AIO vs Air Cooler—What’s Better?

aio vs air cooler

Whenever you use your CPU for extended time periods, it begins to heat up (see CPU temperature). It is essential for it to cool down again to be able to function efficiently. In this case, you can make use of a cooler that can take in this heat and carry it away from the CPU.

There are several kinds of coolers available in the market for you to choose from. Here, we will specifically focus on all-in-one (AIO) and air coolers.

When it comes to AIO vs air coolers, there are different ways in which each of them transports the heat away from the CPU.

Based on your requirements and several other factors which we will look into here, you can determine which cooler is better for you.

Let's get started!

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AIO Coolers

An AIO cooler is a liquid cooler that comprises all the relevant components within its unit. All you need to do when it comes to this kind of cooler is to connect the cooler to the CPU and allow it to transfer the heat.

To do this, you have to attach a block to the CPU which receives the heat. This block then transfers the heat to a liquid which is known as a coolant. This coolant heats up and is then pumped to a radiator through one of the tubes. Once it reaches there, the radiator pushes the heat out using the fans connected to it.

Once the coolant is cool again, it makes its way back to the block through the other tube of the cooler. This process takes place extremely quickly and can continue to function while you keep using your PC.

It can also easily fit into any compatible case as long as it has all the relevant connection spots. This kind of cooler also provides several features that you can customize to make the AIO cooler more suitable for your usage needs and standards.


  • The cooling process in an AIO cooler is much quicker.
  • An AIO cooler is generally small and thin, making it an effective choice in terms of space.
  • You can easily overclock your CPU without worrying about overheating.
  • It can be compatible with several kinds of cases.
  • It comes with a wide range of features that allow you to change the settings of the lights and fans.
  • It functions quietly throughout the process, minimizing disturbance.


  • It can be slightly expensive due to the presence of multiple functions and features.
  • It can be difficult to install due to the extra steps that you will need to carry out in a careful manner.

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Air Coolers

An air cooler is a popular kind of cooler that relies on pipes and fins in its structure to cool down the CPU. The overall process that an air cooler follows is similar to that of an AIO cooler, although there are several differences when it comes to the medium and structure.

This kind of air cooler is usually attached to the CPU using a baseplate that accepts the heat from the CPU. The cooler then transfers this heat from the plate to the metal pipes. These pipes carry the heat towards a cluster of metal fins.

Here, there is usually one (or more) fan that pushes the warm air away from the CPU and towards a case where the air disperses.

An air cooler is generally quite large, but larger coolers tend to be more effective while cooling than smaller ones. It is also convenient to use and install and does not cost too much money. Overall, an air cooler can be a dependable choice to make as long as you ensure that it is compatible with your needs.


  • It is affordable and cost effective.
  • It is simple to install since there are no extra components required for cooling.
  • Since it only makes use of air, you do not need to worry about potential spills or leaks.
  • The replacement and maintenance process tends to be much easier.
  • There are several shapes and sizes that you can choose from depending on your requirements.
  • It is usually compatible with most kinds of cases.
  • Available as low profile CPU coolers.


  • An air cooler tends to be quite large and heavy, requiring more space around the PC for efficient functioning.
  • Overclocking might not always be possible with an air cooler since it ultimately transfers the heat to the case, which can end up increasing the overall temperature after a point.
  • It can be a bit noisy.

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AIO vs Air Cooler—Which One Should You Pick?

Now that you have a better understanding of these two kinds of coolers, we can now move on to the AIO vs air cooler comparison guide that can allow you to make a more informed choice.

There are several factors and criteria that you should keep in mind while making your choice and deciding which one is better. Let's take a look at these criteria in further detail.



The process of installation in terms of AIO vs air cooler is not that different. Overall, both kinds of coolers require you to connect them to the CPU using baseplates that will then transfer the heat to tubes or pipes.

This process, however, is slightly more convenient in an air cooler due to the fewer components involved in the structure.

When it comes to an AIO cooler, there are a few additional steps that you will need to follow such as installing the water block and the radiator. Despite these additional steps, the process is still quite uncomplicated and plain sailing.



Another important consideration here is the cost of the coolers at the time of purchase as well as in the long run. In this case, the air cooler can be more cost effective as compared to the AIO cooler due to its simple design and function.

In the long run, as well, the components of the air cooler can easily be replaced without making changes to the entire structure. This is because the primary part that would require replacing is the fan since it drives the entire cooling process.

The AIO cooler is slightly more expensive because it can meet more advanced needs and comes with a range of additional features and parts.


Thermal Performance

In terms of the thermal performance of the AIO vs air cooler, the AIO cooler performs better. It can carry out the cooling process much more quickly due to the presence of the block and the radiator.

This includes sending the heated coolant to the radiator and the cool liquid back to the CPU.

An air cooler might take a longer time, especially as time passes by. This is because it relies on the air of the fan to disperse the heat while it takes a shorter time in liquids.



The AIO cooler can be a better option when it comes to the overall size of the air cooler. This is because the AIO cooler is a lot lighter and thinner than the air cooler. However, you will still need to account for the radiator of the AIO cooler, as that can require a bit more space to fit.

On the other hand, air coolers are much heavier and bigger. They can be difficult to move around and require enough space near the PC to be effective.

That being said, it is possible for you to start off with smaller sizes of each as long as they meet your requirements.



AIO coolers have a sleeker and higher quality design as compared to air coolers. They have several features such as LED lighting and display, efficient tubing and pumping, customizable settings and more.

The design aspect, however, is purely dependent on your needs. If you require a cooler that will blend in well with the rest of your structures, then an AIO cooler might work better.

Air coolers are a lot simpler in design and can look like a plain box. It does not include any custom features or lighting options. Yet, they can serve your requirements effectively as well.



You need to take the compatibility of the cooler into account as well. For instance, you should ensure that all the tubing and components are suitable for the PC that you use.

How much you use your PC and for what purpose can also make a difference. If you have a high level of usage, then it might be better to opt for an AIO cooler.

Compatibility with the case also matters here. An AIO cooler will have more specific needs due to the multiple components it has, but as long as there are suitable connections in the case, you will not face too much of an issue.



An AIO cooler is quieter in its functioning as compared to an air cooler. This is because of the higher levels of insulation along with the lower reliance on the fan.

Since an air cooler is much simpler in its design and function, the noise levels tend to be higher because the fan needs to keep rotating rapidly to provide a cooling effect.

However, with advancements in the technology of air coolers, you can look for options that allow you to control the speed of the fan to reduce noise.



Overclocking refers to a method of using your computer for a longer or more intensive task. This can put some pressure on your CPU to run faster, sometimes causing it to heat up.

This can be a common occurrence when it comes to . If you plan on overclocking your CPU, it would be better to opt for an AIO cooler since it directs the heat away from the CPU as well as the case, allowing for more rapid and prolonged cooling.

On the other hand, an air cooler disperses the heat into the case itself, which can end up heating the entire system after a certain time period.



In terms of general maintenance and cleaning of the cooler, the air cooler might be a more convenient option since it contains a limited number of components. The structure is also fairly simple, allowing you to easily clean it up.

The main part that will require regular maintenance is the fan, since the entire process relies on it. However, the pipes and plates are also important to maintain.

The maintenance process can be more complex for an AIO cooler due to the radiator and the presence of a coolant. It might also cause leaks in case of an accident.



AIO coolers are quite efficient and can last for several years. However, they are also more fragile than air coolers since they contain a coolant, a block, a chip as well as a radiator. In case anything goes wrong, it could affect the entire system, including your CPU.

Air coolers, on the other hand, can last longer since they do not come with too many risks. However, if used more than their capacity, they can lead to overheating and failure sooner than expected.

You should check the warranty period of the cooler that you buy to get some quality assurance. It is also important for you to only use the cooler up to its capacity and prevent accidents as far as possible.


CPU Requirements

Your CPU may have requirements of its own depending on how fast or slow it needs to work, how old it is, how much it tends to overheat and more.

In such a case, it might be better for you to opt for an AIO cooler to ensure better cooling. However, if you do not have advanced needs, then an air cooler can work well too.


Final Thoughts—AIO vs Air Cooler

We have now taken you through all the points of distinction when it comes to the AIO vs air cooler. With this informed understanding of the working of each of these coolers as well as their differences and contextual usage, you can make your decision about which one will work well for you.

Overall, the AIO cooler can be a better option due to its advanced functions. However, an air cooler can work efficiently for simpler needs as well.

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Tracy C.
Tracy C.

Hi! I'm Tracy and I am the owner of this little website. I build it as a resource center to troubleshoot common tech, hardware and software issues.

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