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How to Choose the Right Liquid Cooler for your PC

  • 17-01-2023 13:30:26

Cooling has always been of prime importance when it comes to optimal performance of a PC since cooler the components, better the performance and with the recent advent of high TDP components cooling has become more important than ever. This is a thumb rule that has been sustained over the years and will always be as such as not only cooler CPU and GPU run at rated to higher frequencies but also have a prolonged life span.

When it comes to cooling solutions the only two major options in the conventional category are air and liquid cooling which are opted by almost everyone due to ease of availability, usage and even maintenance. While both have their own pros and cons liquid cooling takes the lead due to simpler installation, wider computability with the cases and RAM sticks as well as ability to offer better cooling especially in the higher segment along with aesthetics like ARGB, LCD screens etc.

So now comes the main question, which liquid cooler is best for you? Or is it even the right cooling solution in your use case?

Before we address the former let’s discuss about the latter first, you will definitely need a liquid cooler if you have one or all of the following –

  • High TDP CPU – If you have a high TDP (thermal design power) CPU like the Intel i7 and above or the AMD Ryzen 7 and above which range in 200W and above of power consumption with an official TDP rating of 125W and above.
  • RAM Clearance - Liquid coolers offer universal compatibility with RAM heights which is a major benefit since beefy air coolers tend to hand over the first or second DIMM slot and block RAM that are either too tall or cover up the RGB effects.
  • Smaller Cabinet – Liquid coolers come in multiple radiator sizes and can fit in almost every case whereas air coolers are tall and need ample of clearance between the CPU and the cabinet’s side panel for installation.

Now with this being said let’s now talk about which liquid cooler would be the best suit for your use case. To make it simple we’ll break it down into the following benchmarks-

  • Size of the Radiator
  • Socket Compatibility
  • Aesthetics
  • Noise Levels
  • Pricing

 1.       Size of the Radiator – Most CPU liquid coolers out there come in three sizes that is 120mm, 240mm and 360mm while there are uncommon sizes such as 280m and 420mm too but either they are not available or they don’t fit in most cabinets. If you have a basic CPU with say 65W TDP rating such as an Intel i3 or a AMD Ryzen 3 then a 120mm radiator is more than enough for your use but if you have a 65W to 125W CPU say an Intel Core i5 or an AMD Ryzen 5 then you sure need to look at a 240mm cooler. Lastly anyone looking for a CPU that is rated at 125W or more should only consider a 360mm AIO as anything smaller won’t cut it through and will lead to thermal throttling.

Corsair being a major manufacturer of CPU Liquid Coolers or AIO with their Hydro series caters to all these three categories of sizes and one can definitely consider their H100 and H150 series that are 240mm and 360mm respectively across all the various series they come in.


 2.       Socket Compatibility – With new CPUs coming out almost every year the sockets these CPUs fit in keep on changing such as the AM5 for the latest Zen 4 based AMD Ryzen and the LGA 1700 for the latest Raptor Lake based Intel 13th Gen. Not all liquid coolers come compatible with these sockets out of the box and you might find yourself in a frenzy looking for brackets to make your cooer work with these CPUs so it’s important that you buy one that is either compatible out of the box or the manufacturer has a good record of providing brackets to their customers when the need be.

Corsair’s Hydro series across the board from RGB, Capellix Elite and XT not only show out of the box compatibility but also offer free to paid upgrades to their existing customers whenever a new CPU is out that needs a new socket types.


3.      Aesthetics – Liquid coolers come with a plethora of added features apart from their cooling hardware, these can be widely classified into color of the product, RGB implementation, wire management and even LCDs displays these days to take it all to a whole new level.

You should always pick a cooler that matches your build theme so first decide the color, after which you should decide if you need RGB, ARGB or no lights at all such as in case of production builds where the coolers are never to be seen once the PC is tucked in a corner of the office!

This choice can be easily seen in case of the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix and the Corsair H150i Pro XT, while both offer color choices but the latter offers non-RGB fans which can be a huge plus for some customers who are looking to save a few extra bucks or simply don’t need the added lights while on the other hand the former offers RGB, dual color options and even a RGB control hub in form of the Commander module for easier wire management.


4.       Noise Levels – Let’s accept it, fans can be noisy or very noisy, to say the least. In a liquid cooler after the pump unit the fans are primarily responsible for cooling down the hot coolant in the radiator area. In doing so in the best fashion some fans tend to become extremely loud under full speed which can be a major deal breaker for a lot of people especially those who working in sound sensitive environments.

Always choose a cooler with fans that generate less noise without compromising on performance, one such example are the Corsair ML fans that use Magnetic Levitation to eliminate friction in the fan hub and with just 25dBA at full speed these fans offer extremely low noise no matter what speed you run them at.


5.       Pricing – It all comes down to price isn’t it? A product is only good if it offers everything you want without breaking the bank so when choosing a liquid cooler ideally you should always look at the cooling potential after which all the bells and whistle come in. You should not spend on a cooler with inferior cooling but brighter lights or crispier displays! To strike the perfect balance again the comparison between the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix and Corsair H150i Pro XT comes into play, since both offer identical performance you should try and go for the Pro XT if you are really tight on the budget rather than going for something else which might offer RGB and other bling but at the price of lower cooling performance.

So that was a comprehensive buyer’s guide which we think has equipped you well to help you get the best CPU Liquid Cooler the next time you are in the market to buy one for your precious gaming PC. Do drop a comment and let us know what you think about the above & also if you want to add something to the list then we’ll be happy to hear from you guys on that as well.


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