Which CPU cooling method is better, air or liquid? | Ask a PC expert

Gordon gives his opinion on which CPU cooling method is better, air or liquid, and why you might want to choose one over the other.

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27 thoughts on “Which CPU cooling method is better, air or liquid? | Ask a PC expert

  • August 12, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Real PC Expert here: Buy a Noctua NH-U14S. You can get to your RAM, Cables, GPU and so on and it's more reliable, cooler, cheaper, 6 year warranty on the fan but it will last 10 years and silent in comparison to a CLC-Junk. You are welcome.

  • August 12, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Most of the time the PC builder just doesn't have the money or skill to do it Including tech reporters lol.

  • August 12, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Corsair Hydro H100i V2 simply because it look better in my case , Have a 7700k that i have had from the releas date + few days  and no problem still works as if it is new .

  • August 12, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Noctua. Quality construction, quality support, outstanding cooling.

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Water-cooling all the way. Components like gpu and cpu run much cooler. I was tired of tweaking and maintaining my custom loop, so I got an EK-MLC Phoenix for my cpu and gpu, replaced the ugly Phoenix cpu block and done.

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Air coolers also increase air-flow over vrm heatsinks so you can theoretically get better OC.

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    CLC , AIO as exhaust allows GPU to run cooler getting that heat out of the system.

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Replaced my Noctua NH-D15 with a Deepcool Castle AIO purely because the Noctua could not fit into the Deepcool Quadstellar case I bought to get better airflow around my GPUs ( Radeon VII Linux host with VFIO/GPU passthrough of an RTX2080ti). Having the cards close together generated a lot of heat and the fins on the Noctua are so big they where almost touching the Radeon VII's backplate. The Noctua was quiet and extremely effective just too big for the case

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Oh, come on!
    If you are so clumsy that you really cut your self going into your Air-cooled tower – than water cooling has to be more of a disaster for you because when you are that clumsy of a person – you must break all kind os things like the pips in your water-cooled PC!
    Guys! Cutting your self on air-cooling as a "con" for Air-cooling?! You gotter do better! lol wtf!

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    NH-D15! Why does he want to keep fiddling round with his RAM?
    I slapped in 32GB when I built my rig 2 years ago and haven't touch my cooler or my RAM since.

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    I went full custom water. It just looks cool. but it also is quieter than my air cooler was. Also usually I have a few hours when I start up the computer where the CPU runs a lot cooler since the water is cool and it takes a fairly long for the water to become heat soaked

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    air cooling here. no pump noise, less moving parts and cheap coolers like hyper 212 black provide my cpu with adequate cooling and doesn't block the ram on my board.

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    CLC > Air especially if you live in a hot area because the specific heat capacity of water > air. I live in an area where it's triple digits mostly year round and I've had both. My AIO's have outperformed my air coolers time and time again.

  • August 12, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    i have a dh-15 and all i have to do is take the front fan off and i can get to the ram pretty easy. then i just clip the fan back on. it does block the top m.2 slot on my board but i dont have to get into that slot ever so….

    the main thing about water cooling that i am interested in is that if you are doing a moderate power draw load, like gaming, you can get lower temps with water and then add extra 100mghz clock speed or so. not really necessary or worth it but still its nice to have.

    but thats only for moderate power loads. if its something like rendering, the water gets heated up pretty fast and you get the whole water loop "heat soaked" and its no better than air. but for low power workloads with a really good water cooler you can get higher clocks and lower temps (the higher clocks are basically because of the lower temps)

  • August 13, 2019 at 12:25 am

    I switched from a Noctua NH-D15 to an EVGA CLC 280 purely because I think it looks better. Motherboards look awesome these days and I want to be able to see mine.

  • August 13, 2019 at 12:52 am

    My current system is almost 6 years old and I went aio. Had to replace the AIO after a couple of years. I will most likely go air cooled on next build because far easier to troubleshoot. Aio fans can be fine but something wrong with flow and you'll never know until your system overheats. Fancy software does jack to warn of issues, so not very fancy.

  • August 13, 2019 at 1:10 am

    For me personally, the only thing that worries me about an AIO liquid cooler is possible pump failure. With an air cooler I never have to worry about that. I upgraded the Wraith Prism on my 2700X to a NH-U14S and couldn't be happier. I still like AIOs though. Maybe my next build will have one.

  • August 13, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Using a Noctua C14 with 2 NF-A12x25's set as push-pull in my Ncase M1. Paired with a delidded 8086k clocked at 4.9ghz on all 6 cores. Running Prime 95, my max temps are 75c when running them at 2000rpm and around 78c when running at 1000rpm. I am happy with those results. Case also has an extra NF-A12x25 and a 92mm NF-A9 for exhaust.

  • August 13, 2019 at 1:29 am

    anyone know the lifespan of a corsair h100i V2? Until it fails? I would go with air, but i like the looks, accessibility, performance.

  • August 13, 2019 at 2:02 am

    I run a downdraft cooler but I am on a locked i7 but the VRM cooling is nice and air coolers remind be of the huge chrome superchargers on muscle cars 😀

  • August 13, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Don't mind air coolers at all, cooled my first i5 2500k build. But if you add fans in a push/pull config to front of case you cool your CPU better, higher overclocks and overall cooler temps throughout the case because of all that fresh air coming in. Even helps keep GPU cooler. More expensive than air, yes but still cheaper than custom loop. Switched to AIOs and haven't looked back.

  • August 13, 2019 at 3:39 am

    im going to go full water. have a monoblock on the mobo, mount it upside down on a desk, have a frame around it to support the gpu, which will also be water cooled, then pipe that to a car radiator.

    balls to the wall or no balls at all!

  • August 13, 2019 at 6:19 am

    I like that liquid cooking can handle spikes better, so heavyish workloads that then have brief periods that nearly max the system out still won't throw you off of boost clock.

  • August 13, 2019 at 7:52 am

    I started with a Noctua NH-D14. Then moved to a 240mm Corsair H100 because I needed more cool air to the CPU. After a couple of years, I saw the CPU not being able to turbo as high no more, so I went back to the NH-D14 and immediately got high turbo frequency again. I don't know why, but I guess either som water has evaporated or bacteria in the water has made more blocking in the CPU block.

  • August 13, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Air coolers can block RAM slots, but not ALL of them. This should be made clear as you're generalising air coolers as "blocking RAM" when this is not always the case. Just as you say people generalise AIOs as "leaking all the time", then why are you generalising air coolers? I've got several air coolers they don't block the RAM slots. Coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 and Be Quiet Dark Rock Pro do block RAM slots. But slimline coolers like the Cooler Master Hyper 212, Noctua NH-U12A and Be Quiet Dark Rock Slim don't. You mentioned the Hyper 212 and then you say "air coolers block RAM", very generalised and misleading like saying AIOs leak all the time.

    Anyway, how often do people open their case to play with the RAM anyway? The last time I touched RAM was 2012. Set and forget is what most people tend to do. Unless they decide on 8GB now and realise it's not enough, so upgrade later on.

  • August 13, 2019 at 10:42 am

    I prefer Air Coolers over AIOs. They are much easier to deal with then an AIO. The only point of failure from an Air Cooler is the Fans. If they stop working. Its easy to replace those fans with new ones. For AIOs. The point of failure is the pump. If that dies. You have to replace the entire AIO With a brand new one. And it will be a costly one.

    So go with Air Cooler since replacing the Fans is much cheaper then replacing an AIO.

  • August 13, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    I actually agree with the summary. I went Air because (1) it was a lot less hassle/work to install, (2) it was about 35% the cost, (3) it is very quiet. But then noise and heat dissipation were my top concerns and I do NOT like all the rgb and bling in a PC. I want a no show box off to the side so I am not distracted by it when working.

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