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Build Log: Alpha Centauri

Level 7

Welcome to the Alpha Centauri System project. This will be a two-part log, where we will be covering the overall progress of creating two PCs for my office. In this half, we will go over the specifics of the overall direction of the builds, and cover the progress up to completion of the first PC, Alpha Centauri. Seeing as this has been a huge undertaking so far, it seems only fair that we split both machines into separate logs to space out the content. At this point, I have already finished Alpha Centauri and am ramping up to start the second build, Proxima Centauri. Well, onto the main event!

Both Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri will be sharing a spot in my office on one L-Shaped desk. Alpha Centauri is designed to not only be a gaming powerhouse with redundant network storage, but also a video, graphics, and photo editing workstation with multiple monitors for true productivity. Proxima Centauri will be a portable workstation to be used with the same purposes in mind, but mainly designed to collaborate with other members in the Alpha Centauri Tech System whether they come over, or if I am needed to join them in one of their home offices.

This project will be the first step in leading a group of diversely skilled individuals to create content that is fueled by their love for gaming, eventually spanning to the development of games that they dream of. The project will be considered complete once we have established the basic infrastructure needed to get started in creating video previews and reviews of hardware, discussions on games and game design, along with game capture. We intend on building a community around us by hosting public game events.

This machine was to be a testament to my passion for all things gaming. The plan was to go all-out on building a fully-featured system that has everything I could ever want. I’ve always loved gaming in Nvidia Surround, as I am someone who loves being immersed in the game I’m playing. For that, I needed to go with an SLI setup to be able to support the 3 concurrent displays I would use. Having the extra screens is also a real boon for productivity.
I figured I would also try my hand at custom liquid cooling my system. Before even ordering the basic parts for this build I spent the year leading up to this project simply researching everything I would need along with all the techniques and methods to cooling. As much as people said that I should start with rubber tubing, I did not want to go with that for my dream machine, as I am not a fan of the curvy look to the loop. So, after gathering up all the courage (and information, mainly) I decided I would go all-in on the rigid acrylic. I then observed the styles that other people went with. Dedicated colored themes never quite grabbed me. I wanted ALL the color! So, I decided I would toss in an RGB lighting kit and go with neutral colors. Given the fact that Corsair Dominator Platinum memory changes color with the lighting, I based my EK fitting and block choices to follow suit. EK’s Acetal and Nickel 780ti (even though I am sporting the regular EVGA GTX 780’s) GPU water blocks, and a full-nickel EK Supremacy EVO CPU water block were prime choices to fit the bill. A chrome and black build would look ultra-sharp when the chrome reflects whatever color you choose! And, if you go with clear coolant and tubing, the color will REALLY glow in that system. And, with those aesthetics decided, the project began. And that’s how it started snowballing out of control. The remaining selections to complete the loop were the fans, radiators, reservoir and pump. For the sake of consistency with instructions, I decided to go all EK on this build. Except… I couldn’t quite convince myself to get their opaque Vardar fans. I wanted to go with clear Corsair fans, but they don’t offer such fans without LEDs. For the radiators, a 360mm along the top would be perfect, as I wouldn’t have to lose the majority of my front ODD bays to a push/pull fan setup if I went with a 480mm (I wanted to show off the ROG OC panel that came with the Rampage IV: Black Edition and have room for a Blu-Ray burner to watch my movies). The second radiator, a 480mm, would be concealed nicely by the bottom section of the 900D, while still having plenty of space for the pump, power supply, and all the cabley goodness below.
I convinced myself that, since I was taking on the challenge of bending rigid tubing, I may as well go all the way and order some acrylic sheets to dress up the inside of the case with. Mainly to hide all the unsightly cables and isolate air flow from the top and bottom halves of the Corsair Obsidian Series 900D that I have decided to shelter all of my precious components within. Glossy black would do nicely, I thought. Since I was going with a black and chrome theme, why not pick a fully-featured black motherboard? The Asus Rampage IV: Black Edition was a titan of a motherboard during the days of the X79 chipset. Coupled with the Intel Core i7-4930K, I knew I would be golden for a good amount of time.
A solid, dependable storage solution would be needed if I were to share storage with the rest of the team on the network. So, four 2TB Western Digital Black drives in RAID 10 would do nicely. I tossed my OS onto a Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD. Two 1TB Western Digital Blues in RAID 0 sufficed nicely for my game library.

Motherboard: | Asus ROG Rampage IV Black Edition
Processor: | Intel i7 4930K @ 4.4 GHz
Memory: | 64GB (8GB x8) 2133MHz Corsair Dominator Platinum
Video Cards: | EVGA GTX 780 3GB (x2)
Solid State Drive: | Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD
Hard Drives: | Western Digital Blue HDD 1TB (x2) RAID 0
| Western Digital Black HDD 3TB (x4) RAID 10
Case: | Corsair Obsidian Series 900D
Power Supply: | EVGA P2 1000w
Monitor: | AOC 24" 144Hz G2460PQU (x3, Landscape)
Operating System: | Windows 10 Pro, 64 bit

It was a very early mock-up of what was to come that following year.

I received all 4 of my AOC G2460PQU monitors. This is really starting to come together.

Grand Theft Auto V. The way it was MEANT to be played. 🙂

Installed the RGB lighting kit I ordered from Amazon. I still have to set it up with the color profiles for it.


Level 7

Before ordering all the liquid cooling components from EK, I figured I would be best off making sure all the basic components worked (also to pay off some of the parts I ordered). So, here is a shot of my system before the custom liquid cooling would make its debut.

Well, everything worked fine out of the box. After waiting a few weeks, all the parts arrived. Ready to begin!

First step is removing both EVGA GTX 780 Super-Clocked cards from my system. It looks so empty without them in there!

Next up, the GPU water block installation (x2)! That EK Acetal and Nickel block looks pretty sleek. I really can’t wait to see it on the card.

But first, I have to take the backplate off of the card to get to the ACX cooler’s screws.

Now that the ACX cooler is off, let’s play with some thermal paste!

A little word of warning to those using EK blocks for the first time: Don’t press the plunger on the thermal paste too hard or too quickly, as there is an air bubble that has to be pushed from the tip. Push too hard, and you get what you see at right; A globby mess all over the GPU.

After cleaning off and reapplying the thermal paste from my first mishap, the block is on and looking even better than I imagined it would!

I don’t feel the need to take pictures of the same card twice, so let’s get to installing the tubing between the cards. Thankfully, EK makes pre-cut tubes for different lengths of PCI lanes for just such an occasion. Always moisten the O-rings inside the fittings before twisting acrylic tubing into place. You definitely DON’T want a torn O-ring before you leak test.

Next up, we prep the fans!

Does anyone else find that yellow sticker a bit too unsightly for this build? I do. Let’s take care of them, shall we?

I don’t like the idea of possibly seeing these colored wires or the rear sticker in the build. Let’s prep them for masking!

After a couple hours of peeling and taping, the fans are all laid out and ready to be transported!

I’m about ready to get some fresh air (yes, that’s a pun). Let’s head to the garage! But, what do I do with this pile of cable splitters that came with the fan?

The fans are ready to get blacked-out. Here goes nothing!

Freshly painted. I’ll be taking 10 and waiting to apply a second coat, then a third.

Now that they are done and back in my office for the next step, let’s have a closer look and see how they came out.

Alright, that’s enough of the fresh air. Now we can stare at the gloriously shiny CPU block.

Let’s get the Rampage IV out of the case and remove the memory, heat sinks, and H80i. We might as well slap on the blocks for the MOSFET chips, southbridge, and the CPU. We’ll even attach the fittings for good measure.

Next up? Installing the lower 480mm radiator and the accompanying fans. This may get a little tight!

After the arduous balancing act of installing the 360mm radiator up top, I’ve tossed everything inside the case (that I’ve assembled so far, anyway) for a photo op.

Alright, data and power cables have been run and secured!

Time to put together the pump and reservoir!

The sheets of acrylic arrived, have been premeasured, and are ready for cutting!

And the bits I’ll be using for…

…this tool! Ready for surgery! O_O

Surgery completed with no casualties. Perfect.

Ready for tubing?
Unchamfered tube.

Chamfered tube.
Always do this to your rigid tubing to avoid tearing O-rings.

Tools for tubing bending, cutting and measuring!

First tube was run from reservoir to pump below. That’s the easy one…

Next, a complicated S-bend from lower radiator to lower video card.

From MOSFET block to upper radiator, and upper radiator to reservoir.

Quickly! GPU to CPU, CPU to southbridge, southbridge to MOSFET. Aaaaaaand leak test!

Time to play with the RGB lighting kit. (queue the ooh’s and ah’s)

It’s running at a cool 24 degrees Celsius at idle with a room temperature of 22 Celsius, compared to the H80i’s 40C at 20C in the same room. This is at the same overclock settings of 4.4GHz between both. Not too shabby. Time to stare at the bubbles flowing out of the system for a while.

Bought my Corsair VOID wireless RGB from the local Fry’s Electronics. Excitement!

The new Corsair M65 RGB (with fancy Modern Sails) has finally released! I’m excited to finally retire my original M65.

This was just a side project. I taught my fellow Alpha Centauri Tech Systems partner how to bend the tubing for his build. He already got all the blocks and fittings on his components before we started. This build features the Rampage V, which is a newer version of the motherboard I used in Alpha. The layout is so similar, that I brought measurements from Alpha to compare. We decided to make this a marathon, and worked 19 hours straight to finish his build. This included measuring and cutting the acrylic sheets inlayed within his system. Overall, not bad! I wouldn’t mind doing a marathon build like that again for charity…

Sound proofing and recording equipment has been installed. Corsair was nice enough to send their Strafe RGB with Cherry MX Brown key switches and a Scimitar RGB my way.

I was dying a little inside hearing my friends and co-workers talking about Fallout 4 all week. Saturday has arrived and I am ready for some wasteland wandering. Who else is ready?

I received the new MM300 Extended Mouse Mat from Corsair! It really ties the room together.

Next, I'll be working on a vinyl with my team's logo, along with a laser etching for the window with my good friend Jkraghify, known for his excellent work on his ATOM14 build, seen here on the Corsair User Forums.