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Thread: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

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    Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Please do not take this as a thread to start a war over Air cooling Vs Water. I am genuinely interested in the answers.

    I have always used Air cooling and my current Scan system uses a Noctua cooler. I've often looked at water cooling and as I get ready to purchase again this seemed a good time to reassess, especially as water coolers seem to have come on a lot in the past few years.

    My question is why switch to water.? From what I've seen most people overclocking using water are only using similar / marginally better speeds than on air. I spoke to Scan and they instantly said "Air". Air also seems quieter in most cases (no pump noise) and more reliable (far less to go wrong). Air is also a lot cheaper.

    I appreciate that Water definitely looks nicer, but as I will be using a solid sided Fractal R5 the aesthetic angle is irrelevant.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    That depends on what you mean by water cooling.

    If you're talking about a traditional water cooling setup then it's capable of better cooling than air and you can route the fluid where you like so the radiator can be hid out of sight or whatever.

    If you're talking about closed loop coolers, particularly the smaller ones then the main reason seems to be 'because it's cool'. Basically the same reason most people buy £100 keyboards or expensive motherboards.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    What matters most is the heat exchanger side.
    Neither water nor air will get your system any cooler than whatever the room temperature is... but you are not cooling your system. You are expelling the heat...

    Water takes on heat far better than air.
    Water takes more heat away to the radiator(s).
    Water cooling allows more heat to radiate off, because there is a long loop of water in the system and on top of this you can fit more (often many more and bigger, more efficient) radiators than the heatsinks of air cooling systems, all while using the same amount of airflow.
    Water systems allow for more radiators than air, including adding externally mounted ones which benefit from even fewer performance restrictions.
    Water systems also allow additional components to benefit from the same level of heat expulsion.
    Water gives you the smugness of telling horrified non-PC muggles that your electrical device uses water actually inside it!!

    For my money, that's just about everything I have on water cooling reasons.
    Aesthetics is completely in the eye of the beholder.
    Noise is down to how you set your system up and the components you choose, as well as your personal idea of what sounds are unacceptable.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Thanks both. The above list of theoretical benefits of Water Cooling are all valid, and it's exactly these reasons that made me start this thread. You'd think that with all those positives that water cooled systems would be almost a defacto standard for performance rigs.

    However in real life a good air cooler seems to be practically as good as all but the best / biggest cooling solutions. More reliable (nothing to leak and far less to go wrong). Greater longevity & zero servicing. Then quieter to boot. Less attractive, but if you don't stand the PC on the desk with a glass panel / case that's a moot point.

    I suspect there's even more reasons for choosing Air cooling out there too.
    Last edited by Andy14; 09-11-2016 at 03:11 PM.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    I've used 3 different closed loop coolers now, Corsair, CoolerMaster and Antec. All have been louder than Bequiet DarkRock Pro. Temps have always been within a few degrees, with the Corsair and Antecs being coolest, but not by massive amounts.

    I'll be going back to air next time, probably Noctua (as it seems they're amongst the quietest/best performing over-all)

    So, stick with air unless a) you want a cool looking thing with hoses in your PC
    b) you want to extract slightly more (possibly) on any overclocks
    c) you're going all out with a full custom loop made of quality parts
    d) you just fancy a change

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    The above list of theoretical benefits of Water Cooling are all valid
    Those were drawn from my own actual experiences, building systems for myself and a fair few others. No theory involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    You'd think that with all those positives that water cooled systems would be almost a defacto standard for performance rigs.
    Changes in technology heat efficiency and cost of water loops are big factors, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    However in real life a good air cooler seems to be practically as good as all but the best / biggest cooling solutions.
    Can be... My first AIO cooler shaved about 15ºC off my air temps, though.
    However, it's very rare to find anything air-only that beats a custom water loop. I've taken over 35ºC off air temps by going custom water and it's quieter, despite having more fans than ever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    Greater longevity & zero servicing.
    Fans are fans and can fail in either system. Fans and heatsinks still need dusting out, as well.
    AIOs should need zero maintenance.
    Custom loops require the occasional flush out, say, once every 6-12 months if you use a decent coolant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    Then quieter to boot.
    AIOs can be noisy (in relative terms), depending on which brand you buy.
    A properly built water loop is near-on silent, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy14 View Post
    I suspect there's a big list of "pro" reasons for Air cooling out there too.
    Simplicity. Cost... err.... that's about it, really.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Been always on air. Yes has been cost effective and sufficient for plenty of OC exploits. More and more though I'm finding that really want full custom WC.

    Example Hawaii even with AIB air cooling like Tri-X, DCUII, etc still was hot running and could be quieter at full load. If I had a WC loop already then I'd have bought a block to solve cooling issue. At the time I decided not to invest in WC for whole rig. Later went Fury X AIO was perfect TBH. Now am finding Ryzen at high clock/voltage would benefit from WC, interested in VEGA, but AIO version is way over priced IMO. So how I see it is invest in WC loop and then for future its a CPU/GPU block change only. So am planning my 1st WC loop , seems mind boggling all the 'options ' and minefield of planning .
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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Is water cooling generally recommended for smaller builds? In a large case there's will be a lot better airflow so it makes sense that air coolers will do the job without too much problem though.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Personal preference but I always use air, even in my matx case. I like the idea of airflow over as many of the components as possible.
    Grab that. Get that. Check it out. Bring that here. Grab anything useful. Take anything good.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Quote Originally Posted by Key View Post
    Is water cooling generally recommended for smaller builds? In a large case there's will be a lot better airflow so it makes sense that air coolers will do the job without too much problem though.
    I'd expect any case with the 120mm fan mounts needed for a closed loop cooler to have plenty of internal airflow.

    A custom setup with the radiator outside the case can be beneficial, but that also makes you smaller build bigger.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    Quote Originally Posted by Key View Post
    Is water cooling generally recommended for smaller builds? In a large case there's will be a lot better airflow so it makes sense that air coolers will do the job without too much problem though.
    Depends on the build.
    I've known several small builds end up being insanely noisy because the airflow hoofing around all the tightly fit components was causing the racket.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    I'm building an itx setup - only thing i've not worked out is if i should water cool or air cool i was leaning towards air cooling - only so i'm not worried about leaking etc and there are some good air coolers

    I'm using a define s nano case so it's not small and you can even do custom water loop in it - i'd like to overclock my chip a little but i suppose will depend on headroom i get and air cooling this will be less

    So undecided on this

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    One of the biggest beneficiary's of water cooling is GPUs. You can easily knock huge numbers off going from an air cooler (especially a stock blower type) to a block on a custom loop. The Noise difference in gaming makes it worth the extra cost IMHO. Im still running a 290X which came with a stock cooler. Hexus test show it hitting 94 degrees C!! At over 40 decibels.

    http://hexus.net/tech/reviews/graphi...-290x/?page=11

    Water cooled its now silent and barely breaks 50 degrees under full load on its own separate loop. Currently its running at 30 degrees (idle) with a water temp of 24 degrees so thats 7 degrees cooler than the hexus test. Admittedly in a different situatiion/room/atmosphere but im just using as an example of what water cooling can achieve.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    I would concur GPU benefits a lot from WC. Recently did ThreadRipper WC'd setup, link to my build thread on OCN.

    The MSI GTX 1080 EK X maintained a max of ~40°C, which was quite astonishing compared with what I have experienced on other GPUs on air. Without any manually OC'ing, just due to how nVidia boost 3.0 works and temps, I was seeing boost of ~1975MHz on GPU clock.

    Going WC was costly even with using cheap MagiCool rads and Arctic Cooling fans, but impressed with cooling, temps, noise, etc.
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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    I've always air cooled. Usually a good quality heat sink with a quieter fan did the trick despite not overclocking.

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    Re: Water / Air Cooling of the CPU

    My PC is almost silent thanks to 2 WC loops, when the overclocked CPU is punished the fans ramp up a little, just above ambient.

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