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Liquid VS Air CPU Coolers Comparative Guide [2022]

Liquid VS Air CPU Coolers Comparative Guide [2022]

Every machine generates heat, including the computer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a personal PC for routine tasks or a gaming PC. They generate heat from low to high levels, from light to heavy use. To maintain performance and keep the CPU cool, heat needs to be dissipated from the CPU. Traditional PCs are equipped with a built-in cooling mechanism with a pair of fans. For newer and more advanced CPUs aimed at gaming and graphics, however, the story is quite different.

Liquid cooling and air cooling are two methods of keeping a gaming PC’s CPU cool. Both methods are efficient and have specific pros and cons. Some users like liquid cooling, while others prefer air cooling.

Read: TX 2070 Super – Read Before you Buy

What are CPU Coolers?

A CPU cooler is an air or liquid cooler that controls the PC’s temperature and keeps it performing well. Heat is expelled by the integrated fans of air cooling. Water-based coolers are liquid coolers. To minimize heat, they install water pipes in a particular order. There are pros and cons to both methods. Coolers are easy to set up, just like air. Overclocked PCs benefit from water coolers, but they can be tricky to install for beginners.

Factors to consider when making your choice.

Listed below are a few significant factors to consider when choosing between air cooling and liquid cooling. In addition to their pricing, these factors also cover the level of their effectiveness.

1. Price

There is a wide range of prices for air and liquid coolers, depending on their features. In general, air coolers are less expensive than liquid coolers. Due to easy installation and straightforward operation, air coolers are less expensive. Alternatively, the liquid can cost more due to its complicated layout. Design and installation of liquid cooling are challenging since the wrong installation can damage the whole operating system by introducing water into the cooling pipes.

See: Best CPU Cooler For Ryzen 5 3600 in [2021]

Pricing is also affected by aesthetics and extra features. The entry-level version of both the cooling system is less costly. Premium air coolers cost more because they have a larger heatsink, better aesthetics, and better fans. Besides larger radiators and more aesthetics, premium liquid coolers cost more due to extra features such as software-based control of fan speed and lights.

2. Ease of Installation

darkFlash Shadow RGB CPU Cooler
darkFlash Shadow Top-Flow RGB CPU Cooler

In contrast, liquid coolers can be difficult to install in a PC, whereas air coolers are straightforward. Custom liquid coolers and all-in-one (AIO) liquid coolers are also available. Custom liquid coolers are difficult to install and require more knowledge of building custom PCs. It has pros and cons, but requires a little understanding of custom builds. Installation of custom liquid coolers is time-consuming. On the other hand, it provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to installing it on the PC. The custom layout can be easily set up around CPUs and disperse the maximum amount of heat. The system is easy to install in all shapes and sizes of buildings.

An all-in-one (AIO) liquid cooler is easier to install than a custom loop. A water block, radiator, and two hoses circulate the coolant. One apparatus contains a pump, coolant, and radiator; it requires no special maintenance after installation.

3. Size

When buying anything for a custom build, space is always a deciding factor. The selection of an air cooler and water cooler also depends on the available space. Several air coolers are bulky, larger, and require more space. Likewise, liquid coolers require space for fans, radiators, and proper orientation for water blocks and coolant pipes.

It’s best to use both coolers for a build where space is not an issue. In cases where space is limited, low-profile air coolers and liquid coolers with smaller radiators are best. All-in-one (AIO) liquid coolers with smaller radiators are ideal for smaller cases. To make upgrading easier, it is always advised to buy a larger case for a custom build.

4. Noise

Liquid cooling is quieter than air cooling. However, some air coolers are unique and have significantly less noise. The fan speed of some air coolers can be controlled to minimize fan noise. Liquid cooling is quieter and has better noise reduction than air cooling. Liquid cooling radiators have lower revolutions per minute (RPM) than those used in air coolers.

5. Temperature Regulation

Overclocked CPUs and GPUs are best cooled with liquid. When rendering a video, doing video streaming, or playing a graphics-intensive video game, it is more efficient and dissipates heat well. Air cooling is effective at keeping the CPU body cool. However, it blows air straight into the PC case. When the PC case is subjected to prolonged heavy use, this continuous accumulation raises the temperature inside.

Liquid cooling reduces heat better than air cooling. By reducing fan speeds, it effectively disperses heat away from the PC. Overall, liquid cooling is a better option with a lower noise level.

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How Air Cooling Works?

Air cooling works in conjunction with heatsinks and thermal conductivity. CPU heat is transferred to the conductive metal baseplate. Thermal paste is used to transmit heat to the CPU. Copper or aluminum baseplates allow thermal energy to pass to the heat pipe.


Heat pipes conduct heat from one location to another. The heat is moved from the motherboard and CPU into the free space inside the PC case by these heat pipes. The elevated design of heat pipes frees up space on the motherboard for other components. The heat is transferred to the heatsink, which is made up of thin metal fins. Metal fins are designed to get the maximum amount of cold air to absorb the metal’s heat. A fan is attached to the outer end of the heatsink. The fan keeps the heatsink cool by transferring heat away from it.

Pros and Cons

The first advantage of air cooling is the low cost, making it the default cooling system for most users. It comes in an aftermarket CPU and GPU cooler and costs less than rival liquid cooling systems for the same specs. Although the buying process can be tricky since the material and quality of the heatsink also play a role in pricing. Copper is more conductive than aluminum, Heatsinks made of copper are more expensive than aluminum, and vice versa. Similarly, an air cooling system is easier to upgrade than a liquid cooling system. There is less cost to upgrade an air cooling system, and it gives the user more choice of air coolers.

Another advantage of air cooling is that it is easy to install. Installing or upgrading an air cooling system required a few steps. Thermal paste is applied after the heatsink is replaced. The heatsink is attached to the CPU with four screws. 

Air coolers have the disadvantage of being less efficient than liquid cooling systems. Using a fan, heat is dissipated solely. CPUs that are seriously overclocked benefit greatly from liquid cooling. Air cooling is also hampered by fan noise, which affects the user experience.

How Liquid Cooling Works?

Liquid cooling works the same way as air cooling at the beginning. A thermal paste is applied to the baseplate to facilitate heat transmission. Attached to this baseplate is a water block filled with coolant. The coolant is designed to absorb heat from the baseplate. The liquid moves through the water blocks and enters the radiator tube. The radiator tube exposes the liquid to the outside air so that it can cool. 


The above process is for All-in-One (AIO) liquid coolers. The custom cooler works almost the same, but the setup phase is more complicated. As a result, we can say that setting up a custom cooler requires basic and somewhat moderate knowledge of PC builds.

Pros and Cons

Liquid cooling’s main advantage is its flexibility in setup. The cooling system is not limited to the CPU. The liquid cooler is known for its custom settings and the ability to target specific components of the system for cooling. Overclocked processors usually need a custom setup, but stock processors don’t. It takes much larger fans for air coolers to maintain the temperature of parts other than the CPU.

Another benefit of liquid cooling is its quiet operation. Compared to liquid coolers, air coolers are much noisier. Since liquid coolers do not require multiple fans, they require less space than air coolers. The fluid cooler also has transparent pipes that transmit water. 

So, AIO Vs Air Cooler, Which Is Best?

If your CPU is throttling or overclocked to its limit, CPU cooling is essential. In the case of an overclocked CPU, the stock cooler is not adequate to handle the cooling job. The cooling system of the PC needs to be upgraded in this case.

I think liquid cooling is a better option when air cooling is inefficient and cannot keep up with cooling. In spite of its potential for CPU cooling and providing aesthetics to the system, it is more expensive than air cooling.

If you are on a tight budget, air conditioning is the best option. There are some drawbacks, such as more noise and larger cooling units, but it compensates with its price. When not working in hardcore settings, fan noise is usually less. It has sometimes been observed that air coolers work better than liquid units.

Choosing a cooling system is more likely to be a matter of personal preference than anything else. Please let us know your questions in the comment section. I would appreciate any feedback regarding this article.

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Edward Connelly
By Edward Connelly

I’m Edward, and I am a passionate tech writer who loves to try new gadgets. I work as the blog editor at TechHamster where I write about everything from how to use technology in your business, to what apps you should download for your next vacation. I also test out all of the latest and gadgets that come along!

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