If you’re packing big RAM modules or want a more powerful cooling solution for your CPU overclocking, then it’s time you considered purchasing an AIO CPU liquid cooler.
AIO (All in One) liquid coolers are complete heat exchanging units that use coolants like water to cool your CPU instead of air, allowing for far better cooling performance so you can really push your CPU clock speeds to the limit. They come with the coolant filled into the pump and radiator so you’re ready to mount them on your CPU and case and max out your CPU’s clock.
Best AIO CPU Liquid Coolers to Buy in 2018
AIO liquid coolers are an expensive investment, but they’re the best mainstream solution for extreme overclockers looking to extract the most power out of their CPUs. There are lots of options available, but not all of them offer the kind of performance that would warrant the price they demand.
We’ve reviewed our five favorite AIO CPU liquid coolers in the market right now. From brands like Corsair, EVGA, Thermaltake, and NZXT, these coolers provide fantastic performance, run quieter than competitors, and are outright reliable.
Make sure you read our buyer’s guide after the reviews too, as it provides valuable insight into what AIO CPU coolers can offer and what to keep in mind before buying one.
Our Top Pick
NZXT Kraken X62
Beautiful Design and Fantastic Performance
The NZXT Kraken X62 is a 280mm liquid cooler with gorgeous RGB lighting on the pump. It has fantastic performance and quiet operation, and also comes with an adapter for AMD Threadripper sockets.
It looks beautiful and functions perfectly, and that’s why the NZXT Kraken X62 is our top pick as the best overall AIO cooler out there.
Best Budget Pick
Corsair Hydro H60
Great for Smaller Cases
The Corsair Hydro H60 is a 120mm liquid cooler that fits perfectly in smaller cases. It is affordable for an AIO cooler and manages to outperform the best air coolers out there as well as compete with many larger 240mm coolers.
If you have a smaller PC case and little room for a larger cooler, the Hydro H60 from Corsair is the best choice for its price and size combination.
NZXT makes some of the best high-end computer hardware, so it’s no surprise that their main AIO cooler gets picked as one of our top choices for the best CPU liquid cooler out there.
The predecessors of the Kraken X62 (X40 and X60) were the first to ingrate software controlled RGB to the pump head, and the Kraken X62 takes this practice and makes it even better. The beautiful mirror lighting design makes it a great centerpiece of any powerful PC rig.
But the Kraken X62 isn’t just a mere looker. It provides fantastic cooling that tops charts when compared to its competitors. The cooling performance needs to be managed separately from the CAM software NZXT offers though – the software just doesn’t do the cooler justice. Controlling the fan curves yourself brings the best results, which means the Kraken X62 should be used by individuals knowledgeable in PC customization.
Another aspect we love about the Kraken X62 is that it comes with an adapter for the Threadripper socket. This means you can easily use this for AMD Threadripper builds, and we all know there aren’t many options for that socket out there.
- Beautiful design
- Great cooling
- Psychedelic RGB lighting
- Supports AMD TR4 socket with included adapter
- CAM software control is unreliable
Although pricey for its design and price, the Corsair Hydro 115i Pro is perhaps the best 280mm AIO CPU liquid cooler out there in-terms of silent performance. It operates at an incredibly low noise for a liquid cooler thanks to its twin maglev 140mm fans.
The RGB color implementation on the Hydro 115i is restricted to the main pump, although you can opt to get the more expensive model that incorporates the lighting in the fans as well. However, given the already hefty price, we’re not sure if the additional money is worth the bling effect.
The primary reason the Hydro 115i Pro is so silent is because of the low-friction operation of the fans. This is thanks to their magnetic levitation design which combines effectively with the low RPM of large fans for the quietest operation among larger radiator CPU liquid coolers.
- Very quiet performance
- Great cooling
- Excellent stock fans
- No RGB lighting in the fans, which is a downer for the price
EVGA makes some great graphics cards and motherboards, and their foray into the AIO coolers world has been positive. With the CLC variants, they’re able to offer the consumers some great options at competitive prices.
They’re a great mid-range pick because of what they demand for their performance. The cooling is fantastic and the RGB pump head acts as a wonderful centerpiece. It’s not quite as beautiful as NZXTs (then again, none of them are), but it’s still eye-catching for the price.
The cooling performing is decent – not the greatest, but certainly not the worst. You’d be able to overclock your CPUs to a great degree with this AIO cooler. However, the fans can get rather loud at full speeds. Thankfully, the cooling for most applications is good enough to never require it to get to such egregious levels.
- Competitively priced
- Good performance for the money it asks
- Attractive RGB lighting on the pump
- Very loud at full speed
Your PC might not have enough space for multi-fan AIO CPU liquid coolers such as the 240mm, 280mm, and 360mm variants. That shouldn’t stop you from overclocking your CPU to get the most juice out of it you could with your setup.
The Corsair Hydro H60 is a perfect solution for such individuals. The small radiator is cooled by a single 120mm fan that is extremely quiet for a radiator fan. The pump is lit up with white LED lights. Unfortunately, you can’t customize the color of the light. Given the price you’re paying for it though, it’s kind of expected.
The performance of the Hydro H60 is better than even some of the best CPU air coolers out there that will take up more space than it and also cost much more. It’s a true display of how AIO CPU coolers are simply more efficient at cooling than even premium air cooling solutions.
The Hydro H60 doesn’t just thump the air coolers though. It performs better than any other 120mm AIO liquid cooler and can match the performance of several 140mm and even 240mm coolers.
- Great value
- Fantastic performance for the size
- Compatible with small cases
- Pump features only a single color LED
Thermaltake’s more expensive Floe Riing coolers are supposed to be their more performance-optimized offerings, but we prefer the more budget-friendly version, the Water 3.0. The Water 3.0 ditches the RGB pump for a simpler one and tones down the RGB lighting on the two 120mm fans for a simpler design.
Perhaps more importantly, this AIO cooler ditches the app control altogether, offering hardware-based control for its functions instead. This gives better fidelity to the cooler and more control over the fan curves.
The sacrifices are thankfully only limited to the bells and whistles features. Thermaltake Water 3.0 still retains the incredibly quiet performance of its more expensive Floe variants. Furthermore, the controller does an even better job of maintaining low RPMs under load to keep this liquid cooler at a mere whisper.
The quiet operation does mean that the cooling performance isn’t as incredible as, say, the Corsair and NZXT models reviewed in this article. Yet for mid-ranged overclocking this still remains an excellent solution for anyone looking fo medium-sized AIO CPU liquid coolers.
- Great value
- Very quiet operation
- Compatible with most cases
- Hardware controlled speed and RGB lighting
- Uninspiring pump design
- Average cooling performance with heavily overclocked CPUs
When it comes to cooling performance, CPU liquid coolers are simply better. AIO liquid coolers are basically heat exchangers, which always work better than conventional air cooling techniques.
Liquid coolers can extend across an entire motherboard thanks to the pipes, but they occupy overall less space than CPU coolers. You can this install taller RAM modules without worry as well as wider, multiple GPUs.
Air coolers are much cheaper compared to liquid coolers though. However, Corsair’s Hydro H60 is changing the game with its affordable AIO cooler that offers better performance than even the most expensive air coolers out there.
Liquid coolers come in multiple sizes based on the length of the radiator. Larger radiators require bigger and more fans. The smallest type of AIO coolers you’ll find are 120mm liquid coolers. They contain a small radiator cooled by a single 120mm fan.
The most common and popular sizes are 240mm and 280mm. 240mm contains two 120mm fans, whereas a 280mm CPU liquid cooler will have two 140mm fans.
There are also three-fan 360mm liquid coolers available as well. These are mostly used by overclocking enthusiasts looking to push their CPUs to the limit.
The size of the AIO liquid cooler you buy should be based on how much you’ll overclock your CPU and the space available in your PC case.
Most AIO liquid coolers have multiple fans and are thus a tad louder than CPU air coolers. In order to maintain a quiet operation, most manufacturers opt to integrate larger fans that run at lower RPM. There are also many other additional technologies at work within the fan blades, design, encasing, and radiation design that can influence the noise levels of a cooler.
RGB lighting won’t make an iota of a difference to your liquid cooler’s cooling performance or noise levels, but it will sure look cool. Many gamers who use such coolers consider RGB lighting an essential part of their setup as it helps them add their own signature touch.
Most manufacturers integrate RGB lighting in the pump of the AIO liquid coolers for some extra bling affects, while some take it the extra mile by adding it to the fans as well. Bear in mind that RGB lighting significantly increases the cost of the product, so it’s up to you to decide how important this feature is to you.
Though expensive AIO CPU liquid coolers are simply more efficient than air coolers. They can keep highly overclocked CPUs at low temperatures even when they are running at full capacity. Additionally, they allow for taller RAM modules to be installed.
Do I need to change the thermal paste of my liquid cooler?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to change the thermal paste often with AIO liquid coolers. You should only do so after a few years when the idle temperature of your CPU is uncannily high.
What are the risks associated with using AIO liquid coolers?
Liquid cooling does carry a small risk of failure across multiple points. This can include the pump, the tubing, the fans, or the radiator. If the pump fails, it is usually covered by warranty by most brands.
Tubing failure is the most catastrophic outcome as it will likely result in leaked coolant all over your motherboard, consequently destroying your rig.
Don’t be scared though. Such incidences are extremely uncommon, and manufacturers often offer warranties that would cover the entire cost of the damage if such a thing were to happen. Just make sure you’re not kinking the tubing or poking holes in it.