All in One or Tower Cooler. Which is better?

How did we get here?

Some of my first personal computers didn’t even need a cooler. Later, they required a modest heatsink or fan combination, which was more than enough for the heat being produced. Processers weren’t that powerful, graphics were being handled on the motherboard, and ironically, sound was usually handled by a dedicated card. It was a much simpler time.

Several decades later, the processing power in a home PC is more than what took up an entire floor in a major university. That’s not an exaggeration. Your home PC might have been a ‘Supercomputer’ thirty plus years ago. Power draw and heat are also much more than decades past. It’s far less comparatively, but there is a lot of heat generated by modern CPUs. With heat, you need cooling.

There are two main ways to cool modern CPUs. One way using a closed fluid loop and radiator combination. Similar to a car, a pump circulates the fluid and the heat is dissipated through a radiator. Tower coolers use a tall vertical grid to transfer heat up and away from the CPU, while fans move air across the stack. There are many CPU’s you can cool with a smaller fin stack and fan blowing down on the processor, but most high performance chips produce entirely too much heat for that.

Which cooler is better?

The answer is more complicated than just saying ‘go buy this’. The fluid loop system may be the most effective at cooling, but difficult to set up. While it works very well, it is sometimes difficult to put together and maintain, and can prove expensive to buy parts. Failures in the system can cause bigger issues. It can be very expensive if done wrong, and cost money to replace components.

The All in One cooler makes installation easier and often is very affordable. It’s also usually very reliable. Choosing the right sized cooler is not usually difficult, but there are a few things to remember, and a few examples of poor design to be aware of. It’s almost certainly a good idea to stay away from a single fan 120mm design, and the pump should never be at the top of the loop. Most often the pump is in the section making contact with the processor. If air gets trapped in the pump assembly it can burn up the unit, causing other failures.

Tower coolers are usually much easier to maintain and cheaper, but you may not get the same performance. For most CPUs, though, it’s a great solution and doesn’t present the issue of positioning that a loop does. They both come with RGB options, and even digital readouts like temp, etc. Both are solid options, so what’s the question?

So, what gives?

Other than making sure of the positioning of the AIO radiator, either should do the job, right? Yes, but there is a subtle difference no one has mentioned. Where does the hot air go?

Typically, the warm air in a system with an AIO will be forced up through the top. Whether the radiator is at the top, or in the front, there are usually fans pushing air out through the top of the case. After all, heat rises. You can certainly configure the fans to push air somewhere else, but why screw with nature.

Tower coolers push air directly out of the back. Think about it, the tower cooler fans push warm air away from the CPU to the back of the case, right into the exhaust fan. Fans in the top may help, but for the most part most warm air exits from the rear. Why does that matter? Unless you have your PC in an enclosed space, there is more room above your PC than behind it. Much of the time PCs are set up where a wall or even the monitor, etc. is directly behind it. I never considered this until playing Starfield on both of my PCs. It’s a game that really stresses the system.

The both are slightly lower than my desk, and positioned where I can see inside the machine. The backs point toward the desks. I was warm and uncomfortable while playing on the Intel system, but not the AMD rig, and confused why. Confused until I realized the tower cooler was blowing all of the warm air from the CPU right at me. Hmm, I never considered that. The Intel PC doesn’t work as hard, but blows all of that air across my desk. It’s something I didn’t consider.

How do I dix the cooler?

How do I fix it? Do I change to an AIO for that rig? Do I rearrange the desk and PC? Neither is impossible, but either is inconvenvient. I’m definitely not going to stop playing games. It’s easiest to rearrange everything on the desk, so that’s the plan. Not fun, but effective. It’s also cheaper than buying another AIO. There will be a follow up.

It’s not a problem, it’s just inconvenient, but no one talks about it. I can’t be the only one that has run into this issue, though. It’s always a learning process but I hadn’t considered this at all. Now I have to make a video.

Link to the YouTube channel

Back to the Blog Page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *