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be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Review

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be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Closer Look:

The Dark Rock Pro 3 is a dual-tower cooler using one 120mm 4-pin SilentWings® PWM fan to provide the airflow to the first tower, and a larger 140mm 4-pin SilentWings® PWM fan to continue the air flow through the second tower. 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 150 x 137 x 163mm in size, it is a large-sized cooling solution that should easily fit into a full tower chassis, but anything smaller and you should measure ahead of time. At 2.6 pounds, the Dark Rock Pro 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 250W rating. On top, you will notice the brushed aluminum top cover with a nice high-grade, diamond-cut finish.

Removing the outer PWM fan (bottom two pictures), you get to the bare essentials of the Dark Rock Pro 3. It is a large dual-tower cooler that uses two rectangular vertical fin stacks connected to seven 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 outer fan, the dimensions shrink to 123 x 133 x 163mm. 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 low profile cooling fins extruded from the top of the base. Every little bit of extra surface area helps. This should assist with directing heat away from your CPU. The secondary fins on the Dark Rock 3 are much larger, but here we need the space for the large 140mm fan that comes with the Dark Rock Pro 3. 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." Just look at those seven heat pipes - they use up every bit of space on the base.

 

 


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 fans. 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 two 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. The 120mm PWM fan uses an innovative 4-pole motor along with a dynamically-balanced impeller, and is rated up to 1700 RPM. The 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 120mm fan is 1.23 mm H2O, while the pressure rating on the 140mm fan is  2.1 mm H2O. Overall noise level @ 50/75/100% (RPM) is 13.2 / 19.5 / 26.1 dB(A).

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).

Both of the 4-pin fan connectors merge into a single point connector that is also a 4-pin connector, so both fans can be connected and controlled by a single 4-pin fan header. You can also connect both fans separately if you like.

  

 

 

The fans use 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. Before the cooler is installed, you have clear access to everyting on the motherboard. Well, that is about to change. With large coolers It is not surprising that memory compatibility may be questionable.

  

 

Finally, you install the four nuts to secure the cooler base to the PCB. Here is where things get interesting. The cooler is so large that, as you can see below, there is not much access room to install the mounting nuts. Small fingers come in handy. But at the corner where the VRM heat sinks come together as shown on my MSI GD-65 motherboard, I could not get the nut started. I even unplugged the CPU power lead. The nut on the left was ok, but the one on the right, no way. There was just no room. So I thought about it and had to be a little creative. I taped the nut to the wrench and carefully held it over the stud, then used a screwdriver to turn the screw / stud from the back side of the motherboard.  This worked out well and fortunately the nut threaded onto the stud on the first try. A little tape to hold the nut may save you some time depending on the layout of your motherboard.

If you are starting with a fresh build, then your install will be a little easier if you install the cooler before you put the motherboard in your case. If you are adding this cooler to an existing system, you will likely need to lay your system flat during the installation. For the OCC test sytem, the case I am using is the Phanteks Enthoo Primo, which is massive, so I had room to work with the motherboard in the case. I say all this not to scare anyone away, but just to let you know that the installation can be a little tricky. But really, coolers are typically installed once and left alone, right?

  

 

Here I have the cooler installed without the fan so you can see the clearance next to the RAM slots. Make sure you check your RAM height, because the first slot is covered by the cooler and the second slot is right on the edge. Low profile RAM will be easier to manage, and you will likely be able change it with the cooler installed, although it is still tight. If your RAM has tall heat sinks, make sure you install the modules before you mount the cooler because you won't be able to get to the first slot once the cooler is mounted. The top of my Patriot RAM just barely clears the bottom of the fin stack. If I planned to populate all four slots with tall memory modules, I would need to at least have the first module in before the cooler was mounted.

Since the fin stack covers the first RAM slot, the fan sits right above the second RAM slot. I use the second and fourth RAM slots in my test system so I had to offset the fan just a little to clear the RAM modules. If you populate all your slots, make sure to confirm the RAM height clearance and maybe even do a quick test fit before installation.

 

Now we have everything buttoned up and ready to go. The dark nickel finish goes well with the test system.

 




  1. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3: Closer Look (Continued)
  3. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3: Specifications & Features
  4. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Testing: Setup & Results
  5. be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3: Conclusion
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