Who needs an iMac when you could have a full-on water-cooled mini-ITX rig mounted to the back of your monitor, like an iMac gaming PC? PC modder Björn Höjing Burle shows us what you can do with a monitor if you really put your mind to it, with this gaming monitor PC, which he built in response to his wife asking for an iMac. It’s called iPredator Powder, and it features a custom aluminum chassis, as well as some amazing tubing bends.
Custom PC has been celebrating the best PC builds since 2003, and our Facebook group has over 300,000 members. We’ve seen many custom gaming PCs, from case mods to scratch builds. Here PC modder Björn Höjing Burle guides us through the creation of this water-cooled monitor gaming PC build.
It was an innocent enough request: ‘I want an iMac’. My wife uttered these words to me just after I returned from Dreamhack Jönköping where I’d hoped to exhibit my first attempt at a proper mod.
However, a blown motherboard the day before the competition scuppered my chances, so instead I was looking for a new project.
As you can imagine, I panicked a bit upon hearing these words but soon realized that maybe this iMac thing wasn’t such a bad idea. Of course, no actual Mac would ever cross my doorstep, but the idea of building a computer in or on a screen? That I could get behind. After all, there’s plenty of space on ultrawide monitors.
From idea to concept
Once the thought had taken hold, I started drawing up ideas in SketchUp for Web. In the meantime, I kept my eyes open for suitable monitors with sturdy enough stands, and eventually settled on the Acer Predator X34P, a 34-inch IPS screen with a 3,440 x 1,440 resolution.
I decided to go with a design in keeping with our home decoration, which is rather industrial but still minimalistic and white. The colors I went for were black and white paired with brushed aluminum. Even though I’d rarely see the backside of the monitor, the geek in me decided to go with an inside-out design. I had to know that all those beautiful components, pipes and lights are out in the open.
At heart I’m a gamer. My PC is used 50 percent for gaming, 2-3 percent for photo editing, video rendering and office work, and the other 47-48 percent of the time I spend rebuilding and upgrading it! Thus, I wanted high-end gaming components.
I realized that even the backside of a 34-inch monitor wouldn’t fit an entire ATX system, so smaller form factor components were the clear choice. I already had the motherboard and CPU – a Ryzen 7 2700 and Asus B450-I from my previous PC – but still needed the PSU. I also needed all the parts for a complete custom water-cooling loop, a GPU riser, sleeved cables, some thick aluminum sheeting on which to mount the PC, and of course an Acer Predator X34P.
Bits and pieces begin to trickle in
With the various components I needed starting to arrive, it was time to order the aluminum plate on which everything would be mounted. I wasn’t sure how thick it needed to be, so I discussed it quite a bit with a friend and fellow modder, Laine, who told me that it didn’t need to be thicker than 3mm. Somehow I misread this and ended up ordering a 1000 x 500 x 5mm aluminum plate. Not only would this make machining the metal more difficult, it was more expensive too. Perfect!
Right after that I found the monitor I wanted, used, for a decent price. With some of the key components at hand I began measuring and designing. I planned to make a CAD file of the aluminum plate, with the idea to send it off to get laser-cut or CNCed for a perfect finish. However, I overestimated my 15-year-old CAD skills and after a four-month struggle, I opted for a more hands-on solution. I summoned all the components I had, put them down on the slab of metal and got out a whiteboard marker.
From here I just drew out each component on the plate, marked out the screw holes I needed, et voila! The downside to this approach is that I now had to make every single hole and cut myself, which also meant that all the cut edges would be jagged and need a lot of cleaning up. I also realized it would be some time before I’d get to make another attempt if I failed, as I had already blown my budget.
I spent another month revising my plan before I finally found the guts to start cutting. I used a drill, jigsaw and a handsaw, and it took a good five or six hours just sawing out the larger holes, and another ten to 12 hours to drill and tap all the screw holes.
Quite a few saw blades and drills went to their graves during this process and all of this work had given me even more work. I had taped over where I was sawing, to protect the surface, but apparently I didn’t do a good enough job, as once I removed the tape, it revealed scratches all over the surface.
The only option was to set to with my beltsander. A lot of elbow grease and time later, the plate had a lovely brushed finish. In many ways, all of the above was the easy bit, as I still had two big problems to solve. The first is how would I be able to bend 5mm thick aluminum. The second, how on earth would I manage to fit the plate to the monitor and stand?
The first was the quickest to solve, though it took some research. The local sheet metal company didn’t have the tools to bend a 5mm-thick plate but it pointed me in the direction of those who could. I’d calculated the required angle to be six degrees and, as luck would have it, that was the biggest bend they could do with such a thick plate.
The second problem took more time. I wanted to make use of the VESA mount on the monitor stand, but there’s only one mount, and both the plate and the monitor to attach to it. After a few months of sketches, I decided the best solution was to detach the VESA mount from the stand and attach the aluminum plate behind it. The monitor then attaches to the VESA mount as normal.
During the months it had already taken to get to this point, I befriended a guy working at Trigono AB, a Swedish PC components distributor. This friendship got me my first sponsors, in the form of CableMod and Thermal Grizzly. A sweet set of sleeved cables and a wide range of thermal pastes and thermal pads showed up at my door not long after.
Going with the flow
I still lacked quite a few components for the water cooling, and I had to cough up the cash and order fittings and a flow indicator from Bykski. Luckily it wasn’t that expensive and the financial pain was lessened by a modder friend selling me a brand-new Thermaltake Pacific W5 CPU block on the cheap.
I added in the new components and, to my surprise, it went very smoothly, the entire process taking less than 30 minutes. Now, for the first time in over a year, I was 100 percent certain this would work.
I still thought something was missing on the build though. It was all black, white and brushed aluminum, as I’d planned, so I couldn’t put my finger on it. I asked my wife, who of course has impeccable taste when it comes to home decoration, and she took a quick look and said, ‘You need another material somewhere, perhaps leather, and the monitor’s color doesn’t match the rest’.
She was right, as ever – leather would be perfect for breaking up the cold look of the build. But where to add it? I pulled out a few old belts and toyed around with them (but back to the modding – Ed), placing them all over the place to figure out what might work. Eventually, I realized that I could solve my PSU-mounting issue as well by using the leather to strap the PSU in place.
As for the monitor, I quickly tore it to pieces using pliers, razors and screwdrivers. I then ground down the plastic with 80-grit then 120-grit sandpaper then sprayed on a layer of undercoat followed by three layers of white topcoat. To finish, the surface was knocked back with 1200-grit sandpaper before sealing it with clear coat. For the stand, I stripped off the paint with paint remover then I used 80-grit paper to give it a brushed look.
As soon as the last parts for water cooling arrived at my door, I went off to the local hardware store to pick up some chromed copper pipes. Then I made the 100km drive to my friend EGXI-Modified who had promised to give me a crash course in pipe bending. EGXI has been a modder for almost 15 years and his day job is plumbing – I know none as good as him at bending pipes, that’s for certain.
Fifteen beers apiece later, I had built my first custom loop, on the backside of my 34-inch monitor. I would never have figured out some of those bends had it not been for EGXI. Especially the one you can see going from the flow indicator, behind the monitor stand to the GPU.
Spreading the word
During this project my wife suggested I start a Facebook and Instagram page for my hobby, instead of littering my non-modding friends’ feed with pictures of my progress. So that’s what I did.
When I drove home from EGXI I had 80 followers on my Facebook page, which I was quite happy with. The day after, I took a few pictures of the build on my kitchen table, posted them and went off for a late-night meeting at work. In the two hours I was in that meeting, I had gone from 80 followers to 200 followers. That kept going for the next week until I reached over 1,000 followers – it was an amazing feeling.
At this point I got in touch with MSI about a future project, and they quickly decided that I couldn’t have an AMD CPU and B450 board for a high-end gaming rig, and that a switch to the blue team was required. So, a week before its public release, the most beautiful motherboard I’ve owned arrived at my door. The MSI MEG Z490-I Unify was the perfect black heart for my build. I quickly sold my old motherboard and Ryzen CPU, using that money to get my hands on an Intel Core i9-10900K, which I could overclock.
I’m very proud of what I accomplished with this build. In hindsight, I wish I‘d planned even better for cable management and chosen a thinner plate, but I love the result.
This build has done a lot for me. I have learned how to make custom loops, build a ‘case’ from scratch and work with metal. It also led me to start up my own company, Creative Solutions For Gamers (CSFG), together with three other tech enthusiasts. We’re trying to bring new types of chassis to the market through crowdfunding.
My next two projects are sponsored by MSI, the first is in CSFGs second prototype chassis, the White Crow, which is a wall-mount design featuring custom distribution plates and pump tops. The second one is for the streamer GhazzyTV, a Path of Exile-themed build with a Kolink chassis.
iPredator Powder monitor PC specs
- Weight: 26kg
- Size (mm): 830 x 170 x 380 (W x D x H)
- Build time: ~ 250 hours
- Sponsors: Cablemod, MSI, Thermal Grizzly
- Case: Scratch-built 5mm thick aluminum plate + Acer Predator X34P monitor stand and monitor
- PSU: Corsair SF750 Platinum
- Motherboard: MSI MEG Z490-I Unify
- GPU: Nvidia Palit GeForce RTX 2080 Ti ProGaming overclocked to 2135MHz
- CPU: Intel Core i9-10900K with all cores overclocked to 5.2GHz at 1.34V
- Memory: G.Skill Trident Z 3600MHz CL16 overclocked to 4000MHz CL14 (Samsung B-Die)
- Storage: 2x Samsung 960 Evo 500GB, Samsung 850 Evo 250GB
- Cables: CableMod Pro sleeves Black/white PSU/SATA cables
- Cooling: Phobya Nickel 150ml reservoir, Thermaltake Pacific W5 CPU block, EK Velocity copper GPU block, EK D5 pump, Revo Plexitop RGB sleeved cables, 2 x EK Coolstream 240mm PE radiators, Phanteks PWM fan controller, Bykski RGB Plexi flow indicator, Bykski hardline gunmetal fittings, 4 x Corsair ML120 Pro white LED
- Lighting: Asus ROG controller, 4 x 300mm and 2 x 600mm Asus lighting strips
Brilliant work, Björn – what a hero. We admire your patience, as well as your skills – this is an incredible piece of work. Comparisons to the iMac aside, the custom chassis is amazing, and it’s fantastic to get the spec of a high-end gaming PC in the same footprint as your monitor.
Check out our best top PC builds guide if you want to see more outstanding custom PCs, and if you’ve built an extraordinary PC of any description yourself, then we’d love to see it! Join our Facebook group if you’d like to submit your own work for consideration.