Wow, so it was all the way back in April when our last installment of this build was published. Back at that point Ryzen 7 was new, now we have Ryzen 3 and 5 as well as Threadripper. So things have been a little crazy. At the time I was looking at cooling options and the original plan was just to add an AIO cooler but at the time no one had AM4 brackets available. I ended up reaching out to Alphacool, they had contacted me a year or two ago about working together on a build but I didn’t have anything that really fit. It just so happened they had AM4 support early on, fitting this build perfectly. I will go into more details inside, but I ran into multiple delays and hiccups but Carmine is finally all together. It’s about time we catch up and show off what has been done to the build.
Title: Project Build: Carmine - Part 3 – Custom all the things
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Build Sponsors/Supporters: Cooler Master – Asus – AMD – Alphacool - Primochill
Amazon Affiliate link: HERE
Okay, so once I started looking at going with a custom loop for this build things quickly spiraled out of control. The original plan with this build was a cheap Ryzen 7 build with a Rx480. Well, the case didn’t really fit that, but once I decided to go custom hard tubing the scope of the build really changed. So Alphacool was nice enough to give us carte blanche in picking out components as long as it was from one of their brands. So let's run through what they sent over.
So I obviously needed a water block with AM4 support and the Alphacool Eisblock XPX CPU comes with it out of the box. As a bonus it is actually customizable, you can swap out the lighting color on the brand name on the front and they have a few color options for full-color replacement pieces. One of those is red so I had them include that. I only wanted to cool the CPU because the video card would be swapped in the future so for cooling I went with a single 280mm radiator. The NexXxoS XT45 Full Copper is 45mm thick and should be WAY more than needed to keep our R7 1700 cool when overclocked and even allow me to add in a GPU later if I want.
I wanted a tube reservoir but because I hadn’t fully planned out how the loop was going to go in the build yet I went with a shorter 150mm tall model. It has an interesting name as well, it is called the Alphacool Ice Cream Cup DDC, the DDC being the pump type that is attached at the bottom and included. I ordered in two cases of four 16mm OD PETG tubes for tubing and then a whole variety of fittings to make sure I wouldn’t have to reorder anything later. I also had them include a radiator mountable pump mount. The rest was all hard tubing tools, this is my first hard tubed loop. I have a lot of experience with soft tubing and have all of the tools for that but I needed the silicon insert, a bending tool, a reamer, and a saw.
To get started with the water cooling I needed to get the three main components installed into the case and figure out the loop. I started off with the radiator, pulling the front panel off the 5T and mounting he stock fans to the radiator from the front to hold it into place. I debated on if I wanted the lines at the top or the bottom of the case but settled on the top. The radiator also had a few different connection options so I had to close the fittings on the back and top. With the radiator installed I then started toying with where the pump/res would go. I had brackets to install it to the front of the radiator but I ended up using the holes built into the Cooler Master 5T for the GPU support bracket that I already removed. This put the pump back further where radiator mounting would have had it closer to the front of the case.
Before installing the block though I did need to swap out the black housing for the red. The main housing pulls up and off with enough force and under it, you can see the LED with a blue insert. I had originally planned on ordering the color kit for the insert as well but there was some confusion. So I swapped to the red housing but I decided to pull the insert and lighting out altogether. I had considered painting the insert or running just the white lighting but after playing with it for a while I found the block looked good without anything at all. The logo is still there and it looks black with a hollow look. From there the two red AMD brackets snap on and you just have to screw the block down. Once done they also include four inserts to go over the top of the screws for a really clean look.
With the three main components installed I could finally start to imagine how I wanted the loop to run. I knew I would have a right angle coming out of the radiator going right down into the pump. From there the pump would output to the left side of the water block and the right output on the block would go up and then over to the input on the radiator. When setting up the fittings I found out quickly though that the pump I went with didn’t like the 16mm OD tubing. Specifically, the fittings were too large to put next to each other. Lucky for me I did get a few right angled fittings. That gave just enough room to have both installed next to each other.
So remember this was my first time bending hard tubing. Well, this is the part of the build that ended up causing a lot of issues. I initially had customs delays with the first set of parts when they were shipped. Then when I started bending tubes I found out that the silicon insert didn’t fit the 13mm ID of the tubes very well. It was really loose and made getting good bends impossible. The way hard tubing works, you use a heat gun to heat up the tube, making sure to spread the heat around and not overheat one area. Once the PETG is molten you can bend it to the shape you need. Without a tight fitting insert, the tube won't keep its shape.
Alphacool admitted they had some issues with the silicon sizing that they were working out at the time and they sent me a few different inserts hoping one would work. Once again customs held everything up and when they finally came in they didn’t work again. I ended up ordering a 14mm insert on Amazon and it ended up being a little undersized and fit.
By this point, I had ruined most of the tubing in the original shipment so Alphacool let me order another batch. This time getting in three boxes. With the proper insert and more tubes, I could finally learn how to do the bends properly. Truth be told I ruined a lot of tubing trying to figure it out. When I did finally get it figured out it was night and day. It was like I turned on a light switch and could suddenly do the bends I needed. The key for me was to turn on a stopwatch when heating up the tubing. I would lose track of time and move closer to the heat gun thinking I was too far away. With the time in front of me, I quickly got a good feel for how high I needed to be and could repeat it. So it took me a long time but it was rewarding when I was able to finally leak test.
For coolant, I reached out to PrimoChill. I wanted an Opaque coolant, specifically a dark red that would match the red theme. Now Opaque coolants are more for show and they require a lot more maintenance but the build really needed it. Their coolant came with a tiny bottle of system prep that you run through your system to clean everything out and get the PH right. Opaque coolants have been known to change color when you have components that aren’t cleaned out or after running hot for a long time. So I followed the instructions then flushed everything out again.
Then I refilled the system with out new mix, excited to be all finished up with the loop. Sadly, as you can see below the color that came in didn’t really fit the look of the system. I spoke with Primochill and they did say it was what it should be. Though I will argue until the day I die that the color ended up being salmon, not the red in the pictures on their website. It matches the untouched mix in the bottle though so it wasn’t the PH in the loop changing the color or anything like that.
Their coolant guy got in touch with me and after talking with him he mixed up a custom batch of a darker red to go specifically with this build. You can see this mix was MUCH better. It is more of a proper red and was exactly what I was expecting in the first place. I flushed the old stuff out of the loop and put the new mix in. Talk about a night and day difference! I love the coolant now, though I do hope that no one else ends up with that salmon mix, unless they are into that sort of thing.
So here is a look at the finished loop. I didn’t end up bending the lines the way I had originally planned but I think the angles I went with giving it a little more style than the boring straight lines that I had originally planned.
Huge thanks to Alphacool and Primochill for their support for this part. Custom water cooling isn’t cheap but man does it look good. Imagine how different this build would look with one of the basic AIO kits that I was originally looking to do. Sure the build would have been done months earlier, but in the words of Ed Bassmaster. “Just Look at It!”
As always I’m not one to leave things alone. The original plan for this build was the AIO and adding one more light controlled by the Cooler Master MasterCase Maker 5t and calling it a day for aesthetics. Honestly, that would have still looked good. But as it turns out Cooler Master ended up sending me the wrong set of lights. They are magnetic and have the same light diffusers as the single LED that the 5t comes with. But this set is powered by SATA so they can’t be turned off or set to breathe using the front I/O button.
I put them up in the warehouse and just figured I would use them in another build in the future. But after the months of work on the water cooling off and on. When I finally finished up bending tubes I was excited about this build again and started thinking of ways to add a custom touch. I originally was thinking about 3d printing the build name and putting it inside the case but with the low amount of lighting that the single LED provided through the tinted glass side panel, it wasn’t going to look good. I pulled the lights back out and started wondering what I could do with them to light those printed letters up. From there I decided I would just stick with putting stickers on the outside of the case like we always do with our builds. I started thinking about at least backlighting the normal stickers. I even installed the two lights but they just didn’t put out the light I needed. So I grabbed a piece of white paper, folded it in half and put it in the bottom of the case to see if that would be enough backlighting. As you can see in the picture below, the paper just lit up. You can also see just how dark the areas to the left and right of the paper were without white to bounce light on.
From there I then came up with the idea that I could invert the letters and put them on the inside. After that, I decided to do that but to cut the letters out so they would be lit up, not lit up around them. I pulled out the plotter and cut out a test and gave it a try. This worked better than I could have ever imagined only I needed to make a few changes. I wanted more height because I could see some light coming out of the top edge and I needed the sticker to run all the way across the bottom of the glass to keep any light from being seen that way as well.
With the side panel done I still had to figure out what I was going to do for the white background. I couldn’t just keep a half sheet of paper stuck in there. I was originally going to design and 3d print a white wall but when getting my measurements and test fitting everything I designed to just try cardboard for the structure. It fit perfectly so I pulled it out and got out some of my bright white reflective 3M vinyl and covered the cardboard to get the white finish. When you look down at an angle you can see the corrugated finish but I found that it wasn’t visible at all with the side panel on or to anyone who wasn’t looking for it when the side panel off.
The end result was well worth the time. In fact, I really want to play with this technique more in the future with other projects.
I did end up getting to play with the 3d printer that night though. When I finished with the stickers I started going back through things and realized when I installed the radiator that the screws were too short. I had longer screws but I didn’t want to punch through the radiator and cause a leak so I needed to pick up some washers at the hardware store. The problem was, it was already 3 in the morning so I was going to have to wait. Then it clicked, I could just print washers and it would even allow me to make them the thickness I needed rather than having to stack them. Two minutes in Autodesk Fusion 360 and my simple design was finished and off to the printer. It only took about 7 minutes to print them as well. It wasn’t a big deal or anything but it did blow my mind a little that I was able to get what I needed in the middle of the night so quickly. I’m sure I could have even saved more time by finding a design that was already made, but I wanted my 4mm thick design.
So for wiring, I had originally built this system with the stock cooler master wiring. I like to run custom length cables but with this build, I thought I would do something different and use cable extensions. Primochill provided them along with the coolant. They have a selection of kits that get you a 24 pin, an 8 pin CPU, and two PCI cables. Basically, all you need to spice up your build. They only cost $29.95 as well. Between you and I though, if you go to the website and don’t buy anything and mouse up to click the back button in your browser they might even have a popup that gives you a discount as well ?. They have all of the popular color combos at that price or you can have them make custom cables for you.
I went with the red and black set for obvious reasons. They are paracord and the colors look solid.
They also include cable combs that install from the back to help get that perfectly gapped look.
I dropped them into the build (I actually did this before I installed the loop as you can see) and they look amazing with the red interior of the 5t. I do want to get a new comb later for the 6 and 8 pin PCI cables to do a better job with the spacing. When I first installed them both cables wouldn’t stay together so I clipped them together. Now they are TOO close together, sometimes you just can't win.
Anyhow once I had the loop together and everything installed the single LED strip that comes with the 5t started to bother me even more. It just wasn’t enough light to show off what was inside of the build through the dark tint of the glass side panel.
I spoke with Cooler Master again and they were able to find me a proper set of the LEDs that run off the 5t controller. I installed them both for a total of three controlled lights in the top half of the case and the two always on lights for the Carmine logo. The end result was amazing if not too bright. It even lit up the top red vent enough for it to glow.
Here is a look at the build all together as well. I’m really proud of the way this one turned out. I’m not done though, we still have to get the system overclocked a little and benchmark it. Knowing how I don’t like to leave things alone I might end up changing more by then. So keep an eye out for part for of this project!