System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $3,000 Extreme PC

Hardware Installation

Today’s article isn’t a complete how-to guide, but a few build details separate this machine from a typical system, so it's worth noting some of its eccentricities.

The easiest part of our installation was inserting the two Crucial SSD drives into the SNT drive rack. The rack was then installed as an external 3.5” drive in the Cosmos S case using its included 5.25” to 3.5” single-bay adapter rails. One of the case’s 5.25” bay covers has a removable panel for use with 3.5” external drives.

After installing the normal stuff, we moved on to the liquid-cooling system. Swiftech’s MCP-655B pump isn’t self-priming (it can’t pump air out of its chamber), and should therefore be installed at the bottom of the case, where it will always have liquid. The best place we found to mount it was along the rear edge of the base, above the optional intake fan mount.

Note that even though the pump mounts to a self-adhesive pad, it also includes two mounting screws, two nuts, and four rubber washers to dampen vibrations between the pump base and screws. These additional pieces prevent this heavy component from tearing away from its self-adhesive mounting pad, but require two holes to be drilled in the bottom of the case. Removing the pump from its bracket as shown above allows for an easy installation of the nuts.

The liquid-cooling kit’s MCRES Micro Revision 2 reservoir comes with hose barbs and O-Rings packed separately. Grooves around the reservoir’s holes appeared to be designed for these seals, though the instruction manual didn’t mention the parts. Unclear instructions aside, we slipped an O-ring over each barb to assure a perfect seal.

We mounted the reservoir on the vertical edge of the case’s drive cage above all card slots to allow extra room for coolant lines. Two holes must be drilled into the mounting surface to attach the reservoir’s mounting brackets. Removing the top screw following a test fit allows the reservoir to be tipped away from the chassis, as shown below.

The reservoir must be at the highest point of the cooling system in order to successfully purge air bubbles from the system. This might sound like an impossible task with the radiator mounted in the top panel, but laying the case on its side solves the issue. Tipping the reservoir as shown above allows it to be filled with the case on its side.

Angelini: Kudos to Thomas on one of the cleanest water-cooling builds I've ever seen

With the fill cap securely replaced, the reservoir now holds its air pocket as the case is tipped upright. Replacing the upper bracket screw keeps the reservoir vertical until its next refill.

Lite-On’s BD-RE drive was placed in a lower 5.25” bay to ease desktop use, where the “minimum height” is usually the height of whatever might sit in front of the PC (such as a left-front speaker or large beverage). Builders who’d rather subject their system to the dust and hair nightmare that typifies floor placement will instead prefer the top bay. The internal hard drive cage was raised by one bay position to improve airflow from its cooling fan to motherboard components and the rarely accessed 2.5” drive rack was slipped under it, using the previously mentioned bay adapter and convertible bay cover.

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  • mi1ez
    RAID SSDs? No TRIM support there then!
  • ch1llboy
    920? really tomshardware! I do look to you for advice often and to see you recommend a chip that has been replaced by the 930 kind shocks and disappoints me. I have confidence that you will make good and update your article. It is 2% more expensive and 5% higher clocked at stock. It overclocks better because it has the 21x multiplier. It removes the cpu blk wall for those of us on air buying 300+ motherboards that can take the blk to 215. It is what I'm buying because 4.4 ghz is better than 4.1.
  • BlackKnight7891
    It would be Nice to see some CPU\GPU temps through the testing especially when when testing the overclock against Crysis
  • LePhuronn
    Samsung SpinPoint F3s surely?
  • Anonymous
    hey all am looking for special desktop specs for animation design with high quality
  • mi1ez
    try the forums then rather than article comments...
  • LePhuronn
    Looking at it now, I'd also tweak things to run 2 5870s in Crossfire and drop the PSU to a 850W - games that don't benefit from Crossfire (i.e. GTA 4) will see better single-GPU performance from a full fat 5870 instead of the underclocked 5870 on the dual-GPU card, assuming of course that the 5970 is detected as an internal Crossfire setup by these games.