My Current System

My Current Computer Component List (September 2019)

or ...

I Was a Bad Boy & AMD Made Me Do It

OK. That's kind of a lie. I had been thinking about building a system with water cooling for a while. This is after years of saying that I didn't think I would ever make one. The idea of having running water that near to expensive electronics made me nervous. Times change. Computer water cooling parts have gotten more common and are well-made. After watching a ton of YouTube videos on the subject, it seemed that most leaks were due to operator error, not hardware failures. I knew that going down the water-cooled route meant extra cost and more maintenance, but I really just wanted to give it a try. Additionally, I wanted to wall mount my system. Mostly, that was to get it off my desk, but I also wanted to come up with a flashy, unique-looking system that would show off the components.

Then AMD came out with the Ryzen 3000 series. Specifically, the Ryzen 9 3900x caught my eye. Along with the X570 chipset and a PCIe Gen 4 SSD in an M.2 form factor, and I couldn't help myself. I hadn't built an AMD system since the Athlon 64 days (probably about 2003 or 2004), because there really was no AMD part at the price-level I tend to build in .. until this year. So, I watched the how-to videos again, ordered parts, and started down the tranquil water path. 

Craig's PC - Front view in light - thumbnail
Front view in the dark - thumbnail
Rear view - cable routing - thumbnail

 

CPU
I owned (and wish I still had) one of the original AMD Athlon K7 processors from late 1999. At the time, the rumor was that Intel was trying to keep their motherboard partners from supporting the K7. The motherboard I had with it was a completely unmarked Asus K7M. It was the first and only "boutique" system I ever purchased.

For this build, I upgraded from an Intel Core i7 6700K to an AMD Ryzen 9 3900x. As I mentioned above, I had not used an AMD processor in a gaming build since an AMD Athlon 64. I tried to find out the exact date, but it was too far in the past for me to find any receipts; it was about 2003 or 2004. It's not that I had any problems with using an AMD processor. They just didn't have anything particularly compelling to offer. When Intel came out with the Core 2 Duo processors, they took back the crown and AMD couldn't get it back. The AMD 3900x changed all that. Interesting? Absolutely! Faster than Intel's offerings? Yes and no.

In pure single-thread performance, the fastest Intel processors still have the edge (which is even more true with the latest Intel 10900K, which is the AMD 3900X's closest competitor). This tends to make those CPUs faster in games, which tend to use from one to six or even eight threads. Many current games require four threads or more and a couple of games are reported to work best on twelve threads. That said, the difference between AMD's IPC and Intel's IPC tends to be hard to notice in most games. However, the extra cores on the 3900X (and now, lower price) make it better for just about everything else. I do a bit of video editing, and this CPU is a dream for that.

CPU in packaging - thumbnail
Craig's desktop PC - exterior front view - thumbnail

Since I'm using water cooling (more on that later), I am able to keep 12 cores (24 threads) running at 4.3 GHz on all cores at 39°C idle. I suspect that if I worked at it, I could do even more. (It's about a 13% boost over stock.) Even months later, I really haven't tried to do the "ultimate" tuning. Here are the numbers according to CPU-Z.

CPU-Z CPU - thumbnail
CPU-Z Cache - thumbnail
CPU-Z Memory - thumbnail
CPU-Z SPD- thumbnail

However, I did do the obligatory Cinebench 20 multi-core and single-core benchmarks. According to the rankings at HWBOT, that's about what's expected for this kind of overclock. When I ran these benchmarks, I never got over 55°C in CPU temperature. That is what water cooling does.

Cinebench R20 multi-core - thumbnail
Cinebench R20 single-core - thumbnail

I have also been using this desktop to transcode and edit more videos than I used to. It's an absolute beast for that. I don't have any numbers for my previous desktop, but it is noticeably faster.

Motherboard

For me, the only logical choice for a motherboard to pair with the AMD 3900x was one using the X570 chipset. I intended to get at least one large PCIe Gen4 M.2 NVMe SSD for storage (and some version of PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD storage - Gen4 or Gen3 for all storage). After that, it was just a matter of what features I wanted vs how much I was willing to pay. The motherboard that I chose (and would likely choose again) was the Asus ROG Crosshair Hero VIII.

Some of the major draws of this chipset and motherboard for me was the dual PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots, tons of USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 ports, high-quality Ethernet (x2 ports), headers for water cooling pump and high-amperage fans, and a fixed I/O shield. Fixed I/O shields are a bit of a recent development (usually found in higher-end motherboards), which was more or less required (if I cared to have an I/O shield) because the cases I was looking at for this new build did not have a traditional mounting system for the motherboards. (More on this later.)

Asus ROG Crosshair Hero VIII Box - thumbnail
Asus ROG Crosshair Hero VIII Unboxed - thumbnail

Also something new for me, I didn't plan on adding a separate audio card in this build. Therefore, the motherboard audio has to be as good as I can get. Many X570 motherboard use the Realtek ALC1220, and the Crosshair Hero VIII uses that as well. Asus calls their version of the codec the SupremeFX S1220 (but is it really a Realtek ALC1220) codec. It is paired with an ESS ES9023P (24-bit) digital-to-analog converter (for front-panel output) and a Texas Instruments RC4580 op-amp.

Graphics

When I decided I wanted to try creating a water-cooled system for the first time, I justified the extra cost by deciding to get one level back from the absolute top of the heap. At the time I was buying the parts for this system, which meant buying an Nvidia 2080 Super instead of an Nvidia 2080 Ti. I was planning on buying the water-cooled version (or the air-cooled version and a separate water block for the GPU), so the difference cost-wise was going from about $1400-1500 for the 2080 Ti to about $800-900 for the 2080 Super. I would use the $600 I saved to cover the cost of the water-cooling parts. (That was a fallacy that I quickly discovered; that did not cover the cost at all. It was a good-sized dent, but the actual total was just over $1000. See the section on Cooling below.)

EVGA 2080 Super Hydro Copper Box - thumbnail
EVGA 2080 Super Hydro Copper Unboxed - thumbnail
EVGA 2080 Super Hydro Copper Installed - thumbnail
Thermaltake PCIe Riser Cable - thumbnail

I went with the EVGA RTX 2080 Super FTW3 Hydro Copper, which includes the water block already installed. I looked at getting the air-cooled version and adding a third-party GPU water block, but the cost of going that route was about the same or slightly more than getting it preinstalled. I've always been a fan of EVGA's cards, but I've also used Asus' STRIX cards in the past as well. I had recently purchased an Acer XB271HU, which is a 144 Hz, 2560 x 1440 resolution 27" monitor. The 2080 Super is plenty of power for that monitor even with ray-tracing turned on. I also have an older Dell U2713HM, which is also 2650 x 1440 but only at 60Hz. It's pretty much just my side monitor but comes in handy.

The card was bundled with a couple of games that show off the ray-tracing features of the card: Control and Wolfenstein: Youngblood. I expected to love Wolfenstein: Youngblood because I really like its predecessors, but I found the game rather "meh," and have never finished it. Control, on the other hand, was a wonderful game that I played to the very end. It now has expansions, but I've not played them.

Memory
Originally, I thought that 3600 GHz was the absolute highest memory timing that could be reached without the AMD Infinity Fabric ratio switching from 1:1 to 2:1 (and hampering performance). However, when I was testing, I was able to set the memory base clock (MCLK) to 1900 MHz (remember DDR RAM's base clock is half the memory speed). The memory was then running at 3800 MHz and the Infinity Fabric clock (FCLK) was at 1900 MHz and the system was stable.

I debated about whether to get 32 GB of RAM or 64 GB. I eventually went with 32 GB of Trident Z Neo 32GB DDR4 3600. I knew that I wanted 3600 MHz RAM to max out the timings but keep the AMD Infinity Fabric at a 1:1 ratio. This RAM is made to work well with the new AMD processors. It has 16-19-19-39 timing numbers (CAS Latency 16) when running at 1.35V. G.Skill has become my go-to RAM supplier. I have yet to be disappointed with any of the RAM I've purchased from them. At the time I got this, it was a new model for a new CPU, so it was pretty pricey. I could get the same RAM for $30 less now or pay the same and get tighter timings.

G.SKILL TridentZ Neo (16GBx2) Box - thumbnail
G.SKILL TridentZ Neo (16GBx2) Installed - thumbnail
G.SKILL TridentZ Neo (16GBx2) Installed (Wide) - thumbnail

The RGB is a nice touch, but I didn't go overboard with RGB in this system. If a component came with it, I used it, but I didn't much go out of my way.

Storage

I decided that in this build that I would only use SSD drives. In my last system, I had a couple of SSDs (the 2.5" variety) that handled most of the important tasks like being a boot drive and the main games drive. I had a single 3.5" 4TB HDD that I used for things like music, videos, and pictures. Since this motherboard was an X570 motherboard with two M.2 slots with PCIe Gen 4.0 support, I wanted my main SSD to be an M.2 PCIe Gen 4.0 drive. (Otherwise, what was the point of buying X570?) 

For my main drive, I went with a Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0 2TB drive. That's 2TB of very fast SSD goodness that I use for my boot drive, main applications, user files, and games folder. For extra storage for the music, videos, pictures that I used to have on the 4TB rotating HDD, I am using an IBM 660P M.2 PCIe Gen 3.0 2TB SSD. While nowhere near as fast as the Sabrent Rocket SSD, it is significantly faster than the old HDD and significantly cheaper than the Sabrent Rocket SSD. Interestingly, it was about 1/2 the cost and about 1/2 the performance. Neither drive was especially cheap, but it lets me use only the M.2 slots on the motherboard for storage. With no SATA cables - data or power - anywhere to be found, it helps give the system a very clean look.

Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB Box - thumbnail
IBM 660P NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB Box - thumbnail
Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB Unboxed - thumbnail
IBM 660P NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB Unboxed - thumbnail
Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB Installed - thumbnail
IBM 660P NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB Installed - thumbnail

Now, the question is was it worth the cost? Let's trot out a few benchmark results.

Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB AS SSD Benchmark - thumbnail
Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB Crystal Disk Mark - thumbnail
Sabrent Rocket NVMe PCIe Gen 4 2TB ATTO Disk Benchmark - thumbnail
IBM 660p NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB AS SSD Benchmark - thumbnail
IBM 660p NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB Crystal Disk Mark - thumbnail
IBM 660p NVMe PCIe Gen 3 2TB ATTO Disk Benchmark - thumbnail

Compare these results to that of the PCI Gen 3.0 Samsung 970 Pro 1TB. I can't quite compare like models since there is no 2TB model of the Samsung 970 Pro. The 970 Pro was in the $350 range at that time for half the storage. There is a 2TB version of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, which at the time I bought the Sabrent Rocket (at $410) cost $90 more (at $499.99. It's since come down about $50 to $450). Here is a Guru3D review of that model's benchmarks. Depending on the test, the Sabrent Rocket was at the same performance at the 970 Pro. In others, the Sabrent Rocket left the 970 Pro in the dust at up to 68% faster. 

That said, benchmarks are just that. I had a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO 2.5" as my boot drive before, so I wasn't expecting a mind-bending increase in speed. I don't notice much of a difference when booting Windows from powering on. But then, even the 860 EVO booted Windows 10 in about 15 seconds. It's probably a few seconds less with the Sabrent Rocket. I can just say that the Sabrent Rocket feels really fast when loading games. It was fast before though, so a faster fast is a relative thing. Given the cost savings relative to the increase in speed, I'm pretty happy with that choice.

Power Supply

The theme for my new system was mostly white with black and blue highlights. I knew that getting a white X570 motherboard at the time was not a possibility. (That still seems to be the case.) White memory on a black motherboard would look a bit odd and stick out more than I wanted, so I didn't try to get that either (although white memory was available at least). However, I did want to go with an all-white power supply unit (PSU). My favorite PSU supplier of late has been Seasonic. For this system, I went with the Seasonic Prime SnowSilent 750W Titanium fully modular PSU.

Seasonic Prime Snow Silent 750W Titanium - thumbnail
Seasonic Prime Snow Silent 750W Titanium Mounted - thumbnail
Ensourced Custom Cables Installed - thumbnail

This PSU comes with a 12-year warranty. I had estimated my worst-case power draw should be about 470W. While 470W is higher than half the rating of this 750W PSU, which is where I like to keep my systems to leave plenty of headroom for overclocking and expansions, this PSU is Titanium rated so it should be between 90 and 94% efficient at the load I anticipated and have a power factor of 0.95. This PSU also has a feature where the internal fan shuts off when the PSU is running at a low load. Except when playing some games, the fan is almost always off. I've heard that this feature has caused some problems for Seasonic in that people have returned the units because they have a "broken fan."

This model comes in really nice packaging - swede-like cases for both the PSU itself and the included cables. The included black cables. BLACK CABLES! Even the (unusually thick and long) 120V supply cable was black. While it's true that a lot of people that buy this class of PSU will get custom sleeved cables or cable extensions (myself included), this unit should ship with all-white cables. The modular cables appear to be of really solid construction and thicker than most. But they were all black and plastic coated. Since I was getting custom cables, I didn't fret too much about it. However, I had to search around a bit for a white 120V NEMA 5-15P to C13 Power Cord with 14/3 AWG wiring rated for 15 amps. It would have cost Seasonic very little to supply white cables in the first place.

For the custom cables, I went with Ensourced special order cables that are mostly white with a streak of blue and black in them to go with my theme. These include the necessary number of cable combs. Due to the layout of the case, I needed an extra long 8-pin CPU cable to go from the PSU near the bottom of the case all the way to the top of the case to the motherboard's CPU power connector. (See the picture of the cables in the back of the case below.) Ensourced gave me the longer cable for the same price. These aren't cheap and they take a while to get, by wow, do they make the build look professional. They have dozens of colors in both solids and patterns. They have a worksheet for creating the cables, too, which is pretty simple to use. I highly recommend these.

Case

When I decided to build a new system, in addition to water-cooling, I decided that I wanted to have a unique case and a unique look. I also wanted it to be wall-mounted. I found the perfect case, the Feros VM-Rigid Bravo or Charlie model. It was exactly what I was looking for. I didn't get it. You may have noticed that the URL for the link above was to archive.org, not feros.us. That's because Feros tried a Kickstarter that failed. It appears they tried to make a go of it anyway. At some point, they just outright disappeared. A few of their cases exist (used I suspect), but the prices were very high. 

However, in my researching wall-mounted cases, I also found the Thermaltake Core P5 and Thermaltake Core P90. I went with the white version of the Core P5 Tempered Glass Snow Edition. This case is quite cool, but additionally, it is heavy. It's 40 lbs when fresh out of the box. It doesn't get lighter once components get mounted on it. My new system weighed in 56 lbs when finished. I had to weigh it to make sure that the wall mount could hold it.

Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Box - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Unboxed 1 of 3 - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Unboxed 2 of 3 - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Unboxed 3 of 3 - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Assembly 1 of 3 - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Assembly 2 of 3 - thumbnail
Thermaltake P5 Tempered Glass Edition Assembly 3 of 3 - thumbnail

This case was made with the maker community in mind, but I wasn't thinking of doing any modifications. I just hoped to be able to mount everything nicely spread out and fairly flat. I still needed to maintain good airflow for the non-water-cooled components. This thing comes with all manner of 3.5" / 2.5" drive bays - one on the front and three on the back - none of which I ended up using. The expansion card cage can be mounted either horizontally or vertically and comes with a PCIe riser cable. Also included is a water pump mount, which seems to only fit some Thermaltake Pacific PR22-D5 Plus water pumps.

Something I realized when building "into" this case is that this case doesn't really have an inside. It is really just a raised back panel. After all the parts are mounted, then the posts that hold up the tempered glass are installed followed by the glass panels themselves. There are no tight corners or reaching down into the case. That made assembling this system the easiest one I've ever used.

I have two dings against this case. The first ding I have against the specific unit that I got was that it was missing one of the 12 very unique thumbscrews. (See the fourth picture above.) I filled out the Technical Support form at Thermaltake including a (reduced-resolution version) of that image (to fit their 500K file limit). Amazingly, I heard back .. never. I'm not convinced anyone ever reads the submitted forms. Thermaltake, when you offer a technical support form on your site, answer the requests. This is a $250 case, not a $50 case. I was able to find some matte black thumbscrews that I think look better, but I should not have had to.

The second ding was that the upper left post is too close to the motherboard (when the motherboard has a fixed IO shield anyway) for one of the square glass mounts to clear the motherboard. So, as it turns out, I did only need 11 of those thumbscrews, which I figured out after my substitute thumbscrews arrived.

So as not to end this section on a low note, I really like the final look of this case. It's unique enough that people that have seen it really took notice. It's practical enough that it's a pleasure to build on top of it. It looks fantastic on the wall even if it is a two-person lift.

Cooling

Since this was my first time using any custom loop cooling, I did a lot of research and watched YouTube videos on the topic. The YouTube channel by Jay of JayzTwoCents. I started with Watercooling for Beginners 2018, but he has many more. Watching the later ones as well because as Jay gets more experience himself, he changes some things he recommended earlier. (e.g., He went from using colored coolant to just water with a few drops of coloring.) The guides at EKWB are also pretty helpful. Since I wanted to use hard-line PETG tubing, I watched Jay's How to bend PETG tubing. (He has other videos for soft, acrylic, and even metal tubing.) I also recommend Jay's The Beginners Guide to shopping for water cooling parts! and A Guide to Watercooling Fittings. Different people have different methods and suggestions, so don't be afraid to watch a bunch. 

Watercooling parts are expensive, so you really want to get it right the first time as much as possible. The tubing itself is the cheapest part. The fittings that connect the tubing to the various cooling blocks, radiator, and pump range from under $10 (for plugs to close various holes) to over $40 depending on their complexity. I watched one video where the person works for one of the fittings companies. He was like it's a good idea to have a couple of these, a few of those in case you need some flexibility in height, a few of these for spacing, etc. It was obvious he wasn't paying. He was up to hundreds of dollars worth of fittings that one might need. Yeah. Well, I was spending real money - my money. What I did was make as best guess for the minimum number of parts with the knowledge I would probably need a second or third purchase of parts once everything was mounted. I bought the majority of my water cooling parts from Performance PCs. I noticed that Jay got a lot of his parts from there, and I highly recommend them as a one-stop-shop.

After seeing enough horror stories about leaks and failing pumps, I decided to go with what seemed to be rated the best for every part. That would mean a more expensive open-loop system, but I was willing to pay for peace of mind. After finishing the build, I was happy with all the parts I chose but realized most of my fears were probably unjustified. I went slow. If a bend or tube raised any doubt in my mind, I remade it. I never had any leaks and my only near leak was due to me forgetting to replace a plug on the reservoir.

For the water pump, I chose the EKWB EK-XRes 140 Revo D5 Plexi, which is an integrated water pump and reservoir. This has recently been replaced with the EK Quantum series of pump/reservoir combo. They have both flat (distro plate) and tube models and the closest one to what I have is the EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 200 D5 PWM D-RGB - Plexi. The reservoir is 200 mm high, which is actually only about 10 mm higher than the old one. The new combo holds 205 ml, which is the same as my current one. The new one has RGB, and as every gamer knows, that makes it work better. (Let's assume you can see the sarcasm tag around that sentence.)

EK-XRES 140 Revo D5 Pump and Reservoir Combo Box - thumbnail
EK-XRES 140 Revo D5 Pump and Reservoir Combo Mounted - thumbnail

Many of the YouTubers I followed stressed that the radiator is the most critical part of the system - even more so than the pump. This is the part responsible for removing heat from your system and dumping it into the air while intaking cooler air to reduce the heat of the liquid. The efficiency of this part is what dictates how well the water loop works. The Thermaltake Core P5 case allows for up to a 480mm radiator. Radiator sizes are in the size of the fans that are mounted to them, so a 480mm radiator requires four 120mm fans. The width is fixed at about 120mm. There are also radiators that use 140mm fans, and with those, sizes are 140mm, 280mm, 420mm, and 560mm.

Hardware Labs Black Ice Nemesis 360GTX Box - thumbnail
Hardware Labs Black Ice Nemesis 360GTX Unboxed - thumbnail

The Thermaltake Core P5 case seems to have screw slots for the 140mm radiators, but the cutouts that let air pass through the radiator out the back of the case are clearly made for 120mm fans. So then it was a matter of finding a radiator that could dissipate the wattage the rest of the system can produce. The general rule of thumb I heard from multiple sources is one 120mm radiator section per component being cooled, which for me is the CPU and GPU. Jay of JayzTwoCents suggests at least that, but also double it if you are overclocking. I planned on overclocking the (AMD 3900X) CPU and the (EVGA RTX 2080 Super FTW3 Hydro Copper) GPU comes overclocked from EVGA. So, with that advice, a 480mm radiator seems like the right choice. But Jay also points out that width and height are only two factors. Radiator thickness also counts as does fin density.

On top of those factors and the constraint that I wanted the radiator to be all white, the choices narrowed considerably, but I went with the Hardware Labs Black Ice Nemesis 360GTX Dual-Core Xtreme Profile Radiator (White). (They seem to have discontinued the white model.) It is rated by Hardware Labs a 1800W of capacity which was way overkill for my system. Hardware Labs claims it would be able to support a quad GPU configuration. But it's white - core and all. While only a 360mm tall radiator, it is 54mm thick and has a high fin density (16 fins per inch [FPI] with 25-micron copper fins); it acts like a much bigger radiator if the fans used with it are efficient enough. This radiator can be used in a push-pull configuration - which is where fans are mounted on both sides both pushing air into (on the intake side) and pulling air away from (on the output side) the radiator. I decided to start with just a set of push fans and see if under load the system needed more. (Spoiler alert: It didn't.)

The fans that I paired with the radiator were three of EKWB's EK-Vardar EVO 120ER White BB high-static pressure fans that are specifically designed for use with radiators. These match the white of the radiator nicely and were not excessively expensive at $20 each. That's a bit more than I usually pay for fans, but these are very task-specific. Unlike most fans currently for sale, these fans have no RBG, and that's what I wanted. I don't hate or love RGB, but I wanted the RGB for this build to be subtle. One of the features of these fans that I like is that when they are set below a certain threshold for temperature, they simply turn off. When the computer is idle or doing light work (like editing a web page for example), the fans will stop for a while.

EK-Vardar EVO 120ER White BB 120mm Fan Box - thumbnail
EK-Vardar EVO 120ER White BB 120mm Fan Box - thumbnail

For the CPU waterblock, I went with the XSPC Raystorm Neo AM4 Black Chrome., which is a follow on to their Raystorm Pro series. It's a copper waterblock with black chrome accents. It came with a pair of LEDs to mount into the sides of the acrylic top, but the motherboard made it too close of quarters to fit them in without some serious bending. RGB is not the focus of this build, so no real loss.

XSPC Raystorm Neo CPU Block Box - thumbnail
XSPC Raystorm Neo CPU Block Unboxed - thumbnail
XSPC Raystorm Neo CPU Block Box - thumbnail

I agonized for quite a while over the brand of fittings to get. I finally settled on the Bitspower brand based on reviews (of them not leaking) and the fact they have a bazillion different fittings (even in white). I wasn't sure what corner I might back myself into when running the tubing, but I was pretty sure that Bitspower would have a fitting that would let me buy my way out of it. I didn't expect my first attempt at guessing what fittings I would need to be perfect. It wasn't. In fact, it took me three orders to get everything right. The last order was just a mostly extenders of various sizes to get the tubing to line up nicely.

Bitspower Watercooling Fittings Packaged - thumbnail

I didn't mention the water block on the GPU, but there's not much to say either. EVGA ships it already mounted and ready to go. They even include some very nice black plugs. In the end, it all came together to look quite nice, in my opinion. One thing I wondered is if the manufacturers of the various components have some common specifications for what "white" means. I have parts from a lot of manufacturers and there are a lot of shades of white, but the various parts match up well.

Pump, Radiator, CPU Block, GPU Block, Tubing Assembly 1 of 2 - thumbnail
Pump, Radiator, CPU Block, GPU Block, Tubing Assembly 2 of 2 - thumbnail

 

Speakers/Headset

My speakers are the same ancient speakers I've had since 1999. They are the Klipsch 4.1 Promedia surround sound speakers. I very nearly bought another speaker system because both subwoofer speakers had just rotted out with age. Someone clued me in that Klipsch sells replacement parts, and I took advantage of that. It's still going, and with the repair mentioned above, sounds great. I paid $400 for these (as part of a system from Falcon Northwest - the only gaming system I ever bought instead of made myself). The replacement speakers were something like $60. They can put out way more than the volume needed to enjoy any game, video, or audio. The volume knob is starting to go, but I'll hold onto these as long as I can. I'd buy another set of these exact speakers, but Klipsch stopped making the four-speaker (4.1) version years ago. They still have the Klipsch 2.1 Promedia two-speaker plus subwoofer version for sale.

I've had more headsets than I care to recall. My current one is the Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset (KHX-H3CLW) - the white and black ones. They weren't super cheap at $70 (on sale) from Amazon, but they sound better than headsets for which I paid more. They are comfortable for hours, too. That's what the "cloud" part is. It's like putting a comfy cloud over my ears. At least, they stay on my head without putting it into a vise. The mic is detachable, and I leave it off when I don't need it. The mic is really the only part of these I'm less than thrilled with. To others, it sounds "OK," but not great. I've started using a separate microphone instead. These headphones come with every connection option I've ever seen. I can connect these to every device in my house (and my phone in my pocket) using one of the included adapters. They even have an airplane adapter (and come with a carrying pouch). I still recommend these.

Keyboard and Mouse

I still use an ergonomic keyboard as my daily driver as I have for the last 20 years. The Microsoft Natural Pro came out in 1999 and to this day, I think the Microsoft Natural Pro is the best affordable ergonomic keyboard ever made. When I found out they were discontinuing them, I bought five. Unfortunately, gaming is hard on keyboards, and the WASD and left control (CTRL) keys eventually gave out on all. It took years to go through my stash, but I eventually did. After years of using the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, I recently switched to the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard (LXM-00001), which is a newer, but similar model. (That's not confusing naming, right?) The 4000 is a large keyboard and bigger than the LXM-00001 model. That was not a plus in my book. Also, the 4000 has the issue that the keycaps wear off completely in a very short time. I am mostly a touch typist, but sometimes I just need to look at the keys. The one thing both of these keyboards lack and I would like to see is some form of backlighting.

I would (still) gladly put real money into an ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches if anybody made one for a decent price. No, $300 isn't a decent price. No, $400 and $1,000 aren't decent prices either. It should be $200, tops - preferably $150. Somebody, get on this, please. Oh, and please make it look like a keyboard rather than something that belongs in a medical examination room. I am looking seriously at the X-Bow Knight Plus (detachable keyboard version) with Cherry MX Brown keys. I just can't quite get myself ready to part with $300.

For my mouse, I am using the Logitech G602 wireless gaming mouse. That's been replaced with the Logitech G604 wireless gaming mouse. I really preferred the wired Logitech G502 Proteus when it had adjustable weights (which is a feature they removed). Now, Logitech has the G502 Hero, which does have a weight system. That may be my next mouse after I kill this one. (It's holding up really well though.)

Monitor

I'm currently using two monitors mounted on a dual-screen display support. One is the monitor I've had for quite a while now - the Dell U2713HM 27" Widescreen IPS Monitor that I bought from B&H Photo Video for $518 in December 2014. It is 2560 x 1440 pixel, but only has a 60 Hz refresh rate, which constrained even the GTX 1080 I had in my previous system. That's now my secondary monitor.

My primary monitor is the Acer Predator XB271HU bmiprz 144Hz 2560 x 1440. I also got that from B&H Photo Video but had to pay a whole dollar more at $519. I purchased it as a black Friday special in November 2018, but because of the really good price, it was back-ordered and I didn't actually receive it until the end of Jan 2019. The monitor can be "overclocked" to 165Hz, but other than to make sure it worked at that rate, I leave it at the default 144Hz.I can tell the difference between games on a 60Hz and 144Hz display, but I doubt I could discern any differences between 144Hz and 165Hz. This monitor also has Nvidia G-Sync built-in which pairs with the RTX 2080 Super to eliminate screen tearing at lower refresh rates.

Lessons Learned

Radiators, radiate - OK. This should be obvious, but until I had the system up and running in my office (10 1/2 ft x 13 ft) for a while, I didn't realize just how much heat this radiator would pump into the room. The components stay at or below the mid 50°C range even after hours of gameplay, my office temp rose about 1°C per hour. Eventually, the room would reach saturation and both the system and the room would start rising in temperature. My take away from this is if your water-cooled system is going into a small room, make sure you have a good way to cool the room.

Water-cooled systems are extremely quiet - I expected the water-cooled system to be quiet at idle compared to an air-cooled system. I didn't expect it to be virtually silent. When the system isn't playing games that put a load on the CPU and GPU, the PSU fan shuts off and the radiator fans run (slowly and) intermittently as needed. I added a case fan to blow air over the motherboard VRM section, but even that runs slow when the VRM is cool. Even under heavy load, the radiator fan noise is negligible and the case fan is slightly noticeable. I'm not exactly comparing apples to apples against my previous system as those were just higher air-flow, higher speed fans.

Water-cooled systems are expensive - I had originally budgeted about $700 for the water-cooling parts: radiator, pump, fans, CPU water block, GPU water block (However, my GPU came with a water block, which added to the cost.). Tubings, fittings, and chemicals. It turned out to be about $1000. This is a simple open-loop solution. Just a single pump/reservoir combo and one loop from the radiator to the pump to the GPU to the CPU and back to the radiator. The drain valve and fittings for that added a $30-40, and the extensions and other fittings to make everything line up cost another $50-60. Out of fear of leaks, I went with a more expensive pump, radiator, and fittings than I could have gotten, but I don't have leaks and never did have one.

Six Months Down the Road

This is a work in progress! Come back later and it may even be complete.

 

Book Author
Craig Prall
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Craig Prall
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