First Water Cooled PC Build: HOLD ME

SeoulSoxFan

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Jun 27, 2006
19,306
My 4-year-old X79 rig is long overdue for an upgrade. After doing some research, I'm considering venturing into the wonderful and scary world of custom water cooling. No hard-tubing stuff, but pumps, radiators, fittings, etc. etc.

Here's the list of parts:
  • AMD RYZEN 7 1800X
  • ASRock X370 Taichi ATX AM4 Motherboard
  • Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (4 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
  • Samsung 960 Pro 1.0TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive
  • MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Founders Edition Video Card
  • Fractal Design Define R5 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Corsair Professional Gold 1200W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply
Usage:
  • Not a gamer, although I guess I sneak in a little bit of XCOM2 and Civ 6 once a month (yup, once a month)
  • This is mainly for heavy duty coding and video editing
Goals:
  • Near-silent operation
  • No silly RGB lighting stuff
  • Stability
  • Safe overclocking, if any
  • Learn how to do water cooling (this would be my 4th hand-built rig)
Questions:
  • Would something like the EK X360 kit be a good starting point?
  • Should I go with a separate AIO kit for the CPU and another for the GPU? (Corsair Hydro H115i, for example)
  • Would all of my main components work with water cooling? (i.e., finding a waterblock for the GPU)
  • How worried should I be about leakage and damaging the motherboard, CPU, etc.?
  • How long do the pumps, fittings, etc. last?
  • Should I save on components (512GB M.2 drive instead of 1TB) and spend it on better fittings and motor?
  • Should pay someone to do this for me, as there are a couple of shops in Seoul? Or just take the plunge? (Dumb question, but wanted to ask)
Thanks all!
 

Blacken

Robespierre in a Cape
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Jul 24, 2007
12,142
- There's very little value to building out your own water cooling in 2017. The Corsair H55 is a great enclosed unit, is probably safer than doing it yourself, and takes like two minutes to install. I've never done GPU liquid cooling in the first place, but pulling the heat sink off a $500 graphics card makes me a little nervous.

- If you're heat-sensitive enough to consider "custom" water cooling in the first place, Ryzen might not be the best option versus Intel right now. The TDP for Ryzen is lower, but the power management seems somewhat questionable. They seem like fine chips, from what we know (and I probably wouldn't buy a first run of any processor, FWIW), but I would be nervous.

- The R5 is a great case, but get the black one. The white one scuffs and stains really easily. (I've had both, my machines are both in black cases now.)

- Unless you are doing video in 8K, 64GB of RAM is probably overkill (and unless you suddenly started building out statistical sims instead of websites it's not a thing for programming, too). 32GB is fine, and you can upgrade later when DDR4 is cheaper if you find you really need it.

- You won't see a material difference in video editing perf between the 1080Ti and the 1080, and you'll save a decent amount of money. By the time the 1080 is pokey, it'll be three generations later and the 10-20% bump of the Ti will not be saving you when it's time to upgrade. (By comparison, the 1070 benches about 50% less than the 1080; that much of a downgrade is probably not worth the money as it probably makes you upgrade a generation earlier.)

- I haven't run the power numbers on that PC, but I'd bet that you don't need a 1200W power supply. Put this into PCPartPicker and get a PSU that's 10%-20% higher than the listed wattage, not 100% higher.
 

Nick Kaufman

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I got it into premade cooling solutions 10 years ago after my first desktop made a ton of noise. For a build I did in 2010, I used the Corsair H50 I think. Then I did another build in 2013 with what was a then state of the art i7 4770k. Since I was so obsessed about about having a silent pc I did a ton of research and I mean a ton. Like I read reviews, learned about how much noise different fans make. I even bought a mixture of fans, air and liquid heat solutions in order to find the most silent one. Eventually, it was simpler and more economical and as silent to just use a good Noctua NH-D14 fan for the CPU along with a couple of Skythe Gentle Typhoon case fans.

I had the same qualms about video cards. After looking for one with passive cooling and striking out, because they weren't any really good ones, I settled for a middle of the road one with two fans.

My conclusion after spending hours upon hours on this? I barely notice any noise coming from my PC, mostly because most components are more silent than the old days.

If you are not going to do hard core gaming that demands peak performance from your CPU, then your CPU and GPU aren't going to be tested and you don't need a custom water cooling solution.

By all means do some research and make sure that your case is a good one that's going to adapt to any future needs you may have, but you can get by with either a prefab water cooler or even air cooling. It's not as much of a big deal as it used to be.
 

SeoulSoxFan

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Jun 27, 2006
19,306
Thanks a bunch, Blacken & NK for the feedback! Some thoughts and more questions:

AIO Units:
I keep hearing EK as having better components than Corsair. I was looking at these instead of going the whole custom cooling routine:
I'll have to look more into the different AIO units, which I have not done so. Am I just looking for user reviews or are their key data points I should be looking for? Any other brands other than Corsair, EK, and NZXT?

Air Cool vs Liquid Cool:
I know this is the endless debate. I was surprised to hear both of your experiences in perhaps not going with water cooling at all. Since I'm also trying to get as near-silent as possible, perhaps get a closed-loop CPU block like:
and install the Skythes NK mentioned:
Is it safe to assume that it quickly becomes a game of taste great/less filling when comparing, let's say, the Skythe fan to the EK Vadar?

Passive vs Fan GPU:
So I'm guessing going with a closed-loop GPU block means I can go with a passive unit like the 1080/1080 Ti FE type cards. Is this correct? If not, get the fan-based ones like this:
I just assumed "fans = noise" so didn't consider these but they can be quiet enough?

Ryzen vs Intel:
I did read that these chips run fairly hot. Since I won't be upgrading this rig for another few years, I'd love to get the best CPU I can afford but it's tough to pass up the "half-price" performance of the 1800X when compared to the $1k Intel chip.

I too am a bit hesitant to go with the AMD route but more due to the limited motherboard/chipset options rather than chips themselves. If I do go with an Intel CPU, I saw a bunch of YT videos of "de-lidding" 7700k and get that to drop 20C. Seems a bit nuts that Intel used such cheap thermals but I guess that's legit.

Other Components:
That power unit definitely is an overkill. Since the DDR4 chip prices are pretty high, it also makes sense ot go with 2 sticks of 16GB for now.

A question about RAM speed, which is pretty confusing to me. With either of the 7700k/1700x/1800x chips, is there a base standard speed I should look for (regarding to video editing)?

Seen a bunch of vids on the R5 case and it seems to be the one, although it came out a couple of years ago. Thanks for the tip on the white case. I'll go with the generic black then. BTW, saw lots of positive reviews for the Be Quiet Base Pro 900 but prefer the R5 if only for the looks.
 

Blacken

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Jul 24, 2007
12,142
In no particular order:

- RAM speed basically doesn't matter. It's all overwhelmingly slower than CPU cache and overwhelmingly faster than disk. DDR4 only officially supports PC4-19200/DDR4-2400 and anything else is unofficial but maybe-works, but I wouldn't trade potential stability for a really marginal bump.

- Fractal Design deserves your money because they make the best, quietest cases you will find that are not a pain in the dick to work with. Doesn't really matter past that--give 'em your money and you'll be OK.

- GPU fans can be loud. The only fan in my computer I ever hear is my 980Ti. Of course, I only hear it when I am providing @OfTheCarmen and @FarvinMoosey air cover in Overwatch, and that's when I'm wearing headphones. Even without, it's honestly not that loud. I'd go with stock until/if it annoys you enough to change; changing it would involve popping a case fan and putting on the GPU cooler, so it's something that can be done incrementally.

- I use Corsair coolers because I've used Corsair coolers. I can vouch for them to not suck, but I can't say if anyone else is better.

- Personal thing: ASRock motherboards have never treated me well. They've always felt a little fragile and I've had more of those go DOA than anything. I always go with Gigabyte's Ultra-Durable boards (the -UD3 suffix) and I believe there are some AMD ones of those...

- ...but I'd probably get a 7700K. If you don't care about money and can wait a bit, I expect to see a 7900K that will be generously termed "pants-tightening" before too long, too. (On the other hand, my streaming server is about to get a Ryzen 1700 and I'm sticking that in a 2U chassis, so you might want to just ignore me.)
 

hikeeba

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Dec 8, 2005
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Agree on the R5 (black, no window) - what I'm using now. Cooling with a Dark Rock Pro 3. It's been extremely quiet (although I think my hearing has been adjusting recently).
I spent way way way too much time looking at cases and coolers, but feel satisfied with the combo I have. (I was also looking at the Be Quiet case, but I wanted a place for my Blu-Ray.)

Originally had an Asus Sabretooth MB but it was defective so I went with the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming-7 and a GTX-1060 Xtreme 6GB (mainly for the semi-passive fans).
(To round out specs - i7-6700K, 32GB G.Skill Ripjaws V 2400, Samsung 850evo 500GB)
 

cgori

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Oct 2, 2004
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Memory speed does matter, but only for certain specific workloads (logic simulation is one, which I know inside and out, having built out multiple data centers for that over the years). For lots of other workloads, Blacken is correct, the marginal difference is irrelevant compared to the reliability effects. But, try to find representative benchmarks if you can.

I have no liquid cooling experience, sorry :(
 

Nick Kaufman

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FWIW, I should also let you know that liquid cooling systems also make noise. Sometimes you can hear the pump and if you put your ear close enough you can hear the water getting pumped. Moreover, you still have to use fans; and if you do a prime95 to test how good the cooling system is for keeping temps down, those fans also get turned up high enough to hear them. I do remember that I replaced the ones that came with the prefab water cooling solution with lower RPM ones.

OTOH, I should be remiss if I didn't say that the only times the CPU and the cooling solution came to be tested is.... when I was testing them with Prime95.

I don't want to completely discourage you from water cooling. It might be cool just to try building a custom solution. I am just trying to point out that it's not the shangri-la of silence.