This is a long story of the gradual changes to my computer that started late 2015, stretched into a saga of changing goals/budget. Ultimately a whole year of DIY that was amazing, challenging and great fun - lots of pics and too many words ahead. While far from my first PC build, this was a lot of firsts including cutting a window (or any metal for that matter), some wood working and watercooling.
Overview: The build started to upgrade my PC which was over 5 years old. To say the least it was far from planned out from the start and many aspects/goals of the build shifted during that time. I never had a distinct budget necessarily but started more cost conscious but that went out the window. I did keep to my primary goal: to make the most quiet build I could
Kame 1.0 I started with the top tier parts unlike my previous PCs since I could afford it now and aimed to overclock. The Fractal design R5 case definitely was the highlight and I was amazed with how far cases have come since my previous Antec Piano Black Sonata 2. The modular aspect and noise dampening material are amazing. I chose the R5 over the S for the front bays since I wanted a bluray drive. Otherwise a lot of parts were taken from my last system including old SSDs and HDDs with my OS on the OWC. The Noctua NH-D15 cooler was great - incredibly easy to install despite how huge it was and very quiet and effective. The EVGA 980Ti FTW was a monster compared to my previous Radeon 5800 (not very hard). While the ACX cooler was great at idle when I maxed my settings it was too loud for me. The GPU also ran very hot and limited thermals seemed to be limiting how much I could overclock so I had started looking into further options.
Kame 1.1 Clearly my best option to reduce thermals of the gpu was to improve the cooling beyond what air could afford me. I never watercooled before so I was hesitant to jump into any custom loop but with the advent of AIO watercoolers which hardly existed the last time I built a computer I was excited to try it. The Corsair H90 was on sale on Newegg and watched videos of the NZXT Kraken G10 so my next option was clear. I actually followed the guide by Reckless Yuki (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2SFSYl60jk&list=WL&index=3&t=6s) to not have to remove the EVGA front/backplates of the 980 ti using copper shims for spacing which work amazingly. My temps dropped and I was able to overclock significantly better. I also made a platform out of mostly scrap wood for my PC to take it off the carpet since the clearance of the R5 isn't great for my PSU intake fan.
Kame 1.2 My next changes were no longer related to any performance limitation but you can see from picture how crowded my PC was with the huge CPU air cooler next to the AIO water cooler. Then Newegg had a huge discount on a Corsair H110i and pure weakness I ended up swapping coolers. There really is neglibile difference in thermal performance but it sure made my PC cleaner looking. With the new cooler I also got the Noctua industrial fans since the tan brown color was killing me aesthetically and I needed more fans anyway (did not want the loud corsair stock ones). Of course with these changes the inside looked too good to not be seen from the outside...
I suddenly regretted not getting the windowed R5 - I had favored the noise dampening originally afterall. But amazingly Fractal Design does not sell a windowed side ANYWHERE in the USA! (only their European site). So I decided to make my own after looking at sites and looking at guides by MPCtech and a few others. During the CPU cooler installation I also externalized my HDDs so decided to test design and cut the HDD enclosure first (a lot cheaper to screw up on!).
The cold weather pushed off my metal cutting ventures for a while so i started at least first with modding for aesthetics by getting the cable mod sheathed cables and changing the chromax Noctua vibration pads to white. I also sleeved my side panel fan cable along with the IO cable sleeves with white paracord. The most challenging was the USB 3 - I didn't want an added length with extension so I decided to do a paracord braiding technique I found.
Kame 2.0 As I was planning for aesthetic upgrade for my PC (mostly for the weather to improve so I could work outside) I realized my pc still had a noise problem. To run my GPU to the max even with the G10 cooling it my fans still had to run too hard and noisily since the VRMs got too hot and would crash the system. I realized that to optimize cooling and noise i would have to make a custom loop. Then I realized that no one makes a full cover waterblock for the EVGA 980Ti FTW. At this point all the 1080 cards were coming out so I ended up selling my 980ti and getting an EVGA 1080 Classified which EKWB had a waterblock in the works for. I also put my old OCZ ssd into my NAS/Plex server and put in the Samsung 950 Pro
Kame 2.1 Spring finally came! Out came my dremel and jigsaw and physical metal cutting began. I did practice on spare side panels I got from one of the workers in my office but once I felt confident enough I started. It went surprisingly well and after first cutting my hdd enclosure I finished off my side panel. The rubber edging came from mnpctech and worked perfectly. I used a 1/4" acrylic for the side to try to keep some degree of noise dampening (though honestly moot with my later mods). I also placed the NZXT Kraken G10 on my 1080 classified in the same manner as the 980Ti, added a bunch of LEDs which makes everything run faster!
Kame 3.0 The next few months I read/watched and prepped a parts list for a custom watercooling loop. I was mostly watching EK forums and webpage for the release of the anticipated 1080 Classified waterblock before getting all the parts. Of course with my luck, EKWB became way overwhelmed with all the blocks they were making and decided to ONLY make the EVGA FTW full cover water block. May it was all the frustration with 980 FTW not having a block but probably because I just came off a trip on a redeye across the US but I clearly lost it... and bought 2 Titan X pascal cards. Cause when you're going all out nuts why settle with only one
They came pretty quickly and I ended up selling the 1080 classified thankfully with very little loss. The two Titan XPs are insane even compared to my very powerful recent GPUs. That said, at stock the cards have serious drawbacks. The stock cooler is completely inadequate with temps at full load getting to mid 80s and sounding like a windtunnel cause those things run ridiculously hot. The cards also really thermal throttle so I tried overclocking a little but it always dropped below 2000 MHZ and just never was that stable. So I was all ready for making a custom waterloop and set off with ordering parts. Sadly delayed for months due to my mobo's full block being on backorder =(
Kame 3.1 Finally received all watercooling parts! I opted to go with hardline tubing despite being my first time - I knew I'd want the clean lines of the PETG tubes so why not figure out how to do it from the start. I watched a bunch of guides probably most helpful was Jayztwocents videos. My first roadblock ended up being my own failure of misunderstanding the 55 mm limit of the top radiator in the R5 - it meant both rad and fan so my combo well exceeded it and the mounting holes did not line up. Undeterred I made some mounting brackets out of the extra steel from the case window cutout. I also made a pump mount to set up pump straight on the irregular hexagonal holes in the bottom of the case and mounts to secure my Aquero 6 PRO to the 5.25' bay.
The bending of PETG was challenging and definitely had a bunch of failures. I mapped out the runs and got a good estimate for angles/lengths with armature wire. After initial bends I managed most bends in 1-2 attempts (though I'm not perfectly happy with 2 of them but was too tired to fix it this time). In retrospect I wish I had gotten the screw on compression fittings instead of the push-in; would make the measuring and positioning a little easier but mine worked out great. I also had gotten a NZXT Hue+ for a ton of lighting (one failed LED on one of the strips ended up gaining me 2 extra strips so went really nuts). I mostly colored my fluid purple cause the kids love the color.
If you're still reading then thanks and I hope you enjoy my end product like I do. Aquero 6 is great with the software and adjust temps based on water temp. It keeps my fans at max 700-800 rpm at max load and my GPU temps max out at mid 40s. Definitely made my goal of the most quiet PC I can have - looks darn good too imho
Low profile fast RAM - started with 16 but just had to fill out all the slots. With the top radiator and taller RAM doesn't fit so can't use dominator or the new led ram from corsair unfortunately
Never tested the full speed of this but great pearint with my m.2 drive. Replaced my owc drive which went into repairing/upgrading my father's old iMac for my kids
Great PSU - though doubt I ever utilize it to the full potential for the platinum rating. Had to change from the 750W to 1000W when went dual cards
Does what I need it to for ripping blurays and DVDs to my Plex server. Externalized it once I had no more space
Love the size the monitor - definitely not optimized for gaming but does well enough. I am intending to get the Asus 4k 144 hz monitor when it comes out - definitely should actually give my GPUs a challenge