Saturday, January 5, 2013

Active cooling or Liquid cooling?

We all use some sort of cpu cooling block, whether it be the manufacturers cooling system or third party. Which is better though, passive cooling, such as a heat sink and a fan, or a liquid cooling system with a water block and radiator?

Active cooling has become the standard over the last decade, where before that everyone was using passive cooling. Before we get any farther, let me clarify: Passive cooling is a heat sink only, Active cooling is a heatsink with an attached fan for better more active cooling, Lastly, Liquicd cooling which involves a water block, a resevoir, a pump, and a radiator. Many companies have taken to the closed loop liquid cooling system, which cuts out the middle mans effort of having to build the liquid cooling system and tie it all in together. This is all part of the Hardware Certification Training I have received at Asher College my computer training school.

Now that we've clarified what each one is, which do you use? Why do you choose one over the other, besides the obvious - Liquid Cooling > Active Cooling > Passive cooling. Well for starters, any cpu (nowadays) usually comes with active cooling, typically a heatsing with a top mounted 80mm, or 92mm fan. This is where third party comes in with active cooling technology such as direct heat pipe contact for better heat transfer, larger heatsinks to occomadate 100, 120, 135 and 140 mm fans which provide a higher cfm for more airflow, and even eccessively large heat sinks that may accomidate 2 or even 3 fans. This has done wonders for the high end pc community, with stories of people OCing there cpu to 4ghz and having a super cpu cooler that keeps the temps around 45c. Thats amazing, right? Now, does liquid cooling offer the same performance?

Liquid cooling has been the rising opposition as of late. Companies such as Cooler Master, Corsair, Thermaltake, Antec, Intel, Zalman, and now even NZXT has joined the field, coming up with all kinds of variation on the closed loop liquid cooling systems. Well, what about all the different variations of these systems. Lets start with the radiator size, most common is the 120mm radiator which may accomidate 1 or 2 120mm fans in a push/pull set up. Your next best bet would be to push out the dough for that 240mm radiator, this will accomidate anywhere from 2 to 4 fans set as push/pull. These systems have shown alot of progress and alot of great cooling. Gamers have jumped on these systems because they offer a higher level of cooling even compared to active cooling. Such as your car runs on a liquid cooling system with a fan and a radiator and coolant. We all know very well, things CAN GO WRONG. Imagine the liquid cooler springing a leak in your system! I know id be devastated, so is it really worth the risk? Actually, how high is the risk?

With these systems out and available, is it better to buy a closed loop liquid system or to build your own? Id stray from building your own, unless you have a system you can play with and dont mind frying. Crap happens, but the technology has gotten better and better. Even NZXT, a newer market brand, has come out with their own liquid cooling system, even bigger than the 120 or 240. The new Kraken series is a 140 or 280mm radiator+fans. This offers, once again, higher cfm for more air flow to cool the radiator and keep your system a nice stable temp.

All these cooling options come in many different shapes and sizes, and each one offers something the others dont. Which system do you use, why? Ive always been a 120mm active cooling person myself, but maybe looking into a liquid cooled system wont be so bad.

On a side note: Keep in mind, radiators have a heights size such as fans do, some radiators are 25mm high, such as most case fans, while some are 38mm high this adds to the surface area for a more adaquite cooling experience. Lastly, dont forget the thermal paste! With great CPU cooling comes great Thermal Paste!

Here are some examples of these cooling technologies; Happy Cooling Everyone!

Below: The Corsair H80i: This features a 120mm radiator with dual 120mm fans for a push/pull configuration and integrated fan and pump controller. This is a good example of a liquid cooling system. (It's also a bit of eye candy for myself, maybe ill use it for my next build!)

Below: the TUNIQ Tower 120 Extreme Universal CPU cooler: This is a product that has direct heat pipe cooling, as was explained earlier. It comes with a blue LED lit 120mm fan to move air through, and away from the heat sink. The all black finish is rather nice and I have personally used this and one other TUNIQ cooler, and they are phenominal. I used THIS cooler to overclock an old i5 @ 2.66ghz, only OC'ed to 2.8ghz, but it still ran about room temp.

Information Technology student @ Asher College LV- Keith