AIO vs Custom Loop

In our previous blog, we'd discussed the differences between an AIO and a custom loop, as well as the risks of using an AIO for cooling your CPU and/or GPU. Now, we'll get into why you might choose one over the other.

Why You Might Choose an AIO

An AIO is basically a compressed custom water cooling loop, and with that compression comes increased reliability, reduced cost, and less maintenance. However, it also comes with less overall performance. Let's get into what that actually means.

An AIO loses the modular parts of the custom loop, and replaces the whole system with a single component to install. As you lose parts like fittings, you lose points of failure. This drastically reduces the ability of the system to leak, as fittings are among the most common points of failure. As there is no longer a standalone pump or reservoir, you don't have to worry about either of those parts running dry. Plus, as stated earlier, you're removing points of failure.

An AIO is a closed-loop system sealed from the factory, ready to run.

The most expensive AIO is maybe $200, although there are quite a few in the $80-$150 range. You might think $130 for a CPU cooler is expensive, but remember, it's a self-contained system that doesn't need any other parts. A CPU water block can be $130, and the radiator for that part can be another $130. With the custom loop, you've already doubled your cost with just one more part.

AIO liquid CPU cooler

As the AIO is a closed-loop system sealed from the factory, it requires virtually no maintenance. There's no filling, no flushing, no need to monitor it really. If all you do is dust off the radiator every now and then, you're doing great! Talk about low maintenance!

So Chris, if AIOs are so good, why in the world would someone go with a Custom Loop?

I'm glad you asked, as there are two major reasons why you might choose a custom water cooling loop; overall performance, and visual appeal.

Why You Might Choose a Custom Loop

If you don't have much more time to read this, here's a quick snippet of what to remember about a custom water cooling loop. The concept of "you get what you pay for" still very much applies here. AIOs compress everything about computer cooling, including the overall performance. If your entire cooling system is $130, and your friends system has 5 parts that are each $130, there's a good chance his is more effective (and he's probably running more powerful hardware that needs that cooling capacity).

custom water cooling loop

As you individualize the parts in your cooling system, you gain performance and effectiveness from each one. Where a manufacturer like Corsair, NZXT, or Fractal Design is looking to get the most performance for the lowest price in their AIO; a manufacturer like EK Water Blocks simply designs the best parts (EK does scale their parts though, like any business). When you specialize in 1 thing, you're expected to do that 1 thing extremely well, and the things you make typically cost more than someone who doesn't specialize in it.

And then there's the other aspect...

custom water cooled computer

Does that look sick or what...

The Verdict

So there you have it, what makes an AIO different from a Custom Water Cooling Loop, and why you might go with either one. The AIO offers increased reliability, reduced cost, and less maintenance; while the Custom Loop offers increased overall performance, and increased visual appeal.

Neither solution is bad, and we have no issue using either one. If you need help figuring out which is better for your needs, or want help installing either one, please contact us!

A Little About Us

Top Flight Computers is a well-known leader in the Raleigh NC area that designs high-performance custom-built computers, specializing in workstations, gaming computers, water cooling, and network storage solutions.

Our primary goal is making sure you love your system, understand what you are buying, and enjoy the entire experience. Every customer's needs are different, and with so many potential options, there is no 'one size fits all' solution. We are available via email, phone, text, social media, and in person.

We personally deliver systems to clients within a certain distance of our shop. If you are inside 20 miles, the delivery comes at no additional cost.

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