be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Review

red454 - 2014-05-15 17:29:40 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: red454   
Reviewed on: June 26, 2014
Price: $74.99

be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Introduction:

Be quiet! is one of Germany's top manufacturers of power supplies and is well known outside the US, but is looking to break into the US market with a full line of power supplies and high end air cooling solutions, including the Dark Rock and Shadow Rock series of coolers. Be quiet! has won the Manufacturer of the Year award six times in a row from the German hardware magazine PC Games Hardware and recently won the prestigious Red Dot Design Award for 2014.

The Dark Rock 3 is be quiet!'s single-tower, single-fan 190W TDP cooling solution that has been refreshed and upgraded over the previous Dark Rock 2 model. The Dark Rock 3 features the SilentWings® PWM 140mm fan, six large diameter (6mm) heat pipes, and dynamic wave-contour cooling fins all in an attractive dark nickel finish. It touts several improvements over previous models, including improved dynamic wave-contour cooling fins with enhanced cooling area and small dots (dimples) on the fin surface to increase air circulation and contribute to high convection efficiency. The six high-performance heat pipes have a copper lining and aluminum caps to carry heat to the optimal location on the cooling fins. The new arrangement of the heat pipes also enhances the cooling capacity.

If you are not familiar with the Dark Rock series, be quiet! has (in ascending TDP order) the Dark Rock Advanced C1 (180W), the Dark Rock 3 (190W), and the Dark Rock 3 Pro (250W). From the be quiet! website: "Dark Rock 3 offers top performance-to-noise ratio and the highest reliability available. Improved cooling efficiency (190W TDP) and really silent operation (only 21.1dB(A) at maximum speed) mean this cooler strikes the perfect balance between cooling and serenity — truly silence and performance without compromises."  So today we will test all the improvements and see just how well the Dark 3 can silently handle the heat.


be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Closer Look:

The packaging for the be quiet! Dark Rock 3 reflects the name of the cooler, with a black background showing the cooler front and center on the front panel. Under the image is the name "Dark Rock 3" along with the fact that this cooler can manage a 190W thermal load.













The back side of the package has a technical drawing of the cooler, a list of the specifications, and descriptions of the features, such as the aluminum top plate, low turbulence cooling fin design, and six high-performance 6mm heat pipes. On the side panels there are a brief description of the features in five languages and a list of awards.



Opening the box, the be quiet! logo pops out at you right away. I'll bet that round cut out in the top foam was put there on purpose! The closed-cell flexible foam forms a three-sided envelope to prevent damage to the fan and large fin array and seems more than adequate. The cooler sits on the foam, which also protects the base. There is a separate cardboard box that contains the AMD and Intel hardware, along with the base plate and thermal paste.





Opening the hardware box, you are greeted by three clear plastic bags with all the mounting hardware you need for the installation, as well as the instructions and the thermal paste. There is also a small wrench that will come in handy a little later. There is a separate sheet with the warranty info, while the instructions are on a single folded sheet in five languages. The illustrations and text are clear and easy to follow. So let's see how the Dark Rock 3 stacks up!


be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Closer Look:

The Dark Rock 3 is a single-tower cooler using a single 140mm 4-pin SilentWings® PWM fan to provide the airflow. Socket compatibility includes all of the most recent sockets from AMD: 754 / 939 / 940 / AM2(+) / AM3(+) / FM1 / FM2 and Intel: LGA 775 / 1150 / 1155 / 1156 / 1366 / 2011. Measuring 97 x 137 x 160mm in size, it is more of an average-sized cooling solution, and should easily fit into a mid-tower chassis. At 2.14 pounds, the Dark Rock 3 is no lightweight and probably won't make it into your LAN rig. But on the positive side, it should have the mass to deliver on that 190W rating. On top, you will notice the brushed aluminum top cover with a nice high-grade, diamond-cut finish.

Removing the PWM fan (bottom two pictures), you get to the bare essentials of the Dark Rock 3. It is a large single-tower cooler that uses a rectangular vertical fin stack connected to six 6mm heat pipes that pass through the contact plate of the copper base and up through the 51 dark nickel-plated aluminum fins. Each fin on the front face has sawtooth edges that taper in slightly at the middle. Without the fan, the dimensions shrink to 73 x 132 x 160mm. The rear fin edges depart from the sawtooth style and switch to a series of alternating notches and protrusions.









The CNC-machined, nickel-plated base comes covered from the factory with a vinyl warning decal that protects the surface during shipping. Of course you need to peel this cover off before installation, as it is necessary for optimal contact and thermal transfer. Another feature to point out is that be quiet! has taken advantage of some available space and added a secondary set of cooling fins extruded from the top of the base. This should certainly assist with directing heat away from your CPU.  You can also see the dimples on each fin that be quiet! claims to "increase air circulation and contribute to high convection efficiency without raising overall noise."



Before you can mount the cooler to your motherboard, you have to install the side mounting brackets. There is one set for an AMD install and a separate set for an Intel install.  Each bracket has two countersunk holes for the screws. The countersink is only on one side, so you can only install the brackets one way.  There are no machining marks evident on the base. In fact, it is polished to a mirror finish. Bonus points if you can spot the OCC logo!



So let's talk about the fan. It doesn't matter how great your fin stack is if you can't move any air through it. Be quiet! ensures that there is indeed plenty of air flow by using one of its high-end SilentWings® PWM fans. One thing you will notice right away is that the nine SilentWings® PWM fan blades use an airflow-optimized design to reduce air turbulence and improve noise characteristics. This 140mm PWM fan uses an innovative 6-pole motor, along with a dynamically-balanced impeller, and is rated up to 1400 RPM. The pressure rating on the fan is  2.1 mm H2O and maximum noise is at a low 21.1dB(A), even at 100% PWM function.

The Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) utilizes a copper core and is used to help provide stability and improved airflow. In essence, this is a bearing with a dynamic oil film. The lines on the inside diameter of the FDB feature a v-shaped profile. The oil circulates as the axis rotates, creating sufficiently high oil pressure at the defined points between the bearing and the shaft face so that they do not make any contact. This reduces friction, resulting in less thermal energy generated along with longer-lived and quieter bearings. The bearing that be quiet! uses is patented by Matsushita (Panasonic).



The fan uses a decoupled fan mount with vibration-isolating elements on the heat sink to control vibration. Here along the right edge you can see the long, narrow, rubber isolator strip that runs along both sides of the fin stack. Clearly be quiet! has put a lot of effort into keeping noise and vibration to a minimum.


Installing this cooler into a chassis and onto a motherboard takes a little more effort than it looks due to the fixed mounting brackets and a rather interesting mounting system that uses a very robust backing plate. There are four plastic e-clips that secure the screws that slip through the backing plate and motherboard PCB. After the e-clips are on, there are four internally and externally threaded studs that are installed over the mounting screws. These serve as a base for the cooler to mount. Once tightened up by bottoming the screws out until they seat fully, it is going nowhere. And here is where any large cooling solution can get interesting. It is not surprising that memory clearance may be questionable.



Finally, you install the four nuts to secure the cooler base to the PCB. If you are starting with a fresh build, then you won't really have any issues. If you are adding this cooler to an existing system, you will likely need to remove all your RAM modules and the GPU for clearance of the little wrench we talked about earlier. You really need the space for access to the fasteners and I highly recommend you lay your system flat during the installation. Here I have the cooler installed without the fan so you can see the clearance, particularly next to the RAM slots. The fin stack easily clears the RAM slots.



The fan sits right above the first RAM slot. Since I don't use that slot in my test system, I can mount the fan in line with the rest of the cooler - as it comes from the factory. The second slot has my first RAM module and the module does protrude in front of the fan, but just a little. I could easily move the fan up slightly if this bothered me. If you populate all of your slots or use RAM with tall heat spreaders, you will have to move the fan up; and how far up will of couse be determine by the height of your RAM.


be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Specifications:

Overall dimensions without mounting material (L x W x H)
97 x 137 x 160 mm
Total weight (kg)
LGA1150 ready
Socket compatibility
Intel: LGA 775 / 1150 / 1155 / 1156 / 1366 / 2011
AMD: 754 / 939 / 940 / AM2(+) / AM3 (+) / FM1 / FM2+
Backplate Mounting
Fan model, number
be quiet! 1 x SilentWings PWM 135mm
Anti vibration fan fixing
Overall noise level (dB(A)) @ 50/75/100% (rpm)
8.4 / 13.6 / 21.1
Heatsink Specifications (L x W x H)
73 x 132 x 160 mm
Number of Fins
Fin Material
Base Material
CPU Contact Surface
CNC Machined
Heatpipe number / Diameter (mm)
6, 6
Surface Treatment
Aluminum / Dark Nickel Plated
Fan Dimensions
135 x 135 x 22
Speed @ 100% PWM (rpm)
Air flow @ 12V (cfm, m3/h)
67.8, 113.8
Air pressure @ 12V (mm H2O)
Bearing Type
Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Input current (A)
Input power (W)


be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Features:

Extremely High Cooling Efficiency


Virtually Inaudible Operation


Highly Compatible, Highly Functional Design



All information courtesy of be quiet! @

be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Testing:

Testing of the Dark Rock 3 will be accomplished by installing the cooler into the test system case, rather than a test bench. Most systems are built and mounted into a (relatively) sealed chassis, so this method will be used to generate the idle and load results to give a real world view as to the cooling performance one can expect, based on the test system listed below. Of course, your results may vary by several degrees due to case design, case fan placement, and ambient air temperature. The CPU load is generated by Prime 95 version 27.9 for a period of two hours, with a cooldown period of one hour after the computer has returned to an idle state. Real Temp 3.70 is used to log the temperatures with the highest and lowest averages across the four cores of the Core i7 4770K test CPU. Ambient temperatures are kept at 24 °C during the testing to minimize the effect of temperature variations. Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer-supplied thermal compound as delivered.


Testing Setup:


Comparison Coolers:






Initially I had some issues with the temperatures. They were high - too high for this style of cooler, so I knew something was not right. Once in a while I will have to reinstall a cooler with a fresh application of thermal paste.  Sometimes they just don't seat properly.  But the reinstall usually does it. But this time it took several installs, and finally I had to shift the orientation by 90 degrees so the fan was on top, blowing down toward the video card. I was then able to get temperatures that were what I would call in the normal range. And really, I would consider this more of a fluke and not to be expected.

Ok, back to the testing. At idle, the Dark Rock 3 is able to keep the 4770K CPU at 32 °C stock with the included fan, which is no surprise. With the CPU loaded, we are at 69 °C, which is not bad, but a few degrees above what the Shadow Rock 2 tested at a few months ago. I would have expected the Dark Rock 3 to be at least the same as the Shadow Rock 2, if not a degree or so cooler. But that was not the case.

As for overclocking, we max out at 85 °C, which is a bit on the toasty side, but still safe. At 85 °C, the Dark Rock 3 comes in five degrees cooler than the Shadow Rock 2, and in between two Noctua coolers, so it is in good company. The Dark Rock 3 can keep you cool whether your system is a daily driver or a mild gamer. Adding a second fan (not included) is certainly an option. It may drop the temperatures by another degree or so, and as quiet as the SilentWings® fans are, additional fan noise won't be a concern.

be quiet! Dark Rock 3 Conclusion:

The be quiet! Dark Rock 3 has several improvements over the previous design, such as improved dynamic wave-contour cooling fins with enhanced cooling area, small dimples on the surface to increase air circulation, six high-performance heat pipes with copper lining and aluminum caps, 190W TDP, and a new arrangement of heat pipes to enhance the cooling capacity. The included single PWM fan quietly gets the job done at stock settings, and even keeps the heat under control with a mild overclock. The diamond-cut aluminum top cap covers the heat pipe stubs, so if you have a case with a side panel window, you can proudly show off the Dark Rock 3.

Installation is a little more involved, especially if you're placing it in an existing system. My experience with be quiet! CPU coolers had me planning to remove the RAM and video card as the first steps. And it is safe to say that almost anyone who buys an aftermarket CPU cooler is likely not intimidated by having to remove a few componets to get the job done. I usually enjoy the opportunities to spend some time inside my case, so having to remove the RAM modules and the video card does not usually bother me, however this install did take me a little more time. I suspect that the issues I had are not normal, and more of a fluke. Regardless, I see some room for improvement with the mounting hardware. I have seen less expensive (and less attractive) coolers with more advanced mounting hardware. All four of my RAM slots are accessible with the Dark Rock 3, and if you use RAM with tall heat spreaders, you can just move the fan up a little for clearance.

So let's talk about performance. It can easily handle the thermal load of normal daily use. Stock performance is just fine. Overclocked and at load, the Dark Rock 3 still keeps the temps under control. But keep in mind that if you have a case that is perhaps a little lacking in the airflow department, along with a video card dumping excess heat,  you may end up pushing the thermal limits of an overclocked CPU. Make sure you have plenty of airflow through your case.

Be quiet! gives you a three-year warranty and great build quality to go along with the attractive dark nickel finish. Priced at around $75, it is a little toward the higher end of the spectrum. If you're thinking about an air cooling solution and you don't load your system to the limits, then the Dark Rock 3 should be able to handle the load. On the box it says, "NO COMPROMISE SILENCE AND PERFORMANCE" and I think the be quiet! Dark Rock 3 delivers.