Any serious overclocker will find themselves asking this question at some point in their lives, “watercooled gaming PCs, are they worth it?. You might find yourself asking this question for a few reasons but a majority of your reading this will be considering water cooling kit for one reason:
Push those overclocks higher!
Back when Pentium 4 processors were hot enough to heat up an entire house, Liquid cooling them was the only way to push them past a certain point and while that is still true for todays processors, today’s CPUs are much more efficient with power consumption due to 22nm architecture (soon to be 14nm with the new broadwell chips later in 2014) which results in lower temperatures.
When it comes to high-end overclocks, every degree shaved off core temperatures the higher you can potentially push your chip, after all heat will dictate how fast you can safely run your overclock.
Is it worth buying a liquid cooling kit for pc?
While my current computer is not particularly up to date, it is overclocked and on a custom built CPU water cooling loop.
My Intel 2500k 3.3GHz / 6MB Cache is currently running at 4.8ghz(48 x 100 / 1.4v) idling at 27 degrees Celsius, under a full prime95 load, custom settings using 90% of my ram, the maximum CPU temperature is 71 degrees Celsius, when gaming I never even reach 60 Degrees Celsius, is water cooling responsible for my 1.5ghz overclock?.
I have tried time and time again to get my chip to run stable under full prime 95 load at 4900MHz but time and time again eventually the system resets, it will happily boot and do some prime95 for a 30 minutes but no matter how much voltage I feed the chip it will not stabilize.
The maximum Intel rates the 2500k cpu for is 1.52v with a maximum temperature of 72*, even using the maximum 1.52v will not stabilise my chip – this is the brick wall of my chip and nothing water cooling can fix, which brings me to my next question…
Do I need to watercool my CPU?
This question heavily relies on why you want to liquid cool your pc in the first place, Do you want to watercool your CPU because it looks good? or do you want to water cool your cpu in a effort to get higher overclocks?.
If you picking the first question, then you have already made up your mind and you would be best taking a look at the all-in-one liquid cooling kits.
These all in one kits require minimal construction, have been leak tested at the factory, look awesome and don’t cost an arm and a leg, however if you are looking to liquid cool your pc because you want higher overclocks then you must be prepared to spend a little more.
As I said earlier in the article, the heat output and power consumption of current and next-generation processors is much lower than they used to be, that being said most modern chips are limited by voltages rather than heat (with the exception of Haswell that run extremely hot).
Liquid-Cooling is not a free pass
Its been proven time and time again that a lot of today’s CPU’s can achieve considerable overclocks with nothing more than a quality after market CPU HSF, while watercooling in 90% of cases IS going to allow you to get a higher overclocks it’s not always going to be the huge numbers you see on many overclocking forums – they are one in a million chips, ask yourself this question – regardless of the adaptability of a water cooling loop, is it worth $100 – $500+ for a mere 100 – 200mhz overclock?
When I got my custom liquid cooling kit, I got it for a mixture of both reasons, I wanted it to relive my younger days when AMD ruled the cpu scene, I wanted a custom water loop because it looked nice and largely because I wanted to overclock my Intel 2500k chip, which at the time of purchasing was the best processor for overclockers coming with a fully unlocked multiplier and fiercesome reputation of being one of the best overclocking CPU’s around.
Do You Regret the Purchase?
I don’t regret that my computer looks like a radioactive ninja, but I do regret getting it for overclocking (at least for my current chip), why you might be asking?.
4.8ghz is my processors wall no matter how cool I keep the chip it will not go higher (Unless I can get it on a phasechange loop maybe), so in this case water cooling didn’t really allow me to reach any crazy 5ghz+ overclocks we are all to familiar seeing on forums.
having been an overclocker for 12+ years now, there are times you just know you can’t push a chip any further, 4.7ghz for a 2500k is not uncommon on air and feel that if I did put my current chip on air it would still be stable at 4.7ghz (47 x 100) albeit hotter, $400 is a lot of money for something to look nice.
Ultimately it comes down to your current hardware, if you feel that you have not hit your brick wall and you just need some consistent PC cooling power that will allow you to push up your voltages in a bid to stabilize at higher overclocks than a decent custom water cooling kit would serve you well, yes you could go out and get yourself an off the shelf kit but they are notoriously poor performers and rarely better than air solutions, however if you are anywhere near 1.52v already and there is a possibility you have hit the dreaded brick wall already, then maybe you should give water a miss, unless you want water cooling for aesthetic purposes.