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Beefy Air Cooler or AIO??

I know this is a common question asked about 100000 times but I was wondering what your guys opinions were on Air vs Liquid Cooling. I'm in the middle of picking out new parts for a new system, I already have the Corsair 220T with 3 intake fans in the front and an exhaust in the back. I was wondering if I would get better performance out of a 240mm AIO mounted at the top as an exhaust or the Noctua U12A in a push pull config.

Any thoughts / advice is helpful.

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4 minutes ago, Teriyaki Thunder said:

I know this is a common question asked about 100000 times but I was wondering what your guys opinions were on Air vs Liquid Cooling. I'm in the middle of picking out new parts for a new system, I already have the Corsair 220T with 3 intake fans in the front and an exhaust in the back. I was wondering if I would get better performance out of a 240mm AIO mounted at the top as an exhaust or the Noctua U12A in a push pull config.

Any thoughts / advice is helpful.

If you can afford it, an Aio over air cooler anyday, as they are liquid cooled n can consistently keep the temps low, and will provide better OCing

The night is darkest before dawn - Bruce Wayne

ps. tag me so i can view when you reply :D 

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16 minutes ago, Teriyaki Thunder said:

Any thoughts / advice is helpful.

A 240mm aio will probably outperform the aircooler when it comes to pure thermals. Only the biggest aircoolers get similar cooling performance to an aio. although the aio will be a few degrees cooler, the aircooler will be quieter under low an medium loads, maybe also under heavy load dependig on the fans you are getting for it.

 

i also have a big aio mounted on the top as exhaust and you definitely hear the pump a bit through the fans. also the fans are perceived louder because the case is basically open on the top whereas with the aircooler you have the fans enclosed in the case which helps with noise a lot. before that i had a big air cooler in the same case, so i know the difference. (that said my case has panels on the top that can be closed if no radiator is installed, so there is less noise.)

 

so in summary:

AIO: - likely better thermal performance, maybe a bit quieter under full load.

Air: - slightly warmer, quieter under idle and medium load.

 

if you don't want to overclock or just want to overclock lightly, go for the air cooler. it will be more than fine. especially with a high quality noctua product.

uni student // at war with Siemens software // wife haver

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17 minutes ago, Teriyaki Thunder said:

Any thoughts / advice is helpful

also which CPU are you planning to cool? 

uni student // at war with Siemens software // wife haver

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9 hours ago, Teriyaki Thunder said:

I know this is a common question asked about 100000 times but I was wondering what your guys opinions were on Air vs Liquid Cooling. I'm in the middle of picking out new parts for a new system, I already have the Corsair 220T with 3 intake fans in the front and an exhaust in the back. I was wondering if I would get better performance out of a 240mm AIO mounted at the top as an exhaust or the Noctua U12A in a push pull config.

Any thoughts / advice is helpful.

I've had both ands there really isn't much of a difference unless you're into heavy OCing. AIO can be quieter at full load but it also has a pump which can be loud at times, they also have more point of failure and are harder to install. I also wouldn't get the U12A id's look at a D15 or a Dark Rock Pro 4 instead for better performance and lower noise.

Dirty Windows Peasants :P ?

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10 hours ago, HotdropHeinz said:

also which CPU are you planning to cool? 

10600k

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Which Corsair 220T did you get? Is it tempered glass front or Airflow?

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X   AIO: Gamer Storm Castle 360 RGB   Motherboard: ASRock B450 Pro4   Case: Fractal Design Meshify C   GPU: Asus RTX 2060 Super   RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x16GB 3200 MHz   PSU: Corsair RM750x

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I’ll give you my CLC just pay shipping. I’m partial to Thermalright coolers myself.

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7 hours ago, alyen said:

Which Corsair 220T did you get? Is it tempered glass front or Airflow?

airflow w tempered glass side

 

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They perform similarly depending on the coolers.  I prefer air coolers for reliability and I like the aesthetics, but some might prefer aios better. 

I refuse to read threads whose author does not know how to remove the caps lock! 

— Grumpy old man

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Conventional wisdom is:

 

Performance: custom loop > AIO > air (custom loop > good AIO > best air = average AIO > crappy AIO)

 

Silence: custom loop > air > AIO

 

Where Noctua NH-D15, Thermalright Le Grand Macho RT and Scythe Fuma 2 are air coolers that play in the AIO league. Others can also pull it off thermally (especially Cryorig R1 but also possibly but with more of a difference: Raijintek Tisis, Reeven Okeanos, SilentiumPC Grandis 3 and other dual towers from lesser brands) but will be louder.

 

As far as fans go, good AIOs will in fact be quieter than big air when tested in test rigs. But there are two problems:

 

1. The pump is a different matter. A lot of pumps are quiet but not fully silent. This means you quite possibly won't have a dead-brick-silent PC in idle or low loads due to the pump. However, once the fans get to the sound-pressure level of, let's say, a Dark Rock Pro/Silent Wings fan running close to its max (which is very quiet but audible), the fans will drown out the pump.

 

2. Pulling through a radiator + dust filter + case mesh can drastically increase sound levels, and the front of your case is closer to your ear than the inside where an air cooler would be (directly on the CPU). For example my Silent Wings 3 hispeed fans begin to be an acoustic nuisance as front intakes around 560 rpm through filter + mesh, while 850 rpm on the CPU cooler is more agreeable, with the same fans. Certain fans have a special acoustic problem with pulling. And certain fans also have a special problem with working in a horizontal position. In a normal case you won't get the same acoustic results as a tester with a test bench. Check out tests that specify a proper chassis in the testing rig.

 

In plainer words, an air cooler is hidden, while an AIO's radiator with fans is exposed on the edge of your case and also turns your PC into a fish tank. ;)

 

***

Your particular CPU is demanding but isn't the worst hog of them all, so big air for OC is perfectly viable. My suggestion, however, would be to avoid looking for the best theoretical bang for the buck and instead embrace a great deal of diminishing returns. This is becasue:

 

1. Those prices differences — anywhere from 10 to 50 bucks — aren't objectively a great expense.

2. It's easier to make more money by working a couple of hours extra than save money by looking for bargains on the Internet.

3. It's better to end up with too much headrom than too little.

4. Overkill coolers generally don't go to waste — you tend to end up with a cooler system (e.g. the fans rarely spin up).

5. You can't just example or upgrade a cooler once you've bought it, you have to replace it.

6. Skipping to the end game allows you to, well, skip the hassle of the mid game. Pay and forget.

 

If you decide to pay and forget and buy a D15s (D15 might not fit) or Le Grand Macho RT, you will be happy. Le Grand Macho would max out on your case's vertical clearance for CPU coolers (which is 160mm, and LGMRT is 159mm) and is recessed, so it won't conflict with RAM banks. D15S would also fit, normal D15 would not (the typical scenario is 140mm fan sitting atop of 30–40mm RAM sticks). For the record, the middle fan in the D15/D15S does most of the work, so removing the front fan (which is what D15S does) doesn't make that much difference.

 

A pay-and-forget option would be to buy a H115i, which Corsair says is compatible with your case. Opinions differ on whether H115i Pro X or H115i Platinum (RGB) is the better cooler — they each have a different pump, and it's possible the pumps aren't even consistent within the same model in terms of acoustic properties.

 

However, Fuma 2 should also make you happy and should usually be noticeably cheaper than D15s, although that is not always the case. In a lot of applications Fuma 2 ends up being quieter than D15 for the same temps. You could even experiment with a third fan (+rear) for either less noise (on low rpms) or more performance. Provided that it fits, which I'm not sure of. You'd have to verify it's going to work with your RAM and your mobo's RAM banks (distance between RAM banks and CPU socket).

 

A potentially cheaper option — but likely not worth the hassle — would be to buy an old used heatsink (D14, TC14PE, Silver Arrow, etc.) — and strap modern fans on it (e.g. Arctic P12, P14). But this path likely isn't worth the trouble compared to just finding a good deal on Fuma 2 or D15s or LGMRT.

 

As for single towers, of course Le Grand Macho RT is technically one, and then there's Ninja 5 if you can fit it (but Fuma 2 is sometimes quieter actually, despite Fuma 2 not being made for silence and Ninja 2 selling mainly on silence), or, well, U12A, which is probably the most advanced 12cm single tower in the market right now. I'm not sure it would make any sense looking at any other single towers really, as long as you can fit a Fuma 2. I would suggest choosing either Fuma 2 or LGMRT over Ninja 5, though, due to the fact that Ninja 5 is actually louder than they are under low and middle loads, and while it's quieter at max loads, that's because of the fans' 800 rpm cap, which can be a bit of a problem in the highest OC and load ranges. (Although, to be fair, 12V vs 12V, Ninja 5 can actually offer similar thermals while being several dBA quieter, depending on the CPU, OC range and load, and it will take a lot before its stops being sufficient).

 

***

 

TL;DR If I were you and cared for silence, I'd grab a Le Grand Macho RT as my first preference, Fuma 2 second. If okay with a slight buzz / pump sound in idle/low loads, I'd go for H115i or — but you'd need to make sure the non-standard 68mm radiator + fan height will fit — an Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280, which also has the added benefit of a 40mm VRM fan on the block, which in many situations may have more impact on your OC than just the CPU temps (the crappier the mobo's power circuitry, the more VRM temps matter).

 

If your seller accepts returns why don't you buy an AIO first (H115i or LFII 280), test it and then either keep it or grab an air cooler instead? That way you will at least know, first hand, empirically. Consumer returns are a part of life these days.

 

***

 

For my own applications, I'm not decided. I have an extended hearing range ('Exceptional', which is 2 notches above 'Good') and some neurological problems with sensitivity to sound, so while I'm not a crying pansy about civilized fan brush (which I sometimes like more than I like absolute silence), I really dislike vibrations, ticking, motor buzz, even electric hum. For this reason I'm skeptical about anything with a pump being a good solution for me. However, I'm certainly tempted by how AIOs are several decibels quieter in those situations in which you can't avoid audibility anyway. If I concentrate, I'll probably be able to hear an ultra quiet CPU fan rotating at 700-ish RPM, so I really doubt I could get away with a working pump, even on low rpms. And low rpms on a pump are a bigger problem than low rpms on a fan that sits on a huge heatsink directly on the CPU.

 

So my current project is 1. Grab the best heatsink (after deciding just which one is best, where D14 contends with TC14PE and with the original old Silver Arrow with four 8mm pipes), 2. Put the best fans on it (Arctic P14 right now, though TY-141/147/150 would be better if it were available, and Noctua's 14cm version of NF-A12x25 will probably be better) in whatever number from 1 to 3 works out best for my applications.

 

From 1 to 3 fans generally depends on your specific scenario. If you're going to have a high-RPM fan roaring at its full speed (2500-ish 140mm), then the number of fans doesn't really matter. In lower and middle loads often a single fan will be better than 2 or 3, but also often adding a second fan will allow both to run slower, for less total noise. In some situations, however, 3 low-spinning fans do allow further noise reduction compared to 2.

 

Also the fans matter here, their flow-vs-noise balance. For some fans, adding more of them at lower rpms will be quiter, having just one fan motor running but cranking up the speed will be quieter. I've seen tests of D15 and Fuma 1 where adding a third fan allowed a significant noise reduction for the same temps.

 

This all is something I'll probably have to find out by trial and error.

 

I'm currently waiting for my P14 5-pack to arrive, so I'll see how they push and pell through duster filters + case mesh. If I'm satisfied, then I might buy an Arctic 280 (which has the same fans). But if I end up hearing them at 600–ish RPM, then obviously adding a rad won't help things at all, so I'll stick with air (and probably use 3xP14 for intake, 2–3xP14 for exhaust and 3xP14 on CPU, all as slow-turning as possible).

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