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CoolIT Domino ALC

CoolIT Domino ALC

Manufacturer: CoolIT
UK Price (as reviewed): £75.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $67.92 (ex. Tax)

Weight: (block) 122g, (radiator) 228g, (fan) 155g, (pump) 57g.
Fan Speed: 1,030 to 2,550rpm
Noise Level: 19.2 to 39.4dB
Warranty: Two years
Supported Sockets: Intel LGA775, LGA1366, AMD 754, 939, AM2, AM3

The Domino ALC, from Canadian company CoolIT, is a low cost liquid cooling product designed to beat even the ThermalRight Ultra Extreme air cooler, while bringing a completely integrated liquid cooling product that won't need refilling to the market, at a fraction of the price of normal watercooling kits.

However the "low cost liquid cooler" has, to date, been an oxymoron. Everyone who has tried it over the years - Thermaltake, Cooler Master, and even CoolIT (among others we're sure our readers will remind us of), have not worked. The performance has been sub par or even damn right pathetic, they have been excessively noisy or simply just didn't work.

In contrast, CoolIT claims to have spent years designing the Domino ALC to get it right. Without needing a refill for at least several years and adapting to new sockets by just buying a cheap new bracket, CoolIT certainly has all the right ideas in place.

To date though, we've not had the best of times with the Domino ALC. Having had no less than four in our labs to use, we've already developed some strong opinions on the Domino ALC, but CoolIT was keen to come back to visit us and discuss our concerns. What's more, we also had to test the ALC against a range of coolers and that takes a bit of time.

CoolIT arrived last Friday afternoon with a brand new Domino ALC (our fifth) bought from Yoyotech just down the road. We were even presented with the receipt! CoolIT was keen as we were for an impartial test, and were confident that an off-the-shelf product from a local retailer is as good as any CoolIT ships. It's this one that we are also testing here today.

The Watercoolery Heatsink

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The Domino ALC comes in a large box, suspended between two clear plastic moulds to prevent it from being damaged. Inside the box there are also extra mount brackets for AMD and Intel - it comes set up with the latest LGA 1366 mount, as CoolIT claims this is the most popular destination socket for Domino right now. The mounting backplates have sticky tape on them - this will be important later when we discuss installation - but there are no replacement pads.

CoolIT has thought to put in rubber fan grommets to prevent any vibration translating into the case, but if these aren't strong enough there are always the four fan screws which are also provided in the box. Additionally, there is also the 3-pin fan to 4-pin molex adapter and the all important manual which should be read.

By all accounts the Domino ALC is a pretty sleek bit of kit from an aesthetic perspective. With a smooth looking, ridged side that faces outwards from the open case side, it shields the uglier combination of pump, radiator and pipes to a large degree. The grey plastic feels just a little cheap and we'd have preferred black to match most cases, but despite this it does have a pretty solid build quality.

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The small button on the side above changes the performance between three modes: low, medium and all out high. Both low and medium settings have a degree of variation as the cooler manages the pump and fan speed according to the measured coolant temperature - there's no way to set a permanent minimum figure for the fan, for example. However, CoolIT says that this is unnecessary by claiming that it would jeopardise stability by running too hot.

The complete lack of custom settings is great for ease of use, but for nit-picking enthusiasts who obsess over temperatures and noise, we will want to tweak it to our own tastes. This control also means that you can't use it in conjunction with a manual fanbus or even some motherboard CPU-fan headers because the control panel requires a consistent 12V source.

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The tiny pump is neatly tucked away on the inside edge, sucking the water straight off the CPU block and into the radiator. This runs at 3,000rpm full tilt, although a motherboard will record it very differently - you have to check the side LCD for the real reading, therefore negating the need for motherboard monitoring software to some degree.

The rear fan appears to be specific to CoolIT as it has replaced the information sticker with the CoolIT logo. The build quality is solid, the fan appears balanced, and it's firmly strapped to the radiator it's sucking air through, exhausting the heat out of the chassis. To our disappointment it can't be changed though. It's very firmly wired into the control board, but does use just a 3-pin fan. However, removing parts risks catastrophic damage around the pump if done improperly - trust us from experience on that one.