This was originally built at the start of January 2019 with a Ryzen 7 2700, with the intention of upgrading to the next generation of Ryzen CPUs when they came out. Most components were bought November-December 2018. I upgraded to Ryzen 9 3900X in August 2019.

I'd not done a custom loop before and had been throwing some ideas around. I quickly decided that braided steel hose would look awesome and should be easier to tackle as a first custom loop, compared to hard tubing.

The first stage was getting the main components. Ryzen looked to be a great platform, and going to an 8-core R7 2700 was an enormous upgrade from my previous i5 4670k. The 1080ti was just finishing production and the RTX series had been out for a little while. I picked up an Aorus 1080ti in one of the last batches that came to shelves. CPU and GPU decided, the rest of the non watercooling components were easy to pick up. My plan was to keep my old PC going with some more hard drives as a large storage and media server, so I decided to do mostly SSD storage on the new build. I did however want to keep one hard drive bay in case I wanted to put in a large HDD for local video storage (in the end I didn't end up using the slot, and went with SSDs only).

The watercooling components needed more time to figure out, and I ended up putting multiple extra orders in for fittings when the build was underway (despite already thinking I had more fittings than I needed). I knew that I wanted to put both the CPU and the GPU in the loop as I'd been tweaking my previous machine to be as quiet as possible, and the only loud component that was lest in that build was an air-cooled GPU. I knew that I wanted quieter, more efficient cooling under load. Two triple-120mm radiators seemed like the best option. I knew from research that the Fractal Define R6 could fit two rads, so that should be okay. I wasn't sure whether I could make it work with two rads but leaving space for one HDD though (I did work in the end, but I didn't end up using the HDD bay). So I needed to get a pump & res, 2 triple rads, CPU and GPU blocks, loads of fittings, then try to get it all in the case and work out how I'm going to do the hose.

The hose was a big unknown factor, since I wasn't yet sure whether I was going to buy braided hose and cut it, or buy hose and sheath it with braided metal. Material compatibility was also a concern, because I wasn't sure what types of hose where okay for the coolant solution. My solution was to get some EK ZMT tubing (10/6) and fit some steel overbraid (16-28mm) over it. I had to choose the dimensions carefully - stretching the braid out would ruin the visuals as the black tubing would be more visible underneath. But I also had to make sure it wouldn't be too big for the compression fittings to work. It did end up working, but it took work to find the best method of making the hose. I found that they must be used with a rotary fitting on at least one end of the hose, so that you can tighten everything up properly.

Anyway, it mostly worked out okay and I'm pretty happy with it. Got loads of improvements and ideas for next time though!

What I've learned:

  • The hose was worth doing and puts an interesting touch on what would otherwise be just a pretty standard mid to high-end custom loop build.

  • Messing around with trying to accommodate the HDD bays was not worth doing. Because I was just keeping my old machine to use as a media server, I really didn't need large amounts of storage for video files. Trying to use the fill port mounting on the case as well as trying to fit an HDD tray at the top made things unnecessarily complicated, since it's adding storage as another requirement in a space that's quickly growing more limited.

  • I do like the look of the reservoir behind the HDD sled wall of the case. It's like you're peeking into the guts of a machine to see the reservoir. I've added a couple of Corsair RGB strips into the case to add some lighting accents.

  • A drain port is absolutely awesome

  • My 3900X runs hot!

  • I ended up having to change the motherboard when upgrading to the 3900X. The VRMs on the ASUS X470 Prime can't really take an overclocked 12-core processor (credit to Buildzoid for breaking down which X470 motherboards would be appropriate for the 3900X). I chose to stick with X470, picking up an X470 Gaming Pro Carbon. I like that it was cheaper than an X570 board, I don't need PCIe gen 4 yet, plus the X570 boards come with chipset fans and I've just spent stupid money to fit my PC out with all high quality, low noise fans.

For future builds:

  • I used all EK stuff in this build to simplify everything as I was totally new to watercooling. For my next build I want to play around much more with the range of stuff available. Heatkiller stuff looks awesome. Singularity Computers stuff looks amazing.

  • Cable sleeving! The Corsair sleeved cables I bought were really disappointing. The wires were thin and didn't stay neat. They were pretty expensive. Next time I want to either pay good money for proper custom sleeved cables, or try sleeving them myself. I think I'll probably try it myself and sleeve absolutely everything so it looks perfect. Having custom length cables will help in so many ways - it'll be automatically neat and tidy, will look amazing, and also adds another element to play around with to make an interesting look.

  • Metal on black. I love the utilitarian look. I want my computer to look like a piece of industrial machinery, with the power to match. Steel hard tubing, nickel fittings, nickel blocks. Shiny acrylic reservoir. There's a lot of room to manoeuvre in terms of accent lighting, coolant colours/shades, different materials, loads of different ways to approach an industrial look.

  • Man, the 1080ti is a great card. Future cards will have to be beastly to be worth upgrading.

Log in to rate comments or to post a comment.


  • 3 months ago
  • 1 point

Beautiful build!

[comment deleted by staff]
  • 3 months ago
  • 1 point