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Ron Davies | May 27, 2020

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Custom water cooling with Aqua Tuning

I wanted to do a piece on putting together a customized water loop cooling system, and Aqua Tuning gave me some parts to use in my build. I’d like to share my own thoughts and my own honest opinion on why I chose high-quality Aqua Tuning components for this particular build, and also give you some important things to consider when looking at cooling for your own build.

Building your own PC is pretty simple. With all the different guides, and with a little homework on clearances, you can create your own computer with many options for components. You can put your own customization/flare into your computer, and add potentially better cooling, by constructing your own custom water loop in your PC rather than using an all-in-one cooling solution. 

There are advantages to building a custom loop. Not only do you get to customize how the tubes are routed in your case, but also what is being cooled by the water solution. You can add CPUs, GPUs, RAM, motherboards, SSDs and even power supplies to your loop if a water-block exists for your components. There are several water-cooling part companies that provide water-blocks, radiators, water pumps, reservoirs and fittings.

The negatives of doing a custom loop in your computer case are the potential for leaks and the cost. Obtaining everything for your custom loop in your build can cost several hundreds of dollars. But you get a work of art and better cooling for your hottest components.

Today, we will go over the parts provided by Aqua Tuning for my custom water loop. I will also explain my reasoning for choosing a specific brand or part over others on the market. 

CPU block

The first custom water loop part will we discuss is the CPU block. There are several brands and designs for the CPU block; they’re made for both AMD and Intel sockets. When choosing a specific brand, make sure they have the correct socket for your motherboard. Regardless of brand, they will all have an inlet port and an outlet port. 

Some designs may incorporate an illuminated logo or RGB LEDs. They all have one thing in common: an aluminum or more standard copper base plate that has micro fins and jet plates to transfer heat into the water solution as it flows through the block. 

I specifically chose the Alphacool copper water block in black because it matched the orange and black theme of my build, but also because Alphacool produces a very high-quality product. The Alphacool water block also comes with mounting available for both AM4 and Intel 115X sockets.

GPU block

I chose the Aquacomputer Vega water block for the GPU. There are several water blocks on the market for the AMD Vega such as EKWB, Alphacool, and Heatkiller. Each design has different paths for the water to travel through the cold plate. Some designs also allow for VRM cooling, while others may not. I specifically chose the Aquacomputer Vega water block because it is a unique water block that is not nickel plated, and keeps the natural copper color throughout the water block.

Aquacomputer’s water block also incorporates VRM cooling into their cold plate and covers the rest of the power delivery components of the GPU with a black shroud. I felt that this GPU block fit well with the theme of my build. It also comes with a red LED that you can plug in when installing the water block.  

Radiators

When choosing radiators, there are many manufacturers to consider. They use a variety of materials in the production of their products; they are mostly copper/brass but you can get aluminum ones. Make sure you aren’t mixing metals. Doing so will cause a chemical reaction known as “galvanic corrosion.” If your water blocks are copper (nickel plated or not), you will need to get copper/brass radiators to avoid corrosion in your loop. There are some aluminum radiators available but they are generally sold in custom aluminum kits on the less expensive side of custom water cooling.

Radiators can be painted to add to your build aesthetic; you can get pre-painted ones from Primochill. They come in several sizes and thickness, so make sure you measure your case for clearance before ordering your parts. It’s also important to remember that you will want to put fans on the front or back side of the radiators, so take that into consideration when thinking about the thickness of radiators. 

The radiators I chose for this build were the Alphacool XXXX 360mm and 240mm radiators. These radiators use a little more copper and thus are a little heavier. These Alphacool radiators come painted in their standard black to go along with the theme of my build.

Reservoir

The next part is the reservoir. Aqua Tuning does not sponsor this part; I am using the one from my previous water loop. It is a Primochill D5 pump compatible 80mm unit. This reservoir is unique; seals and suction hold it together, and there are no grooves on the tube. 

The Primochill can use the D5 pump top and reservoir top with grooves and seals, which allows them to use a glass tube for rigidity. There are several reservoirs on the market. Choose the one that is aesthetically pleasing to you and fits your build and budget.  

Connecting to the reservoir is the water pump. The water pump I am using is a D5 Laing variant by Alphacool. Laing manufactures the V655 pump. They are a company that is known for quality and reliability. 

Fittings

Now, let’s talk about fittings. The correct fittings you get for your build will depend on what size diameter tubing you want to use, and if the tubing will be soft tubing or a variation of hard tubing. Since I am using hard tubing for my build, I went with Alphacool’s XXX fittings. They are great quality fittings, and they come in black to match the aesthetic of my build. There are also quality fittings by Primochill, Bitspower, and (on the cheaper end) Barrow. When selecting fittings, remember to get the correct amount, depending on how many components, water blocks, and radiators will be in your loop. Get the fitting that is the right size to support your tube diameter.

Tubing

Next, we will discuss tubing. You can choose between soft rubber tubing or hard tubing for your build. For hard tubing there is copper, acrylic, PETG and glass. Each material has its pros and cons. The tubes come in different diameters and colors; be sure to select one that fits your build and get the correct matching fittings. Whenever possible, I prefer to get fittings and tubing from the same manufacturer for compatibility. For my build, I went with 12mm diameter PETG tubing by Alphacool as it tends to be easier to bend and still maintain its shape.

Coolant

Finally, we will discuss the coolant you can use in your build. Most people opt to use standard distilled water. Others use a concentrate that you mix with distilled water. There are also coolants that come premixed. They are very similar in the sense that they use a percentage of distilled water, optional coloring, and normally a biocide to prevent bacterial growth. For my build showcase, I opted to use Mayhems’ Pastel Orange, and for longevity in my custom loop I chose Aquacomputer’s premixed Orange coolant. Premixed solutions tend to be more expensive than dyes or concentrates. (Note: Please check Mayhems’ product page carefully – their Pastel coolants contain zinc oxide, and are not supported for applications involving aluminum radiators. Hardware Meta assumes no liability for loss or damage due to improper application or disposal. ~ Ed.)

Thank you for following along with my thoughts about some different water-cooling parts to consider and my reasoning for picking specific components. I do not intend for this to be a complete guide to choosing water-cooling parts. Rather, these are just some things to take into consideration when choosing the parts for your build. 

If you have any specific questions about water cooling, please comment below. Many thanks to Aqua Tuning for providing most of the parts discussed above for my AMD custom water loop.

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