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Finishing The Build

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2013: A $2400 PC That Costs $2700

With the radiator installed onto the bracket and the hard drive cages removed, it’s time to pop the assembly back into the case.

I usually install heat sinks before securing the motherboard. However, my closed-loop system is already attached to the radiator, which we just mounted to our chassis. Although the CPU and memory modules could have been dropped in after getting the board into place, I added them first out of habit.

Designed for three-way SLI, the third PCIe x16 slot on ASRock’s X79 Extreme4 borrows eight lanes from the second slot. That’s still fast enough for every card we’ve tested, and enjoys the advantage of better spacing and, consequently, cooling. The only potential problem is that the hard drive cage I relocated overlaps the space consumed by these cards by less than 1/8”.

The cage is flexible enough that this installation would have worked, but it probably would have transferred noise from the card's fan through the rest of the enclosure. Rather than sticking a strip of foam between the two components, I decided to instead use the motherboard’s middle slot for my second Radeon R9 290.

The pump body is upside down because that's the cleanest way to run the hoses. My only concern was that the air bubble present in all closed-loop coolers might be recirculated. It should get trapped in the radiator, but the upside-down radiator doesn’t leave much room for the air bubble either. The best way to find out if the bubble is small enough to trap within the top of the radiator tank is to start the system and listen for noise that lasts more than a few minutes.

Another alternative would have been to mount the radiator on top of the chassis. That probably would have worked well in an exhaust configuration, especially with the blower-style coolers used on our graphics cards, since they push GPU heat out of our case. Mounting the radiator up top also provides more room for the cooler’s air bubble and would have firmed up the case’s somewhat-flexible roof.

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