Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Benchmark & Review - CPU Coolers as an Art Form

By Published August 04, 2014 at 4:03 am

Additional Info

  • Component: CPU Cooler
  • Awards: Best of Bench
  • Original MSRP: 110
  • Manufacturer: Be Quiet

Test Methodology

We have a brand new test bench that we assembled for the 2013-2014 period! Having moved away from our trusty i7-930 and GTX 580, the new bench includes the below components:

GN Test Bench 2013 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card XFX Ghost 7850 GamersNexus ~$160
CPU Intel i5-3570k CPU GamersNexus ~$220
Memory 16GB Kingston HyperX Genesis 10th Anniv. @ 2400MHz Kingston Tech. ~$117
Motherboard MSI Z77A-GD65 OC Board GamersNexus ~$160
Power Supply NZXT HALE90 V2 NZXT Pending
SSD Kingston 240GB HyperX 3K SSD Kingston Tech. ~$205
Optical Drive ASUS Optical Drive GamersNexus ~$20
Case Phantom 820 NZXT ~$130
CPU Cooler (This is what we're testing)
Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3
Be Quiet! ~$110

All of our testing is conducted in a temperature-controlled environment. Ambient is between 21C and 22C for CPU cooler tests. The graphs measure temperature in Delta over Ambient (C) - so the ambient temperature is subtracted from the component temperature.

Each test is initiated with a cold boot, where the system will sit idle for 15 minutes and collect thermal data. We use CPUID's HWMonitor Pro for thermal logging and tracking.

After this idle time, the system will launch a Prime95 instance running four torture threads on Large FFTs for maximum heat generation and power utilization. This is run for 15 minutes, throughout which the logging utility will collect the data we used in the below charts. A final round of idle time is allowed to ensure data consistency. Redundant tests are run in the event of unexpected results.

We keep a consistent case and airflow configuration for all CPU cooler tests. 

Our degree-per-dollar chart is measured by using the stock cooler as a temperature baseline. We calculate Delta T between the tested coolers and the stock Intel cooler, then divide price by Delta T (example: $65 / dT 28C = $1.85/degree C). This is used for buyers who are looking for a perspective on relative value and aren't necessarily after each individual degree. For value charts where coolers utilize two fans, we assume an average price of $8 per additional 120mm fan.

All automatic fan controls are disabled for testing purposes. All system case fans and CPU cooler fans run at 100% load during testing. This means these tests will represent the cooling capacity when the CPU fan runs at its maximum speed and load consistently. If you would like to reproduce our results. you can disable fan control in BIOS - often under the "Hardware Monitor" tab. 

Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 vs. Liquid Coolers, Argon AR01, T40, X60, etc. 

Let's just run straight through the numbers.

As always with air coolers, I benched the Dark Rock Pro 3 using both the supplied stock thermal interface and our controlled Antec Silver compound. The compound included with the DRP3 is exceptionally runny (liquid-y) and doesn't stick very well when battling the mounting mechanism, and as such, didn't see as reliable performance as with the Antec compound (which is a bit more solidified).

bequiet-bench-1

Above is the stock thermalpaste test. The DRP3 ranks just barely above all other air coolers on our bench -- just above the dominating AR01 with 2 fans -- and rests firmly below the X40 CLC on its loudest settings. It's worth noting that the DRP3 runs substantially quieter than the X40 on Extreme, perhaps making it a better choice for noise-conscious users (unless you're fine with running the X40 on Silent, in which case it's going to be quieter than the DRP3).

bequiet-bench-2

Here's the controlled test. Performance is marginally better, but there aren't phenomenal gains. At 49.97C load, the DRP3 lands just below the 1250 on silent, X40 on extreme, and above all air coolers.

Conclusion - is the Dark Rock Pro 3 Worth It? 

bequiet-3

We unfortunately don't have a decibel testing rig established for this bench (but the next one will be prepped for this), so discussing noise levels is purely subjective at the moment. I will note that the DRP3 remains true to its brand name; the cooler is significantly quieter than the liquid coolers when tested on extreme or "medium" (custom) settings. It tends to be louder than the 1250 on silent, though, and the 1250 runs cooler. The Argon AR01 has an annoying whine that hasn't yet subsided, and while it isn't loud, the DRP3 does beat it out in silence and just slightly in cooling.

bequiet-6RAM clearance is a non-issue for the most part. Some heatsinks will be tight -- like Vengeance memory. You can move the fan to a higher position if so. bequiet-7This shows just how huge the cooler is. Ignore cables -- they weren't managed yet as this was mid-installation. Massive cooler.

Realistically, at $110, you're paying for three things: Aesthetics, silence, and endurance. The Argon AR01 has effectively identical performance (within margin of test error) and is priced at around $30. If you just wanted the cooling without the massive cooling unit and could live with slightly louder volume, the Argon AR01 makes much more sense. That said, Be Quiet's Dark Rock Pro 3 is hands-down the most physically imposing, monolithic cooler we've ever tested; the Dark Rock Pro 3 is a work of art in its own right, making it a potential front-runner for enthusiast projects that demand a specific appearance. The DRP3 has effectively dethroned SilverStone's Argon AR01 as the best cooler on the bench, with Be Quiet! now laying claim to our "Best of Bench" award.

As for endurance, well, the bearings are rated for an impressive 300,000 hours -- more than the usable life of most systems.

best-of-bench-drp3At the price, though, it's not for everyone. You could grab a 240/280mm CLC at that cost -- probably an Antec 1250 ($100) (we reviewed this here) or NZXT X61 ($140) -- and achieve marginally better performance, reasonable silence (if not on 'extreme'), and the liquid appearance. Still, not everyone wants a liquid block in their configuration. If that's the case for you and you'd prefer a longer-lasting air unit at 300,000 hours, the DRP3 makes the best sense.

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke. 


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Last modified on August 04, 2014 at 4:03 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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