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Air cooling VS Liquid cooling


So I had my liquid cooling system (h60) for about 5 years, and it failed. When I got it back in 2014, Water cooling was all the rage. In my search for a new CPU cooler, I noticed that everyone is using air cooling now. Which is better in 2018 folk? should I stick to liquid cooling or are there better Air cooling options that I don’t know about?


Well this highly depends on your personal situation, like hardware spec’s, and if you are a trully overclock enthusiast or not.
I’m very suprised that your H60 survived this long, because a few years back,
those corsair units were not really that decent.
But nowdays manufacturers did improve on clc’s a bit.

But of course you can allways argue about Aircooling vs Liquid cooling.
An Aircooler will allways be more reliable in the sense that there is very little that could go wrong with it.
With a Liquid cooler there is allways a risk of pump faluires and leakages.

But in general depening on the rest of your system cooling setup.
A liquid cooler could be better in certain situations.
But a decent aircooler will de sufficient in many situations.

So it just depends really.


Just my personal opinion, but since you were using an all in one water cooler, I would go with a high quality air cooler, like Noctua, if it will fit in your current rig. Since the H60 is only a single 120 radiator, you may actually see improved cooling capacity with a good air cooler.

There are benefits to custom loop water cooling, but there are a lot of headaches too.


if i’m presented with a choice,
i’ll always take liquid over air.
actual waterloop over aio - while i do acknowledge aio can be decent.

Do note if you have no issues with fan noise, and no problems with heat; typical air cooling may be better solution for you.

In my case i literally have rads outside; while my room stays quiet, i enjoy very nice temperatures in 24/7 computers 100% util crunching environment (not a miner, just boinc compute).


A lot of people just buy AIO water coolers for style points when they have a side window. Otherwise not very necessary, sometimes worse cooling performance in case of a 120mm rad.

Personally, I don´t think air coolers look that bad unless you go with a really huge brick. I got a Noctua NH-U12s can deffinitely recommend that or the 140mm version. It will never die quite literally. And they have really solid mounting systems where they also release say am4 kits that you can buy later to make your cooler compatible with newer sockets that have not been around at the time of purchase.


you have pointed out good thing there:

one of the reasons why i moved to AIO’s in first place. It was much neater to go with AIO; more room, less bulky; and no bent out/in mobo’s :slight_smile:
(Thermaltake ock frio king memories)


I moved from Noctua NH-D14 aircooler to Cooler Master MasterLiquid 240 Lite. The performance difference is nill. The noise difference is nill.
So it’s all up to you.
Do you have a space for large AIO that can cool without making a lot of noise?
Do you want the safety of knowing in 5 years all you need to change is the fans and you block of alumin(i)um you call heatsink will still work?
There are other things, like specific hardware, cause in most cases an air cooler helps with VRM cooling, but then again with proper setup and airflow and proper hardware,motherboard VRMs shouldn’t really be of that much concern…
But yeah, I tried both and it’s kinda the same nowadays…


Thats of course fair enough.
An aio is generally easier to mount in compairisson to something like 140mm dual tower aircoolers.


I have been running a custom loop for probably 5 years now. If you can stomach the extra cost and maintenance, they work quite well, depending on your use case.

That being said, when I build PCs for my wife or parents, water cooling and AIOs are not even considered, due to the reliability factor that others have mentioned.

Only benefits I see in going custom loop vs versus AIO is “slightly” improved cooling capacity and the novelty of having a water cooled rig.

Air coolers have seemingly improved drastically in the last 5 years or so. It makes them the best choice for non water cooling enthusiasts and those with a tighter budget. There are caveats here, such as small cases.

In the case of an upgrade, NEVER sacrifice buying better components to water cool.


If your needs are modest, and reliability is paramount, consider passive cooling.


What kind of case are you using? What CPU? Are you overclocking or planning to overclock your CPU? There’s a lot to factor in before choosing one over the other.
In my case I went with a Noctua NH-D15 because I bought a big case (Enthoo Pro). This configuration, for me, works really well, is reliable, quiet and will be carried on through multiple builds so it’s kind of an investment.

Maybe you’re using an ATX system and, in that case, you want to move the heat away from the CPU so you try to go for a small AIO. Or maybe you’re in my situation and you can accomodate a big air cooler.


As other have already mentioned and to make a long story short:
Do you want reliability? => Air cooling
Do you want higher cooling performance or less noise? => Water cooling

Of course many air cooling units a pretty good and quite as well and some people on this forum mentioned that the Noctua <some letters, some numbers> is really good.
Personally, I want with air cooling on my 2700X because why not? :smiley: It really quite and cools my CPU well. Considering summer’s over I even hit temperatures under 30°C according to HWINFO. It’s an NZXT Kraken x62 btw…
Before the kraken I had a beQuiet Silent Loop for my 1700X (changed CPU cause segfault), but it started to make awfully loud pump noises and I sent it back and exchanged it for the kraken. (On this kraken I have a 7y warranty, so I’ll probably change the CPU at the 7y mark anyway, but this remains to be seen)


Unless you need another expensive hobby, stick with air cooling. It is cheaper, more reliable and can be quieter.

My custom loop uses several 140mm fans turning very slowly, but it still isn’t as quiet as my Raven RV02 case, sporting triple 180mm fans.

If you are an overclocker (another expensive hobby, especially when you let the smoke out), watercooling is nearly essential. Without overclocking, I have never seen my loop go above 40C, even in the Summer.

If you aren’t an overclocker and you don’t need another hobby, water cooling is just an irrational, ridiculous expense, when that money could have been spent on a better GPU, CPU, or other hardware. I am a fan of Noctua’s gear, but I don’t think that anyone has improved on the price/performance ratio of the Cooler Master 212 Evo.


So it doesn’t really matter if there are no space constraints in your build. If you can’t fit a high-end air cooler (like in many itx builds) then water will be the better option performance-wise. If you can fit air then the difference is small. At the level where you have a choice between water and air you’re going to see diminishing returns. Once you hit the top end of air the AIOs are on par, and any improvement is exponentially more expensive. It ultimately comes down to your preference. I personally prefer air, but either will do the job very well.

If you’re into overclocking, high-end air is sufficient generally unless you are running a particularly hot chip in which case you’re going to be getting some form of water at a cost where there are no air cooler competitors. The performance ceiling on water is much higher than air when space is considered, but you’ll be paying a premium for that performance to space ratio in the high end.


Until someone develops a liquid cooler that’s more reliable than an air cooler I’ll stick with air cooling.


FWIW, I don’t overclock but I’ve installed several AIO’s on several machines and I have always found them noisier than the air coolers that subsequently replaced them. Temperature change from AIO to air cooler was always insignificant.

I take noise level tests on both AIO’s and fans with a grain of salt. My environment is not the same as the environment where the tests are done. No matter how much the testers may work to normalize their results., basic things like the case in use, location in the room, and how close you are to the fans are different in all cases.

If you replace fans on an AIO, noise test results are useless. However, if you value noise reduction, plan to buy better, quieter fans.

The pump makes noise, too.


You’ll never find the premium quiet fans from the likes of Noise Blocker, or Noctua on the AIOs, because the average consumer would balk at the price. AIOs are always going to be much louder than a custom loop, or air cooling. Some of those AIOs also have absolutely horrendous pump noise. I wouldn’t recommend an AIO, unless also using a case specifically designed for quiet operation.

I gotta say that I was recently reminded that air cooling wasn’t always the quiet option that we have today. A couple of weeks ago, I cobbled together a machine from parts lying around. The OEM AMD fan cooler, supplied with the Phenom II x6, sounds like a frickin’ dentists drill!!!

Regardless of what you are building, you want large, modern fans, that are turning slowly.