Air Coolers vs. Liquid Cooling: The Reason Behind Sticking with Traditional Cooling Methods

After more than a decade of working with PC hardware, I’ve finally made a firm decision: I’m sticking with air coolers over liquid cooling heatsinks. While liquid cooling offers advantages like efficient heat dissipation, minimal noise, and an aesthetic appeal, my extensive experience has led me to a different choice. In this article, I’ll explain why.

Every aspect of PC components, including cooling solutions, comes with its pros and cons. High-quality products tend to be expensive, while budget options may compromise on quality or performance. When comparing liquid cooling (AIO) heatsinks to air heatsinks, cost becomes a significant factor, with AIO systems being notably more expensive. However, the decision to favor air cooling wasn’t solely driven by cost. Let’s dive into the details.

liquid cooling heatsink

Why I Prefer Air Coolers

1. Ease of Installation:

While AIO liquid cooling systems are relatively straightforward to install, air coolers are even simpler. This ease of installation is particularly appreciated if, like me, you regularly disassemble your PC for thorough cleaning.

2. Durability:

Over time, AIO liquid cooling systems tend to develop issues, such as noisy pumps, cracked tubes, or reduced thermal efficiency due to coolant evaporation. In contrast, air coolers have no expiration date. When a fan starts to malfunction, you can easily replace it.

3. Noise Levels:

If you’re a stickler for silence, air coolers generally produce less noise than liquid coolers. Even at idle, the faint hum of the pump in AIO systems can be noticeable, whereas most 120mm fans running below 700 rpm are virtually silent.

4. Cost-Effectiveness:

Top-tier air coolers are significantly more affordable than mid-range liquid coolers. The highest-quality air coolers may cost more than twice as much as their liquid counterparts.

Despite knowing that AIO liquid cooling could offer slightly better thermal performance, I made the switch to an air cooler, specifically the Noctua NH-D15 This decision resulted in a minor loss of approximately 3ºC in processor temperature, but the overall advantages of air cooling outweighed the slight performance dip.

I want to clarify that my intention is not to dissuade anyone from choosing liquid cooling systems. They come with their own set of advantages, and depending on your needs and preferences, they may be the better option for you. My perspective is based on my personal experience, and I remain open to using an AIO kit in the future. If I come across a liquid cooling solution that proves to be exceptionally quiet, reliable, and efficient in my analyses, it might just change my mind. For now, though, I’ll stick with air coolers.