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AIO Vs Air Cooler – Which one to Prefer?

A CPU, while it’s functioning, tends to generate a lot of heat. This heat can cause processor damage, and further, it ends up reducing its overall performance. Hence, your CPU requires getting cooled down. It can be done with the help of a cooling solution i.e., air cooling or/and liquid cooling. For this purpose, you can find many types of coolers, like air coolers and AIO (All-in-one) coolers in the market.

However, opting to purchase any of these coolers requires understanding your CPU’s power needs and determining which one of these coolers suits the best. This article consists of a detailed differentiation between Air and AIO coolers.

Why Does The CPU Require Cooling?

The CPU (i.e. Central Processing Unit), every second you use the PC, performs a ton of calculations. There are numerous processing tasks associated. Now, at times, the CPU is doing calculations, it tends to generate a lot of heat, which happens because of the electrical current flow via the transistors.

Now, this heat builds up really fast. So to avoid the issue of the CPU getting overheated, cooling is necessary. It’s because an overheated CPU can end up being damaged. So if you wish to keep your CPU secure you require cooling methods to keep it operating at a safe temperature. How to keep it cooled down?

You can opt for CPU coolers (like air coolers and/or all-in-one (AIO), which are liquid coolers) and resolve this issue quickly. However, which one out of these is best suited to you? Let’s uncover that

AIO Cooler

AIO CoolrThe All-In-One (AIO) cooler, is a cooler that has been designed for cooling processors in a computer, specifically, CPUs. It’s basically a liquid cooling solution or one such type. AIO coolers are easy to install and come equipped with the least leakage risks. It comprises a radiator, one pump, fans, a coolant, etc. What’s the purpose of liquid here?

Well, it basically helps with the absorption of heat caused (by your CPU). Liquid further takes the heat to the radiator. Here, what happens is the fans help in getting the heat to vanish. It’s when the liquid that gets (now) cooled is returned to a pump.

Types of AIO Coolers

1. Single Fan AIO Coolers

As the name proposes, this type of all-in-one liquid cooler comes equipped with one fan, which helps with heat dissipation. Enlisted are some merits of putting a single fan all-in-one cooler to use:

  • Compact in Size: All-in-one coolers with a single fan are compact when it comes to there and are able to fit in smaller systems and occupy very little space.
  • Cost-Efficient: These all-in-one coolers with a single fan are not that expensive as compared to bigger-sized liquid coolers that have many fans installed.
  • Quieter: AIO coolers equipped with a single fan can be quieter than traditional air coolers, as the fan does not need to spin as fast to achieve the same level of cooling performance.
  • Smooth Installation: AIO coolers with one fan get installed pretty smoothly. Also, their setup or assembly is quite easy compared to other custom cooling solutions.

2. Double Fan AIO Coolers

Here, as the name proposes, this type of all-in-one liquid cooler comes equipped with two fans, which help with heat dissipation. These types of coolers are versatile and they come equipped with a radiator that is bigger in size as compared to the one in a single-fan AIO cooler.

Enlisted are some merits of putting a double fan all-in-one cooler to use:

  • Enhance Cooling Performance: Since a double fan cooler comes equipped with a radiator that is bigger in size it allows a cooling performance, which is way better as compared to the one with a single fan. Hence, for CPUs with high performance, this type comes as a better option.
  • Smooth Installation: Double fan all-in-one coolers get installed pretty smoothly as the single fan ones. Also, their setup or assembly is quite easy compared to other custom cooling solutions.
  • Lesser Noise Issues: These are quieter than coolers with one fan. It’s because, here, the fans won’t require spinning too fast to allow better cooling performance; hence, lesser noise is generated.

3. Triple Fan

As the name says, this type of all-in-one liquid cooler comes equipped with three fans, which help with heat dissipation. Since it has an extra fan as compared to single and/or double ones, it provides you with enhanced cooling of the CPU.

Enlisted are some merits of putting a triple fan all-in-one cooler to use:

  • Improvement in Cooling: Since it has an extra fan as compared to single and/or double ones, it provides you with enhanced cooling of the CPU.
  • Lesser Noise Issues: Since it has 3 fans, which are basically spinning at a low speed, it’s able to generate lesser sound as compared to a dual fan cooler.
  • Easily Installed: AIO coolers with 3 fans get installed quite smoothly. Also, their setup or assembly doesn’t take a lot of time to be done and requires lesser effort in comparison to other custom cooling solutions.
  • Save Space: Since they are compact in size as compared to any other cooling solution, using these coolers is a great option, specifically in the case of small PCs where space is less.

4. Compact AIO CPU Coolers

This one is an AIO (i.e. all-in-one) liquid cooling solution, which is designed in a way that it fits even into limited spaces. It comprises a small pump, water block, radiator, etc. Enlisted are certain benefits of putting the compact AIO CPU cooler to use:

  • Effective cooling performance
  • They have a compact size, which makes room for installation that can be done quickly and easily.
  • Because of the low noise origination, they are better compared to an air cooler.
  • Not hard to maintain
  • They look sleek and have options for RGB lighting, which is customizable.

Air Cooler

Air-coolersIt’s a cooling solution or a system, which puts a fan to use along with a heatsink that is needed for heat dissipation from the CPU. In this, the CPU has a metal heatsink attached to it and there is a fan, which helps in blowing air over it so the heat can be dissipated. Since this metal heatsink has a huge surface area, the capability to absorb heat (from your CPU) is heightened.

Moreover, when it comes to air coolers, they cool down the CPUs quite effectively and you will find them mostly in high-performance CPUs. These coolers are also inexpensive and can be installed quickly and easily to install without the need for staying maintained. However, the only issue with these is that they produce noise.

Types of Air Coolers

1. Tower Coolers

Being the most common type of air cooler, a tower cooler comprises a huge heatsink. This heatsink has multiple heat pipes. This cooler further has some fans that are attached to it. The function of these heat pipes is that they help in transferring heat (to the heatsink from the CPU).

Once transferred, it gets dissipated with the help of those fans. Enlisted are some benefits of the tower coolers:

  • Better Cooling: Tower coolers are able to help in the dissipation of heat away quickly (i.e. from the CPU) and in an efficient manner. Now, this further ensures that they perform with stability.
  • Operate Quietly: These coolers are quieter in nature when they are functioning as compared to other cooling solution types like liquid coolers. It’s because the sound gets spread with the help of multiple fans, which ends up in the reduction of the collective volume.
  • Compatibility: They show compatibility with a huge range of motherboards and/or CPUs.
  • Easily Installed: Tower coolers don’t need to modify the motherboard or so. They come equipped with clear instructions for the installation process and require very less time to be installed.
  • Minimal Maintenance: They need periodic or/and low maintenance to ensure cooling performance that is smooth and optimal.

2. Top-Flow Coolers

Top-flow coolers are one of the most efficient and effective cooling solutions for your CPU if you wish to dissipate heat from the same. They are an air cooler type with a horizontal orientation, and they blow down the air onto the CPU. It’s done from the heatsink’s top. Enlisted are some benefits of the Top-flow coolers:

  • Even Airflow: When the airflow i.e., above the entire motherboard, is even, it can end up cooling the different components and the CPU, which is highly beneficial for high-performance ones.
  • Quiet Functioning: These coolers work quieter than various cooling solutions types like tower coolers or/and liquid coolers. This is because what happens here is that the fans and a large heatsink are able to spread out the sound, and they further help in reducing the volume.
  • Efficient Cooling Performance: Top-flow coolers dissipate heat rapidly and efficiently and away from your CPU, which further ensures that they perform with stability.
  • Compatibility: Top-flow coolers also show compatibility with a huge range of motherboards and/or CPUs as tower coolers.

3. Low-Profile Coolers

These coolers for CPUs, if we talk of their size, tend to be compact. These cooling solutions have been made so they are able to fit into SFF PC cases and allow for effective cooling i.e. for processors.

However, these low-profile coolers tend to be equipped with heat pipes, a small fan, and fins so they can help with heat dissipation. Enlisted are some benefits of the low-profile coolers:

  • Space-Saving Design: They tend to be great options for PC builds (that are compact), HTPCs, etc. where space tends to be limited.
  • Quiet Operation: Many of these coolers tend to operate quietly. Also, they don’t end up making too much noise and hence, are an ideal option for noise-sensitive environments.
  • Improved Airflow: Since these come equipped with fans for improving the system’s overall airflow, they tend to allow cooling performance, which is better.
  • Easily Installed: With thermal paste, which is pre-applied, and mounting mechanisms that aren’t complex, they tend to be easily installed.

4. Slim Coolers

If you need a cooler for the CPU with configuration/properties of getting fit into a build that’s compact or has a small form factor, this is for you. Basically, they are low-profile coolers, which are used to dissipate heat if compatible. Examples include Scythe Big Shuriken 3, SilverStone Argon Series AR11, Noctua NH-L9a-AM4, etc.

Enlisted are certain benefits of putting the slim cooler to use for your CPU:

  • Space-Saving: Being designed as a low-profile option, Slim coolers tend to occupy less space. This is beneficial for small form factor cases.
  • Quieter Operation: These coolers, being equipped with bigger fans, allow sufficient cooling. It’s because the fans are able to spin slowly that further end up in quieter operation.
  • Easily Installed: They tend to be easily installed being a low-profile option and are able to fit into spaces that are small and/or compact. They tend to be equipped with required mounting hardware, resulting in a pretty straightforward installation process.
  • Enhanced Airflow: Since they put a direct contact heat pipe built to use they allow enhanced cooling and airflow. It’s because the pipe build allows finer thermal conductivity.

What is the Difference Between AIO (All-in-one) Coolers and Air Coolers? Aspect AIO Cooler Air Cooler
1. Installation Installation of these needs extra time and more effort Easily installed than all-in-one coolers
2. Cooling Performance Typically, they provide better cooling performance Their cooling performance isn’t as good as AIO coolers.
3. Noise Level Loud in nature Quieter in nature
4. Maintenance Generally, they need low maintenance as they possess a closed-loop design They need to be occasionally cleaned and maintained
5. Price On expensive side Generally, they are less expensive
6. Looks/Aesthetics Sleek and possess a minimalist design Bulky
7. Durability Not as much durable as Air coolers More durable than all-in-one coolers

Should You Use An AIO Cooler Or An Air Cooler?

If we talk of Air coolers, they tend to be an affordable option, which can be easily installed and maintained. Also, it doesn’t cause too much noise as compared to AIO coolers. They are known for the provision of sufficient cooling and that’s the case for most CPUs.

However, when it comes to high-end CPUs, these coolers might not be appropriate as such. Also, when it comes to AIO coolers, in the case of high-end CPUs, they prove to be quite efficient in cooling. However, they come on the expensive side as compared to Air coolers.

These coolers might also need more maintenance. Ultimately, choosing between AIO liquid coolers and Air coolers solely depends on your budget, needs, and much more.  In the end, before you invest in any of them, opt for weighing the pros and/or drawbacks of each cooler.

AIO Vs Air Cooler FAQs –

1. What are the cons of an AIO?

Ans: Cost Factor: These coolers are expensive when it comes to people who are budget-conscious.
Maintenance: To make sure they keep functioning, regular maintenance is crucial.
Noise: Tend to make too much noise because of the fans and pump.
Leaks: When it comes to liquid coolers, they tend to come with issues of leaks that may end up damaging the various PC components.
Some other cons involve lifespan limit, compatibility-related concerns, etc.

2. Do I really need an AIO cooler?

Ans: The need for investing in an AIO cooler, ultimately, depends on
whether you own a high-end CPU and you are into performing heavy workloads, and a lot of heat is generated during the process.
can afford it so you can opt for keeping CPU temperature in control.
own a lower-end one and/or don’t perform workloads that could be heavy where an air cooler is sufficient.

3. Is the AIO cooler hard to maintain?

Ans: When it comes to maintenance, AIO coolers tend to offer challenges as compared to air coolers. This happens because of the risks related to the pump’s noise, liquid leaks, periodic cleaning, etc.
But these coolers are known to provide a cooling experience which is superior as compared to air coolers. Hence, they tend to be a good option to opt for in the case of high-end CPUs/systems.

4. Is AIO good for the long term?

Ans: Yes, all in all, you can say no. However, this condition solely depends on if you run regular maintenance. It should stay clean and free of dust and/or debris to function well.


  • Considering the differences between the two cooling tools, as given above, AIO coolers have become the best option for CPUs with high performance. This is because they can dissipate heat better and more efficiently than Air coolers. However, they are on the expensive side. Also, they involve leak issues or more.
  • Air coolers are cheaper as compared to AIO coolers. Also, they are reliable. However, they aren’t an adequate option for CPUs with high performance. Moreover, choose the solution that caters to your specific needs, look for what your budget allows, and so on.

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