Every type of computer today whether it is being used to browse Facebook or a massive powerhouse that is being used for video rendering or gaming, produces heat in some manner. The heat can wear down your computer components and slowly kill off their lifespan costing you hundreds to replace.
Most users shouldn’t have to worry about their cooling depending on if they bought pre-built machine due to the components not being unlocked and able to push the wanted temperature level. Choosing between water and air cooling is more aimed for the users with custom built computers or computers with unlocked hardware they want to maximize its potential by overclocking. This guide will hopefully help you on your quest to find your answer of water vs air cooling.
Each methods have different ways to cool down the computer components. Most computers use air cooling which includes using lots of fans. Fans on the case, graphics card and CPU heatsink. Air cooling draws fresh air from the outside into the system that is directed to a heatsink that distributes the heat with copper pipes. The concentrated air transfers some of the heat from the copper pipes and heats up and is then pushed out of the system by an exhaust fan.
Water cooling uses water blocks, tubing, radiators and fans to cool its system. The water blocks come in contact with the components and are cooled with a constant flow of water. The water heats up and is pumped to the radiator which is then cooled by a flow of fresh air, but not nearly as many as an air cooled system.
Why choose air? The main reason is its cheap and effective. With air cooling there is very little pre-planning the goes into system and most cases have an air push and pull configuration already engineered into the case. The only considerations are the height and width of the heat sink. Over the past few years air cooling technology has been becoming more advanced and efficient when comparing to the results gathered from water cooled systems. They have improved its cooling by using advanced vapor chambers in heat pipes and improving the air flow rate of fans to while being extremely silent.
Why choose water? Water cooling has dominated the choice of cooling for some of the most voltage hungry machines built. People mainly choose water cooling over air because water has a higher heat capacity than air. Water takes more units of heat to raise its temperature compared to air. This can be seen on a large scale as the atmosphere and the ocean. When at the beach, the air could be 90+ degrees fahrenheit whereas the water is only 65 degrees; this is due to waters higher heat capacity.
But water cooling comes with many cons as it does pros. Your components might be cooler but your wallet will be empty. Custom water loops can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Having to plan everything before even touching the build with precise measurements to result in a clean looking loop. But all in one coolers (AIO) have been lowering this price by offering pre-built cooling solutions. Water loops require attention to ensure no issues occur such as leaks occur and ruin other components. Bacteria growth can occur throughout the loop without filters. Water loops do require more attention but with the right equipment; failures will be non existent. The only maintenance would be replacing coolant every few six months.
Which one should I pick? Well if you’re overclocking your CPU it is advised to purchase a cheap air cooler (ex: Evo 212) and determine where you placed within the “silicon lottery” then plan a custom loop or buy a AIO water cooler. If you’re determined to go for silence, a fanless air cooled heat sink maybe your choice with an upgrade to your case fans for a quieter selection. If you’re on a budget air cooling is a great choice due to it’s efficiency to cost with a cases stock fans. Depending on your situation there is a solution for you!