bequiet Dark Rock 3 Review
The review of the bequiet Dark Rock 3 completes the trilogy of bequiet cooler reviews we've undertaken this last month. It all started with the huge and near Noctua beating Dark Rock Pro 3. We followed that up with the diminutive 160W TDP Shadow rock slim, and finally we've come to the middle of the range Dark Rock 3. We say middle of the range as in TDP terms, with a value of 190W it’s between the two, although much closer to the shadow rocks 160W than the Pro 3s 250W TDP. With these values in mind we were not expecting it to perform brilliantly, but then again, we've had more than a few surprises in the past.
In our recent review of the Noctua NH-D15 we made a great deal of how a cooler looks. This did seem to spark off something of a debate in our communities with some very valid points being made from both sides of the fence. For those of you without windowed cases, and for whom pure performance, or at least performance per £ is the key factor, then it is acknowledged that how a cooler looks is of very little importance. There are however quite a few out there for whom the physical aesthetic of a cooler, or any component they put in their case for that matter is of relevance. For this group, the appearance of the cooler in the case, and the way it integrates with the other kit forms an integral part of their decision making process. We strongly suspect that this is the growing majority, as if this weren't the case manufactures would still be making beige boxes with un-painted interiors, green PCBs and unbraided PSUs.
But enough of that, we're here to look at the Rock 3. It's certainly a well put together bit of kit. Build and assembly quality are high and we found no evidence of bent fins or marks to the gorgeous hair brushed aluminium top plate. The dark nickel plating was also well applied with the contact plate being presented in a mirrored finish.
Mounting the Cooler although not too technically difficult was more of a fiddle than Noctua's gold standard system, as it involved the use of a spazzy spanner to tighten hard to reach bolts located under the overhang of the fin stack. In use the Rock 3 was very quiet indeed, certainly quieter we feel than the Pro3 and about on a par with the D15, although on paper the D15 is a few dB(A) quieter. Basically there's not a lot in it. You are also spared the agony of RAM overhang, because although the Rock 3 does get close to the first RAM slot it doesn't actually occlude it. Likewise, it's not going to preclude the use of the first expansion slot so is well placed for use with motherboards such as 2011 or more likely a fair few M-ATX boards where this is required for the GPU.
This would usually be the bit where we describe the looks of the cooler, but as we've banged on about aesthetics till the cows come home we're now going to shut up. Suffice to say the Dark Rock 3 is stunning with its dark Nickel fin stack and hair brushed Aluminium top plate. If only they made a version with beige and brown fans...No, must resist the urge...
Ahem. Had a bit of a moment there, had to go and beat myself on the head with a lamp Dobby style, but all ok now. Where were we? Oh yes, Performance. Quite a surprise this one. The Rock 3 did considerably better than we expected it to, especially when you think it's only a single fan single stack unit with a fan rotating at just 1400RPM. At 4.4GHz it's pretty much on a par with its bigger, twin stack, twin fan brother, so close in fact there's only a few tenths of a degree in it. Now either this means that the Pro 3 should have performed much better, or the Rock 3 is really something of a star. However, as the Rock 3 is some £15 cheaper than the Pro 3 we really can't see why you'd want to buy the larger cooler over this one.
Buy the bequiet Dark Rock 3 and what you'll be getting is a good looking cooler that's relatively easy to fit, that won't cause you any RAM or GPU issues. That fights well above its weight in the torture tests enabling you to dial in a decent overclock and certainly as high as any other air cooler will allow. A cooler that is as quiet as the class leading Noctuas and certainly a hell of a lot more quiet than any of the 120mm fan based AIOs clustered beneath it in the performance charts. All that and it's only £55. Not bad bequiet, not bad at all.
And so to the awards. Well with that level of performance at such a keen price it’s a no brainer that it gets a Gold. It also scores highly on the presentation and performance graphs, let down only slightly by a lack of features such as LNAs and a fiddly fit.
Thanks to BeQuiet for sending the DR3 in for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums