Have you ever asked yourself: “What is a liquid cooled computer?” “Do I need a liquid cooled machine?” “Why would I put liquid in an electrical device?” “Which is better liquid cooled or air cooled?” “Why is my computer so loud?” Well, so have I.
These are all good questions, and deserved to be answered. For starters, most computers are air cooled. This means that they have one or more fans circulating air through the case. If the vents in the case are covered, either from other things around them, being inside a cabinet, dust, dirt, hair, etc… Then the air flow is cut off and the unit begins to overheat. Consider your car, you wouldn’t cover it with a tarp, start the engine, and let it sit and run for a day or more. Well, the same thing happens to a computer when it cannot get enough air flow. A liquid cooled computer uses tubes filled with a non-conductive liquid to pull heat away from the components and pass it through a radiator where the liquid is cooled before it passes back to the internal components.
Liquid cooling has been in development for many years. The first one I got my hands on was in the late 90s and had an extended base that contained the coolant and compressor, much like an air conditioner unit. It had multiple tubes that ran from the lower unit to the processor and video card, however it was extremely expensive and the case itself weighed well over fifty pounds. I will admit that it ran extremely fast for that day and age. The unit would start the compressor and wait until the CPU was below freezing before it would even begin to post the board. It kept the unit at near freezing temperatures the entire time you were using it, but the design never really caught on and the industry looked for other ways to achieve their goal.
They have turned to a water based coolant system. It is still heavy, but not as heavy as the early systems. Even though it is water based it has other chemicals mixed in, similar to antifreeze that reduces the level of conductivity in the coolant. I still would be very leery of spilling it in the machine, but as long as you check your connectors and tubing regularly, the risk is minimal.
The average user has no need for a liquid cooled machine. In fact most people have no need for liquid cooled machines, from my experience. Serious gamers and those that simply just want to push the limits are the only ones who need to worry about having liquid cooling. For most of us, having an air cooled system is more than adequate. Granted the fans can be a little noisy at times, but if that’s a concern there are silent fans that can be gotten for far less money than a liquid cooling system. I will admit that they do cool a bit better than air cooling, but the difference is not in the extreme. Normally the difference is only 10 or 15 degrees cooler, not a tremendous advantage in my book. Now there are some of you, I’m sure, that will argue with me on that respect, but unless you really know what you’re doing liquid cooling just falls a little short of the mark. I’m also quite confident that as the technology increases the process will be refined and the liquid cooled computer will be the way to go. I’ll be happy to wait my turn and jump in when the technology reaches a significant difference in temperature.
Now this may just be wishful thinking, but I’d like to see a liquid nitrogen cooling system. If you could make that work, now you’d have a cool running machine. I understand that they are working on a non-conducting gel, that when coating a circuit board will reduce heat to almost nil, but as of yet not perfected for the general public. I hope I get to see both of these techniques reach the general public in the near future.