AIO VS Air Cooling: Which CPU Cooler Should You Go For?
CPU Cooler Battle: AIO VS Air Cooling
One of the most important parts when building a desktop PC is deciding which CPU cooler to go for. After all, we would want our CPU to perform without any issues or throttling whatsoever for the best experience. While custom liquid cooling looks and works great, it’s not cost-efficient enough for most people, which leaves us with two options. Is AIO or air cooling better for you?
While both of them work fundamentally the same, which is to transfer heat away from the CPU, the methods and effectiveness of doing so can be quite different. Let’s dive into each part first, shall we?
The air cooler shown on the right is the Cooler Master MA624 Stealth, which looks neat and performs great. Click here to buy the Cooler Master MA624 Stealth air cooler.
What is Air Cooling?
When it comes to air cooling, the heat from a CPU is transferred from the integrated heat spreader via thermal paste into a conductive baseplate that is made of metal, usually either copper or aluminum. From here, it is then moved to the attached heat pipes and then to a heatsink, which is typically elevated off of the motherboard so as to not block all the other components.
The fins on heatsinks are designed to maximize exposure to cooler air, which absorbs the heat from the metal itself. A fan is then used to blow hot air away from the heatsink, and the cycle continues. Without a fan, it is basically a passive cooling method, though it is relatively rare as it’s harder to sustain over longer periods of time.
How effective air cooling is, depends on a number of factors, most notably materials, size, and fans attached to the heatsink. For instance, more fans will work better, a bigger heatsink can hold more heat and potentially make it easier to move heat away, and copper is more conductive than aluminum. As much as size does matter (giggity), it might not fit your setup as it depends on the size of your desktop. Small form factor PCs will typically face this hurdle.
The picture listed above is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED Turbo ARGB which we reviewed here on our website previously. You can also purchase the Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED Turbo ARGB if it already piqued your interest.
What is AIO?
An AIO (all-in-one) cooler on the other hand is a liquid cooling solution that is a lot more affordable than custom cooling loops, though both share the same fundamental principles for cooling a CPU down. The heat from a CPU is transferred from the integrated heat spreader via thermal paste into a conductive baseplate. This baseplate is part of the waterblock that is filled with coolant.
The coolant will then absorb heat and move it through the waterblock in order to move the heat away from the CPU. It moves through the system upwards through one of two tubes connected to a radiator. The radiator then exposes the liquid to air in order to cool it down while the fans move the heat away from the cooler. The coolant then re-enters the waterblock through the other tube and starts the whole process all over again.
The AiO cooler used in the picture shows the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360 Illusion ARGB which you can purchase from here. Oh, that catchy case you ask? That’s the MasterFrame 700 Open-frame case. If you’re interested in it, click right here.
Why Should You Go For Air Cooling?
Air cooling has a number of appeals to consumers which make them an attractive choice. For starters, it’s very easy and quick to install as the process is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is make sure you have the right mounting bracket, put some thermal paste on the integrated heat spreader, put the baseplate on, screw it in, make sure it’s plugged in, and you’re good to go. I’ve seen LEGO pieces that are harder to assemble than this.
For most people, CPU air cooling solutions are more than adequate because it’s noticeably better and quieter than stock fans. You even have a little bit of headroom for some overclocking if you wish. For enthusiasts who are truly looking to push the limits, then this isn’t the solution for you.
Lastly, air coolers are typically more affordable than their AIO counterparts. Not only are they generally inexpensive to purchase, you get better value given how much it can cool down your CPU for the price you’re paying. Maintenance is pretty easy too since you just need to occasionally wipe it down for dust, which is what you should do for your entire PC anyway once every 3 to 6 months.
Why Should You Go For AIO?
The main benefit of going for an AIO cooler for your CPU is performance. No matter how you spin it, liquid will always cool better than air, and the difference can be substantial depending on your AIO of choice. Not only that, you don’t have to worry about raising the ambient temperature inside your PC as well. This is ideal for enthusiasts looking to make the most out of their machine.
Furthermore, AIO coolers tend to run quieter than their air cooler counterparts. This is especially the case since the fans on an AIO do not require to spin as fast given its efficiency cool the CPU down. If you’re very particular about PC noise, then look no further than an AIO cooling solution.
Lastly, an AIO cooler can be more versatile as it’s capable of accommodating to a wide variety of desktop sizes. Where air coolers can get rather bulky, this one can fit well in small form factor desktops as you can choose smaller / lesser fan options. Feel free to scale it accordingly with your PC case for the best experience.
CPU Cooler Verdict
At this point, you might be wondering which CPU cooler should you get. There is no right or wrong answer here as each side has their own benefits and drawbacks, and some people might chastise you for your decision. The way I see it, it’s a battle between value and performance. At the end of the day, it’s your PC and you get to decide what’s best for you.
If you want to get an air cooler, you can get the Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED Turbo ARGB and if you want to get an AiO cooler, get the beautiful Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360 Illusion ARGB and grace your build.