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With Intel and AMD processors becoming more powerful and hotter, all-in-one liquid coolers are climbing steadily in popularity.

There are different ways to install the liquid cooler, affected by the position of the radiator and the direction of the radiator fans.

Here we’ll be testing different configurations and seeing how they work differently.

Types of Liquid Cooler Installation

There are several things to consider when you try to install an AIO liquid cooler. The location of the radiator, the direction of the tube, and the airflow direction of the radiator fans.

You can mount the radiator on the top, front, or bottom of a PC case. The location will affect the thermal performance.
For airflow, you can set up the direction for intake or exhaust, which will affect the thermal performance.

Our findings suggest that the CPU temperature difference between these configurations is at most 13°C, which is huge.

This is why the placement of your liquid cooler is very important.

Types of Liquid Cooler Installation

Radiator Location Matters

The loop of the AIO cooler is not 100% filled with coolant. There’s always air present in the circulation loop. If the air stays in the water pump, it may cause some problems such as noise and reduced thermal efficiency, and the lifespan may be reduced too. It’s important to prevent the air from gathering in the pump or somewhere that will impact the thermal efficiency when considering how to install the liquid cooler.

Bottom Mount

Here we’ll show more information on different radiator locations and see the differences. First, let’s take a look at radiator mounting on the bottom of a PC case. In this configuration, air will pile up in the water block. The pump will generate a lot of bubbles during operation and reduce heat transfer efficiency. Therefore this is not a suggested configuration.

Pros:
  • The only configuration for some mini-ITX cases.

Cons:
  • Reduced heat dissipation efficiency
  • Reduced water cooling lifespan.

Radiator Location Matters

TOP Mount

The problem of air accumulation will be improved in the top mounting configuration. The air in the AIO system will accumulate on the top of the radiator, which basically does not affect the coolant flow in the system and does not reduce the thermal efficiency.

This configuration is the most recommended in terms of thermal performance. However, some cases may not have enough space to install a 360mm or 280mm radiator on the top.

Pros:
  • Good thermal efficiency.
  • Longer life expectancy for liquid cooler.

Cons:
  • May have mechanical compatibility problem with some cases

Radiator Location Matters

Front Mount / Tubes Down

The third configuration is to mount the radiator at the front of a case. In this case, you’ll have to consider the direction of the tubes, either going up or down.

With the tubes facing downward, the air will accumulate on the top of the radiator, which means it will not affect the water pump. Based on our tests, this configuration has the lowest CPU temperature.

Pros:
  • Good heat dissipation efficiency.

Cons:
  • Compatibility concerns in some cases.

Radiator Location Matters

Front Mount / Tubes up

Compared to the configuration of downward tubes, the upward tubes will have the air accumulated in the inlet of the radiator, which will reduce liquid cooling efficiency and indirectly reduce the heat dissipation efficiency. However, if you have limited choices for cooler installation, tubes going upwards is still acceptable.

Pros:
  • It is a good compromise when limited by case clearance.

Cons:
  • Not the best heat dissipation efficiency.

Radiator Location Matters

AIO Testing Results:

Radiator Location Matters

We’ve tested 12 configurations, and the result suggests the front mounting with tubes down configuration has the best CPU thermal performance.
The top-mounted radiator is doing good as well.
Based on the tests, we can recommend both configurations.

Radiator Location Matters

System Configuration:

Radiator Location Matters
*Ambient temperature 25°C.

Coolers and PC Cases Recommended for the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors

The 12th Gen Intel Core Processors have impressive performance, but the high power consumption and thermals of Core i9-12900K can be a concern. Powerful CPU coolers, and PC cases that provide generous and effective airflow for better system cooling are strongly recommended. Here is what we recommend for the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors.

Coolers and PC Cases Recommended for the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors
* source from Intel

MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360/ MEG CoreLiquid S280 AIO Cooler

Features:
  • LGA 1700 COMPATIBLE:
    The MEG CORELIQUID S Series liquid cooler provides out of box support for LGA 1700.
  • Evaporation Proof Tubing:
    Constructed with three layers of netted plastic tubing and a reinforced mesh exterior.
  • Silent Cooling:
    To provide sufficient airflow to the radiator for cooling while maintaining low noise levels.


MSI MEG CoreLiquid S360/ MEG CoreLiquid S280 AIO Cooler

Perfect Airflow Build – MPG VELOX 100P AIRFLOW

Features:
  • Big Volume:
    It is capable of having 1 x 360mm radiator/3 x 120mm fans on both the top and the front.
  • Optimized Airflow:
    To provide generous and effective airflow for system cooling with vents built throughout the system.
  • Vertical GPU Mount:
    Comes with a vertical GPU bracket that allows you to mount graphics card vertically.


Perfect Airflow Build – MPG VELOX 100P AIRFLOW

Unmatched Lighting Experience - MPG VELOX 100R

Features:
  • Big Volume:
    It is capable of having 1 x 360mm radiator/3 x 120mm fans on both the top and the front.
  • Ventilated Front Panel:
    The front panel consists of tempered glass that can clearly showcase the fans’ ARGB lighting.
  • Optimized Airflow:
    It is optimized to provide generous and effective airflow for system cooling.


Unmatched Lighting Experience - MPG VELOX 100R

Ultimate Silent Space - MPG QUIETUDE 100S

Features:
  • Big Volume:
    It is capable of having 1 x 360mm radiator/3 x 120mm fans on both the top and the front.
  • Silent Space:
    The front panel consists of tempered glass that can clearly showcase the fans’ ARGB lighting.
  • 3 Stage Fan Speed Control:
    A fan speed control button, capable of setting the fan speed at 100%, 70%, or 0% RPM depending on your needs.

Ultimate Silent Space - MPG QUIETUDE 100S