CoolIT Domino A.L.C. System

Print

Product: CoolIT Domino A.L.C.
Provided By: CoolIT Systems
Price: $79 MSRP

Introduction:

It's not often we get a chance to look at a water-cooling system here at BCCHardware, and it is more rare to take a look at a system that is priced under $100.  What is almost unheard of is a system that will cost you $80 and still offer great performance.  Today, CoolIT Systems has unveiled their latest creation - the Domino A.L.C. (Advanced Liquid Cooling).  This system is an all-in-one CPU cooling unit that is quite easy to install, offers great performance, has nice features and costs about as much as a high-end heatsink and fan.  I'm sure that many of you are thinking that it doesn't have the heart to perform, but we're going to strap it to a hot AMD Phenom X4 9950 BE and see if it can take the heat.

 

First Look:

The Domino A.L.C. arrived by FedEx safe and sound and I eagerly tore open the brown box to reveal a well-packaged product box.  The package looks very sharp and offers some detailed photos and information about the product inside.  Apparently, CoolIT has already won an Innovations Award for the upcoming CES 2009 with this product.  As we carry on, we'll try and find out why.  Due to the high quality components used, CoolIT states that this product has a MTBF of 50,000+ hours - that's over 7 years.  They also provide a 2-year warranty which is very impressive for a liquid cooling system.

 Domino Box Front
Domino Box Front
Domino Box Back
Domino Box Back

 

The design of the Domino A.L.C. is similar to other strap-in cooling kits on the market.  It attaches to a rear 120mm fan hole and plugs into your motherboards 3-pin CPU Fan header.  Once you strap it onto your CPU, you are good to go.  It's really that simple.

Domino Side Profile
Domino Side Profile

 

Specs & Features:

Take a look at the complete system specifications before you look at the system features as described by CoolIT themselves.

User Interface:
  • High contrast backlit LCD
  • Single push button control for configuring operation mode and temperature scale
  • Audible status alerts
Operation Modes (Fan Speeds):
  • Quiet*: 1090 RPM
  • Performance*: 1500 RPM
  • Full: 2550 RPM
    *System automatically increases cooling performance to ensure continuous protection
Physical Specifications:
  • Dimensions: 14.0 x 12.5 x 15.5 mm
  • Weight: 1.03 kg
  • Operating Voltage: 11.6-12.4V
  • Power Consumption: 8W (Max)
  • Life Cycle: 50,000 Hours (MTBF)
Fan:
  • Long life, low noise
  • Dimension: 120 x 120 x 25 mm
  • Noise: 19.2 dBA (Min)
Pump:
  • CFF1 long life ceramic bearing
  • Noise: <21 dBA
Radiator:
  • Custom engineered for low noise heat dissipation
  • Dimension: 157 x 133 x 25 mm
  • CPU FHE (Fluid Heat Exchanger)
  • Copper Micro-Channel
  • Dimension: 50 x 50 mm
Coolant:
  • Proprietary with anticorrosion/antifungal additives
CPU Thermal Grease:
  • Proprietary Pro Advanced Thermal Compound
Warranty:
  • 2 Year Manufacturer

 

Below are some highlights that I received by email from the CEO of CoolIT Systems.

The design life is over 7 years at 50C. 
  1. 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)
  2. 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 see 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!

  1. 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.

Retainer

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. All bits and pieces are captured (held together as one piece) for ease of installation.

Radiator

  1. 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.

Domino

Reliability

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Factory warranty is double what you’ll find with any competing products – 2 years.

Performance

  1. 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.

Safety

  1. 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.
Liquid cooling is ready for the masses.  The technology now exists and can offer more than air cooling in many ways.  We at CoolIT have learned a great deal through working with large OEM’s (and their grueling requirements) and feel an obligation to our after-market customers to put the same advancements in reliability and functionality into our retail product.

Liquid cooling is now about more than just Gaming – the Gaming category has long been the connoisseur of new technology and therefore expected to pay more…a lot more for their preference for performance.  We’d like to change that starting now.  The Liquid Cooled PC is now about to become available for everyday computing as well as gaming.  After all, lots of people game but they also send email, surf the web and maybe even do some work.  With the price point of the Domino, I think we’ll see it as an integral part of the “Under $1000” PC and like most technology advancements, this just makes the combined system better… for less.

 

With that in mind, we'll jump over to the next page and take a closer look at the Domino.


 

Closer Look at the Domino A.L.C.

The Domino is the smallest and probably lightest cooler from CoolIT Systems so far.  It is designed to fit in many cases and due to the short length of this cooler, it should work for just about every mid-full tower case on the market.  It is much shorter than the PURE Cooler and still offers great performance and even more features than its low-cost predecessor.  In the image below, you can see the radiator, stiff, non-porous hoses, and you can just make out the micro pump that feeds the bottom hose on the waterblock.  It's a tidy and tight looking unit.

Domino Radiator
Domino Radiator

 

As we move around to the other side of the unit, you can check out the 120mm fan that can be attached by either the included rubber vibration isolating mounts or screws.  Both are included in the kit.  The entire system - pump, fan and display are powered through a single 3-pin motherboard fan connector.  If you choose to connect this to the CPU Fan section on your board, it will allow you to monitor fan speed in your system software.  This fan runs anywhere between 1075 RPM and 2925 RPM and is almost silent up until 1600 RPM.  The pump seems to stay right around 3100 RPM.

 120mm Fan
120mm Fan

 

CoolIT has made this system as universally compatible as they can when it comes to CPU support.  It will happily fit on LGA775 or LGA1366 Intel processors as well as AM2 and AM2+ AMD processors.  If you've got a later Socket 939 AMD board, it will probably work on that as well - but if you're still running a single-core 939, maybe it's time you upgraded?  By default the block comes fit for the Intel Core i7 Nehalem (LGA1366) processor.  This can be changed to LGA775 in a matter of a few minutes.

Waterblock Base
Waterblock Base

 

In the box you get (almost) everything you need to get this unit up and running on your favorite processor.  In the picture below are two Intel motherboard stiffener plates for 775 and 1366 processor as well as a top plate for the waterblock when mounting on AMD systems.  Included in the little bag are screws for mounting the fan, four stand-offs for AMD mounting systems and an extra pair of rubber vibration isolators.  Also included (but not pictured) is a handy manual that covers installation on different configurations.

Included Stuff
Included Stuff

 

What is not included in the package is a stiffener plate for AMD systems.  Most AMD motherboards have a back stiffener plate already installed whereas Intel boards do not.  CoolIT has banked on this plate being available in order to install the Domino on AMD systems.  Our ASRock A770 Crossfire motherboard does not have such a plate and we had to pull the plate off another motherboard in order to get this up and running on our toasty Phenom X4 9950 BE.


The only control on the entire unit is a multi-function switch that can be used to change between performance levels as well as change the temperature display from Celsius to Fahrenheit.  Pressing the button switches the performance mode from low to medium to high and each setting is indicated by a beep - one beep for low, two beeps for medium and three beeps for high.  In order to change the temperature display, press and hold the button for a couple of seconds.

 Mode Switch
Mode Switch
Operation Modes
Operation Modes

 

On the next page we'll keep on checking out the Domino before we take a look at the test system and jump into some performance numbers.


Closer Look Continued:

While many cheap liquid cooling solutions have some sort of mechanical fan control and don't offer any pump, fan or coolant monitoring, the CoolIT Domino A.L.C. doesn't skimp on features.  The Domino comes complete with an LCD display that shows fan speed, pump speed, coolant temperature and mode indication.  This is handled by a few electronics that are right next to the pump - under the "Operation Modes" panel shown on the previous page.

Under The Hood
Under The Hood

 

Even though three speed modes are selectable, the CoolIT Domino A.L.C. will automatically ramp up fan speed if it is required to keep the system at a safe operating temperature.  By default, fan speeds were around 1150 RPM on low, 1800 RPM on medium and up to 2950 RPM on high.  However, as coolant temperature increased on the medium setting, we noticed fan speed increasing a bit to keep the coolant, uh, cool.

 

Installation:

Like many aftermarket HSFs and almost all liquid cooling kits, the Domino A.L.C. requires motherboard removal for installation.  If you are using this on an new Intel Core i7 system, the spring-calibrated bolts are already in the right holes and you simply have to put on the backplate, strap on the block, slide the vibration isolators through the 120mm fan mount holes on your case and you're done.  If you are using an older Intel system (775), you'll have to remove the "C" clips, and move the bolts to the inside holes on the same top retaining plate.  We decided to use the Domino A.L.C. on our toasty AMD Phenom X4 9950 BE CPU however.  This processor has a Max TDP of 140W and is downright hot.

 Block - Mounted
Block - Mounted
Domino - Installed
Domino - Installed

 

As previously mentioned, I had to rob a back stiffener plate off another motherboard as CoolIT doesn't include one with the kit.  While most AMD boards have this plate, and CoolIT is banking on this, I believe they should include a plate for those boards that don't have one.  Also, their plate would be guaranteed to work with the calibrated spring bolts for tightness and thread size.  I do appreciate the attention to detail though in the spring tensioned bolts.  CoolIT has placed black "cups" on the heads of each of these to help prevent the screwdriver from slipping off and damaging your motherboard.  That's a nice touch.  Lastly, you can see how small and tidy the Domino A.L.C. is when installed in a system.  It is so neat and tidy that it makes our motherboard cables looks horribly messy.  That's what you get with a bottom mounted PSU on a board that has a central located 24-pin connector though.

 

Displaying the Display:

As you can see in the previous pictures, the display is located on the side of the Domino A.L.C. and is designed for cases with side windows.  If you don't have a side window, you won't be able to see what is going on, but you'll be able to hear when the cooler is in "high" mode.

 Display - Low
Display - Low
Display - Medium
Display - Medium
Display - High
Display - High

 

As you can see, the display is bright, clear and crisp and shows you relevant information that you simply don't get in other $80 Liquid Cooling kits.  The performance mode is indicated by the graphic on the lower left of the display.  You can also see the fan speed RPM increase as the performance mode is changed.  How does it affect performance?  Take a look on the next page as we find out.


Testing the Domino A.L.C.

It's unfortunate that we don't have much heatsink data when using the AMD Phenom X4 9950 BE, but I still thought this was perhaps the best CPU to use as it is currently the hottest running CPU we have here at BCCHardware.  If the Domino A.L.C. can keep this CPU cool and stable when overclocking, it's because it's a high-performance cooling solution.  Also the CPU HSF that comes with the 9950 BE is actually pretty decent as it includes a lot of micro fins, a copper base and four heatpipes.

 Stock AMD HSF
Stock AMD HSF

 

I've included a few screenshots of CoreTemp 0.99.3 as well as CPU-Z in order to show CPU speed, voltage and CPU Temperature.  At the end of these pictures is a chart that shows all ranges of performance on the Domino A.L.C. as well as the stock cooler.

 Domino - Medium
Domino - Medium
Stock HSF - O/C Load
Stock HSF - O/C Load
 Domino - Medium - O/C Load
Domino - Medium - O/C Load

 

While there is quite a bit of a difference in Domino A.L.C. performance between medium and high settings at idle and load at stock speeds, the line becomes tighter when overclocked running full load.  This is because the Domino speeds up the fan at the medium setting and it was running close to 2500 RPM at medium during our testing.  Please click the chart below for all the details.

 Temperature Chart

When the Domino A.L.C. is running at slow speed, the stock HSF performs 1°C when running at stock speed idle.  That is the only time the stock cooler wins anything.  With the Domino at medium, it is about as loud as the stock cooler - until the system is overclocked and the coolant heats up - then it is slightly louder, but it absolutely destroys the performance of the stock cooler.  At medium, it beats stock cooling performance by 3°C at idle, 13°C under load at stock speeds and 12°C when overclocked running full load.  At high, the Domino increases the difference to 6°C, 16°C and 14°C respectively.  The Domino actually allowed us to run slightly faster with a slightly higher VCore and still pass Prime95's torture test.

 

Final Thoughts:

The CoolIT Domino A.L.C. system is a unique piece of hardware.  It is a compact Liquid Cooling System that doesn't just stop at being small.  It is big on features and performance while still keeping a very low price.  In order to get this kind of performance and features from another Liquid Cooling System, you'd have to spend almost twice as much.  Installation is quite simple, but still requires motherboard removal for every platform.  The different performance levels are also a nice addition to the system and the display clearly shows information regarding fan speed, pump speed, coolant temperature and which performance mode is selected.  All of this runs from a simple 3-pin fan connector that can be plugged into your motherboard.  This keeps installation simple and the cable clutter to a minimum.

I have a couple of minor complaints regarding this system though.  CoolIT has not included an AMD backplate and this can cause issues on some boards with non-standard or no backplates.  If they included such a backplate, I would have scored the "Accessories" as a 10.  The other minor thing is that to change performance modes, you have to take the side off your case and press the button.  I understand why they didn't put this on an external switch, but keep this in mind if you plan on switching modes often.  With that being said, I believe many users will simply select the "Medium" setting for a balance of performance and noise.  This setting offered the best noise:performance ratio on the Phenom X4 9950 BE and it should offer the relative performance on other systems as well.

 

Pros:

  • Very affordable Liquid Cooling solution.
  • Very quiet at "Low" and "Medium".
  • Good performance for such a small kit.
  • Excellent Warranty (2 Years).
  • Solid construction.
  • Multiple performance modes.
  • Plugs into a 3-pin motherboard fan header.
  • Nice display shows relevant information.
  • Audio and visual alarm if fan fails.

 

Cons:

  • No AMD backplate.
  • Must remove side panel to switch modes.

 

I can easily recommend this kit to anyone looking to get into liquid cooling.  With a price of $80, it's hard not to take the plunge with the Domino A.L.C.  It earns our "Top Pick" award.

 BCCRating

 

 Top Pick

I'd like to thank CoolIT Systems for firing the Domino A.L.C. our way for a review.  If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.