If you want to be serious about benching, you need to get yourself a benching station. Luckily, there are some low cost solutions, like the MyOpenPC DOMA Pro PCI, so upgrading from the box your motherboard came in doesn’t have to break the bank. The DOMA Pro requires some assembly out of the box, but that helps save money on labor and shipping. Also, that adds to the do-it-yourself (DIY) aspect of building computers, which I thoroughly enjoy.
Opening the box for the first time, I was greeted with several Acrylic panels all covered in protective film, the fasteners in a nice plastic case, and the directions. Seeing it all laid out in front of me certainly made think twice about how long I thought it would take to put together. Everything looked straightforward, but it did look like there was more work than I was expecting.
All the parts were nice and tidy with no scratches, nicks, or dings. It’s also nice that there are gloves included so you don’t get fingerprints all over the transparent Acrylic, though I’m not that particular and don’t mind the fingerprints. If your motherboard doesn’t have power and reset switches built in, then there are some included with the case as well as an HDD and Power LED.
All in all, taking off the protective film from the Acrylic panels was the most tedious part. Some of the nuts were tough to get in to the Acrylic and took some extra force to push in. I actually started using the included wrench to help push things in place, which worked very well. Once I got my procedure down, the rest was a breeze and it took me about an hour to put the whole thing together, including taking pictures. The directions were clear, all the parts were labeled correctly, and I had no problems figuring out what went where. When it is fully assembled, the DOMA Pro isn’t completely rigid and it does wobble slightly. Overall, I didn’t mind putting this together.
Using the DOMA Pro PCI
Once the benching station is assembled, putting the computer components in is simple. The basic layout is similar to a standard case where the power supply (PSU) is located above the motherboard. This crowds the area above the processor but there may be two practical reasons for this design. First, the PSU helps add stability to the back panel but the PSU doesn’t get screwed down to the main motherboard panel so no positive connection is created, leaving the weight of the PSU to do the work. Second, PSUs with their fan located on the bottom of the unit will help draw air over the power MOSFETs. Still, I’d like more room for my hands here and would prefer the PSU was located on the underside of the motherboard panel.
I like the sliding locks for the drive cages and add-on cards (PCI, PCI-e) because they are quick, easy to use, and tool-less. They keep the parts locked in snugly and don’t come unlocked when they’re not supposed to. The only down side to the drive cages themselves is changing physical drives is a little tedious because the drives are screwed in with regular screws. Adding to that, both sides of the drives need to be screwed in to the drive cage since they are two pieces of Acrylic that are not connected by any other means. This wasn’t a big deal for me, though, because I devote one hard drive to benching and don’t have a need to swap it out. The same issue is present with optical drives, but, again, I devote one DVD drive to my benching rig and don’t have a need to swap it out.
There are several cut-outs in the motherboard panel for routing wires. There is even a handle and yes, it is possible to carry the benching station around, fully outfitted, by the handle with only one hand. Though, you might not feel too confident doing that since you will see parts move when it is picked up. The only cut out that is missing is a proper hole for changing the backplate of the CPU heatsink. There are two holes that are close but neither would allow proper access on an AMD 890fx board and a Intel P55 board. That will be a problem if you happen to change your heatsink often since you’ll have to remove the entire motherboard to do so. Another thing missing is for some way to mount more fans and direct them at crucial components. Making your own mounts or dangling fans isn’t that hard to do but does add clutter.
The DOMA Pro PCI is a great entry level benching station. If you are looking for something inexpensive that is more durable and stable than a cardboard box, this fits the bill. The only major downside to this is the location of PSU since it limits hand room, but it isn’t a complete deal breaker. I wouldn’t say this is the best benching station on the market, but retailing at $49.99, it is hard to beat. I certainly enjoy using it and would recommend it to others who are looking for an inexpensive benching solution.