Which Intel Processors Should Be Using a Liquid Cooling System?

The CPU is the busiest hardware component of the computer. After all, it is the central component where all processes go through. As demand for faster speed and reliability increases, one of the leading CPU manufacturers, Intel, has developed powerful CPUs that can churn out data in nanoseconds. As an electronic component, it is normal for Intel CPUs, or any CPU for that matter, to generate heat during its operations. However, if it’s overloaded or when it’s overclocked, the excessive amount of heat it generates can be harmful not only to itself but to other components as well.

This is where coolers come in. There are two types of coolers for computer systems – air and liquid. Because it is more efficient and quieter than air coolers, most users prefer liquid coolers to cool down the CPUs for optimum performance. However, not all CPUs need to use this expensive cooling system. Before we determine whether your Intel CPU needs this innovative cooling system, let’s first understand what a liquid cooling system is.

How A Liquid Cooling System Works

In a liquid cooling system, heat is absorbed by liquid coolants. In most cases, distilled water mixed with a biocide (to prevent corrosion) is used as the coolant; that’s why it is also called a water-cooling system. Some manufacturers add-in a solution to give the coolant vibrant colors for a more appealing look. There are AIO (All-In-One) and custom-made liquid cooling systems, but the fundamental principle of how it works is the same for both, although building the whole thing takes more time and experience than just buying a ready-made set.

A liquid cooling system consists of a water block, a pump, two tubes, a radiator, and fans attached to the radiator. CPUs have an Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) which protects the CPU and serves as the pathway for heat from the CPU to the cooler. From the IHS, heat is passed on to the metal baseplate of the cooler, which can either be copper or aluminum. A layer of conductive thermal paste attaches the baseplate to the IHS. The baseplate is attached to the water block, filled with a liquid coolant that absorbs the heat. The pump moves the coolant up one of the tubes to the radiator, exposing the liquid coolant to air to bring its temperature down. Finally, the fans move the heat away from the radiator, and the now cooled coolant goes back to the water block via the other tube to repeat the process.

Liquid Cooling System for Intel CPUs

Intel CPUs are becoming more and more powerful, and there’s no sign of stopping yet as the need for high-performance CPUs trend higher on the charts. From Intel Core i3 to Core i9, the giant CPU manufacturer has produced high-end CPUs spanning up to the 12th gen. The multi-core Intel CPUs and the features that make them extra-powerful, like Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading, make them popular on the consumer market. In recent years, Intel has focused on gaming when developing CPU architectures and taken into consideration productivity. Most Intel’s CPUs, especially the hybrid 12th-Gen, unleash their power on high-end games and CPU-intensive tasks like content creation, video rendering, and streaming.

No matter how powerful these CPUs are, they can easily deteriorate if the temperature is not maintained for optimum performance. Because of Intel’s powerful features that bring the performance to the extreme, liquid cooling systems are recommended for some of their high-performance CPUs to sustain cool temperatures despite heavy workload or when the need to overclock arises. However, lower-end CPUs like most Intel Core i3 will do well even with just stock coolers or air coolers. Additionally, laptop CPUs don’t usually require cooling systems. So which Intel CPUs need a liquid cooling system? Here are the powerful Intel CPUs that will reap the benefits of highly efficient liquid cooling systems.

Intel Core X-Series. The X-series is aimed for extensive data calculations with up to 18 cores maximizing at 4.60 GHz Turbo Frequency. It also supports Hyper-Threading, which means additional load for the CPUs. Intel targets high-end gamers and video editors for the X-series. Both casual and mainstream users would consider this overkill. Still, if you’re an extreme gamer or have process-intensive tasks that require the X-series’ power, a liquid cooling system would be your best choice to keep the CPU cool while reaching its optimum performance.

Intel Core i9. The i9 series expectedly has a performance bump from the previous Core families. The Intel Core i9 is the latest iteration in the line-up of Intel Core processors. It’s intended for extreme gaming and intensive productivity tasks, so liquid cooling would efficiently maintain its temperature despite intense usage, even more so when you have plans to overclock where the frequency goes beyond 5GHz for some models.

Intel Core i7 and i5 12th Gen. Intel’s 12th Gen of processors showcases the Alder Lake architecture, a hybrid of P-cores for maximum performance and E-Cores for maximum efficiency to handle both heavy and light workloads simultaneously. The hybrid processors support multi-threading and are 12%-17% faster than the 11th Gen family. Although not required, a liquid cooling system would be ideal for cooling down the processor at its peak performance.


Liquid cooling systems are generally more efficient, quieter, and have better computer aesthetics than air coolers. Using a liquid cooling system would ultimately depend on how you want to use your computer. Extremely powerful CPUs like those mentioned above would perform better and last longer if a liquid cooling system is used. Aside from the ones mentioned in the previous section, the rest of Intel processors can survive with the less expensive air coolers if used for normal day-to-day tasks. However, even if your CPU does not fall into these categories, you constantly overload your CPU or if overclocking is in view. Liquid cooling is a worthy investment despite its higher price tag.

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.