Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling

There is always the debate between liquid cooling vs air cooling. But which is best? The answer that everyone is searching for is that both can be equally as good as the other. To know more about each method of cooling while looking at the differences as well as some of the pros and cons. This will give a more detailed and the best educated decision when it comes to choosing which system works best, liquid cooling vs air cooling. 

Air Cooling

air cooling

Air Cooling is by far one of the older techniques yet it still is an efficient way to get rid of heat by utilizing a dual system that includes a heat plate, and a fan.

What is it?

Air cooling is a standardized approach by cooling the system used from a method of dissipating the heat. The part being cooled will have a flow of air moving over its surface. Most air cooling systems use a combination of both fans and heat sinks, which exchanges heat with air.

What does it do?

Air cooling is used to mainly cool the important pieces of hardware that exert a ton of heat. In summary from the above definitions of air cooling, it steals the heat from all the hardware and dissipates it slowly away from the pc.

Some of the Pros with Air Cooling

  1. Low cost for the amount of usage that is drawn out of the hardware. Even in my older computer, the heat sink is around 5 years old and still cools the processor really well.
  2. Easy to upgrade or replace a heat sink if the one that is purchased decides to take a barrel role. Along with not taking too much time to upgrade or replace, this is one of the easier parts to install in your computer.
  3. This can also have a fan or 2 on the heat sink. I consider this a pro, especially if there are up to 3-4 fans on a computer case. The air flow in a computer will be much more stable because having a heat sink is a way to keep a hot component… cooled down. This is to note that liquid coolers also have fans depending on which one was purchased. However, the main thing to note is having a heat sink in the middle of the computer case. This will really help push the air up and out of the computer.
  4. As with liquid cooling potentially having a malfunction and ruining majority of a computer; regular heat sinks carry little to no risks with having them installed.  On a scale of 1 to 10 a heat sink would have a 4 for risk scale. As apposed to liquid cooling which would go up to about a 7.
  5. The last pro which I kind of foreshadowed in the first ?* would be the longevity of the part. It can last so much longer than liquid cooling could. With the simplistic approach to heat dissipation, normal air cooling although not as good as liquid cooling gives the best price for how long it can last.

Cons with Air Cooling

  1. Big bulky and takes up a ton of room in a PC. It could be a problem if purchasing a heat sink and it doesn’t fit inside the computer case. So having said that, a little more research might be needed to make sure it fits!
  2. Does not dissipate heat as well comparing it to liquid cooling. It is a con because based on study, liquid cooling is close to 60%(just an average estimate based on some research I have done) more heat being absorbed away from the hardware.
  3. Very shaky when it comes to transportation. If you are like me and want to go to LAN parties, using a heat sink is very rigid as the bulk of the hardware could disconnect from the motherboard or worse, snap that motherboard in two. Always be wary of this as I’ve seen it happen and it is a very sad day for the person it happens to.
  4. It is a cheap method to redistributing the heat in a computer. Being cheap, the parts can crap out quite regularly *? when it is least expected. With my heat sink I got lucky, but I have known friends who had to replace the fan on theirs 4-5 times within a span of 2 years.
  5. Noise is a huge concern with newer generation computers. It is nice to have a quiet and peaceful background when it comes to gaming or using the computer. Unfortunately not with a heat sink, it’s the opposite really. Sometimes, especially when the part gets older there will be some sort of a whirring or hissing sound coming from one of the fans struggling to spin and it can be destructive for the harmonious vibe.

Liquid Cooling

liquid cooling

Liquid Cooling is a newer way to get rid of heat. It uses a technique where it stores the heat in the water, sends it to a radiator to be cooled and then sends that cooled water back to what was trying to be cooled off in the first place. 

What is it?

In a computer, water cooling or liquid cooling is also a system like air cooling. It is used to reduce the temperature of its hardware, specifically the CPU and GPU. Liquid cooling is more efficient than gas at conducting thermal energy. So liquid cooled machines maintain desired operating temperatures better than any air cooled systems.

What does it do?

The water circulates from the engine to the radiator, a system of fins and tubes with a lot of exterior surface area. Heat moves from the hot water to the radiator, causing the water to cool off. The cool water then heads back to the engine. … The radiator warms the air, cooling itself off at the same time

Some of the Pros in Liquid Cooling

  1. The use of fans could cool components to a certain extent. But the liquid cooling technique enables the heat to be completely sucked out of the components to which the water blocks are attached to. Hence the degree to which components are cooled is much larger in this case.
  2. For those who love overclocking their chips and testing the limitations of a computer, the heat would never be a problem in the future.
  3. When pausing on a computer and just listening, there is a sound that’s made by the fan, yes it’s light but still very aware of the noise it’s making. As time goes by and the number of fans increases, the more of the sound it will output. But that situation can be helped with a liquid cooling system which will provide a sure way to get rid of that entire nuisance.
  4. It’s not only about the noise; it’s also about the space that’s consumed. Setting up more fans means, obviously means increasing the size of the case. But a small self contained liquid cooling system means not having to go buy a bigger case.
  5. The aesthetic appeal these tubes bring to the interior of a case is amazing. However, just for precaution it would be best to just leave the case open for how attractive it looks and for ventilating purposes.*?

Cons With Liquid Cooling

  1. The high cost is surely a bit of a concern. Instead of investing in a liquid cooling system, instead there is another plan of getting a high end CPU coolers.
  2. Also there is aspect of having to VERY (double, even triple) careful about the quality of the cooling system that will be purchased. It is not recommend to just simply buy one and end up killing all of the components due to a leak or a crack.
  3. The maintenance is also something which needs to be very well taken care of. Without regular maintenance it would really just call for a lot of trouble and more money for buying a whole new system or even worse whole new parts.
  4. The designing aspect is also a real headache. There clearly needs to be an idea (specific concept) about the dimensions of each and every chip, and PCB. Only then can the water blocks function correctly and fit into the case without any issues.
  5. The other big downside is the installation part. Especially for a newbie, it isn’t all that easy. There will always be that certain level of acknowledgement of the comfort levels in installing the fan and heat sink setup!
  6. The other major drawback is that at all times be perfectly aware of how much of an installation space there is. And if by chance it gets a little congested, I can guarantee that it will be big trouble up ahead if done correctly and carefully.

What is Different: Liquid vs Air Cooling

There is a big difference between the two even though they are here at the end of the day to accomplish the same job. Cooling hardware down while  keeping a lower temperature is the key role for these cooling systems. But the differences don’t come from their respective roles, it comes from their approach to it.

When looking at Liquid cooling vs Air cooling, we need to really hammer the differences out as this is probably one of your bigger decisions to make. This could decide how well your computer runs, or even how long.

The Differences of between the two

  • Air uses the air flowing in and out of the computer to get rid of the heat while liquid cooling uses a loop of water to cycle out the heat and absorb it into the liquid.
  • Although mounted in the same location, the amount of space used is very different due to using a loop of tubes to cycle the water as apposed to using a large bulky piece of metal with a fan or 2 attached.
  • Price, which should be the first difference is the most important one, at least for me! For normal heat sinks price ranges around 40-80$ max while looking at liquid cooling can range from 80-200$. That is a pretty large difference!
  • I know for myself and maybe a few others; that the final decision will be based off of which cooling system has the better pros. With liquid cooling, just getting it to work seems like a hassle if not experienced with building PC’s. This is however, not the case for a normal heat sink that air cools a computer.
  • It is a simple mounting process on a processor. Now if either were in need of an upgrade or to be replaced due to it not working anymore; Liquid cooling would need to be dissembled and then would need to repeat the process of installing it. Again was stated earlier on would be a hassle and time consuming if anyone doesn’t know much about liquid cooling. Air cooling on the other hand doesn’t take too much time to replace. A simple demounting of the original one and remounting of the new hardware

What makes Air Cooling the Best

what makes air cooling the best

In my opinion what makes air cooling the best is even though it lacks style, it makes up for in originality. What I mean by this is that even though it doesn’t look as cool (no pun intended!) as liquid cooling, it gets the job done. It is simple to install, replace, and it uses an older method and still cools the computer well.

What makes Liquid Cooling the Best

what makes liquid cooling the best

Liquid cooling can be considered better in terms of cooling a computers hardware. It looks really cool making the computer more flashy and amazing. Liquid cooling takes up way less space than a normal air cooling heat sink. It would be an undisputed victory for liquid cooling right? Well even though it seems amazing liquid cooling is the best always remember, high risk, high reward.

Which Should Be Used On A Computer?

At the end of the day whichever you choose comes down to you and the computer setup. Everyone is different and wants things a certain way. For me, its a matter of how well my computer lasts over the years rather than looking insanely awesome from the flashiness. We talked about all the variables that could change and sway our decisions for liquid cooling vs air cooling. 

What do you believe is the best and have I helped you decide on one or the other? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear your feedback on this topic as I get asked this question A LOT. Until next time, I will see you in the next one!