2008 has been a break-out year for CoolIT Systems. The company launched several new products in the first half of the year. Among them was a full chassis cooling solution built with the SilverStone TJ07 and the Freezone Elite, the follow up Freezone that launched the company into enthusiast stardom. Towards the second half of the year CoolIT Systems struck again with the PURE and PURE ST. We are now a stones throw away from 2009 and the company is back with yet another release, the CoolIT Systems Domino Advanced Liquid Cooling (or A.L.C.).
The Domino Advanced Liquid Cooling is a lot like the PURE we reviewed a few months back. Both are liquid cooled and do not have an active TEC (peltier) to cool the liquid below ambient. The Domino is a new design, though; nearly every component is fresh, from the CPU block to the firmware controlling the pump and fan. The active digital display is a first for CoolIT as well and to be honest I am surprised to see it on their new entry level product. Generally such features start out on the flagship product and make their way down.
I think what we are seeing here is the beginning of a battle that has started behind the scenes in the OEM market. Asetek has been gaining ground with their L.C.L.C. (Low Cost Liquid Cooling) unit for the past few months and now has several design wins under their belt. The L.C.L.C. even came in the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme XE I reviewed back in October. The OEM enthusiast market is one place where CoolIT Solutions has dominated for several years and once someone started to step on their turf with an ultra low cost solution it was time to get the engineers on the ball. Let's have a look at what their motivated engineers were able to come up with and see if their OEM solution can be competitive in the enthusiast market.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
From the (very blurry) pre-release specifications we were given, we see that the Domino A.L.C. has three performance modes that the user is able to set. Essentially what CoolIT lists here are fan speeds. The pump for the Domino stays right around the same speed for all three user selectable settings.
There is quite a bit more engineering that went into the Domino A.L.C. than what is shown in this pre-release spec sheet. The entire cooler including the display, pump, fan and electronics are powered off of one 3-pin plug that connects to the motherboards CPU fan header. I was told the entire system has a maximum draw of only 4 watts. This is about the same as a very high speed case fan so the cooler has to be very efficient.
CoolIT didn't stop with an efficient cooler; they took it a step further and reformulated their thermal interface material. The latest TIM used on the Domino is supposed to perform up to 8C cooler at 200 watts than their pervious TIM formula.
In a last minute email I received from Geoff Lyon from CoolIT Systems, I received some additional information about the Domino.
- The design life is over 7 years at 50C.
to achieve this we had to start from scratch on the pump and incorporate a ceramic bearing pump that could withstand high temperatures. After a tremendous amount of effort, the goal was achieved with our new CFF1 Pump. (Compact Form Factor Version 1)
Water Vapor Transmission Loss is the reason why most liquid systems require refilling. All plastic or rubber is porous on one level or another. The liquid loss through that material increases dramatically (depending on the material, more than double with a 10 degree rise in temperature) Although the material is slightly more expensive (and a little harder to work with) the corrugated tubing you se on the Domino ensures the most durable and lowest permeability available. The only thing better would be hard plumbed metal tubes.
- Best Damn Thermal Interface Material ever!
The Thermal interface material consists of only the highest quality and most reliable formulation. When the CoolIT Pro ATC is used with the new retention mechanism the interface would be hard to beat. In fact when we tested the Pro ATC vs our previous TIM, we experienced a 0.04 C/W improvement. (which translates to 8C at a 200W load)
In case it matters to anyone the Pro ATC is warranted against pump out and dry out for over 5 years.
the retainer incorporates a number of subtle features including tool run-off protection. (the little cups on the screws) this prevents the accidental screwdriver slip from creating havoc on the expensive motherboard components.
the calibrated springs, when bottomed out, provide balanced pressure down onto the CPU to minimize the bond line thickness of the TIM without violating the maximum pressure spec's provided by Intel and AMD.
All bits and pieces are captured (held together as one piece) for ease of installation.
This is a ground up custom designed aluminum radiator that gives us excellent performance while keeping the size small and the cost reasonable. When comparing the performance of the Domino to some of the giant heat pipe solutions it becomes a simple surface area trade off. We consciously chose to keep the size of the Rad minimal and increase the compatibility with many chassis models and of course minimize the mass that is being mounted on the CPU. We have gone through some shock and vibe testing with the assembly hitting 40G's and passed (with screws - not the vibration isolators that also ship with the Domino kit). I can assure you that would not be the case for some of the large Heatpipe solutions out there. This may not matter to the after market enthusiast, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
every single unit is leak tested using mass spectroscopy at a high differential pressure so that we don't have a risk of leaking. Every joint, connection and fill port is thoroughly inspected prior to being filled.
Coolant is a 25% propylene Glycol Mixture with a very comprehensive anti-corrosion package to ensure there will never be any performance reduction due to build-up or inter-metallic reaction
Factory warranty is double what you'll find with any competing products - 2 years.
the entire system was designed to deliver on the promise of liquid cooling which is not only performance but also flexibility. When the fan runs slowly and quietly the performance is excellent. When the fan runs faster and louder, the performance is even more excellent. The bottom line is that we wanted to provide a product that can be tuned easily to suit the taste of the individual that in using it.
It's not ok to fail but when you are talking about an electro-mechanical system, one day it will. That being the case, we wanted to provide the functionality that will let the user know when something goes wrong both on the LCD and also with an auditory alert. Give it a try - stick a pencil in the fan - watch what happens.
The real question at this point is the most important for the enthusiast and OEM enthusiast market, price. The CoolIT Systems Domino A.L.C. has an MSRP of only 79.00 U.S.D. This is a little cheaper than what Asetek has stated to me for their L.C.L.C. in retail trim and right around the same price as high-end enthusiast air coolers like the Thermalright TRUE. If the Domino can perform at this level the user selectable fan speeds combined with the digital display will make it a real winner for those looking for enthusiast performance without spending a wad of cash on a full blown component liquid cooling system.
As you can see from the bottom left and right areas of the box front, the cooler is made for both Intel and AMD processors, including Intel's new Socket B (1366).
On the back of the package CoolIT discusses the user interface and shows some of the features.
On the other side the specifications and warranty are shown.
A list of buzzwords is shown on this side as well as some quotes from different magazines and online publications.
The box top has a nice picture of the Domino CPU Cooler. I feel that once a consumer spends a few minutes looking at the package, they will get a good impression of what the cooler has to offer.
The inner package seems a little thin and flimsy, but is strong enough to keep everything where it should be.
The CoolIT Systems Domino A.L.C.
For systems with windows this is the view that you will see. Once powered the screen comes alive with fan and pump speeds as well as the liquid temperature.
Moving around to the side, you can see the button on the left that changes the Dominos fan speed setting. The radiator uses several fins which adds to the surface area, making the liquid easier to cool.
From the back we see the pump just under the control box.
CoolIT Systems got in a little branding on the fan; we don't mind. The fan has fairly large blades and these are needed to pull air through the high density fins that are used on the radiator.
The fan / radiator combo attaches to your chassis with pre-installed rubber grommets. These eliminate the transfer of vibration to the case.
The CoolIT Systems Domino A.L.C. - Continued
As previously stated, the Domino Advanced Liquid Cooler comes with the new formula TIM installed.
Under the TIM we found the base to be very smooth and reflective. CoolIT has always impressed me with their surface finish and the Domino is no exception.
The mounting hardware on the block is the same for both Socket 775 and 1366. Changing from one to the other is fairly easy, just remove the E clips, place the screw in the new hole and replace the clip.
The digital display is bright and easy to read from a distance. It is also difficult to picture with my limited knowledge of photography.
As luck would have it, CoolIT Systems included a very nice image of the display that also includes a map of what each number represents.
Accessories and Documentation
Everything you need to mount the Domino A.L.C. to an AMD AM2 socket is included as well as Intel's 775 and 1366. I was impressed with the accessory package after finding spare parts included in the package.
Just as impressive is the full color manual that ships with the Domino. After thumbing through it was clear that CoolIT covered everything with nice full color images detailing the installation.
Test System Setup
Normally we would use the T.E.C.C. test system to evaluate the performance of a new CPU cooler, but the system is now one state over with Chad Sebring, TweakTown's new Cooling Editor. Chad will start in January and this review came just one day after the T.E.C.C. was disassembled and carted away.
Over the last few months I have been playing with a new software tool called OCCT, OverClock Checking Tool. OCCT allows the user to test stability while also plotting CPU core temperatures to graphs. This feature is rather useful for monitoring idle and load temperature.
You can learn more about OCCT here.
Processors: Intel QX6700 2.66GHz OCed to 2.93 GHz (Supplied by Intel)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X38-DQ6 (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Memory: Thermaltake / Geil RAM Orb PI (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Graphics Card: XFX 8800 GTX (Supplied by XFX USA)
Enclosure: Cooler Master Cosmos (Supplied by Cooler Master)
Cooling: Thermaltake MAX Orb (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate X64 (Supplied by Microsoft)
For the control cooler I chose the Thermaltake Max Orb that I reviewed back in December of 2007. This cooler has been used with this system off and on since it first arrived in the lab.
During my testing the CoolIT Systems Domino was able to outperform the MaxORB while in Middle and High fan speed settings, but was a little warmer at the low setting. The Domino running at the middle setting was right around the same audible level as well. In the low setting you couldn't hear the Domino at all, even when under the desk changing settings. The middle and high settings were quite a bit louder, mid being just about right and high being a tad too much for my liking.
LOW RPM: 1098
MED RPM: 1854
HIGH RPM: 2947
Pump RPM: 3122
LOW RPM: 1730
MID RPM: 2291
HIGH RPM: 2913
Pump RPM: 3155
The above Revolutions Per Minute were recorded at idle and load. Here we see that the Domino is able to adjust itself depending on the processor load. The adjustments come from the fan only; the pump stays around the same speed at all times.
I am still having sticker shock over the 79 Dollar MSRP of the Domino A.L.C., but for once this is a good thing. There are very few liquid cooling systems in this price range; even the L.C.L.C. from Asetek is supposed to be higher and it does not come with the advanced electronics.
This is a launch day review so availability will be slim for the first week or so, but CoolIT Systems has a vast amount of retail and e-tail partners who keep their products in stock. So after the initial week we should see the Domino A.L.C. all over the place, just in time for those last minute holiday shoppers.
When it comes to performance the Domino is clearly able to perform up there with the best of air coolers. It is too bad the TECC has already been sent to Chad, but after he gets everything squared away I will send the Domino over so he can log the performance in the database. At that time we will see how the Domino stacks up against the other 2008 CPU coolers. Judging by the apples-to-apples test with the MaxORB, it should fair very well.
As a pre-built liquid cooling loop the beauty is in the mechanics. Pre-built systems do not require maintenance, extensive setup or the hassles of component liquid cooled systems. The Domino A.L.C. system is a great place for people to start down the path of overclocking and liquid cooling. It allows you to get a taste of the performance without the high cost or risk; something that cannot be said for component systems.
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