Background After always wanting to build my own PC, I finally found myself in a position to do it and do it right (both financially and my living situation). I wanted a PC that could run (most) games at 4K, handle a VR headset with no problems and do some basic video and photography editing. I decided to spare no expense and went with SLIed 1080s and a hardline custom loop. So without further ado, I’m proud to show off my first ever PC build, which I have christened Lindsay’s Bane.
Specs Lindsay’s Bane has an Intel Core i7-6700K processor overclocked to 4.9 GHz (I will probably upgrade to Kaby Lake later in the year when I do my first flush of the watercooling system, but given the minimal performance boost between Skylake and Kaby I may leave it as is). It is running on an Asus Maximus IX Formula motherboard with 32 GB of G.Skill TridentZ 3733 Mhz of memory. I had originally purchased a Maximus VIII Formula board (prior to the release of the Z270 chipset), but that board ended up being faulty so I sent it back and purchased the IX. Lindsay’s Bane is currently running two SSDs, the OS and other system critical programs are running on a Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB M.2 drive (with an Alphacool passive M.2 cooler), while all other programs and files are stored on a Samsung 850 EVO 1 TB drive.
I found choosing between GPUs to be the hardest part. I wanted something I could watercool and was really stuck between the EVGA Hydrocopper and the MSI Seahawk. Ultimately, a few price incentives and my aesthetic preferences (black with RGB lighting) pushed me to buy two EVGA Geforce GTX 1080s and I haven’t regretted that decision. I haven’t overclocked the GPUs yet, but that will likely be my next project.
Watercooling Loop The watercooling loop was a lot more complicated and expensive than I had initially anticipated. The first problem I ran into was fitting enough radiator space into the build, while still having access to the ports on the radiators. I accomplished this using several angled and rotary fittings to get into those tight to reach spaces.
My next problem was loop path. There’s a lot of competing advice on the internet about optimal loop path. Many folks say that you should hit your CPU first thing out of the pump so that it is receiving the coolest water, while many other folks say that path doesn’t make much of a difference (except having the reservoir before the pump to insure a constant flow to the pump). Ultimately, I decided on the following loop path:
Reservoir→Pump→240mm Radiator→420mm Radiator→MOSFET→CPU→2 GTX 1080s in parallel→120mm Radiator→Reservoir
I’m not sure if this is the ideal path, but it was most convenient and seems to be working well.
Finally, fitting the pump into the case wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. The EK-XTOP Revo D5 is a large pump and it takes up a massive footprint. I ended up modding the pump mount to decrease the height of the pump and then installed it under the PSU shroud. In order to fit the pump under the PSU shroud with the tubes coming from it I had to cut a piece off the PSU shroud using a dremel tool.
Filling the loop proved to be a little more difficult than I had initially anticipated as well. Word of advice to future first time watercoolers, don’t fill a reservoir from the top of the reservoir. It’s very advantageous to leave the top of the res open during filling to let out extra air. Needless to say, I made this mistake but quickly changed the way I had run the tubing so it is now filling from the bottom of the reservoir. For those wondering, the loop is filled with Mayhems Pastel Blue.
Lighting I went a little crazy with the LED lighting because I could. The Phanteks Enthoo Luxe includes exterior RGB lighting that can be controlled by the Asus’s AuraSync technology. Lindsay’s Bane also features an RGB lighting strip, an Alphacool RGB ring around the reservoir, six Thermaltake Riing RGB 140mm fans and the internal RGB lighting included with the motherboard, GPUs and EVGA HD SLI bridge. I can literally change the color of every light in this build!
Final Thoughts From initial conception to finished build probably took me about five months. In my defense, I moved from Sydney to New York during that time as well. I took about a month and a half to research current PC tech and get a solid picture of the products I wanted in my build. From there I took about a month to buy all the parts. I started my build at the beginning of December and finally had it running in mid-January. There were also a few RMAs along the way that held up the build. Specifically, the final touches of the build were held back by two faulty fan controllers for the Riing fans. I finally received them at the start of February and the build was completed in that first week of February.
I’m very proud of the final product and hope you all enjoy!
Edit: One additional final thought. I had originally planned to purchase an EATX board and put it inside a massive case like a 900D or CaseLabs. But, after much thought, I settled on a smaller case with similar specs. My reasoning here was that anyone can build a great PC in a massive case, but you get something really special when you constrain your resources somehow. I had to reduce my radiator space in the Luxe vs a larger case, but overall I think the smaller case was the right decision (it's still massive anyways).
Edit #2: So after posting pictures last night and the PC running fine for over two weeks, I started having problems with my overclock. Specifically, I would change the settings in BIOS but the PC wouldn't respond, so I had the CPU ratio set to 49 but CPUID was saying that it was running at 4000Mhz. After fiddling with it for several hours, running Memtest86, I finally got a BSOD for nonpaged area. Turns out that the ASUS AI Suite has been causing some major problems. I had previously disabled AI Suite because it was messing up my fan profiles but hadn't uninstalled it. Once uninstalled the problem was gone. Hope that this info might help some people in the future--don't use AI Suite or even put it on your PC!