If you’re serious about pushing your computer’s performance while keeping it as cool as possible, the long-standing advice has been to opt for water cooling, rather than rely on air cooling. Generally speaking, there’s something to this advice.
Unless you’re comparing a basic all-in-one water cooler with a really beefy high-end air cooler. Putting your CPU or your graphics card for that matter under liquid should yield better results.
But have you ever wondered why this is the case? I mean, what’s so special about plain old water? As it turns out, quite a lot. Every substance has an intrinsic property called heat capacity. Simply put, this is how much thermal energy it can absorb before it changes temperature. Turns out that water has a higher heat capacity than most other common substances. Think about it for a second; You’ve got a large swimming pool that’s getting beat on by the Sun during a scorching hot day. And yet you jump in and it’s still shockingly cold, even in the late afternoon.
This is because of hydrogen bonding at the molecular level. The oxygen atom in a water molecule is quite electronegative. Meaning that it attracts electrons, which gives it more of a negative charge than the two attached hydrogen atoms. This means that the more positively charged hydrogen atoms of the surrounding water molecules will stick to the oxygen atoms and prevent the molecules from moving around too much when heat is applied. Since higher temperatures are a result of more molecular motion. All of this means that water can resist temperature changes better than the metals that are commonly used in air coolers.
So, coming back to what this means for your PC strapping. A water block to your CPU or your GPU – means that your chips will be spitting out heat into a substance that can hold much more heat than an aluminum heat sink with a fan attached to it. But that’s not even the whole story. There’s also the fact that there’s a practical limit to how much heat sink you can strap on to a CPU socket before it becomes too large and too heavy.
Another way that water coolers achieve better performance is by having very large radiators to dissipate the heat that’s been absorbed by the water. Further improving overall cooling capacity. Furthermore, because pumping water from the CPU to another part of the system is so fast and efficient. Many water cooling systems are designed to take the warm water away where it can get easy access to fresh and cool air.
Other people prefer to mount their fans in such a way that they’ll blow the waste heat right out of the case. Ensuring that the hot air from their CPU isn’t affecting their other components. Even aside from raw performance though, water coolers have other advantages. Because water cools more efficiently than a metal heat sink alone, water coolers are generally quieter. Because the attached fans don’t have to work as hard to dissipate heat. Compared to a beefy Tower style air cooler, they also take up less space. Put less torque on your motherboard. Eliminate worries about your CPU cooler conflicting with being able to install your RAM. And are generally more aesthetically pleasing. If you want a clean looking build.
However, despite liquid cooling many advantages, there are some things you should be wary of before you rush out and buy a water cooler. Although springing a leak in a well-designed loop is rare, it can happen. And while some coolers are filled with distilled water or other non conductive fluids. Even these substances are liable to pick up ions from the metals inside the cooler and become conductive over time.
You’ll want to make sure that whatever brand you buy from, has a reputation for covering the cost of other damaged components. If the worst happens, don’t feel compelled to spend extra money on a water cooler.
If you aren’t overclocking, although you can still reap the benefits of better aesthetics and reduced noise. Though it should be noted that very high-end air coolers actually can run quieter than water coolers. Because they don’t require pumps. Your CPU will function just fine at stock speeds with the cooler that comes in the box or worst-case scenario, a modest aftermarket air cooler.