This is my first time posting on this site, but I have many years of experience building computers. The last time I had built a custom water loop was in the wild west days of warter cooling that were the early 2000s, where nothing was standardized and parts were few and far between. I was quite pleased to see how far the industry has come since them.
To set the stage for the build, I want to say off the bat that performance per dollar was not the motivation here (I'm sure you've guessed that already). The fortuitous confluence of a significant tax refund, some overtime pay and lots of free time with my wife away for a month made this build possible. I wanted to be able to game at 4k UHD resolution (3840x2160), and build a show system while I was at it.
Note that all prices are in Canadian dollars. I bought all components from Canada Computers, NCIX and Dazmode. Prices were doing funny things, so I locked them down to what I actually paid for the parts.
Here's the rationale for the components I selected:
GPUs: I'm not particularly dedicated to AMD vs. nVidia, but now that crypto coin mining rush has subsided, AMD cards seem to be a better value than nVidia at the same performance point. Most reviews that attempted Crossfire/SLI setups at 4k gave the edge to the 290X vs 780Ti (the 780Ti was slightly better in single-card setups, but that results in unplayable frame rates at 4k regardless). Two cards are borderline today, so I decided to put three in there. Interestingly enough, at the time I purchased the cards (mid-april 2014), the PowerColor 290X PCS+ were the least expensive 290X cards in Canada. They are also the highest stock clocked and have what is arguably the best cooling solution of any 290X card. I felt bad taking those gorgeous coolers off the card to put on the water blocks. The cards use ELPIDA RAM, but I can still get really good clock rates out of them. PowerColor must have specifically selected the chips for their factory overclocks.
Mobo: I knew I was going to go Socket 2011 to have the PCIe lanes for the 3 GPUs. I decided on the Rampage IV Black because of the solid power solution, good support for fast RAM, good audio system and the External OC Panel. I also like having 4 full PCIe slots in case I want to add in a PCIe SSD in the future.
CPU: I debated between a I7-4820k and an i7-4930k. In the end, I told myself that If I'm putting this much effort in the system, I may as well go for the 6-core. Unfortunately, I didn't get a great CPU; I can reach 4.5 GHz at 1.35V, but 4.6 is a challenge to stabilize and requires over 1.45V.
RAM: I wanted some DDR3-2400 CL10 RAM, and the G.skill Trident X Quad kit was available locally at a good price. 16GB is plenty for gaming and video transcoding, so I only bought one 4x4GB kit.
SSD: The EVOs are near the top of the performance list, and the 250GB were on sale for $150. I bought two and put them in RAID-0 rather than getting a single 512GB. Read speeds exceed 1 GB/s.
HDD: I had a spare Seagate Barracuda 3GB, so I put it in this build to store music, videos and some Steam games. Nothing special.
CASE: I wanted something that was big enough to fit everything, without being totally enormous. I like the 540 because the main component side is really clean, with very few wires showing. I decided on white mostly on a whim, but I really like it. and added other white accents in the build. Lots of pass through grommets make cable can cooling tube management easier.
Power Supply: The EVGA SuperNova G2 1300 received a great review on JonyGuru.com, is fully modular and the price was great. The single 12V rail (108 amps!) means I don't have to worry about what devices are on a particular rail.
Keyboard/mouse: I already had the Mionix Zibal and NAOS and really liked them, so I decided to keep them.
OS: I have a Microsoft Technet Subscription, so I just used a Windows 8.1 key I am allotted with the subscription (hence the 0$ listing)
Monitor: The Samsung U28D590D is awesome for 4k gaming. It's the best TN panel I have ever used, and is pretty good regarding colour accuracy also. Response time is great for gaming, and at just over $550, it's a no-brainer (for some reason, it's cheaper in Canada than in the USA)
Cooling: All my water blocks are EK. I chose copper because I like the look better than nickel-plated. I used their Supremacy CPU block and full cover GPU blocks with the EK bridge system. I chose a serial bridge for the GPUs to ensure even flow for all three. I know many people say parallel results in lower temps, but I get a maximum temp of 58C on the hottest GPU, so I'm pretty happy with the serial setup. I used a PWM-controlled DDC pump with a EK X-RES 250mm pump-top reservoir. I have two 240mm XSPC EX-series cross-flow radiators and a DarkSide 120mm radiator. I used crossflow to vastly simplify the coolant tube routing. I could have put a 360mm in the front, but it would have made the plumbing more difficult, and I wanted to be able to see in through the mesh on top of the front rad. Fittings are Feser and Koolance barb fittings with Koolance clamps. For some reason, I like the look of the barb+clamp compared to compression fittings. I also put in a Koolance T-fitting at the bottom for drainage. The Coolant is Feser One Acid Green UV-reactant. I used Scythe Gentle Typhoon fans on both 240mm radiators. The top is a push configuration, the front is a pull configuration. I put an NZXT fan on the rear 120mm rad, because I had it lying around and the white blades look good in the UV light. Performance isn't spectacular, so if I can find a better performing white fan I'll change it.
The PowerColor cards came with a black backplate installed. I decided to re-use the backplates with the water blocks, but paint them flat white to match the theme of the built. I'm quite happy how well that turned out. I had to remove some of the mounting studs on the backplates because they came into contact with the screws that hold the water block in place, but it worked out well. The EK bridge provides all the structural integrity the cards need however, so the backplates are decorative at this point.
I cut out a window on the right side of the case to see the reservoir. I'm not super happy with how that turned out, and I'll order a full window panel from Corsair when they become available as spares (as of now, the only have black ones).
All lighting uses UV LEDs, and relies on the coolant to provide the green lighting. The while parts pick up the UV quite well also.
I shortened all power supply cables as required, since the way I designed the build, there is nowhere to put excess cables (it's a nowhere to hide build!). I quickly gave up on sleeving cables individually, I'm just not very good at it at all.
I could not find (in Canada) a board to distribute power to all the fans and lights, so I built one myself used prototyping board and connectors from the local electronics shop. It works great and cost less than $10.
Some key observations and things I might do differently:
-Cutting windows is more difficult than I thought. In hindsight, my method with a dremel was probably not the best way to go. I'll have to do more research next time.
-If I want to do sleeved cables, I might pay someone to do it. Way too tedious for me :)
-Even with a drain port at the bottom, it's quite difficult to completely drain the loop. Regardless of what I do, there is always about 150ml of coolant trapped in the system.
-Getting the PWM-controlled DDC pump was a bit of a waste of money, since it cools perfectly well at low speed. I could have gotten the fixed low-speed model instead.
The windowed side panel on the 540 doesn't fir quite flush with the top; I'll try to see if I can adjust that. It's not a huge deal, but it's something that annoys me a little bit.
In the end, I'm very happy with the system. I'm not silent, but not overly loud either. Performance is phenomenal; as of mid-may, it was #98 on the 3D Mark Firestrike Top 100 list. I think it's slid off now though :( It plays pretty much everything even at 4k resolution, and looks gorgeous.
As the name? My best friend was referring it to as King of Overkill, but made a typo and it became Kong of Overkill. I liked it, so it stayed :)