Many PC gamers build their own gaming rigs, as it is usually cheaper to purchase individual components and install them yourself.
For this reason, we are often faced with a decision to make – should we use air-cooling or liquid-cooling to keep our processors cool?
We have compared performance data of various air and liquid-cooling products to make that decision easier.
Although gamers can also choose to use liquid-cooling on their GPUs, we will only be comparing performance of CPU coolers.
Liquid-cooling involves the use of liquid to dissipate heat from and cool electronics.
PC liquid-cooling setups generally consists of some combination of a cooling block, radiator, pump and reservoir.
A liquid-cooling loop allows for quieter operation and supposedly better temperatures.
However, liquid-cooling is usually more expensive than air-cooling, and with some setups, the extra cost may not be justified.
Air-cooling is the most common form of PC cooling, as it is the default CPU and GPU cooling option, with most cases being set up to provide a constant and directional airflow.
Although most processors come equipped with a stock air cooler (consisting of a heatsink and fan), this can be replaced with a more powerful aftermarket product in order to greatly improve temperatures.
Because surface area plays a central role in heat dissipation, these aftermarket coolers are generally quite large and can be outfitted with different fans depending on the user’s needs.
Air-cooling is traditionally the cheaper option, as it is cheaper to buy a heatsink and fan as opposed to an all-in-one liquid-cooling loop.
Although liquid-cooling is more expensive and offers quieter, cooler performance than air-cooling, is the performance difference big enough to justify its expense?
To find out, we collated various noise and cooling tests performed on a variety of coolers which directly measure the difference in performance between air and liquid-cooling.
Check out an eight-cooler performance comparison below, courtesy of Reddit user Pianowned:
|4.2GHz OC Processor @ Full Fan Speed|
Noise Level (dB)
|Cooler Master Glacer 240L||44.5||56|
|Cooler Master Eisberg Prestige 240L||47.25||47|
|Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer||55.5||41|
|Cooler Master Seidon 120V Plus||55.75||43|
|Thermalright Silver Arrow IB-E||52.25||38|
|Cooler Master Hyper 612 V2||56.25||37|
According to the above data, although air-cooling is less effective at reducing temperature, it maintains a lower noise level under heavy load than most liquid-cooling loops.
Obviously, coolers of either variety will be more effective at cooling or reducing noise depending on design.
For now, if you are building a gaming PC and are not partial to any particular form of cooling, feel free to use either liquid-cooling or air-cooling depending on your budget and needs, as neither offers a distinctly large advantage over the other.