$12,000 RGB Water Cooled Xeon Workstation Build


So, what happens when you spend $12,000 on
a PC and cover it in RGB? Hello! I’m Guy and this is Guy, Robot. The video that launched this channel was my
workstation build back in summer 2016. It had 2 Xeon E5 2660 v4 CPUs with 14 cores each.
That’s a total of 28 cores and 56 threads. Almost 3 years on it’s still epic – a Ryzen
Threadripper 2990X beats it but not much else does. It’s been an awesome build, but one thing
has really annoyed me. The noise. The GPU in particular is noisy even on idle and I
wanted something quieter. I’m moving to Costa Rica in a few months’
time and decided I want to rebuild my system before I go. As well as making it quieter
I also want to buy any high-end equipment before I move somewhere where shipping becomes
much more expensive. I’ve considered loads of options – ranging
from BeQuiet-based builds to passive GPUs and just modifying what I have. Then I got
a little carried away after helping a friend install his first water cooling loop and I’ve
spent around £2,500 on new components. Ooops. I realised there are three things I need for
my system. Gaming graphics, RGB and water cooling. Everything else is still great. These
aren’t the things you’ll normally see in a workstation build designed for highly
parallelised development and virtualisation workloads. It should be fun, but I’m also
hoping my noise levels go down in the process. Since 2016 I’ve already done a few upgrades
that aren’t included in the £2,500 upgrade. I swapped the SSD to a Samsung 1TB 970 Pro,
I’ve added an extra 72GB RAM, removed the sound card, added some Noctua case fans, switched
my Razer mouse for a Kensington trackpad, replaced the Razer keyboard with a Das Keyboard
Professional, added some Kef Egg speakers and Sennheiser 598CS headphones and added
a 27” Dell Ultrasharp U2715H monitor. What about
the new stuff? *** JUMP CUT TO BOXES **** I’m replacing the case with a Phanteks Enthoo
Luxe grey tempered glass model in grey. I have the standard Enthoo Luxe at the moment
but no longer have the original shipping box and want it for my move. Admittedly, I also
want tempered glass and more shinies. It’s one of the few cases that supports an SSI
EEB motherboard without modification so it was an easy choice. I love my existing Enthoo
Luxe and hope the glass is as good to work with. For graphics I’m going almost top-end with
an RTX 2080. Not a TI but already far more than I can justify for Solitaire and Minesweeper.
It’s certainly a step up from the 960. I’m going with an EVGA XC Ultra Gaming with a
factory overclock. I didn’t want to go bargain basement and I got a great deal on the card
at £700 with 12.5% off its retail price. The watercooling is all going to be EKWB.
I’m going with the EK Vector for the GPU and 2 Velocity CPU blocks. These are going
to be paired with a EKWB 420mm radiator, pump, reservoir and fittings as well as Mayhems
ultra-clear tubing and their blue Pastel fluid. I’ve gone for everything in a Nickel / acrylic
combination and added the backplate for the GPU. To make things shiny everything has RGB
in it apart from the fittings. I’m going to do a separate video talking about my water-cooling
choices separately and go into more detail in my loop – for this video we’ll just
focus on it being shiny. The airflow is going to be taken care of with
3 Silent Wings 3 140mm fans for the case and 3 Noctua NF-A14-PWM chromax.black.swap static
air pressure fans for the radiator. I chose these combinations for their very low noise
levels. I’m pairing all 6 fans with Phanteks Halos 140mm RGB kits to make them shiny and
a Phanteks RGB controller. I’m curious how well the Halos work so will delve into them
in another video as well. Before I move I’m getting rid of my NAS
and switching to just SSDs and cloud storage. That means I need some more storage in my
system. I’m adding a 1TB WD Blue M.2 SATA drive for bulk-storage and a 970 EVO 500GB
for a second boot drive that will run Windows just for gaming. With a 2080 I don’t think
I can justify Wine on Linux for games. I’m also adding even more ridiculous RGB
with RGB RAM covers, RGB NVME cards and yes, even RGB ATX and GPU power cables. I figured
if I’m going to jump on the RGB bandwagon I may as well do it whole heartedly. Add do that some thermal paste, mounting brackets,
braided and sleeved cables, a SSD heatsink, RGB controller and bits-and-bobs for the water
loop and you’ve got another £2,500 of parts. That takes the total value of the machine
up to around £8,800 – or close to $12,000. This should be a fun build. I’m really excited
to jump in. I’ve never built a water-cooled system before. I’ve helped a friend with
a water-cooling kit but never done anything more complicated than that. I’ve also never
tried to coax a non-RGB motherboard into the world of RGB nor have I ever owned a graphics
card that was even remotely good. The last time I had a leading graphics card was in
1997 and Unreal feels like a long time ago. I’m going to dive into the build and see
how it goes! This was one of the more difficult builds
I’ve undertaken. It took so long to get the system where it is now. Before kicking
off the build I decided to test the GPU and to benchmark it. That’s where the problems
started – after swapping my GTX960 for the RTX 2080 the GPU started showing weird glitches
in Windows and freezing. I initially thought it was a problem with drivers, ran DDU and
reinstalled but nope the weird glitches kept appearing randomly. After a complete reinstall
of Windows everything looked fine, so I was ready to begin the install. I soon realised I’d forgotten to buy some
things. I bought the Shadow Wings 2 non-PWM fans by mistake for the build and I also didn’t
buy enough components to install the drain for the water-cooling loop. In the end I’ve
just managed to make it work without these. I’ve done a separate video on some of the
components and the watercooling itself so I won’t give a blow-by-blow account here.
All in all, the process wasn’t too difficult – but the GPU did take a long time for me
to strip and rebuild. The main problem came with the case. I soon
realised that despite by best intentions everything wasn’t going to fit inside the case. The
best thing to do would have been mounting the reservoir at the bottom of the case – but
I didn’t have a suitable mounting bracket and even if I did then it would have interfered
with the GPU location. The top of the reservoir would have touched the GPU. I have two full 16x slots in my system and
the GPU is in the bottom-most one. It doesn’t fit in the top one as the length of the card
then interferes with RAM and I can’t move the ram as I have to use a specific slot order. This meant I only had one option – completely
stripping my case and modifying it a little to make room for the reservoir. I had to remove
the HDD cage and loads of the internal metal supports. Phanteks do provide some instructions
but they mention about 15 screws. I removed probably 50 in the end. I finally decided
to mount the reservoir against the front of the case where one of the 140mm fans was and
I moved the fan to the bottom instead. After all this I wasn’t able to use the
PSU shroud and I lost a lot of space inside the 5.25” bays where I’d normally hide
a mass of cables. This made tidying the build a nightmare as there were so many cables from
the different LEDs. The LEDs were made worse by having two different
5V controllers blow up and the Phanteks controller just not working with anything I tried. In
the end I just went with a cheap £10 controller from Amazon for the 5V addressable lighting
and ran all the 12V lighting directly from the case’s RGB controller. The Lian-Li Strimer
cables have their own controller. Finally, the radiator didn’t fit so I had
to place it above the top of the case and then saw an amount of plastic off the case
lid to get it to shut back on. It means the fan grille on the lid is no longer held in
place but it’s all back together. It looks amazing. I know how a machine looks
doesn’t make it run any better but I’ve never really spent the time on the looks of
a machine before and I’m so happy I did here. It was definitely worth the extra money
to make this thing look as good as it does. It makes me actually laugh whenever I come
into the room and I think it’s looks now match its underlying power. For benchmarks I ran tests with the GTX 960,
tests using the RTX 2080 on air as well as tests with the water-cooled loop. I measured
temperatures, ran the 3D Mark Time Spy benchmark and performed a couple of really simple benchmarks
in World of Warcraft with everything on max settings. I know that WOW is incredibly difficult
to benchmark as it’s usually CPU-bound. For that reason I tried a couple of fairly
repeatable tests just to get a finger-in-air indicator of performance. On air the CPUs were sitting at 55 degrees
under load. This decreased to just 38 degrees once the water cooling loop was installed
with idle temperatures not much above room temperature. The GPU is a different story. There’s no
surprise that the 960 did worst overall. It got just 2491 in TimeSpy, struggled to get
30 FPS running around Orgrimar in WoW and on the flight path never really mustered more
than 35 FPS whilst running at 60 degrees. The 2080, on air, achieved 8885 in TimeSpy,
70 FPS running around Orgimar and a whopping 120FPS during the flightpath without being
much hotter at just 63 degrees. Things then get weird once we go to water-cooling.
The Cinebench score decreased by 700 to 8127. Whilst the Orgimar WoW test remained at 70
FPS, the flight path framerate dropped to just 90 FPS. Looking in to the temperatures
reveals why – the GPU is running at up to 83 degrees under load which is not good! So, it looks as though my thermal paste application
was insufficient for the GPU. That means I need to drain my water-loop, remove the GPU,
dismantle the plate, re-apply some paste and then rebuild everything. Urgh. At the moment I’m doing no gaming and don’t
stress the GPU to more than 40 degrees so I’m not going to do this urgently – but
I am going to have to do it before I head over to Costa Rica. I guess the question is was it worth it? Well,
I wanted to reduce noise, have better graphics and make my system look good. The noise level
is definitely down, the 2080 is, for £700 unsurprisingly, a much better performer and
my system looks amazing. To get the most out of this system I do need to do some overclocking.
I’m going to have to try and overclock my Xeons again as well as sorting the GPU out
and overclocking that. Once that’s done the watercooling will feel like it was more
justified. I had a lot of fun with this build. It was
painful at times. It took me almost 3 days of work to get the whole system built, cable-tidied
and tested. I’ve got to be honest – mostly I love how good this system looks now. I think
some hardline tubing will improve it in the future but think my RGB-desires have finally
been filled. So I now have a Dual Xeon with 28 cores, 56
threads, 104 GB RAM, an RTX 2080, 3.5TB of SSD storage, 2x 25” Dell Ultrasharp monitors,
1x 27” Dell Ultrasharp, a Das Keyboard Professional, a Kensington trackball and Kef Egg speakers.
All of this dressed up as a Christmas light display. Honestly, as a kid I never imagined
computers would become this ridiculous as I got older. The raw power I could have grasped
but getting to the point in time that people cared enough about computers that they wanted
them to look good is something I’d have struggled with. So what do you all think about this build?
Should a workstation look boring or should we embrace style trends on our high-end systems?
Is there such a thing as too much RGB? More importantly, what should I upgrade next? There are links to all the components in the
system down below as well as the full build linked in my blog. Please take a look and
leave your comments below. If you liked this video hit like and subscribe, if you didn’t
then leave a comment and let me know why. There’s a bunch more videos coming shortly
about the components in this build – so subscribe if you’d like to know more. You can catch me on Twitter @GuyRobotTV and
I’ll see you next time. Thanks!

10 thoughts on “$12,000 RGB Water Cooled Xeon Workstation Build

  1. Wow I think your build looks awesome. I know that feeling when something is not right and it means virtually stripping it right back and rebuilding it. Not sure what I would get for a 12k build except maybe have got a better quality monitor. Have always cheaped out when it comes to the monitor.
    Thanks for another great video!

  2. Each to their own. My primary drive for a computer build is horsepower, not so bothered about the 'disco ball ' effects…but your build looks great!

  3. I’m not working into the LED lighting thing, but I must admit your system does rock. And good luck in Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 I hope I can get good enough at developing my own trading algos with c# to be able to move to a nice warm country I can’t take cold England anymore 🥶

  4. It's a really nice build, you've got some serious horsepower., and you did a nice job on the build. I tend to lean more toward function over form, so I'm indifferent on the RGB. Water-cooling always strikes me as more trouble than it's worth; the potential for leaks, the maintenance involved in regularly draining, tearing down and cleaning tubes and cooling blocks (which coloured dyes are notorious for clogging up over time) and even the pain involved in relatively minor upgrades just doesn't seem worth the hassle.

  5. You can kill your gpu if it really isn't making proper contact with the cooler. Not like a cpu ihs, it is a bare die, and if you don't cover a memory controller for example, it will die. Please don't let it run for too long like this. Nice build though, kinda wanna upgrade my system right now

  6. My build for less (10k, with tax): Anidees Crystal XL Case, W-3175X (28 core), Asus Dominus Extreme Mobo, 12x16GB G.Skill Trident RGB @3000MHz, Gigabyte 2080, 2x1TB NVME, 4x10TB 7200rpm HDD, Quad- and Tri-radiators, Bykski CPU waterblock, alphacool lighttower reservoir and VPP OT12 Pump, 8x RGB fans, 7x DELTA fans. With a manageable overclock (4.5 GHz all core) I get about 50% more performance than your locked xeons.

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