PETG Vs. Acrylic: Advantages and Disadvantages
Though acrylic tubing is the most widely used tubing in water-cooled PCs, PETG tubing has quickly become a great additional option commonly used in PC builds. So does PETG have what it takes to pass up acrylic and become the new standard?
Most likely the answer to this question is no, though not just simply based on the merits of PETG tubing. For some reason, hardcore PC enthusiasts have begun to frown upon the use of PETG tubing, insisting that acrylic is superior and should continue to be the default when it comes to PC water cooling. However, despite all the hate, PETG tubing offers almost identical performance and results when compared to acrylic tubing and can be especially useful to beginners.
If the results are identical then, does it really matter which you choose? Well, despite the fact that these materials are so similar, there are slight differences that you should consider when deciding which tubing to use in your next PC build.
Acrylic has been the default for such a long time for good reason. Acrylic tubing offers unmatched clarity, looking much more similar to glass than PETG does. It is also very rigid and strong and can withstand much higher temperatures than PETG can, something that can be very important if the coolant gets too hot due to overclocking or a pump failure. Acrylic tubing is also scratch and stain resistant, unlike PETG, so you won’t have to worry about your acrylic tubing getting too beat up once it's in place.
However, Acrylic tubing’s superior rigidity and strength can actually be a bit of a downfall in some cases. With acrylic being so rigid, it is much more prone to shattering than PETG tubing is, which can dangerous if you get too mad at your PC for losing a game.
The superior heat resistance of acrylic tubing, while good for the extreme temperatures inside your PC, can make it a lot more difficult to work with than PETG tubing is. Because PETG’s melting point is so much lower than acrylic’s, it is much easier to heat it up and bend it into the right shape. This is incredibly advantageous for anyone who’s making a new PC, but even more so for beginners who will have much more trouble heating the acrylic tubing to the necessary temperature to form it into the right shape.
Still, PETG users should be cautious once the computer is finished and in use. If the coolant gets too hot, usually around 40 degrees Celsius and above, your PETG tubing may begin to deform and bulge or, in extreme cases, even leak out coolant. This can obviously be detrimental to the aesthetics of the PC and possibly catastrophic to the PC itself.
It is worth noting, however, that there is a simple way to avoid this. These types of deformations tend to occur around the end of the tubing where the tubes meet the compression fittings, so by putting any sort of PETG tubing insert, like the EK-HD PETG Inserts, on the ends of your tubing can prevent your PETG tubing from being exposed to the extreme heat needed to deform it.
One slight disadvantage that PETG tubing has when compared to acrylic is its water permeation. Water permeation is essentially the process by which water passes through a solid object and acrylic tubing allows this to happen much less. Though this superior ability to stop the permeation of water through the tubing is slightly advantageous, in reality, all it means is that you’ll have to top of your cooling loop just a little bit more frequently if you decide to use PETG tubing in place of acrylic.
Overall, despite their slight differences, you really can’t go wrong with either material. I would say that PETG is the better choice for beginners building their first PC, you won’t need to go out and buy special tools just to work with it. Though it lacks some of the strength and resistance that comes with acrylic tubing, the affordability of PETG tubing as well as the fact that it is much easier to heat, bend and cut makes it perfect for any first-time PC builder.
However, if you’re already an enthusiast with multiple PC builds under your belt, you may be better off using acrylic tubing. Long term, acrylic tubing just can’t be outmatched by PETG visually. Though harder to work with and easier to shatter, acrylic tubing is the standard for a reason and anyone looking to have the best looking and performing PC should stick with acrylic.
Why Choose A Frosted Finish Instead Of A Clear One?
To tell the truth, there is no real technical advantage to having frosted tubing instead of clear tubing, meaning that whether your tubing is frosted or not, it will not have any effect on the performance of your PC. It’s really all down to personal preference and what you want your PC build to look like. Many people do prefer their tubing to be clear, which works specifically well if you are using a dark-colored coolant. However, unlike darker colors, I don’t think light colors work as well here.
This, in my opinion, is the biggest advantage that frosted tubing has over its clear counterpart. Though light-colored coolants might fade away into the background of a PC, especially for all black or similarly dark builds, frosted tubing looks great with lighter pastel colors. This allows you to experiment with colors you might not otherwise use like light blues, greens, and reds. There’s really nothing that can make your tubing look more like a freezing cold stream of icy water than using a sky blue coolant with frosted tubing.
Frosted tubing also works a lot better with RGB light fillings. The frosted satin finish of the tubing strengthens the color and diffuses light much better than a clear tube would. Overall, this allows the tube to glow more fully along its entire length, an effect that is much more difficult to accomplish if using clear tubing.
Depending on what else you are using in your build, colored tubing may be a great option to use as well. Most colored tubing comes in a satin frosted finish, so if you are using colored acrylic panels elsewhere in your build, frosted tubes of a matching color could really match the aesthetic of the rest of your PC and offer a more unique look not shared by many others.
What Materials Do You Need And How Do You Frost Your Own PETG Tubing?
Now for the fun part! This mod is incredibly simple to pull off and all you’ll need is two simple items, your PETG tubing, and a few 500 and 1000 grit soft pads. For those of you unfamiliar with soft pads, they are simply sanding pads that are often used to polish soft surfaces like plastics and resins. Though usually used in conjunction with a power sander, these soft pads can still be used by themselves to great effect. Those of you in the automotive industry should already be quite familiar with these types of sanding pads.
The advantage of using soft pads instead of something a bit more common like sandpaper is that soft pads are designed to conform to curved and uneven surfaces. It is still possible to use normal high grit sandpaper if you want to, however, edges and corners will be particularly hard to get an even frosted finish on. Overall, soft pads are the way to go because they help make an even finish on all parts of the tubing, not to mention that they will allow you to complete the job in a much quicker and more efficient manner.
These pads are widely available online or at any hardware store near you. However, the trick here is finding a small, appropriately sized package of pads that won’t leave you with a lifetime supply of soft pads left over. Mirka Abralon soft pads are great for this as they come in convenient packages of ten, however, there are plenty of options to choose from, and with a worst-case scenario of simply having too many leftover soft pads, there really isn’t any wrong choice of soft pads to use.
Once you’ve acquired your soft pads and PETG tubing, the process is quite simple. All you’ll want to do is begin sanding with the 500 grit soft pads. Run the pads from end to end along the whole length of your PETG tubing. This should leave some pretty consistent lines scratched along the entire length of the tubing. Once finished with your long straight motions, try to even out the finish by doing circular motions along the tubing as well. This should leave you with a consistent and even frosted finish.
If you still notice some inconsistent marks from the 500 grit soft pads, you’ll want to break the 1000 grit pads out next. Sanding over any surface that has faint and inconsistent markings will smooth everything out, leaving you with the beautiful satin frosted finish you’ve been looking for.
Overall this process shouldn’t take much time at all as the soft pads should make easy work of the PETG tubing. However, there is one very important thing that you need to take note of. Make sure that you have already bent your tubing into the desired shape before you try to sand your PETG. The sanded layer that causes the tubing to have the frosted look is incredibly thin, so if you heat up your tubing to bend it, the effect will mostly disappear, or at the very least, be much less visible throughout the area that was exposed to the heat. So again, just make sure that heat and bend your tubing first, just like normal, and then sand it down later.
What If You Don’t Want To Frost The Tubing Yourself?
Though the process of making your own frosted PETG tubing is simple, easy, and doesn’t require any expensive equipment, it is understandable if you still don’t want to do this yourself. Some of you simply don’t want to expend the effort to do this yourselves and would much prefer to simply buy the finished product that you can use immediately. So, what if this is the case? Is there an easy way out?
As stated before, unfortunately, there are no suppliers that currently sell frosted PETG tubing, However, if you are up to the task and are confident in your ability to use acrylic tubing, you do have one option.
Alphacool’s Eisrohr Satin acrylic tubing is a great option for anyone looking to get that frosted look without doing all the hard work themselves. It’s really easy to find online on sites like Amazon, so you can be working with your new frosted tubing within a matter of days. Just remember that because this is your only option, you are limited in the range of sizes that you can buy. Be sure to double-check that they have the correctly sized tubing for your build.
However, if you are still certain that you want to use PETG tubing instead of acrylic, you’ll just have to settle for normal clear PETG tubing. Though you won’t be able to get the frosted look you want without the extra work, clear PETG tubing is widely available, and easy to find online and you’ll still reap all of the benefits of using PETG tubing in place of acrylic in your build.