Project Sykebox: an external cooler for LAN events and style [i7-8086K] [GTX 1070] [18500FireStrike]

Ganelon

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Feb 23, 2017
57
44
What's this?

A first-time water cooler going way beyond what a first-timer should?

Unthinkable!

Welcome to The Sykebox Project: my quest for the perfect watercooled system, as small as it can possibly be.



Featuring the logo I made just in case I ever make a business out of these ideas down the road.

The Concept
We all like high performance-per-litre systems, right? Even if you don't build them yourself, or you prefer powerful hardware to look big and imposing, there's something special about a little unassuming aluminium box (mistakable for a NAS at a glance) that can trounce a desk-dominating Corsair Air 740. One day I saw this case being developed:


Immediately, it was calling out to me to either watercool in it, or re-create its layout in a custom case of my own here in the UK. Can't you just imagine it? Quick-disconnect ports poking out the back, maybe a handle on top, and you've got a tiny PC with top-tier overclocked hardware that can plug into any cooling system with compatible fluid. The concept is to have a bunch of radiators built into a desk, or wall-mounted or something, with silent fans and pumps which it plugs into when at home, but with a little portable cooling unit with a 280mm rad in push-pull for taking it on the go. Something like this:

(There were better renders with nicer venting and stuff but this is old and I lost the newer images)

Again, probably with a detachable handle kinda arrangement.


The Build
So the work began! I found a waterblock that could fit my GTX 1070:

And decided that I wanted a super-awesome CPU cooler with a screen, the Cuplex Kryos VISION from Aquacomputer.


I also researched the best-performing push-pull 280 rad, and found that it's a toss-up between the Alphacool Monsta series and the HWLabs Blackice Nemesis GTX. The Blackice is thinner, though, so I went with that, and paired it with four Noctua fans (what else?). The res and pump weren't hard, either, Alphacool makes a pump-res combo kit that can take two small pumps in series and almost fits perfectly into my form factor.

Putting it all together, this is how it sat for a long while as I waited for funds to complete the build:



Part of the res is missing because I removed it to have it cut to size. It was a couple dozen millimetres too long, but if I could make it exactly as long as the fan-face plus a dust filter, it should be perfect. So that's what I did.

Also, I bought all the other stuff I needed for the computer itself.

Specs:
  • i7-8086K
  • Gigabyte z370n-WIFI
  • 16GB TeamGroup Vulcan RAM
  • Gigabyte GTX 1070 Mini (was going to upgrade to the identical 1080 but decided to wait for the 1180)
  • WD Black WDS500G2X0C NVMe SSD
I put it all on a test bench, and suddenly I was ready to go! Months of planning came together so quickly I barely realised it was happening.


Ready to fill! Quick-disconnects attached to a temporary cardboard plate that works surprisingly well.


Closeup of the pumps, tubing, and wire nest (one of these pumps turned out to be DOA due to a faulty solder)


She lives!!


Imagine how good this will look once it's in a tiny aluminium case instead of a test bench with cardboard.


I even made it display my custom logo on startup! At all other times it tells me my current CPU temp, and reminds me that I have a limited edition 8086K under there. Even though I had to remove the dead pump, flow rate is fine and the system is pretty quiet. Not silent by any means, but that's the point of the quick-disconnect concept: in the future I'll be plugging into a truly silent cooling system when at home, and using this unit for LAN events and suchlike.

That's all for now!

Please leave any suggestions, advice, feedback, etc that occurs to you. Like I said, I'm new to watercooling!

My 8086K is running at 5.2GHz on all cores. My GPU turbos up to 2113MHz.

I will be prototyping both cases as soon as I can, but I don't know when that will be. If anyone has any experience or advice in this regard please do get in touch!

Syke Jr (aka Ganelon) out.

 
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Ganelon

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Feb 23, 2017
57
44
Best FireStrike result at stable settings:


Best FireStrike score overall, pushed to the very edge of stability (took six or seven tries to get a finished run):
 

Valantar

SFF Guru
Jan 20, 2018
997
756
That is a sweet concept! Definitely a neat solution in terms of keeping your case as small as possible.

IMO, two pumps seems completely overkill for a loop with two blocks and a single rad, at least if they're of half-decent quality. I bought the lowest-end EK pump+res combo for my loop (the SPC-60 MX PWM) and it provides plenty of flow for my two blocks and two rads. I could understand using two for the desk setup (provided you splurge on multiple rads and mount it all a bit away from the PC), but for the portable setup, it's unnecessary.

One tip: if you want your external tubing to look nice and stealthy, EK's "zero maintenance" ZMT neoprene tubing is excellent. It's very thick-walled, so it's extremely kink resistant (should be good for a setup that's moved around and mounted in various ways), and the matte black look is very nice.

Also, are you planning to mount the GPU directly in the PCIe slot? You could shrink the case quite a bit if you laid it down on top with a short riser - it's not like you need the space for a tall CPU cooler :)

Edit: wrote 'rad' instead of 'res'. I done goofed!
 
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rfarmer

Shrink Way Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
1,643
1,604
I agree with the EK neoprene tubing, I used it in my Ncase and it looks really good and is easy to work with.
 

Valantar

SFF Guru
Jan 20, 2018
997
756
Oh, btw, how are you powering the pumps and fans? I'd understand using external power for the home setup (if it's big, bulky and far away from the PC, at least), but wiring 12V from your PSU out through a simple barrel plug alongside the QDCs on the PC case and running a cable alongside your tubing would be both easy to use and rather slick. The power draw of a single pump and four fans shouldn't be all that much, so you likely wouldn't need anything over-the-top.
 

Ganelon

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Feb 23, 2017
57
44
That is a sweet concept! Definitely a neat solution in terms of keeping your case as small as possible.

IMO, two pumps seems completely overkill for a loop with two blocks and a single rad, at least if they're of half-decent quality. I bought the lowest-end EK pump+res combo for my loop (the SPC-60 MX PWM) and it provides plenty of flow for my two blocks and two rads. I could understand using two for the desk setup (provided you splurge on multiple rads and mount it all a bit away from the PC), but for the portable setup, it's unnecessary.
I now only have the one pump (one was dead) and you're right, it works fine. For the full-desk setup I'm going to have two 4x140 rads, and two D5 pumps running in parallel- somewhat overkill, I know, but I want the flexibility to add more systems to the loop (a watercooled server, for example) and as the component count increases I want both the high flow rate and the redundancy.

One tip: if you want your external tubing to look nice and stealthy, EK's "zero maintenance" ZMT neoprene tubing is excellent. It's very thick-walled, so it's extremely kink resistant (should be good for a setup that's moved around and mounted in various ways), and the matte black look is very nice.
I do plan to use that! Well, not EK ZMT exactly- it only comes in 16/10 (at least over here in the UK) and my quick-disconnects are 13/10 only. I'm not buying more if I don't have to. So I found some 13/10 black rubber tubing that's identical in composition as far as I can tell from a different company in Europe.

Also, are you planning to mount the GPU directly in the PCIe slot? You could shrink the case quite a bit if you laid it down on top with a short riser - it's not like you need the space for a tall CPU cooler :)
I'm using a layout like this:


But with my own aesthetic design and slight layout tweaks.

Oh, btw, how are you powering the pumps and fans? I'd understand using external power for the home setup (if it's big, bulky and far away from the PC, at least), but wiring 12V from your PSU out through a simple barrel plug alongside the QDCs on the PC case and running a cable alongside your tubing would be both easy to use and rather slick. The power draw of a single pump and four fans shouldn't be all that much, so you likely wouldn't need anything over-the-top.
You're absolutely right, and that's exactly what I'm doing ;)

If you look at the photos you can see the cables going from my mobo fan headers out a hole next to the tubes, and then up into the unit above. Those are 90cm cables. And now, I have extension headers sticking out the back, so both of them plug in exactly the same way the tubes do. I'd take a photo but my phone isn't charged.

I want the fans and pump on separate headers because the pump is voltage-controlled and the fans are PWM. Also, this pump makes a really annoying grinding sound at full speed so I have it at 40% until the CPU really gets hot, but the fans ramp up fast to keep things in check.
 
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