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Air cooling vs Water Cooling

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shaneboruff 2 days ago

Looking to build my first PC and I'm trying to figure out if air cooling or water cooling is the better route to go and why? I want to run an Intel i-7. Just looking for some general input as well and any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

What ill mainly be doing: - Editing on Adobe LR and PS - Skype calls - Maybe 1 or 2 PC games? - Regular internet browsing

Comments Sorted by:

Radox-0 5 Builds 2 points 2 days ago

There are good coolers on both the Air and AIO side. Plenty of the good air coolers on the market, Noctua NH-DH 15, Scythe Fyma, Dark Rock Pro 4 etc all compete fairly respectably with the popular AIO's on the market. The latter tend to be more popular as they are all the rage / aesthetics, though personally things like Dark Rock Pro 4 look awesome. AIO's do have some benefits in that they work easier with tall RAM compared with the larger Air coolers which may overhang some slots.

What CPU are you looking at exactly? and if unlocked do you plan to overclock? A solid air cooler will manage with all bar the most high end stuff (HEDT) when overclocked.

shaneboruff submitter 1 point 2 days ago

I plan on getting an Intel Core i7-8700k 3.7GHz 6-Core and I don't plan on overclocking unless its necessary for when im editing photos. Thats what ill mainly be doing with this computer, its for editing photos.

sdinma 1 Build 1 point 2 days ago

Either of the air coolers mentioned above would be great for the 8700K. As far as AIO's, a 280mm AIO like the Corsair H115i Pro, Kraken X62, or EVGA CLC 280 would work well, too.

Tetsuclaw 5 Builds 2 points 1 day ago

Air coolers vs AIO coolers, both have pros and cons. I will not include aesthetics as a pro or con as what looks better depends on the person.


  • Great performance for 240mm AIOs or larger.
  • No Ram clearance issues so you can use the tallest ram you can find if wanted
  • Easy to install

AIO Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Due to having more moving parts has more things that can possibly break down such as pumps and leaks
  • As due to said more moving parts has more parts that can make noise
  • If something breaks other than a fan chances are you need to RMA or replace entire cooler

Air Pro

  • Often very affordable
  • Price to performance
  • higher end air coolers can perform as well if not better than some 240mm AIO liquid coolers
  • Only has fans that can really fail and fans are easy to replace
  • Less noise than AIOs as both uses fans but no other moving parts on air coolers. Can also use low noise fans too

Air Cons

  • Higher end coolers can take up a lot of room and need to aim for low profile ram for some coolers
  • Some can be harder to install due to the size and style of bracket (many are still easy)

Now failures on AIOs are things that can happen but not necessarily something that will happen within the life of a PC. Both types have a large selection of great coolers and various budgets. Myself I do prefer air coolers and run a Dark Rock Pro 3 and I really enjoy that cooler. I won't make fun of someone for using an AIO either as they are also a great option. You want to cool an i7-8700k and stated you likely wont overclock but haven't fully ruled that possibility out and for that CPU you can get both air coolers and AIOs that will allow you to OC on that chip and keep the CPU within safe temps. I would look at price and how effective a cooler is and what you like the looks of.

If you are really sensitive to PC noise but want to OC then get a Dark Rock Pro 4 or a NH-D15 or if you are really worried about reliability then air coolers with more than 1 fan has more redundancy for reliability. If you choose an AIO then generally it will last the life of the PC without an issue so reliability isn't a huge concern for most people.

I am just glad that the question of AIO or Air cooler isn't as heated of debate as PC/Mac or AMD/Intel lol.

shaneboruff submitter 1 point 1 day ago

Thanks for your feedback too, I really appreciate it. In your honest opinion if I’m just going to be editing on PS and LR, would I need an AIO or you think air cooling would just be fine?

Tetsuclaw 5 Builds 1 point 1 day ago

There are options on both air cooling and AIO. A Dark Rock 4 (non pro) will be ample to cool that CPU on stock settings or mild OC if you want to take an air cooler route. Here is a video showing how capable that cooler can be. A Dark Rock Pro 4 or a NH-D15 from Noctua will hold their own against a 240MM AIO and actually beats some of them in performance.

Sure there will be some variance between AIOs with the same size radiators but there is also the laws of thermodynamics the larger the radiator the more heat it can disperse from the loop. Basically 240mm AIOs cool better than 120MM AIOs and 280MM AIOS cool better than 240mm ones. Just about any 240mm AIO will be ample if you choose that route but I would avoid the absolute cheapest due to build quality, there is a reason why they are the absolute cheapest.

I got the older Dark Rock Pro 3 on a R7 1800x OC to 4ghz @ 1.381v and these are the temps I get. The Dark Rock pro 3 is much like the Pro 4 but the Pro 4 has a better mounting bracket and uses a new type of ceramic paint for a darker black. They both have about the same cooling performance. With all that in mind along with the points I listed before just get what you think looks best and are most comfortable with between an air cooler or AIO.

Personally I like the looks of a nice air cooler over an AIO aside from the extra peace of mind of less moving parts and less noise. Some people prefer the looks of an AIO to the point they will buy one for a locked i3-8100 when the stock cooler is ample to keep it cool. People will pay extra for aesthetics they like even if it doesn't add performance and how much they are willing to pay for it changes from person to person. I won't say that is wrong but as long as they understand what they are spending money on.

shaneboruff submitter 1 point 1 day ago

Thanks, thats my post too haha. I was reading what you said on there.

pcbldragain 1 point 2 days ago

I went with air on my amd build because I read some gamers were getting aio failures at 2 years, now maybe they run their rigs 24/7 IDK. I wont be doing huge OC and sometimes I leave the PC on all day doing non game stuff, I'm not a hardcore gamer, and plan to upgrade this for many years. That said some of the smaller coolers can be loud, so if you want quiet check reviews or ask here/etc. The larger ones can be quieter as they have to work less and have larger fans. The huge ones may not fit some cases and memory clearance in some. I got a huge one the 612 hyper, its like softball size so be aware some of them are really big. But it has a slower fan on it and is fairly quiet like I want, its not the best for big OC because of that but fan can be changed if needed. Maybe I could use a medium size but it was 45 not a bad price so hope its quiet. If your PC is on the floor or something you may not care as much about noise, mine will be desktop. I agree the dark rocks and noctua are some of the best ones I looked at those.

shaneboruff submitter 1 point 2 days ago

Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

pcbldragain 1 point 2 days ago

AIO is 'cool' these days and cool well, and pretty quiet. They may be for you, I was just explaining why I went air. And hey I can always buy one if I want to.

DrLitch 1 Build 1 point 20 hours ago

There are Pros and Cons to Air Cooling and Liquid Cooling.

Performance wise, not much difference if using two decent models. A couple of degrees tops. I have often found Air Cooling working better than Liquid Cooling when using an AIO model, particularly for 120mm or 140mm radiators. 240mm radiators they are typically within a degree or two of each other. 360mm radiator is when AIO's play nicely with big overclocks and have notable advantages against air cooling.

Air cooling has drawbacks. Mini ITX Build? Awkward aesthetic. Air coolers, very good ones, can be large and there is no guarantee you will get one in the case. Low profile air coolers can be performance compromised - as in they will work well on stock or mildly OC rigs. Extreme OC, CPU will run very hot. In my ITX build, tried a Noctua Low Profile Air Cooler and the i9-9900K nearly fried when I started OC'ing. At stock clocks ran fine though. Finally, although a personal thing, if you have tempered glass windows, many air coolers present themselves as a big old hunk of aluminum with a fan or two attached. Not very attractive.

Liquid cooling of the AIO variety are very generous regarding CPU and Ram clearance. It is a nice small block that fits neatly over the CPU. All you need in your PC case is room for a 240mm or 360mm radiator. I find the pipes a little stiff for my liking but for the most part, these AIO give a neat and pleasing aesthetic to a build. There are AIO's out there you can customize yourself - i.e. Swiftech, Alphacool, EKWB all have configurable models, you pick the radiator, color of tubing etc etc... Alphacool has an interesting one where the reservoir mounts on the CPU block!

For me personally, a custom DIY liquid cooling look is all I use. Performs the best and has the greatest range of customization options out there. Drawback? Most expensive by far, can outcost the CPU and GPU combined!