120mm AIOs don’t provide significantly better cooling than high-end air CPU coolers. In other words, a 120mm AIO and a stock air cooler of a high-end CPU are mostly similar in their performance. But in most cases, AIOs are ahead of air coolers.
As water has a higher specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity than air, AIOs can keep your PC slightly cooler than air coolers. And in long-term use, AIOs can extend the health of your PC more than air coolers do.
120mm AIO vs Air Cooler – Let’s See Which One Is Better?
A 120mm AIO may not give you extra performance, but it is quieter than the air cooler. AIO cools down your CPU by both air and water and that is why it makes less noise than an air cooler.
Liquid cooling works very much like a radiator in your car or home. This system cools off the CPU by taking the heat from the CPU by water and dissipating it by the fans. On the other hand, an air cooler uses a heat sink and air instead of water which is used in an AIO.
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R, ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 120, Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2, Asus ROG Strix LC 120, Thermaltake TH120 ARGB Sync, Cooler Master MasterLiquid LC120L V2, Corsair Hydro H60, EVGA CLC 120, NZXT Kraken M22 are some of the best AIO CPU coolers available in the market.
Cooler Master MasterLiquid LC120L V2 RGB is best at its price point. Corsair Hydro Series H60 is the best among these for its quietness. If you want the best performance then you should go for Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2Air Cooler. Again, if you are into customization, NZXT Kraken M22 would be best for you.
They look nicer. They can sometimes be quieter than air coolers. You can have more surface area than the largest air coolers. At the highest level, they can dissipate more total heat than any air cooler can. Commonly smaller than the largest Air cooler.
They cost twice as much as equivalent air cooling. Usually, these coolers are not as quiet as folks think as they have pump noise. They can leak even though it is rare. Normally, it is hard to break an AIO, you cannot use a broken AIO.
Cooler MasterAir MA624 Stealth, Deepcool Assassin III, Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M, Noctua NH-U14S, Zalman CNPS10x Performa Black, Deepcool AS500 Plus, Be Quiet! Pure Rock 2, Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black are some of the best air coolers you can get for your PC.
Among these, Cooler Master MasterAir MA624 Stealth is the best of big CPU coolers, Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M is the best among the mid-sized coolers. If you have an AMD Threadripper processor then Noctua NH-U14S would be the best choice. Pure Rock 2 is best for its silent fans and it is also affordable.
The biggest pro of an air cooler is it is affordable. Again, an air cooler does not need maintenance as much as an AIO. There is no chance of leaking so you do not need to worry about it. The ratio of price to performance of an air cooler is impressive.
Usually, an air cooler is louder than AIOs. Most of the time, these are bulky and look less attractive. Air cooling technologies take up more space inside of a PC case than AIOs and as a result, sometimes it bumps against other components like RAM or PSU (Power Supply Unit). Its cooling rate is limited on an air cooler.
Overclocking | AIO vs air cooler
As AIOs keep CPUs cooler than an air cooler does, AIOs play a better role if you want to overclock your CPU. Because an overclocked CPU heats up more and may get damaged if not properly handled.
Style of AIOs
We really should talk about the style of the coolers. Nowadays, decorating the PC with RGB strips, RGB fans, and stylish coolers is a common trend. And coolers play the most vital role in decorating the PC. Between the water cooler and air cooler, the water cooler looks more stylish.
As you can see in the picture above, the 120mm AIO makes the internal space more usable and it looks cleaner than an air cooler. As it takes less space inside the case, the RGB lights of the fans and RAMs are more visible here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I get an air cooler in humid conditions?
The effect of an air cooler is dramatically decreased when utilized in extremely humid situations. This is because coolers cool the air by adding humidity to it, and once the air is saturated, it can no longer absorb any more moisture, rendering the device less effective.
Air coolers are quite good at relocating heat from CPUs. But the heat is then dispersed into the case, so the other components might get hotter. You can open a side of the case permanently but then you have to sacrifice the aesthetics of the PC. AIOs handle the situation best, as they take the heat outside of the case.