Component selection for this build was tricky, but not overly so. If you're going to engage in an undertaking like this, you really do want to pick the most ideal hardware you can. Thankfully we had a few vendors willing to step up and donate some very high quality kit to this build.

Intel Core i7-4770K Processor

For our CPU we went with Intel's shiny new Haswell architecture in the form of the Core i7-4770K. This quad-core, hyper-threaded chip runs at a nominal 3.5GHz clock with a maximum turbo boost of 3.9GHz on a single core, and is one of Intel's first chips to feature an integrated VRM. Intel's 22nm chips seem to have been largely thermally limited, making the newest member of the family a compelling choice to be the center of a watercooling build. You do always run the risk of getting a dud CPU that simply doesn't want to run at a high clock speed without an unrealistic amount of voltage, though. Note that ours is a retail chip and not an Engineering Sample, so it's subject to the same potential limitations as any CPU you might pick up off the shelf.

Our thanks to CyberPowerPC for graciously donating this processor.

G.Skill Trident X 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3-2133 RAM

Our resident motherboard reviewer and overclocking expert, the good Dr. Ian Cutress, recommended we go with G.Skill for this build, and G.Skill was happy to oblige with a respectable kit of fast DDR3. This kit runs at a nominal 1600MHz, but features an XMP profile that sets it to run at 2133MHz with a CAS Latency of 9 at 1.6V. I'm not an aggressive memory overclocker, which makes the ready-out-of-the-box 2133MHz settings an easy way to score a little extra performance.

Our thanks to G.Skill for providing this memory.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 Z87 Motherboard

I remain of the opinion that the Z87 chipset is arguably the most compelling part of Haswell, and Gigabyte's high end gaming offering hammers that home. The G1.Sniper 5 features a PLX switch enabling full PCIe 3.0 x16 lanes for each of two video cards, or PCIe 3.0 x8 for up to four. Alongside that are an additional four SATA 6Gbps ports to go along with the six that come with the Z87 chipset, dual gigabit ethernet NICs with one provided by Intel and the other courtesy of Killer Networks, and Creative Sound Core3D with a user upgradeable OP-AMP. There's even an 802.11n dual-band PCIe x1 wireless network adapter bundled with the motherboard.

But what sells this board for our purposes is that it includes not only active cooling on the motherboard's 16-phase power circuitry, but a liquid cooling path built in. There are barbs on both ends of the heatsink that allow you to include the power circuitry in your watercooling loop.

Our thanks to Gigabyte for providing this motherboard.

Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Graphics Cards

With AMD currently still having issues with multi-GPU surround performance, we were left going to NVIDIA for a pair of high end graphics cards. Two GeForce GTX 770s would've been stellar on their own, but the 780 is getting a healthy reputation as being a decent overclocker in addition to just being a tremendously powerful card on its own. 7.1 billion transistors and 2,304 CUDA cores are nothing to sneeze at, and the 384-bit memory bus connected to 3GB of GDDR5 running at 6GHz stock ensures that beefy engine stays fed.

The biggest shame about using these reference 780s is actually having to remove their stock coolers. NVIDIA did a fantastic job engineering these shrouds, which are both very beautiful and very efficient.

Our thanks to NVIDIA for providing this pair of graphics cards.

Introduction The Components, Part 2
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  • bojaka - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    And right about THERE I lost my interest in water cooling - Thanks :) I actually believed water cooling would be a viable solution to make my computer silent, but apparently not. Thanks for a great article!!
  • utnorris - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    You can make a near dead silent water cooled system that allows you to overclock. Unfortunately, the fans you are using in the article, while good, are not the best, regardless what marketing says. I have built probably 40 to 50 systems over the last 5 years using water cooling and noise was never an issue. If you are not overclocking then a full blown water cooling setup is not worth it, but for the added performance, it's well worth it. Also, there is no need for additives like the Hydrx, distilled water with a silver coil or some anti algae drops from your local pet store is all you need and would be less toxic. Last, as already mentioned, delidding would have seen about 10c drop on the processor and if you are going to water cool, you might as well delid your chip.
  • Aikouka - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    You REALLY shouldn't take a SINGLE article on water cooling as the end all, be all on whether water cooling can provide a silent build. Dustin was NOT pushing for a silent build, but rather just a build with whatever parts he was provided. I have a custom loop with an i7-4770k and two GTX 680s, and it isn't noisy at all. It is going to be a bit noisier at idle because of having significantly more fans (I have 7 120mm fans just on the radiators), but it doesn't get any noisier at load! I also use a fan controller that lets me set the fans to the speed -- and consequently, the noise level -- that I find acceptable.
  • piroroadkill - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    Yeah, some people think this, but since you're shifting water at the same time as pushing air, there are simply more moving parts involved. Just get a giant tower heatsink and run those fans sloooowly, and choose a GPU with a really good factory heatsink.
  • tim851 - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    Depends. There are much better, i.e. quieter, pumps available. The best one imo is the Aquastream by AquaComputer. Even then, a single Cpu-single Gpu system is quieter on air. A Thermalright HR-02 and an Accelero Xtreme will take care of it. Once you go SLI, however, you're running into space and heat evacuation problems. Watercooling is your only chance of acceptable noise at load now.
  • piroroadkill - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    Yeah, multi-GPU rigs are a different beast. At that point a custom water loop is probably your best bet.
    But for single CPU/single GPU rigs, water is basically a vanity project, not one that will actually give you lower noise.
  • piklar - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    Great article Dustin! It just so happens I have been considering a watercooling project this summer (new Zealand time) using the Corsair Air540 with 4770K and SLI GTX 780s. Ironicly it appears The Raven RV03 is doing just as good if not better job of the cooling with Corsair H80 and reference card cooling. You have shown how luck of the draw Haswell can be since the 4770Ks Ive come across all do 4.6ghz on 2.8- 3.0v no probs. Still your article was very useful and much appreciated.
  • Death666Angel - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    2.8V to 3.0V? That's not right. :P
  • Razorbak86 - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    LOL. My thought exactly. I'm sure he meant 1.28-1.30V. ;-P
  • piklar - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    soz was half asleep, thanks for clarifying that I meant meant 1.280 - 1.30V for 4.6ghz with 4770K with H80.

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