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Project Exa V2: Micro ATX SLI Custom Liquid Cooled

by lxtbell2


Part List View full price breakdown


Date Published

Dec. 2, 2016

CPU Clock Rate

4.8 GHz

CPU Temperature Under Load

74.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.744 GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

8.608 GHz

GPU Temperature Under Load

52.0° C


This is the second version of Project Exa, a custom liquid cooled Micro ATX gaming and productivity desktop. I added a second Gigabyte GTX 1070 G1 for an SLI setup, as well as upgraded the pump and the radiator.

I replaced the pump with a recently released Alphacool VPP755 to completely fix the issue of the pump sucking in the bubbles. The Alphacool pump truly excels. Currently I use the manual switch to set it to level 3, and it's still powerful enough while being so inaudible that without a flow meter I can't easily tell if it is operating. According to some reviews the new pump can have compatibility issues with some D5 tops, and I need more than two ports, so I ended up with Alphacool's own Eisdecke D5 top.

To cool the new setup I got a thick EKWB XE 240 radiator. I also add a pair of Noctua F12 iPPC 3000rpm fans as a single 240mm radiator still looks insufficient for a beefy SLI setup with probably around 500W output when overclocked.

I have to replace the mechanical drive with a laptop one as the hard drive cage has to be removed for the pump. I noticed that Seagate Backup Slim Plus is way cheaper than laptop drives. Opening the external drive case took little time, and the drive inside my 2TB Backup Slim Plus turns out to be an ST2000LM007, which is exactly what I need.

The XSPC reservoir is kept, and as I have no other way to seal the pump socket on the reservoir, the XSPC pump is also kept and unplugged. One of the inlets of the reservoir is now used as an outlet. I installed two Alphacool HF Quick Release Fitting on the reservoir, so that I can fill the loop and then install the reservoir back into place. However, the filling process still took longer than expected, as there are now a CPU block and a radiator between the reservoir and the pump. It took me a while to fill the vertical tube between the radiator and the Alphacool pump inlet, and before that the pump obviously didn't work properly.

Overall performance is amazing, at least according to synthetic benchmarks. Some benchmark results are attached. Note that for some reason Turbo Boost is not enabled for multiple cores by default. (Stock multipliers are 42-40-40-40) I do have some issues with Batttlefield 1 flickering with SLI enabled. I also added a temperature sensor in the loop. Reporting 39.6C, a 17.6C coolant temperature delta over ambient, in stress tests, it confirms that the system with a restrictive intake and two graphics cards is difficult to cool even with an efficient 240mm radiator and fans running at 2400rpm. (Noctuas at 3000rpm are simply too loud) In casual gaming with Noctuas at 1200rpm, the coolant is around 10C higher than ambient.

I route the soft tubings with hard tubings in mind, and plan to upgrade to PETG tubings in the future. I'm also planning to add some be quiet! Silent Wings 3 fans as case fans, and figure out how good they are against the Noctuas. Stay tuned!

The following are excerpts from my review of the first, single card version of the build.

Though possibly being the most budget-looking part, the Corsair Carbide 88R case represents the essence of this build. It is compact, lightweight, and fits everything I need while nothing I don't: a 240mm radiator, a bay-mounted reservoir (IMO bay-mounted looks cleaner), a 170mm power supply (as long as flat cables are used), and room for upgrading to an SLI setup. I simply can't find a better case that fits the system that well. Even Obsidian 350D looks too bulky compared to this one. The front intake does look highly restrictive, though. Such intake combined with the slim EX240 radiator sometimes leads to warm coolant under load. Carbide Spec M2 is definitely the better choice for the front radiator, but it was unavailable in August when I built the desktop.

The Gigabyte G1 backplate is kept when mounting the water block by removing the four outermost standoffs installed on the acrylic part of the block. The design of filling and draining port took me some time, since the tubing doesn't have an ideal low point. Placing the case on its back, however, makes a reservoir inlet and the radiator outlet a high point and a low point. Valve and T fittings are thus installed there.

The EKWB and XSPC blocks perform exceptionally well. The only issue I have with the liquid cooling system is that there is a hole on top of the flow deflector inside the reservoir at the pump inlet. The hole can suck in bubbles to the pump preventing bleeding and making loud noise, unless I completely fill the reservoir, which takes time. Meanwhile its output looks sufficient, at least with those high flow blocks, but still makes a little noise.

The Sandisk SSD is originally bought for my laptop, and switched to this desktop. I then put a Corsair Force LE (also 960GB) into my laptop. The Sandisk is no doubt superb, but frankly speaking I can't find perceivable difference in use between the Sandisk and the Corsair, despite that the Corsair is about 60% in terms of price. In the SLC cache mode the Corsair actually runs slightly faster than the Sandisk, and the cache doesn't run out easily. The native TLC speed is also okay.

                Single Card Overclocked Difference  SLI         Overclocked Difference
    Base        100MHz      100MHz                  100MHz      100MHz
    Multiplier  40 (42)     48                      40 (42)     48
    Cache       40          46                      40          46
    Voltage     +0mV        +100mV                  +0mV        +100mV
    Multiplier  32          32                      32          32
    Voltage     1.35V       1.35V                   1.35V       1.35V
    Core        +0MHz       +160MHz                 +0MHz       +150MHz
    VRAM        +0MHz       +600MHz                 +0MHz       +600MHz
CineBench R11.5 9.63        11.41       18.5%
CineBench R15   883         1040        17.8%
Fritz Chess     15819       18881       19.4%
3DMark Fire Strike
    Overall     15442       17328       12.2%       22361       25156       12.5%
    Graphics    19227       20748       7.9%        36863       39694       7.7%
    Physics     12680       15315       20.8%       12768       15194       19.0%
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme
    Overall     8308        9040        8.8%        14258       15726       10.3%
    Graphics    9033        9721        7.6%        17695       19030       7.5%
    Physics     12659       15288       20.8%       12710       15245       19.9%
3DMark Stress (Maximum Temperature)
    Fan Speed                                       2400rpm     2400rpm
    Ambient     22C         22C                     22C         22C
    Coolant                                         37.5C       39.6C
    CPU         48C         71C                     54C         74C
    GPU         47C         50C                     48C         52C

Comments Sorted by:

uberlizard 1 Build 2 points 24 months ago

The feature prophet is here, all signs point to "yep"

Enrico411 1 point 24 months ago

Great pics! great description! And an amazing build! +1!

Meithen 2 Builds 1 point 24 months ago

Wow, great build!

WirelessCables 1 Build 1 point 24 months ago


Project Micro-ATExa?

This is a great build. Just the perfect amount of water cooling in a Micro ATX case. +1!

lxtbell2 submitter 2 Builds 2 points 24 months ago

That's a good idea! By the way, "exa" actually comes from the "6" tubing shape. (I don't speak Greek. It just looks cool to me)

WirelessCables 1 Build 1 point 24 months ago

Cool. 'Cause "Hexa"?

PCPerson2016 1 point 24 months ago

This is gonna get featured for sure! +1

Blacksm1le 1 Build 1 point 24 months ago

Great job i love it Next step rigid tube :-)

Yahtadi 1 point 24 months ago

+1 mate!

Yahtadi 1 point 24 months ago

Sorry, just one question. In Sff like this.. How to drain liquid out?

Ashleylee 1 point 23 months ago

amazing build +1more!!

Pixal 1 point 23 months ago

I would buy the mobos just for the Freebies :P

Colin10101 1 point 6 months ago

Wow, really nice build

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lxtbell2 submitter 2 Builds 1 point 24 months ago

Not yet. I'm going to check it out. Thanks!

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