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Deadly Nightshade - Fractal Design Define R5 Inverted Motherboard - Modding n00b -

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My first water cooling build was a roller coaster of a learning experience to say the least. It seems like every time I'd get a package of parts in the mail I'd realize that I'm missing yet another piece or I'd find some new component that I absolutely had to have. When all was said and done I called my baby GrayGhost. After finishing "him" I began browsing the modding forums and getting the itch to do a case mod. This is my first attempt to mod a case into something that carries my design aesthetic and hopefully keeps a decent build quality although modding with limited tools and space is always a huge obstacle.

GrayGhost 1.0

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I am a designer by trade so I am planning on building a system that is a bit different and interesting yet manages to remain understated and quiet. Recently the Parvum R1.0 and Corsair 600C have caught my eye because of their inverted motherboard layout. The only problem being money is tight and I told myself I would not buy a new case until after the Broadwell-E processors are released. Until then I dug around I realized I already owned a Define R5 and a Cooler Master Elite 110. I wouldn't have any issues chopping up either of them since they were only collecting dust. Needless to say, due to size restraints, I decided to begin a modding project using the Fractal Design Define R5.

Hardware:

  • Case: Fractal Design Define R5
  • CPU: Intel i7-4770k
  • Mobo: Asus Z97-AR
  • RAM: G.Skill Sniper 16GB 1866 DDR3 (2x8GB)
  • GPU: Asus GTX 970 Strix (x2)
  • SSD: Samsung 950 Pro M.2 512GB
  • SSD: Samsung 850 Pro 256GB
  • SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
  • HDD: Western Digital Green 3TB
  • PSU: Corsair AX860
  • CPU Block: EK Supremacy EVO - nickel
  • GPU Block: EK Full-Cover - nickel (x2)
  • GPU Backplate: EK retention backplate - black (x2)
  • Radiators: Hardware Labs Black Ice Nemesis 280GTS (x2)
  • Fans: Noctua NF-P14s Redux-1200 PWM - 140mm (x6)
  • Reservoir: Barrow quartz glass - 170mm
  • Pump: EK D5 vario
  • Top: EK-XTOP Revo - Plexi
  • Fittings: EK & Barrow - matte black
  • Tubing: Alphacool HardTube 10/12mm Carbon
  • Coolant: Mayhems X1 - custom mixed color
  • Lighting: Darkside Connect UV LED's & NZXT Hue+

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Working on a few small items.

I wanted an upgraded SLI bridge, but couldn't get my hands on one from ASUS. Instead I purchased an EVGA bridge and modded it to match my build. I used body filler to fill in the lettering on the center black plastic piece and applied a thick coat of PlastiDip to finish it off. I also polished the metal shield with the Dremel to make it shine a bit.

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I was working on this plate last night and I believe it is my favorite piece so far. It will be placed parallel to the motherboard tray and will be used to mount a 3.5" HDD on the back. From the start I wanted to create something different and this panel turned out to be a great place to try out this alligator skin textured vinyl I found on Ebay. I think i will create a matching piece that will carry this pattern down and across the floor of the case. The bottom plate is where I could eventually mount the pump.
 

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Just a few quick shots of what I've managed to accomplish so far.

  • Remove all rivets and flipped the front panel making what was the top to be the bottom and vice versa.
  • Removed all of the hard drive cages and optical drive mounts
  • Installed CaseLabs PSU support bracket in the optical drive space
  • Covered the opening where the PSU should be mounted. (CaseLabs vented cover in the mail)
  • Moved the fan/rad mounting bracket on the front of the case over to line up with the mounting holes in the bottom.
  • Covered the new gap with aluminum plate
  • Cut a window into the top (bottom) panel
  • Cut a new top for the case from steel sheet metal
  • Installed a segment of angle bar on the ceiling of the case to be a mounting point for the new hard drive plate

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Awesome man, I look forward to watching this one.  R5 is a dang nice case, especially for the money.  Love the inversion you're doing too

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Since last post I've filed down the top panel and covered it. It looks better than I was expecting, but I decided to frame the window opening with aluminum L-bar. Obviously I wasn't expecting how tough it is to get a perfect mitered edge.

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I also voided my warranty and replaced the PSU fan with a Noctua Redux just for ****s and giggles.

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I covered the front panel with a black vinyl with wood grain texture. The reptilian skin would have been too loud for the exterior. 

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My new case feet just came in today as well! I can't believe how expensive they look considering I found them pretty cheap from a random retailer on Amazon.

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That's all for now. 

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Today I tried to figure out how I am going to keep my PSU stable as it hangs precariously from the ceiling of my case. I'm going to try making a plate that will copy the mounting points found in any standard case. The problem is trying to line up screw holes of 3 or 4 layers of materials and keep each layer square and level. I don't have very high hopes for this little experiment. Maybe I should start thinking of a plan B.

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I also finished up the framing around the top panel window. I think I'm going to have to epoxy the pieces down then try to smooth out the joints with some filler and sanding. If only I could cut a straight line then I wouldn't have to be worrying about all this!

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Finally my Alphacool HardTube carbon pieces came in. This stuff is like nothing I've ever handled before. It feels like a super hard plastic, but is light as a feather. The look is a bit darker than gunmetal with a brushed finish....I hope cutting it doesn't require some sort of crazy diamond blade or anything. I've about hit my spending limit on this project.

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GREAT SCOTT, IT WORKED!

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but she'll be presentable after some TLC from my file. and a vinyl wrap to hide some of the imperfections. I'm totally surprised the mounting holes all line up.

Score 1 for the humans...eat that CNC machines!
...I'd sell out in a heartbeat for access to a CNC setup...just sayin'

 

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Lol!  Too funny.  I'd love a CNC as well, but a dremel, jigsaw and handfiles are my manual CNC for now.

Looking great.  Love the framing for the top window.

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but it's gotta feel better knowing you did it by hand right?  That's what I tell myself anyway lol Lookin' pretty sweet.  I usually went the lazy route and just bought Lian-Li replacement PSU brackets when I needed one, so nice work!

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The panel that was formerly the top of the Define R5 is usually a point of exhaust, but I will be setting my system up so air will be entering the case here. Of course, that means I need a filter of some sort. After some digging around I found the DEMCiflex line and a filter custom made for the Fractal case. My first impressions were great. The mesh is very fine, the magnet is plenty strong enough, and the build quality is pretty high as well. The only issue I have is they designed the filter to cover the entire top of the case. If i would have designed the filter I would have made it to fit inside where the modu-vent panels were originally.

Without hesitation I whipped out the sharp objects and started chopping! I was able to get the filter to fit within the modu-vent space and it looks pretty stock unless you look really close. It will be on the bottom of the case in the end anyway!

 

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So I've been racking my brain trying to think of ways I can do something different with this build. I have no reason for this besides it will make people look twice and ask questions. Ask questions or send me hateful comments I suppose. I may build it out like this to see how the temps go and decide if I approve of the aesthetic. The Dark Rock 3 kept my 4770k cool without fail before I switched to water. It wouldn't take much to switch out the Dark Rock for my Supremacy EVO if I don't like the results. 

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Let me know what you guys think.
Is this a no go? Should I just include the CPU in the loop from the start? 

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My job has me stressed out so I haven't been working on the project much the past few weeks. I also don't want to rush anything and screw things up like I've been known to do in the past. The build is pretty much all assembled. I decided against using a tower cooler on the CPU just for kicks. It looks kind of silly when I put it in for a dry fit.

Thoughts on what I've been working on:

  • I totally misjudged the space I had available to mount the reservoir and pump. At first I installed a tiny res in the space above the pump and below the PSU, but it looked silly. After much deliberation and brainstorming I decided to think outside the box I suppose. I mounted the reservoir on the top of the case and ran tubes straight down to the pump and the opposite side is the return that I managed to line up exactly opposite the pump intake side. The finished product isn't what I had in mind, but it isn't the worst thing I've ever seen either. I guess it is in keeping with the patchwork / assemblage spirit of the rest of the build.

 

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  • I cut the plexi for the top window exactly to size so it is held in place with tension. I also put a couple of those clear furniture bumpers right under the plexi as a bit of an insurance policy.

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  • First I installed regular Bitspower black PVC tubing to be sure I liked the routing of the loop and got all the lengths perfect. After I took all of the tubes out and used them as templates to cut the Alphacool Carbon Tubes. The carbon tubes are easily cut with a Dremel and sand down to dust in seconds so its super easy to smooth out any mistakes. They make a huge mess though. I would definitely suggest eye protection and a simple face mask so you don't take in the fine black dust that cutting and sanding will produce.

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  • It wasn't planned, but my drain valve ended up pointing straight down neatly next to the pump. I just traced the diameter of the valve onto the bottom plate of the case and cut out a hole. The drain is now perfectly flush with the bottom and lines up perfectly with the opening. (I was quite impressed with myself LOL)

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  • I over eagerly decided to paint my Noctua Redux fans before realizing that the blades aren't the type that are easily popped on and off. Now I'm stuck with the tedious task of masking off 9 blades on 6 fans, priming, and spraying them with two coats of flat black enamel. So far I've been doing two at a time so the task doesn't seem as ridiculous. As backup I'm using a set of Akasa Apache fans, which had amazing specs on paper, but they make a constant knocking/clicking sound no matter what RPM I set them at. This annoyance will definitely speed up my painting process.

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  • I'm currently about to begin filing down the edges of the window opening I cut into the new side panel I ordered from Puget Systems. After that I need to figure out how I will affix the window to the panel.

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  • The front panel has been modded so the power cable can be ran down and out. The back of the case has been properly "holed" to accept a Define S front panel.

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Now I'm pretty much down to the finishing touches I suppose. When I'm ready I'll try to get some of those sexy-lit, bokeh-drenched pictures everyone loves. I can't wait to be finished with this project so I can begin saving my change for a new i7-6850K, GTX 1080, and accompanying, sufficiently overkill, components.

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