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Project Absinthe – Part VI

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Already to part 6 of this series and I still haven’t assembled anything resembling a water cooling loop – with the exception of getting both radiators mounted.

And that’s mainly because I need to do some more test fitting. This time it was putting the pump where I’d planned to mount it, using another fan to do the test fit. The fan in question is a Zalman ZM-F3 LED that came with the Z12 Plus case. It’s a 25mm thick, 1200 RPM fan that runs quite silently but doesn’t seem to move a lot of air. It does have a nice blue LED, though.

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Now in attempting to mount this configuration, I did learn that the radiator will need to come out first. And with good reason as there isn’t a lot of clearance between the Z2 bracket and the radiator – as in I couldn’t fit a #8 washer between them.

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Part of the tight fit is the fact I’m using two washers on the mount: one between the screw and bracket, and the other between the bracket and fan. Pulling out one of the washers won’t make much of a difference. But changing out the dust filter will. The filter I currently have on there is the SilverStone FF121, which is about 4.5mm thick. I can change those to the SilverStone FF123, which is a better filter and only 1.5mm thick. That will certainly open things up a little more.

And I’ll do that for both of the bottom 120mm fans. I already have the SilverStone FF143 on the rear 140mm intake.

The other test fit is for the hard drive cage I purchased from Mountain Mods. And on this one I wanted the pump in there as well so I could see how the entire unit would fit together.

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The hard drive in the picture is a dead hard drive I just never discarded – who’ve thought it’d come in handy?

The fit toward the bottom is a little tighter than with the drive cage, which was contrary what I thought it’d be. I needed to move the pump a couple millimeters away from the drive mount, but as you can see, it still fits. This means again that the hard drives are getting air across them, whereas in the drive cage that wasn’t necessarily the case, or the airflow wasn’t as great as it could have been. So the slightly tighter fit is a reasonable and minor trade-off to having airflow across the drives.

So definitely a huge plus to Mountain Mods for making this drive mount.

Next order

So that’s it for now until I place the next order. That’ll include the 5 x Spectre Pro 120mm fans and two FF123 fan filters along with a different reservoir. Not sure if I’ll go with the Bitspower full-acrylic reservoir as I currently plan or if I’ll go with something else. The pump is part of the consideration on that, as is the front radiator – too tall of a reservoir and I can’t connect it easily to the outlet on the radiator. And as that’s how I want it to flow, that leaves only a few options from what I’ve seen available.

But I’m exploring my options, and I’ve got time before I place the next order.

After the next order arrives, I’ll be switching out the Zalman fans on the bottom and mounting the others to the radiator. Hopefully by then I’ll also have figured out how to mount and secure the reservoir, which will likely also include tubing up some parts of the loop. Details are still subject to change, so we’ll see what happens.

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Project Absinthe – Part V

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I picked up the order from my local FedEx office, which included:

  • 2 x Swiftech 90-degree single rotary fittings
  • 10-pack Primochill Rigid Revolver compression fittings
  • 2 x Koolance bulkhead tank fittings
  • 3 x 140mm Bitfenix Spectre Pro fans

Okay that’s not entirely correct.

They sent me dual-rotary fittings instead of single-rotary fittings. This isn’t the first time Performance-PCs as gotten an order wrong, but the fact it’s happened with two of my last three orders is a little worrisome – the order of the last three they didn’t get wrong was a power supply cable for the RM1000 that I had overnighted. Everything else about the order was correct, though. The last mix-up was over a fan cable splitter.

The sad thing about this discrepancy isn’t necessarily that it happened, again, but that there are three people who take care of packing up shipments. One person packs it with two other people signing off on having inspected it. For this big of a discrepancy to get by three people is worrying, to say the least.

I sent an e-mail to them after noticing the discrepancy. They’ll issue a shipping label for returning the wrong fittings, which will be put on the box they’re using to send the correct fittings.

It’s a good thing I’m not trying to do a build for a paying client, and that there’s still plenty of time before I plan to actually build out the system again as I still need to pinpoint the rest of what I’m going to order – I know what the bulk of the next order will be, but I’m unsure if I’ll need anything beyond that. And even despite the recent difficulties, I still recommend going with them as they have the lowest prices on most everything I’ve ordered and I haven’t had any issues with them until recently.

Rigging for silent running

First order of business after contacting Performance-PCs about the order was to open and plug up one of the Spectre Pro fans for a quick sound test – and to make sure they’re not DOA.

The SP120 sounded like a buzzing insect. It was loud, and combined with several other SP120s, it sounded like a swarm or beehive at full blast. The Spectre Pro fans are a significant improvement over the SP120, but not too much of an improvement over the AF140L fans that come with the 750D. Recall from a prior iteration that the fans only had a slightly lower noise pressure rating to the AF140 – 24 dB/A for the AF140 compared to slightly under 23 dB/A for the Spectre Pro 140mm.

I installed the fans into the case, two in the front and one in the back. For the rear fan I used the same brass screws I had already purchased – there’s a slight overhang on the screws but it’s a pretty solid mount nonetheless. For installing the front fans, I needed to pull the power cable clear of the fan.

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You see how the power cable is tucked under the rim of the fan? To mount these as front intake fans in the 750D (and likely the other cases in the Obsidian series), you just need to slide the power cable back through that opening and it’ll be able to slide through this opening in the front panel.

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You won’t be able to mount the fan unless you do that.

With the fans installed, I got a spare power supply and got power to them. You could feel the air coming from them, but they weren’t making a sound. My wife actually had to ask if I had them running. Add the Spectre Pro 120mm fans to the mix and this machine will barely make a sound. As I’ve mentioned before, the pump is barely audible when it’s running. These fans also disappear behind the filters.

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The fan controller, however, is able to put a bit more power through these fans, so they’re definitely noticeable when the controller is cranked up to max. Having the controller dialed at their rated 1200RPM, about the same level when they’re running off the power supply directly, makes them barely audible. The fan controller can get them up near 1400 RPM where they do become a little noisy but still nowhere near the SP120s.

Unfortunately one of the fans seems to not want to start up when initial voltage is applied to it. I have to tap the blades to get them spinning. And at least I discovered the problem now, long before I’m trying to build out a loop, so it’s not a huge deal. Performance-PCs tends to be quick on their RMA process – it’s already been filed and approved. I just need to print the shipping label (this return is on my own dime) and get it in the mail.

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Project Absinthe – Part IV

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The night after posting the previous section, I got right to work on advancing things as best as I could. I mounted the 240mm radiator where I had suspected it would need to go, which is right in front of the front 140mm fans. And it had to be mounted with the fittings up or it would interfere with a planned 120mm fan on the floor. It’ll be easier to bleed with the fittings up, anyway, so that’s not a huge loss, and keeping the 120mm fan on the bottom for extra cooling is definitely a bonus.

But there was a setback in planning this loop.

I had planned to have the pump sitting on top of the power supply directly below the graphics cards. Unfortunately the pump and SLI bridge are going to be much closer together than I originally thought. As in, they’ll be millimeters apart instead of further apart as I’d hoped.

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This is the primary reason I wanted full access to the 750D, and if you’re considering putting together a custom water loop for your computer, this is also really what you need to be doing to thoroughly plan it out, especially if you’re doing hard tubing. The graphics card behind the SLI block is the dead graphics card from the previous loop. I’m glad I still have it around as it made a perfect stand-in for planning, giving me a good approximation of where things will be.

Now, granted this still has the potential to work, if I can get a fitting to line up the outlet of the pump directly to the inlet on the SLI block. I’d be able to determine that when the order arrived, as I included a Swiftech 90-degree single rotary fitting in the order. And the SLI block will probably be just a little higher such that a direct line-up from the pump outlet to SLI inlet could be pretty spot on.

But in the mean time, I started looking at alternate options for mounting the pump and reservoir.

One option was to mount it in front of the front radiator on top of the 120mm fan on a UN Designs Z2 bracket. That is the bracket I used in the test loop to mount the pump to the radiator. Unfortunately there isn’t enough room to mount the pump and reservoir in front of the front radiator. The Bitspower Z-Multi 150 is just too tall: 172mm before fittings are taken into account. Combine this with an 80mm pump mount, and a fitting to join them plus fittings on the top, and it’s too tall to fit.

There is a version of the reservoir that is 100mm long (80mm tube with two 10mm caps), which would allow plenty of room for fittings on both ends of the reservoir and still be well shorter than the front radiator. There’s also a version that is 120mm long, which would still allow room for fittings on both ends, and I could still use the Z2 bracket to mount the pump/reservoir to the lower 120mm fan, just with everything slid far to one side. It creates a tight fit between the drive cage and radiator, but it’s still doable.

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Doing this will simplify things quite a bit as well with figuring out how to build and run the loop. Plus for changing out the reservoir, I don’t have to order the entire reservoir, but just the tube for it, and all I’d have to do is just use the ends and fittings I already have. But I want the acrylic caps so it’s a full-clear reservoir instead of having the black caps at the end of it, and getting the full acrylic reservoir is only $4 more than ordering the tube and caps separately – plus it comes with the other things.

Another option is to mount the pump and reservoir on top of the drive cage – well it’d be more like using double-sided tape to stick the pump to the drive cage while the reservoir sticks out the top on a fitting. That would provide for quite a few options as well, depending on which direction I decided to take the flow. I could go from the pump to the 240mm radiator, to the CPU, then the 360mm radiator, down to the graphics cards, then back to the reservoir from underneath the reservoir. The drainage system would likely also come off the outlet from the SLI bridge, probably going to the Koolance pass-through bracket I mentioned in the previous iteration. Or I could take it from the pump to the SLI bridge, up and around to the front radiator and back to the reservoir.

And I can also just get rid of the drive cage using something I found from a company called Mountain Mods: a hard drive rack that mounts to a 120mm fan position.

120FANHDB

I foresee using this to mount the hard drives vertically over a 120mm fan in the floor – the one nearer the power supply – to free up a few more millimeters on the floor so it’s not nearly as tight a fit around the pump. Plus it opens the hard drives up to some air flow rather than being stuck in a cage and blocked off – since the hard drives are WD Blacks, this would be a good thing. I’m just not sure which version of this I’ll buy, as there are three types for black and an aluminum version, but I’m definitely getting one.

The hard drives will be mounted so the data and power are toward the roof. Yeah it’ll look a little ugly, but cable management will be easier doing that, and if I need to swap out one of the drives later, it’ll be much easier. If they come up with some kind of way of hiding all of that, then I’ll look into getting it.

So with this in mind, the current plan for the loop is to have the pump mounted on top of the frontward 120mm fan on the floor, just pushed way off to the edge. I’m going to buy a smaller reservoir to mount onto the front radiator, which will feed into the pump. As the reservoir will be center-mounted on the reservoir, and the pump center-mounted over the 120mm fan, the outlet on the reservoir should line up with the inlet on the pump, with fittings to connect the dots, so to speak.

From the pump, copper tubing is going to come out of the outlet on the front of the pump housing, bend around the hard drive mount, then turn up to line up directly into the inlet on the SLI block. From the outlet on the SLI block, it’ll go up to the 360mm radiator, then to the CPU block, and to the 240mm radiator in the front. And fittings should be able to connect the outlet on the front radiator directly into the reservoir.

But that’s pretty much the plan and I don’t see a reason to change it right now. It does mean I’m ordering 5 of the 120mm Spectre Pros instead of 4 as originally planned, but it’ll add more air flow to the equation, and cooling on the hard drives for that matter. I’ll also be ordering another reservoir since I want the acrylic caps, along with the hard drive mount I mentioned earlier.

Now the drainage system – something you always need to plan for in a loop – is going through the Koolance pass-through bracket with a Bitspower valve. A t-fitting will divide the flow from the inlet to the SLI bridge and direct part of the flow to the valve. Draining the loop will basically be putting a barb fitting on the outlet, open the valve and tilt. Now this isn’t the lowest point in the loop – that would be the pump – but it’s the easiest place to put the drain valve.

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And that valve fitting is on there tight. I tightened it with a wrench to make sure.

Now one thing to point out about installing this bracket: you may need to take the fittings off the bracket before you install it. The fittings are just a little too wide to easily fit through.

So that’s it for now. I haven’t taken apart the original reservoir mount, as I’ll wait till the order arrives on Wednesday before doing that as that order will include three new 140mm fans – i.e. do everything at once, including mounting the front fans. Progress on this is going slower than I’d like, but going slow means hopefully I’ll get all the kinks worked out long before I’m actually cutting, straightening and bending tubing to actually build out the loop. I’m pretty confident with the current plan and think it’ll work well, but I won’t know exactly until the next batch of components comes in, in particular the hard drive mount and new reservoir.

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Project Absinthe – Part III

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Let’s start with a proof of concept in a bid to do something different. For making hardline water cooling loops, most everyone is using acrylic or PETG tubing (note: do not use polycarbonate, as it can be destroyed by propylene glycol and ethylene glycol). But one thing that few are using is copper. I’ve looked around and found only a few builds using copper tubing.

Now Absinthe has its name from the green lights that my wife selected when we were upgrading her system. Absinthe is typically produced through distillation, and I think the soft copper tubing will make the system look as if it’s built to distill liquor. Plus the copper tubing is is still less expensive than some of the specialty water cooling tubing – I paid only $14 for 10′ at Home Depot, and the price is slightly better at Lowe’s. The green lighting that gave Absinthe its name will make it look like the “green fairy” watching over its latest batch being produced.

To that end I’ve had to make a couple acquisitions for the purpose of experimenting. Along with the aforementioned tubing – 3/8″ ID x 1/2″ OD – I also purchased a tubing bender: Imperial Tools 370-FH, which I was able to get through Zoro.com for under $50. It has a 1.5″ radius when bending, so something to keep in mind if you go this route. It was also the least expensive tubing bender I could find that could take 1/2″ tubing that also had a decent rating on it. I already had a tubing cutter from years ago, so I didn’t need that.

Now the tubing comes in coils, so I needed a way of straightening it. A crude method is using a C-clamp to clamp it to a countertop and using a mallet and wrench to pull it taught and straight. It works reasonably well and allowed me to straighten enough and bend a length of copper tubing:

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But a better way of doing this is with an actual bench vice. Now I’m not expecting to get perfectly straight lengths of tubing, and I’m not willing to spend the outrageous price for a tubing straightener. If I was doing this for client builds, that might be a different story. Most options I’ve seen list for 200 USD, while the least expensive one I’ve seen available is 39.99 GBP (shy of 70 USD at current exchange rates) plus international shipping (though for US buyers it’d probably be less since I believe he’d have to subtract out the VAT), but isn’t available for 1/2″ OD tubing. I’ve seen some homegrown options that others have posted to DIY forums, but even then the bench vice option is the least expensive and easiest to obtain, especially since I was able to obtain a reasonable bench vice for only $24 from Harbor Freight.

For those wondering what a bench vice has to do with straightening soft copper tubing, watch this video:

But you also need fittings. Here’s where my research took me in a few directions.

Koolance makes compression fittings specifically for copper tubing – note that there is a difference between compression fittings used in plumbing and what companies like Bitspower and Alphacool call “compression fittings” for soft tubing. They’re also $10 each for 1/2″ OD fittings when bought in reasonable bulk through Koolance’s web site. But I was also already aware that PrimoChill made compression fittings for hard tubing, specifically for 3/8″ x 1/2″ tubing. So I ordered a pair to give them a try and gather the above proof of concept. They were less expensive than Koolance’s offering, and also looked better.

And I ended up ordering a 10-pack of them. I don’t know if 12 fittings will be enough, but we’ll find out.

Change of scenery

I have a lot planned for Absinthe, but a lot of what I need to figure out is going to require access to the case itself. But to have access to the case in the manner required, my wife really cannot be on her computer. Obviously there’s a conflict, as I need to access to the case without my wife losing access to her computer. Anyone with gamer wife likely knows the dangers involved here – I’m not sure if it’s on the same order as or worse than denying chocolate to a woman who’s menstrual.

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Looks a bit cramped, doesn’t it?

That case is the Zalman Z12 Plus, which is a mid-tower ATX case, or at least it’s called a mid-tower. It barely has room for her two graphics cards and the mainboard. I bought this case earlier this year to house my computer as I was moving it out of an Apevia mid-tower case. Then my wife picked out the 750D for her computer, and I decided I needed one for my machine as well. I love building into the 750D, and I know I’ll like moving everything back into it.

Aside from room, the main downside on the Z12 is cooling space. It has room for only 5 fans: 2 in the roof, 1 in the front, rear and floor. The rear fan above the processor is 120mm only, but all the other fan spaces have a 140mm option, though the bottom fan mount can only fit a 140mm fan if you’re using a short enough power supply – and it cannot be a modular power supply either. More on that in a moment.

For water cooling, there’s no room for radiators with mounted fans. This case pretty much requires you to stick with external options using the tubing pass-through holes below the rear 120mm fan position to get the coolant into and out of the case.

Unfortunately for this build, only 4xSP120s could fit due to the radiator on the ThermalTake cooler, including the one on the radiator. I also had no choice but to put the radiator in the rear 120mm position as any other place and it would’ve conflicted with the components on the mainboard, and I couldn’t mount it on the floor without the radiator tubing kinking. And the absolutely poor cooling on this case made it such that it was more worthwhile leaving the side panel off the case and having a fan blowing directly onto it. Sure it’ll likely mean I’m going to have to clean a ton of dust out of it in a couple weeks, but it’ll be running a bit cooler in the mean time.

I also wish I could’ve put the RM1000 in there as it would’ve made cable management so much easier, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible without sacrificing the bottom fan slot, so I opted for the GS800 and difficult cable management instead. With the components in this build, having better cooling was more important than having the more efficient power supply. The GS800 is 160mm long, while the RM1000 is 180mm long. My CX750M, however, is only 140mm long, so using that power supply in the Z12 would allow for a 140mm fan in the floor.

Again, this freed up her case so I could mount radiators and figure out how things will generally be tubed up, where and how things will be mounted. The 120mm Spectre Pros will be ordered when I’m about ready to move everything back into the 750D. The 140mm fans were ordered with fittings I knew I would need for this build and will be put in as soon as they arrive.

Breaking ground

As mentioned in pulling apart her system from the 750D, I initially removed the power supply because I was hoping I’d be able to use it in the Zalman case. So in freeing up her case, the first thing I did was remount the power supply, followed by mounting the 360mm radiator. This time, though, I used #6 washers under the M3 screws to ensure none of the screws would start slipping through the grommets. I left draining the test loop to free the 240mm radiator for the next day.

Earlier in the day I did visit Lowe’s to buy some brass #8-32 1-1/2″ screws, with corresponding washers and nuts. This was for mounting the radiator to the rear 140mm fan slot. Externally.

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The reservoir is mounted on a UN Designs Z3 bracket. Sidewinder Computers I’ve found has the best price on this, by the way. Even with shipping they’re still less expensive than what everyone else is charging before shipping is included.

I’m using 00 rubber washers to offset the bracket from the back of the case, otherwise it wouldn’t fit the way I wanted to mount it. In hindsight I could actually have used 1/2″ or 3/4″ screws to mount this. The reason for this is the divided mounting holes for the fans. All I’d have to do is get the screw through the inner mounting hole. Not all fans have divided mounting holes, though, and the Spectre Pros fall into that category, having a channel connecting the two mounting holes. I’m not sure if I’ll modify the fans, though, but another option I’m considering is buying 2″ brass screws and use more 00 washers to offset the Z3 mounting bracket just a little more.

Planning it out

The plan is to have the outlet from the 360mm radiator go out the mesh on the upper rear of the case through a bulkhead fitting – you can probably see the Swiftech SLI fitting in the pictures above – and then go down into the reservoir, likely through a 90-degree dual rotary fitting since those provide for a softer radius which provides for less resistance over the hard 90-degree fittings you commonly see in water cooling loops. And having the least amount of resistance at the point in the flow furthest from the pump is always better.

In the lower picture above you can see the two pass-through holes at the back of the 750D. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to get the coolant from the reservoir into the case. I have a Koolance expansion slot pass-through bracket I’m considering using, but I’m also considering using one of the pass-through holes as well. The advantage of using the pass-through holes is a more direct route to where I’m planning to put the pump, allowing the coolant to just drop directly to it rather than having to travel along a horizontal path first.

That red switch down at the bottom is for the cold cathode lights. The little glint of blue you can see behind the lower pass-through is the transformer for the CCFLs. I want to hide that behind the mainboard tray and get it completely out of the way. Extension cables, though can be problematic and the issue well-documented online, and I’m well aware of them myself as I use an extension cable on the CCFLs in my own case. Initially I bought 24″ extension cables and didn’t like the result:

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The dimmer light is connected to the extension cable, as you can see, while the brighter light is plugged directly into the inverter. I bought 12″ extension cables, and that is currently what’s in my system. It’s still odd with them, though, because the lights will start out dim when the system is powered on and will take a while to get to near full brightness. It’s nice having the cables because it allowed me to hide the inverter behind the mainboard out of the way, but I’m searching for something better.

And I think I’ve found it: a “stackable” CCFL inverter, which allow you to chain the inverter boxes off one single power point. This allows you to have one inverter toward the roof, another toward the floor, eliminating the need for extension cables on the lights. The question is whether everything could lay flat behind the mainboard tray.

* * * * *

So as I’ve shown herein, there is quite a bit planned for Absinthe. The next order arrives on Wednesday which will have the Primochill fittings, a Koolance bulkhead fitting, and the 140mm Spectre Pro fans. In the mean time, I need to drain the test loop I made with the 240mm radiator and the copper tubing so I can mount that radiator into the case.

I’m going to do another test fit with that radiator onto the floor of the case to see if it will actually fit on the floor adjacent to the power supply and its cables. If it will fit on the floor adjacent to the power supply and its cables, then the reservoir will go inside the case and I’ll figure out a different way to mount up everything else. If it won’t, as I believe it will not, then I’ll be holding to my original plans.

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Project Absinthe – Part II

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Progress on Absinthe would have continued on Saturday had a little shipping concern not gotten in the way. Instead everything had to wait till Monday. This wasn’t a major deal as I had a parts installation for my personal computer to handle in the mean time, and I was able to figure out another little bit regarding cable management in the interim.

But come the Monday, when the power supply and the first GTX 660 card arrived, I got straight to work. My wife had a dentist appointment that day, meaning I would be home for the afternoon as I made sure to go in early for work knowing that was coming up. Here’s where I last left things off (actually this was before the fan controller installation, but close enough):

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Power supply switch

Anyone who has ever changed out a power supply on a system, especially the kind with tentacles, knows how much of a pain it can be. You’re basically pulling apart everything. And given what we knew was going to be coming up, I wanted to make sure that this would be pretty much the last time I’d have to do that. Five of the fans in the system would be for radiators, so I needed to make sure I could still get them out of the way, but everything else could be “locked down”, so to speak.

But my foresight didn’t reach as far as I wanted.

As I have a CX750M in my personal computer, I had previously purchased the custom cable kit that Corsair sells. It comes with a lot of cables, and I knew I had more than enough to cover another power supply – one of the things that made me glad I went with a Corsair power supply.

But one thing that slipped my mind is that the RM power supplies are full modular, meaning the CPU and 24-pin ATX power cables are also modular. Now for the CPU, there was already a cable in the Corsair kit to handle that. But there was not one to cover the main ATX cable. Corsair sells that separately. Had I remembered that, I would’ve included it in an order from Performance-PCs that occurred around the same time. Instead I ended up overnighting it from them.

On her previous power supply, I had used extension cables for the CPU, ATX and PCI-E power cables since the tentacles on the GS800 aren’t all that attractive, nor were they long enough to adequately reach everything. But with the custom sleeved cable kit for the RM power supply, those cables were no longer necessary, allowing for much shorter cable runs and much less cable bulk to manage behind the mainboard. That is always a good thing.

Add in the attractiveness of the custom 24-pin ATX cable I had overnighted, and I didn’t need any of the extension cables I originally used, giving a significantly reduced cable bulk.

But when I first put the power supply in the case, I operated under the assumption I would still need them, so I didn’t get the cabling the way I wanted it. But I still managed to get case closed up and just left it to wait for the sleeved 24-pin ATX cable. That came on Wednesday, but as my wife had that night off, I didn’t work it until the next day in which I tore apart practically everything again. I had also made a trip to Microcenter to find a SATA to 2xMolex power adapter with the intent of using it to get rid of the Molex power cables I had also put into the build – I bought two actually so I could use one in my computer as well to get rid of the Molex power cable I have currently.

So with the redo, I was able to eliminate a lot of cable bulk – getting rid of all extension cables, plus eliminating the Molex peripheral cable. I also had a second GTX 660 on the way from NCIX, so I made sure to run two PCI-E cables, leaving one just dangling in mid-air beneath the first card. When the second card arrived on Friday, all I had to do was open the side panel and install the card and the SLI bridge without having to pull apart anything else.

Now there was one snag to my plans by going with the RM1000: the 240mm radiator won’t fit lying on the floor of the case, as the cables protrude too much from the power supply, and there’s no way around that. So instead, the 240mm radiator will be attached to the front with the front 140mm fans blowing into it. This means the hard drive cage had to be moved back to the floor of the case, immediately adjacent to the power supply.

But I was aware this might be a concern and had already planned for it, already had an alternate idea in mind.

Release the Kraken!

Both of us kind of got sick of the “jet engine” noise the AMD stock cooler provides, so I decided that I’d take the ThermalTake cooler off my graphics card and put it back on her processor. By the way, a Corsair SP120 did wonders for noise, though not much for cooling on that. I also took the opportunity to connect up the various temperature sensors as well to her fan controller. I only connected three, though, as the last temperature sensor spot would be for the coolant temperature sensor.

The locations of the sensors are the front of the case before the front fans (as in between the fans and the fan filter), near the rear intake fan, and between the ThermalTake radiator and top dust filter.

Changing out the fans

The 140mm fans that come with the 750D don’t really do all that well with the fan controller, so it seems. So I decided to look around, especially since all these Corsair fans currently in her system cause it to sound like a beehive when they’re all cranked up. I’m considering switching to NoiseBlocker fans, the PL-2 and PK-3, as I’ve heard a lot of good about them. But I’m also looking at the BitFenix Spectre Pro fans as well.

Here’s the comparison with her current fans according to their respective manufacturers (best ratings in bold):

PK-3 AF140 Spectre Pro 140mm
Operating voltage 3.5-13.8V 7-12V 5-12V
RPM 1700 1150 1200
Airflow 90 CFM 62.74 CFM 86.73
Static pressure 1.65 mm/H2O .84 mm/H2O 1.38 mm/H2O
Noise pressure 32.5 dB/A 24 dB/A 22.8 dB/A

So on operating voltage and RPM, the PK-3 wins out clearly. But on airflow, the Spectre Pro has only 3.6% less CFM than the PK-3. Static pressure is a bit less at 16% less static pressure. But the Spectre Pro beats everyone on noise pressure, only slightly better than the AF140 but significantly better over the PK-3.

Now let’s look at the 120mm fans (best ratings in bold):

PL-2 SP120 HP Spectre Pro 120mm
Operating voltage 3.5-13.8V 7-12V 5-12V
RPM 1400 2350 1200
Airflow 56.5 CFM 62.74 CFM 56.22
Static pressure 1.24 mm/H2O 3.1 mm/H2O 1.24 mm/H2O
Noise pressure 22.5 dB/A 35 dB/A 18.9 dB/A

On the 120mm front, the PL-2 wins on operating voltage, but the SP120 wins on everything else except noise, where the Spectre Pro again beats everything else. And again we see the BitFenix Spectre Pro comparing quite well to the NoiseBlocker fan, with a negligible difference in airflow and about the same static pressure while being noticeably quieter. Given that the radiators I’ll be using are low FPI radiators of moderate thickness, I don’t think having the SP120s will really improve cooling much compared to the PL-2 and the Spectre Pro, so static pressure isn’t going to be of huge importance on this one.

And on price, BitFenix wins hands down. On Performance-PCs, it’s half the price of the NoiseBlocker fans for very comparable performance, and on the 120mm front it’s still less expensive than the Corsair fans, providing a good price to performance ratio and being significantly quieter.

So I think that settles it: I’ll be going with the BitFenix Spectre Pro fans for the case and radiators.

Now I don’t think I’d dream of trying to use the BitFenix or NoiseBlocker fans on the radiator for either the Corsair H60 or the ThermalTake Water 2.0 Performer, as both radiators are very high FPI. But for the AlphaCool XT45s I will be using for the full loop, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Back up to speed

The EVGA RMA came through with a refurbished card, and I ordered a second GTX 660 from NCIX as well. The first card arrived on Monday, the second on Friday. The first card went in with the power supply change, and I ran Unigine Valley against it to stress it a little. After the second card came, I did the same. In Thursday’s adjustment to the cable management, I made sure to leave a PCI-E power cable ready for the card so I didn’t have to redo everything again to install the second card.

By the way, Unigine Valley benchmarked at 2337 on the GTX 660 pair, compared to 2140 for my single GTX 770. This was run on the ExtremeHD preset with her resolution being 1920×1080 and mine being 1680×1050 (I’m running on 7 year-old Acer 20″ monitors, but I’ll be changing them out later this year). If I follow the settings listed in a TechPowerUp thread, which calls for 4xAA, then the scores become 2779 (hers) and 2655 (mine).

Both GTX 660s were also getting around 80C when running the benchmark, and given the hot air that’s being belched out the back of the case, I think a desk fan could be in order to help keep that cleared away, especially since I have the rear 140mm fan on the case as an intake fan.

One thing to also note: during the course of the benchmarking and burning in the cards with Unigine Valley, the fan on the RM1000 barely ever came on according to the Corsair Link, despite it pulling at times over 26A across the 12V rail – i.e. over 300 W of power draw. On the GS800, the fan would’ve been running nearly continuously under that load, or would’ve been off and on a lot more frequently, which would’ve reduced the lifespan of that fan.

So that definitely shows that with my wife’s setup, you don’t need a super high-end power supply covering all of it – a 500W 80+ certified power supply should do the trick, with a 600W being a little safer bet. The benefit of the high-rated high-wattage power supply, though, is that the supply is so efficient at providing power with so little of it lost to heat, the fan is much less likely to come on even under the heaviest load you can put on your system. Combine that with quiet fans – such as the BitFenix Spectre Pros I’ll be buying later, or something similar – and you’re going to be rigged for a fairly silent running, even before a fan controller comes into the mix.

And given that the RM1000 is currently going for only $160 on Amazon (normally goes for close to $200 elsewhere), and that’s a lot of power efficiency for the price.

Here’s the parts list for how things stand: PcPartPicker. Enjoy a couple shots of the current state of things.

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Computer build tip: Cable management

Walking through Wal-Mart one afternoon, I saw these and got a bright idea:

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And that bright idea was to use these for cable management in a computer case rather than a butt-load of zip ties and whatever cable management holders happened to exist in my Corsair 750D. I was putting a SATA RAID card in my computer, so it was a good opportunity to redo the cable management and give it a try.

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Placing the fan power splitter up behind the 5 1/4" drive bays and running all the cables to it certainly helped over where I originally had it. Then it was a matter of keeping all the cables organized. I think this worked out quite well, especially in the crevice along the front-panel where I could easily hide the cables for the front panel and keep them virtually completely out of the way of everything else.

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And being able to secure and route cables in this fashion allowed me to easily slide the back cover onto the case without any issues. All of the cables are kept pretty flat courtesy of these cable clips.

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Initially I bought only a couple 4-packs. When I went back to Wal-Mart to get more, I found a 16-pack on the racks for $8.88, compared to a 4-pack for shy of $4. This made my cable management life a hell of a lot easier, and I think I know of a good way to redo the cable management in my wife’s build – Project Absinthe – especially for the cables coming from the fan controller.

Now if you’re concerned about ruining the paint job on your case, don’t be. These come off pretty clean as I needed to remove one I didn’t actually need where I placed it and it didn’t take any paint with it. Still not sure if I’d trust it with a custom paint job, but if the paint is done right it shouldn’t have any concerns.

There are also larger clips available, and I just may look for those as it could make bundling the power supply cables a bit easier as well. For the most part, though, it’s all in how you run them. These clips just seem to make the job a lot easier.

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Passive response to concerns

When someone breaks into your home, you typically take measures to ensure that future break-ins are prevented. In my case, there were two homicides within 6 months of each other within a half mile of where I live several years ago, along with the fact there are also nearly a dozen registered sex offenders also within that half-mile radius, so I take measures to protect myself – i.e. I carry a firearm concealed.

Yet it seems that the only responses to sexual harassment and sexual assault is pacifism. From SlutWalk Toronto’s Facebook page:

NB: We’d like to acknowledge and bring attention to the fact that there have been multiple accounts of participants being sexually assaulted at Pride this year (and in previous years). This is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. Clothes do not equal consent. Costumes do not equal consent. Participation in celebration and revelry does not equal consent.

There are some members of the community who will be bringing up these issues to Pride Toronto, as well as the Dyke and Trans March organizers. We fully support them in pushing to make Pride safer from sexual violence.

People are allegedly being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted at these events, and the only response is basically saying to people "Please don’t do that." How exactly do they think the event organizers are going to "make Pride safer"? Yet they have the nerve to call people like me a "rape apologist" and "victim blamer" because I have said that you need to be more proactive in your responses to these concerns while also taking more proactive measures to prevent them from becoming concerns.

Easiest pro-active measure: pepper spray. But bear in mind that pepper spray doesn’t work on everyone, so do try to have other contingency plans.

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When overnight isn’t

Amazon really screwed up this time.

The morning of July 3, I ordered a new computer power supply. The order I placed had the option of Saturday delivery, to be delivered July 5. As I’m an Amazon Prime member, that "overnight" delivery comes at a much reduced rate, and I was charged only $6 to ship it. If the next day wasn’t July 4, it would’ve been an overnight delivery, but since the holiday got in the way, delivery was to be July 5.

And I say "was to be", because Amazon didn’t ship the power supply using anyone’s overnight service. Instead it got shipped FedEx Ground. FedEx Ground doesn’t have a Saturday delivery option.

Now the package was shipped from Coffeyville, KS, so someone probably thought it’d be an overnight delivery even if it was being shipped using the Ground service. Unfortunately there didn’t appear to be anything anyone at FedEx could do to get the package released, and the FedEx Ground hub is closed on Saturdays – I know exactly where that hub is as I’ve driven by it several times.

So instead I wrote in to Amazon demanding that they refund the shipping charges unless someone can get FedEx to release the package. I mean, I paid for overnight, they didn’t ship it overnight, so they at least owed me that, and they issued a refund on the shipping charges.

It’s a good thing that I’m not doing client builds – something I’ve actually considered doing – and that this order wasn’t for a client build. If it was, I’d probably have to visit my nearby Microcenter to see what other options are available as they don’t carry the power supply I ordered, and I ordered that power supply for a particular reason.

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Project Absinthe

Contents: All articles in this series

Project Absinthe started life as an upgrade from an AMD X2-3800 system running Windows XP. Here are the current specs on the system (PCPartPicker.com list)

  • CPU: AMD FX-8350, running at stock speed with stock cooler
  • Mainboard: ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0
  • Graphics: Zotac GT 620 2GB
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-1866
  • Power: Corsair GS800

I chose the name Absinthe for this project due to the green CCFLs lighting up the inside of the Corsair 750D case in which this system has been built. The coming upgrades include:

  • Graphics: 2xEVGA GTX 660 SC in SLI
  • Power: Corsair RM1000

I’m also considering adding a hardware SATA RAID card to the setup as well rather than relying on the “fake RAID” that is built into the mainboard. And yes there is a rather important difference between the two, especially when we’re talking about RAID 1 setups.

Once the system has been adequately broken in with the new graphics cards and power supply, it’ll be getting a water-cooling upgrade. Here are the planned parts (not including fittings):

  • Koolance CPU-380A
  • 2xEK FC-660 GTX
  • AlphaCool XT45 360mm
  • AlphaCool XT45 240mm
  • AlphaCool VPP655 pump with AlphaCool HF D5 clear top
  • Bitspower Z-Multi 150mL reservoir

It already has a Phobya TPC fan controller, and will be getting a Koolance temperature sensor plugged into one of the radiators – likely the bottom one unless the cable isn’t long enough to run to the fan controller, in which case it’ll be plugged into the top one. The other temperature sensors for the fan controller will be put at the top of the case above the top radiator, beneath the bottom fans, and in front of the front fans – currently they’re not installed. This’ll provide a good idea of the intake temperature from the front and bottom, coolant temperature and exhaust air temperature.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll be doing video build logs on the various parts. We’ll see.

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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part IX

For just $6, I was able to overnight a $160 power supply. Pretty sweet deal, courtesy of Amazon Prime. Anyway. I ordered the RM1000 power supply to go in my wife’s computer, and overnighted it courtesy of the great rate Amazon gave me. Plus as putting the new power supply into her machine would be a bit of work, having it on Saturday would give me plenty of opportunity to get the upgrade done while my wife’s at work.

Update from AlphaCool/Aquatuning

The night before ordering the power supply, I got an e-mail from Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung AG, the liability insurance company for AquaTuning:

Guten Tag, sehr geehrter Herr Ballard,

wir melden uns als Haftpflichtversicherer von der Aquatuning GmbH.

Eine Haftung unseres Kunden ist nicht ersichtlich.

Das Auslassgewinde hat einen Riss. Für die Inbetriebnahme des Kühlers wurden von Ihnen Bitspoweranschlüsse verwendet. Diese sind jedoch nicht normgerecht und hätten nicht verwendet werden dürfen.

Bitte haben Sie Verständnis, dass wir Ihr Ansprüche daher nicht anerkennen können.

Thankfully Google Translate and Bing Translator were able to make some sense of this.

Apparently what they said is the outlet thread on the CPU water block had a crack in it. They alleged that I was using Bitspower fittings on the CPU block, and called these fittings “non-standard” (I’ll get to that in a little bit). And because they believed I was using “non-standard” Bitspower fittings, they’re basically rejecting my claim for liability with regard to the CPU water block and the damage that resulted.

Now the thread having a crack on it would lead to what I felt caused the block to ultimately rupture: water leaking into the block’s lid, and eventually building up enough pressure that it leaked out. But I didn’t use Bitspower fittings on the CPU block in any way – pictures in earlier iterations of this build log will demonstrate such as none of the pictures show Bitspower fittings being used. I used only Swiftech and AlphaCool fittings on the CPU block, and specifically an AlphaCool 45-degree single-rotary 1/2″x3/4″ compression fitting on the outlet.

I sent this as the response to the insurance company:

You will have to pardon me as I do not speak German. Please provide the previous in English so I am sure of what you are attempting to say, and any future communications with me should also be in English.

An attempt to translate through Bing and Google’s translation services provides the implication that I was using Bitspower fittings on the water block sent in for evaluation. This statement is not correct. I was using an AlphaCool fitting on the outlet of the CPU block, as pictures and statements I have provided to [redacted] note. At no time did I attempt to use a Bitspower fitting of any kind on the CPU block.

As such, please re-evaluate the claim based on the previous. If you desire, I can forward to you the mentioned pictures.

I somehow doubt they’ll do that. But I can hope. This e-mail was sent shortly before 2am CDT. The next morning I decided that I should also contact AquaTuning’s support contact again:

I received an e-mail yesterday from Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung AG. From what I could get from the e-mail — it was in German, so I needed to use Google Translate to get some idea of what was being said — they are claiming that I used Bitspower fittings on the CPU block I sent in for evaluation, and that this resulted in the outlet thread becoming cracked. As you are aware from what I’ve sent you, I did not use Bitspower fittings on the CPU block.

Do you have any additional details from the investigation regarding the CPU block? I’m very curious as to how they concluded I used fittings I’ve never owned.

Now this isn’t entirely accurate. I did use Bitspower fittings in the water loop – 3x40mm extension fittings as other pictures show – but did not use any on any of the water blocks, and most certainly did not on the CPU water block, as the insurance company originally alleged. The support contact replied back saying he’d “chase this” for me.

“Non-standard” Bitspower fittings

So before getting much further, let’s get to the idea that Bitspower fittings are “not standard”. Virtually all water blocks in a computer water cooling loop are threaded for G1/4″. The technical name for this is 1/4″-19 BSPP. According to Wikipedia, the BSPP standard for G1/4″ states the thread calls for 19 threads per inch at a 1.337mm pitch, with the outer (“thread major”) diameter being up to 13.157mm, or approximately 0.52″, and the inner (“thread minor”) diameter being 11.445mm, or .45″. Any fitting or block advertised as being G1/4″ should fit this standard, to a reasonable degree of tolerance.

But if you take calipers to the fittings that you find on the shelf, you will likely not find a fitting with a “thread major” diameter of 13mm, let alone above it, but at minimum the fitting should have a “thread major” diameter of at least 12.7mm, or 1/2″. The Bitspower fittings I have are approaching 12.8mm, while the 45-degree single-rotary AlphaCool fitting that was on the water block has a “thread major” diameter of 12.9mm.

Now if AlphaCool is going to advertise their water blocks as being threaded for G1/4″, virtually anyone is going to presume that it will accept any G1/4″ fitting. So to say that Bitspower fittings should not be used is just hogwash, and I think they’re just trying to make stuff up in order to avoid the liability that comes with acknowledging the water block’s failure, and the documentation distributed with the block says nothing about the kind of fittings to be used with it.

Project Absinthe

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I am about ready to start building out a new water cooling loop in my wife’s computer. The video card from EVGA should be here on Monday, and the new power supply will be here on Saturday. I’ll be installing the new power supply right away as well, including installing cables knowing that not just one, but two new graphics cards will be going into it.

Once the graphics cards have been thoroughly exercised is when I’ll build out the loop. I think a week of my wife’s gaming plus a few long runs of Unigine Valley should do the trick.

And the green lighting my wife selected when she picked out her 750D has inspired me to name this next iteration Project Absinthe, and any future articles on the build will be under that title, starting with the new power supply, while any updates regarding AquaTuning and EVGA will probably still be under the current series.

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