Water Cooling vs Air Cooling (Difference Explained)

Written by Muqadas Wattoo | Last modified on:

Is liquid cooling worth it?

For most people, this question won’t matter a lot, for a PC that is going to be used sporadically at home the in-built cooling unit may be enough. However, if you’re somebody that is looking towards maximizing the potential of your machine a cooling unit is essential. Air and liquid are the only two ways to cool a CPU. There’s a great debate between whether liquid cooling is better or air cooling.

Each side has its advantages and disadvantages but which one comes out on top in the liquid cooling vs air cooling battle?

How do both of the cooling units work?

To truly understand the liquid cooling vs. air cooling debate, it is essential to know how both units work. Most common CPU units come with in-built cooling units, however for somebody wanting heavy-duty performance the in-built units aren’t sufficient. The alternative option is to buy an aftermarket cooling unit.

Air cooling unit’s work by utilizing fans, the fans in the aftermarket units tend to be much better than the stock option. There are fans inside a CPU everywhere to cool all the additional parts. The graphics card has a dedicated fan, as does the motherboard. Furthermore, these units often use a more conducive metal to increase the rate of cooling.

Liquid cooling units at first instance may seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but in theory, it makes a lot of sense. Water is a more recognized conductor of heat than air, which makes it much better suited to cooling. Liquid cool units employ tubes that go around different parts of the CPU; these tubes contain a mixture of water and anti-freeze. Most of the time, a fan is installed as well to ensure that the water keeps flowing through the pipes. In addition to this, water blocks that mainly absorb the heat are also present to ensure that your PC runs optimally at all times.

Each cooling unit seems to work well enough in most cases, but we have to establish a winner in this liquid vs. air cooling debate. Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of each unit will help see which one comes out on top.

Air cooling unit vs. Liquid cooling unit

The primary advantage of an air cooling unit is the price; buying an aftermarket air cooling unit is much cheaper than installing a liquid unit. First and foremost is the cost of the unit itself, even the most high-end coolers go for $70-150. Building a liquid unit costs far more than this, with high-end units going for $300-500 and some more than even this. The amounts mentioned above are just the costs of the core cooling unit, in most cases, for both cooling units, a sizable stack is required. The case for liquid units may be smaller, but it has more features which means it costs more as well. If you’re looking at it merely regarding price, the Air cooling unit will take the win all day.

However, the price isn’t the only thing that matters. Most people that are looking to make such investments tend to be hands-on with their CPU’s. Installing and upgrading your CPU on your own can help save a lot of extra costs. Installing an air cooling unit is relatively simple, all you need to do is get your screwdriver out. While turning some screws and installing an air cool unit may be simple, a liquid cooling unit is hard to put together. The materials used in a liquid cooling unit need to be just right. Any deterioration in quality can lead to a leak which spells disaster for your CPU.

Furthermore getting the parts together is an arduous task. The water block needs to fit, and you need tubing, a pump, a reservoir, a radiator, and a fan for the radiator as well. Larger sized radiators will require more fans. The complications don’t stop there; the tubing needs to be looped around your rig correctly. Making the loops isn’t very simple, it’s a somewhat complicated process that ensures the liquid flows around smoothly, any fault in the pipe could disrupt the entire flow. CPU water cooling will require a lot of maintenance as well, which takes a toll on the mind and the wallet. If you haven’t handled a liquid cooling system before, be sure to test your initial designs outside of your rig to avoid any water damage. Judging from convenience Air cooling units are the superior option.

Water Cooling Unit Model

When it comes to performance, however, no air cool unit can match liquid cooling units. According to the laws of physics, heat travels faster in water than it does in air. A liquid cooling unit will perform much better than an air cooling unit and can help break performance benchmarks that air cooling units cannot reach. In addition to this liquid cool units are much more efficient and make very little noise. Air cooling units are reliant on fans and when these work overtime they make a lot of noise. The noise fans emit can be incredibly annoying and fitting your CPU with liquid cool will create a world of a difference. In addition to this, liquid cooling is much more flexible. Liquid cooling allows you to target specific components much more readily than Air cooling units. For those of you out there that are looking to get as much juice out of the CPU as possible, you’ll need the flexibility of a liquid cooling unit. Regarding performance and efficiency, the liquid cool unit beat the air cool unit by a mile.

Liquid cooling units also look incredibly stunning, with the different hues and water flowing. Most owners tend to buy glass cases to show off their setup correctly. Not only do they look fantastic owning a liquid cooled pc marks your ascent to the PC master race. Owning a liquid cooled unit will make you much cooler in the eyes of hardcore PC owners.

When taking into consideration the performance factors it is easy to see that the liquid cooling vs air cooling battle goes to liquid cooling. Yet due to it’s excessive, pricing the question remains is liquid cooling worth it? The answer can be yes and no as well depending on the type of CPU you’re looking to build. For a CPU that you aren’t going to use to the edge of its performance, CPU water cooling may not be worth it. If you’re not looking to overclock your machine an air cooler will be sufficient. However, for those of you on the quest for the pinnacle in performance, a liquid cooling unit is definitely worth it.