SSUPD Meshlicious Build Guide & Review: D5 Pump Water Cooling

Today we will be building in and reviewing the SSUPD Meshlicious Mini ITX computer case. The Meshlicious is among the most well optimized ITX chassis available today and this is a build I am most excited about. This build guide will revolve around custom water cooling in the Meshlicious. Due to the current GPU shortage, we will be building without a GPU, with a Part 2 in the future to feature an RTX 3080 Founders Edition. In a separate build guide, we will also show off a build in a white Meshlicious featuring an ATX power supply and a 240mm AIO.

Case Overview

The Meshlicious comes in a perfectly sized box with the SSUPD branding. It is tightly packed and protected with plastic. The case we are building with has four black mesh panels and a PCIe 4.0 riser cable.

ssupd meshlicious box

Once you remove the primary side panel you will see an accessories box secured to the spine. As you will find out, for a relatively small case, the Meshlicious has adequate room inside for some rather interesting custom water cooling loops.

ssupd meshlicious unboxing

Here’s the front mesh panel. Radiator fans can easily push or pull air through this mesh material, an underrated case material in an era where tempered glass side panels win all the beauty contests.

ssupd meshlicious front mesh panel

The GPU side of the case is where you’ll see the riser cable. The riser cable can be installed at three different heights to accommodate various sizes of GPUs.

ssupd meshlicious black mesh side panel

The back of the case is where things get even more interesting. While it looks like a typical arrangement with PCIe bracket covers, a place for the power supply and rear IO, there is certainly more than meets the eye here… The spine which is the primary piece of metal inside the case (where the motherboard is mounted) can be moved into two positions. The default position allows for more room on the CPU side of the case. Moving the spine towards the front of the case will provide more room on the GPU side which can be handy when installing a secondary radiator or if you have a massive air cooler on your GPU. We love understated versatility and this case definitely has it!

ssupd meshlicious back

Here is the bottom of the case. This cutout is where GPU display cables would normally come out.

ssupd meshlicious bottom

Parts Assembly

Here is our parts list:

  • CPU: Intel Core i9-10850K
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX Z490-I GAMING
  • RAM: 64GB G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3600MHz
  • Storage: 1TB WD Black SN850 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Storage: 1TB WD Black NVMe (2018) M.2 SSD
  • PSU: Corsair SF750
  • PSU Cables: PSlate Custom Length Meshlicious Unsleeved Cables – Black
  • Case: Meshlicious – Black – All Mesh Panels – PCI-e 4.0 Riser Cable

If you notice the glaring omission of a GPU it’s because at the time of writing, we do not have a Founders Edition RTX 3080 which is necessary for the custom loop design we will be employing. Larger GPUs simply won’t fit with the pump and reservoir we will be installing. This build guide will be updated with a Part 2 as soon as we receive one. We refuse to reward scalpers by paying ridiculously more than MSRP for one… 2020-2021 has been a terrible time for sourcing GPUs!

To begin, we installed our ten core i9-10850K into the ASUS ROG STRIX Z490-I GAMING. This CPU/motherboard combination might be an unusual, but we have our reasons. To reflect the current GPU shortage situation, many people are opting for a CPU only build while they patiently await a reasonably priced GPU. The 10850K is very reasonably priced right now AND is a much better CPU than the current-gen i7-11700K, plus it also has onboard graphics which will drive our 38” ultrawide monitor. Frustratingly, only high-end ASUS ITX boards feature an onboard temperature sensor header (a necessity if you value total silence), therefore the STRIX Z490-I was the best bet.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming itx motherboard

The next step was to install our two M.2 storage drives. One thing I’ve always loved about ASUS ITX boards is that they typically feature a daughterboard which plugs in to the mainboard and expands its capabilities with M.2 ports, higher quality audio, additional headers and more. They just plain look cool… I really wanted to attempt an AMD build with the ROG Crosshair VIII Impact Mini-DTX board which has an even better daughterboard but alas, that would have meant no onboard graphics.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming m.2 installation

There are quite a few steps to fully remove the daughterboard on the Z490-I. First remove the two screws which secure the top heatsink.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming m.2 audio daughterboard

Then there are two more screws which secure the daughterboard itself to the motherboard. Remove those and carefully, lift the daughterboard out with equal pressure on each side.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming m.2 audio daughterboard removal

The two final screws to remove are on the second M.2 heatsink. When that heatsink is out of the way, you can begin installing your first M.2 drive to the bottom of the daughterboard. This will be your secondary drive.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming secondary m.2 installation

Once you’ve secured it with the included M.2 screws, you are ready to reassemble the daughterboard.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming m.2 audio daughterboard reinstallation

Next, install your 2nd/primary PCIe M.2 drive and its heatsink.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming primary m.2 installation

Due to the fragile nature of the daughterboard, this is likely to be one of the most time consuming parts of the build.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming primary m.2 drives

Last thing was to install our 64GB of G.Skill Trident Z RGB DDR4 RAM. This is a workstation PC and anything less than 64GB simply won’t cut it for us, especially since we will be using onboard graphics which benefit from higher capacity and faster RAM.

asus rog strix z490-i gaming primary g.skill trident z rgb ram

Watercooling Components Overview

Our custom loop will almost entirely be comprised of Corsair’s Hydro X Series of water cooling components. The only non-Corsair part here is the D5 pump/reservoir combo unit from EKWB. We chose to use soft tubing for the Meshlicious because it looks very clean in small builds and is far easier to work with.

Speaking of which, one of the most difficult aspects of building custom water cooling loops in true ITX cases is to fit a large pump. Typically, SFF (small form factor) builders settle for DDC or DC-LT models however as this is a workstation that will be placed on my desk directly next to my monitor, silent operation was a must.

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 pump reservoir

I saw on the SSUPD Reddit that u/yesArjan had managed to fit the EK FLT 120 D5 in his build with a founders RTX 3080 and this was the inspiration behind our build.

PSlate Customs – Unsleeved Black PSU Cables

A key component that made this build quick and easy were the PSlate Customs black unsleeved power cables for the SF750.

meshlicious pslate customs psu cables

We previously used PSlate cables on our FormD T1 build, and they were a joy to work with.

meshlicious pslate customs psu cables black

Unsleeved cables are thinner and therefore take up less room. The new material that PSlate has recently switched to for these black cables is best I’ve ever worked with.

meshlicious pslate customs cables black

It’s remarkably flexible yet durable and feels great in your hands.  

pslate customs unsleeved cables black

Working with these cables, you can tell that they were made with care and will likely outlast every other part in your build.

pslate customs unsleeved cables

Corsair Hydro X Series Parts Overview

meshlicious water cooling parts

We used the following Corsair custom water cooling parts in this build:

  • 1x Hydro X Series XR5 280mm Water Cooling Radiator
  • 1x Hydro X Series XC7 RGB CPU Water Block (1200/AM4) — Black
  • 2x Hydro X Series XF Compression 10/13mm (3/8” / 1/2”) ID/OD Fitting Four Pack — Black
  • 2x Hydro X Series 90° Rotary Adapter Twin Pack — Black
  • 1x Hydro X Series XT Softline 10/13mm (3/8” / 1/2”) ID/OD Tubing
  • 1x Hydro X Series XL5 Performance Coolant 1L — Clear
  • 1x ML140 140mm PWM Premium Magnetic Levitation Fan — Twin Pack
  • 1x Hydro X Series Two-Way PWM Fan Splitter Cables (Three Pack)

The XT Softline clear PVC tubing has an inner diameter of 10mm and an outer diameter of 13mm.

corsair hydro x series xt softline tubing

It arrived in airtight plastic which prevents it from losing its shape or degrading.

corsair hydro x softline tubing

The next component is the XR5 280mm radiator. As you can see, it is well-packaged which is important as radiators are easily damaged.

corsair hydro x series xr5 280mm radiator unboxing

The XR5 is shipped with three sets of mounting screws of varying lengths. One set for directly mounting the radiator to the case frame, one for mounting to a standard 25-mm thick fan and a third set for mounting to fans with rubber pads.

corsair hydro x series xr5 280mm radiator accessories
corsair hydro x series xr5 280mm radiator manual

Here’s the radiator in all its glory! While radiators are boring, they are nearly as important as the pump when it comes to importance. A radiator that cools well for its size is vital in smaller builds where you can’t fit thicker 360mm or 480mm radiators that significantly more surface area and can make up for poor overall cooling quality.

corsair hydro x series xr5 280mm radiator

Here’s the fin layout, it’s very dense which is a dead giveaway that this is a high-end radiator. I was very impressed with the build quality of the XR5 and when I preemptively flushed it with distilled water, there wasn’t a single shred of plastic or metal present inside.

corsair xr5 280mm radiator

The Corsair branding can be seen on both sides.

corsair xr5 280mm radiator

Next up is the XC7 RGB CPU block.

corsair hydro x series xc7 rgb cpu water block

It includes mounting hardware for both Intel and AMD processors. It also includes an RGB adapter cable to connect to a motherboard should you not possess a Corsair Commander product to control the lights.

corsair xc7 rgb cpu water block accessories

The waterblock has preinstalled thermal paste which is nice for beginners who want an easier building process.

corsair xc7 rgb cpu block packaging

It really is a nice block that looks beautiful in person.

corsair xc7 rgb cpu block back

Corsair, as with their other water cooling products, includes a detailed quick installation guide which is well documented with intuitive graphics that are invaluable for those just dipping their feet into the world of PC water cooling.

corsair xc7 rgb cpu block installation instructions

Next are the Corsair ML140 140mm magnetic levitation fans which we will be mounting to the XR5 280mm radiator. We didn’t want bright RGB fans on the front of the cases and for those who appreciate an understated design, you can’t go wrong with the ML140s.

corsair ml140 140mm magnetic levitation fans

They are packaged together, back-to-back.

corsair ml140 fans unboxing

Each fan comes with a set of fan screws.

corsair ml140 fans

Fittings wise, we chose the XF compression 10/13mm in black.

corsair hydro x series xf compression fittings box

They come in packs of four, protected with Styrofoam. Remember you need one fitting per component. If you are using a pump/reservoir combo unit in a typical loop with a CPU, GPU and radiator, then eight fittings will suffice.

corsair hydro x series xf compression fittings unboxing

Here are all eight fittings. They have a nice sheen that’s not too shiny but still makes its presence known. Each fitting has a green O-ring which were all in sound condition.

corsair hydro x series xf compression fittings black

A common failure point in water cooling systems is a bad or improperly seated O-ring. If you ever see a leak, check your O-rings!

corsair hydro x series xf compression fittings

Here’s a fitting with the cap off.

corsair xf compression fitting black

All in all, these are very well-made fittings and are excellent choice for new and veteran builders alike.

corsair xf compression fittings

Here’s what they look like when installed on the XC7 CPU block.

meshlicious cpu block fittings

90-degree fittings will be among your best friends when water cooling. The Corsair Hydro X Series come in packs of two. You’ll want these when your tubes would otherwise have to bend to fit into a waterblock or radiator. Not only are they angled by design, but they can also rotate in a circle, making them very versatile.

corsair hydro x series 90 degree rotary adapter box

Not to be confused with regular compression fittings which you still need. These merely augment a compression fitting and add an angle to it.

corsair hydro x series 90 degree rotary adapter black

Custom Loop Assembly

We combined two EK FLT 120 DDC “legs” and screwed them together and then mounted them to the FLT 120 D5 pump/reservoir. Next, we needed to drill two holes into the spine of the Meshlicious to secure the pump/res.

ek flt 120 d5 pump reservoir

Here’s the first hole which turned out perfectly height wise, etc.

meshlicious ek flt 120 mounting hole

The second one is a little more difficult to see and was not near as simple to drill due to the top of the case frame being in the way. Ideally, I would remove the spine entirely and mark the holes for a perfect result. This hole is also a little too low which meant that the pump/res sits slightly crookedly. Alas I will live with it as it’s not a big deal especially with the mesh side panels hiding any imperfections.

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 mounting holes

Here is the FLT 120 mounted along with the Corsair SF750 SFX power supply.

meshlicious with ek flt 120 d5 installed

A closeup of the mounting location.

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 pump res

Here is the backside. Yes, there is enough room to fully close the side panel. Another thing I prefer about the D5 over its DDC counterpart is that the power cables are presleeved by EK. Not sure why they don’t do this on the DDC version…

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 gpu side

Here’s an eagle eye view where you can see the mounting holes and hardware I used. The screws and washers were all from the D5 pump/res kit.

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 mounting legs on case spine

Next, we installed the motherboard which was straightforward. We also plugged the riser cable in.

meshlicious motherboard installation

Our CPU block will use two 90-degree fittings to make tubing runs simpler and avoid kinks. Kinks kill water flow and if there are too many, they can seriously affect the performance of your loop.

meshlicious cpu block angled adapters

The XR5 radiator is also outfitted with two 90-degree fittings.

corsair 280mm radiator with fittings

Radiator installation was very easy. First remove the 240mm radiator adapter bracket that is preinstalled. Then simply slide the radiator in and then the fans between the gap of the front of the case and the radiator inside the case. Screw everything in and you’re done. In our 240mm AIO build, this was far more difficult as we had to deal with bending the rigid AIO tubes out of the way while balancing the radiator and fans to secure them with screws to the smaller 240m adapter bracket.   

meshlicious radiator installed

Here’s what it looks like with a 280mm radiator and fans installed. We still have plenty of room to work with.

meshlicious radiator fans

I started routing the 24-pin and 8-pin PSU cables to see how much room they would require.

meshlicious psu cables

Next was the MOLEX cable for the pump.

meshlicious radiator fitting

Working with front panel power and LED connectors can be among the most frustrating experiences when working in any case let alone an ITX case full of parts. The connectors are very small and there’s always 3-4 of them to plug in and if you ever inadvertently move the cable they are attached to, they get disconnected… We really need to update/standardize these things! Alas, ASUS includes a small adapter which plugs into the motherboard and extends the front power/LED connectors. I cannot tell you how nice this thing is.

asus motherboard case power button adapter

I plugged it in and ran it behind the motherboard, then plugged in the case’s front panel cables. SO much easier!

asus motherboard case power button cables

Here we are after a little cable management. I ran the PSU cables around the spine. This is all done without the standoff mod.

meshlicious before water cooling tubing installation

Next, I measured and cut our first tube which runs from the CPU block to the radiator.

meshlicious cpu tube with fitting caps

With soft tubing all you need to do is put the endcap on the tube, work the tube over the barbed fitting and then screw the cap on. Very simple.

meshlicious soft tubing cpu side

Next, we did the same with the radiator end of the tube.

meshlicious clear soft tubing

I used another 90-degree fitting from the pump/res to the CPU block.

meshlicious ek flt 120 d5 tubing installation

Since we don’t have the GPU yet, the other end of the pump/res simply connects to the 2nd port on the radiator. Normally a GPU would be connected between these two parts.

meshlicious pump res soft tubing

Here’s a side angle showing the tubing runs. I haven’t done any cable management in the back, again due to the fact we will be finishing this build in Part 2.

meshlicious d5 pump

My favorite tubing run is from the CPU block to the pump/res. It runs over the top of the spine and brilliantly, the designers anticipated this as they provided enough room to run tubes up there while still allowing the very top mesh panel to fully close.

meshlicious custom loop

Here’s the fill port plug removed prior to adding the Corsair Hydro X Series XL8 clear coolant. The XL8 is a premix and is ready to go out of the bottle. Just for reference, after filling this loop and bleeding it for air and topping it off. There’s still just under half of a bottle of coolant left, plenty for adding a GPU.

meshlicious filling reservoir

Filling the loop.

meshlicious water cooling

As you fill the loop, you’ll need to periodically turn on the pump to cycle the coolant through the parts. Then fill up again and repeat.

meshlicious d5 pump build

Conclusion

While we are not finished with this build, I’d still like to share some thoughts for those considering the Meshlicious. To begin, despite its affordable price tag (sub $200 for any configuration) the Meshlicious is very well made. The mesh side panels have a premium heft to them and the pin mechanism they employ to lock-in to the case is both simple and durable. We’ve removed and reinstalled the panels many, many times and they don’t show any signs of premature wear. The case itself is expertly designed as it can fit both ATX and SFX power supplies, 240mm and 280mm radiators, Mini-ITX and Mini-DTX motherboards, varying lengths of GPUs, internal and externally mounted pump/reservoir combo units and the list goes on.

performance computer editors choice award

Our first experience with metal mesh side panels in an ITX case was the FormD T1 and we were pleasantly surprised not only by the cooling benefits but also but by their sleek appearance. If I were building an ITX sized computer to sit on my desk today, I’d choose the Meshlicious. It’s one of the best cases on the market and its versatility in a vertical case format is simply unmatched at this point.

We highly recommend the SSUPD Meshlicious!

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