I give this build the name Wisdom for brevity's sake alone. In actuality, I've taken to referring to this process - make no mistake, this wasn't a build, it was a journey - An Adventure in Voiding Warranties and Ignoring Manufacturer Specifications. I think you'll agree that simply Wisdom is less of a mouthful.
So join me for the adventure, because it's a long one!
As this build is one in a series, the bulk of the actual PC components in this build were carried over from the 2017 edition of Wisdom. You're looking at a delidded 7700k in a Z270 board, paired with a 2x8 GB RAM kit @ 3000MHz, and a 1080 Ti. Spelled out like that, it's not too much different than what you would have seen for high end gaming machines throughout the rest of 2017.
The biggest shift between the last and current iterations of this build would be the storage. Over time, I've been shifting towards more flash storage, and outsourcing my storage needs to my FreeNAS build. With some pride, I'm happy to say that I've finally transitioned to an entirely flash-based storage setup, mostly for a lack of space. What I'm using is mostly a byproduct of what was on sale at the time, when I had the budget to go shopping. The 960 Evo is still my favorite of the group, a gift from my lovely girlfriend for my birthday in 2017, and the only NVME drive of the lot. Mass storage is handled by a student-discounted WD Blue SSD, though as of the writing of this guide, the 3D NAND version I own isn't in PCPP's inventory. The MX300 was one I snagged during the legendary sale back in Black Friday of 2016, that $100 price tag isn't an error!
The Shift X case was really what kicked this whole process off. I had been kicking around the idea of watercooling back in the Node 804, but seeing the Computex coverage of the case really made me rethink my plans. Despite my preference for mATX, I can't argue with how outstanding this case looks, or how well designed (mostly) it is.
The rest of the goodies I've stuffed in here were very carefully chosen, and I typically only had one choice when it came time to purchase. For instance, the power supply is the only one that allows the res to fit into the case, while also providing enough juice - my shopping list was very short this time around.
Or, if you prefer, the painful part.
So, let's review a couple things about the Shift X: it's designed to fit at most a dual slot GPU, and either a lone 280mm radiator in the front, or a 240mm in the front and a 120mm in the bottom. Keep this in mind, it'll be relevant in a minute.
In 2017, I got my hands on an X34. At the time, I was running a 1070, and it just wasn't enough card for that much screen. Since I was purchasing my parts in bits and pieces throughout the year, but needed to step up to a 1080 Ti sooner rather than later, it looked like the Poseidon would be a good buy. Being able to run it on air until I had the budget to spring for putting it under water really seemed like the best bet. The only real catch here is that it's a 2.5 slot card. Surely, I thought, it'll fit. Enter problem 1.
At the same time, I was stuck on the idea of fitting a 7700k, which is still HOT, with a 1080 Ti, which is also hot, under water with what was essentially only a single 360 rad. That's too much stuff running too hot for just a single slim 360, especially since overclocking was absolutely going to be in the picture. /u/Originally_Original on reddit showed me that it didn't have to be that way. Enter problem 2.
Being new to watercooling, I really wanted to keep all my parts from one vendor, and one that I felt like had a lot of good press. EK has a great reputation around the internet, and while I think they deserve most of the good press they get, my attention has been pushed to smaller, less well marketed brands, in the advent this build. But at the time, I was dead set on sticking with all EK, all the time, and as luck would have it, they had just the radiators I would need: a 30mm 120, and a brand new 30mm 280 to go with it! The dimensions were even the same as those shown off on reddit, so surely, everything would just slide right on in. Wrong.
With all my parts under one roof, I started trying to get everything together. The pump looked great, the sleeving job by the folks at Peformance-pcs was great... and then the top o-ring shredded trying to take the top off. Okay, that's frustrating, but we can work with it. I move on to getting the motherboard installed... and my extensions are too rigid to get the cable tray closed. Okay, that just pops out, I can get behind this look. I try to install the GPU, and... not even close. The frame in the Shift X really is designed for a dual slot card at most, so my 2.5 slot Poseidon isn't going to cut it. Well, I'll cut it right back - not the GPU, of course, but the frame! The hacksaw makes its first (but not last) appearance here, letting me shear off a couple of unnecessary bits of metal that you'd need only if you wanted to mount the GPU the other way around, something I can't do, given the position of the fitting ports on the card.
So, we've got the motherboard in with the CPU, RAM, and most of the storage, the GPU can finally fit, I drop the last SSD into its sled, and then throw in the power supply to start routing cables. At one point, I even did a test fit of all the panels, getting everything on the outside and really making it look like things were coming together. They were not.
At this point, the computer is basically together. All the normal stuff is in there, and the last thing left to do is cool it all down. Finally, I get to start playing with my radiators, and get into bending the tubing! The 120 slides into the bottom, the 280 right along side it, and then the fans go in... except the bottom one. The lower of the two fans on the 280 isn't even close to fitting. Upon closer inspection, it's pretty clear that the screw holes for the very bottom of the fan, at the end of the radiator, are below the height of the 120. Welp.
But wait, reddit was able to make it work, right? I checked my dimensions, it should have been fine! Turns out, after some digging, that the fan holes in the NexXxos 280 that was featured in the linked build are up near the top of the radiator, located physically higher than those on the EK 280, despite the overall length being about the same. Alright, we can deal with that, I'll get a replacement radiator. Since it had been a little while since the post went up on reddit, more folks had been talking about wanting to try the same thing. Well, I got pointed to the Nemesis GTS 280, which after a little more digging showed that it should be even short than the NexXxos. Great, we should be done, right?
Wrong. Go figure what's up with the tolerances, or measurements, or my math, but I'm still about 5 millimeters too long. However, the GTS 280 does still allow for the fan holes on the fan to be located above the EK 120 on the bottom - it's just the extra bulk on my ML 140s that are getting in the way. So, like in any other generic, off the shelf build, we move into the table saw portion of construction. Most people need to take a table saw to the parts in their build to make things work, right? Right?!
Four passes and some time with a hand file later, my brand new Corsair ML 140 Custom Edition fan is fresh out of the factory and read for installation! I swear, one of the most satisfying parts of this build was sliding the lower 120 into place under the fans and just having it work.
Now that the rads are in, the fittings can go on, including all the bits I bought to put together a T-joint and a drain valve, which, surprisingly... doesn't fit. Trying to put it where it's supposed to go, directly under the reservoir, leaves the (unexpectedly large) drain valve bumping into the universal mount that suspends the pump in the middle of the case. Note, if you're trying this in the future for yourself (it's so easy!), get the plain 140mm bracket, as the universal one didn't do jack for me that the other one wouldn't have. Once again, the hacksaw comes out, and the unnecessary metal stays on the shop floor. With yet another "minor" change made, there's space under the pump for the drain assembly, meaning it should be a cake walk to take liquid out of the system (relative, at least, to not having the valve in place). Plus, it's even pretty well hidden, meaning that when the build is on display is shouldn't be sticking out where it doesn't belong.
At this point, all that's left is the hardest part, bending the tubes. I went with a good looking XSPC PETG bending kit, that came with a cutter (very nice, super sharp), a chamfer tool (also nice), some sandpaper (okay, but nothing to write home about), a bending tool (meh), and a bending insert, the one piece I really couldn't have gotten at the hardware store. A little warm water and soap later, I'm heating the tube for the simplest bend in the loop: a single, short 90 running out of the pump and down into the 120. The bend went remarkably well, the tubing was easy to work with and it was actually pretty fun! I go to slide the insert out of the tube, and... snap! Let me tell you folks, read the reviews before you pull the trigger. The insert with this kit is both too large, and generally pretty garbage. To this day, I still am not able to get the last piece of that insert out of the tube! No amount of oil/heat/cold/blood/sweat/sacrifice/tears are able to get it out. I even took a corkscrew to it, and two grown men pulling against each other made absolutely no difference. Avoid this kit!
So the tubes are bent, the loop finally looks finished, and it's time for the last step: get wet. Well, here we encounter a brand new kind of issue: fitting the giant GPU in alongside what is an admittedly larger than necessary res. The top of the glass EK res is pretty substantial, and pushed against the card. However, since the card is locked down tightly into the case, it means that the pump was sitting at an angle on its rubber mounting. As the glass res is held together (and kept water tight) through the clamping force of the top holding the assembly together, having this lean turned out to be a massive issue. The pressure put on the o-rings in the reservoir was uneven, leading to a very slow, but very noticeable leak from the base of the res. One quick (read:weeks) exchange for an acrylic res, with a smaller top and a more water tight seal design, and we're off to the races.
So, here we are. The loop is full, it isn't leaking, and I've had the time to sit down and overclock the stuffing out of it. I'm incredibly pleased with the finished product, and am proud of having a truly unique, hand crafted build, with a killer story to go along with it. Was it a process, a nightmare, and sometimes felt like more trouble than it was worth? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Hell, I've got a spare 280 EK SE rad that I have to find something to do with...
Thanks for reading, and happy building.