Much like when you exercise, the harder a processor works, the hotter it gets, making a CPU cooler one of the most important investments you can make. Choose the wrong cooling solution and you risk your system overheating and shutting down. There are three main types to choose from: Air Coolers, All-in-One (AIO) Fluid Coolers, and Custom Open Loops.
Open loops often provide the best temperatures and can also cool your graphics card and RAM along with your CPU, but they are notably expensive and can be very difficult to set up and maintain unless you’re enthusiastic, not to mention hard to have parts Swap when upgrading. Both AIO and air coolers are more easily accessible thanks to their plug-and-play nature, which means you’ll spend less time building and more time playing your favorite games.
When choosing between an AIO and an air cooler, it’s important to weigh cost, overclockability, noise, style, and compatibility. Here’s everything you need to know about both types of coolers, including how they work, the differences between them, and which one is right for you.
Let’s start with the most common method:
Air coolers are the most popular solution due to how cost effective they are. While they come in many different shapes and sizes, most air coolers use a set of copper tubes to dissipate heat from the CPU toward a set of metal fins. It is then cooled by at least one fan that blows air through the fins and into the larger case.
Why should you use an air cooler?
Simply put, your wallet will thank you. Air coolers cost significantly less than their AIO counterparts because they are simpler to design and use cheaper materials – without sacrificing quality. Be calm! The Pure Rock 2 starts at just £29.99 and supports most modern Intel and AMD processors, so it certainly doesn’t break the bank. AMD Threadripper CPUs are the only exceptions that require specific coolers like the Dark Rock Pro TR4.
Air coolers only have one mechanical part, which means they are easier to repair if things go wrong
There is a better quality of life for air cooling in that there is only one mechanical part that needs to be replaced if something goes wrong: the fan. The heatsink itself is passive and should not be at risk of fault unless properly secured. Replacement fans are also pretty inexpensive if you choose Be quiet!’s Pure Wings 2, but it’s worth paying a premium for the high-end Silent Wings 3 if you want a quiet gaming PC. Just make sure you get the right size for your cooler.
Air coolers are ideal if you’re not looking for a big project, as they are much easier to install than their AIO counterparts. It’s just a case of attaching the fan(s) to the heatsink, choosing the right bracket for the motherboard, applying the thermal paste, installing it, and plugging it in, with no additional radiators in sight.
And while the failure rates of AIO coolers are pretty low, it’s understandable that running liquid in your expensive computer can make you feel uncomfortable. You’ll be able to breathe easier with air coolers, knowing that absolutely nothing can leak into your components.
Types of air coolers
tower coolers: The most common type of air cooler, usually with at least one fan facing to the side. The goal is to get the air out of your computer in the most efficient way possible, which is usually from the bottom right to the top left. Once you know if your enclosure can fit a tower cooler, the next step is to choose whether you want to save some money with a single fan option like Dark Rock 4 or pay a little more to get better temperatures with the dual Dark Rock fans running. Pro 4.
slim coolers: While you’ll still need to consider clearance as the slim radiator rises, the slimmer width leaves plenty of room for higher-end RAM modules. These usually come with one fan, like Shadow Rock Slim 2.
top flow coolers: Uses a board-facing fan that pushes air down toward the motherboard. This is used to cool the motherboard and RAM a little better, and many consider it more elegant. The Dark Rock TF 2 comes with two distinct Silent Wings 3 fans to keep your components cool.
Low Headroom Coolers: These generally use a single-fan top-flow approach to take up less clearance. This allows you to use air cooling in small form factor (SFF) computers without paying a premium for AIO. The Shadow Rock LP is only 75mm high, which means it should fit into almost any chassis.
AIO . coolers
AIO coolers work the same way as dedicated loops, but instead of piecing together the tubes yourself, they are stand-alone units that plug and play without any extra fuss – hence the term “all in one”. The block that attaches to the CPU transfers heat from the chip to the liquid. The pump then pushes heated coolant through one of the two tubes to the cooler connected to your case fans to cool off, before returning through the second tube and repeating the process for as long as your gaming PC is running.
Why should you use an AIO cooler?
Just as a pool cools you faster than a fan, AIO coolers are much better at cooling CPUs than air. This allows you to get the most out of more powerful components because you can overclock your processor to make it faster without overheating.
The mass in the AIO cooler is also much thinner than the heatsink in the air cooler, including the lower one. This greater clearance means it will fit in smaller ITX cases without a problem, but you’ll still need to pay attention to the mounting points on your chassis and the size of the included cooler, which typically come in 120mm, 240mm, 280mm, or 360mm versions. Remember, however, that larger radiators dissipate heat more effectively.
Be calm! Only Pure Loop and Silent Loop 2 AIO coolers have a refill port
Installation isn’t quite as simple as an air cooler, but it’s still much easier than a custom ring. You are only required to apply thermal paste, screw the block down, plug it in, and connect the coolant. You will need to think about where you want to place the cooler. There is little difference in terms of thrust or suction configurations, which describe which side of the radiator the fans connect to, but we recommend placing it as an exhaust at the top or back of the case so that hot air is blown away from your vehicle. elements.
The days of most AIO coolers are numbered because the liquid naturally evaporates over time and you can’t get to the cooler to replace it. Be calm! Pure Loop and Silent Loop 2 are game-changing by including an easy-to-access refill port so you can top up or replace it, extending the life of your AIO.
Since AIO coolers come with fans, you won’t get away with having to cool the entire air, but the cooler sits in the same space as the case fans, so you won’t add more to the mix.
Should you use an air cooler or an AIO?
Air coolers will suit most use cases if you are happy with the default clock speed of the CPU and don’t intend to mess with it. They require no maintenance apart from a single cleaning, but you should occasionally flick the inside of your computer no matter what type of cooler you choose. It’s budget friendly, and should be able to handle most modern games at a reasonable frame rate.
AIO coolers are better in almost every respect, since they are cooler and generally more compatible with different cases, but they come at an excellent price and require a bit more effort to install. It’s best suited if you want to overclock your CPU to make it faster, ensure efficient cooling in a compact case, or if you’ve chosen a high-end option, to give your device a range of customizable RGB lighting.