AIO vs Air Cooler – Which Is Best?

Should you get an AIO cooler or an air cooler to cool down your CPU? Here is the ultimate guide to help you decide which is best for you.

Selecting the right kind of cooling while putting together a PC is just as crucial as any other aspect of your build.

Making the right decision here will allow you to push your other components to the limit. For most PC enthusiasts, this is one of the most important aspects of a build.

Making the wrong choice may result in lower performance, harm to your computer’s parts (in the worst case), and a substantial amount of annoyance.

Among the PC-building community, the question of whether to install an Air Cooler or an AIO is often one of the most commonly asked on websites such as Reddit, Tom’s Hardware, and PCPartPicker.

CPU Coolers as forum discussion topic

This guide will inform you about the advantages and drawbacks of both options and hopefully assist you in making the correct decision for your next construction.

Related:The Best CPU Coolers (2023 Reviews)

Table of ContentsShow

What Is An AIO?

AIO Rog Ryujin II 360

For those unfamiliar with the term, an “AIO” stands for an all-in-one closed-loop liquid cooling system. That’s quite a mouthful, which is why we will continue to call it “AIO” throughout the rest of this guide.

An all-in-one operates very similarly to the cooling system of a car’s internal combustion engine.

A water pump cycles the liquid through a water block mounted on your CPU (Computer Processing Unit) and out to a heat exchanger, which will usually be a radiator. The radiator is cooled by one or more fans.

AIOs are also known as “sealed loops” as they are never intended to be opened. This differs from “personalized loops,” which need upkeep and are highly susceptible to malfunctions.

What Is An Air Cooler?

CPU air coolers – fans

Fans can be installed in many different slots on your case, depending on the model you have, and sometimes directly into the CPU.

An air cooler occupies much less space than an AIO system, meaning you have a better chance of fitting it into your build. They also don’t require much, so most beginners choose them over AIOs for their first build, especially when working on a budget.

However, having multiple air coolers installed at the same time can be quite noisy. If you are someone who enjoys complete silence while working, this can be problematic.

Whether you should purchase an AIO or air frosty for your build is largely a matter of personal preference, but you should consider the following things.

AIO vs. Air Coolers – Pros And Cons

AIO vs Air Coolers

Everyone knows that the group of people who construct their own PCs are equally divided when it comes to selecting their preferred cooling technique.

Some say AIOs are superior, while others believe the possible risks of leaks and pump malfunctions are simply not worth it.

Let’s examine a comparison and the aspects you should be most worried about when picking between the two cooling options.

Pros And Cons of AIOs

The benefits of AIOs are:

  • Better looks and usually great RGB customization via manufacturer software.
  • Little or no maintenance upon installation.
  • Better cooling performance and less overall noise.

The disadvantages of AIOs are:

  • Usually more expensive than air coolers due to the more complex design and function.
  • Slightly more difficult installation process compared to installing fans.
  • Risk of pump failure and leaks, albeit a small one.

Pros And Cons of Air Coolers

The benefits of Air Coolers are:

  • Tons of options regarding price, size, and brand.
  • Less expensive and easier to fit in various builds.
  • Top-tier brands are still affordable, which isn’t the case with AIOs.  

The disadvantages of Air Coolers are:

  • Cleaning the fan blades occasionally is essential, which can be difficult if you have many fans installed.
  • More than two or three fans working simultaneously can get quite noisy.
  • If you favor aesthetics more than the average user, you might not like how your build looks with fans.  

Final Thoughts

Best CPU Coolers

Right now, the outcome of this “battle” probably seems pretty equal. That’s because the answer to this question has always been one of personal preference.

Those who like pushing their systems to the absolute limit will benefit from the improved cooling performance provided by AIOs while more “casual” users are unlikely to notice a difference between the two.

From a practical point of view, if you are building a PC with a standard case that isn’t transparent, go for the cheaper solution, which is air coolers.

If you prioritize visual appeal and every minuscule detail matters, AIOs can assist you in achieving your ideal build while providing improved temperatures with reduced noise.

Also, both are ultimately cooling systems, meaning the one that does a better job at preventing your PC from overheating should be the winner. This is why we recommend starting from there.

If you have a very powerful CPU, such as the 11900K or the Ryzen 5900X, you need something to keep it cool at all times, especially while it’s under heavy load. Grab an AIO if this applies to you.

However, if you have a limited budget and utilize your computer for basic activities and minimal workload, you can cut expenses by reducing costs and acquiring an air cooler.

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Bojan Veselinovikj
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Bojan is a video-game developer and a tech enthusiast. Combining these two passions allow him to keep you informed on everything that's new in this fast-paced digital world.