Just like any other electrical device, your PC’s CPU produces heat during operation and requires cooling to achieve optimum performance.
Excess heat typically increases the CPU’s temperature, which eventually damage various crucial PC components and can render your computer unusable.
To keep your CPU within the safe operating temperature, there should be an efficient cooling system in place. Most laptops and desktops come installed with either an AIO or air cooler for regulating the processor’s temperatures.
While both cooler types play an important role of cooling the CPU for maximum performance, they also vary greatly in terms of operation and overall efficiency.
So, you should try to find a computer with the best CPU cooler for your exact use case for an elevated performance.
That said, here’s a detailed overview of the aio vs air cooler to help you understand how both systems compare in terms of features, operation, performance, and reliability in cooling your CPU.
Which Is Best for You? AIO or Air Cooling System
Both AIO and air coolers are highly effective if used properly, but work perfectly in different case scenarios. Below are the key factors to take into account when choosing the right cooler.
Air Cooling System
AIO Cooling System
Offers decent cooling but are less effective
Offer incredible and better cooling performance
The price of coolers substantially varies and highly depends on the features you are looking for. Both types of coolers are available in cheap and premium versions. But If you are on a low budget, air cooler is the best option. Air coolers are more cost effective, have a straightforward operation and offer an optimal performance for every dollar spent. Besides, a premium air cooler comes with better fans, larger heat sink, and a wide range of aesthetics options to choose from.
On the other hand, a premium AIO is quite expensive and features a larger radiator, great aesthetics, as well as functional customization such as controlling lighting and fan speeds using designated software.
With both cooling solutions, performance varies widely. Liquid coolers perform better than air coolers since they provide a higher wattage. That is why most pro gamers who overclock their PCs prefer AIO over air coolers. The only drawback with the AIO coolers is the price. You will find that a simple liquid cooler costs almost the same as a premium air cooler.
If you want to get the most out of your PC when it comes to performance, you must conduct occasional maintenance. CPUs are prone to dust, which is the greatest culprit in both air and liquid coolers.
Air cooler is certainly the easiest to clean since both the fans and heat sink are usually in the middle of the case making easily accessible. Moreover, the fans are easy to remove and in most cases you don’t need to use tools.
On the other hand, AIO are quite cumbersome to clean because the fans are fixed to the case and some are hidden behind the panel, making them inaccessible. Besides that, dust can settle between the radiator and fans. This means you have to remove the fans in order to clean, and you may need tools to do this.
In both cases, you can minimize the need for regular maintenance if you use a case fitted with dust filters. But still, an air cooler is relatively easier to maintain.
Air coolers tend to be bulky and limited to one position. On the other hand, AIO requires space for the radiator plus you must consider the alignment of coolant and water block tubes. As such, if your CPU is a smaller build, air cooler may not be the right option. Instead an AIO with a small radiator is your perfect fit.
So if you are planning to upgrade, make sure you have ample space for your cooling option and that your case in compatible with your selected hardware.
Reduced noise is one of the major benefits of AIO. They tend to be quieter that air coolers. Although the fans spin up when rendering a video, for streaming and gaming purposes the fans move at a relatively low speed, which means reduced noise. Besides that, liquid coolers have a well-insulated pump and radiator fans that run at lower revolutions per minute (RPM) unlike the air coolers.
On the other hand, air coolers are noisy although you can mitigate it. The fans in air coolers tend to spin faster, which leads to more noise because air is noisier at higher speeds. This becomes more apparent in small sized fans since they need to spin faster to dissipate a similar amount of hot air like a larger fan.
Luckily, you can adjust the speed of your fans or automatically control the speed with your motherboard. However, this can translate to your idle temperature being a bit higher, but the CPU will be quieter under light tasks.
When it comes to cooling efficiency, you can never go wrong with AIO coolers especially if you plan to overclock your components or undertake CPU-intensive tasks such as streaming and rendering video. This is because liquid coolers efficiently dispense heat over a larger surface area than the air coolers, which leads to better acoustics (decreased fan speeds). As such, AIO offer the lowest possible temperatures and you can run your CPU considerably faster.
On the other hand, air coolers are relatively great at transferring heat from the CPU, but the heat gets dispersed into the case. As a result, this raises the temperature of the entire system. On the contrary, liquid coolers disperse the heat from the system through the fans placed on the radiators, making it the best option.
Although AIO coolers tend to perform better, they aren’t reliable enough. AIO cooling systems are likely to leak fluid, which may damage your PC hardware. Luckily, manufacturers have invented new and better features that use high-quality materials and mechanisms designed to prevent the cooler from leaking fluid. However, if something goes wrong, you may end up losing your CPU hardware.
Besides that, AIO coolers have coolant pumps that have moving parts that may fail which means the cooler cannot operate anymore, thus you need to buy a new one.
On the other hand, air coolers are exceedingly reliable and are the best. There is a very low probability of a fan failing or getting damaged, which is why air coolers can serve you for the longest time and are more satisfying when it comes to durability and reliability.
Make Your Choice
With all that being said, which one is better between air cooling and liquid cooling? There is no “best” way to cool a CPU since every computer is unique to its user’s needs and highly depends on the intended use of your PC, workloads and performance. So, if you want a low-priced solution that’s easy to install at the expense of optimal performance, air cooler is you perfect fit.
But if you are looking for a silent solution with efficient and you don’t mind to dig deeper into your pockets, AIO fits the bill.
Overall, both solutions are great, but when choosing consider how you intend to use your computer now and in future. Each cooler is designed for a different use case, so it’s up to you to make the right decision on which option fits how you use your PC.