I have been migrating and travelling a lot, so never having a place to settle down or stay, I have never owned a desktop and only gaming laptops. However at the beginning of the year, I've moved back to Singapore, and will be here for at least a couple of years, so I thought it was finally the right time/opportunity to get a desktop. However here in Singapore my apartment space is tiny, thus desk space is also very limited (I'm sure all those of you staying in tiny apartments can relate), so I had to choose something with as small a foot print as possible, however I didn't want that to compromise performance or affect the noise levels or temperatures in any way, and so I had begun the long search for solutions.
Originally I had looked for options like the Corsair One Pro, or the Origin Chronos, but after calculating shipping costs, and with the release of the Coffee Lake processors this year, it seemed like ti would be more worth it to build the PC. This is where the long journey of researching, sourcing, and putting everything together began.
When it came to cases, I took a lot of inspiration from the Corsair One Pro. I had to choose between quite a number but in the end limited my search by a few criteria, firstly it would need to have a footprint less than 20cm x 30cm, next it would need to be able to house a full sized graphics card, and finally it would need to support a fully liquid cooled solution (both the CPU and GPU. I originally opted for the Phanteks Evolv Shift, however even with much effort I found out the maximum I could squeeze in would be two 120mm AIO cooling solutions, this went against what I wanted in regards to temperature/noise levels as well as uncompromised performance, so eventually I settled on the bigger version, the Phanteks Evolv Shift X.
For the CPU, I was previously going for the i7-7700k but seeing that it was only a month and a half wait for the coffee lake processors and the performance increase seemed significant enough for the price cost (to me at least), I decided to wait for coffee lake to be released, and ended up purchasing the i7-8700k as soon as it was available in Singapore
For the Motherboard, it was pretty straight forward as there were not many on the market that would fit in the case as well as support the i7-8700k, so I pretty much just went for the Asus ROG Strix z370-i. I have really enjoyed using this motherboard as I feel it is really top of the line supporting many of the things I needed while maintaining a very premium feel and look. My only two gripes with this motherboard is that firstly it is a bit hard to work with managing cables around it as it is pretty tight/small and the cables need to go around everywhere, but I have managed to make it look as neat as I could and am pretty satisfied with the results. Secondly, the RGB header was only a 3 pin 5v header which was not supported by all the RGB products I bought, despite them all supporting Asus Aura Sync, so I was not able to use this feature. Also there is a cap on the RAM speed which is not a huge issue but something I wanted to make a note of.
For the GPU, as this case does not offer SLI set up, I was pretty much deciding between the 1080 or 1080Ti, once again I opted for the 1080Ti as I felt the price difference was justified by the performance increase, especially since I was limited to one GPU I thought I would just go for the best performing that I could get. I chose to go for the Gigabyte Aorus Waterforce WB Extreme. I wanted a card that would have a waterblock included for the convenience, and I also felt the increased performance on the GPU compared to a FE version with a custom installed was a big selling point. I would like to note that the waterblock and card is a bit ugly though in my opnion, but it does have customizable RGB for those who want that! Alternatives would be the MSI Seahawk x ek, or the Zotac arctic force or arctic force mini.
For the rest of the parts For the storage, I went with things with very good online reviews and high speeds. For the fans, I chose the best I could get for high static pressure while being known for maintaining low levels of sound (the Be Quiet! fans are really amazing). For the PSU, you're limited to an SFX model, but I think for this set up 600W is enough, I have not run into any issues with mine so far. I was actually looking to get the Corsair SFX 600w, but at the time there was no stock from the shop I went to so I ended up getting the Silverstone instead.
For the water cooling parts You have the option to go with one 280mm rad, or one 240mm rad, or one 240m rad and a 120mm rad. I have opted for the 240mm rad and a 120mm rad to get radiator length possible into the case to maximise the cooling, and thus reduce noise levels. For the radiators, you're really limited to slim radiators, however you can opt for a thicker one for the 240mm, however I think aesthetically it would look really bad, and it may limit some of your other options as well, especially when it comes to the reservoir/pump sizes and options, tubing and loop planning. This is why eventually I opted for both slim radiators, so I did research online and decided to go with Hardware Labs as they seemed to have the best cooling performance for slim radiators. For the fittings and tubing, I decided to go with barrows, this is because the case needs quite a larger number of fittings because of the constricted space and complexity of the loop, so it could be quite costly. I find the Barrows fittings to be of very high quality (expected as they are the suspected OEM for Bitspower), very reliable, and definitely way cheaper. For the CPU block, I deicded to go with the phanteks block as I really liked the design and look of it, and the RGB compatibility was an added bonus. For the reservoir, I had originally purchased the EK Res X-3 150 RGB, however I had a lot of difficulty finding a suitable D5 pump that would fit with the res inside this case. In hindsight, I would definitely have gone for, and would recommend the EK Res X3 140 RGB pump/res combo instead. Due to the issues with the reservoir, I ended up opting for a barrows rgb pump res combo instead (however DDC pump instead of D5).
With this case, one of the very first things you have to do is install the PSU. Try to fit it with the fan taking air in, which may cause a bit of difficulty with the power plug, but with a bit of force/bending you can make it fit. Next is the installation of the IO shield and motherboard. Once these three components are in, all hell breaks lose with the installation. There will be tons of wires dangling around everywhere, and cable management is a nightmare with this case. There is hardly any space for you to hide and route the cables, and the space that is provided on the sides needs to be managed carefully or the case covers will not fit. If not done correctly you may also block the vents on the front side where the exhaust fan is. On the backside, if there are too many cables there will be difficulty closing it firstly, and secondly if you have more than one hard drive installed it will be impossibly hard to route the cables. If you have the intention of plugging things into the IO, and running it down the side and out with the power cable, you will also have to take special care in managing the cables on the back side to leave enough space to do that. Finally, because it is such a long/vertical case, and there are quite long cable routes for you to use if you hide the cables, so you might need a few extensions. Overall my advice when it comes to this would be to get custom cables if possible. This will allow you to get the right lengths so that you can actually reach the places you need to go, without the use of extensions (which create excess length and cable that you have to manage in a very confined space), and forget the sleeves because they make the cables too thick and hard to bend/maneuver, and you really need the space and maneuverability. After installing the PSU and mobo, I installed the bottom radiator, this may be a bit hard to install with the fan at the bottom of the case, (it comes with a preinstalled 140mm fan, but if you decide to use this you will run into issues installing the 120mm rad as this is the only rad that will fit but its screws don't line up with the radiator) In the end I got away with removing the fan, then having the radiator screwed down in 4 places, then adding the fan back by screwing it down through the gaps (but only screwed down in two places). After this, you can install the two fans on the front, followed by teh radiator, or the other way round depending on what you're trying to set up. Next I installed the pump and reservoir combo via a vertical bracket mounted onto the 240mm rad. Next was the 2TB hard drive and the temperature sensor, and lastly was all the RGB strips. I highly recommend you install everything first, then route all the cables, then do the cable management. This is the easiest and fastest way to do it in such a confined space. Especially if you want to tidy up the cables and make the case as neat as possible. Trust me. In such a small confined space, CABLE MANAGEMENT IS KEY. I cannot stress this enough. Finally after everythignw as installed, all the cables routed and tidied up, I checked that all the panel;s could still close and that nothing was being significantly blocked off, then came the last part, planning the loop. I tried to plan around the best way to get some nice bends in while maintaining as simple a loop as possible. The main concern I had was the drainage. How could I drain the bottom 120mm rad when there is no way to get the drainage at the botton. Then came the solution, I had to put the drainage valve at the very top, as high as I could in the loop, then when it comes time to drain, I have to hold the case upside down, then open the valve (will be fitted with barbs and soft tubing to direct the flow. This solution made it possible to completely drain the loop, the fluid in the 120mm as well as the fluid in the U-shape of the 240mm rad, without having the need to constantly adjust or move/wiggle the PC, just needed to position it an an angle upside down while draining. Once this was decided, the loop order and routes were decided, then came the bending and installation. It was rather tough getting such tight bends and installing the tubing, I opted for 12mm PETG tubing to get a smaller size to try and make it look neater and easier to fit. This did work out but had a few issues as the thinner tubing had a higher tendency of kinks. This is about it for the build!
I'd like to give a shout out to all those who have helped me plan and build this PC. Particularly Kurt Kurtson, Tech22, and For Science! from the Linus Tech Tips forum. And also to Yuck Suan from Carousell (for those of you in Singapore), who helped me with putting the build together. I could not have completed the build withoutn them, all the advice and help from LinusTechTips, as well as the advice, tips, and countless hours putting it together from Yuck Suan. Thank you all!