When you overclock a pc for peak performance, cooling the CPU becomes extremely important. Especially when you are gaming at high resolution or rendering 4k videos the CPU overheats; overheated CPU consumes more energy, lowers the performance, and might do serious damage to other critical components of the PC. Choosing the right temperature control solution, keeps the system safe and prevents it from overheating.
The most effective CPU temperature controlling solution is CPU coolers. CPU coolers are safe and can be personalized to give unique look to your PC. When we talk about CPU coolers we generally refer to Air CPU coolers and AIO CPU coolers. There are other CPU coolers like custom liquid CPU coolers but those technologies are complex, expensive, and risky. But how do you choose the best cooler for your PC?
We have your back; here are 5 factors to consider when selecting the right CPU cooler for your PC.
Air CPU Cooler or AIO CPU Cooler
When you think of buying a CPU cooler, the first question that comes to your head, is which CPU cooling system is the best air CPU cooler or the AIO CPU cooler?
Air cooler and AIO coolers work in very different ways, air coolers as the name suggests works by transferring the heat through the air, on the other hand, the AIO coolers use liquid, mainly water, to transfer heat away from the CPU and other components of the system.
Air CPU Coolers
Air coolers are the most commonly used CPU cooling systems in a PC. Air CPU coolers are durable, cost-efficient, and easier to install compare to AIO coolers. It is the safest CPU cooling system and requires the least amount of maintenance. Air cooling systems are ideal if you are trying to build a cost-efficient PC.
Air CPU coolers have a metal plate which is attached to the CPU by applying thermal paste in between, this plate transfer the heat into a metal area with compartments called ‘heat sink’, the air inside the heat sink absorbs the heat and fans which are connected with the heat sink pushes the heated air out the system. The heat sink has a large surface area to absorb the heat from the CPU efficiently.
Air CPU coolers tend to big and take more space in the case than AIO cooler. When shopping for air CPU coolers, always measure the dimension and compatibility of the system then choose the cooler according to the free space. Air CPU coolers are not easily customizable, few do come with RGB and accents but most of the air CPU coolers tend to have bulky looks.
Air CPU Cooler Pros
- Cost-efficient: CPU air cooling systems are a budget-friendly way to cool the system
- Enough for some users: Air CPU coolers work well and easily handles the high temperature unless you are overclocking the system, playing games at 4k resolution, or rendering heavy 4k videos.
- Easy to mount: Air CPU coolers are easy to install, just apply the paste, lock some screws and securely plug in the cables.
Air CPU Cooler Cons
- Bulky: Air CPU coolers are quite bulky and take space in the middle of the case, due to their size and sometimes wrong space management in the system, it causes problems to access other components such as RAM.
- Noisy: Air CPU coolers only reply on fans to cool down the CPU, often fans spin at high RPM and can be pretty audible compare to AIO CPU coolers.
- Not ideal for overclocked PC: when you are building a pc for intense tasks such as high graphics gaming, then an air CPU cooler might not be enough.
AIO CPU Coolers
AIO CPU coolers are liquid cooling systems. All-in-one (AIO) coolers take less space compare to air CPU coolers. AIOs also provide better cooling because the liquid is used to cool down the system and liquid is a better heat manager than air. The main reason why these liquid coolers are popular is that AIOs are highly customizable, many brands make AIOs that are loaded with RBG and accents.
The liquid CPU cooling system works by circulating the water through water blocks and radiators, these water blocks are placed above the base plate that is attached to the CPU. The water in blocks absorbs the heat from the CPU and circulates to the radiators, where fans expose heated water to the air, cooling the water down, the cooled down water then returns to the water blocks, and this cycle repeats over and over.
AIOs are complex and a little tricky than air CPU coolers and tend to be more expensive as well. AIO are also quieter than air CPU coolers. In the past couple of years, AIOs have improved, however, there is a minor risk of leakage in AIOs. You don’t have to worry about compatibility as almost all systems support AIOs.
When shopping for AIO CPU coolers, you should always get the best ones in the market because they offer more durability and safety. check out our list of the top best AIOs in the market for more details.
AIO CPU Cooler Cons
- Expensive: AIOs are complex and more advance than air CPU coolers and even more expensive. Even the most basic type of liquid coolers are costly.
- Installation can be difficult: in AIO, there are different pieces to take care of; you have to install each component with care and precision.
- Constant maintenance: AIOs are complex and sometimes liquid cooling systems can fail. Leaking of liquid can be dangerous to your PC.
AIO CPU Cooler Pros
- Quieter: AIO CPU coolers are quieter than any other cooling system. The fans in radiators are slow operating as compared to fans attached with the heat sink in air CPU coolers.
- Better heat regulators: liquid CPU cooling systems are better in regulating heat because water is best at adjusting the temperature than air. If you are overclocking your PC then AIOs are a good option.
- Better looking: many AIO’s come with LED water blocks and RGB regulator fans. It can enhance your system’s aesthetics.
Which CPU Cooler is Good for You?
The function and the cost of a CPU cooler depends on the usage of your PC. If you use your PC mainly for office work, editing text, or presentations, then a liquid CPU cooler will be too much for you, however, an air CPU cooler will be enough to cool down your PC. But, if you are someone who likes to play games at 4k resolution, render heavy files, or develops software then an AIO will be sufficient.
Some users do super intense tasks on their PC, and sometimes even a good AIO CPU cooler doesn’t work for them. For such users, custom liquid cooling is ideal. More than Often an AIO is enough for a heavy user.
Here is the list of top-pick CPU coolers for heavy users.
How much should you Spend?
Building a PC is expensive and budget is the first thing everyone considers. In the budget segment, air CPU coolers dominate over AIO CPU coolers. Generally, the price of a good brand basic air cooler starts from $20-$25 (around 1800 INR), and the most expensive and advance one can be around $100 (around 7200 INR) which is still relatively cheaper than AIO CPU coolers.
On the other hand, AIO CPU coolers’ basic models start from $50-$60 (around 4400 INR) and the advance ones can go over to $200 (around 14,500 INR). The size of the radiator and RGB lights and accents also add up to the cost. We have listed some of the best budget air and AIO CPU coolers for your PC.
And if you are thinking of building a custom loop cooling system, then the total cost will be off the chart, it has more components than an AIO CPU cooler like water blocks, radiator, pipes, tubes, and fittings. The prices of all the components the cost will be very high. Regardless of price, the custom liquid coolers are not recommended because of the risk and dangers with it.
If you compare the overall price to cooling ratio, then the air coolers come on top.
Compatibility and CPU Sockets
Most Air and AIO CPU coolers support a variety of systems, when choosing the right CPU cooler just make sure it’s not too big for your system case. Often cooler height and radiator size don’t fit into cases so, it’s better to use a tower case.
It’s important to look at the specs of your case, whether it supports the dimension of your heat sink and radiator or not. There should be enough space between RAM slots and the cooler, especially when using DIMMs with heat spreaders on them, make sure that there is good spacing above the motherboard for memory.
In the case of CPU sockets, most CPU coolers provide mounting hardware for Intel and AMD including Intel 2066, 1200, and 2011-v3 sockets and AMD AM2, AM3, and AM4 sockets. Large threadripper CPUs have their mount and plate preinstalled so finding a cooler for them can be a little difficult. If you are still a bit confused then check out these CPU coolers with support for all systems.
One minor problem people face is when their system doesn’t support RGB lights on fans. Make sure your motherboard supports RGB so you can control them without turning off your PC.
Quiet and Customizable CPU Coolers
Apart from all the technical aspects of a CPU cooler, a good CPU cooler should be comfortable and customizable, to make the PC look aesthetical and give that feeling of ‘it’s mine’.
When talking about quieter fan noise, most AIO CPU coolers win because of their liquid cooling system, and the radiators spin at low RPM, on the other hand, air CPU coolers rotate at very high speed. The fans are the main component to reduce the temperature so as the temperature increases, the noise increases with it.
However, large CPU coolers produce less noise than smaller ones because when you increase the surface area of the heat sink or the radiator and apply larger fans, it reduces the temperature at a higher rate and fans don’t have to rotate at high speed.
Overall, AIO CPU coolers are less audible than air CPU coolers. If you have trouble finding quiet CPU coolers, then check our list of the quietest CPU coolers.
But if you primarily focus on personalization and aesthetics, then AIO CPU cooler and custom liquid cooling system is a lot more pleasing to look at, than air cooling systems. Air CPU coolers have larger heat sink and fans and customizing them is a bit tricky, they also cover components like RGB RAMs and boards.
AIO CPU coolers and custom liquid cooling systems often come with RGB and ambient lights on water blocks and radiator fans not only that, with a supported system, the lights can be controlled into desired colors and patterns.
AIO CPU coolers are the best when it comes to quieter noise and aesthetics.
When you are pushing the limits of your PC or overclocking it to its highest potential or maybe want a quieter PC, then you should look for a CPU cooler.
CPU coolers are about increasing the life span of your system and while providing more power to the system. Buy the right CPU cooler for your system depends on your Usage, budget, and performance, nevertheless, it can be a great accessory to give more detail to your PC.
If you are an everyday user or uses a Ryzen chip, then you should save some money by sticking to the stock cooler that comes in the box.
Before getting a CPU cooler, check out for space in the case and TDP of your CPU chip. In the case of damage, it’s better to let a professional handle the problem for you.