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Test System Setup


be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review

I used a couple of Intel hex core (6-core 12-thread) processors (Core i7-980X and Core i7-4960X) and an NZXT Sentry II to help monitor ambient system temps. It can be a little tricky recreating the same environment and the extra tools come in handy to make that possible. The test was completed in an open chassis environment so as to be able to monitor the temps and fan noise easily. Keep in mind that a good quality enclosure will block about 10dB(A) noise.

Cooler we tested against included the...

And of course, we pitted the new cooler against its older brother, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2.

In terms of enclosures, some channel air flow like a wind tunnel which can shave off a couple extra decibels and degrees. For example, the Dark Rock Pro 3 and Dark Power Pro 10 pair very well with the NZXT H440 enclosure making the wind tunnel ideal for controlling motherboard, CPU, and GPU temps. But more on the case performance in an upcoming review.

Setup and Installation Notes

All the components were accounted for in the box, and nothing was missing. All parts were in fantastic condition upon arrival. A little patience is needed though, during installation as the images in the installation pamphlet are a bit small as noted earlier.

The steps start with attaching the mounting brackets to the heat sink base first, then attaching the black plate to the board, and finally, very patiently, using the small wrench to tighten the four nuts that secure the heat sink. Tightening the bolts with the wrench requires some dexterity and attention.

Make sure the cooler sits flat. Re-seat the CPU if you are unsure. Installation may be easier removing the motherboard which of course depends on the size of of your computer case. I recommend removing your motherboard and installing the cooler in smaller cases, and plugging in the fan headers before you put that board back in the case, or you'll be taking it out again to do that.

Overall, the process was completed in about 20 minutes. We found no major issues with installation.

Now let's get on with the performance testing!

Thermal Performance - be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3

The Dark Rock Pro 3 was tested on a top 10 all time great Core i7-980X processor and GIGABYTE G1 Killer Assassin motherboard. A reference NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti was used to eliminate the possibility of the GPU impacting the CPU cooling. Idle, load, and overclock temperatures were recorded.

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review

These temps are quite nice all around. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 did a great job of matching the NZXT HAVIK 140 in most respects but it also cooled a bit better test after test. Keep in mind, that I had to use Arctic Silver 5 on all the coolers since I've long since run out of some of the bundled pastes. If you use the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 bundled DC1 paste, you'll more than likely assist the Pro 3 in shaving off another degree or two.

So how about Ivy Bridge-E? I had the same question bouncing around in the old brain bucket.

A Core i7-4960X paired with an ASUS X79 Sabertooth motherboard was added to the mix. The same idle, load, and overclocked tests were performed. Half way through the testing with coolers compatible with the LGA 2011 socket, I noticed all the temps were about 6 C hotter during regular tests and 11 C hotter overclocked. This is due to the Haswell processor having a smaller die surface and contact surface for transferring heat. Either way, the Dark Rock Pro 3 can easily manage Ivy Bridge-E.

Noise Levels - be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review

I didn't find the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 any louder than the rest. On the average, it seemed just a tad bit quieter than my retired NZXT. HAVIK 140 and slightly louder than its predecessor, the Dark Rock Pro 2. Original tower coolers like the VenomousX and FrioOCK (including the new OCK series) all tend to require maximum fan pressure to stay superbly cool. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 does a quiet job, taking nothing away from the cooling magic happening in the pipes and the overall design.

Final Thoughts

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review

Today, a new cooling champion has risen within the test lab (at least until we take on the Noctua NH-D15 so keep checking back for that review). The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 isn't small by any means but it's also not as big as its predecessor, the Dark Rock Pro 2, or the Noctua NH-D14. The contoured top design is quite nice and every detail has been given proper attention all around. Exceptional quality materials have been used to fabricate the cooler from the metals to the fans. The cooler is surprisingly quiet as well. In fact, when you factor in the 9-10dB noise that is blocked by a decent computer enclosure, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 is a very quiet high performance cooler.

Pricing has been a mixed result during hunting. It has been listed from $80 up to $99 US/CA at our go to store, NCIX. But even at those prices, it sells out pretty quickly. And speaking of pricing, be quiet! has never been shy about their pricing, as it always seems to be on the premium end of the spectrum. This is where  be quiet! is comfortable, as they are happy to see everyone else compete for the lower end price points.

In the end, I can't really find anything to complain about with be quiet!'s latest high end cooler. This black nickle beauty offers everything you'd expect and more. The only issue you may run into is finding it in stock. It's definitely an Editors' Choice for the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3.

Pros

  • Exceptional quality and design
  • Top of the range performance
  • SilentWing 4-pin PWM fans provide excellent control

Cons

  • Limited availability and upper echelon price

Overall Rating: 9.5 /10.0


 be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU Cooler Review

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