Choosing between custom water cooling or AIO coolers for gaming PCs can be tedious. The former is the buzzword of the DIY PC enthusiast community.
Most extreme enthusiasts run custom liquid-cooled systems to show off their unique styles. These builds allow for customization at a whole other level.
On the other end of the spectrum lies AIO liquid coolers, which are cheap and more straightforward. Most people prefer AIOs because everything is included in a single box.
But is settling for AIO liquid coolers enough? Let us find out.
Do you need custom water cooling?
Custom water cooling gives you lots of freedom. Choose your tubing, radiators, blockheads, reservoirs, and a coolant. But will all of this extra independence help in gaming? The answer is no.
All liquid coolers, either custom water cooling or AIO coolers for gaming PCs, have the same working principle. Let us try to understand how liquid coolers work.
Dissecting liquid coolers
Each liquid cooler has seven parts. They require a pump, a reservoir, tubes, cold plates, radiators, fans, and a coolant. Each of these components has its respective work in the cooling process.
- Pump: The pump is tasked with pumping the coolant throughout the closed loop.
- Reservoir: The reservoir stores excess coolant and can discharge select amounts as required.
- Tubes: The tubes transfer the coolant from the pump to the blockhead, from there to the radiator, and vice-versa.
- Cold plates: Coldplates contain internal tubing that forces the coolant to absorb heat from components like CPUs and GPUs.
- Radiators: Radiators are used to cool down the coolant before it is recirculated in the loop.
- Fans: Fans help the coolant to lose temperatures fast.
All coolers, be they custom water cooling or AIO coolers for gaming PCs, have these components and work the same way. Thus, it is common for similar coolers to achieve similar results irrespective of whether they are custom-built or factory-fitted.
Readers may argue that AIO liquid coolers do not have reservoirs. It is worth mentioning that these closed loop coolers are filled to the brim with a custom coolant. This coolant circulates continuously inside the cooler, eliminating the need for a reservoir to store the excess liquid.
Check out this video to understand how custom liquid-cooled systems are built:
Custom water cooling or AIO Coolers for Gaming
While it is true that custom liquid coolers have several benefits over AIO liquid coolers, most of these advantages are accentuated only when your system uses a hot-running chip like the Core i9-12900K.
All types of coolers, from air coolers to custom water cooling or AIO coolers for gaming PCs, have different markets. While custom LC systems are meant for extreme DIY enthusiasts, the latter is intended for the masses.
AIO liquid coolers are easy to install and maintain. They come with every component required for installation, including the thermal paste. They are backed by manufacturer warranties, which enhance the user's experience. You do not get any of these perks with custom liquid coolers.
Custom liquid-cooled systems have their own set of complexities. Leaks are a major headache. Custom LC systems are not factory tested and do not come with anti-leak technologies to prevent this mishap. Also, it isn't easy to take a custom LC system apart.
Considering these points, choosing between custom water cooling or AIO coolers for gaming PCs becomes easier. The pros of custom LCs significantly outweigh the cons when it comes to gaming systems.
Thus, we recommend that you choose AIO liquid coolers if all you want to do is play the latest games on your system.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the author's opinion.