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Prior to coming to Corsair, I was extremely blessed to write for AnandTech, and toward the end of my tenure there as one of the main editors I threw a Hail Mary and did a piece on building a custom liquid cooling loop. I’d never built a watercooled system before, but having cut my teeth on so many air-cooled builds before and having replaced my share of graphics card coolers, I felt like it was the right time. There was also the fact that I could. I had access to the hardware, I had the connections, so why not go for it?

That’s not the whole story, though. I had options but they had to still be fairly reasonable, and even a build where the sky is theoretically the limit still involves understanding both personal taste and what the system will be used for. I’m not just a gamer; I have my degree in Film, and I’ve made my share of mediocre short horror films. Point being: a system that could just game wasn’t going to cut it.

Since building the system, it’s also been continually modified and refined. When I started work here, I made it a point to “eat our own dog food.” That meant swapping in Corsair hardware wherever possible and getting a full end user experience that I could both feed into blog content here and communicate internally to aid in product development.

The timeframe of the build was such that I was choosing between Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E. Neither one is a major victory over the previous generation, but it was doubly difficult because the CPU I was coming from was an i7-3770K that managed to hit a very robust 4.6GHz for a 24/7 overclock. In the end I went with a Haswell i7-4770K; Intel’s QuickSync is a feature that doesn’t get enough love, but it’s incredibly useful for converting video content to be streamed online, and I got plenty of mileage out of it on the i7-3770K.

Zoë probably would've gone with Ivy Bridge-E.

Given that I use the machine for editing video, it makes sense that I would employ 32GB of extremely fast Dominator Platinum RAM. The four 8GB sticks run at DDR3-2400, CAS 10, and they’ve been immeasurably useful. A fast storage subsystem is also helpful; I’m using a 240GB Neutron GTX as my system and project drive, and a 512GB Neutron for mass storage (read: gaming). Source video for editing is stored on a home server, but I’ll probably add another SSD for individual editing projects at some point.

The motherboard is one place I had my pick of the litter, and in the end I went for the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5. Built in barbs for liquid cooling made it ideal for the build, and it’s absolutely overflowing with features: PLX multiplexing for multi-GPU, Sound Blaster Core3D audio, and even a swappable op-amp.


Graphics duty is handled by two OEM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780s in SLI that have been modified with Swiftech Komodo waterblocks, basically making them EVGA Hydro Coppers. It’s nice to watercool one video card, but a bit excessive; two is where it’s at.

The power supply is an AX1200i, connected to a Corsair Link Commander unit, and the fan basically never has to spin up. I’ve actually had this PSU since before it launched, and it’s still kicking strong.

Actual liquid cooling duties are handled by two Swiftech radiators (240mm and 360mm), a Swiftech Apogee HD waterblock on the CPU, and a Swiftech MCP35X pump and reservoir combo that hides in the cable nightmare that is the rear chamber of the Carbide Air 540 I’m using to house the entire build. There are eight SP120 Quiet Edition PWM fans keeping the radiators cool; six in push-pull on the 360mm and two on the 240mm, and both radiators are configured as intakes.

My inability to cable is the stuff of legend.

Finally I added a Corsair Link lighting kit. I love the way the Air 540 looks, it’s one of the only cases I think demands a window, and I needed to thoroughly pimp my ride.

Display duties are handled by a trio of ASUS VS24AH-P monitors. These are 24”, 1920x1200 IPS displays and they are an absolutely unbeatable bargain for the money. I was using Corsair SP2500s for my speakers, but have actually switched over to the Simple Audio Listens. They’re expensive but they really do sound fantastic. For keyboard and mouse, I’m rocking the Vengeance K90 and a Vengeance M65. I seldom use a headset when I game, preferring to use the mic built in to my Microsoft LifeCam so everyone can listen to my cat meow her idiot head off on voice chat, but I have a Vengeance 2100 wireless headset handy.

Desk clutter is emblematic of a busy mind, or laziness. You decide!

And that’s what I game on, edit video on, and try to work and create art on. I’m of the opinion that people who work in the tech industry, be they journalists or enthusiasts working at major companies, should be rolling top shelf or near top shelf kit. It’s not just a matter of having a machine you enjoy using, but being knowledgeable about the hardware you’re reviewing and recommending to others. It’s important to stay informed and keep up with the Joneses, which is part of why I’m continually trying to put together builds here at Corsair that include kit I don’t have immediate experience with. There are other machines in my apartment (two media centers, one Alienware M17x R3 that I keep Frankensteining and cut my laptop repair teeth on), but I’m most proud of my liquid cooled beast.

Now if I could figure out how to drain it.


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