From Chaos, the Primordial Void, came Darkness and Shadow – Erebus was born.
1. Introduction and project overview
2. Used components
3. System Design philosophy
4. Case modifications
5. Cooling Setup
8. Special Thanks
1. Introduction and project overview
Hi there! I’m proud to announce project “Erebus”: a Coffee Lake based, water cooled gaming rig built in a CaseLabs SMA8.
This project has been in the works for a while due to part availability (the board and memory are hard to come by). As of the time of writing, I have most of my components and the build is in progress. If everything goes according the schedule, the project should be finished somewhere between the first half and the end of February.
The focus of this build is a sleek, clean design in a black-white-chrome theme, combined with a whisper quiet cooling system.
2. Current list of components:
- To order
Processor: Delidded Intel Core i7 8700K @ 5GHZ (binned chip)
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus X Formula
Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) Dominator Platinum DDR4 3733MHz (Samsung B-die)
Graphics card: eVGA GTX 1080 Ti 11GB GDDR5X Founders Edition
SSD: Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB
Audio: Schiit Modi with Denon PMA560 & a pair of B&W DM-620
PSU: Corsair AX860
NIC card: Undecided - Probably 10Gbase SFP+
OS: Genuine Windows 7 Pro (modified to boot from NVMe and work with Coffee Lake)
Case and customization:
Case: CaseLabs SMA8 Reverse-ATX Black
Lighting: Custom built sLight
Sleeved PSU Cables: Full MDPC-x
Sleeved fan cables: Full MDPC-x custom length fan splitters
Custom switches: Vandal White 19mm (power) and white 16mm (reset)
Management & control: Aqua-Computer Aquaero 6 Pro
Sensors: Aquaero inline temperature sensor
CPU Block: EK-Supremacy EVO - Full Nickel
GPU Block: EK FC1080 GTX Ti Acetal-Nickel
GPU Black plate: EK-FC1080 GTX Ti Backplate – Nickel
Radiator 1: Black Ice Nemesis GTX 560
Radiator 2: Black Ice Nemesis GTX 280
Pump: EK-XTOP Revo D5 PWM sleeved
Reservoir: EK-Res X3 250
Fans: 9x NoiseBlocker eLoop B14-PS (PWM) Black Special Edition
Fittings upper: Bitspower multi-link C47 fittings instead.
Fittings lower: EK AFC 13/10
Fittings: lots of EK adapters
Tubing upper: Bitspower 12mm black crystal tubes
Tubing lower: 13/10 EK ZMT
Thermal paste: Gelid GC-Pro
Coolant: TBD (most likely clear, I haven't had the best experience with dyes)
3. Design Philosophy
Theme & Color
I’ve build my share of flashy, shiny, RGB-filled systems, but I guess I’ve grown tired of trying to create seizures for everyone that walks into the room. So, this time, I went with something completely different: a simple, yet elegant mix of black, white and – yes, shiny – chrome. I must give credit to Charles Harwood & co for inspiring me with his style with his Murderbox Mk.II and MBX-forma.
I also took a liking into reverse-ATX. In my opinion, it looks better than “normal” ATX when properly implemented, although the biggest reason for me to go with reverse-ATX was simply because I’m putting the case left of my display – and looking at a flat black side panel with a system like this seemed foolish to me.
After figuring out when I wanted in terms of style, I faced the hardest task: finding a suitable name for my latest creation. After lots of doubting I finally decided on Erebus, after the Greek primordial deity of darkness.
Considering how difficult and costly it is to design and implement a passive phase change system such as Calyos uses – not to mention how hard it is to make it look good, I went with a custom water cooling loop. The design of my loop relies on a very high radiator surface, paired with low rpm fans to keep temperatures low without making the system noticeable under full load. More on this later.
My hardware choices mostly speak for themselves. While I would rather have had a Z370 version of the GigaByte GA-Z270X-Gaming9, I was informed by GigaByte they wouldn’t be releasing such a board. And even though there have been promising signs about getting Coffee Lake working on Z270, I figured I might as well go with the Maximus.
For storage, I will mainly rely on a single Samsung 960 EVO NVMe SSD and on my high-performance FreeNAS build. This is also the reason I plan to pop-in a 10Gbe network card to set up a dedicated 10Gbe line between Erebus and my NAS. Although performance on this storage isn’t that important, it will lift the sequential bottleneck while also allowing for better random read/writes without congesting my Gigabit network connection.
The reason I went with the AX860 is because I had it lying around from a previous build, that got repurposed as a FreeNAS box. It’s in a perfect condition and because it’s smaller size (yes, it’s the shortest high quality 850W-ballpark ATX PSU AFAIK), it allows me to squeeze in the 280 without having to get extreme creative with pump mounting.
For sleeving, I rely on a contact that does this very well. I’ve sleeved my AX860 before for another build and while it looked good, it wasn’t perfect. He has a lot more experience with sleeving, so I happily entrust him with this task!
4. Case modifications
While the CaseLabs SMA8 is probably one of the most water cooling friendly cases out there, I still had to make some modifications. The 2 most important ones probably drilling holes in the mid-plate for my pass-through fittings and the modified radiator mount.
My radiator fans are set only in push because the eLoops don’t play well in pull. This meant I have about 3cm of room on the left side of the case that I wouldn’t be utilizing. On top of that, the way CaseLabs designed the radiator mounts, they are really hard to install and remove when the lower compartment is crowded. They did fix this is their new revision (SMA8-A) though!
The local solution was to modify the radiator mount to waste less space on the inside and to attach it externally. The result is more wiggle room inside, easier building, easier maintenance.
Initially, I also ordered the wrong flex-bay mount (4.120) – and later ordered the correct one (3.140). My initial reaction was: “Ah #([email protected]
” – but I later realized this could actually be used to make the design just that little cleaner: use the 12-bay 4.120 grill with the 11-bay 3.140 – giving me one big grill instead of a big one and one smaller one. And before you think “Hey, that’s clever”: CaseLabs also sort of fixed that in their new revision.
The standard CaseLabs switches have non-white colors. That’s pretty much the only reason why I swapped them out.
And finally: I’m using an “sLight” uniform light plate as lighting. I went with this over just LEDs because it gives less disruptive light pattern and because it plays well with the reverse-ATX design where the GPU is positioned above the CPU. Under the case I use generic RGB LEDs. Both the sLight and RGB LEDs are hooked the motherboards RGB controller. Due to the combination of the sLight and reverse-ATX, I won’t be able to access the cable routing hole for the CPU. I’ll either make a hole in the sLight, or cut myself a new hole just under the removable motherboard tray.
5. Cooling Setup
Yes, we’ve gotten to the interesting stuff! For my cooling setup, I went no-compromise all the way. 2 high-end Nemesis GTX radiators, EK Dual D5 PWM pump, NoiseBlocker eLoops etc. And before you start wondering why I didn’t go with Bitspower: I might have – if they just offered logo-free fittings. I really don’t want the ugly green logos on my monochrome build. Edit: they do seem to have a variant of hard tubing fittings without the logos!
Both the radiators will have a push-setup with 140mm eLoops, hooked up to a single PWM channel on the Aquaero. I might change this later to 2 different PWM channels and just run the 280mm radiator at on the lowest setting when the system is idle if it leads to lower noise output – but I doubt it will be any quieter than also running the fans on the 560mm radiator.
In the front, I’ll also have 3 140mm eLoops on a separate channel to provide a minimal directional airflow through the case. Even though the system is water cooled, some heat will still be released in the case. And unless the air is continuously refreshed, this will build up over time. I might also add another 120mm eLoop at the back later.
The pumps will run on their own separate channel and likely be running on their lowest speed.
For tubing, I went with 12mm (OD chrome-plated copper
) -> switched to Bitspower Black 12mm crystal tubes (due to quality and bending problems) in the top compartment and 13/10mm EK ZMT in the lower compartment. Getting everything bent (or fitted) correctly in the lower compartment with metal tubing would have been a total nightmare – and even if done perfectly, it wouldn’t be visible anyway. ZMT also avoids all the possible problems with tubing such as plasticizer, while offering great flexibility.
Because of the ZMT tubing, I’m also able to easily remove the radiator mount of the 280mm radiator for maintenance/modifications.
And of course, I’m also adding a fill and a drain port with a valve.
6. To Do
Squeeze every bit of performance out of it
Choose and install 10GBit Ethernet solution
None so far!
8. Special Thanks
, for making and sleeving my cables at a very reasonable price. And if you're reading this: expect more orders in the future :thumb:
, for allowing me to showcase my build on their LAN-party this Saturday
, for allowing me to lend his tools
- 22 December 2017: CPU arrived
- 3 January 2018: Good and bad news
- 8 January 2018: More good and bad news
- 19 January 2018: RMA, cable sleeving and the 10GBASE-T network
- 13 February 2018: Mistakes in ordering and loop design
- 15 February 2018: Drilling, assembly
- 4 april 2018: finally some progress!
- 8 april 2018: coolant and pump problems & a teaser