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Sensory overload?
Product : Digidoc 5
Price : 56.39 (inc. VAT)
Available from : Overclock UK

When you speak to overclockers there are two or three things they are most interested about in a computer. The first one has to be the frequency of the CPU (or atleast the difference between the factory set frequency and the one you are running it at), the second and third varies between the video card core/memory frequency and the temperature of their processor.

Temperature management is very important in computing, and it is especially important when you are overclocking your processor. With processors getting to ever higher frequencies, their temperature rising, the importance of monitoring your temperature is never higher.

There are many tools to measure the temperature of your processor. Nearly all motherboards manufactured in the last two years has on board thermal sensors, either placed beneth the processor, or as an add-on connector. So why do we need another one? Well the DigiDoc isn't just a digital thermometer, it does quite a lot more.

Ever since the first Digi Doc came onto the market (bare in mind that here in the UK we only saw the Digi Doc 3 in any large numbers), overclockers loved the design and the idea. The fact that it had an LCD screen to display their vital CPU data was far "leeter" than software doing it for you. However leetness set aside, the LCD allowed computers that weren't connected to monitors to be feeding back information of the current temperature and fan speeds. In this, the latest incarnation of the Digidoc, the LCD panel has a backlight, so it is easier to read in darkened situations.

I mentioned previously fan speeds. The Digidoc can also display the rotation per minute (RPM) of fans. With the Digidoc 5 you are able to monitor 8 seperate fans and 8 sources of heat. Each fan speed sensor is paired off with a heat sensor, and this allows effective heat management (more about that later).

So, we've told you what it does, but is there any reason to purchase this version of the DigiDoc over your previous one. Well, there are notable differences between the this, and it's predessor, the DigiDoc 3. The main difference is that the DigiDoc 5 can handle 120mm fans. Before the DigiDoc couldn't cope with the needs of a 120mm fan, however now, the DigiDoc has support for fans that require up to 1000 mA of current. The other notable change is that the once green LCD screen has now got a backlight. This makes it somewhat easier to read the digits displayed.

Installation and setup

Installation of the DigiDoc unit is relatively simple. The device fits into a 5.25" drive bay and there is a 4 pin molex power connector which you have to attach which powers the unit and the fans. The actual configuration of the device is somewhat more complicated and requires you to read the manual. At this stage, I would like to talk about the manual. Many items we have reviewed come with manuals printed on a piece of paper, and sometimes you are hardly able to see the diagrams correctly, let alone read from them. MacPower (the manufacturers of the DigiDoc) have taken, what is in my view, the best possible solution there is to this type of problem. They have supplied a CD with the manual (in PDF format) which details you every step of the way.

Once you have connected the corresponding thermal sensor and fan power connector you have to move onto the configuration of the display panel. This is where a little planning on a piece of paper helps things. The manual goes through the steps very well, however there is no subsitute for being prepared.

To put it simply, you connect temperature sensor #1 to heatsource #1. If you are cooling that heatsource with a heatsink/fan, you use the fan's power connector to connect it to the Digidoc's fan connector #1. You carry on this process until you've either filled up the Digidoc or you've run out of heat sources to monitor.

Results

So how exactly do you test a fan and temperature monitor? We couldn't think of a very technical way of doing this, so we stuck to this method.

Motherboards come with a free sensor (either built in or as an add-on), and we thought that we would compare the temperature between the thermal connector supplied with the motherboard and the temperature displayed by the Digidoc.

Our test bed was an Intel PIII 750 (cB0 stepping) @ 933, 384MB ram and a Creative Geforce DDR 32MB (300MHz memory / 120Mhz GPU).

After monitoring the temperature of the processor and VGA card simultaneously we found very little difference. So little in fact, we wouldn't like to stick our neck on the line and say which was telling the correct temperature. There was less than 1 C difference at most times, and this could be put down to the fact the BIOs which rounds the temperatures to whole numbers. The difference can also be put down to the different places the thermal sensors were placed. We weren't able to put both at the same place at the same time, so we put them close to each other, but not touching. These distances could be one reason to why we had slight variations in temperatures.

Conclusion

The Digidoc is a very nice thing to have in your machine. Relatively easy to set up and once running it can provide useful thermal information on key components. However you say, "why do we need to spend the best part of 50 quid for that, when software applications do the same thing for free?" The Digidoc is of most use to people that want to be able to read temperatures without booting into an operating system, say for example, before POST.

Many of you will also want it, because it looks quite "leet" housed in your case. It is indeed a well finished bit of kit, and serves both an important function and can be used to make your system look "leet".
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