bit-tech Looks at CableMod's Custom Cables
There are loads of ways you can customise your PC nowadays. You can add LEDs in strips or fans; some cases can be bought in different colours from the outset or modified with optional accessories; water-cooling is a great way to add a unique and classy touch to your system and our modding forums
are full of enthusiasts modifying their cases by cutting, painting or adding to their existing cases, with some even creating their own cases from scratch.
However, a simple modification is regarded as an essential part of the modding process - adding cable braid to your PSU's power cables. This has been popular since enthusiasts started to rebel against the hideous multi-coloured cables often sported by PSUs, which persist even today with some cheaper models. It was one of the first things to be improved when PSU manufacturers started taking notice of the growing PC enthusiast community over a decade ago.
CableMod's cable set in red and black for Corsair's AXi series PSUs
Now, as well as modular cables, most premium PSUs either have pre-braided cables or at the very least use all-black cables and not the ghastly red, orange, brown, black etc. This improved the situation, but there's still plenty of room for modding and a big industry behind custom cables too. The most popular elements are creating custom coloured cables, maybe even alternating colours, usually to match a system's colour scheme.
The braiding is also slightly thicker than the usual cables so it can look a little less wiry. It;s certainly the case that many PC modders consider their braided cables a feature of their PC rather than something that should be hidden, especially with the use of cable combs. More extreme modding involves modding the cables themselves to create custom lengths as well as colours. This can be beneficial for super-clean looks as you can alter the cable's lengths to exactly meet your needs, with no need to bunch up and cable tie any excesses - everything is exactly the right length to be neatly routed around your case.
Forum member p0Pe's Rhino build - he usually makes the cables a main feature in his projects
You'll hear no complaints from us about this - it turns a great PC mod into a spectacular one. It's something that everyone appreciates given the effort involved and, when done right, the cables do indeed become a feature that adds to the eye-candy, rather than an eyesore that needs hiding away under PSU covers. However, there are one or two issues with custom cable braiding.
Firstly, there's the time involved. Modding a PC takes a lot of time in itself, but braiding an entire set of PSU cables can take several days and will result in plenty of sore, bleeding fingers. We've been there and done it, and while the sense of achievement is unquestionable, we do question the time required to do it - we'd much rather be painting or cutting our PC case. Dealing with connectors and pins and crimping and heatshrink can be extremely tedious.
Then there's the expense. It's very easy to underestimate the cost of braiding an entire set of PSU cables for the simple reason it doesn't appear that you need that much material. However, just a 40cm 24-pin ATX connector requires 10 metres of braiding and with one metre costing anywhere between 50p to over £1 costs can quickly mount.
Thankfully, PSU manufacturers and third party companies realised this and many offer custom coloured pre-braided cable sets for their PSUs. They're largely made from ModFlex or paracord - a rope-like tight weave of non-glossy nylon strands. They're usually very flexible but this in turn can make them lack uniformity so they're best bunched rather than routed separately in lines. The thin woven material is prone to snagging too. However, the material is relatively cheap so is obviously a hit with companies that charge upwards of £80 for a full set of paracord-braided cables. Most ModFlex cables are also quite thin - the material tends to hug the cables inside and as a result many third-party cable combs won't fit - the cable just bounces around instead of clicking into place.
ModMesh left, ModFlex right
So, all things considered, when a company such as CableMod pops up, not only offering pre-braided cable sets in custom and even alternating colours in both ModFlex and ModMesh (a thicker material that can look neater as well as being compatible with many cable combs), our interest is piqued. We wanted to take a look at its offerings, in particular its custom cable configurator where you can specify the length of each cable, its colour and whether you want ModMesh or ModFlex.