Managing thermals in your PC is the most important aspect of making sure all of your components are running efficiently and are performing as expected. You do not want all of your PC parts to be baking in your case like in a furnace. Overheating in components such as the CPU and GPU can lead to thermal throttling, which causes those parts to dial back the performance in order to keep up with the high temperature. Running your PC parts at a high temperature (especially the graphics card or the processor) might lead to lower efficiency and decrease the overall lifespan.
As we know, the processor controls all of the tasks being performed in your system. If you are running your CPU to the absolute limit, then you will probably face the problem of running into high temperatures. A proper cooling solution is required in order to aid your CPU in keeping the temps down while performing intensive tasks such as gaming or video editing etc. The best solution to this is getting a new CPU cooler. A good CPU cooler makes sure that your CPU performs to its absolute limit without suffering from throttling issues. Of course, there are a lot of things that make up a good cooling solution.
You can use different coolers in order to keep your CPU temps in check. There is air cooling, AIO (all in one) closed-loop liquid coolers, and the last option is going with a fully custom water cooled loop for your PC. This guide will specifically be focusing on the AIO liquid coolers and we will go through all the topics concerned with that such as the difference in types of coolers and what makes up a good AIO cooler. Let’s get started.
Air Coolers vs AIO Liquid Coolers: What’s the difference?
Before we get into the benefits of both types of coolers, we first need to understand how both of them work. Air coolers have two main parts, the heatsink, and the fan. The heatsink is made up of usually aluminum or copper. Its purpose is to draw heat away from the CPU. The heatsink itself is not that great for drawing heat away from the processor, so most of the time, it is paired with a fan that spins continuously to keep cool air running through the heatsink. A closed loop AIO liquid cooler’s working process is in the name itself. It uses a pump and a pair of pipes which have liquid (usually distilled water with another thermal conductive liquid) to run the liquid to and from a metal base placed on top of the CPU. The pump sends water to the radiator, where fans are used to dissipate and cool the liquid which runs back to the base. This process is very effective and usually gives much better performance than an air cooler. In short, liquid cooling is almost as silent as an air cooler and typically more powerful and efficient. You do have a risk of the liquid leaking which will obviously damage your PC. This is a rare issue these days though, as most closed loop coolers will work efficiently without leakage for a long time.
So you might be thinking of going with liquid cooling if it is that much better. True, but that entirely depends on your case situation and workflow. If you are working in a cramped case with limited airflow or intend on doing some heavy overclocking, liquid cooling is definitely the way to go. However, if your case already has ample airflow and you do not intend on doing heavy overclocking, air cooling is more than sufficient. Another thing that concerns a lot of people is aesthetics, as a lot of people like the look of liquid coolers as compared to a simple air cooler. If that concerns you, then, by all means, search for a liquid cooler. The added lower temps are a great bonus.
AIO Liquid Coolers: What to know before buying
There are a lot of things which separate one AIO cooler from another. Let’s go through some of the main discerning factors to help you understand the benefits and aid you in making your decision. Following is a list of factors which make up a good cooler best suited for you.
Compatibility is something that depends on your case. How much clearance you have for a thicker radiator and what size is supported. AIO coolers range from 120mm to 420mm in the mainstream market. Socket support is less of an issue as most coolers from the past 2-3 years will support most of the popular CPU sockets. This is also listed in the product page of all coolers.
The type of fans used and the fan speed determines the overall heat dissipation through the liquid cooler. Different fans have different bearings for noise and speed. The main thing is how many fans are used and at what speed or RPM (revolutions per minute) they are running at.
If noise levels are something that bothers you, then you should definitely be sure about the acoustics of the cooler. There are many AIO options out there that are almost dead silent.
Looks matter to a lot of people. The aesthetics of your CPU cooler might affect your purchasing decision so you can match it with your PC. RGB logos have reached this side of the market as well. Coolers have become a good looking component as much as an important one.
Finally, since we have covered all of the AIO basics and you have decided that you want to go forward with buying one, its time to have a look at our favorite liquid CPU coolers that you can buy in 2019.
Following is a list of 5 hand-picked AIO liquid coolers. We tried to include everything from small 120mm single fan options to triple fan 360mm options. Hopefully, there is something in this list for you.
|1||NZXT Kraken X62||280mm||500-1800RPM||315 x 143 x 56 mm|| |
|2||Corsair H100i Pro||240mm||400-2400RPM||276 x 120 x 27 mm|| |
|3||EVGA CLC 280||280mm||600-220RPM||312 x 129 x 27 mm|| |
|4||MasterLiquid ML360R||360mm||650-2000RPM||394 x 119 x 27 mm|| |
|5||Corsair H60 (2018)||120mm||400-1700RPM||157 x 120 x 27 mm|| |
|Name||NZXT Kraken X62|
|Dimensions||315 x 143 x 56 mm|
|Name||Corsair H100i Pro|
|Dimensions||276 x 120 x 27 mm|
|Name||EVGA CLC 280|
|Dimensions||312 x 129 x 27 mm|
|Dimensions||394 x 119 x 27 mm|
|Name||Corsair H60 (2018)|
|Dimensions||157 x 120 x 27 mm|
Last Update on 2019-01-17 at 21:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
When it comes to 280mm sized coolers. It really does not get better than the Kraken X62. This is mostly a design overhaul from the previous generation’s Kraken X61. The main changes we see here are in the pipes, the base, and fully addressable RGB on the base. The performance seems to be up to par with the previous generation with very slight improvements. That is by no means a complaint though, as the X62 is one of the most gorgeous looking and phenomenal cooling solutions for your PC build. Unfortunately, that does come with a high price tag to match compared to others on the market but trust us, it does not get much better than this. An easy choice for our top spot.
Let’s start off with the design. The X62 has a fairly thin 280mm radiator which should have no problem fitting in your case (assuming it has 280mm radiator support). The tubing is now covered in this thin braided design and seems easy to bend according to your needs. The base is fairly low profile yet taller than the previous generation. The highlight here is the RGB base. It has what NZXT calls an infinite mirror design and adds a depth effect to the base. The logo is customizable RGB and is surrounded by this colorful circle mimicking the depth effect. This is a gorgeous piece of kit.
Paired with NZXT’s CAM software you can manipulate the RGB and fan curve to your will. You can also manage and view temperatures from here which we found quite handy. Overall the CAM software has a nice UI and is pretty easy to navigate.
On to the performance. This cooler is using NZXT’s own fans which have an RPM speed of 500-1800RPM. It delivers exceptional performance and can easily handle any high-end processor with ease. Overclocking is also a breeze for this cooler. The X62 is fairly quiet at full load and dead silent at idle. Overall, this is our favorite cooler because of the gorgeous design and exceptional performance.
Corsair has been a huge name in the CPU cooler market for almost a decade now. Their hydro series of coolers have been very well received over the years and it is easy to see why. Paired with good looks and exceptional performance at a great value, it was a no-brainer to put the new H100i Pro on our list. This version of their largely successful H100 series features a new pump design which is apparently much more durable. Add RGB and high-performance fans to the mix and this cooler only falls second to the Kraken X62.
The H100i still follows in the footsteps of the previous generations in regards to the design. There is a color change here as the top of the base is now this shade of silver/white and the Corsair logo is now RGB. The tubing is now thickly braided which makes it a bit hard to bend. The corsair iCue software is very handy. You can control the RGB and customize fan curves or pump speed. There are a bunch of presets ready to go for fan and pump speed which is very useful.
Performance is, as expected, phenomenal. The fans run at a range of 400-2400RPM and are very powerful as expected. The performance is more than sufficient for overclocking and it can easily handle all high-end processors. One gripe we have with this cooler is that at full load it can get quite noisy so definitely keep that in mind. Apart from that, this is a great pickup for any PC build. However, if you want slightly better looks and your case supports 280mm radiators, we suggest going with the X62 for a bit more money. The H100i is still a great pickup if you don’t care about the design and your case is somewhat limiting.
EVGA is a big name in the gaming industry as a whole. They are known for making graphics cards, power supplies, and more recently, cases and even laptops. This is their first time dipping their toes into the world of AIO coolers so let’s find out what the CLC 280 is all about. RGB seems to be a common affair in this list and the same remains true for EVGA. The CLC 280 actually holds a promising value at a competitive price point with a few minor gripes.
The CLC 280 sports the same industrial design as other AIOs. It has thick braided cables with a nicely sized radiator and a small base. It is paired with two fans with RPM ranging from 600-2200RPM. A complaint found with some buyers was that the fans tend to rattle at high load and the overall acoustics of this cooler can become a bit annoying.
Overall, the CLC 280 is a great first attempt by EVGA. The cooler has best in class performance when it comes to raw power and is sufficient for almost any processor you can throw at it. Apart from the annoying noise, it makes at load and the somewhat rattling of fans, this is another great option.
The MasterLiquid ML360R from Cooler Master brings in gorgeous RGB lighting and great performance in a 360mm package. This is without a doubt the best looking and best performing 360mm AIO you can find on the market. However, there are a few caveats that might drive you away. Let’s dive in.
The MasterLiquid ML360R takes the RGB game up a notch. The base has a light up logo which is configurable through software and even the fans are RGB. Despite the fact that the cooler looks good and at first glance seems to have decent build quality, there are a few complaints here. The installation process is reported to be quite difficult. The tough part seems to be installing the pump on to the CPU. The software paired with this just simply doesn’t work well either.
The good thing is that the ML360R makes up for the difficult installation with its great cooling ability. This 360mm powerhouse is more than enough for any processor. It can handle overclocking very well while keeping temps relatively low. To sum it up, you can’t beat the ML360R when it comes to 360mm coolers especially with that competitive price point. Sure there are a few complaints such as the installation and horrible software but if you can look past that, this is the best 360mm radiator for the price.
Corsair finds the last spot on our list with the tiny H60, this is the updated 2018 version. The H60 delivers great liquid cooling performance for the price of air cooling, The H60 is a great entryway into the world of liquid coolers. Compared to a lot of higher end air coolers, the H60 matches their performance in thermals at a low price point. Sure it’s not going to compete with any high-end 240mm or 280mm cooler but that’s not what it was made for.
The H60 is not much of a looker when it comes to overall design. It is simple and out of the way. The Corsair logo lights up using a single color LED which is white. The LED light looks a bit dull in our opinion but that is a minor complaint. When it comes to performance it is quite impressive for its size. The fan speed is 600-1700RPM and it stays silent at idle and is not noisy that much at full load. It can handle most processor and some slight overclocking. Honestly, this is enough for most people’s needs. The H60 is a great performing and low-cost gateway into the world of liquid cooling.
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