HP TECH TAKES
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Top 10 Reasons to Use Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling in Your Gaming PC
July 29, 2018
If you're using a computer right now, chances are you'll hear the gentle hum of a small fan if you listen closely. And if you have a hefty gaming computer with loads of processing power, the sound of a fan may be even louder.
Fans have long done a decent job of preventing electronics from overheating. But for people with high-end hardware and a desire for the fastest possible processing, a fan might not provide the best solution.
Enter liquid cooling, an alternative to the trusty old fan. Liquid provides some unique advantages to high-performance computers that deliver speed, power, and graphics and require a more advanced cooling solution.
So, what is better, liquid cooling or air cooling? Here are ten reasons why liquid may be the right choice for you.
1. Higher level of efficiency
While the idea of placing liquid anywhere near your computer sounds a bit counterproductive at first, water cooling is actually much more efficient than air.
Water transfers heat more effectively because of its high thermal conductivity, which means the water works to diffuse heat from various components in your gaming computer build.
Essentially, you're comparing a central air system to a box fan. Going the liquid route means your computer is operating at a consistently cool temperature, while a fan typically only kicks into gear as the computer overheats.
2. Improves overclocking potential
Overclocking is the process of setting your CPU multiplier at a higher frequency, which speeds up your processor and other components. However, this process can damage your computer if you’re not careful, because it increases the heat generated by your system.
Liquid cooling keeps your overclocked hardware cooler, so you won’t crash your computer or damage your hardware because of overheating.
3. Less noise
A water cooling kit will reduce the need to use more than one fan in your PC case. The self-contained loop of water cools quietly, so you don’t have to worry about loud fans breaking your focus while fighting that last big boss in your favorite game.
Most liquid-cooled units do include one fan in the build, though. The liquid system takes on the bulk of the work, while the fan circulates the air. This causes the fan to operate at a lower RPM, so you likely won’t even realize it’s there.
4. Sustains cool temperatures over time
From smartphones to laptops, electronic devices just have a tendency to get hot. You know this if you've experienced the sensation of a burning lap while you're simply checking emails.
An air-cooled PC uses the ambient air around it to push hot air out of the computer system, which works to cool things down even when your computer isn't working all that hard.
Fans will respond after there's an increase in heat. So if you're streaming or gaming, the fan steps in to cool the components by blowing away any excess heat. Liquid cooling, on the other hand, keeps your PC running at a lower temperature all the time.
5. Liquid cooling takes up less space than fans
Water definitely wins when it comes to real estate. Fans take up far more space than the thin tubes of water in your average liquid cooling kit.
A traditional air-cooled system relies on a series of fans cooling various components within the gaming PC case. More fans are needed when you get into custom, high-powered PCs, which makes for a bulky and cluttered case.
While liquid units take up less space than fans, their construction is a bit more complex and consists of the following parts:
6. Cools off high-performance GPUs
These days, a high-end GPU can generate two or three times the amount of heat of a CPU. As a result, you’re bound to notice a major increase in fan noise when you’re in the midst of an extended gaming session like when playing Fortnite on your PC.
Water cooling presents an attractive solution because, again, it cuts down on noise and offers an efficient means of cooling things down.
7. Good for warmer climates
If you live in a location with high ambient temperatures, adding a hardware-heavy gaming PC into the mix can be a recipe for overheating and loud fans.
Because the water system works on an ongoing basis, those working in naturally warmer spaces don’t have to compromise on performance.
8. Liquid cooling offers cooling specific components
Another benefit of liquid cooling is its ability to cool specific components more easily than a fan.
Installing a custom cooling system means users can opt to cool specific components that tend to get hot. Options include the hard drives, the CPU, the GPU, and power supplies.
And because liquid cooling systems are so compact, adding multiple units to your system won’t take up all of the space in your PC case. The alternative is buying multiple fans and placing them near say, the GPU, but this setup can quickly get bulky.
9. Not just for gamers
Gaming seems to get all of the attention when it comes to cooling for performance, but anyone working with electronics can benefit from the power of water cooling.
This efficient approach to protecting your gear means anyone performing more strenuous tasks won’t have to worry about their computer overheating and potentially wiping out hours of work.
Instead, you can rest assured that your gear is protected. Leading video editing programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas are hard on your computer and require a pretty powerful rig if you want things to run smoothly.
And just like with gaming, you may end up generating a lot of heat that you can reduce with a liquid cooling system.
10. Water cooling looks cool
This last benefit is a subjective one, to be sure. However, water cooling units are often customizable and allow you to choose colorful coolant that provides some added flair to your gaming rig.
Water cooling offers some distinct advantages over its noisy air-based alternative, but it’s hard to deny the extra bit of personality that it can add to your system.
When looking at an air-cooled vs liquid-cooled system, it becomes clear that liquid is the more efficient, quiet solution that keeps your computer from overheating in spite of overclocking or other sources of computing stress.
If you’re building a gaming computer or running demanding programs, this type of cooling system may be ideal for you. That said, installation can get a bit complicated. You can always avoid this process by choosing one of the HP OMEN gaming desktops, our signature gaming computer lineup.
You can include liquid cooling as a customization option when making your purchase, so you can stop worrying about installation and instead get straight to gaming.
About the Author: Dan Marzullo is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dan produces strategic marketing content for startups, digital agencies, and established brands. His work can be found in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, YFS Magazine, and many other media outlets.