How To Choose the Right AIO Cooler?

August 12, 2021 | Guides | Katja Korant
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Are you thinking about buying an all-in-one CPU cooler but are unsure which will properly cool your hardware, make it look good, and fit your case nicely? Look no further, we have all the answers you need.

Finding the Right AIO for Your Case Size

AIOs come in multiple sizes. Its name tells you how large the radiator and fan(s) are. Radiator size (length) equals the sum of sizes of the radiators included.

Two standard square-fan sizes are available: 120 and 140mm.

  • Depending on the number of 120mm fans used, the radiator sizes can be 120, 240, or 360mm.
  • Depending on the number of 140mm fans used, the radiator sizes can be 140, 280, or even 420mm (EK currently does not offer this size).

AIO 280, for example, features a 280mm long radiator and two 140mm fans. And AIO 360 features a 360mm radiator with three 120mm fans. Simple, right?

So, which fan size is the best choice? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to that question. Which fans will fit? Most modern cases have several slots both for 120mm or 140mm fans. We would still recommend checking the manual of the case for more accurate information on the number and size of fans that fit your case.

The most standard choice is a 120mm fan with appropriate radiator length, which will fit most cases. But a 140mm fan offers more surface area and potentially better airflow combined with possibly lower noise levels. It has some downsides, too. It can be more expensive and it is wider, so it might not fit in some places.

Is the 140mm size the better choice, especially for large cases? It might be, but not necessarily. If the case is large, you might want to fill in that front panel with some nice RGB lighting from top to bottom – and the 120mm size will fit anywhere, without a doubt.

The Benefits of AIO Water Cooling

Don’t Forget the Tubing

Bigger AIOs have longer tubing and this also affects which can be mounted to a specific case.

For example, AIO 120 can have too short tubing to be mounted on the front of the case, while 240 or 360 with longer tubing have enough reach (if the front panel can accommodate the bigger AIO).

All that said, when it comes to the choice of the fan/radiator size, you usually cannot go wrong with the AIO 240 or AIO 280. Both will fit the highest percentage of cases. We suggest to always go with the biggest AIO you can fit in.

Below is the table of some currently popular cases and AIO sizes we tested to make sure that they fit. These are the ones we can guarantee to fit, but other, bigger AIOs can also be appropriate for many cases. We recommend to check the manual of your case for more accurate information on the number and size of the fans that fit.

Case Form factor AIO 120 – 1x 120mm fan AIO 240 2x 120mm fan AIO 280 2x 140mm fan AIO Elite 280 4x 140mm fan AIO 360 3x 120mm fan AIO Elite 360 6x 120mm fan
Corsair Carbide 275R MID ATX X X X X
Thermaltake The Tower 100 MINI ITX X
Fractal Design Meshify 2 Compact ATX MID X X X X
Fractal Meshify 2 ATX MID X X X X
Phanteks Eclipse P360A  ATX MID  X X X
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2  ITX  X
be quiet! Dark Base 700  ATX MID X X X X
Phanteks Enthoo Pro II  ATX FT  X X X X X X
Lian Li Lancool 205 Mesh  ATX MID  X X X
Thermaltake Core V21  MICRO ITX  X X X
Cougar MX330-G  ATX MID  X X
Fractal Design Focus ATX MID X X X
Thermaltake Core V1 ITX X
Cooler Master Cosmos C700P ATX FT X X X X
Antec P82 Silent ATX MID X X X X
Corsair 4000D ATX MID X X X X
Corsair Obsidian Series 500D ATX MID X X X X

What Does Your CPU Need to Stay Within Optimal Thermal Limits?

Without a proper CPU cooling system, the CPU can easily overheat and start lagging. Hardware that is constantly overheating can have a significantly shorter lifespan. Keep that in mind when choosing the size and the quantity of radiators. If you plan to overclock your CPU, the bigger AIO size can provide more cooling. Overclocking keeps your CPU running at speeds higher than its original speed grade and that generates even more heat than usual.

Team Blue vs Team Red

The table below can help you figure out what fan/radiator setup you need for some of the currently used CPUs to keep the temperature within optimal limits.

CPU Heat Dissipation Class / Hardware 65W and below 65W to 125W 125W to 180W 180W and greater
AMD CPU Ryzen 3 5300G
Ryzen 3 3300x
Ryzen 5 5600X
Ryzen 5 3600X
Ryzen 9 5800X
Ryzen 7 3800X
Ryzen 9 5950X
Ryzen 9 3950X
Intel CPU Core i5-11400F
Core i5-10400F
Core i5-11600K
Core i5-10600K
Core i7-11700K
Core i7-10700K
Core i9-11900K
Core i9-10900K
Minimal EK-AIO Requirement AIO 120
1x 120mm fan
AIO 240
2x 120mm fan
AIO 360
3x 120mm fan
AIO 280
2x 140mm fan
AIO Elite 360
6x 120mm fan
AIO Elite 280
4x 140mm fan
*If you plan to overclock your CPU, experience higher ambient temperatures, or have a restrictive PC case, use the AIO configuration for one heat dissipation class higher.

Liquid Cooling Aesthetics

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of the AIO size you need for your case and CPU. The only thing left to decide is what pleases your eye the most.

Liquid cooling offers premium aesthetics, and EK offers a wide variety of choices to satisfy different tastes.

EK-AIO Basic

EK-AIO Basic

Our series of non-RGB, all-in-one CPU liquid cooling solutions for price-conscious users.

EK-AIO D-RGB

EK-AIO D-RGB

Our original series of AIO products, similar to Basic but offering adressable D-RGB lighting.

EK-AIO Elite

EK-AIO Elite

Our flagship series, offering refined looks and ultra-airflow.

We hope this guide cleared some questions up and you are now fully equipped with information on which AIO suits you best. If you are ready to browse EK-AIO options, visit our online store and find what’s best for your CPU.