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[Build Log] Squeezing a mATX 4K SLI Gaming Build into a Slim BitFenix Pandora case

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
My goal here is to build a quiet gaming PC in a small enough case to fit on a 10" x 18" (that's 255mm x 410mm) ledge on my desk but with enough graphics oomph to drive a 4k monitor playing FPS games like Farcry 4 and Battlefield 4 at high settings. As I've done my research, I see that this is a pretty tough challenge, and will require me to watercool. I'd also like to have a nice large acrylic window where I can see my handiwork. I work at Intel (disclaimer: nothing here reflects opinions of my employer blah blah blah) and have built a number of PCs over the years, but this is my first attempt at watercooling.

Tried a Phantek Ethnoo Evolv case, but the footprint was just too large for what I had in mind. Didn't help that my wife took one look at it and said "that's going under the desk, right?" cryingsmiley.gif

So...moved on to a more svelte case, the Bitfenix Pandora. It has a nice sleek look and looks fantastic on my desk, but with a 6" width its a challenge to fit all the components I'll need, particularly the GPUs...found that most non-reference GTX970s are way too tall for this case (as did PCDSarge in his build). Also I've found this case really doesn't have enough room for the radiators I'll need to cool 2xGTX970s plus an Intel i7-4790 CPU. Finally, I've let my artistic side get the best of me, and I'd like to use both hardlines and an Aquacomputer Aquatube reservoir in the build somehow. So lots of challenges, hope you guys enjoy watching me solve them and perhaps throw some help my way.

Bitfenix Pandora


Aquacomputer Aquatube


Parts List:

CPU: Intel i7 4790K
GPU: 2 x Gigabyte G1 GTX970
RAM: 2x8GB Corsair Dominator DDR3-2133
SSD: 512GB Plextor M6e PCIe M.2
MB: ASUS Maximus VII Gene
PSU: Seasonic Platinum SS-860XP2

Cooling:
Alphacool NexXxoS ST30 120mm Radiator (hoping to cram this up top somewhere)
Swiftech MCR220-XP eXtreme Performance Dual 120mm Slim Radiator
EK Supremacy EVO CPU Block
2xEK Gigabyte GeForce 970 GTX WF3 VGA Liquid Cooling Block with backplates
Aquacomputer D5 Pump with EK X-Top - Acrylic CSQ Pump Top
Aquacomputer Aquatube reservoir
Aquacomputer Aquaero LT (this SHOULD mount up front under the rad with a little modding)
Monsoon 3/8"-1/2" hardline tubing and assorted hardline fittings
3xScythe Gentle Typhoon D1225C12 fans (for radiators)
Corsair AF120 Performance Edition fan (for case exhaust)

Just starting this build over the long weekend. Will post more pics of my progress tomorrow, where I'll
a) be modding the case to accept the radiators and Aquaero board, and
b) be holding my breath that I can get the Gigabyte GPUs with waterblocks into the case and actually be able to close the side panel.

Wish me luck, wackosmiley.gif
Towmoddifer
post #2 of 7
Subbed, my wife hated when I got my NZXT, wished it were smaller
SKYnet
(17 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsGraphics
Intel I7 4930K @ 4.6ghz ASUS Rampage IV Extreme EVGA GTX 970 EVGA GTX 970 
RAMHard DriveHard DriveOptical Drive
G. Skill Ripjaws X 4x4gb 1.5tb WD Caviar Green SATA Samsung 840 EVO 250gb SSD HP USB DVD 
CoolingCoolingOSMonitor
Antec Kuhler 650 ThermalRight True Spirit 140 Power Windows 10 Ultimate 64 bit Samsung 240 HD TOC 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Razor Lycosa PC Power and Cooling Silencer 910 NZXT Switch 810 Matte Black It clicks.............. 
Mouse Pad
IKEA $1 pad 
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Reply
SKYnet
(17 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsGraphics
Intel I7 4930K @ 4.6ghz ASUS Rampage IV Extreme EVGA GTX 970 EVGA GTX 970 
RAMHard DriveHard DriveOptical Drive
G. Skill Ripjaws X 4x4gb 1.5tb WD Caviar Green SATA Samsung 840 EVO 250gb SSD HP USB DVD 
CoolingCoolingOSMonitor
Antec Kuhler 650 ThermalRight True Spirit 140 Power Windows 10 Ultimate 64 bit Samsung 240 HD TOC 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Razor Lycosa PC Power and Cooling Silencer 910 NZXT Switch 810 Matte Black It clicks.............. 
Mouse Pad
IKEA $1 pad 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Been productive this past week, so I thought I'd update everyone on progress.

First priority was to find a home for my second radiator
Frustrating thing about this case is that while as a mATX (as opposed to mITX) case it is capable of a dual GPU configuration, it has the space for a dual radiator in front, but only a 120mm fan and a HDD (WTH!!) on top. Honestly, a 5 1/2in HDD? They have the courage to exclude an optical drive bay in order to give us this fancy slim form factor, but then still keep a HDD bay? I think anyone who buys this case would go all SSD or even PCIe storage. So...to rectify this imbalance in the natural order of things, I pulled out my trusty Dremel.


Top of Case Pre-Mod


Squint hard enough and you can see two metal tabs on the right hand side that are meant to anchor a full-sized HDD. Also you can see some padded circles stuck on the rails which are meant for noise dampening. Removed the dots with my fingernail, and the two vertical tabs with a Dremel cutoff rotary tool.

Top of Case Post-Mod


The ONLY place I could cram the AlphaCool ST30 120mm radiator was shoved into this spot all the way in the front corner of the case. Otherwise there was not enough room for the bottom of the radiator to clear the DRAM slots on the mobo. (Even now I may have blocked the 4th slot for any RAM with a heatsink, fortunately Im only using 2x8GB). Another compromise was that the 120mm fan would not perfectly align to the radiator, in fact there is about a half-inch offset. Had to drill a separate set of holes to attach the fan, as well as trim off about 1/8" of the fan so the top case bezel would snap back on...but at least it all fits!

With the Top Fan


Once I had the top fan in place, was pretty simple to put the 240mm radiator on the front. System specs claim than there is 40mm of clearance between the internal cable housing/SSD mounting bracket and the front of the case. Im glad that the Swiftech radiator I bought was 37mm thick, as even then it was a tight fit.

Once I had the front radiator in, I saw that the ONLY space a had left to fit the Aquaero LT fan controller board was in the space below the front radiator.

Mounting for the Aquaero 5 LT Fan Controller


Second Priority was Confirming that GPUs were Not Too High for the 6" Case Width

After removing the stock heat sink from the Gigabyte G1 GTX970...


I attached the waterblock and backplate and did a test fit in the case. The acrylic block you see sitting on top is the bridge that carries coolant between the two GPUs. As you can see, only about 2-3mm to spare between the top of the waterblock and the case window. Cant stress enough that you can only use GPUs with a height no taller than the reference design (like the Gigabyte G1).




Third Priority for last week was installing the cooling reservoir
So likeI said previously, its great that Bitfenix put a nice, big acrylic window on the side of the Pandora, but I was a little puzzled why they extended the window down so you can show off your...SSD.



I dont find SSDs really that visually stimulating, so I asked what else coudl you feature in this window cutout. That's when I came across the Aqua Computer Aquatube reservoir. Thought about cutting a porthole in the side of the bracket like here...



But I realized:
a) that I wouldnt have any space underneath or behind to put the D5 pump I bought and
b) you wouldnt be able to see very much of its machined-aluminum hotness.

So...I decided to try to mount it on TOP of the bracket, with the bottom half of the reservoir recessed inside . After multiple assaults on the mounting bracket from my Dremel AND a metal cutting bandsaw, here are my results...




Im hoping that with some touchups and a little creative lighting I can hide the imperfections in th e metalwork, but now I've introduced another problem....

Where do I Put the Stupid Pump?
Even though mounting the reservoir on TOP of the bracket DID open up a small bit of space between the reservoir and power supply, it wasnt nearly enough. Here is my D5 pump crammed int that space, and as you can see
a) the pump top barely fits underneath the bracket
b) the connectors are crammed up against the PSU to the point Im not sure I can run all the sensor wires on the back to the Aquaero LT.
c) Im less bothered by blocking the PSU connectors, as the ones in front of the pump I wouldn't be using anyway





I hate to lose the ability to control the pump with the Aquaero, but I think I need to move to a DDC-style pump instead. Just ordered a possible replacement, will post another installment of my log this weekend after I get a chance to install it. Once that happens, I can install the GPUs and start running the hardlines.

Hope you enjoyed this installment. Would have been much easier to do this build in a slightly bigger case but Im hopeful that the results will meet my wfe's high aesthetic standards winksmiley02.gif
Edited by TowModdifier - 2/23/15 at 4:57pm
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Been pretty consumed by work, and have been waiting for my new, smaller DDC pump to arrive so made little progress until this past weekend. Thought I'd post a quick update

Installed all the components inclusing PCIe SSD (hidden between the GPUs, both GPUs with acrylic connector, and wired all the temp sensors for the Aquaero. Bought quite a few solid connectors from Bitspower which I used to solidly (I hope) connect the bottom of the Aquatube resevoir to the DDC pump, which is tucked away in the cable storage area at the bottom of the case. Looks pretty clean, I think. Finally installed all the lighting and tested that. Pics below. Would love to hear how you guys think the build is shaping up.





Front GPU connector block will be lit up with white LEDs exactly like CPU block. Also have LED to light up interior of reservoir, will shine through portal on front. Hope I can use Aquaero to modulate intensity of this light based on GPU utilization.

Going to Vegas this weekend to watch NCAA tournament, but will be diving into the hardline plumbing when I get back
Edited by TowModdifier - 3/17/15 at 10:59am
post #5 of 7
Hey man, looks great! Got any photos with the piping done? How are temps?

I have fitted a 360 rad to the front panel. Just waiting for the res to arrive before dremeling that into position.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Really a 360 rad? Sounds like a tight squeeze.

Did a leak test and had a few problems. Worst one was the EK connector between the two video cards. Kept leaking and I kept tightening...until I stripped the threads in the acrylic of the GPU coolers. Replacing them both set me back *another* $300. Ouch. Moral of the story is that if the bridge is leaking, FIRST check to see if the O rings are seated properly. Don't try to fix with brute force.

Now that I have THAT fixed, I still have leakage on the tube leading from the GPU to CPU. It has a couple of tight turns, and thus the tube doesn't quite enter the cpu block at a perfect 90 degree angle. Think the tension from all the bends pulls up one side of the tube just enough to make it leak when I put pressure through the system. Will post video when I figure out how to transfer from phone. Will try to rebend that tube this weekend, but if I can't get it to line up given the tight turns I might use a PVC tube for this connection.
Edited by TowModdifier - 5/28/15 at 8:47am
post #7 of 7
That top rad, if you had a 25mm thick rad do you think it would clear the edge of the mobo? I have 2 ek slipstream se 240s and think that MAYBE the 1.2cm difference in thickness would be enough to jam one in the top with minor modification like you've done! This is the only thing stopping me from pulling the trigger on this case.
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