mattgadient.com

Noctua NH-U12P vs Cool It Domino A.L.C.

High-End Air -VS- Low-End Water (yes that’s my ugly drawing of a fan and a glass of water)

Sorry about the pics – CoolIt doesn’t have images of the Domino on their site anymore, and I was too lazy to take a pic. There are a zillion pics on the web, but I didn’t want to rip one off. Hence, the barely-representative-but-you-get-the-gist-of-it drawing.

Anyway…. little blurbs, then benchmark numbers at the end.

NOCTUA NH-U12P

Noctua’s coolers are generally considered to be fairly high end. While the U12P isn’t the latest model, it’s still quite good, and I used it for quite a while in the overclocked AMD X6 system.

Note that the Antec 300 case it was in has excellent airflow. It was mounted pushing air up (1 fan), with the case’s 14 cm fan just above pulling that air up and out – the ideal setup for this case. When the system was under load, you could *feel* the warm air being pulled out the top.

Like I said, this cooler’s pretty good. To give you an idea, it’s “new” home (an i3), it’s dropping load temps by 20 degrees celcius… from an alarming 92 down to 72 – I’m sure it would do even better if the “new” home had better airflow too, but 20 degrees is nothing to scoff at – it’s impressive.

COOLIT Domino A.L.C.

This is what’s known as “low end” watercooling – essentially, the all-in-one package priced (and meant to compete with) high-end air. This falls along the same line as the popular Corsair H50 / H70 water systems. In fact, when I hopped into the store, the choice was between this and the H50.

In comparison to the H50, most of what I’ve read seems to indicate that the Domino beats the H50 by a couple degrees. Every test system/set-up is different though, so that can be taken with a grain of salt. In any case, it should be fair to say that they’re both similar in terms of the performance you can expect. In any case, the Domino was a few dollars cheaper, and had an LCD which displays (amongst a couple other things) the coolant temp.

I should note that if you’re looking at the Domino vs the H50, keep in mind that Corsair’s a very popular and solid name and in terms of trusting a brand not to leak all over your system, Corsair would probably be the more popular pick. The Corsair also allows for 2 fans (in a push/pull configuration), whereas the Domino only has room for 1 fan (due to the LCD/pump section taking up the space required to add a 2nd). Corsair defaults to sucking air into the case, whereas Cool-It defaults to pushing air out. Both orientations can be changed.

TEMPERATURE RESULTS

You’ll see the CoolIt Domino comes out ahead. HWMonitor was used for the number collection (the numbers correspond to what both RealTemp and AMD OverDrive report). To get the max values, OCCT was run for 15 minutes, then the “LinPack” module was run for another 15 minutes. Then I waited to see what the lowest idle temp was and took the min/max numbers.

Note that AMD Overdrive refers to these values as follows:

CPU = Core Temperature
TMPIN0 = CPU Temperature
TMPIN1 = Motherboard Temperature

RESULTS

Depending on whether you believe CPU or TMPIN0 to be the most accurate representation of the processor’s temperature, the Cool-It was better by 2 degrees at idle, and 4-6 degrees at load.

You’ll notice that TMPIN1 also saw improvement by a flat 3 degrees (whether at idle or at load). The reason here is simply a change in the case’s airflow dynamics caused by using a different cooler which modifies the airflow within the case.

An important thing to note is that both coolers used their included paste (NH1 on the Noctua and the default thermal layer on the Domino), and had the fan speeds set on high. Overall case airflow is very high (case is quite loud), so if you test these 2 in a cramped case you’ll probably see different numbers.

Note that the CoolIt’s “high” speed is very loud. I mean *very*. I mean the case is already loud and this thing bumps up the volume an incredible amount. I tested the thing at medium and slow settings (at which point I can’t hear it over the other fans), and these were the results:
Medium: CPU=43 – TMPIN1=57 – TMPIN2=39
Low: CPU=45 – TMPIN1=58 – TMPIN2=44

At the medium fan speed, both the CPU and TMPIN1 temperature are exactly the same as the Noctua, although the motherboard temp is even lower than before (again, varied airflow dynamics in the case).

CONCLUSION

The Cool-It Domino A.L.C. does give an improvement, but it’s not by much, and it’s at the expense of incredibly loud fan speeds. At medium speed, it performs almost exactly the same as the Noctua.

So if you find them at the same price, which should you buy?

It really depends. They’re both good performers.

First, ask yourself if you’re ready to deal with watercooling. Remember if the Noctua’s fans die, it’s an easy replacement. If the pump in the Domino dies, you’re looking at an RMA if you’re within the warranty period, and if you’re out of the warranty period, you’ll have to junk it.

In addition, water cooling always has the potential for leaks, which can devastate a computer. I had a ThermalTake water cooling kit years ago, a seal in the pump leaked, and it burned/melted/fried internally dripping plastic in the case, leaving a stench for days, and also killing a motherboard fan header in the process (fortunately nothing else). Remember, with air cooling the worst thing that can happen is generally a fan dying (or more rarely, an improperly mounted heatsink falling and smashing something).

Next, look at your case’s airflow. Would the Noctua be blowing heated CPU air into your PSU? Might it block or reduce airflow over other motherboard components? The problem with air coolers is that they cool the CPU, but that warm air still has to get out of the case somewhere. With the Cool-It, the radiator/fan get mounted right in the exhaust port, so you’re moving all that warm air from the CPU directly outside the case, and the waterblock’s small enough that it’s not restricting airflow around components situated near the CPU.

If your case temperatures are high, the Cool-It is undoubtedly going to be your best bet. If your case temps are already low or if you don’t think the risk of water-cooling is worth it, then the Noctua’s a great choice too.

I’d have no problem recommending either of these coolers. They’re both so similar in performance that the “best one” is going to depend mainly on your current case and airflow situation.