Water-Cooled NCASE M1, 1080 Ti Mini w/ Vertical GPU Mount

matogl0396

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Feb 13, 2018
19
16
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Hi all, here is my water-cooled NCASE M1 with the vertical GPU mount from Mnpctech. I've never actually seen another build published with this part, so I think this one is somewhat unique for that and a few other reasons. With that being said, this is my very first attempt at water cooling, so please be gentle, but at the same time happy to hear feedback. :) Below I'm going to provide some context on the purpose of my build, walk through some of the chronological photo gallery I've included, and provide a few clarifications where I think it's useful or may be particularly interesting.

I always tend to write way too much, so there is a ton of detail below. TLDR you can just look at the pictures. Read at your own risk or convenience.

Part List (PC Part Picker: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/qFYTwP)

CPU: i7-6800k w/ Barrow X99 Special Acrylic CPU block + EK Supremacy LGA-2011 Narrow mounting bracket
Motherboard: ASRock X99E-ITX/ac Mini ITX
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16gb DDR4-3200
Storage: Samsung 960 Evo 500gb M.2-2280
GPU: Zotac GTX 1080 Ti Mini w/ Barrow BS-ZO1080TM-PA Mini Water Cooling Block
Pump/Res combo: Barrow SPB17-Mini
Other: All Barrow fittings + 3/8" ID 1/2" OD tubing … PVC/PU tube cutter + a tin snip from Lowe's


Initial Goals and Shopping Experience

In Jan 2018, I decided to order a 1080 Ti with some of my tax return money, as an upgrade to my main gaming/VR rig. I chose the Zotac 1080 Ti Mini specifically because I also own an NFC S4 Mini, and this is the only 1080 Ti that could fit in that case in the future when I eventually choose to "retire" it to that build. Unfortunately, I found that the card performs just like the Nvidia reference Pascal models, in that it quickly hits its thermal limit (84C by default I believe) and thereafter throttles clock speeds to maintain temperature. Performance was ok, but was benchmarking generally in the lowest quartile against other 1080 Tis (gaming at 1650 ~ 1750 Mhz clock speed), probably no thanks to the tiny case it was in! Who wants to have a top-of-the-line videocard that can't run at its full potential!?!? I've never done water cooling before, always been sort of scared to try it, but this was the first "real" use case I had to give it a shot!

Due to financial concerns, I chose to order all of my water cooling parts Barrow brand off a seller on Aliexpress (basically Chinese Amazon). I was a little worried about both the shopping experience and the parts quality, but the price was just SO good, even after paying for expedited 1 - 2 week shipping. So both of my blocks, my pump/res combo, all of my fittings, it's all Barrow brand. The CPU block I purchased, for example, was only $25! So this is another pretty unique "feature" I'm not sure I've seen previously, and thought it may be useful for others to see performance results.

I will say the shipping ended up being pretty dreadful. For some reason, after being quite responsive while I shopped, the seller went totally dark as soon as I placed my order. It took him an entire week to ship, so the 1 - 2 week shipping turned into 3 from order to delivery. Then, when everything finally arrived, he had shipped the wrong tank top (the longer model where I needed the "mini" to fit in my case). He remained unresponsive even after this, so I had to open a dispute through Aliexpress, at which point he did expedite a replacement to me free of charge. All of this said, I found out a little too late that Formula Mod actually has an Aliexpress storefront, so if any of YOU want to order off there, that may be a more painless/efficient shopping experience: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/431286


GPU Block & Vertical Mount









As mentioned above, I went with the 1080 Ti Mini to facilitate future fit in an even smaller case. For the same reason, I chose the version with the traditional fans/heatsink vs. the one with the pre-installed water block. But when I went looking for third-party blocks, the options for my card were limited. There is an Alphacool "Pro" series block (M23 model if I recall correctly?) with a built-in pump, which wasn't a terrible idea given space constraints, although I really did not like the aesthetic. The only other option in existence is a Barrow/Bykski block, which is the one I ultimately purchased. Additionally, my card is "mini" in terms of length, but is actually a taller than the GPU standard (125mm vs 111mm). So it doesn't actually fit in the NCASE M1 in traditional orientation once you install the block, which adds ~ 20mm from the inlet/outlet ports and impedes the side panel from closing entirely. This meant there was honestly only 1 possible configuration that would work for my parts in this case, and necessitates my purchase of the Mnpctech vertical GPU mount. In case it's helpful to anyone, by my rough measurements the case has ~ 300mm of available length, with the vertical mount + 1080 Ti Mini taking up ~ 212mm and the pump another ~ 63mm. So that leaves ~ 25mm (1 in) space remaining -- a pretty tight fit!

Now regarding installation, first and foremost, the Barrow blocks don't come with any instructions! Just a little card that almost insultingly states "Do Not Waste Paper" (pictured). Luckily, I was able to find a pretty good video on Youtube of a guy messing with a Barrow block. It's not the same card, but it definitely helped me figure out how things fit together, which screws go where, etc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhlEPuhV7bU. Also, for this card specifically, I was able to cross-reference the thermal pads from the original heatsink/fans to figure out where to place them on my new block. Finally, I used the "double cross" method with some Arctic MX-4, using this JayzTwoCents video as a primary instructional source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAid5G30-WM. Final note, the block also comes with a 4-pin connector that enables RGB lighting, but it was actually delivered with one of the wires snapped, which is frustrating although I wasn't planning to use the lighting anyway…

I also have some pictures of the grills snipped off the back of the case to provide access to the GPU's video output. Plus I included a picture of the vertical mount with "stage 2" optional add-on (so you can mount it upside down, i.e. with the inlet/outlet ports on the bottom). Although the normal/standard vertical mount is perfect for my use-case, as you can see the "stage 2" orientation does not leave enough space for even the slimmest fan + rad to fit below it. And since the vertical mount covers all 3 of the rear and side fan mounts, as far as I can tell this "stage 2" add-on is a strange product with, possibly, no use at all? So a bit of a miss with that one in my opinion.

Pump/Res Mounting & Drain Port






This was probably my biggest concern/difficulty while planning the build, and coincidentally also the part I'm perhaps least satisfied with afterwards. I didn't know what kind of mounting options would be possible on that front panel. I even talked to a friend about using some of his tools to drill new threads in the aluminum; I know that isn't super hard to do, but is kind of beyond my particular experience. It turns out the Barrow pump/res comes with 2 mounting solutions, 1 of which is a circular strap that wraps around the pump top, and the screw threads in that happen to align PERFECTLY with existing cutouts on the front panel. The screws don't thread into the case, but I let the heads sort of hang over a little bit, then screwed them as tight as I could. I also used thermal resistant adhesive strips on the inside and outside to give a little more grip (outside over top of the screw heads pictured). Ultimately, it mounts pretty well -- even with the case turned sideways, it stays put. With the tight tubing runs, this helps hold it in place even better. And it doesn't really have anywhere to fall anyway… Still, it isn't exactly as secure as I would have preferred, but this works pretty well without needing to drill into that front panel.

As for the pump itself, I really had no idea what to expect. Unlike the EK variant I was considering at first, this thing only has an outlet on the pump base, so it does somewhat limit your loop/flow options (inlet must come from the pump top). Other than that, it actually seems like a good product to me. It runs up to 4500 rpm, which I think was more than the comparable EK mini pump/res, although at that speed it can be pretty loud with a fair amount of creaking, gurgling, etc. I run it on my motherboard's "silent" setting instead, which does around 2500 rpm.

In the pictures, you'll also see a sort of weird combination of 90-degree fittings + my drain valve. Initially, I wanted that drain port to stick out the back of the case where there are inlet/outlet cutouts (I think originally intended for a custom-made external reservoir). Given the extremely tight fit and a general lack of variety of fittings available to me, however, I just couldn't make this work. My 2nd (under the power supply) and 3rd (under the pump) choices didn't work out for similar reasons. So in the end this was the best I could reason. The only fitting there is room for on the side of the pump is a shorter non-rotary version which, of course, sticks straight up when screwed in tightly, instead of to the side as would be more desirable. Eventually I found a way to fit the drain valve and all the tubing, but as you can see it doesn't sit at the lowest point in my loop. That being said, you can see one of the images where I demonstrate the way the rotary piece can, well, rotate outwards, such that with the case on its side I should be able to drain effectively, with the valve at the lowest point when the case is in that sideways orientation.


Radiator & Fans


Just a quick note here. The one component I went a little more premium with (non-Barrow) is the Black Ice Nemesis slim (30mm) dual radiator, based on the extensive review I found/studied here: http://www.xtremerigs.net/2015/02/11/radiator-round-2015/. Before use, I boiled some distilled water, let it cool for a few minutes, then filled the radiator and shook it vigorously, emptied it, and repeated a few times. There was some crud that came out with this method, but it wasn't too bad -- hopefully I got it all? Also, note that since I'm using slim fans, I went up to Lowe's and bought a set of 20mm M4 screws (thread size verified per the radiator's product page). I read many warnings about getting the right size for your fan, i.e. 3 ~ 5mm longer than your fan height, so if you use non-traditional (like slim) fans you must be careful here!

I'm using Noctua NF-A12x15s, which are the 120mmx15mm slim variants. I've used the NF-F12s in the past, and like many others am pretty bought into Noctua products, so this was an easy choice. These slim fans go up to 1800 rpm, although I have been testing/benchmarking them at a constant 1300 rpm instead. The sound isn't too bad and is pretty "clean" as fans go. I can't complain.

I have the fans oriented to push through the radiator and out the bottom of the case, and I do not have any kind of taller after-market feet (although I'm considering it). Most people report the best temps in an NCASE M1 with this orientation, although I am still somewhat tempted to try having them "pull" and blow some air through the case/over the mobo and out the top panel perforations. Mostly this is because I have no other way to actively cool my motherboard, which I have always had heat problems with (read my review on PC Part Picker on that part specifically for more details).


Motherboard, PSU, etc.






Quick note (and picture) that I had to purchase a 2011-3 narrow mounting bracket, as the standard X99 block doesn't fit this particular board, which uses the 2011 narrow ILM.

Moving on, I purchased a "starter pack" of sleeved cables that are compatible with my Corsair SF600. I got cables that were way longer than needed in this case because 1) the pre-packaged kit was way cheaper than custom cables, and 2) I am potentially planning to buy a Define Nano S which would require the longer cables anyway. With all the extra cable length, however, I decided to use 6mm motherboard standoffs to give myself space to run the cables on the back side of the case. This actually worked pretty well! One note, though, is that with the higher location of the motherboard, it barely fit into the back panel cutout, and the I/O shield didn't fit at all, thus I was not able to use it anymore. You can see in the image the way the board is raised further off the back of the case than it normally would be.


Tubing




The runs in this tiny case were very tight and really quite difficult for me to work with. I chose soft tubing for my first water cooling attempt, but not sure if that was a good idea or not. I had to try a variety of different configurations to find something that worked pretty well, and ultimately I couldn’t find any way to avoid at least 1 very tight bend (from CPU -> GPU). For this one I used anti-kink coil, which was super cheap and actually worked fantastically, allowing much more bend before any kinking occurred. I would prefer if the run from pump -> rad didn't go in front of my GPU, but I just didn't purchase enough variety of fittings to quite make that work.

Overall there is only ~ 21 inches of tubing here in total, which I think seems quite short, although I don't really have anything to compare it to. The order of the loop goes reservoir -> pump -> radiator -> CPU -> GPU -> back to reservoir. I've read that you want your CPU immediately after your radiator, presumably because that is the water's coolest point and your CPU is the hottest component? Not sure if that really matters too much though.


Putting it All Together & Performance Testing




I did all of my leak testing and benchmarking with distilled water only, thinking I would drain the loop and refill it with the EK coolant mix once I knew everything was in good shape. Since the reservoir is so small, I had to fill it, run the pump momentarily, then turn it off and refill again something like 3 ~ 5 time before the whole loop filled up. Once everything was set up and the time came, I definitely did not want feel like draining it out, so I actually just emptied the res and filled it with the coolant mix another handful of times, effectively "cutting" the normal distilled water with a little bit of proper coolant. That's why the color is much lighter blue than it probably would normally be. I suppose that isn't the best approach, but doesn't seem like too big a deal to me overall?

Once I get all the side panels on, you can still sort of see the GPU block through the perforated side panel. I know they (sfflab) are about to start selling glass or acrylic side panel replacements, which I am considering to show this off a little better. After all, that's sort of the original point of the vertical mount, right?

I ran a quick Heaven benchmark with 1920x1080 max settings and got a score of 3785 (no overclock on GPU or CPU), which is consistent with other 1080 Ti results I found online. You can also see how low the temperatures were! I was absolutely floored that the water block is taking 30 - 40C off my GPU!! Not pictured, but I did also run 1 hr of AIDA64 stressing both CPU and GPU, and ended up at 59C CPU, 53C GPU, again without any overclocks. I actually thought that was pretty fantastic for the highest possible TDP components running on a single 240mm slim rad. Most importantly, the 1080 Ti maintained 1900 ~ 1950 core clock throughout every test/benchmark I ran, which as I noted at the very beginning of this write-up was the primary goal of going with water cooling in the first place (to avoid thermal throttling of the GPU).

Conclusion

Well I think that's about everything anyone could possibly want to know about my build. :) Thanks to anyone who made it all the way through. Hope this was informative to some and, as I mentioned before, happy to hear any other thoughts or feedback from the community.

Thanks!
 
Last edited:

RubenMcNoobin

Case Bender
May 3, 2018
2
1
Wow, that's an awesome build! I'd love to explore going even smaller than my current Mini-ITX build.

What's the fan noise like on this setup? That's usually my first priority, with temps being a close second.
 
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matogl0396

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Feb 13, 2018
19
16
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Wow, that's an awesome build! I'd love to explore going even smaller than my current Mini-ITX build.

What's the fan noise like on this setup? That's usually my first priority, with temps being a close second.

Thanks, dude!

I run the fans on my motherboard's "standard" setting, so they basically always run at 1300 rpm (out of 1800 max). At that speed, the sound isn't too loud, and it is sort of "clean", not whiny. Not bad as far as case fans go! YMMV of course, if you're super sensitive to the fans, as you indicated in your response. I care more about temperature myself. :)
 

Ragsters

Trash Compacter
Apr 15, 2018
47
11
I have a very similar build from you except for the watercooling part. For CPU cooling I am using a Corsair 92mm AIO (Asetek 545LC) that was ripped out from the Corsair Bulldog 2.0. Currently I am using the stock fan that came with the cooler but am wondering if the Nactua NF-A9x14 is the better way to go. If I do decide to use the 14mm thick fan what size screws should I use?
 

Loveless

Cable Smoosher
Apr 21, 2018
8
4
love the build very nice. So my question is how does that WB for the 1080ti mini work out? I have a s4 mini build in the works and want to fully watercool it. My build is as
S4 Mini
Rog Strix Z370-I
Intel I-7-8700k
Zotac 1080ti mini
G.Skill Trident Z 32GB 3200
WD Black NVMe M.2 2280 1TB
Now Im hoping to get in on 1461748123's mono block/res/pump combo limited run seen here
https://smallformfactor.net/forum/t...k-for-asus-z270i-z370i-strix.6890/#post-96031
any thoughts, advice, criticisms are most welcome, this will be my first move into the SFF build space so Im still a youngling trying to soak up as much knowledge from my padawan and jedi masters!
~cheers
 

matogl0396

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Feb 13, 2018
19
16
www.facebook.com
I have a very similar build from you except for the watercooling part. For CPU cooling I am using a Corsair 92mm AIO (Asetek 545LC) that was ripped out from the Corsair Bulldog 2.0. Currently I am using the stock fan that came with the cooler but am wondering if the Nactua NF-A9x14 is the better way to go. If I do decide to use the 14mm thick fan what size screws should I use?

You want your screws to be 3 ~ 5 mm longer than the fan's height. So that 92mm slim fan you mentioned is 14mm tall. You would want a screw around 17 ~ 19mm long. I imagine they probably don't come in that size though, probably a standard 20mm instead. I *think* that should still be ok. You just don't want the screw to pierce the radiator. A lot of radiators (not all) have a little sort of lip under the screw thread, which is a protective plate to prevent damage from over-long screws. Regardless, you can pick up the screws you need from a local hardware store for like $1 or $2, so don't worry too much about it. Just screw the first one in slowly and look underneath to make sure there is still some clearance remaining. Does this make sense?

P.S. You also need to know the thread size of the screw holes on the radiator. Mine were M4 (this means the diameter of the screw is 4mm). You should be able to find that info on your AIO's product page? Or if not, maybe just try to measure one of the screws you already have.

Hope this helps!
 
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matogl0396

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Feb 13, 2018
19
16
www.facebook.com
love the build very nice. So my question is how does that WB for the 1080ti mini work out? I have a s4 mini build in the works and want to fully watercool it. My build is as
S4 Mini
Rog Strix Z370-I
Intel I-7-8700k
Zotac 1080ti mini
G.Skill Trident Z 32GB 3200
WD Black NVMe M.2 2280 1TB
Now Im hoping to get in on 1461748123's mono block/res/pump combo limited run seen here
https://smallformfactor.net/forum/t...k-for-asus-z270i-z370i-strix.6890/#post-96031
any thoughts, advice, criticisms are most welcome, this will be my first move into the SFF build space so Im still a youngling trying to soak up as much knowledge from my padawan and jedi masters!
~cheers

Holy hell that mono block + pump/res is intense!!!!!!! That is freaking awesome!!!

Anyway, the water block has been awesome! I've been testing the 1080 Ti overclocked at +100/500 and my i7-6800k at 4.0 Ghz, and I've only got a single 240mm rad. On synthetic stress tests the CPU is actually getting a little too hot unfortunately (not too surprising given limited cooling capacity), but the GPU has never gone above ~ 56C. No throttling of the clocks at all. Works great! FYI with the block mounted the full card (mounting bracket, PCIe, all of it) is ~ 210mm long and 150mm tall. I don't really feel like pulling out my S4M to measure the GPU chamber, but let me know if you can't find that info elsewhere and really need help.

As for your build, those are some intense components in a very tiny space. If you can pull it off more power to you, though. For me personally, I sort of wish I had made my first water-cooling attempt in at least a somewhat more reasonable case, like the Define Nano S or something. It was stressful learning everything the 1st time, especially with such expensive components on the line.

Given my experience with my own S4M, here are some thoughts/questions for you:

* Where exactly are you planning to put an internal radiator? There is hardly any space for messing around in this case.
* How do you plan to power your build? With those components the only option is a VERY expensive, hot, and large external power brick, which I believe also would require some modifications done by Josh, the case's designer (or possible yourself if you have that skillset, I know I don't).

I think this is a very aggressive/difficult build to pursue. If you still want to, though, I know Josh himself has a video about water-cooling in the S4M here:


Hope it helps.
 
Last edited:

Loveless

Cable Smoosher
Apr 21, 2018
8
4
Holy hell that mono block + pump/res is intense!!!!!!! That is freaking awesome!!!

Anyway, the water block has been awesome! I've been testing the 1080 Ti overclocked at +100/500 and my i7-6800k at 4.0 Ghz, and I've only got a single 240mm rad. On synthetic stress tests the CPU is actually getting a little too hot unfortunately (not too surprising given limited cooling capacity), but the GPU has never gone above ~ 56C. No throttling of the clocks at all. Works great! FYI with the block mounted the full card (mounting bracket, PCIe, all of it) is ~ 210mm long and 150mm tall. I don't really feel like pulling out my S4M to measure the GPU chamber, but let me know if you can't find that info elsewhere and really need help.

As for your build, those are some intense components in a very tiny space. If you can pull it off more power to you, though. For me personally, I sort of wish I had made my first water-cooling attempt in at least a somewhat more reasonable case, like the Define Nano S or something. It was stressful learning everything the 1st time, especially with such expensive components on the line.

Given my experience with my own S4M, here are some thoughts/questions for you:

* Where exactly are you planning to put an internal radiator? There is hardly any space for messing around in this case.
* How do you plan to power your build? With those components the only option is a VERY expensive, hot, and large external power brick, which I believe also would require some modifications done by Josh, the case's designer (or possible yourself if you have that skillset, I know I don't).

I think this is a very aggressive/difficult build to pursue. If you still want to, though, I know Josh himself has a video about water-cooling in the S4M here:


Hope it helps.
Thank you for your response and super helpful info.This may be my first SFF watercooled build but Ive been building custom loops in my rigs for almost 15 years now, still even this I think is pretty ambitious for me. I do plan on using the hdplex 400w DC-ATX and a brick also Im still working on the radiator solution, was even thinking of maybe fabricating my own custom solution. Thanks again
~cheers
 
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BrotherStein

Cable-Tie Ninja
Nov 11, 2017
168
136
Thank you for your response and super helpful info.This may be my first SFF watercooled build but Ive been building custom loops in my rigs for almost 15 years now, still even this I think is pretty ambitious for me. I do plan on using the hdplex 400w DC-ATX and a brick also Im still working on the radiator solution, was even thinking of maybe fabricating my own custom solution. Thanks again
~cheers

The custom parts required for this kind of build just do not exist (to my knowledge). I feel like you could cram a skinny reservoir and radiator in the front/top of the case, but even then, it's super tight. Good luck to you! I will be interested to see what kind of reservoir/rad setup you go with.
 

matogl0396

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Feb 13, 2018
19
16
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Thank you for your response and super helpful info.This may be my first SFF watercooled build but Ive been building custom loops in my rigs for almost 15 years now, still even this I think is pretty ambitious for me. I do plan on using the hdplex 400w DC-ATX and a brick also Im still working on the radiator solution, was even thinking of maybe fabricating my own custom solution. Thanks again
~cheers

Good luck buddy, will love to see what you come up with.