When it comes to cooling, there is a ratio required that involves cost-effectivity. Cost effectivity is how cool will the cooler maintain the core and at what cost.
Now, there are other factors involved such as dimensions, where water coolers are much larger than air coolers since they require a larger body to hold the water securely and with no possibility of leakage to maintain a liquid thermal transfer through flexible hosing.
Consider that the best models are hybrids that combine the best of both worlds – check the recent article on Newegg.
Taking a closer look at the cooling process, you have to consider that a top-mounted model is best for air coolers that require a “radiator” with heat sinks and blowers to actively blow cool air onto the surface.
Over time, air generally heats up around the CPU, and you end up with air coolers blowing constantly heated air, which eventually loses its effectivity when CPU’s are pushed to their limits, and also consider the other environmental conditions of the room the CPU is located within.
When considering the modes of operation, you also have to factor in other components surrounding the CPU, such as graphics cards that come with air coolers and heat sinks.
These two contribute to the dispersion of hot air in the box, and as such, and air cooler is only going to be effective if it can blow cold air over a hot surface.
There are exceptions to the rules, and before I go into water coolers, I will present the case of large air coolers that provide cooling properties to CPU’s and GPU’s at the same time.
These big air coolers come with an impressive array of heat pipes and in some instances will work better than standard water coolers.
Also, you need to consider that air coolers are much quieter than water coolers since water coolers use a pump and that churns out noise much higher than a standard fan.
Other issues are size, where big air coolers match water coolers and trade blows in sound and size.
When you take the Kraken X61 liquid cooler and compare it to the Noctua NH-D15, you find that they are similar in size, with the Noctua being significantly quieter and with less expense. The main difference is that liquid coolers are focused and reduce heat locally, which is impressive when compared to how air coolers work.
The difference in price is mainly since air coolers don’t have pumps, and pumps are expensive little items to add.
Also, the design features of an air cooler do not require a sealed system, since they only pump air.
A water cooler has to have a sealed system. Otherwise, the water will leak out and short the CPU. Other factors in favor of air coolers are the very same reason around sealed systems.
Most systems come with micropores, and water eventually evaporates and dries up. Also, noise, as mentioned above, fans have lower noise than pumps.
In favor of water, coolers are size when compared to the big air cooler units.
Best CPU Coolers for i7 7700k & i7 8700k
The big air cooler units might work better than most water coolers and are cheaper and quieter, but they are big. So when you have a size issue, you cannot argue with the outcome.
Now we come down to the crunch, is your system stationary or mobile?
The BEST Cooling Solution - Air or Water - FINAL ANSWER
If you move around a lot and take your system with you, you don’t want an air-mounted unit. These are notorious for breaking off their mounts during transport.
When this happens, you end up destroying the system due to metal to metal contact. As such, water coolers, being direct contact and secured to the CPU are a more versatile option for traveling units.
|Air Cooler||Big Air Cooler||Water Cooler|
|Price||Cheapest||Middle to Expensive||Expensive|
|Size||Small||Medium to Large||Large|
|Effectivity – Sound||Noisy||Silent||Noisy|
|Effectivity – Cooling||Worst||Best||Best|