Seeking Cooling Advice - Air vs Water

rdwiz

Minimal Tinkerer
Original poster
New User
Feb 20, 2020
3
0
Good day folks,

Old time gamer with an 8yr old mid tower i3 having GPU issue, bought an EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 last Oct but turns out to be MB instead. Bought Ncase M1 which arrived Jan and have finally decided to build her out. Yes, I’m going to use this GPU as I’m not gaming on a regular basis ... getting old ... but will look at options later. The i5 CPU was only picked for cost perspective and have looked at going i7, again I’m not gaming much.

My struggle is deciding to cool the CPU with Air or Water and reaching out to get advice on which way to go. I’ve picked a few options for Air and Water to get feedback on the fit with case and MB.
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-10400 2.9 GHz 6-Core Processor
  • CPU Cooler - Air:
    • Noctua NH-C14
    • Noctua NH-U9S 46.44 CFM
    • Noctua NH-L12S 55.44 CFM
  • CPU Cooler - AIO:
    • Corsair iCUE H100i RGB PRO XT 75 CFM Liquid
    • NZXT Kraken X53 73.11 CFM Liquid
  • Motherboard: MSI MEG Z490I UNIFY Mini ITX LGA1200
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16
  • Storage: Samsung 970 Evo 500 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
  • Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER 6 GB SC ULTRA GAMING
  • Case: NCASE M1 Mini ITX Tower Case
  • Power Supply: Corsair SF 600 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular SFX
  • Bottom Case Fans: (2) Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM 60.1 CFM 120 mm
 

SenseiMela

Efficiency Noob
Apr 22, 2020
5
2
An AIO will take longer to saturate and will give superior results vs. an air cooler in pretty much any situation, generally speaking.

That said, in my opinion an AIO is overkill for a i5-10400. As a matter of perspective, I'm running an i5-9600K (not over-clocking atm) with the Noctua NH-L12S and even during long sessions of video encoding I've never seen the CPU over 77C (ambient is somewhere around 29-30C/82-86F in my apartment...). Those temps are certainly safe & acceptable, to me.

The NH-C14S (got to be the S version) is slightly beefier and might drop temps a couple degrees, but it requires low-profile RAM (I think it also requires the low-profile fan, but don't quote me on that). It's a tight squeeze in the M1 and basically will be right up against the side panel, as well.

Hope that helps!
 

AlexTSG

Master of Cramming
Jun 17, 2018
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I have the same M1 case waiting for a build, and mine arrived at the end of last year. I've also been considering the air vs water options for it.

The i5 should be no problem to cool with air, and the Noctua NH-U9 fits into the M1 easily (from a clearance point of view). I like air cooling from a longevity standpoint, as I keep my PCs for a very long time.

There's also the noise consideration. While some water pumps are barely audible, other can make a thrumming noise which some people don't like. An air cooler, especially a Noctua, with suitable fan control, can run almost completely silently. This is one of the advantages of going overkill on the CPU cooler. You end up stressing it very little, and having a quieter PC.

Most AiOs have a lifespan of around 5-6 years before they need replacing, as the liquid does permeate the tubing over time. While you can refill some of them, it's not something they're designed for.

An AiO will give you headroom to upgrade in the future without needing to buy another CPU cooler. You would start to run into the limits of the NH-U9 with a higher end i7 or i9.

If you do look into an AiO, put the Arctic Liquid Freezer II onto your list of considerations. It's at the top of mine, although it's very difficult to find, especially at the recommended retail price of $99.

Here's a review of it from Gamersnexus:

 
Last edited:

rfarmer

Shrink Way Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
2,223
2,272
I have the same M1 case waiting for a build, and mine arrived at the end of last year. I've also been considering the air vs water options for it.

The i5 should be no problem to cool with air, and the Noctua NH-U9 fits into the M1 easily (from a clearance point of view). I like air cooling from a longevity standpoint, as I keep my PCs for a very long time.

There's also the noise consideration. While some water pumps are barely audible, other can make a thrumming noise which some people don't like. An air cooler, especially a Noctua, with suitable fan control, can run almost completely silently. This is one of the advantages of going overkill on the CPU cooler. You end up stressing it very little, and having a quieter PC.

Most AiOs have a lifespan of around 5-6 years before they need replacing, as the liquid does permeate the tubing over time. While you can refill some of them, it's not something they're designed for.

An AiO will give you headroom to upgrade in the future without needing to buy another CPU cooler. You would start to run into the limits of the NH-U9 with a higher end i7 or i9.

If you do look into an AiO, put the Arctic Liquid Freezer II onto your list of considerations. It's at the top of mine, although it's very difficult to find, especially at the recommended retail price of $99.

Here's a review of it from Gamersnexus:

The Arctic Freezer has tubing coming straight out of the pump block with no swivels, will make managing the tubing much more difficult.
 
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AlexTSG

Master of Cramming
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The Arctic Freezer has tubing coming straight out of the pump block with no swivels, will make managing the tubing much more difficult.

Ah, thanks for pointing that out, I really liked the performance vs price, and the added VRM cooling.

I just found this Imgur with photos of someone trying it in an M1 and the lack of swivels look like they make it a no go. :(

 

rfarmer

Shrink Way Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
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Ah, thanks for pointing that out, I really liked the performance vs price, and the added VRM cooling.

I just found this Imgur with photos of someone trying it in an M1 and the lack of swivels look like they make it a no go. :(

I had heard before that this is a really good AIO but the combination of the straight tubing and a 38mm radiator are going to make is a bad fit for SFF, I am sure it works really well in a mid tower.
 

AlexTSG

Master of Cramming
Jun 17, 2018
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I had heard before that this is a really good AIO but the combination of the straight tubing and a 38mm radiator are going to make is a bad fit for SFF, I am sure it works really well in a mid tower.

I guess I’m back to looking at the NZXT Kraken X53. A bit pricey, but it seems to fit, and I haven’t seen anyone complaining about reliability.
 
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Redux-Limited

Caliper Novice
Sep 1, 2019
32
29
I guess I’m back to looking at the NZXT Kraken X53. A bit pricey, but it seems to fit, and I haven’t seen anyone complaining about reliability.
I installed the X53 today and I'm thinking I did something wrong, note that this is not the first AIO that I use, but I had a U9S paired with the same 3700X and I'm getting almost the same results in performance and in temps, I waited until reaching equilibrium and run C20 for example, only gained 10 points and only 3 degrees celsius lower. So definetly something wrong or the U9S is really good after all.

If I keep the X53 I will be swaping the fans for Noctua ones, also I hear a bit of pump noice but I still need to see how CAM works.

Another thing to consider is the mess of cables the X53 introduces, the U9S it's literally one short cable or even the short Y splitter if you run it with two fans.
 
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AlexTSG

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Jun 17, 2018
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Good to know what great results you're having with the U9S, especially since Noctua recently published a roadmap that shows a black version of the U9S being released later this year.

I'm very tempted to go for that with 2 fans, and not worry about trying to tidy up the mess of cables you mentioned that come from running an AIO, or the pump noise.
 
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Creep

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Mar 2, 2017
91
83
I'm still confused if:
  • Both 92mm fans on the CPU be PUSH/PULL out the back on the U9S
  • Put (1) 92mm at the back as an EXHAUST and the other as a PUSH through the heatsink
  • Put (1) 92mm at the back as INTAKE and the other 92mm on the heatsink as a PULL towards the front of the case
Then I have a stock cooled 1080 Mini with (2) 120mm Slims and don't know if they should be:
  • Pulling hot air from the GPU and EXHAUST out the bottom of the case
  • Pushing air as INTAKE toward the GPU (which seems it would just throw the heat right at the CPU)
Also, should an additional 120mm on the side panel near the front be EXHAUSTING hot air out or PULLING fresh air in?

Ahhh I'm hearing so many different opinions, haha! "You want to exhaust as much hot air as possible" "But in this direction and oh maybe the rear fan should be INTAKE" ?

....oh and this is your daily reminder that ASUS Suite/Tweakout whatever blows

(Apologies for crashing)
 

SenseiMela

Efficiency Noob
Apr 22, 2020
5
2
I'm still confused if:
  • Both 92mm fans on the CPU be PUSH/PULL out the back on the U9S
  • Put (1) 92mm at the back as an EXHAUST and the other as a PUSH through the heatsink
  • Put (1) 92mm at the back as INTAKE and the other 92mm on the heatsink as a PULL towards the front of the case
Then I have a stock cooled 1080 Mini with (2) 120mm Slims and don't know if they should be:
  • Pulling hot air from the GPU and EXHAUST out the bottom of the case
  • Pushing air as INTAKE toward the GPU (which seems it would just throw the heat right at the CPU)
Also, should an additional 120mm on the side panel near the front be EXHAUSTING hot air out or PULLING fresh air in?
This looks like a good fan setup with the U9S: Or https://imgur.com/r/sffpc/OVagCd5

As for bottom fans, I've read that no fans works well, drawing air in from the bottom using only the GPU fans; the setup above would work to exhaust the heat it's dumping into the case. I've been satisfied using 2 fans as intakes on the bottom & on the side (Bionix P12s) and a 92mm Noctua on the back as exhaust, though I haven't tried other configurations.
 
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AlexTSG

Master of Cramming
Jun 17, 2018
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I’ll link this post from Dan (designer of the Dan A4-SFX) who is currently working on a larger C4-SFX which at the time of these tests had a very similar layout to the NCASE M1.


I think this may help @Creep as it covers a lot of push and pull configurations and uses the U9S vs a 240 AIO.

I do think the setup that @SenseiMela posted above looks good, and one I’ll be trying once I get the U9S. I’m just waiting on the black version to be released.
 
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Creep

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Mar 2, 2017
91
83
This looks like a good fan setup with the U9S: Or https://imgur.com/r/sffpc/OVagCd5

As for bottom fans, I've read that no fans works well, drawing air in from the bottom using only the GPU fans; the setup above would work to exhaust the heat it's dumping into the case. I've been satisfied using 2 fans as intakes on the bottom & on the side (Bionix P12s) and a 92mm Noctua on the back as exhaust, though I haven't tried other configurations.
I’ll link this post from Dan (designer of the Dan A4-SFX) who is currently working on a larger C4-SFX which at the time of these tests had a very similar layout to the NCASE M1.


I think this may help @Creep as it covers a lot of push and pull configurations and uses the U9S vs a 240 AIO.

I do think the setup that @SenseiMela posted above looks good, and one I’ll be trying once I get the U9S. I’m just waiting on the black version to be released.

Appreciate the help, guys. That post from Dan helps a lot, thanks for linking that!

I think I'm gonna revert back to a PUSH/PULL rear EXHAUST layout (regarding the CPU at least) for the time being and remove at least the one bottom 120mm right below the GPU. I admit I haven't rightly adjusted smoothing my curves nor attempted undervolting, though, which are certainly having a definable impact on overall homeostasis.