AIO Liquid Cooling or Air Cooling? Which Should You Choose?
PCs get hot. In fact, they can get really hot. CPUs generate and use a lot of energy and in the process let off heat, particularly when processing high-intensity applications like 4k gaming and streaming. This would be an issue if it weren’t for coolers. CPU coolers are built for a singular purpose- keeping your CPU cooled off so it performs without a hitch. Simple enough, right? When it comes to choosing a CPU cooler, though, you have quite a few options. One choice every PC builder will have to make is whether they want All-in-One (AIO) liquid cooling or air cooling. Let’s find out what each path entails.
A CPU air cooler relies on the power of high-tech fans to cool down your CPU. Heat generated by the CPU is transferred to the cooler’s conductive baseplate via thermal paste. That energy then travels up the cooler’s heat pipes to a heatsink, where the excess heat is pushed away from the CPU via the attached fan. Some prime examples of highly efficient CPU air coolers include Cooler Master’s own Hyper 212 Halo, the Hyper 212 Black, the Hyper 622 Halo, and the MasterAir MA824 Stealth.
One of the biggest benefits of using an air cooler is lifespan and repairability. Air coolers rarely fail and have few potential points of failure. Even if there is an issue, parts such as the fan are easily reparable. Due to these factors, air coolers are known to last for a very, very long time. This is a major benefit over liquid coolers, which can be more prone to having issues and can also be more difficult to repair, ultimately not lasting as long as an air cooler. Another benefit of air coolers is low noise output. You are unlikely to hear them at all even at peak performance. Air coolers may also sometimes also be slightly easier to install for newer builders.
A downside of air coolers is that they push the CPU’s excess heat into your case, potentially raising your PC’s overall ambient temperature. Additionally, some air coolers may present a size issue and will need to be carefully checked for size compatibility with your case and motherboard. Despite these potential downsides, CPU air coolers are overall highly convenient and effective.
AIO liquid coolers also utilize a conductive baseplate and applied thermal paste as the start of the heat transfer process. From there, the cooler’s water block utilizes coolant to absorb the CPU’s heat and carry it through a tube to the cooler’s radiator. The radiator brings air into the equation to cool down the heat-containing liquid, and attached fans push that heat away. Once the coolant liquid has cooled down again, it goes back to the water block and the process starts over. Cooler Master also has a wide range of high-performance AIO liquid coolers including the MasterLiquid L Core, the MasterLiquid PL Flux, and the upcoming MasterLiquid Atmos.
AIO liquid cooling is the de facto high-end option if you want to truly upgrade your PC’s aesthetics. Besides looking cool, AIO liquid coolers tend to be a bit more efficient and don’t raise the ambient temperature as much as an air cooler might. However, case space must also be a consideration here as an AIO cooler’s radiator needs quite a lot of room. AIO liquid coolers can also sometimes be more complex to install, though Cooler Master is addressing this with the MasterLiquid Atmos, which will offer a simplified and improved installation experience.
Both AIO liquid coolers and air coolers provide a range of benefits, what you choose all depends primarily on what you want. For a simpler, quieter, longer-lasting experience it may be better to go for an air cooler. For a flashier, more involved experience, AIO liquid cooling might be for you. For a look at all of our AIO liquid coolers and air coolers, please visit our website.