As the latest high-end hardware for PCs such as AMD’s 5000 series CPUs and the graphics cards we may eventually be able to buy continue to push the boundaries of how much power you can cram into a case, cooling solutions have rapidly become more relevant than ever before. More power means more power usage and heat; if your components overheat, their performance output sharply falls. That means you’re most likely going to need effective cooling in order to get your money’s worth out of your snazzy new hardware, especially if you plan on overclocking.
In terms of the types of cooling options available to you currently, there are three – air cooling towers, AIO water coolers, and custom cooling solutions. Here’s an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each of them, including cooling efficiency, price, and aesthetics.
Air cooling towers
First up are air cooling towers such as the CORSAIR A500. These utilize heat pipes, fins, and fans to dissipate heat generated by the CPU in your rig effectively. Air cooling solutions like this are the most affordable of the three and are effective enough that they will be all you need if you’re using mid-range components. Many air coolers also come with cool RGB lighting and other decorative trims.
Where the effectiveness of air coolers starts to drop off is at the higher end of things. Air coolers extract heat from the CPU, but they simply circulate it inside the case. This raises the air temperature in the case, impacting the operating temperature of all other components, and reducing the effectiveness of their own cooling. Once the ambient temperature inside the case gets close to the temperature of the cooler fins, the air cooler isn’t able to cool the CPU anymore. The last generations of CPUs generally can’t be effectively cooled by air coolers anymore, if you wish to use all the performance they’re capable of.
CORSAIR A500 Air Cooler
The CORSAIR A500 Air Cooler is a powerful air cooling tower that delivers reliable and affordable cooling. It’s perfect for gamers using mid-range rigs or for anyone who wants to save as much as they can on a cooling solution.View Deal
AIO water coolers
AIO (all-in-one) water coolers like the CORSAIR H100i ELITE are a cut above air coolers, offering significantly better and quieter cooling performance while also reducing the ambient air temperature of your PC case and being less bulky. These coolers include a pump, liquid, a radiator, and multiple fans in a closed system that constantly cools your processor with cool water. AIO coolers are effective in every type of rig, and if you’re not excited by the prospect of assembling a unique custom cooling setup, they’re what we recommend. They’re also great for overclockers. As these coolers are more complex than air coolers, it’s important that you go with a reputable brand to avoid cooler malfunctions and component overheats.
The CORSAIR H100i provides superb water cooling to the CPU, giving overclockers and folks with high-end rigs the cooling power they need to achieve top-notch performance.View Deal
Finally, there are custom cooling solutions, such as those offered within the CORSAIR Hydro X series. These are either assembled from individual cooling parts or with kits such as the CORSAIR XH305i for the CPU, and GPU blocks such as the CORSAIR XG7. A custom cooling loop uses coolant, fans, water blocks, and radiators to cool your components in the same way as an AIO cooler, but also can include the GPU in your water cooling system. Most importantly, they can be scaled up to meet the demand of your components. If you build your PC with a top end GPU or add one later, you can add a second radiator to your loop, almost doubling the heat extraction capability of your cooling system. Since they provide the best possible cooling to your CPU and GPU, this is easily the best type of cooling in terms of sheer performance. A custom cooling solution transports your CPU and GPU heat to the radiator on the side of the case and radiator fans blow the heat out the case, which means that your other components in the case run in a cooler environment. The highly efficient cooling system also means that your PC will run absolutely silently under all but the heaviest loads.
You can also pick from a variety of visual styles, as the look of custom cooled PCs is something special that air cooled and AIO cooled PCs can’t really compete with.
The only significant downside to custom cooling is that it’s incredibly expensive compared to air and AIO coolers. For a first time builder, it may also be a bit daunting to select all the parts needed and assemble the system correctly. This is why we recommend you use the Corsair Custom Cooling Configurator on their website.
The CORSAIR XH305i is an excellent custom cooling kit that gives you the freedom to set up your very own ultimate CPU cooler. It may be pricey, but if you’re pushing for the absolute best performance possible, it’s totally worth it.View Deal
The CORSAIR XG7 is a stellar GPU cooling block that helps keep the temps of your graphics card down, boosting your performance. Use it in conjunction with a custom CPU cooling solution and you’ll never have to worry about heat again.View Deal
No matter what you need, there’s a cooler for you
As PC components deliver more and more power, cooling is becoming more important than ever before, but thankfully, there are plenty of different cooling solutions out there for rigs of all power levels. Whether you’re rocking a mid-range rig and want some affordable and effective air cooling, putting together a quality build and need the power of an AIO water cooler, or dominating the competition with a top-notch setup and in need of the incredible power and flexibility provided by custom cooling, there are options on the market for you.