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Intel NUC 9 Extreme Water Cooling Project – Part 1

To kick off a new year of modding projects we have partnered with Intel to build one of the smallest high-end water-cooled gaming systems possible. We have previously received numerous comments asking for a small form factor mod project, and that is exactly what is going on here with the smallest of small form factor desktop systems.

Watch via our Vimeo channel (below) or over on YouTube at 2160p HERE


  • 00:00 Video start
  • 00:03 A little history
  • 01:29 Project details and specs – Challenge accepted
  • 03:04 Plan for the first video
  • 03:45 NUC 9 Extreme compute element card in detail
  • 07:03 The naked compute element up close – not a lot of space to W/C!
  • 09:02 Mod plans for the case – without increasing size
  • 10:00 The Cooler Master case – stripping it down
  • 12:42 Power supply discussion
  • 14:54 Stock form BUILD for reference readings/power draw
  • 20:00 Removing the power extension lead, cable check and accessory box
  • 21:22 Installing the board and PSU
  • 25:04 Installing the graphics card and finalising the ‘reference’ build
  • 28:12 Build complete (only kidding!)
  • 29:10 Minor setbacks – the reason we do a test build FIRST!
  • 31:00 Checking PSU pin outs – cable discussion and modding
  • 47:17 Installing the new modded Seasonic PSU
  • 48:53 Almost back together – front panel on bench grinder
  • 50:15 Boot test with reference build
  • 51:50 XPG drive test – still got problems!
  • 53:42 Updating the BIOS and our findings
  • 55:57 Testing the stock system, results
  • 58:06 Load results for future watercooling compares
  • 59:06 3DMark – CPU/GPU clock and temps
  • 1:01:40 Thoughts before we start the watercooling mods – troubleshooting

Intel got in touch with KitGuru and challenged us with an interesting idea of making a custom NUC 9 Extreme gaming system. We love a challenge at KitGuru, so not only did we accept, but we also want to take this build one step further by adding water cooling to the mix. Since there is no “off the shelf” water cooling solution for the Intel NUC 9 Compute Element so we will have to make or adapt our own.

In the first video for this new project, we take a look at the NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element card in more detail and check out the Cooler Master NC100 chassis that will be used to house the system. An initial build of the system in its stock form is needed to measure the CPU and GPU performance and running temperature before water cooling, however, we ran into some issues with the Cooler Master V650 SFX power supply so adapting a Seasonic SGX-650 unit was the first mod needed to get the system up and running.

Test System Specification:

  • CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK
  • Motherboard: Intel NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element board
  • Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB modules) G.Skill Ripjaws DDR4-3200MHz (XMP) SO-DIMM
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition
  • 1st Storage device: ADATA 2TB XPG SX8200 Pro PCIe Gen3x4 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 2nd Storage device: ADATA 2TB XPG SX8200 Pro PCIe Gen3x4 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 3rd Storage device: 512GB Plextor M9PeGN PCIe® Gen3x4 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Case: Cooler Master NC100
  • Cooling: Stock / Modified Alphacool Custom water cooling with flexible tubing
  • System Fans: Cooler Master
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master V650 SFX / Seasonic Focus SGX-650

Seasonic doesn’t make an SFX power supply specifically designed to fit inside the Cooler Master NC100 or even a one that is intended to be compatible with the NUC 9 Compute Element board, so testing pinouts and modifying cables were necessary to make the Seasonic SGX-650 work with the NUC 9 Extreme. As well as modify the cables, I also flipped the power supply 180-degrees so that the fan no pulls in air from outside of the system via the vented side case side panel which should give us more space to play with when it comes to fitting a pump/res combo for water cooling.

To ensure that we have data to compare whether our water cooling efforts are having a positive effect on thermals and system performance, we measured the performance of the system in its stock configuration. The Core i9-9980HK process that is soldered to the NUC 9 Compute Element board is essentially a laptop CPU with short and long duration power limits that determine clock frequency over time. CPU boost frequency is also affected by thermals so hopefully, our water cooling solution will significantly improve performance and allow us to raise the long duration power limit.

A series of stress tests on the CPU, gaming benchmarks and 3D stress test will be carried out on the system with the stock CPU and GPU thermal solutions. The same series of test will then be run on the system with the custom water cooling installed, to determine whether the new liquid cooling solution improves thermal performance and boost frequency, and therefore improving performance, which is our aim for this project.

Find out more here:

INTEL INNOVATION: intel.com/innovation

VISIT INTEL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk7SjrXVXAj8m8BLgzh6dGA

VISIT INTEL TECHNOLOGY:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_9tBCeHdBG13If451X7FRw

GHOST CANYON: https://simplynuc.co.uk/ghost-canyon/

SCAN: https://www.scan.co.uk/shops/intel/ghost-canyon-nuc

EBUYER: https://www.ebuyer.com/store/Components/cat/Barebones/Intel

KitGuru says: Water-cooled small form factor builds are always challenging, the NUC 9 takes small form factor to another level which makes this project even more interesting. Make sure you stay tuned to our YouTube channel in the coming weeks and months to see how this project pans out.

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