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 Post subject: Building Process of the Water Cooled Green Reactor 3D TestPC
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 14:46 
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Somewhere along the idea to upgrade the old 3D Test PC with water cooling (details of that project are available here) I got the idea to leave the other computer as a dedicated AMD/ATI test system and build a completely new 3D test PC for 3D Vision, again with water cooling of course. So practically you can say I've started working on the two projects at the same time, but the system that just needed the upgrade was finished much faster than the completely new system. The reason for that being that I wanted to make everything the right way, choose the components carefully and apply a matching custom water cooling and the end product to be really good looking and performing as fast as possible in order to have the ultimate 3D Test PC for testing stereo 3D content and of course to be able to game comfortably enough in stereo 3D with the 3D Vision. Now that there are just some minor unexpected details left to work out, but pretty much else is ready, besides the last minute changes and unexpected decisions it is time to publish a short work log of what the system is using and how it was built and after a few days I hope to have a bit more details when the final touches of the PC are finished, but now let's get to the beginning of the project...


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 14:48 
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The choice of the case was Corsair Obsidian 800D, currently one of the best solutions for a high-end computer system with water cooling that offers enough space and a really good set of features. Not to mention that the case is really well designed and if you take advantage of all the features it has you can really have a very nice looking and performing computer built with it and that was just what I've had planned. Of course the case has a side window, so that you will be able to take a look at what is inside, so it was really important to have everything done properly and work out every little detail and you will see what I mean by that.


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As I've said a lot of space available, ideal to fit in a big water cooling radiator, a nice reservoir, hide all the cables thanks to the well designed cable management system and so on. My initial idea was to do no modifications to the external look of the case and maybe just do some tiny mods inside depending on how things have progressed. And you can actually do that, but in the end I had to drill some holes on the top of the case in order to fit in the Shroud exactly how I wanted it to be, although I've tried a quite a few good ideas at the end the best solution was to drill the holes for the Shorud. Other than that the case remained in its original state and that is why I really like it, because almost all the things I needed done are already done by the engineers from Corsair. Of course all these extras do not come cheap, so the price of the case is not so attractive, but as I've said - It you really need to do things well and the right way you have to be ready to invest a lot of cash inside such a project... :P


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 14:52 
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It has been some time since I had to choose components based on how they looked, instead on how well they've performed, however the idea of the project had to follow some aesthetic solution and that solution included the black and green as main colors. Of course choosing a motherboard by a color combination used does not mean that I'll go for one that does not have all the required features and performs well, having good overclocking capabilities was also a must. So the choice at the end fell on the Asus Sabertooth 55i - a motherboard based on Intel P55 Express chipset and using socket LGA 1156. It fitted the requirements quite well and was actually one of the very few motherboards that actually did that - looking the right way, offering a nice set of features and with a great overcklocking potential... and not too expensive. The two other options were for motherboards based on Intel X58 chipset and having the right colors, but these two motherboards from XFX and DFI were very hard to get and had more or less other issues associated with them, so at the end the Sabertooth 55i remained the chosen motherboard.


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The Asus Sabertooth 55i is a dark motherboard, black PCB with a few brown elements, again mostly dark and some green and aside from that bright orange SATA connector everything was looking great for my initial idea of how the PC should look like. I was a bit disappointed by a lot of really high-end products from other major brands that are lately relying too much on color combinations of red and black or blue and white, so I could not find a more suitable choice for now. You can say that the only possible drawback of the 55i was the fact that it supports SLI, but with x8 PCI-E lanes for each slot, however initially I did not plan to go for SLI setup, so that was not issue at first. However my initial plans and ideas have changed and developed during the building process, so stay tuned for other improvements to the system. Another reason for choosing a bit more budget, but still very capable P55-based system instead of X58 was the total cost of building such motherboard, the good X58 motherboards are more expensive, the LGA 1366 CPUs are also pricier and you need at least one more high-end RAM module. Not to mention that going for SLI means another video card and these also do not come cheap when talking about Fermi, so instead I've decided to use more of the budget for building a better water cooling and then maybe at a later time to do an upgrade to X58 and SLI. After all the building fo this 3D test system also meant forgetting about getting some other 3D projects or more like postponing them for a later time, because of the costs associated with it. And you should know that building high-end systems like this one with water cooling solutions does not come cheap, especially if you want to do things right... ;)


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The water block I've decided on was the same one I've also used for the other project with the Koolance Exos upgrade - the EK Supreme HF, copper with nickel coating and transparent acrylic top in order to see the flowing liquid inside. I'm pretty happy with that water block, it is a universal solution that supports all the currently used sockets and does a very good job at cooling the CPU, even when nicely overclocked. EK did a great job with this water block - a nice looking, effective cooling and at most of all not overpriced, although probably not the best performing one, but among the top ones and that combination was absolutely enough for me to go for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:12 
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The cooling radiator I've decided upon was the XSPC RX480 Quad Radiator that is actually wit a size designed to house a 4x 120mm cooling fans over or under it to move the air and actually do the cooling of the water. This specific radiator has an extremely low flow resistance and is optimized for slow-spinning 120mm fans, because I do not want only to have an effective water cooling solution, but also to have one that is very silent as well. This specific radiator not only fits nicely inside the case, but also offers very good cooling performance needed for the hardware I've planned to use and is an effective solution at a good price.


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The masking tape over the radiator you see on the photo was placed in order not to scratch it during the planning process for the attachment of the radiator to the case. Originally the idea was to attach the Shroud on top of the case to the radiator inside the case with screws going through the holes for the fans on the shroud. A good idea, but very hard to actually do, so in the end I've ended up attaching the radiator and the shroud with the fans separately to the case.


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I've attached some spacers on the holes of the radiator and added some insulation mat that also acts as a vibration dampener around the spacers on the sides of the radiator. All this ensures stability, optimal airflow and tight attachment of the radiator to the case, while also making things more flexible for further modifications and improvements, should I decide to do such and I will most likely do.


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As I've said the radiator fits nicely inside the case. I've used some flat screws to attach it tightly to the case. And you probably already have noticed that the top of the Obsidian 800D case only has space provided for three 120mm fans, so then why would I need to use a radiator designed for 4x 120mm? The reason is simple, because I did not want to cut place for a fourth fan at the front part of the case, although I could easily do that. But since I did not want to, the shroud chosen to hold the fans on the top of the case was also planned with that in mind. You should know that with the 800D case you can easily place the fans intended to cool the water in the radiator also inside the case, there is no need to use a Shroud and place the fans on top of the case. However I've liked how the case will look with a shroud on top of it, so I've decided this will be the way to do it.


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:15 
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I have already mentioned the fan shroud, it is a 3x fan shroud made by Koolance that is actually very similar to what they use in their external water cooling solutions from the Exos series. That part I've liked from the Koolance Exos 2.5 used to upgrade the other test system, so it is not wonder I've also decided to make this one with a shroud like that. On the photo above you can see how I'm planning how to attach the shroud with a single fan inside to also give me an idea how things will look with the different things I'm trying.


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As I've already mentioned I really liked how the Koolance shroud looks on top of the Corsair 800D case, it looks just like if it was designed exactly to go for it. The original idea was to attach the shroud using the holes for the fans directly to the radiator below, however this turned harder than expected. So in the end I've drilled 8 holes at the top of the case and used the holed at the side on the shroud that were originally designed to be used to attach the shroud to the case. It was much easier and better looking, and I should've done that from the start, but you have to be ready to improvise sometimes and to make things on the go, especially when the initial planning does not go as smoothly as you thought it would.


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:17 
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The fans I've decided to use for cooling the radiator were Noiseblocker BlackSilent-Pro PL2 running at 1400 rpm, so I've got three of these for the top of the case to be placed in the shroud. At 1400 rpm they are a bit noisy as expected, but the airflow they provide is quite good and I already had the idea to run them at lower voltage to ensure quiet operation while still maintaining high airflow. These fans are a bit expensive compared to other solutions, but aside from the good reliability and performance they offer, I especially like the very thoughtful accessories they come packed with.


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Aside from vibration dampeners for both sides of the fan, there are also two lengths of sleeved in black extension cables for connecting the fans and of course the long screws to attach it with. The fan itself has a very short connector and you need to use the short or long extension connector and these make it a breeze to attach the fans to the case. Of course to pass the power cables through the top of the case the connector needs to be disassembled, but that is not a problem for anyone that knows what he is doing anyway.


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Here is how the assembled shroud with the three fans looks like on top of the case and I've also added three fan grills to cover the fans - black nickel in color to make everything look seamless. The logo of Koolance on the shroud did not make me very happy, especially after I was not very satisfied with their Exos system, so I put it pointing at the back of the case and not in front. After all that is a custom water cooling solution I'm building and not something done by Koolance... ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:21 
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The video card - a GTX 480 Fermi of course is one of the reasons for actually going to water cooling. It is a real beast in terms of performance, but also gets hot and noisier under heavy load for longer periods of time and going to water cooling solves both these possible issues very nicely. And here again I'm going for an EK water block designed for the GTX 480, and yet again a cooler one with nickel coating along with transparent acrylic top. I've also ordered an additional black backplate for the other end of the video card. Not that the GTX 480 needs it for cooling, although it helps for that, but because it makes the card look nicer and helps in maintaining the PCB more straight when the water block is attached. You should know that the big piece of copper is quite heavy and due to the additional weight the card may lean a bit on the back and having that is not recommended as it may lead to damage of the card in time.


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This is how the GTX 480 looks like with its stock air cooler disassembled. And yes, it takes some time to remove the air cooler from the video card and some more time to attach the water block on its place, but the end result is really worth it.


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After finishing with the attachment of the water block the cards looks really nice and if you ask me much better than how it looks like with the stock air cooler. The GTX 480 looks more stylish, smaller, but heavier and will be working silent and cooler from now one...


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:23 
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The water pump I set my eyes on was the Swiftec MCP355 (Laing DDC-1Plus) plus an acrylic top intended for the attachment of the pump in a 3,5-inch slots as I've planned to have it placed hidden at the spot for the lower two hard drives inside the case.


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The default top for the pump is not with the optimal design and replacing it with a better one can improve the performance of the pump as well as make it easier to attach in the specific place chosen for the pump inside the case. That however requires you to disassemble the pump and replace the top, and here you need to be extra careful not to damage something or assemble the pump the wrong way so that it may leak!


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Here is the water pump with the top attached along with the fittings. The one on the top is where the water comes in from when returning to the pump and is a 90 degrees compression fitting designed for tubing using 19/13mm size and the other end is a standard G1/4" screw for mounting. The straight fitting on the side is for the water output from the pump, it is again a compression fitting designed for the 19/13mm tubing I'm using in the whole system and as with the other computer here I've also decided to use tubing from Nalgene as I'm quite happy with their products.


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:25 
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The motherboard is now installed in the case with the CPU block on it, the processor is still not installed. And the holes for the fittings on the water block are currently covered with masking tape in order to prevent dust from entering inside. You can also see the radiator installed on top with a straight and a 90 degree fittings attached to it, the straight compression fitting is at the entrance of the water and the 90 degree one is at the output of the water. On the back of the case I've replaced the default 140mm Corsair fan with a 140mm Noiseblocker fan. Not that there is much need for a fan there, but one with a lower rotation speed may help a bit to get a bit better airflow inside the case. Not that the fans provided with the case are not good, but I just wanted to have a consistent look on all the fans that are visible, so they had to be black Noiseblockers - the other two Corsair fans that come with the case I've decided to use at their designated places as they are normally hidden from the user.


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 Post subject: Re: Building Process of the Water Cooler Green Reactor 3D Te
PostPosted: 08 Jul 2010, 15:28 
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Time to attach the water reservoir to the case, I've decided to use the Phobya Balancer 250 black nickel reservoir as it fits quite nicely to the idea I've had planned for the water cooling beforehand. This reservoir is needed to make the filling of the system much easier and also to ease the process when the cooling liquid needs to be drained from the system easier. You can also build a water cooling loop even without a reservoir, but one makes life easier and may make the system look even better than without one. Phobya Balancer 250 uses two black mounting clips with foam plastic sheet at their inside to hold the reservoir in place.


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I've attached the two mounting clips using the spacers designed to hold an extended in size motherboards and I've just needed some foam to make them stay tight on both sides as they use a center screw. The reason for the additional modification needed is because of the difference in height caused by the rubber used to provide more convenient cable management.


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After attaching the reservoir in place everything looks just like it was designed to be like that by the case manufacturers, and it is even better after the cooling liquid is being filled in, but I'll get back to that a bit later as it is way too early fill in the system it at this point.


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Time to attach the fittings to the reservoir. The Phobya Balancer 250 comes with four holes for fittings, making it really a very flexible solution, but in my setup the water cooling requires just two of these. So the ones at the bottom of the reservoir ar being closed and the other two get one 90 degree compression fitting at the entrance and and one 45 degree one at the exit for the water.


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