Watercooling your PC: What is it and should you do it?

When it comes to computer cooling components, liquid cooling is the best option, but not for high-end systems.

Although all computer coolers such as CPUs and GPUs usually have a heatsink and some fans to cool the heatsink, the best coolers, the most finished ones are water or liquid coolers. You see liquid cooling solutions all the time in high-end PCs made by OEMs and individuals, and they often perform better than conventional air cooling. But there are many ways water cooling is simply better than air cooling (which isn’t always true), and it’s not for everyone.

Basics of water cooling

Computer components often generate heat when they work, and some (mainly CPUs and GPUs, but there are PSUs and SSDs with liquid cooling) generate enough heat to warrant a dedicated cooling device. To remove the heat from these components, you need to place them in a large heatsink and cool the heatsink down. While you can have the heatsink sit down and let the air flow do the work, most coolers use a fan to keep the heatsink cool as quickly as possible.

The whole point of liquid cooling is to use water or other liquids to transfer heat from the chip to the heatsink. Each water cooler pumps water through a block with three essential components: a pump that can also be connected to a reservoir full of water or cold water, a cooling plate that is pressed against the chip to remove heat, and a radiator or heatsink where all of it is. the hot water heats the metal fins that the fans can cool. All the water in the loop is continuously flowing through these three layers repeatedly.

But why use water to cool? Yes, water is very good at retaining heat and only heats up to 100 degrees Celsius, which is very hot. In addition, it is possible to connect the CPU and GPU to the same water cooling system, which may be important for some users and is not possible in the way necessary with air cooling.

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Water Cooling vs Air Cooling: Which is Better?

Although liquid cooling is often the best way to reduce cooling, it is not true that the best CPU or GPU coolers are liquid. In fact, you’ll find that most of the air conditioners we recommend are air conditioners, and there are many good reasons why.

First, let’s talk about work. While the highest quality water coolers with 280mm, 360mm, and 420mm radiators will outperform even the largest air coolers, this is not true for water coolers with 120mm, 140mm, and 240mm radiators. These small radiators will be compared to air coolers, and the 120mm and 140mm radiators are particularly underperforming among liquid coolers.

Size is also important to consider. Although liquid coolers usually take up less space than surface coolers, not all cases support the size of radiators. Radiators are tall rather than wide, so you’ll find that most mid-tower cases only support 240mm or 280mm radiators rather than the more advanced 360mm radiators but they still have a very large cooling area. At the other end of the spectrum, small air coolers are much smaller than small water coolers, and are often better for narrow cases.

Liquid cooling is ideal for PCs where you need a lot of cooling for power-hungry equipment and where there is room for radiators but not air-cooling.

Finally, when it comes to price and cost, air conditioners have water coolers. Larger budget CPU coolers like Thermalright’s Peerless Assassin 120 SE can go toe-to-toe with 240mm and 280mm coolers for half the price or less and are only supported by coolers with larger radiators. Water coolers can be very affordable, but they are often not the best quality compared to similarly priced water coolers.

Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE

Thermalright’s Peerless Assassin 120 SE is a CPU cooler that costs around $40 and offers six heat pipes and two 120mm fans.

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$37 at Amazon

Even Noctua’s NH-D15, which performs the same function as the Peerless Assassin and costs twice as much, remains competitive compared to many liquid coolers in its price range.

Noctua NH-D15 $110 $120 Save $10

The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the most powerful coolers on the market. It can handle the best CPUs, and despite its size, it gets the job done. Oh, and it comes in a wonderful brown color.

$110 at Amazon $110 at Newegg

That said, liquid cooling is ideal for PCs where you need a lot of cooling for electronic components and where there is room for radiators but not air cooling. The first case is obvious, but you may not have considered the second. Many ITX chassis and pre-built PCs are designed specifically for liquid cooling, such as Corsair’s 2000D Airflow and NZXT’s H1.

Advantages and disadvantages of conventional water cooling

When it comes to liquid cooling, you have two options: all-in-one (or AIO) liquid coolers and custom-made liquid coolers. By far, AIOs are more popular than conventional solutions because building your own water cooling system requires skill, time, and money. There’s nothing you need to do to install an AIO cooler other than install it like any other cooler. They are still able to afford and can be reported to the board. Arctic’s Liquid Freezer II series is the ultimate liquid cooler, even including a 240mm radiator model.

Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360 $115 $125 Save $10

The Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360 is a 360mm AIO liquid cooler for high-end CPUs, but it also comes in different sizes to fit your chassis.

$115 at Amazon

Corsair’s iCUE H710i Elite LCD XT, on the other hand, is a serious, bright AIO that does the same thing.

Corsair iCUE H170i Elite LCD XT

Bigger usually means better, which is why the Corsair iCUE H170i Elite LCD XT takes our top spot for the best AIO cooler from Corsair. It has a 420mm radiator with three 140mm fans for excellent fuel efficiency.

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$310 at Amazon $310 at Newegg

However, conventional cooling has its advantages:

  • Good performance due to high quality parts
  • More visual changes, such as the ability to dye cold water
  • Ability to put CPU and GPU in one block
  • Better GPU cooling options since most AIOs are CPU-only, and very few GPUs come with an AIO liquid cooler.

Companies like EK offer water-cooling kits that include all the parts you’ll need for a basic loop, making construction easy but not necessarily easy. Compatibility is an important factor to control as all tubes, ducts, and water shields (the cooling components that go over the CPU and GPU) must be the correct size, and the water shields must also be compatible. the chips being installed.

You also need to maintain the cooling system, which includes making sure there are no leaks and draining the water periodically to keep it clean/ Yes, you are getting a lot of benefits by going for water cooling, but it is more important for the hobbyists and hobbyists.

Liquid cooling is great for high-end and specialty PCs but loses out to air cooling for low-end builds

While the best CPUs and the best GPUs (especially GPUs) perform best under air cooling, you can take things to the next level with liquid cooling if you can justify the expense. For high-end CPUs like the Core i9-13900K, liquid cooling is required for optimal performance, but any other CPU will do well with air cooling, and high-end GPUs already come with good cooling on their own.

Water coolers are found in high-end PCs, small PCs designed for large radiators, and PCs that you really want to build your own. If you don’t need any of these, you’ll be happy with an air cooler, but if you need one or more of these three features, water cooling is the way to go.

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