Question Fulfilling an age old dream. New build, first custom loop. This is my journey.

Oct 13, 2019
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Hello folks, this is going to be a build log of a mid-to-high-end productivity and light gaming PC. I'd love to discuss and share some choices, parts, aesthetics, and so on. And of course, I'm going to post some pictures of my progress.

First some words about why and how. Feel free to skip that part.

I'm a member of the pc building community for way over 10 years now. My first PC I could call my own was an Intel Prescott 3.6GHz single-core and an Nvidia FX 5700 if I recall correctly, bought it used from my father. Fast forward a few years I'm on a second hand Ivy Bridge system which is getting a bit wanky lately. I am happy that it held through the last years, I would not have been able to replace any broken parts due to my low income as a student.
Fortunately, I have finished my very long and twisty education and am finally earning some decent money. I've decided to fulfill my dream of building a powerful but petite and quiet PC, with great, (mostly) new parts and especially: a full hard tubed custom water loop!

TL:DR: My goal is to build a powerful, quiet, future proof, water-cooled system for hard- and software development, light gaming, and the occasional GoPro video-edit.

I know, some of you are gonna say that water-cooling, especially custom loop, is way too expensive and this and that (and you are absolutely right!), but I want to do this also because of learning something new, and aesthetics. And since I have reasonably decent mechanical skills I think this will go well in the end.


Hardware that I already own and want to recycle into the new system:
Case
: BeQuiet Pure Base 500 with glass side panel
I know it's a smallish, budget-oriented case, but I really want to reuse it. It was a gift from someone close which means a lot to me. I also find it very nice looking. I've heard that it blocks airflow from the front quite a bit, might do a custom solution there.

PSU: Corsair RM750
Will be enough power-wise, although it lacks the optional 4-pin power plug some higher-end MoBos use. Might upgrade in the future.

SSD: Samsung 860 Evo
Was also a gift, gonna use it as a secondary for projects and games. All of my valuable data is on a server, which is also backed up. I won't need a lot of fancy storage in this system.

Fans: 4x140mm Noctua
I have those from an old electronics project, gonna use those where I can

GPU: MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X
I got it second hand with an EK water-block for a good price (water-block is unused and sealed in original packaging)


PC hardware I am considering:
CPU:
AMD: 3800X/XT, 3900X/XT
Intel: 10700K, 10850K

Mainboard:
X570: Asus ROG Strix X570-E Gaming
Z490: Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming

RAM:
Something with Samsung b-die for the Ryzen build. 4x8GB, preferably 3600MHz/CL16. G.Skill Trident Z RGB with said numbers are available for example.

System SSD:
Probably the Corsair MP600 1TB


Water-cooling hardware I am considering:
Rads:
My case can accommodate the following:
Front: 360/280
Top: 240
Rear: 140

However: If there is a 240 at the top, a 360 won't fit in the front because of the fittings. And since I already own some very neat 140 Noctuas I'm going for a 280 in the front, probably a medium (40-50mm) one.
At the top, there will be a 240, although a slim one.
The rear will probably be occupied by either a res or a 140mm fan, since I think the 280/240 combo will be enough.

Pump:
From what I've read and seen, a D5 pump will be the best bet, I won't need the pressure of a DDC, so everything speaks for the D5. I've found the EK-Quantum Inertia D5 PWM to be very nice-looking. Open for other suggestions here.

Res:
The new EK flat reservoir has really caught my eye... I am considering to place an EK-Quantum Volume FLT 120 in the rear 140mm fan spot. There aren't any holes for a 120mm, but that won't be a problem. The only concern would be that there wasn't enough airflow since I'd skip the rear fan. Any inputs here? Not sure if I can choke that spot with the flat res.
One more reason I am considering this res solution (hah, no pun intended!) is, that I want an easily drainable system, and having the res at a high spot directly over the pump (pump will be between PSU and GPU) will hopefully give me that.

CPU block:
Oh, this gets me stoked... I didn't know my luck when I've found my desired mainboard (X570-E), but EK makes a custom monoblock for this one. For me, this hugely speaks for the X570 platform...


Things to figure out:
So now that you guys know what I am looking at, you must have a lot to bring in, right? ;)
There are some parts I'm still not sure of. Namely:

Platform:
I'm currently strongly leaning towards the X570 platform with a 3800X/3900X. The main reasons are PCI-4.0 and the fact that I see the Intel offering to be only slightly better at gaming, but not the rest. I find PCI-4.0 to be a huge plus, not that I desperately need it in any way, but I see it as a must, considering future-proofing a build at this time. Also the way faster M.2 is a big advantage in my eyes. Further, I see only one reason someone would go the blue route, and this would be gaming, because from what I've read, Intel only outperforms Ryzen in those tests, everything else is better on the red side. And since I'm not a huge gamer (occasionally some CS...) I don't need those 10FPS that my monitor can't display anyways. AND my GPU will be the bottleneck, not the CPU at all.
What do you guys think? AMD or Intel? 3800X or 3900X?

RAM:
Is it really that important to get the right timings and frequencies? I've read too much about it, and everyone seems to tell something else, of course always based on scientific tests...
For Ryzen 3. gen some 3600MHz CL14 Samsung b-die seem to be the best, but they are hardly available anywhere. Could I buy 3200MHz CL14 and OC them to 3600MHz or is this too risky? I have almost no experience with RAM OC-ing.

Watercooling and thermals:
Do you think an EK 280x38mm + 240x28mm will be enough for one of the mentioned CPUs and a GTX1080, plus Mosfets? I am not planning on going crazy on the OC, at least not for a long time.
Is it stupid to swap the rear 140mm fan with a flat reservoir? I do like the looks of it, have to be honest about that...
Also a slightly off-topic question: Are thicker rads more restrictive are do they just have a smaller fin-density to equal out the air-restriction? In other words: Are thicker rads better at exchanging heat, and is it by much? I'm asking because I could theoretically fit a 60mm thick rad at the front, just don't like to looks of it.

So, it's getting late here, got work to do tomorrow. I hope what I've written is at least semi-interesting to you guys, and of course I'd be stoked to read about your ideas, inputs and considerations tomorrow.
Due date for the big shopping is September the 27.!

Have a nice one & cheers,
Leic
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Garret is an ace in this area, and he writes many of our cooling and motherboard reviews, but custom loop cooling is his personal hobby and he knows his stuff. So hopefully he'll chime in here. I sent him a heads up but he's a busy guy so he might not get back to you immediately but he is usually very good about offering help in this area when somebody asks for it.
 
Reactions: Leicester77
Oct 13, 2019
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Garret is an ace in this area, and he writes many of our cooling and motherboard reviews, but custom loop cooling is his personal hobby and he knows his stuff. So hopefully he'll chime in here. I sent him a heads up but he's a busy guy so he might not get back to you immediately but he is usually very good about offering help in this area when somebody asks for it.
Woohoo this sounds great, so stoked right now! :D Thanks a lot mate!
 

rubix_1011

Contributing Writer
Moderator
Depending on what you choose for a pump, there are quite a few D5 pump+reservoir options (I use an EK Res version in my personal system). But you can always keep pump and reservoir separate - just like we did in the olden days.

A 280mm + 240mm rad will give you a decent bit of cooling until you decide to do any heavy overclocking. However, not sure if you'll be choosing AMD or Intel CPU here, so my recommendation might change slightly, although still well within good stock cooling limits with that radiator setup for either chip.

Running a single loop allows CPU and GPU to each make use of all radiator space, but if you consider dual loops, its your choice, just consider the cost of double pumps.

Assuming the water block is an exact fit for your GPU, this is one of the most difficult pieces (and pitfalls) that folks new to watercooling often make - buy the 'neat-looking, air cooled model' but might be a custom PCB. The air cooler is coming off anyway and you're going to want to ensure the GPU you choose is known to fit the specific block you want....and vice versa. Any time I buy a new GPU, the first thing I start shopping for are waterblocks and then cross-checking to make sure the GPU SKU is supported by the block SKU. I can't even begin to count how many times I've seen people buy a GPU without considering a block might not fit.

A couple of good questions:

Is it stupid to swap the rear 140mm fan with a flat reservoir?
No, not stupid, (well, kind of stupid :) ) as it does take airflow out of consideration for that fan slot and you can always do something different for a reservoir. Blocking exhaust airflow would be a consideration I likely would not make, but overall case airflow should be the big picture consideration. If it works and you can vent air very well otherwise, sure.

Also a slightly off-topic question: Are thicker rads more restrictive are do they just have a smaller fin-density to equal out the air-restriction? In other words: Are thicker rads better at exchanging heat, and is it by much?
This is right on topic, so its a good question. Usually, thick rads offer better thermal dissipation assuming you have adequate airflow through them. This can be either with very good fans in PUSH config, or good fans in PULL config...or PUSH+PULL. Thick radiators are usually a little less fin dense and since they have additional volume over thinner rads, there isn't as much need to cram super dense fins into an already large radiator. Normally, its thinner radiators doing this in order to compensate for being thin while attempting to be as effective as thicker rads.
 

Zerk2012

Titan
Ambassador
Only have done a couple custom loops by no means a expert but have some knowledge.
1. You really need to buy another case for this the 500 is just not really made for it being a beginner it's going to make it harder.

That case with just a 360 rad in the front.
https://cdn.pcpartpicker.com/static/forever/images/userbuild/280945.1f9a71730227973a0bf108a8c94b8280.1600.jpg

2. Yes you will need a thin rad in the top and might even need to use 15mm fans instead of 25mm. Depends on the motherboard clearance and the memory used and how much you are wiling to cover up on it.

3. Look at the EVGA G2 750 watt it has the extra CPU connector not absolutely needed but if you go Intel and plan on overclocking I would use it since even the 10700K has a 240 watt draw on PL2. If you go with AMD no biggie their no real overclocking room anyhow. (EDIT or another PSU with the extra connector)

4. Your words with no actual part number listed on the water block.
GPU: MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X
I got it second hand with an EK water-block for a good price (water-block is unused and sealed in original packaging)
This concerns me make sure you do some research. You might be surprised that it fits but don't really cool the Vram or it will not work with the card at all. (as from the above post a lot of people overlook the details on that why did he have the card and the water block still in the box could be the right one just never went to water as planed but never can tell)

EDIT Again. Another thing that is often missed by first timers is your going need to be able to add fluid AND drain and flush the system so plan for that.

The planed thin 240 and thick/ mid 280mm should run the PC just fine.
 
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...choosing AMD or Intel CPU here, so my recommendation might change slightly...
Thanks a lot for your long and detailed answer!
Am I right in assuming you'd tend to go bigger on the Intel because they have more OC headroom? I'm fairly certain that I will go the AMD route anyway. I had quite high case temps in my current build, yet that was with an open-style GPU air-cooler. Can you say something about case-temps on full custom-loops? Usually quite low compared to standard air-cooling, right?

Running a single loop allows CPU and GPU to each make use of all radiator space, but if you consider dual loops, its your choice, just consider the cost of double pumps.
Maybe I've mixed up something there, but I definitely don't plan to do two loops. One loop seems to be scary enough lol.

About the GPU water-block. Fair enough that you are affraid I got a wrong one, but I'm 99% certain it fits. Also, I got the GPU way before I've descided to water-cool it, else I would have made sure to get a reference design.
The block I have is a https://www.ekwb.com/news/ek-releases-msi-gtx-1080-tf6-full-cover-water-block/ , fits right?

Thanks for the explanation on fin-density and how a rad works! I'm still not sure though wether the flat res in the back is a smart solution... Might change that to a 140mm rad or at least a fan.
 
Oct 13, 2019
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Thanks a lot for your reply and inputs mate!

1. You really need to buy another case for this the 500 is just not really made for it being a beginner it's going to make it harder.
I admit the case is quite small... I did a lot of measuring and I'm sure a 28mm rad with 25mm fans won't tough the RAM, although just by a little. As I said, I can't ditch the case, got it from my girlfriend, sentimental value you know...

3. Look at the EVGA G2 750 watt it has the extra CPU connector not absolutely needed but if you go Intel and plan on overclocking I would use it since even the 10700K has a 240 watt draw on PL2. If you go with AMD no biggie their no real overclocking room anyhow. (EDIT or another PSU with the extra connector)
One more reason to go with the Ryzen then! :D Thanks for this input, helps a lot in the decision. Now that I think about it, there is no value in the Intel for my usage. As I've said, I don't play a lot of games lately, and when I do, it's CS:GO lol

I'm fairly certain that I got the right block, right?
https://www.ekwb.com/news/ek-releases-msi-gtx-1080-tf6-full-cover-water-block/
GPU I have: MSI GeForce GTXX1080 Gaming X 8G

EDIT Again. Another thing that is often missed by first timers is your going need to be able to add fluid AND drain and flush the system so plan for that.
I was planning on adding the drain on the bottom after the pump, that would be the right spot right? I will use a T-fitting to connect a barrel-valve and plug that when not in use. The fill-port is on the top of the flat res in the rear fan/rad-mount.
I will post a picture of my loop-planning soon ;)
 

rubix_1011

Contributing Writer
Moderator
Thanks a lot for your long and detailed answer!
Am I right in assuming you'd tend to go bigger on the Intel because they have more OC headroom? I'm fairly certain that I will go the AMD route anyway. I had quite high case temps in my current build, yet that was with an open-style GPU air-cooler. Can you say something about case-temps on full custom-loops? Usually quite low compared to standard air-cooling, right?


Maybe I've mixed up something there, but I definitely don't plan to do two loops. One loop seems to be scary enough lol.

About the GPU water-block. Fair enough that you are affraid I got a wrong one, but I'm 99% certain it fits. Also, I got the GPU way before I've descided to water-cool it, else I would have made sure to get a reference design.
The block I have is a https://www.ekwb.com/news/ek-releases-msi-gtx-1080-tf6-full-cover-water-block/ , fits right?

Thanks for the explanation on fin-density and how a rad works! I'm still not sure though wether the flat res in the back is a smart solution... Might change that to a 140mm rad or at least a fan.
On the item of the Intel vs AMD, possibly, but most are looking to OC Intel chips as well, which was my main basis for that. You will get pretty decent temps with the radiator setup you had mentioned, won't hurt to add additional radiators...just a point of diminishing return (at some point) as you can never get coolant temp below ambient room temp.

Sorry about the 2 vs 1 loop idea, it was just to clarify if it was part of your plan. Seems like it is not, I just was adding a bit of clarification if that changed. One loop is fine, most people only run one.

Case temps are usually a bit lower with watercooling loops as you aren't dumping the warm air from GPU and CPU cooler into the chassis, but most of this really depends on your overall case airflow to begin with and the radiator setup and orientation. Since thermal energy is being collected by the blocks and moved to the radiators, with exhaust radiator setups, sure, temps will likely be a bit lower/significantly lower depending on chassis, airflow, etc.

Some will run front panel radiators which often have fans which dump air into the chassis, so this air adds to the internal ambient chassis temp. Good liquid cooling is more efficient at absorbing and carrying thermal energy, so its entirely possible that a good liquid cooling setup can expel more heat than a PC with air cooling only, which means your ambient room temp or internal case temp can be higher (again, depending on airflow and rad layout). This is efficiency at work.

Don't let the narrative of 'case temps could be warmer' be a scary concept - we're not talking scales of 20-30 degrees Celsius...maybe a few here or there. Also, by comparison, being 'cooler' in terms of case temps being lower, again, in the range of single digits Celsius. In both scenarios, (again) more dependent on case airflow than anything else. You can have the best liquid cooling and have spent thousands of dollars on it....but if you have poor case airflow, it will still not adequately cool without good airflow.
 
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I'm actually going to dump quite some hot air into the case... something to be worried about? I don't think so but I guess I'll find out then ^^
Below is a picture of my loop plan so far. As you may see I am trying to minimize the number of perpendicular angles. Not because of water restriction in any way, that's not something I am concerned off in a system of this size, but because of the looks. (I am an electronics engineer and design PCB layouts professionally, and for the traces, there is a rule to mind right angles because of acid traps that can occur in the etching process.) I still need to find a way to get around the right angles between the pump output and the GPU tough...

Even though I know that loop order barely matters, I find it nice that the two rads are not after each other, but one before the CPU and one before the GPU. It would be nicer though if the bigger rad was before the GPU because it outputs way more power than the CPU.

At this point I am fairly certain that I'm gonna forget about the Intel idea. Ryzen seems much more future proof because of the PCIe 4.0 and I don't need the slight advantage in gaming that Intel offers. To be honest, on this level of hardware, nothing matters for a pleb like me. :p

Btw, yes the picture is to scale, at least the printed part.

Interested what you guys have to say about the loop layout :)

Have a nice day/night.



 
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Okay guys... I've made up my mind. I decided to ditch the bequiet case for the sake of space and features. GF is in the boat on this one ;)
I just bough a Lian-Li PC O11 Dynamic XL AND the EKWB front distribution plate which included a D5 pump. There is no going back now!
But, since the topic of this thread is something different, I'm gonna start a new thread for the build log. Gonna post a link when I start posting again.
Thanks for all of your help so far!
 

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