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Fitting a triple 120mm radiator inside an Antec P180: an exercise in futility? No.

post #1 of 12
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Note: Pics aren’t great. That’s ‘cause I’m just using a little point ‘n’ shoot, not worrying too much about making them ‘pretty’ and just trying to get my point across. Also, when I’m doing repetitive bits, there are gaps, as I just kind of got into ‘work’ mode and forgot I was supposed to be documenting everything!

The last time I played with overclocking AMD processors was with my trusty Opteron 170; a chip which was still going strong despite me putting it through a lot of abuse. Unfortunately the A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard that it’s in has developed a fault – it reports that a USB port is drawing too much current every time it boots. Which is annoying as there is nothing plugged in to any of them… regardless, I’ve become bored of Intel overclocking recently. Yes, despite Sandy Bridge.

So, anyway, I got the urge to play again – this resulted in the purchase of an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition and an Asus M4N98TD Evo motherboard (because I didn’t want to have to worry about driver mods to get SLI working) so I could decommission my old Foxconn Blackops based watercooled test rig and play with an AMD system again.



But I decided that I’d try something I’ve not really seen done before – watercooling an Antec P180B (an original one, with none of the cable routing improvements present in the tweaked version) and, in the process, fitting a triple 120mm radiator into it with none of the “serious†mods I’ve seen done (in fact, I’ve only seen one triple rad P180 mod… which was actually a P182, and involved a lot of changes to the basic construction of the case.





So let’s have a think about the basic layout of the P180: PSU in the bottom, one of the first cases to do this, main HDD bays in the bottom and a fan between them. The fan will probably become a victim of being a royal pain in the rear – routing SATA power and data cables, and all the PSU cables into the main ‘cavity’ of the case can be an epic headache if you want lots of HDDs.

First job was to strip down the P180B to the case. Which for a case which bangs on about how it’s “layers of metal and plastic†for sound dampening was surprisingly easy: in fact, the only bit of the case which required more than a screwdriver (bar removing rivets) was the plastic top which needed a knife, quite a bit of high-concentration ionic surfactant to combat the glue and a worrying disregard for the state of the plastic top when it came off. Antec glued it on hard. Either that or four years of heat cycling turned it into something akin to the love-child of industrial-strength cyanoacrylate and diamond. Fortunately the plastic top came off in one (reusable) piece. Other than that, a cordless drill and a 3mm HSS bit resolved me of rivet issues extremely quickly… until the bit snapped (it was getting on for… hm… nearly 20 years old) and I needed to get a new one.





A quick digression: having now taken a P180 down to its component parts, I am both impressed with Antec’s engineering, and astounded at their blatant lying when it comes to the construction of the case. The case is, at best, a layer of metal and plastic on the side panels, and a layer of metal and one of plastic on the top. Elsewhere, single layer of metal. Back? Metal. Only metal. Front? Behind that fancy plastic front panel, it’s just metal again. Bottom? Just metal. Even the “vibration free†fan mounts aren’t as good as a decent bit of rubber gasket at cutting down vibrations. The HDD mounts, however… do what they say on the tin, so to speak. They work. The rest? Well, it cuts down vibrations, even if it isn’t quite what they say it is.



Initially, I had hoped to get away without having to de-rivet the whole case. This turned out to be a vain hope, and one I’m actually quite glad about as it made mounting the radiator and fans quite a bit easier. It also allowed me to paint the case black. Although, sadly, the case door wasn’t red when I started.



Regardless, I use a 120mm hole saw to cut two holes in the roof of the case (if you look carefully, you’ll see where the thin bit is badly twisted in the process of doing this). I was hoping to be able to leave the stock grill in place over the third fan, and therefore the rear plastic mesh shroud that fits on the top of the stock P180. So, I mounted the 48mm thick radiator and 25mm thick fans in the roof.



Can you think what the problem is going to be?

Yep, clearance, right enough. I’d measured up to make sure I could fit the compression fittings over the rear I/O panel on the motherboard (they would fit) I’d measured up to make sure that the CPU waterblock wasn’t going to get obstructed (it wouldn’t) and I’d measured up to check that the RAM would fit.

If it had been “normal†RAM, it might have done. By about a millimetre. But the OCZ ReaperX stuff I was using isn’t just tall… it is huge. And it wouldn’t fit.

I wasn’t going to go out and buy more RAM when I had perfectly usable stuff already. So I had to come up with an alternative way of mounting the radiator.

Now, remember, I already discounted mounting it in the bottom of the case as that would require far too much modding for what I wanted to be a relatively simple project. So the solution was either, a) use a different case (not really an option, I have a couple of others lying around but none that I wanted to carve up), b) mount the radiator on the back, with a radbox-style mount, c) mount the fans in the roof and the rad externally, or d) mount the rad internally and the fans externally on the roof.

I went with option D.

This also allowed me to create a shroud-like effect for the radiator, by putting a seal around the inside and outside of the roof, it spaced the fans that bit further off the radiator for maximum airflow with minimum dead spots due to the fan motor. But it meant that the stock grill for the roof fan had to go. Out came the dremel with cutting disc and then out came the files and the wet ‘n’ dry to get the edges neat again.





The radiator I chose (more through penny pinching and dumb luck rather than judgement) was the EK Coolstream XT360. At 48mm thick it’s quite a bit thicker than the RS series radiators by XSPC which I’ve used in the past but nowhere near as thick as the RX series by XSPC that I originally intended to buy. I am now glad I didn’t as that would have been far too thick.





It did however leave me with a slight problem… that radiator comes with very fine thread screws, 12 each of 30mm and 35mm. Since I was going to mount the fans externally, I decided to use 38mm thick fans. If I’d gone with 25mm ones, I wouldn’t have a problem, but I didn’t want to go screwing them straight through the radiator, so I needed spacers. Now, old rawlplug used to be available in 12†lengths that you could cut to the size you wanted… this would have been perfect! However, while I know I have some somewhere, I could not for the life of me find it, and it is not sold any more (the “single use†wallplugs have replaced it) so I needed to butcher a few of them to provide me with the spacers I required…







End result: three hacked up wallplugs gives me enough spacer to fit the fans without taking the screw into the radiator and breaking it. Plus, oddly, I kinda liked the yellow-on-black effect. That might end up being a future mod…

Then with the case all sprayed neatly matte black, I reassembled it.



Motherboard fits perfectly in there with the radiator and compression fittings.



Aaaaand… a small waterloop. It’s small, but works rather well. The pump/res combo hasn’t got an awful lot of pushing to do, so it doesn’t need to be overpowered. Plus, I had it lying around.



When I quote temperature figures on the 1090T, I will give what CoreTemp tells me it is. Now, I know that CoreTemp (and, in fact, every other temp monitoring program) reads the temps of the hexacore CPUs wrong. My reasoning is this: I saw what temps were with the stock HSF, and know the maximum they reached there, so as long as the temps are well below that on the waterloop, it is working.

Thus, here are some figures:
Ambient temperature: 20ºC
Stock fan (idle): 20ºC (now can you see why I don’t believe the 1090T temp diode?)
Stock fan (load, Prime95 SmallFFT): 45ºC
Stock fan (load, LinX): 48ºC before I stopped it as I wasn’t happy with how hot it was getting
Triple-rad, small pump Delta v3 loop (idle): 10ºC (more reason not to believe the temp diode)
Triple-rad, small pump Delta v3 loop (load, LinX): 19-20ºC

Now, personally, I don’t think a 10ºC delta between idle and load temp isn’t bad! In fact, I’m pretty happy with that.

But let’s take it a little further, shall we?

I reconfigured the fans on the P180 so the upper front fan (where the fifth and sixth HDD caddy goes if you use it) was an intake as normal, and so that the fan above the I/O backplate on the motherboard was an intake, as otherwise there was one intake fan and four exhaust fans. Not a good ratio for trying to keep dust to a minimum. I carefully stuck some netting over the rear intake so it filters as much dust as possible.

But this setup means that those three roof fans (being 38mm thick Sunons) draw a rather impressive amount of air when they’re going full-bore – and they’re not even “too†loud while they’re doing it! However, it means that they draw any hot air off the graphics cards as they’re GTX460s that don’t do the whole “external exhaust†thing that is so popular on modern high-powered graphics cards. So the front 120mm blows cool air from outside on the GTX460s, keeping them cooler, while the upper fans draw air upwards as well. This results in the GPUs idling and loading a little cooler, which is good… but means that when the GPUs are running at maximum load (say, when Folding@Home) the CPU temps increase slightly. When I say “slightly†I means “slightlyâ€. It is not a major issue; idle temps went up 3ºC to 13ºC, and load temps went up 2ºC to 22ºC. This might also have something to do with the fact that the res/pump is sitting right by both graphics cards. Still, it’s a far cry from the stock cooler… and while there is “more†noise with this setup, it’s more of a “whoosh†of air, rather than an annoying buzzing whine of the stock HSF which drives me up the wall.



As the Sunon fans stall at approximately 6v on the fan controller, I can actually run this system with no direct airflow forced through the radiator without seeing temps increase too far… although I wouldn’t try loading the system for any length of time without the roof fans running.

The highest I saw this system run was at 27ºC on the CPU with the Sunon fans at minimum-to-not-stall, and both GTX460s and CPU full loaded with GPU folding and CPU folding. But with fans at maximum, the same scenario gave 24ºC. And with no GPU load, regardless of Prime95 Small FFT or LinX loading… the CPU won’t break 20ºC.

With it overclocked is another story. 4GHz needs 1.475v to get it stable on this motherboard for more than 10 minutes, and then idle temps are around 14ºC and load temps around 24ºC. Still not too bad. This is with TurboCore, Cool ‘n’ Quiet, C1E etc disabled. I don’t see the need to run it overclocked right now, though.

Overall, I’m very pleased – this has been pretty fun to do, and proved that I can fit a triple radiator into a P180! It’s a shame I couldn’t quite get the fans to fit though. Also, it’s not quite finished – I need to find the time to cut the plastic top of the P180 roof neatly so that it fits around the fans and clips back into place where it belongs. However, the radiator, shroud padding and fans all seem to have increased the rigidity of the roof minimising vibrations, so I might not bother. I rather like how it looks at the minute, although fitting some fan grills over the 120mm Sunons might not be a bad idea…

...

Since I originally wrote this up (then got too busy to post it) I've replaced the GTX460s with GTX470s, and the 620w PSU with an 850w to try to cut down that rats nest of cables around the graphics cards. This has made temps when the GPUs are at full-bore go up a little, but they're still vastly below (>15*C) what I was getting on the stock CPU cooler.



Just thought someone might want to see that a triple rad in a P180 is doable, although the fans being external is a bit non-ideal.


Not sure why this last pic is so dusty.
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post #2 of 12
This brought a few memories to mind.

Not a bad project, handling those radiators can get annoying.
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post #3 of 12
Why not use a t-line instead?
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post #4 of 12
How loud is it?
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post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun View Post
This brought a few memories to mind.

Not a bad project, handling those radiators can get annoying.
I just wanted to prove that a triple rad could fit. It was fun, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcshoejake View Post
Why not use a t-line instead?
Because I had the pump/res combo already? And the loop is pretty neat as it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASSEMbler View Post
How loud is it?
With the fans full-bore, it's pretty loud, although it's not intrusive when gaming. If I turn the fans down to below their stall voltage and have just the GPUs and the two Thermalright 120mm's powered (and therefore minimal airflow through the radiator) it's whisper quiet when idling (Word/Websurfing). Just above stall voltage it's quiet but evidently 'there' when there isn't some sort of noise coming from speakers. It's also quieter than my Surround rig, but that is in a noisy case (Corsair 700D).

Honestly, the most noticeable thing is that it's under my desk, and blows so much air about that it makes my legs freeze from the draft unless gaming, where the air coming out is sort of lukewarm.
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post #6 of 12
why didnt u use distilled water :\\
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Proper distilled isn't as easy to get in the UK as it is in the States and I had a bottle of coolant so went with it.
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post #8 of 12
Get a new motherboard? I hate the colour!!
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post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Couldn't care less what the mobo looks like myself - I can't see it inside the case; I was just after a board that would cope with a 1090T and SLI without any software tweaks/hacks.
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post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter View Post
I just wanted to prove that a triple rad could fit. It was fun, too.
I had no doubts, I have done something similar. (See the link in my signature.)

I know your pain with RAM clearance. Funny that we would have almost exactly the same problems. Good effort.
New Belle
(10 items)
 
ImPA120.3
(13 items)
 
Old Rig
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
4770k Asus Maximus VI Impact 780 Ti Crucial 16GB Low Profile 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
Samsung Evo 1TB Seagate 2x2TB Raid 1 Samsung 1TB 2.5" Custom 360 Rad 
OSPower
Windows 8 Pro evga supernova 1300 G2 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
X3350 Maximus Formula HD 4850 8GB G.Skill 1000 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
640GB WD Black Samsung SATA 7 64 Ultimate 20" Acer WS 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Filco 104 Cherry Brown Corsair 520HX Three Hundred MX310 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
AMD Athlon XP 2800+ Asus A7V8X-LA X850Pro 1GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
120GB Caviar XP Home 32 20" 1680x1050 Acer Compaq 
PowerCaseMouse
Modded HIPRO 250w Modded Compaq Microsoft Optical 
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New Belle
(10 items)
 
ImPA120.3
(13 items)
 
Old Rig
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
4770k Asus Maximus VI Impact 780 Ti Crucial 16GB Low Profile 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
Samsung Evo 1TB Seagate 2x2TB Raid 1 Samsung 1TB 2.5" Custom 360 Rad 
OSPower
Windows 8 Pro evga supernova 1300 G2 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
X3350 Maximus Formula HD 4850 8GB G.Skill 1000 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
640GB WD Black Samsung SATA 7 64 Ultimate 20" Acer WS 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Filco 104 Cherry Brown Corsair 520HX Three Hundred MX310 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
AMD Athlon XP 2800+ Asus A7V8X-LA X850Pro 1GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
120GB Caviar XP Home 32 20" 1680x1050 Acer Compaq 
PowerCaseMouse
Modded HIPRO 250w Modded Compaq Microsoft Optical 
  hide details  
Reply
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Overclock.net › Forums › Case Mods & Cases › Builds & Case Mods › Case Mods › Case Mod Work Logs › Fitting a triple 120mm radiator inside an Antec P180: an exercise in futility? No.