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AIO vs Custom Loop Cooling Solutions – Which Is Better?

AIO vs custom loop is an endless debate between PC builders. Individually, their cooling performance is on a different level compared to just using air coolers.

If it’s your first time building a PC from the ground up, you might be wondering about using AIO and custom loop cooling, but don’t know which one to actually use.

Corsair iCUE AIO Cooler AIO vs Custom Loop

But before anything else, let’s talk about liquid cooling solutions in general. In reality, there are so many of them out there. There is no ONE TRUE liquid cooling solution, and each of them has its own level of cooling performance.

What you’ll choose will be determined by how much money you’re willing to spend on a cooling solution and what kind of hardware will need such powerful cooling in the first place. Obviously, a gaming PC will need more cooling performance as opposed to a PC that’s just used for office and productivity tasks.

In this article, we’ll talk about two popular liquid cooling solutions, namely AIO and custom loop liquid cooling, or what others might call a custom cooling loop or full custom loop.

Between AIO vs custom loop, which one would be more practical for the average gamer? And which one is better in terms of cooling performance?

What Is AIO Liquid Cooling or All In One Liquid Cooling?

Corsair AIO AIO vs Custom Loop

AIO liquid cooling, or All In One liquid cooling is made up of several parts, namely:

  • Radiator
  • Pump
  • Water block
  • Tubes

Unlike custom loops, AIO liquid coolers are prebuilt and assembled. It will only take about 15 to 30 minutes to install it in your casing. Because everything’s assembled by the manufacturers, the chances of leaking are close to nil at this point.

However, cooling performance on a typical AIO liquid cooling setup is lower than a custom loop water cooling.

Why Even Choose AIO In The First Place?

An AIO liquid cooler is far more commonly used than a custom loop cooling system and for good reasons. If you’re jumping into the water cooling bandwagon, here are a few good reasons why AIO liquid coolers just can’t be beaten.

Easy to install

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, AIO liquid coolers are easier to install as they’re already assembled by the manufacturers themselves. You don’t even need to fill up the loops or do leak tests because the manufacturers have done it before you did.

All you really need to do is install the radiator, screw in the fans, mount the water block, and there you have it. Even if you have doubts about your capability to install AIO coolers, there are tons of YouTube videos out there on how to do it properly.

Affordable

Top-of-the-line AIO coolers are probably priced at around $200 or $300, but the cheapest custom loop setup could cost at least $500. You see how big of a price difference there is between AIO vs custom loop?

And the fact is that you don’t need to spend $200 or $300 to get decent performance. You could get yourself a Corsair iCUE H100i Elite Capellix and it will cool your entire gaming PC for years to come.

Saves time

This CPU cooler will only take you about 15 minutes to half an hour to install, whereas a custom loop might take you an entire day (and we’re not even exaggerating).

AIO coolers already come assembled and prebuilt by the manufacturers. It’s a whole system that’s basically plug-and-play at this point.

Fewer chances of leaking

We’re not saying that an AIO cooler is leak-proof. Rather, an AIO cooler’s chances of leaking are low. Because the various components are packed already by the manufacturers, they’ll have already done cursory checks on the quality of individual parts.

The leak tests will have already been done by the manufacturers long before they packed the tubes and various components in. If there ever was a leak, you wouldn’t even know about it because they’d have already replaced it.

What Is Custom Loop?

Custom loop, or custom water cooling, is the peak of liquid cooling solutions. Everything about custom looping is handpicked, piece by piece. From the big cooling fans to the radiators to the cables.

Custom water cooling is a lot more expensive than AIO cooling, and a lot more tedious and more difficult too. Now, AIO coolers only cover the CPU, but a custom loop liquid cooling solution will cover everything from the CPU to the RAM to the GPU.

The downside? Apart from being expensive, they require regular maintenance.

Why Bother With a Custom Loop Then?

Purple and Pretty System AIO vs Custom Loop

If AIO liquid cooling can do the job, why do people even want to bother with a custom loop? Well, an AIO cooler only covers the CPU block and does not include all the other hardware. It’s a potent CPU cooler if you really want to describe AIO cooling in a couple of words or less.

For custom water cooling, this is where the big boys come and play. These are the people who’re mindful about both thermal performance and cooling performance. The people who run a custom loop liquid cooler will need all the cooling help they need as they push their hardware to the limit.

So what kind of benefits do PC builders get from these powerful coolers?

Performance

One thing that people overlook when it comes to a full custom loop is its unparalleled performance. And the reason why you’re getting the best performance is that your custom water cooling loop is composed of top-of-the-line parts.

Aesthetics

Custom loop systems are simply beautiful to look at. We’re not just referring to colored liquid coolant running down through the pipes, but how the entire gaming PC looks with it.

Covers Whole System

An AIO cooler only covers the CPU, whereas the custom loop will cover everything on the system unit. Your graphics card, RAM, and even your power supply are cooled off with a custom liquid cooler.

Much like Lord of the Rings, the custom loop is the one liquid cooler to rule them all.

The Wrap Up

All right, between AIO vs custom loop, which one is better suited for you?

If you want reliability and affordability, an AIO cooler is better suited for you. It does a good job of keeping your CPU block cool, but that’s about it. It’s far better than using an air cooler for sure, but AIO can only do so much.

But if you have the money to spend and you want your PC to look like something out of Cyberpunk 2077, then a custom water cooling loop is the one for you. However, you’ll need to spend a lot of money to get the best custom cooling system possible.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.