MacPower Digital Doc 5+
Product Name: Digital Doc 5+
Review Date: 08.22.04
Whether you are overclocking, looking for a cool case accessory, or searching for a way to dampen the sound of your case fans, the Digital Doc 5+ will offer a solution to many of your needs. Stay informed with an advanced, eight-channel, temperature sensor system displayed on a blue LCD screen. The Digital Doc 5+ also gives you the ability to control case fan speeds based on a desired set temperature, an alarm to warn you of dangerously high temperatures, and front panel USB 2.0 and firewire connections. If this doesn?t sound cool to you, get up off your chair?you shouldn?t be on a computer. You can see the Digital Doc in a nice plastic package with a slide-out cardboard backing. Not much support for shipping, but the unit mainly contains cables and a light 5.25? drive-bay unit; nothing that can easily be damaged during shipping. Inside was an instruction manual, the display/control unit, a set of eight 3 to 4 pin fan adaptors, eight temperature sensor wires, adhesive strips to attach thermal sensors to hardware, and screws to mount the unit in your drive bay. The versatile Digital Doc 5+ is easily comparable with other top temperature sensor and fan controller units. The Digital Doc 5+ we will be looking at today is black with the blue backlight. Some improvements from the older Digital Doc that I noticed right away includes the new blue LCD display backlight color (instead of the original orange) and the absence of the 40mm HDD cooler fan (now replaced with two USB 2.0 slots and one firewire connection).
The unit itself is composed of aluminum rails and a plastic front with an LCD display located on the left side. The screen had a plastic adhesive over the front to prevent scratching during shipping inside the package. After removing the plastic, I was pleased with the clean LCD display.
The front bezel is basically black plastic, but it looks nice - not at all cheap. The rails behind the front bezel to mount the unit are abnormally long and they stuck out noticeably from my drive cage.
Like the older Digital Docs, this one has a small door on the right side. However, instead of housing a 40mm HDD cooling fan, there are USB 2.0 and Firewire ports readily available. I suppose the fan didn?t do much, and in many newer cases, such as mine, the HDD won?t be directly behind the Digital Doc, making it a useless feature.
Also, notice directly above the USB and firewire ports there is a small on/off switch for the buzzer alarm. Digital Docs have always included the buzzer feature. If any hardware exceeds the temperature that you manually set, the buzzer will sound. In older Digital Docs, the buzzer also went off if one of the case fans was not connected symbolizing a possible dead fan. Fortunately, with this new model they have automatically set all fans to ?disabled? right out of the box so you wont hear any beeping if you don?t have eight fans to hook up. If you want to control your fans and have the buzzer alert you of your fans status, you need to enable each fan in the settings (1-8). The sound of the buzzer itself is actually a beeping alarm sound but is not too loud or unpleasant. The on/off switch for the alarm itself was something that previous Digital Docs did not include. Older Digital Docs drove users crazy with their incessant beeping which drove most people to unsolder the buzzer or stab it with a screwdriver to shut it up. The on/off switch addition makes it so easy to turn off that alarm while you are trying to game or get work done and can?t find time to change the max temps in the settings.
The buttons in the center are fairly small and very rubbery feeling. They are easy to press down but they are a little too close together. The buttons are also noticeably small, making it hard for people with bigger fingers to operate. The text on the display itself is easy to read and there are only a few extreme angles where the text cannot be read clearly.
After hooking up an open molex connector to the female plug on the Digital Doc 5+, I powered up the computer. In the manual, it says to hold the ?set? button down while the power is off and continue to hold it while you power up the machine and to let go when you hear 2 beeps. This will take you in to the settings mode where you can choose from a vast array of features and options. Celsius or Fahrenheit, desired temperatures, enable or disable up to eight fans, backlight options, etc. For testing, I hooked up four pieces of hardware to the Digital Doc and one fan.
I attached the blue, purple, white and gray thermal connectors to the CPU, RAM, video card, and harddrive.
I didn?t use the adhesive strips, as I only attached the sensors to the heatsinks of everything and the bottom of one of my harddrives. If you would like to get the most accurate temperatures possible and don?t mind taking everything apart to attach the sensors, the provided adhesive will work nicely as it can withstand extreme heat and will hold firmly in place without disturbing the performance of the hardware. I held down the top rubber ?set? button and powered up the computer. Immediately I heard two beeps and which then displayed available settings. I set the temperatures at 55 degrees for all sensors and set the mode to Celsius. I decided not to have the fans disable when the hardware was below 55C because my case is very quiet and I am a firm believer of constant cooling. For those folks who are looking for something to keep their case quiet and cool, this is a great option. Just set the temperature that you don?t want each piece of hardware to exceed and set a fan to turn on or off when it is above or below that set temperature.
The thermal sensors come in two different forms. The first as pictured below is a heat-resistant plastic probe. This type of sensor works best for CPU or RAM where the sensor needs to come in direct contact with a component in tight confines. It?s VERY thin and allows placement in tight spaces.
This image shows the second type of thermal sensor with a hard, round tip, perfect for wedging in a heatsink or dangling in the case for case temperature readings. I used this sensor on my graphics card heatsink. You will notice a difference in thickness, meaning this is more for placement in spacious areas.
Thermal readings from my CoolerMaster Musketeer temperature readout matched those of the Digital Doc 5+ precisely, with both of their thermal probes placed in the same spot. You can be assured that the accuracy of this unit is right on. The number of sensors, fan control cables, different types of probes, front USB/Firewire, and even voltage controls on a nice blue LCD make the Digital Doc 5+ a worthwhile product. The overclockers, gadget freaks, and people in search of a quieter computer will not be disappointed with this product. The only thing I would like to see on the Digital Doc would be the ability to control fan speeds at all times with ease. This would allow the user much more control over the sound and the speed of the fans which changes with only one variable - temperature. Unless you are going to want your computer to overheat just because you want it silent, the fans are going to stay off when the temperature is low and turn on only when necessary. Complete control is not necessary at all, but some users would find it useful in certain scenarios.
You won?t be disappointed with the Digital Doc 5+. The amount of accessories that come along with the unit even down to extra screws to mount it, shows you that this product is quality and the manufacturer cares about your satisfaction. As one of the most popular PC monitoring units to date, this new Digital Doc lives up to it?s reputation and even gives users a little bit more. The addition of the USB and Firewire connections on the unit was a very nice touch; it?s much more useful and practical than a 40mm HDD cooler. The color coding and different types of thermal sensors was also nice to see, along with eight 3 to 4 pin fan connectors for temperature controlled fans; set to turn on or shut off when hardware reaches a certain temperature. The setup is confusing at first, but the instruction manual explains everything very well. The features in setup mode were satisfactory and give the user more control over their system, making the Digital Doc 5+ more of a controller than a monitor. The blue LCD screen looks beautiful, especially with a system utilizing a blue theme! The buttons and unit itself all feel of high quality, and overall it looks very nice in a drive bay. The unit is a little long for some drive bays and may stick out past the drive cage, looking a bit odd if you have a window. It would also be nice to have completely control over all eight case fans at the touch of a button, although this is not by any means necessary, and it wouldn?t make your system run any better. Overall, the pros outweigh the cons by far, and the flaws are more like slight imperfections. With a few minor things changed, this product would be perfect. If you are looking for a great way to control system temperature and noise at the same time, or something just to spice up your case and keep you aware of your internal precious system?s temperatures, check out the Digital Doc 5+.