Looking like it came from the set of The Toxic Avenger, this Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic PC build has coolant that looks positively radioactive. PC builder Ryan Davidson wanted to build a water-cooled PC with clean straight lines, and toxic appearance, and he appropriately calls this PC Acid Rain.
Custom PC has been celebrating the best PC builds since 2003, and our Facebook group has over 375,000 members. We’ve seen many custom gaming PCs, from case mods to scratch builds. Here we talk to Ryan about how he built this toxic-looking green water-cooled PC build.
Custom PC: Let’s start with the idea. What was the original inspiration for Acid Rain?
Ryan: The idea actually fell into place while I was waiting to move into a new property with my partner. Knowing I’d have to dismantle my previous build in order to get it across to the new place safely, I thought: ‘Why not do a fresh build for this new chapter of my life?’ I mean, what better way to celebrate life goals, right?
The name came from the color scheme, as the coolant color looks almost radioactive. There was a CableMod contest on at the time where I planned on entering the finished product. That’s what gave me the push to come up with a project name. I was hoping the name would set it apart from the competition and really give the build some character.
Custom PC: Where did the distribution plate come from?
Ryan: I’d love to say I designed it myself, but the credit here goes to Bitspower. I had seen the distribution plate used in a showcase build somewhere on Instagram and it completely captured my imagination.
From that point on, I knew it would make a great centerpiece of my new build. I got in contact with Bitspower to find out more about if and when it would be bringing this product to market. Luckily enough, I managed to get one pre-ordered – then it was just a waiting game for the item to arrive direct from Taiwan.
I based the build around a distribution plate in order to achieve the cleanest look possible. I wanted the build to pack in a lot of cooling potential but look as uncluttered as possible. My previous build had two separate cooling loops, one for the GPUs and one for the CPU, all crammed into a Lian Li PC-O9 chassis. It looked great but it was a little crowded, so this time I wanted to step away from that and move towards a cleaner aesthetic.
There’s also a Bitspower logo on the front and, if you take a close look, you’ll see it on all the fittings throughout the build. I’m a big fan of Bitspower’s water-cooling fittings – there’s loads of variety, the quality is always excellent, and you can get a ‘Black Sparkle’ finish, which is a favorite of mine.
Custom PC: How did you go about planning, measuring and cutting all the hard tubing?
Ryan: Planning the route for the hard tubing is always the most difficult part of a build in my opinion. Although I’ve done quite a lot of water-cooled builds so far, deciding how I’m going to route the tubing is the part that always takes me the longest.
To start, I’ll always draw it up on a bit of A4 to get a rough idea of how many tubing runs I’ll need and what fittings will be required. I chose to use 14mm O/D PETG tubing, as I’ve worked with both that material and acrylic before and it’s definitely the more user-friendly of the two. I used a small hacksaw to cut the tubes and some very fine sandpaper to remove any sharp edges. The latter also helps to get a good seal where the tube butts up against the O-ring inside the fittings. I always measure twice and cut once; you don’t want to waste any tubing!
I’d also like to do the next iteration of this build with metal tubing. I can happily get the bends I want with PETG or acrylic tubing, but the metal tubing is a whole new ball game for me – thankfully, the clean and straight runs from the distribution plate will simplify this upgrade.
There’s also a flow indicator under the bottom graphics card. It’s not an essential piece of kit to include in a cooling loop; it’s just a preference of mine. I like to be able to see clearly that the liquid is flowing at any given time. A little paranoia could save you some serious money – no pump flow could mean you’re cooking the components.
Custom PC: Did you sleeve the PSU cables yourself, and how did you plan the cable routing around the water-cooling loops?
Ryan: Credit for the excellent job on the cables goes to Mod-One – once again, I’d seen his work on Instagram. These cables just seemed to be a more premium option than the CableMod equivalent.
I’d used a ready-made kit from CableMod in an early build and, while the quality was good, the sleeving was with paracord rather than nylon. At the time, CableMod didn’t offer the service that it does now. The paracord equivalent is much more flexible and takes a bit of cable training to get the look you’re trying to achieve. I sketched up the cable routing on the original piece of A4 when I was planning the tubing runs.
Custom PC: Did you perform any custom modifications to the case?
Ryan: I did have to customize the chassis a little to get the second EK-PE radiator in the back of the case. I knew when buying the Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic case that it wouldn’t accept a radiator with these dimensions. However, I really wanted as much cooling potential as I could pack into the case, so I settled with a small modification to make it all work.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and I have to say that having two matching EKWB radiators really made me feel better about the build, although you don’t even see the one in the rear compartment. It wasn’t a drastic modification, but I had to remove the USB ports from the case’s front I/O panel. I never find myself using the USB ports at the front of any of my cases, so I didn’t really mind getting rid of this feature for extra cooling capacity. The ports were only hot-glued to the PCB, so removing them was a simple enough procedure.
Custom PC: What’s the little control panel in the top-left corner?
Ryan: That’s an Aquacomputer Vision. It shows real-time temperatures and usage of CPU and GPU cores. It’s a fantastic little tool for keeping track of system temperatures on demand. It can even display the project name on the LCD, so it looks really professional.
Custom PC: Did you come across any difficulties?
Ryan: Apart from the little issue I mentioned previously with squeezing an out-of-specification radiator into the case, there were very few problems. The Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic has actually been quite a refreshing case in which to build a water-cooling-focused PC. I’d say it’s an excellent case for anyone who might be looking into doing a similar build – it’s very user-friendly.
Custom PC: What did you learn from the build process?
Ryan: I’ve been doing this for five years now, and I’ve always learned a little something from each build. This build in particular taught me the importance of patience. I hadn’t accounted for changing my mind on how I had planned to route the tubing, so that left me a few fittings short. It’s funny, because no matter how much you forward plan when it comes to this kind of build, something as simple as a change of mind can throw up a bit of a speed bump.
Previously, I may have just gone with the original plan, but I wanted this build to be perfect. I wasn’t about to just go with it and not be completely happy with the end result. Hanging on a bit longer for some extra fittings to arrive through the post was totally worth it.
Custom PC: Are you completely happy with the end result, or do you wish you’d done some of it differently in retrospect?
Ryan: To be completely truthful, I’m more like 99 percent happy with the final result. That’s more from a functional perspective, though, as I’d like to have added a water temperature sensor into the mix somewhere.
Previously I’ve always used one in any of my water-cooled builds, but this time I just couldn’t find somewhere to locate one without it looking a little too busy for my liking. However, I’ve been considering adding one since and will probably tie that in with changing the coolant when it’s time for maintenance.
Acid Rain water-cooled PC specs
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6900K OC to 4.4GHz
- Graphics card: 2 x Zotac reference GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- Case: Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic
- Storage: 1 x Samsung 970 Evo 256GB (boot drive), 2 x Samsung 840 Evo 500GB, 1 x Crucial MX300 750GB, 1 x Crucial MX300 500GB, 2 x Kingston A400 480GB
- Memory: 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 3000MHz
- Motherboard: Asus Rampage 5 Extreme 10th Anniversary Edition
- PSU: Corsair AX1200i
- Cooling: Custom water-cooling loop with 2 x EKWB 60PE radiators, 1 x EKWB Monoblock for CPU and VRMs and 6 x Corsair HD120 fans in 3 x push and 3 x pull configuration
The PC builder
- Name: Ryan Davidson
- Age: 30
- Occupation: HGV driver
- Location: Lincolnshire, UK
- Main uses for PC: Gaming and light video editing
- Likes: I’m a big fan of being active and, coming from a military background, I apply the ‘fit for life’ motto. I entered a Tough Mudder this time last year with some friends from the gym and it was brilliant! I love a challenge. Other hobbies include clay pigeon shooting and mountain biking
- Dislikes: Leaving any job unfinished. I’m otherwise pretty easygoing
We feel like we should check ourselves with a Geiger counter just after looking at these photos – what an amazing build by Ryan. The hardline water-cooling tubing looks great, and the Day-Glo coolant really stands out.
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