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Second Time Builder Looking for Water Cooling Advice

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November 6, 2011 7:17:38 AM

So, over the course of the next few months, I'm going to be collecting the parts I need for the second computer I will have ever built. I have a few more tech-savvy friends than myself, and I've watched/helped in a few other builds, but I've only built one computer before this (the one I'm using now). It was a rather modest build (I'd list the specs, but they are embarassingly meager), and this time I'm trying to get creative and challenge myself.

So I have no experience with water cooling whatsoever other than the forums and FAQs that I have been crawling through obsessively over the past two weeks. I more or less have all the computer components I want lined up, and I'm going to start ordering them next week (I don't quite have enough money to throw around all at once, but I should have this ready by mid-January). Almost every guide I've read insists that I ask for help if I feel as though I need it, and I know I do. I'd like to think I've picked up enough of the nomenclature to speak knowledgeably on the topic of water cooling, but I'm probably not nearly as well educated as I think I am.

Anyways, here's the build I'm going with:

ASRock Z68 Mobo
Intel Core i-7 2700K SandyBridge 3.5 GHz CPU
2 Radeon 6970s in Crossfire Graphics Cards
HT Omega Claro PLUS Sound Card

Those are the only bits I've decided on for sure (please leave any comments or suggestions about those components to yourselves). I know that I'm going to have at least 8 GB of RAM (1333 MHz), at least one SATA III SSD, and at least 2 HDDs. Oh yeah, and the SSD(s) might be set up in a RAID, and the HDDs definitely will be set up in a RAID.

Now the case is the bit where I'm stuck. I'm looking at the ThermalTake ArmorPlus+ VH6000BWS. From what I can tell, this case is massive and should be able to support watercooling. After I explain the set up I'm looking for, I'm hoping for input.

As far as cooling goes, from what I have read, I'm certain I need to cool the CPU and both the GPUs. I'm considering cooling the motherboard as well, but from everything I can tell, this is more or less overkill (not that that's necessarily bad to me). From what I can gather, for this set up, I'll probably need two 360 radiators, and I'm pretty sure those can both fit quite easily in the ThermalTake case with no (or minimal) modding. With regards to flow, I have no idea how I would like to set that up, and I'd like to leave that to the discretion of anyone who would like to take the time to offer their expert opinion. Likewise, I have no idea if the ThermalTake's fans will be enough for my system, or if I should add more (or how many more fans space will permit). I would just like to state, that I like the ThermalTake case a lot, but I am willing to change that part of the design if it makes water cooling too difficult (though I doubt that it should).

Generally, this is the setup I'm looking for, but I'm very open to suggestion as I more-or-less have no idea what I'm talking about. As far as budgeting goes, I'd like to the water cooling to be less than $1,000 but closer $500, though I am not afraid to pay for quality parts, so feel free to throw out any suggestions regardless of price.

I will be overclocking the CPU, and I will be using this as a gaming computer, but I will also be doing some 3d modeling (molecular for me, and I'm sure my roommate would love to use my system for his architectural modeling instead of his netbook) and sound and video editing. I also hope to make this computer future proof for at least a little while (I know it's a ridiculous expectation, but I can dream). And on top of that, I just want to build a computer that I can be ridiculously proud of.

Any and all advice and product suggestions are welcome so long as they don't pertain to the mobo, CPU, GPUs and sound card. I know that this post is rather vague and unspecific, and I apologize for that, but I'm hoping that as more people help out, I can better picture of what I'm going to do, and get a final build prepared with the help of the Tom's Hardware community. Additionally, I am grateful for any help I can get, since I am widely out of my element here.
a b K Overclocking
November 6, 2011 5:05:48 PM

Quote:
Those are the only bits I've decided on for sure (please leave any comments or suggestions about those components to yourselves).

I just have one worthwhile note (from the system builder side of me)- the AMD 7000 series cards are expected out by the end of 2011, and may be worth waiting for if you don't plan to have the system done until January. It's supposed to take advantage of PCI-E 3.0 and have some pretty nifty features. ASRock is making some good PCI-E 3.0 boards that are relatively inexpensive, so I'm assuming you're going with one of those - it'd be a good pairing for the 7000 series GPUs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Islands_(GPU_family)

The Claro should be a BAMF card - I love my HT Omega Striker. I'd imagine the drivers are going to be a bit difficult to setup (mine took a reboot or two to get it to identify my 5.1 headset), but once they're working the sound is phenomenal.

Quote:
I know that I'm going to have at least 8 GB of RAM (1333 MHz), at least one SATA III SSD, and at least 2 HDDs. Oh yeah, and the SSD(s) might be set up in a RAID, and the HDDs definitely will be set up in a RAID.

I'd go with DDR3-1600, as it's the most cost-effective right now, and RAM is ridiculously cheap. You can easily get 8GB for under $45.

I'd wait on HDDs, as the Thailand flooding is causing some serious supply problems. Should clear up by the time you want to put this together. SSDs might happen to go down in price as well.


Quote:
Now the case is the bit where I'm stuck. I'm looking at the ThermalTake ArmorPlus+ VH6000BWS. From what I can tell, this case is massive and should be able to support watercooling. After I explain the set up I'm looking for, I'm hoping for input.


Quote:
As far as cooling goes, from what I have read, I'm certain I need to cool the CPU and both the GPUs. I'm considering cooling the motherboard as well, but from everything I can tell, this is more or less overkill (not that that's necessarily bad to me). From what I can gather, for this set up, I'll probably need two 360 radiators


You have a good idea as to what you need. I have 2x6950s and an i5-2500K and with a 360 + 120 rad I hit about 45C on both GPUs while running games. 2x6970s + an OCed i7 will probably run about the same or better depending on what kind of radiators you get.

From what it looks like the Thermaltake case doesn't have a lot of room for 360 rads. I don't know of many cases that will easily support 2x360 rads with minimal modding except for the Corsair 800D, which is exceptionally pricey. However, it does work with good results - there's a build log by Manzooka here in this section. Take a look as to how it fits.

Another case to look at is the HAF X (942) - it natively supports 1x360, and could probably hold a second with some drilling and cutting.

Overall you're headed in the right direction, and you're looking at a pretty awesome computer. I can't even imagine your roommate doing architectural work on a netbook... ;) 
November 6, 2011 5:19:55 PM


I just have one worthwhile note (from the system builder side of me)- the AMD 7000 series cards are expected out by the end of 2011, and may be worth waiting for if you don't plan to have the system done until January. It's supposed to take advantage of PCI-E 3.0 and have some pretty nifty features. ASRock is making some good PCI-E 3.0 boards that are relatively inexpensive, so I'm assuming you're going with one of those - it'd be a good pairing for the 7000 series GPUs.

I am waiting for the 7000 series myself but I question whether PCI 3 will be of any use for quite a while, by the time it is, it will be time for another upgrade.

Related resources
November 6, 2011 5:48:23 PM

Well thanks for the 7000 Series advice. I personally highly doubt that it's going to blow me away, and I'm pretty sure that two 6970s are going to be more than enough for me for the time being. Though I can hold off on buying the graphics cards for a short while and at least check out the 7000 series before making my final call.

Quote:
I'd go with DDR3-1600, as it's the most cost-effective right now, and RAM is ridiculously cheap. You can easily get 8GB for under $45.


I feel like I read a thread on Tom's Hardware once that basically said the performance benefits of RAM beyond 1333 aren't worth the extra strain the RAM puts on your motherboard. Despite not remembering the post specifically, the math resonated with me enough to take that lesson from it. Additionally, I've never really noticed any performance difference between 1333 and 1600 or anything in between.

Quote:
You have a good idea as to what you need. I have 2x6950s and an i5-2500K and with a 360 + 120 rad I hit about 45C on both GPUs while running games. 2x6970s + an OCed i7 will probably run about the same or better depending on what kind of radiators you get.

From what it looks like the Thermaltake case doesn't have a lot of room for 360 rads. I don't know of many cases that will easily support 2x360 rads with minimal modding except for the Corsair 800D, which is exceptionally pricey. However, it does work with good results - there's a build log by Manzooka here in this section. Take a look as to how it fits.


See, I had a feeling that two 360s would have a space problem in any computer case. I'm wondering if you think whether or not a 240 would work well enough on the GPUs while keeping a 360 for the CPU.

Quote:
Overall you're headed in the right direction, and you're looking at a pretty awesome computer. I can't even imagine your roommate doing architectural work on a netbook... ;) 


It's bad for him, but not as much as you think. I recommended him a lenovo netbook (it's technically a little bigger than a netbook) with a dual core processor and 4 GB of RAM. His problem is, he doesn't have a car, so it's a last resort for him when the school computers are out of reach. It works, but it presents it's own set of difficulties.
a c 138 K Overclocking
November 6, 2011 6:34:30 PM

The i5 2500k is still a very good cpu and the i7 2700k might be the new bragging point cpu but the difference in price does not warrent the the choice of the 2700 over the 2500 unless you were specificly going to take advantage of the hyperthreading and the additional 4 logical cores. You can save your self $150 going with the 2500k. Also a good fan/heatsink will keep it cool enough that water cooling would be a waste on the processor. You would be better off cooling just the video cards because those will be the hottest thing in your computer.
The Cooler Master Half-X is a full tower case and has room for mounting a 360 rad at the top of the case. Since you are trying to keep the water cooling budget as close to $500 as possible then cooling just the video cards is the thing to do because you don't realize how fast the cost mounts up when buying water cooling components.
I have water cooling and the video cards take the most to cool so a 360 is minimum for the two cards. The more components you want to cool the larger the radiators or then it becomes multiple radiators and you start getting into two loops and then it gets expensive. I have two loops and that calls for two radiators and two pumps and water blocks for the three video cards the cpu and the ram along with two resivoirs and all the fittings and tubing. Expensive.
I have a 480 and 360 radiators and the 360 cools the cpu (980x) and the ram (24gb) while the 480 cools the three 580's. None of the temps get above 50c for any component.
a b K Overclocking
November 6, 2011 7:00:30 PM

Quote:
See, I had a feeling that two 360s would have a space problem in any computer case. I'm wondering if you think whether or not a 240 would work well enough on the GPUs while keeping a 360 for the CPU.


http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/269332-29-zooka-build...

Excuse my incorrect information earlier - Manzooka is running an RX240 and RX360. On the last page he lists his temps - about 37C average on the GTX580s and he peaks at about 60C on the CPU when OCed and stress tested.

So 2x6970s + an OCed i7 are easily doable with great results with a good 240 and 360. Getting it under budget - well, that's another story. However, you can easily find used parts that have been treated well on forums like AnandTech and [H]ardForum. I got a decent number of parts for relatively cheap, and it brought my loop down to about $600 total. Blocks are quite easily the most expensive part :/ 

Quote:
It's bad for him, but not as much as you think. I recommended him a lenovo netbook (it's technically a little bigger than a netbook) with a dual core processor and 4 GB of RAM. His problem is, he doesn't have a car, so it's a last resort for him when the school computers are out of reach. It works, but it presents it's own set of difficulties.


Sometimes I have to do the same sort of stuff when I'm on campus. I can run my engineering/math software pretty well on my i5-2410M + 4GB RAM, but once you start putting load on the Intel HD graphics (AutoCAD), it starts falling apart bit by bit.

a b K Overclocking
November 6, 2011 7:04:37 PM

Quote:
The i5 2500k is still a very good cpu and the i7 2700k might be the new bragging point cpu but the difference in price does not warrent the the choice of the 2700 over the 2500 unless you were specificly going to take advantage of the hyperthreading and the additional 4 logical cores. You can save your self $150 going with the 2500k.


Given the nature of the OP's work, the i7 makes more sense. All of that editing will speed up thanks to the 2700K. The 3D modeling will primarily stress the GPUs though.

Quote:
Also a good fan/heatsink will keep it cool enough that water cooling would be a waste on the processor. You would be better off cooling just the video cards because those will be the hottest thing in your computer.


Semi-valid point - air cooling would be "good enough" for the CPU, but at a high enough OC the watercooling will begin to pay off a little. Plus, if he's going to build a very capable loop, then what's another $50 for a CPU block? That's about the same price as a high-end CPU cooler.
November 6, 2011 7:41:15 PM

Xigmatek Elysium Black comes in at $220. It's huuuuge but would support a 3x120 or 3x140 rad in the roof assuming the PSU is bottom-mounted.

The 5.25" bay is tall enough to support a 3x120 rad with 3 bays available for 5.25" items, 5.25" to 3.5"/2.5" adapters, or it already comes with the adapter to turn 3 5.25" bays into 4 3.5" bays.

A 2x120 rad here would open up even more bays, if necessary, like bay/pump reservoir combos, etc...

There's a ton of room for the longest graphics cards, it supports the longest power supplies, it has a lot better airflow than a corsair 850D whether set up for air or water w/ no modding necessary to get multiple rads in there. You can easily use pieces of cut tubing to wedge on either side of a rad in the 5.25" bay to keep it sturdy, level, and noise dampen any fan(s).

Honestly, I didn't even look at the case you are already considering, but I think this one does get the job done all day and has a more conservative aesthetic than a lot of "enthusiast" cases out there that often look like monster 4x4 tire treads :) 

I'm also biased because I'm using this case.

Dimensions:

Physical Spec

Xigmatek Elysium Black - Dimensions(L x W x H) 26.10" x 9.06" x 24.33"

vs.

Thermaltake ArmorPlus(Armor+) - Dimensions(L x W x H) 24.60" x 9.60" x 23.60"
a b K Overclocking
November 6, 2011 9:57:27 PM

That is a disgustingly huge case for the price. Great bargain in terms of space vs. price.
November 6, 2011 10:40:42 PM

boiler1990 said:
That is a disgustingly huge case for the price. Great bargain in terms of space vs. price.


Its bigger than mine, but in terms of space vs price its not even close. I only paid sixty bucks for mine shipped after rebate.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
November 6, 2011 11:32:35 PM

Like I keep telling myself, its not the size that matters, its how you use it ... i kid... ok well maybe not...

Anyway, lets try it this way... size vs price vs options :D 

Back to the OP.....

Quote:
Now the case is the bit where I'm stuck. I'm looking at the ThermalTake ArmorPlus+ VH6000BWS. From what I can tell, this case is massive and should be able to support watercooling. After I explain the set up I'm looking for, I'm hoping for input.

As far as cooling goes, from what I have read, I'm certain I need to cool the CPU and both the GPUs. I'm considering cooling the motherboard as well, but from everything I can tell, this is more or less overkill (not that that's necessarily bad to me). From what I can gather, for this set up, I'll probably need two 360 radiators, and I'm pretty sure those can both fit quite easily in the ThermalTake case with no (or minimal) modding.


I'm sure the OP appreciates the comment on the suggestion I made, and the $60-$79 case, but it doesn't exactly fit in the "should be able to support watercooling" and "I'll probably need two 360 rads" categories.

I'm just tapped out trying to think of a case that fits that bill w/o going external w/c options and modificationisms. I'm also pretty sure the OP doesn't like my case suggestion either, but I gave it a shot. :D 
November 6, 2011 11:41:38 PM

clonazepam said:
Like I keep telling myself, its not the size that matters, its how you use it ... i kid... ok well maybe not...

Anyway, lets try it this way... size vs price vs options :D 

Back to the OP.....

Quote:
Now the case is the bit where I'm stuck. I'm looking at the ThermalTake ArmorPlus+ VH6000BWS. From what I can tell, this case is massive and should be able to support watercooling. After I explain the set up I'm looking for, I'm hoping for input.

As far as cooling goes, from what I have read, I'm certain I need to cool the CPU and both the GPUs. I'm considering cooling the motherboard as well, but from everything I can tell, this is more or less overkill (not that that's necessarily bad to me). From what I can gather, for this set up, I'll probably need two 360 radiators, and I'm pretty sure those can both fit quite easily in the ThermalTake case with no (or minimal) modding.


I'm sure the OP appreciates the comment on the suggestion I made, and the $60-$79 case, but it doesn't exactly fit in the "should be able to support watercooling" and "I'll probably need two 360 rads" categories.

I'm just tapped out trying to think of a case that fits that bill w/o going external w/c options and modificationisms. I'm also pretty sure the OP doesn't like my case suggestion either, but I gave it a shot. :D 


I'm not trying to sell any cases, its all personal preferences, my case could support some internal rads but I have no interest in that, and I could never bring myself to pay 250 bucks for a metal box. Just saying that my case is the best "bang for the buck"
November 7, 2011 12:27:01 AM

I have a similar rig, atm running i7-2600k and a 6970 with my second 6970 coming next pay day. I've just started ordering the parts for my watercooling loop. I'm using a haf x so I'm putting a 360 in the top mount position and going to put my 2nd rad external. the haf x is a good case imo and you could prob get a 2nd rad in there but i don't really wanna mod it yet. The only real drawback to the haf x is that the fan on the side takes up a good portion of the window so you don't really get to see your hardwork as readily as some other cases, if i was to start again I'd prob look for something with a little more viewing room.
November 7, 2011 5:35:21 AM

Well, benikens, that actually sounds shockingly similar to what I'm planning. Though I remember eventually deciding that as huge as the HAF X is, I remember thinking that the side fan was probably going to get in the way of the rads, so I'm sorry to hear about your troubles, but thank you for letting me know about that issue.

Now, clonazepam, I absolutely love that case suggestion. Now admittedly, I can't really say what draws me to a case after the size of it, but something about the ThermalTake case drew me to it. Though now that I've seen the Xigmatek case, I've found a new love. Thank you very much for that. The reason I'm only just getting back to you is because I've been at work all day. I know that a case that can fit 2 360s (along with all of my other planned components) is a tall order without modding it, I just dislike the idea, since I've never modded a case before and I'm relatively certain that I would screw it up. Admittedly, I don't think I need to concern myself with that anymore thanks to clonazepam and the beautiful Xigmatek case.

Also, Inzone and Boiler1990, I'm going to go ahead and say that my desire for the i7 2700K is motivated by a combination of my needs (which could possibly be met by a lesser CPU after overclocking); a desire to brag about it; and to keep my computer future-proofed for just a little while, in that order. Additionally, the price guidelines are more of a general suggestion than a specific requirement (especially given that I've only the vaguest sense of how much a water cooling set up costs).

Quote:
I have a 480 and 360 radiators and the 360 cools the cpu (980x) and the ram (24gb) while the 480 cools the three 580's. None of the temps get above 50c for any component.


So, from this I'm getting that I absolutely need at least one 360 just for the GPUs alone. I don't plan on overclocking the GPUs, so I thought that a 240 would be enough for 2 6970s, but apparently not? I'm under the impression that a 240 won't be enough for the CPU and the overclocking I'm planning to do, but I think that it might be just barely not enough. I was thinking of a 360 for the CPU anyways, and from what you're saying, I get the feeling that I could even cool the RAM (if I so desired, I highly doubt it's necessary) as well with the same 360. Now I'm not entirely sure how much of what I'm saying is right. I'm hoping that someone can corroborate or refute this for me.

Also, I just wanted to say, thank you so much for the help everyone. There's no way in hell I'd be to do this alone.
a b K Overclocking
November 7, 2011 11:02:36 AM

Also, Inzone and Boiler1990, I'm going to go ahead and say that my desire for the i7 2700K is motivated by a combination of my needs (which could possibly be met by a lesser CPU after overclocking); a desire to brag about it; and to keep my computer future-proofed for just a little while, in that order. Additionally, the price guidelines are more of a general suggestion than a specific requirement (especially given that I've only the vaguest sense of how much a water cooling set up costs).

Quote:
So, from this I'm getting that I absolutely need at least one 360 just for the GPUs alone. I don't plan on overclocking the GPUs, so I thought that a 240 would be enough for 2 6970s, but apparently not? I'm under the impression that a 240 won't be enough for the CPU and the overclocking I'm planning to do, but I think that it might be just barely not enough. I was thinking of a 360 for the CPU anyways, and from what you're saying, I get the feeling that I could even cool the RAM (if I so desired, I highly doubt it's necessary) as well with the same 360. Now I'm not entirely sure how much of what I'm saying is right. I'm hoping that someone can corroborate or refute this for me.


In general, about 240mm of rad space is recommended per component, but it really depends on A) the rads you use and B) the fans you use. IMO I would say that a thick 360 rad should be plenty for the stock GPUs, and a thick 240 is probably ok for an OCed CPU. If you haven't, take a look at some of the radiator comparisons on the internet and see which ones are the best in terms of what you're looking to spend.

If you're looking for a whisper quiet setup, it'll be hard to cool it with 240+360 because lower speed (i.e. quieter) fans will dissipate less heat. If you're not worried too much about noise, you can still get some good fans that'll cool well with the appropriate radiator.

I run Scythe Slipstreams that run at about 37 dBa (sounds like I have a medium size fan in my room), but they pump out 110 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) of air. Of course, there are much more powerful options like Delta or Scythe Ultra Kaze that you can overvolt to get 200+ CFM, but then you're looking at a lot of noise (and probably isn't ideal in your living situation).
November 7, 2011 4:22:13 PM

Actually, computer noise has never been a problem for me.

Just to give you an idea of the amount of noise I can tolerate, I'll make a long story short. I spent an evening on a bridge where I ended up sleeping for around six hours with dozens of helicopters flying no more than 200 feet overhead (Hurricane Katrina). This was followed by about three months of sleeping in the room with a dog whose snores are louder than a room full of servers. I can fall asleep to noise at just about any non-painful volume as long as it's got a specific rhythm.

So as far as noise levels are concerned, I'd like to keep them low (cause honestly, who actually wants a loud whirring noise), but in reality I only need it low enough that it can't be heard two rooms away, and I highly doubt even the loudest of home computers have that problem.

Also, I think I'll correct something that I said earlier which might be misconstrued later. I said "I don't plan on overclocking the GPUs," where I probably have said that I don't plan to overclock the GPUs initially. The power those two provide should be more than enough for me at first, but who knows?

Thanks for sending me to Manzooka's thread on his watercooling build, boiler1990. I was surprised by how similar his build is to what I'm planning. In fact, when I start building, I'll probably treat his log as my instruction manual due to the similarities (though there's no way I'm going to use a Corsair 800D). I'll probably have to end up doing some light modding (thank god for my father's endless collection of tools), and if I do, it'll probably look quite a bit like Manzooka's.

Initially, I was hoping for more hard drives, but I'm beginning to get the feeling that I won't be able to have as many hard drives as I would like with the water cooling I'm planning. I'll probably be lucky if I can fit 2 SSDs in a RAID and one HDD.
November 7, 2011 4:48:05 PM

Quote:
So, from this I'm getting that I absolutely need at least one 360 just for the GPUs alone. I don't plan on overclocking the GPUs, so I thought that a 240 would be enough for 2 6970s, but apparently not?


The smaller rads would work. The issue becomes that the temperatures creep up a little closer to what you'd achieve with air, so it begins to call into question whether it was worthwhile for the added expense.
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