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Building a graphics water cooling system and would like advice

Discussion in 'Overclocking & Cooling' started by The Von Matrices, May 28, 2011.

  1. The Von Matrices

    The Von Matrices

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    I wasn't sure whether this goes in the Cooling forum or the System Builders' Advice forum, so admins please move it if you feel it goes in the other.

    I would like advice on assembling my first water cooling system. I recently upgraded my system from a Core 2 Quad to a Core i7 system, and I am extremely happy with the upgrade, except for one thing. On my old motherboard, my GTX 470s were spaced four slots apart, giving two empty spaces between them and lots of room to suck air. Now, they're right next to each other with little breathing room, and their fans are extremely loud at load. (This might also be because they're less CPU bottlenecked, but the primary reason is not important). I began by searching for alternate air coolers, but all I could find were at least three slots wide or won't work with more than one card, so i have turned to water.

    My objectives for the system (in decreasing order of importance) are:

    1. Upgradability: I already have a H60 for my CPU, but I would like the option to add a CPU block to the system in the future.
    2. Ability to use the same GPU blocks on different cards: I would like to be able to reuse the blocks (for cost savings) should I upgrade the graphics cards, so full-coverage custom blocks are out for me unless I can get an insanely low price on them.
    3. Low noise: below 45 dBA (and perferably below 40dBA) at load.
    4. Price: Important, although I am willing to spend if there is a significant increase in performance for an increase in price.
    5. Lower temperatures: Although I know this is guaranteed with water compared to air, this is useful to prolong component life rather than to overclock.

    I have been reading all about the water cooling on this and other forums, and I priced out a system that I would like you to review. It was really confusing determining which parts are best based off reviews because I've noticed that fans of water cooling seem to be a lot more brand-loyal than of any other component, and it's easy to find two reviews with completely conflicting conclusions. I chose the Swiftech parts because they seemed to have the best prices for comparable performance, but I am open to anything. Here are the parts:

    ~$350 cooling system

    • 2 x Switftech MCW82 GPU blocks
    • Swiftech MCW35X PWM pump and integrated reservoir
    • Swiftech MCR320 3 x 120mm Radiator
    • Phobya noise destructor (for pump vibration isolation)
    • 1/2* ID tubing and barbs

    And the picture below is how I would plan to assemble it, relatively to scale. The sharp tube angles are for ease of viewing and do not mean I would be using elbows in the loop.

    [​IMG]

    Now, here are my some comments on my choices:

    • I chose the MCW35X because of the PWM control feature, so that I could automatically reduce pump speed at low load to reduce noise. I am open to other pumps, but I like the idea of automatic speed control (and dedicated controllers are relatively expensive).
    • I have my case on a rolling cart/tray under my desk, and my setup is height constrained since I would like to keep the computer under the desk, so I am stuck with a mid tower case. Anything taller than a mid tower case will not fit, and since I can't fit the radiator inside the case, I plan to mount the radiator and pump to the cart.
    • I am putting the blocks in parallel instead of series due to the reduced pressure drop. Also, I am feeding the MCP35X reservoir from the top due to reduced cavitation in the pump.

    And here are my questions and concerns:

    • At what height should the pump/reservoir be located in relation to the other components? Does this even matter?
    • I have no clue where to start with looking for fans. I really want them to be PWM, but otherwise I don't know what ones would be quiet and provide adequate airflow. I would like some suggestions.
    • I would like to keep the GTX 470s' stock backplates to save cost, but I am concerned with the compatibility of the MCW82's with this backplate. I have read posts that the MCW60 was compatible but the MCW80 would not sit flush, but I do not know about the MCW82. I am more willing to mod the backplate if necessary, but I am not sure what I would need to change.

    I really appreciate your time, your suggestions, and your help!
     
  2. rickss69

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    Last edited: May 28, 2011
  3. hblackheart

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    Don't be afraid to add multiple rads in your loop. The more cooling surface, the lower air flow you need to cool things. 2 used rads are way superior to one new rad. It allows you to run your fans at 600-800 rpm and it is wisper quiet. You don't need expensive fans.. Just low rpm fans. It cools better and allows for all the overclocking/expansion you want. Don't forget water additives eithor. You don't want things growing in your blocks or loop. Color tubing is preferable to dies if you want color.

    You can insulate your pump if you wish to reduce noise. Personally I have 3 rads in series.(Complete overkill) but I can hear my hard drive write! Also this allows you to relocate your rad box anywhere you wish. Cavitation??... once you have the air out you shouldn't have any.

    Be wary of using blocks that do not cover the whole card. By this I mean there is more to cool than just the gpu. You might find yourself looking for specialized heatsinks to cool the rest of the card. You don't want to burn up your card trying to save a few bucks. (Look into this.. Trust me) Also one brand of full coverage blocks is about half the price of the rest. Look for xspc and shop around. These blocks are way more affordable. An example is 72.00 For a xspc razor full coverage block (New) for my reference 6950 2gig.

    Used rads can be had for 30-40 dollars and will help you afford the better gpu blocks. There are many options for keeping a rig quiet and cool. Hope some of this information helps
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2011
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  4. MT Alex

    MT Alex

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    I'd say you have things dialed in pretty well. I have that pump and it is fantastic. It will be a little overkill for your loop, but better to have too much than not enough. Don't forget, with the universal GPU blocks you will still need aftermarket heatsinks for the VRAMs on your card.

    Also, PWM fans won't be able to fulfill your radiator needs, things just don't work that way. Best to get three expensive nice fans and a controller if needed. I have 7 Gentle Typhoons on my rads. The 1450 rpm versions, AGP-14s, are damn near silent. These are my favorites. People like the 1800 rpm version, AGP-15, best, but they are a bit louder, so I keep them at about 3/4 power for noise. Noctua also makes a super rad van in the NF-P12s.

    Finally, the rad you have picked out is for higher speed fans, so you may want to look at changing that out to one that is optimized for fans around 1000 rpms. Any radiator with a fin spacing of 8-10 per inch is made for low speed fans, such as Thermochill, XSPC, and Coolgate.

    Good luck.
     
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  5. The Von Matrices

    The Von Matrices

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    Thanks for all the help so far everyone.

    I have read the stories about color additives, so I don't plan to use them. What I was thinking is just using distilled water with a ribbon of silver in the reservoir to prevent microbial growth. Do you think I would need more than that?

    I was planning to use the stock GTX 470 heatsink for the VRM and memory, which is a solid chunk of aluminum. The reference cards are constructed so that you can remove the GPU heatsink without removing anything else.

    Regarding the full coverage block, I don't believe that XSPC ever made a GTX 470 full coverage block. They have GTX 480 and 460 blocks listed on their site, but no 470 block. Am I just looking in the wrong place?

    Thanks for that advice. So would radiators made for higher speed fans have more or less fins per area?


    One other question: should I worry about where air might get trapped when routing piping, or will it all eventually bleed out over time?
     
  6. MT Alex

    MT Alex

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    Radiators made for higher speed fans have more fins per inch, and rely on a robust fan to drive air through the more tightly aligned fins. Also, air will eventually come out. My loop isn't optimized for bleeding, and I need to keep adding water to my res as it bleeds, sometimes for up to a week.
     
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  7. hblackheart

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    BTW... Some of that rad advise was from MT Alex. Rads with more fins per inch require more static pressure so a higher rpm fan is generally used for these.

    On the additive side.. distilled water is good and so is ethol glycol. Reduces surface tension of water and will allow better cooling. Some additives also add sacrificial elements to keep the rads from being eaten from the inside.

    Also a rez can be very helpfull for adding fluids for the first bit with bleeding. Shaking your rad and pump can also help get out alot of air in the first hour. Mostly it is done like this...:banghead:

    Keeping your finger on the power supply switch quickly on and off will allow you to remove more air faster. (See air in the rez... put more liquid in) Air in the system is noisy and it does take a while to bleed out.

    Also test your system atleast 24 hours with it not running but leak testing with the pump running. You might be suprised at what crops up overnight.

    And I see xspc does not make a full coverage block for your 470 GTX. Kinda strange...

    Im done rambling... its getting late... will answer more questions if i can tomorrow... blackheart
     
  8. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    There is no need to use Y fittings and run in parallel. Just run your cards in series. There will be no temp difference at all.
     
  9. MT Alex

    MT Alex

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    Very true. I didn't notice this before. I can't say that I have ever seen this in any loop. It's definitely not needed since the 35x has enough head to drive nails, and it also adds a lot of clutter to the build.

    Using Martin's minor mod to feed the res from the top is a good idea, though. I would have done this with my setup, but didn't want to add a fill port. I can't see how you would add fluid by any other method. Also, make damn sure you get a Rev. 2 res, as Rev. 1s leak and crack.
     
  10. The Von Matrices

    The Von Matrices

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    That's a good point. I read about plumbing them in parallel for maximum cooling efficacy, but I agree that if the difference will be minimal, there is no reason to add the extra tubing.

    However, if I put the cards in series, there will be a sharp bend in the tubing connecting the cards, which may kink. What wall thickness of tubing or other accessories should I use to prevent kinking?

    I read about the cracks, but I don't think there are any rev. 1 reservoirs left on the market if I buy new, so I don't think it will be a problem. Is it possible to fill the loop if I use top feed into the reservoir and have no fill port?
     
  11. douglatins

    douglatins

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    not sure about splitting flow.
     
  12. MT Alex

    MT Alex

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    Again, I have no idea how you would fill it otherwise. Take a look, and see what I mean. The top cap is meant to be the fill port. If I was rebuilding my loop, I would definitely go with the top route, I had huge cavitation troubles, but a T would need to be added to the loop with a fill port. It would be a piece of cake for you to add one between the rad and the top of the res.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    Just use anti-kink coils.
     

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