We’re pretty big on liquid cooling around here. Keeping temperatures down is obviously critical when trying to get the most performance out of your CPU, and if you’re overclocking, liquid cooling is pretty much mandatory.
All in One coolers are usually more than sufficient, but if you’re really getting into cooling, custom loops are the way to go. And if you you REALLY want to get into liquid cooling, hard piping adds a distinct visual flair that can help your build shine bright like a diamond.
It can be intimidating though. Building a PC is already painted as tricky for newbies (though it doesn't have to be, just follow along here) so the idea of introducing liquid into those very liquid allergic components turns some people off.
We wanted to show how easy and awesome hard tube liquid cooling is, so we teamed up with German companies Alphacool and be quiet! to put together our Artic Blast Alphacool build.
Getting It Together
You can build a custom cooling loop in a small case, but obviously, bigger is going to be easier. We’ve done a few builds with German case maker be quiet! and the Dark Base Pro 900 case is a great fit, in more ways than one. It also has wireless charging for your phone (if supported) built into the case, so that's handy.
For our motherboard we chose the ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme, because we wanted to show some AMD X399 Threadripper love. This RGB heavy flagship board maximizes connectivity and speed with support for up to 128GB of DDR4 memory, three NVMe M.2 drives, and front side U.2 for next gen storage options. It’s a great home for that ridiculously massive AMD chip, and a perfect foundation for this build.
The Ryzen/Threadripper chip we picked out special for this build is the 1950X, a 16 core / 32 thread beast of a processor with 3.4 GHz base, and 4.0 GHz precision boost clocks. If we’re going to all the trouble of building a custom loop, you have to make sure your CPU is worthy. There’s no doubt the 1950X fits the bill.
Like anything else in PC building, doing a little bit of research beforehand is the best way to ensure smooth sailing when working. Liquid cooling and hard tubing is no different.
Next up, we dropped in some RGB RAM for more color. We’ve grown to really like the G.SKILL TridentZ RGB RAM, so we popped in 32GBs.
For storage, we went with an Intel 900P Optane U.2 SSD. This blazing fast drive is fairly new to the scene, and we wanted to take full advantage of that U.2 connector on the ASUS board.
To power our build, we went with the reliable Dark Power Pro 1000 watt PSU also by be quiet! With custom cooling loops you need a little more power for all the pumps and radiators, and though 1000 watts might seem like a lot, it’s better to have too much than too little.
Once we had all our parts ready, it was time to get crackin' on the cooling.
You can buy everything you need to set up your custom cooling loop separately, but, especially for first timers, kits such as the Alphacool Eiskoffer give you everything you need to get started.
You’ll also need a good heat gun, and the patience to follow directions.
To quote Eduard Peters, PR and marketing manager of Alphacool, “Like with any new thing you try, the first step always seems insurmountable. But fundamentally, building a water cooling loop is easy as long as you follow the instructions carefully and take your time. With soft tubing it’s a breeze; HardTubes are a little more complex. If you’re going the HardTube route, always have a few extra tubes at hand. Even the experts misjudge during bending or cutting sometimes.”
The trick to proper hard piping is having the right tools, having the patience to be ok with mistakes, and learning the timing. Knowing when your tubing is sufficiently hot to bend is everything. If you try and bend too soon you can snap it in half, overheat it, and the tube can melt. Luckily, this is all covered in the included instructions, and though it varies from tube to tube by material and brand, a little bit of research should get you the answers you need.
We asked Eduard about knowing when your tube is hot enough to bend, and here’s what he had to say, “This can be a bit tricky and it differs from material to material. PETG bends at a lower temperature than acrylic, but you need to heat up a larger portion of the tube to get a nicer finish. The best way to learn this is to just order some extra tubing and practice. You will soon learn when to bend the tubing.”
Practice makes perfect.
Finally, it’s time to start actually bending. This experience will vary by brand of tubing, materials you’re using, the type of heat gun and quite a few other factors, so it’s impossible to give you an exact guide on what will work for you.
Eduard does have some helpful tips that are generally good to keep in mind when embarking on your hard pipe journey, “If you want to bend free-hand, you’ll need at least a silicone insert in the correct size and a heat gun. Make sure your heat gun can stand upright and that the temperature can be regulated by 2-3 levels. A common mistake is using too high a temperature for bending. Finally, you’ll also need a deburring tool to clean up the end pieces, so that the tubes fit into their connectors and don’t damage the seals during assembly.
For measuring, you can use a regular ruler, but a flexible measuring tool like the Alphacool Measuring Kit can be very helpful. The kit has several rulers you can connect, so you can measure several different angles all in one go.”
Like they say, measure twice, cut once. Or, get some extra tubing so you don’t have to worry about it.
We can’t stress this enough; do your research, follow the instructions closely, and you’ll be surprised by how fun and easy it is to get your own hard line custom cooling loop ready to go.
Keeping Our Cool
Blue and white is a classic motif, so for the coolant we went with a Mayhem Aurora 2 in blue. It looks great against the RGB of the motherboard, and the built-in lighting of the Alphacool fittings and reservoirs.
Artic Blast Alphacool Build
One of the best things about liquid cooling is how every experience is different. Once you finish your hard piped build, once you have the straight lines, the coolant is flowing, and you’re seeing the performance increase and the audio decrease now that you’re fan free, it will all have been worth it.
I’ll let Eduard finish off with a bit of advice to those of you who are about to get started:
“(Custom cooling loops) take time and patience, and it helps to do a little reading on the subject beforehand. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us over Facebook or send us an email.”
Trust us, it’s worth it. We’ll be doing plenty more hard tubing builds soon, so stay tuned!