Liquid Cooling vs. Air Cooling Benchmark In-Depth (NH-D15, NZXT X62, & More)

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Shared April 10, 2020

We're answering the question of whether "liquid cooling or air cooling is better," ft. the Noctua NH-D15, Deepcool Assassin III, NZXT Kraken X62 / X72 (280mm, 360mm), and more.
Sponsor: Buy Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut on Amazon (​) or Hydronaut paste (​)

Watch our deep-dive on CPU cooler testing methodology and learn why it's so hard to do right:
Methodology article available here:

In this video, testing focuses on big air coolers versus big liquid coolers. We're testing for time-to-max temperature, noise-normalized thermals at 35dBA (and 40dBA), max fan speed thermals, and talking about compatibility, ease-of-installation, reliability and uptime, and liquid cooler failure rate and lifespan.

Find the Noctua NH-D15 we used on Amazon:
Find the updated NZXT Kraken X63 on Amazon:
EVGA CLC 280 on Amazon:
Deepcool Assassin III on Amazon:
Corsair A500 on Amazon:
Noctua NH-U14S air cooler on Amazon:

Sponsor: For thermal paste, consider Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut on Amazon:

Thermal benchmarking for this type of content requires a lot of testing and retesting. Each cooler underwent a minimum of 4 validation passes for its result (averaged, outliers retested if present), with each cooler requiring two tests per CPU, so that's a minimum of 16 test passes per device. This kind of work costs a lot for us to do -- totaling in the days, and thousands of dollars of time -- and watching this content is the best way to support it. Other ways are linked below. For this testing, we wanted to definitively provide the real answer for "should I buy air cooling or liquid cooling?" questions that we so commonly get. The answer, ultimately, is that it depends, but we're going to give you the most detailed "it depends" possible. Our goal is that you can make a properly informed decision now and in the future, as this content won't age much. A lot of people are also curious about if liquid cooler failures really are that common, or what the risks are with a closed-loop liquid cooler. For the most part, they're fine, but the ones that are bad really make the rounds in media. We talk about that in the video. For PC building with AMD Ryzen CPUs, like the AMD R9 3950X or R7 3800X, we tested air coolers and liquid coolers on Ryzen 3000 products to help builders pick the right parts. We also have Intel HEDT system testing for a larger IHS analysis.

To support us even more than just watching the video, consider these options:

Patreon (get access to behind-the-scenes videos, including videos with other team members):
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Editorial, Testing: Steve Burke
Video: Josh Svoboda, Andrew Coleman, Keegan Gallick