Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

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Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:52 am

I want to cram as much power at the tip of the performance/price curve as possible into a mATX enclosure which can handle an ATX PSU. I would love to put an i7-2600K or i5-2500K in it, as well as two beefy GPU's (at least 6870, 560). I think water cooling is the only way to cool those GPUs without a ton of airflow. Another reason for watercooling which substantiates it is simply that it is damn cool. Personally I don't need to have that much horsepower, but I bet somebody with some cash a hole in a pocket wouldn't mind having so much power. I think that extremely speedy SFF systems will be an easy sell. I'm really just trying to scratch this itch for building awesome things and spending money, but it turns out I can MAKE money doing it too. I used to be afraid of water cooling (heavy, afraid it will leak, etc) but I think there is no better time than now to take a step forward.

Being a Shuttle owner I know that air cooling has its limits especially as space becomes more limited. I noticed as I installed an Antec Kuhler 620 (a simple all-in-one CPU water cooler with a 120mm radiator) into my last build that a small amount of water can cool a powerful CPU with hardware that consumes much less volume.

After looking around a bit I have found two good looking enclosure options. I love the looks of the Lian-Li V350/351/352, and there is also Lan Gear's Da Box 100.

I have seen pictures mostly on [H]ardForum and I know this can be done. However, as I have already hinted, I am new to water cooling so I don't know where to look to figure out what to order, or what to think about ordering. Also the choice of case and components are critical to ensure that I end up with something that will fit together successfully. I know that the V352 has the PSU mounted over the expansion slots, which is nicer for a traditional monster air cooler on the CPU. With a water system we've got somewhat flexible pipes, so this isnt as much of an issue.

I think a 2x120mm radiator is not enough to cool a CPU and two GPUs and maintain acceptable temperatures. It may be possible to fit one of those radiators in the front of the case. But if that is the only radiator it will probably be cooling either just the GPU's or just the CPU. I can do something like a H50 on the CPU and a 2x120 water system for GPU's.

Another way is modding the case to put a radiator across the top of the case. I saw pictures of this being done, too, I think it was a 2x120 across the top. I am just not sure about how to get everything to fit on the inside of the case. The front top area will have space for 5.25 drives. I expect to use one of these spaces for a reservoir and the other can hold a disk drive. There has to be somewhere to mount a pump (I'm thinking it's possible to put it near the CPU at the back).

Is there a way I can make this work?
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 5:01 am

With two GPU's + CPU a single double radiator won't be enough. You are going to want at least either a triple radiators or a two double radiators. Now may I ask the question why you are planning on buying two mid-range GPU's rather than 1 high performance GPU? (Either the 6950,6970,570,580?) CF/SLI doesn't always scale that well and its much easier to implement in a SFF, especially with WC.

Are you planning an external radiator or are you opposed at all? Also, moving/transporting a Watercooled PC is not very easy or recommended because of leaks and such. (if your trying to sell it) Custom W/C is expensive and needs to be maintained as well. Just some food for thought.

For your first W/C build you are picking a very difficult thing to do that many people who have been W/C for a while don't do. (SFF, CF/SLI, multi loop)
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:12 pm

You offer a lot of great insight mmmmmdonuts21!

I thought about the dual GPU cards and it is now clear to me that they would be a better path to take. I think I fixated on SLI/CF because of the coolness factor present and that's not the way to make real decisions. However those cards tend to be extremely long, so I would definitely need to measure carefully.

I came up with the idea to do a somewhat simple modification by mounting a radiator onto the PSU airflow path and perhaps modify the fan in the PSU to ensure the propulsion of a usable amount of air there. I imagine that single-120mm radiator units do exist, so that brings me some additional cooling.

I interpret multi loop to be having separate loops of fluid. Wouldn't this mean having a set of pumps and reservoirs and radiators for each loop? I don't think more than one loop could work in a SFF build.

I think this idea of mine is workable if I can get a case which doesnt necessitate a radiator in a location that would hamper video card placement... I need to do some more enclosure investigation.
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:24 pm

Check out http://www.frozencpu.com/ They do nothing, but keep things cool - both ways. They have a ton of WC stuff. They are based here in Rochester, NY. Neat store and neater people. Anyway, check out their website and see what you think. Let us know how it goes.

Also, there is the option of the radiators being outside of the case. Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:56 pm

How about getting a water system to fit in a Lian-Li PC-Q08? (with a mini-ITX Z68)

There's a 140mm at the front and a 120mm at the top near the back. I could have two radiators, a 140mm and a 120mm radiator on those positions.

I might change my mind about shipping around watercooled systems, though self-contained units like H50/70 or Kuhler are quite good. Are there any systems like this that have 140mm rads?

Also the new PC-Q25 also looks promising, it is even smaller than the Q08.
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:17 pm

PNY has watercooled GeForce 580s. They even have a model with an added CPU block (all on a 120 mm rad, so I'd be a bit wary).
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:38 pm

Yikes, that's a pretty penny. It's nice to have everything connected together but I think i prefer to get everything separately since its easier to cut costs that way. What I imagine the situation will be is I'll set up the machine (mobo, cpu, gpu, psu) and then get a cheap aircooler that fits so I can have it up and running. Then I'll get watercooling parts as I figure out which ones i'll need and go from there.

Okay. Here's what I'm thinking about now. I'd like to chill the CPU down really good, and do some serious overclocking. As for the GPU, I don't intend to fold or anything so an air cooled GPU (so long as it has an effective air cooler) is alright. This way the machine will still stay quiet during normal use and noise would only be an issue during gameplay.

So in one of these LiLi Q-cases I've got space to mount a 140mm radiator at the front after removing the HDD cage. I suspect on the Q25 there may even be space for the video card to extend past the bottom of the fan/rad mount. Then I can put another 120mm radiator at the top of the case in the back. Having these two rads in the loop is probably slightly more effective than a 2x120mm radiator. Having all of that cooling an i7 2600K I think will probably let me overclock it pretty good.
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Fri Jul 22, 2011 10:58 pm

You can manage what you want without watercooling. That is if you so desire.
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Re: Water-cooled SLI/CF mATX build ideas

Postposted on Sat Jul 23, 2011 12:18 am

Ryu Connor wrote:You can manage what you want without watercooling. That is if you so desire.

I agree wholeheartedly. Still want to do it though.

Maybe I'll go with Silverstone SG05... It's possible to get an H50 in there.
Silverstone SG06: 2500K@4.5Ghz on Corsair H80 Push+Pull Scythe Kama Flow 2, Gigabyte Windforce GTX 670, ASRock Z68M-ITX/HT, 16GB Patriot DDR3-1600 @1T, OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
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