Summary: Looking for a high performance cooler for your Core i7, Core 2, or Phenom CPU? If so, you'll want to check out CoolIT's Domino cooler. Featuring liquid cooling this cooler delivered tremendous performance at an affordable price. See why it earned our Editor's Choice Award in this review!
Although hardly a new idea, liquid cooling has never really found mainstream success mostly due to high costs. There also tends to be a somewhat higher level of technical expertise required for proper use and maintenance. Previously, the only way to go the liquid route was to do the research and build the system yourself, although this could be quite daunting with the number of choices on the market and cost associated. Many users have had a hard time finding the proper guidance for their setups, and since not all setups are the same, it becomes more difficult to troubleshoot.
It’s also important to note that a custom liquid cooling setup could cost anywhere between $200 and $400 depending on the number of radiators and water blocks utilized.
Some manufacturers offer prebuilt liquid cooling kits, but their performance hasn’t been as good as a custom setup, so they are barely an alternative to traditional heatsinks. Also, prebuilt kits still require a reservoir to keep fluid levels high thanks to the combination of the permeability of silicone tubing and the evaporation of coolant over time. These technical and cost problems have kept liquid cooling a niche market, just waiting for someone to develop a product that will give consumers the thermal performance of water cooling setup. Well, enter the CoolIT Domino Advanced Liquid Cooler for CPUs.
Liquid Cooling for the Common Man
CoolIT Systems specializes in self-contained liquid cooling solutions for a myriad of applications. From notebooks, to servers, CoolIT has developed a way to provide the benefits of liquid cooling to the general and OEM markets. Now they have developed the Domino A.L.C., a self-contained liquid cooler that is designed for the hardware enthusiast who might not have the money to spend on a custom liquid setup, but is still looking for an alternative to air cooling. The Domino is designed around ease of use and performance, while also being priced to compete against traditional heatsinks and fans.
The radiator and fan assembly on the Domino can be mounted to any 120mm fan position and comes pre-installed with rubber grommets for quiet operation. CoolIT also includes additional mounting hardware should users wish to secure the Domino traditionally or for travel. The Domino sports a pretty nice LCD that gives the user all the information they would need to ensure proper operation, from coolant temperature to fan speed. On the side of the Domino sits a small button that allows the user to change the fan and pump speeds on the fly between Quiet, Performance, and Full. On quiet and performance, the Domino will automatically adjust the fan and pump speeds depending on the coolant temperature, so overheating should never be a problem. While full mode runs with the fan and pump at their absolute maximum speeds. Should someone encounter any failures, either from a pump, fan or temperature, the Domino LCD features an audible alarm that sounds every 10 minutes until acknowledged. The Domino A.L.C. is powered by a single 3-pin fan header, which controls everything on the whole assembly, including the pump, fan, and LCD.
The entire setup of the Domino is a closed loop, so there is no need for a reservoir. This means no monitoring fluid levels, as well as no chance of silicone tubing breaking and turning your motherboard into a glorified coaster. CoolIT also includes all the hardware needed to install the Domino on all major sockets, including AM2+ and LGA 1366.
Installation wasn’t completely painless for us, as the plastic tubing lacks flexibility, making it a bit of a challenge to mount the CPU block. We’d recommend an extra hand, which would alleviate the need to balance the radiator while tightening the screws for the CPU. Overall though, once the CPU block is tightened down, fastening the radiator is fairly simple. The radiator comes with grommets instead of screws pre-installed, which work to cut down on vibration noise. The grommets were surprisingly easy to install in the place of traditional screws and requiring only a small tug to yank them through the screw holes. They held firm when tested, but also were pretty easy to release when it came time to move the Domino to another system. If you do a lot of moving or LAN gaming with your computer, we’d recommend you screw the radiator in just in case, otherwise the grommets work great.
Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Editon @ 3.60Ghz
Thermal performance on our overclocked Athlon was pretty impressive. While idle temperatures were even across the board, once the system was put under load, you begin to see how well the Domino cools. On the quiet setting, temperatures never went above 40 degrees Celsius, even with additional voltage on the CPU. The Domino was able to cool the CPU between an average of 11 to 18 degrees cooler than what we saw from the stock heatsink! We will see, however, that full fan mode has its own disadvantages in the level of sound produced.
Here we can see similar results with our much hotter Core i7 965. Once again, there wasn’t much improvement over idle temperatures, but once the system was stressed, you can see just how efficient the Domino is. We see a 15 degree gap between the stock cooler and the Domino. We also noticed how quickly the system responded to temperature changes. Once load was applied, the Domino was quick to react by increasing fan and pump speeds as necessary to keep all temperatures within a tight tolerance. It never had to increase speeds by much, however, as temperatures hovered between 44 and 52 degrees depending on fan speed.
At almost 60dBA, you can clearly see the trade-off one makes when running at full mode. The Domino literally screams at high speed, moving vast amounts of air over the heat exchanger. Full mode is so loud, it borders on the impractical. Having the case closed made little difference, as the fan noise just came straight out the back. Full operation seems only to be useful to showcase just how cold the Domino can get a CPU, instead of being a truly useful mode due to the high level of noise.
Tricky Installation: Attempting to install the Domino on your own can be a bit tricky, so we would recommend an extra set of hands to alleviate any frustration. Otherwise, you may find yourself balancing the radiator on your chin while securing the CPU block with a screwdriver between your teeth.
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