In 2012, I had the opportunity to design and build my first custom computer. This involved deriving a parts list adhering to the constraints of a pre-determined budget, acquiring the parts, and of course building the computer. At that time, the computer was purely functional. That is, the appearance of the computer itself was irrelevant - the performance was all that mattered.
Last year, a new opportunity presented itself. I had the funds and interest in upgrading the computer. Naturally, I applied some performance updates, but perhaps more interesting were the aesthetic updates. That is what this post is about - crafting a complex piece of art.
The goal of the aesthetic overhaul was to exhibit the internal computer components in a modern design. Additionally, the system had to be water-cooled (this decision was made for both aesthetic and stability reasons). In the end, the design ended up heavily utilizing two materials - aluminum and glass.
Both of these materials are neutral colors, providing flexibility with the color scheme. Red was ultimately chosen as the accent color. Black braided cables were used to complete the clean look of the design.
The bulk of the aesthetic parts consist of the case, water-cooling components, cables, and lighting. However, its important to note that all parts in the system needed to match in color and style for everything to come together in harmony. Here are the notable brands used in the build.
|In Win||Case & Power Supply|
|EKWB||Water-cooling Loop Components|
Coming up with a water-cooling loop was by far the most challenging aspect of this build. The general process for designing a loop starts with determining which components are to be water-cooled. Once this decision has been made, the rest of the loop can be designed. The CPU, GPU, and Intel 750 series SSD were selected. This warranted two radiators (given the restrictions of the case). Long story short, the loop ended up being quite complex.
The crown jewel that sets this computer apart from most others is the glass tubing used in the water-cooling loop. Glass is particularly difficult to work with. The exact sizes of each section must be determined in advanced. I purchased more than I needed because I knew that I would make mistakes along the way. Cut the glass slightly too short and it won't connect two fittings properly. Cut it slightly too long and there is not enough leverage to shorten it further due to the cutting techniques. I got 200 inches of glass tubing and ended up using about 130 inches. Now that I am more comfortable cutting the glass and estimating distances, I think I could get away with 75 inches for this type of build.
Was It Worth It?
Obviously, considerable time and money went into creating this masterpiece. What are my thoughts on the experience? Would I do it again? Well to start off, let's talk about the time commitment.
Designing this build took many hours over the course of roughly a month. There was significant effort put into the design, which has many subtleties. Which brands did I want to use? Which components should be water-cooled? Do I have enough cooling to support the components in the loop? How many and which types of fittings do I need? How many braided cables do I need? Is there positive airflow in the case? The point is designing something like this is challenging. I love the challenge. I derive great satisfaction from the artistic nature of the task and end product. It was time-consuming, but worth every second.
Money on the other hand is harder to justify. This will be the primary roadblock for most people. The water-cooling loop and other aesthetic components cost upwards of $2000.00. This is excluding the functional components in the computer (motherboard, CPU, etc). Its a steep price to pay. This is one of the many reasons that this is a rare and niche craft that so few people take to such extremes. A rational or "common sense" viewpoint of this hobby might suggest its pointless and nothing more than a money drain. My stance is that this hobby is a complex art. As with any form of art, some people love it and some people hate it. I just happen to like it.
Would I do it again? Probably not to this extent. Life and priorities change over time. I'm certainly in a different place in my life now. Even if I never create something like this again, I'll always look back on this hobby with fondness. It was once a huge part of my life. Perhaps I'll revisit this hobby in the future. I'm just enjoying what life has to offer now, with the occasional moment of nostalgia each time I turn on my computer.