Air Cooler vs Water Cooler: Which One is Better and Why?

If you have just stepped into market, and you are looking for a good CPU cooler, you will find many choices available to you. Gone are the days when the choices were only limited to mediocre options. Nowadays, as long as you have the money, the PC market has a cooler for you.

Now when we are talking about coolers, the more important thing that you need to understand here is that you will find the usual deal of coolers such as liquid coolers (closed loop) and air coolers (tower heatsinks). Both of these types are common and are largely available in the market. Whether you are looking to buy the best air cooler, or an AIO, you have to be careful as you cannot just make a hasty decision.

The liquid coolers are farther divided into the closed loop liquid coolers and open loop liquid coolers; with the latter being not as common for the mainstream audience.

Keeping this in mind, we have decided to write a detailed comparison between an air cooler and a liquid cooler to help users decide which one is better in terms of overall value and performance.

Air Coolers

First off, we are going to be looking at the air coolers that are largely available in the market. These coolers have been around for some time now, and offer great value for money. These cooler use heat sink fins, along with copper pipes to efficiently dissipate heat and are on the cheaper end as compared to the liquid coolers. One of the biggest benefits of these coolers is that they have a longer life thanks to no absolutely no moving parts. As long as you are keeping the fans clean and dust free, you are good to go.

Below, we are going to discuss some of the advantages of air coolers that make them a viable option for those who are building their computer.

Advantages of Air Coolers

First things first, discussing the advantages of both coolers is important because without having proper knowledge, we will not be able to judge the cooler. Below, you will see the benefits.

  • Longevity: One of the best things about air coolers is that they are really good when comes to longevity. A standard air cooler from a good brand like Be Quiet! or Cooler Master can last you years without giving up. This is all thanks to the fact that there are no moving parts in the coolers aside from the fans which can be replaced if they start giving problems.
  • Budget Friendly: While the closed loop liquid coolers are catching up with the cost-effectiveness of air coolers, it is a road that cannot be traveled by that easily. Even to date, the air coolers still are extremely cost-effective, with the cheaper options costing as low as $40, while some other options are even cheaper.
  • No Failure Rate: Another benefit here is that with these watches, the failure rate is almost next to none. The only thing that might fail your fan, which can be removed and replaced with ease.

Now that we have looked at the compelling benefits of the air coolers, the next step is to look at the downsides.

Disadvantages of Air Coolers

As opposed to the advantages, there are some disadvantages that come with air coolers as well. While they are not deal breaking, it is still necessary to mention them.

  • Noise: One of the biggest issue with air coolers is that they can be pretty noisy. Especially in summers when you will have to crank up the fans. In situations like that, you must be prepared to have a noisier than usual room thanks to the fans. The best way to deal with the noise is to get fans that are quiet, but for that, you will have to spend a premium.
  • Overclocking Premium: if you are looking for an air cooler that provides you with a decent enough horsepower that you can use to overclock your CPU, then you will have to spend a premium to get a good cooler. While this is certainly something good, the price normally matches that of a good AIO, meaning that in the same range, you can go for an AIO.
  • Huge Profile: Another big downside for air coolers is that if you are looking for a specifically powerful option, you will have to get a cooler that has a huge profile. Meaning that if you do go for these coolers, you will need a case that is big enough so you can accommodate the cooler.

Above mentioned are the disadvantages of air coolers that you should be aware of.

Liquid Coolers

Next, we have the closed loop liquid coolers. These coolers have become a lot more popular in recent years thanks to the fact that they allow the users to have liquid cooled computers without the process of creating the loop on your own.

Liquid coolers are great, and you can find some pretty amazing ones for cheap as well.  They are available in 120, 140, 240, 280, and 360mm radiator options. The good thing is that this also introduces a price disparity, meaning that you can get a pretty decent liquid cooler even if you do not have a lot of money to spend.

Below, we are going to explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of liquid coolers.

Advantages of Liquid Coolers

Now when it comes to advantages, liquid coolers do come with a fair share of those as well. Whether these make them better than air coolers or not is something that we will leave it on the conclusion. For now, let’s have a look at the advantages of going with liquid coolers.

  • Quiet: One of the biggest benefits is that these coolers are quiet. Sure, the fans are there and can make some noise when they ramp up but you can keep the fans under low noise mode as well, or set them to auto, so they can only start ramping up when the CPU is getting hot.
  • Great Overclocking Headroom: Another benefit here is that they provide great overclocking headroom. You can even buy a budget-oriented 120mm liquid cooler, and you would still be able to get some decent overclock on the processor.
  • Easy Support: The thing with liquid coolers is that if your case has the appropriate support for the radiator size you are choosing to go with, you will not have any other issues installing the coolers. This makes them easy to install in a wide range of cases with ease.

The above-mentioned benefits definitely make the liquid coolers a compelling option for those who are looking for good performance in decent price brackets. But before we make a final decision, let’s have a look at the disadvantages.

Disadvantages of a Liquid Cooler

As with pretty much everything, the advantages, as well as disadvantages of the liquid coolers, are there. We are going to be looking at the disadvantages right now.

  • Permeation:  One of the most common issue with liquid coolers is the issue of permeation, the liquid slowly starts turning into vapor to a point that there is nothing left. Although the process is slow and gradual, this does have a severe impact on the performance.
  • Leakage: If you have never seen or witnessed a liquid cooler leaking, you are lucky. Leakages are not as common as they used to be but with water coolers, the risk is there.
  • Pump Failure: Since the liquid coolers do have many parts, the pump is one of the essential ones, and if the pump does end up failing, you will lose the entire cooler.

There you have it, as you can see, the disadvantages of liquid coolers are certainly there. So, you do have to be careful whenever you are choosing these coolers. Always go with companies that you can trust.

Air Cooler Vs Water Cooler: Which One is Better and Why?

We are back to the original question. Which one is better? Well, it all boils down to two things. If you are looking for solid overclocking with great temperatures, and you do not have a lot of space in your computer case, then going for a liquid cooler is a no brainer at best, and you will definitely get the most of your money.

However, if you just want a single cooler that can give you decent overclocks and can fit in your case, then the air coolers are better.

Simply put, declaring a winner is not as easy because both coolers are made for different use cases, and serve different user types as well. Ultimately if you own an i7 7700k and wondering which cooler should you buy for it, then check out our review of some of the best cpu coolers out there for the 7th gen beast of Intel.

Bill Wilson


Bill is a certified Microsoft Professional providing assistance to over 500 remotely connected employees and managing Windows 2008 to 2016 servers.