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Mini-ITX LAN Gaming Rig [Water Cooled]

Introduction

Hello everyone! Welcome to my build log :)

 

I wanted to start a build log for my (currently in progress) new LAN rig. I am starting to near completion and thought posting a build log would be a great way to show my journey through the process. 

 

I believe this LAN rig is quite unique and I only had one other build log I found online that helped in the process. None the less this build log missed a a lot of details on the build and would of saved me a lot of time and effort had I known before I started! This is also where I will add a disclaimer that I am an inexperienced builder (first time doing water cooling) and have old build a handful of PC's in my time. 

 

The build I take almost 100% inspiration from is listed here:

Mini but Mighty

Huge shout-out to Mike (the creator) as I probably would not have settled on or been confident enough with this idea without finding that build!

 

This build log is going to be in chronological order of how everything happened for me, my thoughts and decisions throughout the build as well as the actual process of creating it etc.. Enjoy!!

 

PS: I am going to introduce the parts as I discovered and settled on them, but for the lazy, skip to the end for my full parts list.

 

Overview

I started searching for mini-ITX cases over 6 months ago for the idea of a new LAN gaming rig. My current build is in a Corsair 600t which is a very large case and isn't that fun to lug around to LANs!

I wanted a mini-ITX case that was very small, but also had a window for showing off the insides (I LOVE PC's like everyone else on here and cannot understand building a PC without being able to show it off =D)

 

My primary goal was small-form factor, closely followed by strong performance. Another thing sitting in the back of my mind was to try a custom water-cooling loop as I have not done that before.

With these ideas in mind, I set out on my journey to find and build my dream mini-ITX LAN rig.

 

Parts List

CPU:             Intel i5 6600K

GPU:             EVGA GTX 1070 Founders Edition

Mobo:            Asus Z170I Pro Gaming (Mini-ITX)

PSU:              SilverStone SFX Series SX600-G 600W 80Plus Gold Fully Modular SFX

RAM:             16GB Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 (White)

Storage:        AS330 Panther 240GB SSD (Boot), Corsair Force LE 960GB SSD (Main Storage)

 

Res:               EKWB EK-XRES 100 DDC

Rad:               EKWB EK-CoolStream CE140 Single 45mm

Tubing:           Primochill Advanced LRT Tubing 3/8"ID x 5/8"OD - Crystal Clear

Fittings:          EKWB EK-ACF Fitting 3/8" x 5/8" - Black x 8, EKWB EK-AF Angled 90-Degree G1/4 Adaptor - Black x 1

GPU Block:     EKWB EK-FC1070 GTX - Nickel

CPU Block:     EKWB EK-Supremacy EVO - Full Nickel

Coolant:          Mayhems Concentrate Pastel 250ML - Ice White

 

Phanteks 24-Pin Motherboard Extension Cable (White)

Phanteks 8-Pin PCI-E Extension Cable (White)

Bitfenix 8-Pin Sleeved 12V EPS Cable (White)

Aurora LED Light Strip (White)

 

---

Just posting to create the thread and save what I have so far, update + pictures coming very soon!

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Update 1
Eventually I stumbled upon the Parvum cases from the build log mentioned in the first post and decided to go ahead with ordering the new X2.0 one (the smallest ITX case they make). I wanted to do watercooling and was going to buy the larger Veer model but Mike proved that you could water cool off of a single rad in the small X1.0 case.

Even more promising was that the X2.0 has a larger 140mm front fan slot instead of a 120mm.

 

At this point I barely had any idea of the parts I was going for and knew the case would take a long time to arrive (as I live in New Zealand). I was scouring Trademe (NZ specific version of Ebay) for good GPU deals to snipe. 
 

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Update 2
3 months later (yes seriously; I live in New Zealand and Parvum is based in the UK) my case arrived. I was extremely happy yet just as Murphy's Law would suggest, something went wrong: They didn't send the power button for the case and they sent all black panels meaning they missed the white accented panels that sit on the inside of the fron / back of the case :( 

 

After another few weeks wait I finally had the all the pieces of my case together so that I could actually move forward with planning and ordering the rest of my parts. I sniped a 780 for cheap off of Trademe but after receiving it I decided I wanted something more powerful. I started looking at 980ti prices and the soon to be released 1070 (1080 was just too far out of my budget)..

 

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Update 3

Today I ordered and received my PSU, CPU, motherboard, CPU block, res and some other stuff :) 

I realised I have an issue with the PSU screws fitting as the ones that come with the PSU are too short to fit through the first layout of acrylic :( I'm going to have to go to a bolt shop and try my luck at finding some of these very specific and small screws.. 

 

I test fitted the mobo with the RAM and fitted the CPU block which was fun! I need to figure out my loop and where my res will sit etc.. I am really enoying this case; being able to remove each and every panel individually makes it very easy to pull things apart and move things around. I'm sure it's going to be a great help when it comes to wiring as well! 

 

I'm about to make an order for a GTX 1070 + water block, rad, SSD as well as some other required things (fans etc..). Just waiting to hear back from my store to try get a good deal on the parts =D

 

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Update 4

Today I received my GPU, rad , GPU block, SSD and more! So exciting =D

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I test fitted the rad to help figure out my loop. In the next few days (when I have a quiet night) I'm going to go ahead and put the GPU block on the 1070 which I am slightly nervous to do haha.. 

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Thanks man! I quite like that case actually, it has a cool shape :)

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Good idea! I'm really looking forward to having a 2nd PC primarily for LAN's, but will also serve as my media centre / PC powering my large TV in my lounge

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Update 5

Got around to putting the water block on the GPU. Wasn't too tricky in the end which is good :) Took me about an hour total (I was very careful with it) and the only issue I faced was accidentally over-tightening one of the tiny back-plate screws which caused it to snap :( None the less there is still like 8+ holding it on, so no problems there! 

 

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Next up I'm going to be vinyl wrapping my resevoir base, the GPU backplate and the radiator white. This should match my theme of white coolant with the black / white case etc.. Looking forward to the results and starting to actually put this build together!

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Update 6

Did a quick test fit for the layout etc.. I tested some fans in the rear but I have decided that I want the res sitting against the back wall to not block the mobo / CPU. Besides the fans would be blocked my the res and would only add a small amount of air flow anyway. I've started planning the res mounting and drilling which I will do this weekend. People online say that there shouldn't be any issues with drilling this acrylic, you just have to be careful it doesn't bite / grip. (USE A SHARP DRILL BIT).

 

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Added some white vinyl to my res, rad and gpu back plate :) 

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Not perfect, but not bad either. Will be pretty hard to see any blemishes / mistakes when it's in the case and hidden with fans / other hardware etc.. 

 

At least vinyl wrap is cheap and very easy to replace :) 

 

Oh and this guy arrived today, I'm in love! <3 (my gaming alias is Panther)

I might try mounting it on the floor of my case to show it off, depends how good it looks really.. (Maybe with some white vinyl below, highlighting it. Or an LED? )

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PS: Oops I didn't take any photos of the GPU vinyl. I did it really rushed at like 1am so I may redo it at some point. I'll add a photo in the next update :) 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Update 7

 

Here's some photos of the GPU backplate vinyl wrap. I actually re-did this as I was not completely happy with the results. Vinyl wrapping the plastic backplate was slightly tricky and for a lot of the angles it was hard to get a smooth cut / edge. I actually think the best approach would be to take the backplate off and use it as a template on your vinyl. I didn't do this as I wanted to avoid pulling those TINY screws out and potentially damaging them. Either way, taking your time and slowly trimming to get the correct angle / length seemed to work out well. Again, vinyl is very cheap so if you stuff it up, it isn't too big of a deal to start again.

 

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I got around to drilling the holes for the resevoir which actually turned out to be quite easy. It was somewhat daunting taking a drill to a PC case that took over a month to arive from the UK but I didn't make any noticeable mistakes :) 

 

As always, measure twice, cut (drill) once! I do not have any photos of the drilling unfortunately. 

 

Once this was done, I used some isopropyl alcohol to clean the left over muck, bits and dust from drilling. This is when I could finally get to mounting all the main parts and measuring the loop up. 

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Update 8

 

Once I had re installed my GPU, the reservoir and radiator, it was time to start the tubing! I was quite excited to get started on this as it was the next big step in completing the build and finally having my own water cooling system done :P

 

I made the stupid mistake of trying to cut my tubing to size using a large knife. After watching a video of Linus cutting his tubes to size with a simple cut of the special tube cutters I felt extremely stupid. I spent a lot of time wrestling with the knife and tube trying to get clean cuts.. This also didn't help that I am quite a perfectionist and wanted my cuts to be as perfect as possible! For anyone that hasn't done their own water cooling before, please buy tube cutters!! It will save you a lot of time, and in my case: A small cut on my finger =\ 

 

Anyway, once that was done I filled my reservoir and set up my cabling so I could fill the loop. I used a paperclip to jump my 24 pin mobo power cable and plugged in one molex for my pump which was also powered my LED strip (which helped me indicate that it was on). My PSU has no power switch so it was a little trickier to regulate the pump to pull the water through. With such a small pump it can be very easy to let it run dry when trying to fill the loop. I recommend just doing small bursts to be on the safe side. 

 

Once this was done I ran my loop for about 30 mins before I had to go out. I came back the next day to continue running it and found it wasn't pumping. I was really worried and checked every connection, my PSU etc.. I scoured the internet to try find what might have caused the pump to stop running and concluded that the pump must of somehow died. I found a couple of other people who said they have had pumps that mysteriously die even after running for a short period of time. I contacted my PC store and asked for an RMA. Luckily they were really good with it and had a replacement pump sent out after about a week!

 

After the new pump arrived, I got back to refilling and retesting. Luckily this time, after leaving it running for about 6 hours, the pump had no issues! I also did the same white vinyl wrap on the new pump. 

 

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Update 9

 

The next thing I really wanted to do, but didn't get around to, was removing the red highlights on the motherboard. I found a video by Paul's Hardware on modding the same motherboard as mine:

 

 

I realised I could quite easily do the same. First thing I did was remove the red / white "Pro Gaming" logo from the board with a heat gun. This was quite easy and just needed a touch of alcohol to clean up the glue after (your nail works quite well too, as shown in the video). 

 

I didn't want to purchase paint so I tried using some white plasti-dip that I had lying around. This didn't work well at all, as it is quite solidly textured it stuck to everything and looked awful. I would not recommend plasti-dip for small jobs like these and if you are going to use it, buy a proper sprayer with a consistent tip! The stock spray can does not distribute the dip evenly at all, it is really frustrating. I pulled the plasti-dip off and decided I would try good old vinyl wrap (it's worked good so far!). After a lot of cutting, trial and error and frustration I managed to get the white vinyl looking pretty good:

 

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I really like the white highlights, but if you don't, I would just do the same process as Paul in his video. The black result of his painting looks really good.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update 10

 

Last major update :) 

 

To finish off the build from the last update, I re-did the tubing (I reused the same tubes from before) now that I have the new pump, visually modified motherboard and some other small changes. This was really quick as the tubes were already the correct dimensions. I filled the loop and did a leak test for about 6 hours. I continued the tests for most of the next day too. After that I cleaned up the wiring as best as I could and booted up! After a bit of a struggle with Windows 10, I got the PC running! Drivers installed, rigged up to my large flat screen on the wall, it was good to go! The wifi receiver that comes with the mobo is a life saver too; The first driver I installed was the wi-fi one, after that I could download anything I needed from the net easily! 

 

Here's a dump of some more screenshots etc..

 

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I am really happy with the result of this build. The launch / boot speed is incredible, it is extremely quick, very quiet (once I altered the power curves to the pump & fan) and looks amazing in my living room! I have ordered a Steam controller because my XBOX 360 controller just isn't that well supported in a lot of games. The last thing I may do after this is purchase a longer LED strip that reaches to the top of the inside of the case so that the GPU is better lit (see photo). It would also be great to have a switch on the LED, but they are harder to come by and I'm not fussed enough to DIY my own at the moment.

 

Thanks for reading! PM me or reply here for any questions or comments!

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