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AIO Vs. Air Cooler: Which CPU Cooler Should You Choose?

By: Henz Llarves | Date Posted: July 15, 2022

AIO Vs. Air Cooler: Which CPU Cooler Should You Choose?

With today’s CPUs being so powerful, it is critical to have a decent cooler to prevent your system from thermal throttling. Every generation raises the TDP, as well as the heat produced.

Overclocking becomes popular among those who want to extract a little extra performance from their CPUs, which leads them to invest in an aftermarket cooler because the stock cooler may not be able to handle the additional heat.

There are two types of CPU coolers: air coolers and liquid coolers. This article is going to compare and contrast the two so that you can make an informed decision on which CPU cooler is right for you.

Air and AIO Liquid Cooler In A Nutshell

The two main types of CPU coolers are air coolers and AIO liquid coolers. An air cooler, as the name suggests, uses airflow to dissipate heat from the CPU. Air coolers are the traditional style of CPU coolers. They use heat pipes and fins to transfer heat away from the CPU and into the surrounding air. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with most being tower-style coolers with a large heatsink and multiple fans.

AIO liquid coolers, or All-In-One liquid coolers, on the other hand, use a closed-loop liquid cooling system to cool the CPU. The water is circulated around the block that attaches to the CPU, with cold water being drawn in from the radiator and heated water being expelled back into the radiator.

Now you have an idea of the two types of CPU coolers, let’s take a look at their pros and cons.

Air Cooler Pros

Air cooler in an ATX Mid Tower case

Much Cheaper

Air coolers are typically much cheaper than AIO liquid coolers. This is because they use less sophisticated technology and don’t require a pump or reservoir. They also don’t need any custom parts or tubing, whereas AIO liquid coolers do.

Easier to Install

Air coolers are also much easier to install than AIO liquid coolers. There is no custom tubing to worry about and you don’t need to worry about filling the system with the correct amount of coolant. All you need to do is attach the cooler to the CPU, mount the fans, and plug them in.

Come in a Variety of Shapes and Sizes

Air coolers also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This gives you more options to choose from when looking for a cooler that will fit your case. You can find air coolers that are large, small, tall, short, and everything in between.

Low Maintenance

Air coolers are also very easy to maintain. All you need to do is keep the fans clean and free of dust and debris, and you will be good to go.

Big Air Coolers Can Rival Some AIOs

Lastly, some air coolers can rival AIO liquid coolers in terms of performance. This is because they have a large heatsink and multiple fans, which allows them to dissipate more heat than a typical AIO liquid cooler. Noctua NH-D15 is a great example of this.

Air Cooler Cons

Not as Quiet as AIOs

One big downside of air coolers is that they are not as quiet as AIO liquid coolers. This is because the fans tend to spin at full speed most of the time, in order to dissipate the heat as quickly as possible.

Tend to Have Lower Thermal Efficiency

Air coolers also tend to have lower thermal efficiency than AIO liquid coolers. This means that they are not as good at transferring heat away from the CPU and into the surrounding air. As a result, they tend to run a bit hotter than AIO liquid coolers.

They Can Be Bulky

Air coolers can also be bulky, which can be a problem if you don’t have much room inside your case. This is because they need to have plenty of space around them so that the air can flow freely.

Not that Aesthetically Pleasing

Lastly, air coolers are not known for their aesthetics. They are typically very large and look like a traditional heatsink. This can be a turnoff for some people.

AIO Liquid Cooler Pros

NZXT Kraken X73 RGB

More Efficient

AIO liquid coolers are more efficient than air coolers. This is because they use a closed-loop liquid cooling system which allows them to move more heat away from the CPU. They also have a larger surface area than air coolers, which allows them to dissipate heat more effectively.

Quieter Than Air Coolers

AIO liquid coolers are also typically quieter than air coolers. This is because the fans on an AIO liquid cooler typically spin slower (not at full usage most of the time) than the fans on an air cooler. This results in less noise being emitted from the cooler.

More Compact

Most cases nowadays can accommodate a 360mm radiator at the front, therefore almost any AIO water cooling system currently available will fit any case, unlike air coolers with enormous towers that sometimes exceed the side panel.

Better Aesthetics

Lastly, AIO liquid coolers tend to look better than air coolers. They have a sleek design and are not as bulky as air coolers. This makes them a better choice for people who care about aesthetics.

AIO Liquid Cooler Cons

AIO Liquid cooler with RGB

More Expensive

One downside of AIO liquid coolers is that they are more expensive than air coolers. This is because they use more sophisticated technology and require more parts.

Can Leak

AIO liquid coolers can also leak, which can be a problem if you don’t have a way to drain the system. This is because the water will eventually overflow and cause damage to your hardware.

Installation Can Be Tricky

Installation of an AIO liquid cooler can be tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with how they work. There are a lot of small parts that can easily be misplaced, so it’s important to be careful when installing one.

More Complicated Than Air Coolers

AIO liquid coolers are also more complicated than air coolers. This is because they have more parts and a more sophisticated cooling system. As a result, they require more maintenance and are more difficult to install.

Prone to a Number of Problems

Lastly, AIO liquid coolers are prone to a variety of faults. This is because they use intricate technology that can easily break down. As a result, they require more care and maintenance than air coolers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does Your CPU Need Cooling?

Your computer’s CPU is the most important part of the whole system. It’s responsible for all the calculations and operations that make everything work – from browsing the web to playing the latest games. And like any other component in your computer, it produces heat while working. If that heat isn’t removed, it will eventually cause damage to your CPU, resulting in a decrease in performance or even complete failure. So, it’s essential to keep your CPU cool if you want it to last and run at its best.

What are Stock CPU Coolers?

Most CPUs come with a stock CPU cooler. This is a small, simple heatsink and fan that’s designed to remove some of the heat generated by the CPU. It’s usually enough to keep the CPU at an optimal temperature under light or moderate use, but if you’re doing anything more strenuous such as gaming, overclocking, or any CPU-intensive activity, it may not be up to the task.

What are Aftermarket CPU Coolers?

If you need something more powerful than a stock CPU cooler, you can buy an aftermarket CPU cooler. These are the ones that can be bought separately from the CPU and range in price and performance. They usually have bigger heatsinks and more powerful fans, making them better suited for more demanding tasks.

What is Overclocking?

Overclocking is the process of increasing the speed of your CPU. This can be done either by changing the settings in your BIOS or by using a software overclocking program. Overclocking can cause your CPU to run hotter, so you’ll need a cooler that’s up for the challenge if you want to try it.

Aftermarket Cooler Buying Guide


When choosing a CPU cooler, there are many things that need to be considered. One of the main factors is your budget and what you can afford so it will depend on how much money someone has set aside for this purpose or whether they’re going through liquid cooling instead!

The Workload You Are Doing

If you will only use your PC for light activities such as browsing the web or checking your email, then you don’t need a high-end CPU cooler. However, if you are into gaming, 3D rendering, or video editing then you will require more performance and should get a better CPU cooler.

Check the Case Clearance

The size of the CPU cooler also matters, you have to make sure that the cooler will fit into your case. Some cases have limited space and cannot fit big coolers so it is important to check this information before making a purchase.

Verdict: Which One Is Better for You?

The debate between air CPU coolers and AIO liquid coolers has been going on for a long time. Some people swear by one or the other, while others can’t decide which is superior. So, which should you pick?

We’ve compiled a list of the benefits and drawbacks of each, as well as a buying guide, so we assume you already know what you’re looking for. In the end, it’s all about personal preferences. Air CPU coolers are cheaper and easier to install, but they can’t quite match the performance of an AIO liquid cooler. If you’re looking for the best possible performance and don’t mind spending a bit more, then an AIO liquid cooler is definitely the way to go. Both come with pros and cons, so make sure you read the whole article to help you make the best decision for your needs.

Henz Llarves

Henz Llarves

I'm Henz Llarves and I'm passionate about writing and gaming. I've been building gaming PCs for a long time, and I've been writing about them as well.

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