Build Log: The Migrator gets an uplift

Well, I’ve been moving on with the Multi your Threading stuff, but time for something a bit lighter.

A while back I entered a Twitter prize draw by actual AMD and managed to win a Radeon VII, the special 50 year edition at that. I’ve been the first one to defend my Vega 56 and say I’ve been pretty happy with it BUT… yeah, sorry baby.

I was comprehensibly super hyped once this arrived at my door and, once I opened it up, wow, is this a gorgeous card.

It… would be a shame if… you know, we had to get rid of that super sexy special edition cooler with all those fans. 

As glorious as this is, I’m not having that extra fwoosh on my PC but I DID somewhat immediately take the card out for a spin in the jankyest way possible

Does this count as crossfire?

I’m going to do a later post on overclocking and benchmarking but, for now suffice to say this card is a BEAST

ToyBrot OpenCL Vega56
ToyBrot OpenCL Radeon VII

Despite that, the card was just sitting on its box for quite a while. I can confirm that those fans (much to my surprise, tbh) have quite the fwoosh. This is not AT ALL a silent card. But, in addition to just putting the new card in I also decided to take this opportunity to do some general maintenance in The Migrator.

I’d been planning for a long time to do this by the end of this year. Nothing biggie, just regular watercooling maintenance. Change the fluids, clean the things, change the tubing if they’re stained and/or you’re using different coolant….  Back when I put the Titan in, I noticed my once very white Mayhem’s Pastel coolant was not really dental cream marketing material at this point and it got me a bit unsure

The first challenge though, is getting this case onto the table. This picture is 100% lies. I am unable to lift this case without removing all the glass and steel panels beforehand.

Also, if you ever buy one of these cases, I’d say getting some castor wheels on it is MANDATORY. Thermaltake should just ship the case with them. I got mine of Bunnings, a local hardware store.

It is a really cool looking mini fridge, tho

I figured if I was going to go through the hassle of unplugging my PC, getting a new block in, probably cutting new tubing, washing the old block, draining the GPU loop… might as well do all of the maintenance already.

So, in addition to just the new GPU, I also had some extra stuff

For the coolant, I decided I wanted to go back to regular dyed water kind of fluid, instead of the opaque pastel types. Partially for a change, partially cause I wanted to actually make use of the “waterfall” effecty of my reservoirs. I also thought I’d go with UV reactive coolant and get some UV cathodes or LEDs, which are SURPRISINGLY HARD to find nowadays, apparently. Apparently it’s all about them “RGB’s” these days. The PC I use as a background picture with all of the colours was my PC in 2006, maybe in 13 years I’ll be able to get UVs again?

In preparation for this really entire weekend event, I had already put the block on my Radeon VII

EK was basically the easiest brand I could find to buy. I think when I looked it was either that or Byksky. And, as usual, here’s a mandatory “screw you” to Alphacool which discontinued their GPX NexXxoS line. This’d be the the third updgrade kit I’d have bough from them (after the Vega and the Titan). While it lasted, to me that was one of the most exciting things in watercooling… maybe ever? So yeah, I’m SUPER bitter about it.

EK themselves did also manage to disappoint me a bit though. As usual for me I wanted a bare copper block instead of the nickel plated one but once I saw they had a version with pretty lights I was entirely unable to resist, except they only sold THAT in Nickel. So here I am with a lame nickel plated block again (last one was second hand)


Opening up the Radeon VII was mostly straightforward and the super fancy thermal pad thing they ship it with instead of regular paste makes it super easy to clean. Even under that fancy cooler, this is still one super sexy card

My derpy self had to put the block in twice, though. The waterblock does not come with a printed manual. There’s not a lot there anyway, I just looked at the stock cooler and cut the thermal pads over the same voltage regulators, gooped up that GPU good and put it in, easy.

Except when I looked at EK’s manual, like, half an hour after finishing this, they also put thermal pads over the chokes. And this is very likely just pointelss redundancy, but I had not done so and I just got like an entire week of “hey… those chokes though” “they’ll be fine” “yeah, but…. will they?”

So I eventually took it apart again, cleaned up EK’s nice goop, put in some other one and, this time put the thermal pads on the chokes as well. 

The fact that you can use the block with the stock backplate is pretty cool and it also means that there’s still that hint of special edition there.

Comparing it to the Vega 56, I was surprised by how much busier the PCB is, as well as the difference in size and, consequently, weight of the block

The final upgrade is super easy at this stage of things. I run the main storage of this PC in a RAID 5 configuration, managed by an Adaptec Controller that I bought from what I’m pretty sure is server scrap.


I’d been running 4 1TB WD Reds, but now I’ve upgraded it to 4TB Seagates. It’s going to take me at least like two months to fill all of this space up =P

Everone nice and cosy

Thanks to the magic of planning, draining both loops wasn’t too bad, although, with this setup it really can’t be too easy either. The Thermaltake Tower 900 is a pretty massive case but I just took that as an opportunity to go crazy. If you ask Thermaltake whether you can have 2 480 rads on this case, and they’re fat rads and you still want to use their HDD cages, they’ll tell you that’s not really going to work and you don’t quite have the space. But I can tell you that if those are XSPC RXs, thanks to the magic of calipers and XSPC providing proper tech drawings with measurements for their components, you can JUST fit everything in

Old pic, not even the PSU is there

After draining both loops, blowing a lot of fluid out, comes hard part No 1

Remove and wash all of the things

It turns out that it was PRETTY good that I did all of this because there was some truly disgusting gunk on my GPU loop. I’m not sure what it was, MAYBE algae? But the coolant should have some algicide and the CPU loop was fine so… not sure… Still, there was some furious rinsing there and actual washing of the reservoir and pump.

I didn’t buy any sort of cleaning solution for the rad or anything, so, I can only hope that it was enough

No wonder that coolant had a dodgy colour

I made a point of just not rushing and taking it slow as much as I can. It’s a LOT of work and there’s no fun like filling your loop after 10 hours inside your PC to find out you’ve done some silly stuff like route your tubing the wrong way around or something like that. So everything until here took me pretty much the entire first day. Next morning, “all” I had to do was put everything back in, cut the new tubing and fill both loops up. 

A bit of ultra-pure water and the coolant was ready to go. I had heard that Orange was quite pink but still kinda hoped they were more distinct. Still, if there’s one wrong colour to be, I’ll definitely take pink. On natural light, they don’t look too bad though

EK's now discontinued "Orange" on the left. Mayhem's pink mix on the right

Another good thing of doing this is I wanted to reseat my CPU cooler for a while. I never felt I got good results, it would lose stability somewhat fast if it heated up even a little. I think the alleged Gelid Extreme paste I bought way back was a dodgy. Getting the new stuff in was pretty nice and I was super lucky that I didn’t have to take the Zenith off of the case to do any of these. I managed to access the screws to remove the VRM cooler from the back cutout and the TR4 socket has all the business on the front and a built in backplate. This was a blessing

What I knew was going to be the most awkward part was looping the GPUs. Curiously enough, two ports lined up almost perfectly, if only one of them was an inlet instead of an outlet =P

After fiddling with it a bit I settled for a larger loop between them. Any direct routes I felt were putting way too much perpendicular strain on the cards and this keeps the tubing nicely from kinking. It also has the advantage that if I need to move the cards a bit (say, if i need to access the Quadro in between them) I have some wiggle room which is useful also to try and get air out of the Radeon VII

New Ryzen may have the threads and a LOT of clocks, but it's some 30ish PCIe lanes short for me
These fittings are super smexy
That lineup trap =P
I played a bit with embracing the "knotiness" of the situation, but couldn't quite get it to look interesting without potentially bumping into the front glass
If I was watercooling the third card, though, this would be hilarious and super cool (and dumb). Where's my Xe at, Intel? I've got another of those core-only GPXs sitting here

I was satisfied with how the GPU loop looked in the end, and the CPU loop was pretty straightforward since it was the same as before. I got trolled one last time though

My last pieve of tubing was ALMOST long enough to get everything hooked up
Luckily, I was prepared and had one extra of these on standby
All sorted. I'm happy this case has all these sight blockers because this is one busy floor
Given what was going on on the GPU side, i decided to add some fun to the CPU side as well

With all of that sorted out, I was finally ready for the scary part, actually filling these loops and seeing how it was going to look like

Now, it’s hard to take pictures of these because my phone’s camera ABSOLUTELY HATES those new LEDs, they swamp everything out like crazy. To the naked eye it’s not nearly as bad BUT they are quite bright. I remember the old cathodes being this odd purple soft light. These are indeed quite bright and pink but… hey, I’ll take pink, I guess. And the fluids DO get that hint of glow when the lights are on. The optical bay device with all the buttons is a SATA power controller. I don’t really know what actual sata devices you’d want to control on and off like that but if you buy a bunch of cheap SATA cables on ebay and then use it to wire your LEDs, this is a really cool piece of kit =P

Same as when I was putting the Titan in, I got ANOTHER leaky rotary. I love your stuff, XSPC, but this is annoying. I didn’t even try to wriggle this. Just replaced with a spare one I had. But it’s a bummer. Same as the other time, the leak is in the fitting’s own rotary joint so there’s pretty much nothing I can do =(

This is why we leak test, children

That was the only leak though, and once it was sorted, it was all good. You can see here some difference with the lights turned off, but still, the camera doesn’t like these colours at all and it doesn’t do it justice. I might try with the other camera sometime, but at this point I was just tired


A few hours running with no further leaks, it was time to bring it back to its rightful place and get along with making sure everything was working again, as well getting all the old data into the new RAID

These are the hard times of watercooling (I mean, that and when you first need to buy all the things.. yikes) but it’s definitely worth it. I’m really happy with the result overall. Also, nothing like an actual camera camera to get a final beauty shot

And a bonus overexposed shot with all of the glow

Right now there are only a few things left


In these last couple more recent pictures, you can see that there’s a cable tie around the tubing between the CPU and the VRM blocks. That’s to try and prevent a kink. Tubing should settle in a few days and I’ll be able to remove it, but annoying that it’s there on the new tubing.

Part of why the CPU coolant looks so much more solid (besides Mayhem’s being some amazing stuff) is that the pump on that side is a PWM controlled D5. This is really convenient normally, but when the PC fires up, it spins up 100% and those two blocks are nothing to a D5. So water jets out crazy from the outlet on the Res and this is causing it to foam a bit. So I might need to either remove the column or put more coolant in. Again, a bit of a bummer, but no biggie.

The last one is a bit though. After testing and overclocking, it’s clear that I’ve botched the install on my RadeonVII’s block. Temperatures are not much lower than when I had the stock cooler on (well, I say that, but that is only REALLY true when I’m pushing the card super hard). It’s not enough for the card to throttle so it’s not an ISSUE issue, but I’m still going to take it out and reseat it soon. Just gathering my courage, really. This also works as a bit of a confirmation bias thing with my suspicions on the old Gelid TIM I got. Because that’s what I used when I had to redo the block the first time around. i figured “eh, even if this is not super good, the GPU should be fine. The old Vega I could never even get to warm up much despite cranking it’s power draw like crazy”, but… not this time around. Could be that I just didn’t tighten the block enough too, as I always get paranoid with the exposed dies of GPUs. But as long as it’s just this, it’s not too annoying to do.


I’ll try and get this all done before I do the overclocking and benchmarking post so I have some actual pretty numbers to show for all of this. And I also have to redo all of the toyBrot benchmarks now that this is my new main card (and I’m very likely selling off the Vega) and, as I teased way back in the beginning, this is going to be pretty crazy. So see you all when I get around to doing all of this