Build Advice Air cooling vs water cooling for i7 9700k

Oct 13, 2019
12
2
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Hi guys,

It's really hard to decide if for i7-9700k a mid level air cooler like Dark Rock Pro will keep the temps in check or I should rather get a water cooling system.

Any experience with a similar build?
ComponentPrice
CPUIntel Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor
$363.99​
CPU Coolerbe quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 50.5 CFM CPU Cooler
$88.99​
MotherboardGigabyte Z390 I AORUS PRO WIFI Mini ITX LGA1151 Motherboard
$164.99​
MemoryCorsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
$174.99​
StorageSamsung 970 Evo 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
$169.99​
Video CardAsus GeForce RTX 2070 8 GB STRIX GAMING OC Video Card
$499.99​
CaseNZXT H510 ATX Mid Tower Case
$69.99​
Power SupplyCorsair RM (2019) 750 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
$99.99​
Total:
$1,632.92​
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
At the intended and necessary level of performance and ability required by the cpu, air coolers such as the NH-D15/S or 280/360mm aios don't make any real difference.

It'll be more about looks and aesthetics and personal preference, since budget options are definitely off the table and air coolers + extra case fans are somewhat equitable to the prices of large aios.
 
Oct 13, 2019
12
2
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You have an excellent case for air cooling.
The DRP4 as an air cooler will do very well.
One concern is that the vengeance rgb ram is quite tall, 51mm, I think so you may have a clearance issue.
I would use the low profile versions or use a noctua NH-D15s which will have no such clearance issues.

Why are you using a ITX motherboard in ATX capable case?
Thank you for the answer, I will switch to NH-D15 or find shorter RAM.

Also, I am using Z390 I AORUS PRO due to good reviews and built in WIFI.

Would you suggest something else?
 
The NH-D15s is the version that has ram clearance, the older NH-D15 is not so good in that respect.

If you need wifi, you can also get it via a usb dongle or an adapter card if you use a atx or m-atx motherboard.
Perhaps $15 or so.
That might expand your options.
I think all of the Z390 motherboards are decent unless you are into record seeking overclocking.

The Z390 aorus pro full sized version is the same price
https://www.newegg.com/p/N82E16813145091
 
Reactions: someguywithapc2019
Oct 13, 2019
12
2
15
0
The NH-D15s is the version that has ram clearance, the older NH-D15 is not so good in that respect.

If you need wifi, you can also get it via a usb dongle or an adapter card if you use a atx or m-atx motherboard.
Perhaps $15 or so.
That might expand your options.
I think all of the Z390 motherboards are decent unless you are into record seeking overclocking.

The Z390 aorus pro full sized version is the same price
https://www.newegg.com/p/N82E16813145091
I just wish NH-D15s was black as NH-D15 chromax version :)


And yes, I might have made a mistake with picking m-atx Z390 version instead of regular Atx, thanks!
 
Would this build be okay also with Intel i9900k upgrade?
Would this build be okay also with Intel i9900k upgrade?
I am a bit confused. Your original post said the motherboard was ITX. That is a small motherboard with only one expansion slot.

Then, I saw M-ATX which I think would be fine. Most people need no more(I do not for example)
M-ATX will have 4 expansion slots giving you some flexibility. ATX will have 7 expansion slots.

9900K is heavy on power draw. The smaller nature of a ITX motherboard may in some way limit the power delivery capabilities if you will be overclocking.
OK for an upgrade, but for pure gaming, the extra 8 threads will not be particularly useful.
extra threads of a 9900K is good if you will also be doing heavy multitasking or running multi thread enabled apps like editing/rendering.

I saw the new black versions of noctua which looks good.
Noctua has been criticized by the beige fans for a long time.
To me, pretty is as pretty does.
No doubt they will in time extend black to the D15s.
For now, if looks count, you will need to pick between rgb ram bling or black cooler color.
From a performance point of view, the corsair lpx ram is low profile and excellent. You would not see them much anyway, buried under the DRP4 . And... 3600 speed will not be much more expensive so look for that.
You will get sufficient bling from the front fans.
 
That case was aesthetically designed/made for a front mounted AIO. Instead of going through the hassle of purchasing LPX memory, just slap the all in one solution on front and be done with it. The preexisting memory and aio will subjectively look way better in that case IMO.
 
Reactions: Phaaze88
One issue with a front mounted aio cooler is that
The orientation of the radiator will cause a problem.
If you orient it to take in cool air from the outside, you will cool the cpu better, but the hot air then circulates inside the case heating up the graphics card and motherboard.
If you orient it to exhaust(which I think is better) , then your cpu cooling will be less effective because it uses pre heated case air.
A 240mm aio has about the same cooling capability as the noctua or drp4 air cooler.
To do better, you need a 360 aio which is more expensive.

You buy a liquid cooler to be able to extract an extra multiplier or two out of your OC.
How much do you really need?

Liquid cooling is really air cooling, it just puts the heat exchange in a different place.

Past that, A AIO radiator complicates creating a positive pressure filtered cooling setup which can keep your parts clean.
And... I have read too many tales of woe when a liquid cooler leaks.
Google for AIO leaks to see what can happen.
While unlikely, leaks do happen.
 
Reactions: someguywithapc2019
A 240/280 aio will cool about the same as the drp4 or noctua NH--D15
To do better you would need a 360 aio to get more radiator volume. That will be expensive.
My canned rant on liquid cooling:
------------------------start of rant-------------------
You buy a liquid cooler to be able to extract an extra multiplier or two out of your OC.
How much do you really need?
I do not much like all in one liquid coolers when a good air cooler like a Noctua or phanteks can do the job just as well.
A liquid cooler will be expensive, noisy, less reliable, and will not cool any better
in a well ventilated case.
Liquid cooling is really air cooling, it just puts the heat exchange in a different place.
The orientation of the radiator will cause a problem.
If you orient it to take in cool air from the outside, you will cool the cpu better, but the hot air then circulates inside the case heating up the graphics card and motherboard.
If you orient it to exhaust(which I think is better) , then your cpu cooling will be less effective because it uses pre heated case air.
Past that, A AIO radiator complicates creating a positive pressure filtered cooling setup which can keep your parts clean.
And... I have read too many tales of woe when a liquid cooler leaks.
Google for AIO leaks to see what can happen.
While unlikely, leaks do happen.

I would support an AIO cooler primarily in a space restricted case.
If one puts looks over function, that is a personal thing; not for me though.
-----------------------end of rant--------------------------

Your pc will be quieter, more reliable, and will be cooled equally well with a decent air cooler
like the Noctua NH-U12s or NH-NH-D15s.
 
Reactions: someguywithapc2019
One issue with a front mounted aio cooler is that
The orientation of the radiator will cause a problem.
If you orient it to take in cool air from the outside, you will cool the cpu better, but the hot air then circulates inside the case heating up the graphics card and motherboard.
This is a myth (Unless the radiator is undersized):
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCZ5iP5cu8g

Airflow through radiators aren't heated up as much as you might think.

If you orient it to exhaust(which I think is better) , then your cpu cooling will be less effective because it uses pre heated case air.
This is dependent upon many factors: case & size of case, fans, and internal components being used. For this case i'd rather have the i7 cooled by the front intake fans so that heat from the graphics card can be exhausted through the top and rear fans. The processor in this "case" (pun intended) will run hotter than the strix graphics card which will most likely run within few degrees of fluctuation dependent upon the radiator and fan config, as the strix series are known for exceptional cooling.
Here's an example as to why I wouldn't have an exhaust mounted radiator which I suspect would also apply to his case:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNAMxZgvves


Past that, A AIO radiator complicates creating a positive pressure filtered cooling setup which can keep your parts clean.
And... I have read too many tales of woe when a liquid cooler leaks.
Google for AIO leaks to see what can happen.
While unlikely, leaks do happen.
People that have AIO's that DON'T leak most likely won't go out of their way to post on the forum stating so, as they are too busy gaming etc. This is why I usually suggest not to listen to negative posts or reviews unless there's an issue with quality control on a grand scale. This is primarily due to most of them being biased opinions. Do leaks happen? Yes but in a quality AIO they are very rare and quality aios are usually backed with a good quality warranty.
 
Last edited:
Reactions: vMax and Phaaze88
A 240/280 aio will cool about the same as the drp4 or noctua NH--D15
To do better you would need a 360 aio to get more radiator volume. That will be expensive.
My canned rant on liquid cooling:
------------------------start of rant-------------------
You buy a liquid cooler to be able to extract an extra multiplier or two out of your OC.
How much do you really need?
I do not much like all in one liquid coolers when a good air cooler like a Noctua or phanteks can do the job just as well.
A liquid cooler will be expensive, noisy, less reliable, and will not cool any better
in a well ventilated case.
Liquid cooling is really air cooling, it just puts the heat exchange in a different place.
The orientation of the radiator will cause a problem.
If you orient it to take in cool air from the outside, you will cool the cpu better, but the hot air then circulates inside the case heating up the graphics card and motherboard.
If you orient it to exhaust(which I think is better) , then your cpu cooling will be less effective because it uses pre heated case air.
Past that, A AIO radiator complicates creating a positive pressure filtered cooling setup which can keep your parts clean.
And... I have read too many tales of woe when a liquid cooler leaks.
Google for AIO leaks to see what can happen.
While unlikely, leaks do happen.

I would support an AIO cooler primarily in a space restricted case.
If one puts looks over function, that is a personal thing; not for me though.
-----------------------end of rant--------------------------

Your pc will be quieter, more reliable, and will be cooled equally well with a decent air cooler
like the Noctua NH-U12s or NH-NH-D15s.
I tend to agree with @Karadjgne . The absolute high end Krakens and especially the corsair platinum series AIO's won't be that much of a difference in temperatures to where it justifies deducting his RGB memory modules and the added aesthetics an AIO can subjectively bring to the table. I mean after all, are we just talking about regular gaming loads or running prime 95 all day? Dealing with selling the old memory and purchasing new when you can just add in a better looking AIO seems like a waste of time and money to me.
 
Last edited:

RodroX

Upstanding
Aug 4, 2019
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Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
What many don't understand about liquid cooling is liquid and it's relationship to temps. The coolant inside an aio has a huge ability to absorb the transfer of heat. It is not cpu temp. It's in a constant battle to get back to ambient temps. If the rad is front mounted, it'll be @ 6°C cooler ambient than the case. So you'll see liquid temps slightly below cpu at idle temp. Even bumping that to gaming temps @ 55°C or so, the coolant will have a very hard time getting out of the 30° range, not even hitting 40°C after hours. I ran Prime95 small fft on an nzxt 280mm aio for 8 straight hours, cpu temp 72°C, coolant 42°C, fans at 900rpm.

You aren't dumping massive heat into a case with a front mount rad, at worst you are dumping air that's only a few °C higher than the air already in the case, which has a net affect of maybe 2-3°C on the gpu If you ran it at a constant temp. Which never happens as game code/scenes change constantly, along with usage and temps.

AIO's really don't make much noise at all. The fans do. They make by far the greatest amount. Same as on an aircooler. You get crappy fans on an aircooler vrs premium fans on an aio, guess which is quieter. So don't bother comparing Noctua heatsinks to any aio, other than the Asus Ryojin series as that actually does come with Noctua ippc 2000rpm fans. You pull the A-15's off a NH-D15, and throw them on any 280mm aio, it's going to be far quieter than the Noctua heatsink with the aio fans on it.

Big AIO's cost more. Fallacy. Cases generally come with 2-3 fans. That's not enough for any adequate airflow. Larger Aios come with 2-3 fans. NH-D15 + 2 RGB case fan = @ $160. ML240R = @ $125. With 2x RGB fans. Cost is entirely dependent on what you buy, RGB fans can easily top $45 for a single fan, $130 for a 3-pack.
 
Reactions: RodroX
I also think it depends on whether you will be overclocking. If so, I would go water with an AIO as the consistency is just very good. AIO's now are very well made especially from the majors and the 9700K or the 9900K do generate a fair amount of heat when overclocked. I changed to AIO's many years ago as I just did not want a huge Air cooler hanging of my CPU especially as I was always overclocking and generating a lot of heat and lets not forget the looks with a clean CPU area and some fancy RGB ram....yes I am a sucker for rainbow colours!!!! the AIO solved this for me.

Saying that good air coolers are absolutely great and the Dark Rock, Noctua's of this world make great air coolers that absolutely can do the job and do it well, so I do not think going either way is bad.
 
Reactions: someguywithapc2019

Danra

Distinguished
May 25, 2005
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The Noctua NH-U12A is relatively new and outstanding, it also leaves clearance for RAM and the fans will last 5+ years before needing to be replaced. I have been using Noctua for a good number of years in computer builds and they do a great job. I have even convinced some of the larger and diehard watercooling YouTubers that the proper sized Noctua are just as good or better than most AIOs.
 
Reactions: RodroX

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
There's no difference in their respective ranges. A 140w aio has the same ability as a 140w aircooler. Whether or not one gets slightly better temps is entirely on design and efficiency, not size or type.

The Noctua NH-D15 is among the largest aircooler, but still only 250w+ capacity. As are all those giant towers. It's a failing of aircoolers, the sheer lack of available surface area. A 280mm aio is 350w+, the available surface area exceeding Noctua's best efforts.

The Noctua might get better temps than an aio, but that's only under 250w output. Once you get close, or over, even the Noctua efficiency cannot compete with the heat output and temps skyrocket. A 280mm aio is still sitting pretty.

But inside temp ranges, it's all about efficiency.
 
Reactions: RodroX

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