being much cheaper than liquid cooling, which cannot be denied despite its superior efficiency. The price difference is usually in the hundreds of dollars, and it’s mostly due to the lower manufacturing costs.
Installation and upkeep of a liquid cooling setup are extremely challenging for those without prior experience working with computer hardware.
In contrast, an air cooler requires no complicated setup or maintenance beyond the occasional removal for dust blowing.
Top 10 Reasons to Use Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling in Your Gaming PC
1. Higher level of efficiency
Although it may seem counterintuitive to put liquid near your computer, water cooling is far superior to air cooling.
Since water has a high thermal conductivity, it can help disperse heat generated by your gaming computer’s various components.
A central air conditioner is being compared to a box fan. Liquid cooling ensures that your computer never gets too hot to handle, as opposed to air cooling, which activates the fan only when necessary.
2. Improves overclocking potential
Increasing the clock speed of your central processing unit (CPU) by increasing its multiplier is called overclocking. A computer’s hardware can be damaged by the additional heat produced by this procedure if care is not taken.
With liquid cooling, your overclocked components will stay cool and you won’t have to worry about a system crash or hardware damage.
3. Less noise
In most cases, installing a water cooling kit will mean only using a single fan inside your computer case. The water loop provides silent cooling, so you can focus on taking down the game’s final boss without being distracted by whirring fans.
Even so, there is typically at least one fan present in the construction of liquid-cooled devices. The liquid system is responsible for the bulk of the work, while the fan only helps to keep the air moving. Because of this, the fan will be running at a more inaudible speed.
4. Sustains cool temperatures over time
All electronic devices, from cell phones to laptops, have an annoying tendency to overheat. This is obvious to anyone who has ever felt their lap start to burn while doing something as innocuous as checking their inbox.
Air-cooled computers use the surrounding air to dissipate heat, allowing them to function efficiently even when they are not under heavy load.
When the temperature rises, the fans will kick into action. As a result, the fan kicks in to dissipate the heat generated by the system while you stream or play games. Instead, your computer’s temperature will remain consistently low thanks to liquid cooling.
5. Liquid cooling takes up less space than fans
When it comes to property, water is unquestionably king. Space-wise, fans are a major nuisance compared to the skinny tubes of water in a typical liquid cooling setup.
The internal components of a gaming PC case are cooled by a series of fans in a conventional air-cooled system. When dealing with custom, high-powered PCs, the number of necessary fans quickly grows, leading to a case that is both cumbersome and noisy.
Although liquid units are more compact than fans, they are actually made up of the following more complex components:
6. Cools off high-performance GPUs
In modern systems, a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) can produce as much as three times as much thermal energy as a central processing unit (CPU). This means that when playing games like Fortnite on a PC for an extended period of time, the fan noise will increase significantly.
Water cooling is appealing because it is efficient and reduces noise levels.
7. Good for warmer climates
A gaming PC with a lot of hardware and a room with high ambient temperatures can cause problems with overheating and noisy fans.
Employees in naturally warmer environments can maintain their usual level of productivity thanks to the system’s continuous operation.
8. Liquid cooling offers cooling specific components
Liquid cooling can cool specific components more efficiently than a fan can, which is yet another advantage.
When users install a bespoke cooling system, they have the option to cool only the parts of the system that are prone to overheating. Disk drives, central processing units, graphics processing units, and power supplies are all up for grabs.
Since liquid cooling systems are relatively small, installing multiple won’t force you to abandon all of your PC’s available space. The other option is to purchase a number of fans and position them close to, say, the GPU, but this setup can get bulky very quickly.
9. Not just for gamers
If you’re working with electronics, you should definitely look into water cooling, but it’s not just for gamers despite what the media would have you believe.
With this effective method of protecting your equipment, users can focus on their work without worrying that their computer will overheat and cause them to lose hours of progress.
Instead, you can have confidence that your equipment is safe. Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas are two of the most popular video editing software packages, but they are very demanding on your computer and need a strong setup to run smoothly.
And just like when playing video games, you might end up producing a lot of heat that a liquid cooling system can help you get rid of.
10. Water cooling looks cool
This final advantage is, of course, entirely subjective. However, water cooling systems are highly modifiable, and you can even pick out a coolant in a variety of colors to match the aesthetic of your gaming rig.
While it’s true that water cooling has a few advantages over the more audible method of air cooling, the unique look it can give your PC is hard to ignore.
As an alternative to air conditioning, liquid cooling is suggested in two situations:
- Extraordinary clock speeds
- Embarrassingly crowded computer storage spaces
When a high-end CPU is stressed to its limits, even the most effective air cooler will struggle to keep up. When water is the only option because air can’t physically maintain a stable temperature for a central processing unit.
Liquid cooling is much quieter than air cooling, so it’s a good choice even if you don’t intend to push the system to its limits and simply don’t like the sound of a constantly spinning fan.
It’s possible you’d like to fit your gaming rig inside a case that isn’t designed for it, such as a Mini ITX or Micro ATX. Liquid cooling would be ideal for this situation because it does not require as much airflow as other methods to maintain a safe CPU temperature.