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How to buy the best PC cooling systems

Keeping down the heat

When you’re building an entry-level PC, you hardly bother about third-party cooling systems and go with the stock options. For the CPU, whether it’s AMD or Intel, you will probably install the stock air cooler while not messing with the stock cooling system on your graphics card. However, if you’re buying high-end components to overclock or you simply want to achieve better temperatures, you will have to go for aftermarket coolers. Picking between air or liquid cooling is based on what you intend to do with your components. Although you can still use air coolers for overclocking, you will achieve better performance and lower temperatures with liquid cooling. If you’re thinking of taking things to the next level with custom loop liquid cooling, then you will have to look for compatibility in the case as well. There are many more things you need look at before buying. Planning on upgrading from your stock cooler? Here’s a handy guide to follow.

There are a bunch of factors behind a good cooling system

What to consider

  • Socket compatibility: The first thing to consider should be socket compatibility. Cooler manufacturers will mostly list down all the supported sockets on the product page of the cooler itself. There are times when there are universal mounts for both AMD and Intel processors. However, it’s a good practice to always check for official support. In liquid cooling systems, you need to check for the CPU block’s compatibility. The same goes for graphics cards when you’re buying custom liquid cooling kits. Universal GPU blocks will be able to cool your GPU but might cover the VRM and memory. Since the design is different among manufacturers, the cooling kit manufacturer will list down all the supported graphics card variants from every manufacturer. If you can’t find your variant’s GPU block, chances are that they don’t support your graphics card.
  • Size constraints: Heatsinks in air coolers are present in different sizes, from low-profile heatsinks to tall ones. Since the traditional heatsink isn’t present in liquid coolers, they usually have a compact form factor. The size of your CPU cooler will hinder a few components including your RAM sticks, chassis, and the first PCI-e slot. Big heatsinks tend to take up space over the memory slots and if your RAM module has high-profile heatsinks, you won’t be able to attach them. Beefier heatsinks might be tall enough to be wider than your chassis. Ensure that you check the dimensions of your cooler and chassis before making a decision otherwise you’ll be forced to keep your side panel open. Finally, just like the way the heatsink might extend to the RAM slots horizontally, it could also do the same to cover up the first PCI-e slot. If you’re installing closed-loop or open-loop liquid coolers, you have to consider the length of the tubes to make sure it reaches the location where you intend to install the radiator. Since radiators are involved, you need to consider the thickness and length of the radiator whether it’s compatible with your chassis.
    Open-loop liquid coolers will additionally require extra space to accommodate the liquid reservoir and pump in the case. You’ll be dealing with tubes here, so you need to match the size of the tubes and the fittings. There are different measurement specifications including inner diameter (ID), outer diameter (OD) and wall thickness. When you’re buying fittings, you need to check for the thread size whether it’s compatible with the tube diameters. All these points are to be considered only when you’re buying the parts individually, otherwise, all the components in a custom cooling kit will be compatible with each other.
Take size constraints into account for your cooling setup
  • Warranty cover: Air coolers will last you way longer than liquid coolers. The only moving part is the fan which can be easily replaced later. However, liquid coolers have several moving parts which means more points of failure. These include the pump, tubing and radiator. At some point, the pump will stop working and it can’t really be replaced by the user. Tubing will fail once the insides start wearing out which might lead to leakage later. In this case, warranty coverage in liquid coolers should be of priority. You also need to verify the components which are covered under warranty.

What not to consider

  • Cosmetic tubing: For aesthetic purposes, the tubing on closed-loop liquid coolers are decorated with bright colours and sleeving. Although sleeving does make the tube slightly stiffer than plain rubber tubing, what matters is the contact points and the internal layer of the tube. The contact points include the pump and the radiator where wear and tear will result in leaks.
  • Coolant colour: Colour is added to the coolant only to make it ‘look’ cooler, not literally so. The colour of your coolant won’t serve any purpose apart from matching with your component colour scheme. You will get the same cooling performance with a transparent coolant.
Coloured coolants only look cooler, aren’t literally so
  • RGB lighting: Lighting has never served any advantage to cooling performance. RGB lighting is being slapped on everywhere, even on CPU and GPU blocks. We aren’t far away from the time when RGB LED strips are attached to the heatsinks. But keep in mind – this does not affect their performance in any way.
All this RGB isn’t going to help if your cooling system isn’t efficient

The best place to get it

  • Amazon India
  • Flipkart
  • PrimeABGB
  • MD Computers
  • The IT Depot
Abhijit Dey

Abhijit Dey

While indulging deep into conspiracy theories surrounding comic book movie plots, he can be found rewatching them looking for easter eggs. Otherwise, his weekends are spent on gaming and browsing memes.