Bequiet Shadow Rock TopFlow Review
Usually at this point I'd be telling you how we tested the cooler using a set of specific defined values, and then how well it performed at 4.0, 4.2 and if it's a peach, 4.4Ghz, then showing you with aid of graphs how it matches up to the competition. Thing is, this cooler isn't designed for balls out overclocking. It's designed as a HTPC/SFF cooler. It's job is to fit into tight spots and do a reasonably good job as quietly as possible. The Holy Trinity (Looks, noise, performance) still applies, it's just that the emphasis is on a different aspect of the performance.
So what about looks? Subjective of course. It's not ugly, but then it's not in your face either and neither is it particularly attractive. To call it plain would make it sound boring so perhaps describing its looks as "simple" is as good as any. There's no LED light show, but then that's often no bad thing. The cylindrical cowling of the fan adds a bit of variety over the more common square cowlings we see, and the sawtooth of the leading edges of the cooler fins add a point of interest, but other than that it's unremarkable. Quality wise no issues whatsoever. There were no bent fins, the Nickel coating was well applied and the machined surface of the contact plate was well presented.
So far the review hasn't really touched on the Shadow rocks strengths. Well this is where we start to put the record straight. Noise, or more specifically lack there of is one of this coolers strong suites. I've tested many coolers and many fans over the years and come to take the manufacturers figures with a little pinch of salt. In simple terms in a subjective assessment a fan from one manufacturer listed at 24dB-A can actually sound quieter than another manufacturers listed at 18dB-A. And that's exactly what we have here. This cooler is rated at 24.4 dB-A at full tatt (which is how we test all our coolers and fans). You'd expect to be able to hear that quite easily over the general hum of your system, but you can't, even with a vented side panel or with the door off for that matter. Stick your ear up against it and you can just about hear a gentle susseration, but that's it. Stick it on PWM and allow it to drop down to 900 rpm and it's essentially silent. Yes this is a subjective opinion, but it's one based on testing and listening to lots of fans and coolers.
And so to performance. Well we did have a look at what it could do even though this was not the main way we assessed it's performance. (This is OC3D after all and what would it be without a bit of OC). As usual we used the the regular test set up and performed the torture tests at varying levels of Overclock with varying voltages applied. As i've said, don't go expecting to get your toasty i7 up to 4.0GHz with this cooler, so we won't be seeing where it slots into the usual graphs.
So what results did I get?
Well at 2.8 GHz (1.22 volts) all was fine with a max temp of 61.5 and an ambient of 19 degrees giving a deltaT of 42.5
At 3.0 GHz (1.23volts) all was good still with a max of 63.25, and ambient of 19 giving me a DeltaT of 44.25.
It's when the volts need to go that little bit higher that we get the problems. Trying to get 3.2Ghz I pushed the volts to to 1.24 and things changed dramatically with the Prime95 Torture test causing the temps to exceed 90 degrees in a matter of moments.
Wondering whether the orientation of the cooler made much of a difference I repeated all tests with the cooler oriented laterally (as in the pictures on page 4), vertically as the instructions suggest for a tower, and lastly horizontally as the cooler might be orientated in an HTPC or SFF case. It made no difference what so ever to the results.
Really though the true metric of the performance of this cooler is not it's ability to tame a massively overclocked chip, but to give a decent performance in a space where other coolers won't fit. In that respect I think it performs very well. at Just 125mm tall it's going to fit into a good many HTPC cases.