The bottom line from someone who has done all 3 (High End Air Cooler, 240mm CLC in push/pull, and Custom Loop) here is the truth as I see it in a brief nutshell. I did not include ratings for looks or difficulty as that is more subjective.
1st of all they each have their place and non of them is always the best option. A person must choose based on their priorities of performance, space availability, price, noise, skill, willingness for maintenance, aesthetic and other factors I may not have thought of in this brief description.
1)CLC - It will initially like you have better temps because of the heat capacity of the fluid BUT run your CPU test for 2hr+ and the temps will be in line with a high end air cooler as the fluid hits thermal saturation. Also the are generally noisier due to the pump noise and the fin density of the rad. Performance B+, Noise C+ to B-, Cost B, Reliability C, Repair F, Maintenance B+ (Dusting of the case and Rad every 6mo)
2) High End Air (Noctua NHD-15 or BQuiet! Darkrock Pro 4) You will have faster climbs and drops in temps than a CLC but your max temp will be about the same (usually +1-3deg from CLC). It will also be quieter than a CLC because you have no pump or noise from the air passing radiator dense fins. It's also less expensive and if a fan goes it's easy to recognize and change. When it breaks throw it away and if it doesnt I would still replace it in 4yr for various reasons. Performance B, Noise B+, Cost A, Reliability A, Repair A (Just replace the fan), Maintenance A+ (Normal Dusting of the case)
3) Custom Loop - Quietest over all assuming you have the right amount and selection of radiators/fans. Also since you can go with more rad space you can potentially run the fans really slow. Heat saturation of the fluid can occur but since you have 2-5x as much it takes longer and may never reach the same temps as you can have significantly more radiator space and higher flow rate of fluid (laws of thermodynamics and what happens as two objects approach entropy that would take too long to go over here). Also this option allows you to grow the cooling system to include more than just your CPU. D5 pumps are quiet and VERY reliable. You get the best of all with the downside of cost and maintenance. Performance B+ to A+, Noise B+ to A+, Cost D, Reliability A-, Repair A, Maintenance C (Drain, Flush and Fill every 6mo along with dusting of the case and rads)
Self Proclaimed Gaming Nutt
Last edited by ChiTownButcher; 01-21-2019 at 10:38 PM.