Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling – which is better?


Air cooling and Liquid cooling both have pros and cons. When you’re building a new computer, it’s important to consider these factors before deciding which is right for you.


A liquid cooling system usually contains several components. There’s the radiator(s), pump(s), waterblock(s) (radiator/heatsink/etc.), tubing, reservoir(s), and a fan or fans on the radiator to disperse heat. These products all fit together in order to dissipate heat more efficiently than air-cooled alternatives by using coolant/cooling liquid inside of your PC case. The benefits of this greatly outweigh having an air-cooled computer because high-performance components get too hot without proper air circulation.

Air-cooled computers essentially heat sinks with fans to circulate airflow throughout the case. The heat is absorbed by aluminum or copper fins, heated air is blown out of the case through the fan, and cooler air flows back in to take its place. This process can be very noisy as well as inefficient because it’s hard for fans to push hot air up off components that are mounted on the motherboard (video card, northbridge chipsets, etc.). Fans tend to blow all around these heatsinks pushing down warm air into neighboring areas rather than pulling cool air up over them as a liquid cooling system does.

Liquid cooling systems do not rely on massive heatsinks/fans to move coolant across hot components. Instead, cooling fluid is pumped through a narrow tube that surrounds the hot device to be cooled (usually a CPU or video card). The liquid absorbs heat from the device and then flows into a radiator unit where it boils off the excess heat to the air. This happens very slowly because liquids evaporate much more slowly than gases. In fact, aluminum radiators are often used in refrigeration systems because of their superior heat-dissipating ability.


If you’re worried about noise, then either system could provide some relief here because all water/liquid coolers must use some form of a fan or pump to move coolant across hot devices so the “hiss” factor is always present.


And if you’re worried about cost, then again there’s no difference between the two systems because high-end liquid cooling systems can be very expensive. All in all, if you want superior cooling power and quiet operations, consider fluid cooling (Liquid Cooling) but it may not be cost-effective or feasible in every situation.

3 reasons why Liquid Cooling might be better than Air Cooling

  1. Superior heat transfer abilities; Liquids absorb heat more readily than air so coolant will result in much slower component temperatures at average system load conditions.
  2. Therefore, less fan noise; Fans that push air over hot components produce the familiar ‘whoosh’ noise. This is always more pronounced in liquid-cooled systems which have much slower component temperatures, therefore less fan noise is required to maintain safe operating speeds.
  3. Improved stability through cooling range extension; Many extreme overclockers will already know that overclocking results are often limited by “cold bug” – the moment at which a processor or video card is so cold that it won’t boot at all, or crashes as soon as it’s put under load. Since water can absorb much more heat than air (water has 4x the specific heat capacity of air), you’ll be able to cool your system with impunity even if ambient temperatures drop below zero degrees C!


Whether you’re a casual gamer, a serious artist, or a professional video editor, your computer is going to run up against its limits eventually – and that’s where overclocking comes in.

Overclocking allows you to push your CPU beyond its rated specifications, letting it work more efficiently and at higher speeds than originally intended. This can make it perform tasks much faster; for example, an overclocked CPU could let the average user build complex 3D models in half the time as usual.

However, overclocking isn’t without risks: pushing your CPU too hard can actually damage it over time. If overheating becomes severe enough, it can even cause system failure. For this reason, many PC enthusiasts choose to use water cooling in conjunction with air cooling, to protect their CPU from overheating. Water is an excellent heat conductor, but also an expensive one.

Air-cooling makes more sense when you have multiple components in your system that generate excess heat. If your CPU is the only component pushing up your thermal levels, water-cooling can be a more efficient way of keeping things cool and stable over time.

Water-coolers are also much larger than standard heatsinks, which means they will take up valuable real estate inside your case. Many cases are not designed to accommodate these bulky items, making them difficult to install properly and often leading to compatibility issues down the line.

While overclocking is usually done to improve system performance, it puts more stress on your CPU and can make standard cooling methods less effective. At stock speeds, the likelihood of getting heart issues is low, making air-cooling a better option for casual users looking to optimize their cooling solutions with an upgrade.

Air-based cooling also tends to be much cheaper than water-cooling setups, which can cost hundreds of dollars extra depending on how complicated you want the system to be. Water coolers are not difficult to install but do require some knowledge about water pressure inside of pneumatic systems in order to keep everything running smoothly. Air coolers are simple enough that almost anyone should have no problems setting up.

Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling – The Verdict

So there you have it; liquid cooling is clearly superior to air cooling, and that’s why almost all extreme gamers and overclockers use it. It offers far more flexibility in terms of parts selection (you can even get water blocks for your memory!), and practically eliminates any chance of cold-bug occurring. Utterly dominant over air cooling – which we recommended only for casual users or those with extremely tight budgets! There’s no reason not to go liquid if you’re building a high-end system these days: the cost savings are simply fantastic compared to buying an expensive case AND expensive air cooler, let alone the hassle of doing all the work yourself.

Top liquid and air coolers available in Australia

Liquid coolers

  1. Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360R
  2. MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360
  3. NZXT Kraken X73 RGB

Air coolers

  1. Noctua NH-D15
  2. Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510
  3. Cooler Master Hyper 212
I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...