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Tower of Ember

by ProEngPC


Part List View full price breakdown


Date Published

Sept. 10, 2014

Date Built

Sept. 7, 2014

CPU Clock Rate


CPU Temperature While Idle

32.0° C

CPU Temperature Under Load

67.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate


GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate


GPU Temperature While Idle

29.0° C

GPU Temperature Under Load

65.0° C


On the surface, this build is a very odd one; I’ve essentially selected a case with rather poor cooling potential, filled it with powerful, yet non-overclockable hardware, and put a lot of money towards building a custom water cooling loop to keep it all from getting fried. The voice of reason would have put everything in a well-ventilated case, air-cooled it all and called it a day.

But I don’t always follow the voice of reason, and I wanted to build something that was not just a computer, but also a work of art that would inspire conversation. Computers are too often generic boxes, with very little to set them apart. Such is not the case for this build. I wanted it to have character; I wanted people that see it to pause and wonder about it for a bit. Something that at first glance isn’t obviously a traditional computer. I was inspired by sci-fi machines that appear old yet powerful, something that would look like it’s out of the movie City of Ember. (Not a great movie, but the setting and visuals were interesting).

It all started with the case, which is absolutely beautiful to behold. The materials are wonderful, and the entire side panels are true windows, made of tinted tempered glass. There is no better case to build a work of technical art in. Unfortunately, it only has two fan cut-outs for the entire case: a 92mm opening at the back, and a 140mm opening at the bottom. This would prove challenging for the cooling setup, but it was workable in the end.

The thermals of the case and cooling system would not be very accommodating to overclocking, so getting an unlocked CPU would not be very useful. I decided on the Xeon 1230v3 because I still wanted the 4-core, 8-thread performance for Lightroom and Photoshop. I found that the Xeon runs at a lower stock voltage than most 4770k CPUs, so I suspect that some of the better binned parts become Xeons. The end result is a very stable CPU that runs at low temperatures, which is exactly what was needed for this build. The CPU is cooled by an EK Supremacy waterblock, which has worked well for me before in other builds.

The motherboard is a rather ordinary B85-based board that supports the Xeon perfectly well, has all the SATA ports I need, and fits well in the colour scheme. Even though the case can fit a full ATX board, I chose a mATX model to leave some space for watercooling parts.

The RAM is rather standard DDR3-1600 CL10. I essentially chose it for its colour.

I was able to get a used R9 290 for $280 in early summer and used it in this build. I could certainly have gotten by with a less powerful GPU, but the price for this one wasn’t too bad, and it’s rather easy to get a full cover waterblock and for R9 290. In this case, I used an EK copper/plexi full cover block. EK also recently released a gold anodized backplate for the 290 that fits right in with the build theme, so I added one in.

Storage wise, I used Kingston HyperX 3k 240GB SSD and a Seagate Barracuda 3TG HDD. The SSD performs very well (similar to the Samsung 840EVO), and came with a free copy of Watch Dogs at the time I bought it. The HDD is rather generic, but has good performance for the price (slightly better than WD Blue in my tests).

The workstation is powered by a Corsair CX600M PSU. It’s a run-of-the-mill PSU, but the entire system uses 500W at the highest possible load (Intel Burn Test and Furmark running at the same time), so it’s sufficient for the task. Typical loading is 200-300W. The black ribbon-style cables do not detract from the look of the build, which is something I was looking for. The CX series are also short enough I was able to route the cables to the back easily. Most 600W PSUs are too long to fit well in the InWin 904.

Cooling wise, I wanted to design a water loop that looks good, and that has the look of technology from another era, even a bit of a steampunk look. I had little choice when it comes to radiators; I had to use what fit in the case. I chose a Black Ice 92mm at the back, and a 140mm Magicool slim radiator at the bottom. Noctua fans were used with both exhausting air from the case. Fresh air comes in the back where the expansion card slots have been removed to fit the reservoir fitting and tubing. There was enough space to mount an EK X-RES 100 on a DDC pump over the bottom fan, but its coolant capacity is rather low. A bitspower plexi reservoir mounted below the motherboard provides added coolant capacity to absorb more heat for temporary processing load spikes. With proper lighting, the clear reservoir is one of the central visual elements of the build.

All fittings are compression-type, with Feser One orange UV-reactive cooling and orange tubing. The coolant provides some very interesting effects depending on the light it is exposed to. Strong UV turns it to a more opaque pastel orange; white light shows a green hue. Combinations of different lighting results in varying coolant colouring throughout the water loop, providing a very interesting effect. The top section is lit with white and UV LEDs. The front has while LEDs while the rear uses an orange CCFL. Finally, a UV LED strip below the horizontal reservoir creates an interesting effect.

The cooling loop works quite well despite the limited radiator surface. CPU temperatures under load are in the 65C range, and the max GPU temp is also in the mid-sixties. These temperatures are similar to what can be achieved with good air-cooling in a well-ventilated case. Considering the limited cooling characteristics of the InWin 904, I’m satisfied with the performance.

Performance-wise, this build makes a great quiet workstation with plenty of processing power for heavy photo and video workloads, as well as occasional gaming. It is also a great conversation piece, and good promotion for my small custom PC design and build business.

Comments Sorted by:

kchp 2 Builds 20 points 45 months ago

DAMN! Literally just signed in to give a +1!

TheBored 1 Build 5 points 45 months ago

That is a work of art, it is beautiful

OM2556 4 points 45 months ago

I need that Case holy crap, also, the orange color scheme is beatiful.

ArticPhoeniX 4 points 45 months ago


Gi1es 2 Builds 2 points 45 months ago

Outstanding!! Everything is awesome!!

Demonite99 1 point 45 months ago

Great description and great build +1. I love In Win cases and I definitely think you achieved your goal of building a computer with character!

aludka 1 Build 1 point 45 months ago

Excellent presentation.

Hulk1233 1 point 45 months ago

wooow!!! NICE:D +1 for xeon and nice looking pc:) but.. why you didn't take xeon e3 1231 v3 ?

ProEngPC submitter 8 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

I've been working on this one on and off since June, and when I bough the CPU back then, the 1230 was cheaper than the 1231, with only a very minimal performance difference.

PacificNic 4 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

Dude. This is totally BA. I freaking love it. Nice work!

ReDnAx1991 7 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

Wow... was literally the first word which came to mind, great build it looks awesome. +1 enjoy you build.

k3mist 2 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

Looks good man.

I've been waiting to see a build with this case, its definitely not designed with air cooling in mind.

Quick question, how come you didn't use the area between the chassis and back of the frame for the radiators? Just for the aesthetics?

ProEngPC submitter 8 Builds 2 points 45 months ago

One of the reasons I didn't use that area is that the real metal panel has to be removed to connect cables. Mounting radiators to it makes it much more difficult to remove the panel, and would probably damage the tubing if done too often.

It also don't look very good to have stuff hanging off the back :)

SpicyPickle 1 Build 1 point 45 months ago

That is a really, really, really cool build man!

I love the orange accents.

jswanson 2 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

Wow wow wow...absolutely awesome design. Love the custom water cooling. This is taking customization to a new level. Inspiring.

Mercider 1 point 45 months ago

Simply, amazing.

dleagleton 1 point 45 months ago

This is beautiful, one of very few builds where the Noctua fans don't look completely out of place. +1

Damjan25 1 point 45 months ago

are you happy with this CPU ? what do you suggest 4790 or xeon 1241 ?

ProEngPC submitter 8 Builds 1 point 45 months ago

I am happy with the CPU, but I know it's not the fastest out there, and it's not overclockable (although most motherboards will allow to run at Turbo frequency all the time).

The 4790k is significantly faster than the 1241, but it is also $75-$100 more expensive. I consider the 1241 as more of an alternative to the i5-4690k, which are about the same price. By choosing the Xeon, you give up overclockability and integrated graphics, but gain more cache and hyper threading.

jacobs4525 1 Build 1 point 44 months ago

That case is sexy as hell. Great parts, sick loop, and once again, the sexiest case ever. +1

friedfacekkk 1 Build 1 point 44 months ago

This build has character. +1

LittleBear25 1 point 44 months ago

damn that looks so good that not even the noctua fans can make it look bad DAMN fine job

chodamoyer 1 point 44 months ago

nice build. looks professional

bloodroses75 1 Build 1 point 42 months ago

Only one word I can come up with for this: STUNNING! :)

tabascosauz 3 Builds 1 point 42 months ago

Is that the Supremacy LTX? And I think the E3-1230V3 has lower temperatures because it doesn't have an operational HD 4600 like the 4770K has. It comes in at slightly lower clocks so I think the lower voltages are justified in that sense.

jonasbensimon 1 Build 1 point 40 months ago

please i need help, I just bought tthis case and built it last night but it wont seem to power on : (.....i dont get it maybe im not plugging the case oanel wires to the mobo correctly, can you please send me a close up to how you did it? i really need this, or maybe tell me where you plugged them all.....thanks!!

great build btw

heres my build: http://pcpartpicker.com/user/jonasbensimon/saved/9zY2FT

Karl0508 1 Build 1 point 39 months ago

I know this is a stupid question i'm building an i3 based system this year to add a xeon in the near future,

Would you suggest a h97 board for xeon??

Or can i re-phrase, can you convert this to a good xeon build (just leaving i3 in for temp - plus will do water cooling when go xeon)


If you could that would be great

orvazmic 1 point 38 months ago

This pleases my eyes soooooooooo hard

rweakins 1 point 38 months ago

Did that 140mm rad fit on that fan mount ok? I'm thinking about stacking two 140mm rads and fans in the spot and was wondering if you had any interference anywhere.

Mozzie1996 1 point 37 months ago

This is a freaking amazing pc build, wish I could see that on my desk every day. I just have to give you a +1 for this build.

Mikeportnoyz 1 point 36 months ago

Work of art

Kerwal 1 point 35 months ago

omfg that is beautiful

EngineerAlex 2 Builds 1 point 34 months ago


timewaster1700 1 point 33 months ago

This is a gorgeous machine! Love the unique style! Definitely achieved the cool sci-fi look you were inspired by!

jkaos92 1 point 29 months ago

Your cpu cooler is the stock cooler? Stock xeon cooler is fine or an aftermarket is a good investment ?

ItsWaterings 1 point 27 months ago

great build

Bocazon 1 Build 1 point 26 months ago

+1 for the only build Ive seen that looks good with multiple colors not counting grayscale.

vvulfmann 1 Build 1 point 26 months ago

Amazing build - attention to detail is phenomenal. A+++ all around.

Xenoframe 1 point 25 months ago

Get hardline tubing and this build would look like a god!

PrismWorks67 1 point 22 months ago

Very clean build!

PantherrYT 1 point 17 months ago

Beautiful. Nothing else to say about it.

neilclack 1 point 14 months ago

Glad to see there are others who think outside the box and that I'm not alone. Nice piece man! Great work! Would love to see what you've tried throwing at it and how it performed!

connorpoynor 1 point 14 months ago

Damn 2000 in cad

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