280mm Vs 360mm Aio Coolers

280mm Vs 360mm Aio Coolers

Modern CPUs run extremely quickly due to being made from some of the best technology available. However, these technologies come with an immense downside – a hot-running CPU that requires an effective way to keep itself cool or risk overheating and malfunctioning. Luckily for us, there are plenty of great cooling options available – so let’s take a look at them!

When talking about 280mm vs 360mm AIO, picking the best-sized cooler for keeping your CPU chilled can be a bit tricky. Before diving headfirst into the heated world of looking for an AIO cooler, you’ll realize how difficult it is to find one that fits right into your PC chassis and meets all of your cooling needs. For this comparison, in particular, we’ll explore two very specific sizes of AIO coolers; 360mm AIO vs 280mm AIO.

In the case of 240mm AIOs, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting an appropriate model. For example, dual-fan designs are usually accompanied by one or two 140mm fans – but you’ll find 3×120 mm fans for some models. As far as triple-fan designs go – they’re typically equipped with 2×120 mm fans but can also come with a 1×140 mm fan. How would we rank these options? In order to make an informed decision, we need to address them one at a time.

Differences Between 280mm vs 360mm AIO Coolers 

When it comes to any unit’s size, there are key differences in regard to the fans and radiator height. For example, 280mm AIOs come with smaller-sized fans and radiators than their 360mm counterparts because these two units are very different in terms of size. This is true for all other various units; such as 240mm or 120 mm models when compared against others within their own groupings.

First off, there is one major difference between 360mm AIOs and 280mm AIOs. In terms of design type, the former often includes at least three fans while the latter has a standardization for only two – it’s nearly impossible to find a design on the latter that doesn’t include at least one 140mm fan. This means that 280mm AIOs provide a wider coverage with their included 140mm fans but can’t compete with these when used alone; while 360mm AIOs have an extra 120 mm fan which ensures they keep up in terms of airflow power.

There are, however, some exceptions among air-coolers such as the EK-AIO Elite 280 D-RGB, which is a 280mm AIO that contains 4x 140mm PWM fans. In the same vein, there’s also the EKWB EK AIO Elite D-RGB 360mm which comes with 6x 120mm fans. The reason why I bring them up here is that they refute my previous statement about all AIOs having a standard number of fans. However, with this in mind, it should be noted that both of these AIOs have very unusual designs that are often hard to find in stores nowadays (though you can still order them online).

In addition to the differences we discussed before, the other thing you’ll want to keep in mind is how tall each unit’s radiator is. For example, 360mm units are taller than 280mm units – which means they’re able to cool more efficiently. While there may be some cases where one unit might have better quality-of-life features over another, generally speaking, if you can accommodate for a larger size – then go for it!

Testing Equipment 

  • System
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Motherboard: Asus X470 Crosshair XI Hero
  • RAM: Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200
  • Case: be quiet! Pure Base 500DX

For this comparative review, the two different versions of Deepcool Castle EX coolers – the 280mm and 360mm variants – were tested side-by-side. Both models carry the same pump, radiator, and fan designs, as stated by Deepcool themselves.

Deepcool Castle 280EX Specifications 

Net Weight 1600 g 
Radiator Dimensions 322×138×27 mm 
Radiator Material Aluminum 
Tube length 380 mm 
Pump Dimensions 86 ×75×71 mm 
Pump Speed 2550 RPM±10% 
Pump Noise 17.8 dB(A) 
Pump Connector 3-pin 
Pump Rated Voltage 12 VDC 
Pump Rated Current 0.2 A 
Pump Power Consumption 2.4 W 
Fan Dimensions 140×140×25 mm 
Fan Speed 400~1600 RPM±10% 
Fan Airflow 97.03 CFM 
Fan Air Pressure 2.00 mmAq 
Fan Noise ≤39.8 dB(A) 
Fan Connector 4-pin PWM 
Bearing Type Hydro Bearing 
Fan Rated Voltage 12 VDC 
Fan Rated Current 0.3 A 
Fan Power Consumption 3.6 W 
LED Type Addressable RGB LED 
LED Connector 3-pin(+5V-D-G) 
LED Rated Voltage 5 VDC 
LED Power Consumption 2.25 W(PUMP) 
EAN 6933412727033 
P/N DP-GS-H14AR-CSL280EX 

Deepcool Castle 360EX Specifications

Net Weight 1665 g 
Radiator Dimensions 402×120×27 mm 
Radiator Material Aluminum 
Tube length 465 mm 
Pump Dimensions 86 ×75×71 mm 
Pump Speed 2550 RPM±10% 
Pump Noise 17.8 dB(A) 
Pump Connector 3-pin 
Pump Rated Voltage 12 VDC 
Pump Rated Current 0.2 A 
Pump Power Consumption 2.4 W 
Fan Dimensions 120×120×25 mm 
Fan Speed 500~1800 RPM±10% 
Fan Airflow 69.34 CFM 
Fan Air Pressure 2.42 mmAq 
Fan Noise ≤30 dB(A) 
Fan Connector 4-pin PWM 
Bearing Type Hydro Bearing 
Fan Rated Voltage 12 VDC 
Fan Rated Current 0.17 A 
Fan Power Consumption 2.04 W 
LED Type Addressable RGB LED 
LED Connector 3-pin(+5V-D-G) 
LED Rated Voltage 5 VDC 
LED Power Consumption 2.25 W(PUMP) 
EAN 6933412727293 
P/N DP-GS-H12W-CSL360EX-AR

To start off, there are two types of coolers that differ in size; the 280mm cooler has a single fan while the 360mm cooler has two. Apart from these differences, there is also a difference in FPI (Fan Performance Index) since they will be rotating at different speeds.

The 360mm is advantageous over the 280mm due to its 10% larger radiator. This allows for greater heat dissipation, benefitting your cooling needs. Unfortunately, the 280mm falls short when it comes to liquid-cooling capabilities due to its smaller radiators.

In addition, the 360mm AIO also comes with three 120mm fans compared with the 280mm AIO, which has two 140mm fans. This means that individually, the 280 mm fans cover more surface area than those of the 360mm do; giving it an edge in cooling performance.

Two questions arise after realizing the difference between these two models. First, how do they compare when it comes to their different-sized fans? Second: Does having twice as many 140mm fans make up for the lack of size difference compared to the other model? To answer these questions, we’ll need to see how these units fare in Tech Guru’s benchmarks.

280mm vs 360mm AIO – Benchmarks 

Idle Benchmarks

These graphs show how the 320mm (280mm) and 420mm (360mm) CPU coolers perform similarly when looking at thermals during an idle state. The two CPU options performed about the same no matter which one you went with even though it had a lower RPM fan or higher, but one thing to take note of is that if you did want less noise from either CPU cooler when you’re idling, adjusting the fan speeds will fix this issue. As far as sound volume goes, both CPUs create about the same amount of ambient noise, except they’re louder due to having a smaller or larger sized fan respectively.

CPU-Z Benchmark

Next up, the CPU-Z benchmark tool was used for comparing 280mm vs 360mm AIO to see which configuration provides the best cooling solution during high loads. With a max loading capacity of 123 watts, games won’t lag or slow down so your computer runs smoothly. But if you’re seeking something other than sheer power, this review will show you what happens when these units are pushed to their limits.

For the CPU-Z benchmarks, we have the noise results capped at 40 dbA and 50 dbA with speeds of ~ 2000 RPM. Interestingly, all of the benchmarks show very similar results which is a trend in this comparison.

This time, I’ve done some research and here are the findings. Firstly, the temperature readings show that there really isn’t much of a difference between the two AIOs. The average fan speeds differ by only 200 RPM, but this is insignificant in comparison to the other differences. Secondly, even though the 360mm offers 25% more surface area for cooling through its additional length and height alone – it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference when you consider everything else. And lastly, both units perform similarly well (though one does marginally better) across all tests despite obvious major variations in design such as size and rotational speed of fans etcetera.

Moving on, the 50 dbA noise normalized test showed virtually no difference at all when compared to the 40 dbA test. Here, though, the 360mm AIO was ever so slightly cooler than the 280mm one. Despite this tiny difference in temperature, however, there was an impressive difference between fan speeds – 1530 RPM for 360mm and 1268 RPM for 280mm. It would seem that while higher speed might allow faster cooling, it doesn’t always mean better cooling. When you compare these numbers to those of the even quieter 20 dbA tests, where there were only minor differences between them – you see how awesomely quiet this PC can be when it’s not operating at top speed.

All of this boils down to the fact that while they may seem similar on paper, there’s barely any noticeable difference between these two AIOs. Just keep in mind you’re going to need to find one of them easier on your ears if you plan on running it at max RPMs since they’re both louder than expected at 50 dBa which is where we ended up capping it at.

Cinebench R20 Benchmark

Even though both the CPU-Z and Cinebench R20 tests are giving us comparable results, there is a difference in how they handle power loading. On the CPU-Z test, it pulls 123W of load while on the Cinebench R20 Test it pulls 154W of load – 31 more watts! And if you look at the GPU temps on each test, you’ll see that those numbers are about 4 degrees apart. But this doesn’t mean anything for performance because all these tests are simply benchmarks – there aren’t any significant differences here. All I can say is that this tool from CPU bench has given me useful data and helped me identify where my weak points are– allowing me to perfect my system with what I already know.

Additionally, like the CPU-Z benchmark, both noise levels will be capped at 40 dbA and 50 dbA while we observe what sound the system emits when it runs at maximum RPMs.

Coming up next, we have the 40dbA noise normalized graph just like last time. Guess what? We’re getting almost identical results! On the 40dbA test, both the AIOs are even at 900RPM with speeds at 971RPM for 120mm fans and 140mm fans. Both reach temperatures of 72 degrees at these speeds which makes me think they could take it even higher than this if they wanted to! And you know what else is also clear? Quality heat- dissipation on both products – no matter if it’s a few low RPM fan(s) or all high speed.

For the noise-capped result, things stayed consistent. Both models were about 1 degree different from each other which doesn’t make much of a difference for the most part. Interestingly enough, the 280mm reached an average temperature of 69 degrees Celsius while its fan was spinning at 1268 revolutions per minute – whereas the 360mm reached an average temperature of 70 degrees Celsius with its fan spinning at only 1530 revolutions per minute.

Lastly, we see the fan speeds of both AIOs and hear how loud they’re spinning. The 280mm is around 1695 RPM while 360mm hovers around 1795 RPM. Which isn’t much quieter than its predecessor; though there is a significant difference when it comes to the noise level. At 58 dBa and 55 dBa respectively, these are too loud sound levels for anyone trying to work or focus in silence.

Once our benchmarks are complete, it’s time to move on. One thing that we would want you to keep in mind is that when comparing the 280mm vs 360mm radiators there isn’t much difference in overall cooling performance between them. In either case, going from 58 dBa of sound to 55 dBa or from 58 dBa of sound to 50 dBa leads to insignificant changes in terms of total noise and performance – so choose wisely depending on what else may need fixing with your system or how well it runs at high speeds.

360mm vs 280mm AIO: Compatibility 

As you might know, there are many different types of cases that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, some cases will only fit smaller coolers while others will only fit larger ones; it all depends on the type of case that you have. It is important to find out what size air cooling unit fits your PC case before purchasing one! You can do this by either looking at what size fan your PC case supports or just measuring the dimensions of your computer with a ruler.

After that, there are other considerations. You may find the placement you need isn’t possible because there isn’t enough room in your computer case to fit everything the way you want it to be. It might just not have enough space for a top mount, even though it says so in its specifications. My recommendation is always work with what your computer can handle instead of trying to force something else in there when things get too cramped.

For this particular project, we were having trouble finding a way to mount our 360mm radiator AIO unit at the top of the case. This makes installation difficult because then you’re unable to use two 280mm radiators when needed or compare it properly with other mounting options if installed below. There are new PCs coming out now that don’t include one mounted at the top which makes me very disappointed because there are many benefits to having one mounted up there in addition to providing better cooling for an entire system rather than just an individual component (CPU).

Verdict

All in all, the benchmarks prove that there is little to no difference between AIOs in terms of both performance and cooling efficiency. Though the smaller 280mm may be marginally better than the larger 360mm unit when it comes to cooling– these small advantages come at a price. Both units are considerably louder than what one would want for an enjoyable gaming experience; especially if you’re a gamer who likes games with sound elements! Yet this doesn’t mean that 140mm fans are inferior in some way either as they also perform just fine without being too noisy or not producing enough cooling power.

All things considered, the high RPM test reveals one fact about these coolers – that they don’t have good maximum RPM. What does this mean? Well, for some reason it doesn’t offer much more performance than 50 dbA noise normalized settings but at a whole lot of extra noise! It would be worth tweaking these fans to get the best cost-benefit ratio. In conclusion, we can see that the 280mm AIO is better suited for those looking for a lower-priced option because it offers a more cost-effective cooling capacity than 360mm AIOs with twice as many fans at double the price!

On the other hand, if you prefer the looks or RGBs of the 360mm and want 3 fans – it is possible to purchase the 360mm. However, before making your decision, please note that many computer cases don’t support this size due to size restrictions so be sure to check beforehand.

Is size really the determining factor? Stats don’t say much; it all comes down to your personal preference. And what we mean by that is, that you can’t choose which AIO cooler is right for you until you determine where it will sit inside of your case first. There are also other factors such as compatibility and budget, but if those two things are set then we recommend going with a 280mm instead of a 360mm because they’re usually cheaper.