Late last year I set out to update one of our project builds, specifically the build that I have been using as my main PC. I was fighting performance issues with the latest games. But more importantly, things were starting to break down and I had been ignoring them. I had a hard drive that was making noise and an SSD that was slow compared to modern drives and that wasn’t large enough for my needs. Cooling was noisy and I found out when digging into things that the heat contributed to the hard drive failure as well. I was also dealing with weird network hiccups that seemed to indicate a motherboard issue or a PSU problem so in past episodes I updated the cooling, the PSU, the video card, and all of the storage. But that left the main issues with the CPU performance and the motherboard issues, plus not having as much ram as I would have liked for Microsoft Flight Sim. Well, I’ve put it off a lot longer than I should have, but today I’m going to update those last few areas.
Article Title: Project Build Crushed Update - Part 3
Written by: Wes Compton
Well, all the way back to the start I’ve been trying to work out a few weird issues in this system that were tied back to network issues and sometimes issues with storage as well and after trying other options the signs were pointing to motherboard issues. This works out though because the early Threadripper in the original Crushed build has been looking a little dated. So to start things off on this portion of our build I needed to lock down which CPU and motherboard I would be going with. The last few AMD launches we haven’t been able to get our hands on their highest-end options both with Ryzen and Threadripper and the Ryzen 3900X in our test bench has been running into some CPU limitations prompting an upcoming GPU test bench upgrade. This meant two things, the 3900X is still tied up on that test bench until I swap things out, and also the test bench is going to the i9-11900K which eliminated that as an option as well. I decided to go with the i9-10900K which has more cores than the 11900K which fits well with my gaming and work usage anyhow. Plus moving from the Threadripper 1920X to the 10900K offers a big jump in single-core boost clocks going up over 5GHz from the 4GHz of the 1920X.
Then for the motherboard, I had a few options in the Z490 lineup but the ROG Maximus XII Extreme which I covered back in June of last year. Is an absolute monster and surprisingly would still fit in the Case Labs case. It also has both 10G and 2.5G networking and had a ton of front and rear I/O options as well as on-board headers like the 20! PWM fan headers. Now our case doesn’t have room for that many fans, but I shouldn’t have to worry about fan headers being close to where I need them with that many. 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 is also there which I normally wouldn’t need, but considering the network issues I’ve run into I have found it to be a great backup option when needed.
I could go on for a while with some of the other features that the Maximus XII Extreme offers us, but I would suggest if anyone is interested to check out my previous review of both the board and the 10900K
One of the other goals when rebuilding this system was to better handle games like Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 better. One of the ways we did that was by adding in an NVME based storage option for games to be installed on to help with the loading times. But I have also run into memory issues when playing the game as well. You wouldn’t think I would considering the system had 32GB of memory previously, but part of the problem is the amount of memory all of the other programs I run in the background also use, especially Chrome. As someone who keeps a crazy number of tabs open for anything I’m working on or don’t want to forget Chrome sucks down memory leaving not enough when games like Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 come in needing more. I reached out to Crucial to see what options they might have. My requirements were relatively low other than the 64GB capacity. I didn’t care if the memory kit had high clock speeds and for aesthetics, RG or black worked. They ended up having their BL2K32G36C16U4B kit available and sent one over. The kit is a dual-channel 64GB kit running at 3600 MHz with a CAS latency of 16 and timings of 18-18-38.
This is a Ballistix kit and it has the new, well new last year heatspreader design which I really like. It is a full heatspreader that wraps around the top which is a change from a lot of the older Ballistix designs. It also has an almost military-like shape stamped into the heatspreader as well which is then powder coated with a textured black finish. They then keep things relatively subtle with the Ballistix logo on the side and a smaller Crucial by Micron branding below that. One side of each stick does have a sticker on it down in the area where the crucial logo was on the other side. This has the serial number, model number, and the kit information including memory speed and timings.
Up on the top edge with the new wrap around heatspreader, it also has the Ballistix branding on it. All of the branding is in a grey that you can see but isn’t too in your face like a bright white would be.
Being a dual channel kit, there obviously weren’t any issues installing them into our motherboard and it does also leave room for expansion if needed though I would have been fine with a quad-channel kit as well.
Here is a look at the old setup and the new one. Even without the dust, the ROG Maximus XII Extreme is a monster with its huge cooler that covers the entire PCI area.
One of my biggest concerns with the move to the Intel i9-10900K was how I would handle cooling everything. I’m still hoping to eventually move over to a custom loop. But in the meantime, I would need something capable of cooling the CPU that would also fit in the CaseLabs BH8 case which does have a lot better support for water cooling compared to the smaller BH7 that I used in our original Crush build. Most air cooling options weren’t going to be ideal given limits in the overall cooler height that the BH8 has and a 120mm air cooler like the U12S that I used on the Threadripper setup could work. But even with Threadripper, I fought a lot with fan noise due to the CPU getting warm. I decided to give an AIO set up a try and I just happened to have Cooler Masters's new Masterliquid ML240 Illusion come in and it fit the bill. A 280mm option would have been a little better, but I knew this would work.
The Masterliquid ML240 Illusion has a relatively standard AIO configuration including the newer boxy style of radiator that most kits have been going with. The tubing has black sleeving over top which looks nice as well. Then on the side of the radiator, they have the Cooler Master branding.
The pump/water block is where things diverge a little. Most AIOs are all from the same OEM but Cooler Master has had a long history of going their own way including very public legal battles and their own designs. They use a dual-chamber pump design that avoids patent issues and they suggest that it gives more time for heat transfer to the coolant and to keep the noise down. Then up on top of the pump, they have RGB lighting with the Cooler Master logo and a tinted translucent housing that lights up the entire top half of the pump. This is where the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion gets its illusion name because when the lighting is off the pump looks like your standard black housing. The pump has two wires running from it, one is a small RGB plug and the other is a three-pin fan header which is what runs the pump and lets your system know the pump RPM. The contact surface on the bottom is large but does have the standard machined surface, not a nice mirrored finish like you will see on some custom water cooling blocks and higher-end air coolers.
Then for airflow, the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion comes with two 120mm Masterfan MF120 Halo fans. The halo name is for the dual addressable RGB LEDs that wrap around the outside as well as the LEDs inside of the translucent fan blades at the center. In total each fan has 24 individually addressable LEDs. They have lighting on both sides of the fan on the outer ring and each ring of lights has diffusers on the outside edge and on the main side so you can see them in any direction. To help make all of that visible the fans don’t have the standard squared-off shape, they are a circle with wings sticking out for the four mounting points. Each of those has rubber anti-vibration pads on each side as well to help keep vibrations to a minimum. These fans have a 1.60 mmH₂O max fan pressure and 160,000 hours of life expectancy which would be over 18 years of being on 24/7. For wires, both fans have one normal four-pin PWM fan cable which has black sleeving, and then a short cable with the small addressable RGB plug for the lighting.
To control all of the lighting the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion comes with a control box. The top of the box has a nice brushed finish with the outside outline of the Cooler Master logo on top. The controller has its power and USB connections on one side, which for the USB it uses a standard micro-USB plug on the box side. Then the other side has three RGB connections. Just one of those is for the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion itself, they leave extra plugs for additional Cooler Master Illusion products.
When it comes to hardware and accessories the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion comes with a lot. They of course have mounting options for both Intel and AMD which also includes the backplate for Intel installations. The fan screws are a cool thumbscrew design which makes getting all of the screws started easy. They there are standoffs for LGA 2011 or AMD installs as well as a small tube of thermal paste. There are also a few different cables. You have the power cable and the USB cable for the controller. Then there is a dual fan to single fan adapter to help when you have motherboards with fewer fan headers and to keep the two fans in sync. Lastly the RGB cable. The RGB cable opens up other options as well. This cable will let you hook the lighting up to the controller or it will also work to hook directly to your motherboard with a standard addressable RGB plug. That is the option I decided to go with on this build. I prefer to have fewer programs installed and running and hooking directly to our Asus board makes the installation much easier. I didn’t have to dive into anything under the motherboard tray to hook up and to hide the controller.
Installing the Masterliquid ML240 Illusion did require me to get up under the motherboard to install the included backplate. But beyond that most of the installation was easy to do outside of the case. I installed the fans to the radiator outside of the case and I was also able to mount the radiator to our top fan/radiator bracket outside of the case. I installed the Intel brackets to the pump ahead of time as well. From there I mounted the backplate and put in the standoffs that the cooler mounts too which you can see in the picture below and I put our thermal paste on the CPU.
The pump then just installed with four thumbscrew nuts and I had to work the radiator and bracket in. Getting that slipped into the BH8 was the hardest part of the installation. But once it was in our AIO was installed. From there I just had to hook up the fans and wire all of the RGB up to the cable which then plugged into the motherboard. I do think that the fan wiring could still see improvements. A linking design like a few companies have done would be nice and clean up the wiring a lot or if nothing else run the RGB and fan cables down the same sleeving to keep things cleaner.
The Illusion lighting looks great on the Masterliquid pump though I did end up wishing I would have mounted the pump 180 out so we could see it better from the side window in the BH8.
The MF120 Halo fans look great when lit up. The addressable LEDs light the fan blades up really well and the diffusers on the outer rings help blend between the different LEDs well.
I’m not 100% sold on all of the lighting in the build that the Masteliquid AIO adds. But at least for now, I’m running with the lighting tied to the CPU temperatures which are green when things are cool, yellow in the mid-range, and red when things get hot. This will help me keep an eye out to make sure the i9-10900K isn’t getting too hot. In the future, though I may switch to white lighting or blue to better match the build.
While we’re in there syndrome
Honestly, beyond potentially switching to a custom loop in the future I didn’t have any plans to touch anything else in this build. But being busy and also procrastinating finishing this up I took a big gap between our last coverage and now. In that time Nvidia launched the RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3070 Ti. When I had everything apart I made a last minute decision to go ahead and swap the RTX 3080 that I previously put in out with the newer RTX 3080 Ti. It isn’t a huge upgrade and it’s not one I would suggest anyone plan on doing. But when I already have both in the office it only made sense to switch things up. The cooler design on the 3080 Ti Founders Edition is exactly the same which is good because it looks amazing with the black and blue theme in the Case Labs BH8.
With everything back together, the build looks great. The only exception to that would be the fan wiring for the AIO up top which is a little too visible for my liking with the side window.
Now, just like with the switch to the RTX 3080 Ti, I tend to want to change things up. So it’s possible that this isn’t the last time the Crushed build will be around. I would be curious what others would like to see. If I do a custom loop, should I go with blue coolant or maybe orange for a little bright contrast? I also need to revisit and check out the performance as well. Did the changes fix the issues I was running into?