be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review - A winner in terms of performance and quietness?

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review - A winner in terms of performance and quietness?

The Dark Rock Pro gets yet another revision from be quiet! Chad gives us the full details on the new Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU cooler and how it performs.

@chad_sebring
Published Fri, Feb 14 2014 11:59 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: be quiet!

Introduction

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Over the last couple of years, we have seen quite a few things from the be quiet! lineup. Whether it be with coolers, or power supplies, they have kept us pretty busy here at TweakTown. While I did miss out on the original iterations of their cooler designs, when I was brought up to speed on what they had to offer, it did not take long to realize they were very tough competition for the rest of the air cooling segment. While their coolers may be a bit on the larger side, they have all been black in order to blend into the system. They have also delivered some of the lowest audio results in our testing, and at the same time, they are more than capable of standing tall on the thermal charts. For these reasons, there is a bit of excitement as we now get to look at their third generation of designs.

We have seen many a dual-tower design in the labs over the years (starting off with Noctua and the D-14), but over the years, many other designs have surfaced. Some of these designs were outright clones; while in other designs, you could really see where the design team really went to work implementing all of the tricks of the trade to try to squeeze more performance out of a basic concept.

There are quite a few things a company can design into the cooler, things like closed sides to the fins, textures added into the fin working like dimples in a golf ball, offsetting designs to the fins, extra spacing, and things of that nature. However, no matter the design implementation, it also takes a good pair of fans in the design to be able to rid the cooler of the mass amounts of heat produced by today's top-tier processors.

While this latest incarnation from be quiet!, the Dark Rock Pro 3, keeps the seven heat pipes, the black nickel plating, and black brushed aluminum top plate that has been a success for them, this time there are some newer ideas of how it all should be implemented. On top of that, they have changed a few things about the design in subtle ways, to gain more efficiency. Nevertheless, the one thing that remains a constant (aside from the product name) is that be quiet! did not mess with the fans that have made them rank as well as they have in our audio charts. Some things are better unaddressed, because if it isn't broken, why fix it?

With all of this in mind, I say we dive right into it, to see what the Dark Rock Pro 3 offers our test bench, and to see if this dual-tower cooler from be quiet! should in fact be on your "must-have" list next time you're building a new PC.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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As you can see above, be quiet! has put together a really full chart for the Dark Rock Pro 3. They start off with the main specifications like height, weight, and compatibility. The Dark Rock Pro 3 stands 163mm tall, is 137mm wide, and it is 150mm long. Inside of those dimensions, be quiet! is packing in 1197 grams of copper and aluminum, and this includes the weight of the fans. They also make mention of one of the more important features, and that is the top-tier rating of 250W TDP for this cooler.

As far as the compatibility is concerned, the DRP3 will affix to any Intel socket from LGA775 through LGA2011, and all AMD sockets from 754 and right on through AM3+ on mainstream motherboards. This cooler also includes a 120mm SilentWings PWM fan on the front, and a 135mm version in the middle of the towers, which they have specified to produce no more than 26.1 dB(A) of noise when at full speed.

For the heat sink, dimensions are: 123mm in length, 133mm in width without the fan clips, and the height stays the same since the fans sit lower than the top plate. There are a total of ninety fins in both towers, or forty-five aluminum fins in each tower. As for the base, the bottom is nickel plated copper, but the top half is made from aluminum, and is skived to allow it to remove a bit of heat as well.

Out of that base, you will see seven 6mm diameter heat pipes, just like in the Dark Rock Pro 2, but this time their alignment has been changed. Also, every part, except for the brushed aluminum top plate, has black nickel plating applied for looks, anti-oxidation purposes, and to smooth out some of the imperfections in the base and fins.

For the specifications of the SilentWing PWM fans used on this cooler, we move to the lower section of the chart. There we can see that the 135mm fan in the middle is capable of speeds of 1400 RPM, while delivering 67.8CFM of airflow. The 2.1mm H2O static pressure rating it offers is also nice. As for the 120mm version on the front of the cooler, it can spin at 1700 RPM, offer 57.2CFM of airflow, and it has a 1.23mm H2O pressure rating. Both fans spin on a Fluid Dynamic bearing, and both offer a 4-pin connection for power.

Since this cooler was just released, it is tough to locate them in the retail markets inside of the USA. What we do know at this point is that be quiet! has set the MSRP for the Dark Rock Pro 3 at $89.99 U.S. Dollars, but that very well could change when more e-tailers begin to offer them. Since we are dealing with a price point close to that of the single radiator AIO solutions, you can correctly assume that we will be judging this product accordingly, to see if the Dark Rock Pro 3 is worth hanging this much weight from your socket.

Packaging

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The packaging is much like any other be quiet! cooler we have seen; they use the all black backing to highlight the image of the cooler in the center of the panel. At the bottom, you see the naming and the line: "no compromise silence and performance." Just below that, there is notation of the 250W TDP.

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As we move around to the panel on the right of the box, we see things start off by listing reasons why one should use a cooler such as this. This panel touches on points like the virtually inaudible operation, immensely effective cooling, the use of high grade materials, and it ends by noting the quality, and the three-year warranty coverage. The bottom then shows off previous awards (including a couple from yours truly), and is sure to note the 250W TDP again.

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At the back of the packaging, things start with a few lines about be quiet!, above the pair of renderings of the cooler, where they point out seven features in the design. The bottom then offers a condensed specifications chart, and to the right there is a diagram of the fan motor, and four features specific to that design.

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The last panel offers the Dark Rock Pro 3 and be quiet! naming at the top, and is then followed by French, Spanish, and Polish versions of their statements of why consumers should purchase this cooler. At the bottom is that TDP again, along with the web address, in case you want to look on their site for more information.

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Inside of the packaging, you will find the Dark Rock Pro 3 has been fully encased in high density foam to prevent damages to the cooler; even when it looks like it has been dropped, based on the damage to the box.

The bottom, sides, and the top are fully covered, and at the back of the cooler, a thin box of hardware is slid in after a thin layer of foam that keeps them separated. Even with visible damage to the box, the Dark Rock Pro 3 inside of the box took no damage, and arrived in great shape for testing.

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler

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Our first view of the Dark Rock Pro 3 stares the cooler right in the face. At this point, what we see is the 120mm SilentWing PWM fan that initiates the airflow into this cooler. The seven grooved blades allow for the rated specification of flow and pressure, yet still allow the fan to run in near silent operation.

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With that fan removed, we see the face of the fins feature a saw-tooth pattern, and at the top there are an additional three fins that are smaller, but lend to the shape of the top plate. You also find rubber strips on either side, to keep the fan isolated from the cooler, and remove vibrations and chatter.

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Looking at things from the right, we see that the fans attach with wire clips via groves in both towers. There are actually two grooves in each tower to allow you to reverse the air flow, or even add a third fan to this beast.

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The back of the cooler is very interesting as well, with the staggered pattern of groups of three fins. While this doesn't not offer much of a benefit with just two fans on the cooler, if a third is added, it does offer spacing to allow the fan to use all of its potential, rather than being cut short by a flat, even layering of fins.

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Looking at it from the left side, we can see that at the top there are screws running through the fins to hold on the top plate, rather than closing off the sides. There are only tabs to equally space the fins, and the 135mm fan in the middle just barely fits from the top of the base to the top plate.

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From this view, you can get a good look at the black brushed aluminium top plate. You can also see that the center is raised to go around the smaller set of three fins. You should also notice that instead of the previous triangle arrangement of the pipes on the sides, this time around they are more evenly spread across its width for more efficient heat transfer from all of the pipes.

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After removing the center fan, and looking at things much closer, you can see that the top of the heat sink (the aluminium section) has been formed into a passive heat sink. While this does not do a tremendous amount of pre-cooling, any pre-cooling is advantageous to the thermal results.

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Here, we can see that there are seven pipes coming from the base, and just how tight they have to bend or twist to get in this alignment, which is better spaced than the alignment the Dark Rock Pro 2 had. Also, we can now see the dimpling applied to each of the fins in the stack to create better airflow across their surfaces, and raise the efficiency in this design.

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The base of copper has been machine milled, and is very flat across the majority of its surface where it will be making contact with your processor. Once it is milled, it is then nickel plated, and the user is left with a very finely polished surface to work with.

Accessories and Documentation

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Here is be quiet!'s universal back plate. It has dense foam at both ends to keep the steel from damaging anything, and a layer of plastic applied was applied before that, to keep the entire thing isolated from the motherboard, which keeps things from shorting out. They also include a nondescript syringe of thermal paste; it's good for a few applications.

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Here at the top, is the pair of AMD mounting legs that you would need to add to the base of the cooler when using an AMD system. At the bottom is the pair of Intel mounting legs for Intel purposes. In the middle is a wrench to aid in your installation of the cooler, but this is more to hold the hardware in place while you screw in the studs from behind the motherboard.

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The rest of the hardware includes LGA2011 mounting screws at the top, with a row of black plastic C-clips to lock the studs in place for AMD and other Intel mounting. The third row offers four studs that run through the back plate, and are clipped in with the plastic clips in the groove of each stud.

There are four countersunk screws for the mounting legs, and four nuts to secure the cooler. The last row offers nuts that screw down over the studs to sandwich the motherboard, and the four nuts go on the outside of these for the final mounting.

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If I have thoroughly confused you about the mounting of this cooler, the instructions do offer some pretty good drawings and diagrams of how this all goes together. Since this is also a multi-lingual manual, what is provided in text is pretty brief, but if you look closely at the images, they will get you through any installation with relative ease.

Installation and Finished Product

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As with other be quiet! samples (since they all use the same mounting hardware), the back plate is slightly too large for the opening in the Thermal Armor on our motherboard.

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It's nothing a pair of safety glasses and my Dremmel couldn't fix. After being sure to remove all of the fine bits of metal with a thorough cleaning, we are able to get the back plate where it needs to be, although it will never work right for some AMD installations, and we had to cut through a couple of the holes.

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With the studs through the motherboard, the clips in place, and the additional screw and nut combination parts installed on the motherboard, all we have to do is attach the appropriate mounting legs to the base of the cooler. Here we are; all ready to go with an Intel setup.

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After some complicated mounting, we now have the Dark Rock Pro 3 installed and ready for testing. We did have to remove the flame tips on our memory, as the DRP3 is a large cooler, and does indeed to encroach on the room over the DIMM slots.

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Only the outermost slot is free from obstruction from this cooler, and as it crosses the motherboard, it even goes over the heat sinks for the power delivery system for the CPU. On this board, the height of the armor wasn't the issue; it was getting to the nuts at the top of the cooler for mounting that caused us the most grief.

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Once we had the motherboard back in the test chassis, we took this image to offer a bit more perspective on its size. Not that it is huge compared to other dual-tower designs, it's more that it will take up most of the room at the top of the motherboard, and with a third fan installed, you will likely see nothing of the motherboard under it.

The Test System and Thermal Results

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I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Corsair, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with. To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for that information.

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While not the best results, at stock testing levels, we found the Dark Rock Pro 3 offered a 52.5 degree average result, the same cooling capabilities of the H75 AIO. It falls just behind the NiC C5 that offers a lot more access to the motherboard, but is much louder at any level. For those wondering: When the PC was left at idle, we got an average of 29 degrees.

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As we allow the test system to spread its legs with an overclock applied, the Dark Rock Pro 3 stays right in the middle of the charts, but that is a bit misleading. The 72.75 degree average we got at this level is only 5.1 degrees off from the leading cooler, and that is a dual radiator AIO with a pair of 140mm fans.

Now, there are some smaller yet more efficient coolers on the list, but none of them can compare when it comes to both audio and thermal results, as you are about to see on the next page.

Noise Level Results

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Taking the second spot in our charts for the audio levels is great for be quiet!; in fact, they now hold the top two spots. With 7.5V running through the fans, we see that both fans together are only slightly louder than the previous submission with the rating of 25 dB.

While the 120mm fan speeds were in spec at 1300 RPM at this point, the 135mm fan was giving us a reading of 1450 RPM, which is the top specified speed of that fan already. I think there may have been a typo in the specifications chart.

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When the fans were let loose in the overclock testing, the noise levels were very tolerable with our open air test system, and I needed to be within two feet to even hear it over the idling VGA fan. It was at this point where we got the 39 dB rating we put in the charts.

As for the fans, the 120 was spinning at 1660 RPM, while the 135mm fan was reporting 2130 RPM. Either way you look at it, the Dark Rock Pro 3 is definitely the best option for both silence and cooling efficiency that we have tested on this newer setup.

Final Thoughts

There really is no denying the limited audible noise that comes from these be quiet! coolers, and they have definitely shown how well they can take on a market flooded with solutions from other companies. Not only do you get great thermal results, but once inside of a closed chassis, you will never hear the cooler. You also get a cooler that is very appealing to admire through the window in the side door of the chassis.

I like that they didn't just make lame changes, like a fan swap, or just by adding the number 3 to the box. In this design, they really went to work to deliver things like fin dimples, offset fins, and even an extra set at the top just to squeeze a "little bit more" out of the dual-tower cooler design. On top of that, with all of the brushed aluminum and black nickel plating, what is there not to like about this cooler in both aesthetics, and performance?

What stick out in my mind as to where be quiet! could improve is in the hardware. While I know my test system board is more restrictive than others on the market, some of the issues I had do cross over to any motherboard. While cutting the back plate to fit is a specific issue to my setup, I can't really hold that against be quiet!. What I can hold against them is the system of studs, nuts, and a wrench that is just tough to use. It's also a pain in the rear end to get the top left nut on the cooler. I don't care if you are dealing with a plastic cover like I have, or if you just have a normal overclocking motherboard, having to slide a nut onto that stud with such limited room makes me wish I had three hands just to line things up.

Also, that doesn't take into account the balancing act you have to perform to screw the studs in while you hold that tiny wrench, and hope for the best. While in reality, you should tighten all the studs in an X-pattern, I can assure you that once you get that wrench ion place, and are screwing them into place, you are not going to want to remove it as you add equal tension to all four corners; you are at least sending that top left screw home in one fail swoop.

With the pricing as it is, in combination with the level of efficiency and low audio results afforded to users who buy the Dark Rock Pro 3, the memory of the hassle of mounting it are soon forgotten. Besides, most people don't change coolers nearly as often as I do. What is left in my mind is that the cost may seem a bit on the pricey side for air coolers.

However, when you think about how handily it beat out the H75 (and with much less noise), and just how attractive the Dark Rock Pro 3 is with that black brushed aluminum top to stare at, in the end I have to give it to be quiet!. They do truly deliver a cooler that delivers on their tag line of "no compromise silence and performance".

They deliver in both of those aspects, and while it is large, the cooler is aesthetically pleasing. While it's not the most economically friendly solution out there, it does everything be quiet! promised, and then some.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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