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AIO Vs Air Cooler: Which One Is Better?

In our AIO vs Air Coolers guide, we are going to compare both coolers to help you choose the right cooling system for your build.

Expert Verified By

AIO CPU Coolers

Rated: 7/10

Air CPU Coolers

Rated: 8/10


Pros And Cons

CPU CoolersProsCons
Air Cooler✅Less prone to breakage
✅Cheaper
❌Worse thermal performance
AIO Cooler✅Better performance
✅Provides thermal overhead
❌More expensive
Key Takeaways
  • Generally speaking, an AIO cooler is more resilient in dissipating heat than a similarly priced air cooler, so it is best suited for a high-end PC needing extra cooling.
  • Air coolers are versatile, providing adequate cooling at various prices.
  • AIOs are generally more expensive than air coolers.
  • The decision of AIO vs Air Cooler mostly depends on the heat your PC is putting out and your budget.

AIO and Air Coolers help keep your CPU cool, but which does the job better? In this guide, we will do an AIO vs Air Cooler battle and discuss their differences.


A Brief Rundown On AIOs

AIO CPU Coolers, or All-in-One Coolers, regulate your computer’s processor temperature by circulating liquid coolant through radiators and fans. They’re effective, space-efficient, and positioned at the top or side of your case.

The water absorbs CPU heat, flows through a radiator where fans dissipate the heat, and then cycles back through the water block.

AIO coolers are available in different sizes and with different numbers of fans. The most common sizes are 120mm, 240mm, 280mm, and 360mm

AIO Cooler
AIO Cooler – Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]

Main Differences Between AIO vs Air Coolers

Both have advantages and disadvantages, so knowing which is right for you is important. Here are the main differences between AIOs and air coolers.

Cooling Performance

AIO Coolers generally outperform Air Coolers due to their design for greater efficiency and effectiveness. They use water as a coolant, which absorbs heat better than air. AIO Liquid Coolers are larger and have more fans than Air Coolers.

Air Coolers rely on the airflow in the room to cool down, which can be less effective. If you want to learn more about this topic, we suggest reading our article on PC case airflow.

Lifespan

Air coolers are generally more durable than AIO coolers due to their simpler design and fewer moving parts. They are less prone to faults, usually only requiring fan replacements if needed.

In contrast, AIO Coolers have more mechanical components, such as multiple fans and a pump, increasing the likelihood of malfunctions. Leakage can occur in AIOs due to faulty seals, radiator damage, or excessive pressure buildup.

Read our guide on how long AIO coolers last to find out more about this topic!

DeepCool
DeepCool Air Cooler – Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]

Size

The size of your CPU cooler can make a big purchase decision depending on how generous the space inside your PC is.

Air Coolers take up less volume than AIOs, but their depth can depend on your case’s depth. AIOs, on the other hand, take up less depth but need their radiator fixed to one edge of the case; plus, you need space for the reservoir and the cooling block.

Air cooling should pose a more plausible fit for most people using the standard rectangular PC case.

Installation

Generally, air PC Coolers are easier to install than AIO Coolers. Air PC Coolers only require mounting the cooler onto the CPU, while AIO Coolers require mounting both the cooler and a radiator.

However, there are some exceptions. Some AIO Coolers come with pre-installed radiators, making them as easy to install as Air PC Coolers. Additionally, some AIO Coolers come with mounting brackets that make installation even easier.

So, we can say that installation is not an issue in either case. With the guides given with the Coolers, someone could easily install any of the two CPU Coolers. You can check out our guide on how to install a liquid cooler. 

AIO Cooler
AIO Cooler Installed Inside Case – Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]

Noise Levels

Noise isn’t typically an issue with Air Coolers unless they are defective or very inexpensive. Major manufacturers prioritize quiet operation by equipping their Air Coolers with modern, efficient fans. However, Air Cooler fans may ramp up to maximum speed under heavy CPU load, potentially causing noise.

On the other hand, AIO Liquid Coolers tend to be quieter as the water absorbs heat gradually, allowing the fans to operate at lower speeds. Noise may occur if the cooler is improperly installed, loose, or if the fans are faulty.

Read our guide on CPU cooler noise levels if you want to dive deeper into this topic.

Looks/Aesthetics

Regarding cooler aesthetics, sleek designs keep your PC looking its best. AIO Coolers have various colors and designs, making any gaming rig look great. They also offer vibrant RGB lighting options to match your style.

On the other hand, air PC Coolers are more basic in design, typically with one colour and minimal RGB lighting. While they may not be as flashy, some prefer their simplicity. Ultimately, the choice between fancy and minimal design comes from personal preference.

RGB
AIO Cooler RGB – Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]

Price And Value

CPU CoolerMSRP
Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 SE 💲127
DeepCool AK500💲96
Lian Li Galahad II Performance 3600💲780
Arctic Liquid Freezer II 360 ARGB💲204

A quick tour of Amazon showed us that the most popular AIO coolers are much more expensive than the air coolers simply because of their nature. They usually cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars, with the more expensive ones shooting steeply up in price. 


AIO Vs Air Cooler – Our Verdict

Air Coolers: If you have a tight budget and a PC that doesn’t run very hot, an air cooler should suffice for your needs. You can pick one up for a small price if you need to, and with a few RGB lights, it should not stick out as a sore spot in your PC aesthetics.

AIO Coolers: Investing in an AIO cooler is worthwhile for those with a flexible budget seeking excellent cooling performance. However, consider compatibility with your PC case before making a purchase. Overall, AIO coolers are a solid investment, particularly for high-end gaming setups.

Capping out our debate, it is necessary to understand which demographic you fit in. You don’t want to buy an AIO that doesn’t benefit your PC’s temperatures, nor do you want to sabotage performance by getting an underpowered air cooler.

FAQs

What are the possible causes of a leaking AIO Liquid Cooler?

AIO Liquid Cooler leaks could be caused by a number of different factors. One possibility is that the cooling block or radiator’s seals are broken.

Which is better, an AIO or an Air Cooler?

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line cooling system for your gaming rig, you can’t go wrong with an AIO Liquid Cooler. Although Air Coolers are excellent for low-cost systems, they don’t have the same cooling power as an AIO Liquid Cooler.

Are AIO Coolers more expensive than Air Coolers?

Yes, AIO Coolers are more expensive than Air Coolers as they are bigger in size and have more components.


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