SBM 3: High-End System

Builder's Notes, Continued

We chose to install the two hard drives into the remaining bays for several reasons, including cable management and photographic purposes. A three-bay upper drive cage next to the power supply was left out during "complete system" photos to show off the power supply.

The first problem with installing drives into the lower cage is that the cage and radiator assembly must be removed - an assembly that uses an unforgivable 14 mounting screws ! We had left the drives out during initial assembly so that we’d have room to reach the liquid cooling system’s tube fittings. With the fittings attached, removing the radiator/drive cage assembly was hindered by the fact that the tubes now had to be stretched. When we finally did wiggle it out, the coolant tubes were folded completely flat as we tilted the top of the cage forward to install the drives. It was only after accomplishing all these tasks that we could attach the drives, using more screws !

Reinstalling the drive cage, we found that several "ears" or ledges that were meant to support 5.25" drives were now blocking the radiator/drive cage assembly support brackets. It turns out that these brackets must be bent or flexed out of the way, something that had occurred on its own during disassembly.

The system is finally together, but what’s that round thing over the RAM ?

Once testing began, we noticed the chipset got extremely hot - so hot that it burned fingers. Note in the photo above that the board has its optional chipset/VRM fan attached, but it was still too hot to handle, let alone overclock. Asus included this optional fan specifically to address the issue of poor across-board airflow in liquid-cooled systems, yet one fan simply wasn’t enough. To top it off, the RAM also got exceptionally hot. We had to mount another fan somewhere !

Antec came to the rescue with its SpotCool fan. Designed to be screwed to a motherboard mounting hole, the flexible shaft allows it to be angled towards nearly any offensively hot component. The SpotCool is the round object that appears to be hovering over the RAM two photos up.

Two final notes about our configuration. First, rotating the pump and reservoir assembly forced us to purchase a long-neck funnel for filling the system. Second, removing or replacing any drives in the lower cage will likely require completely draining the system.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.