Test Results & Conclusion
Comparison CPU Coolers
We retain the hardware configuration from previous reviews to make all of our results comparable:
All three “Big Air” tower coolers produce similar temperatures at full fan speed, with Noctua’s NH-D15 edging out second-place Dark Rock Pro 3 by only one degree.
The smallest of the tower coolers in this chart, the Dark Rock Pro 3 achieves its second-place cooling capability by having a faster fan. We’ve always included a fan controller evaluation in these tests, but Noctua’s speed-reducing resistor wires didn’t slow its fans by nearly the 50% PWM duty-cycle that the motherboard’s controller achieved — we’re still hoping that Noctua’s optimizations are better than the motherboard’s, though.
The most amazing thing is that the Dark Rock Pro 3 tests quieter than most of its rivals, in spite of the higher RPM of its “SilentWings” fans.
Readers should feel free to ignore the “low fans” comparison to Noctua’s NH-D15, since its resistor wires don’t appear to produce the optimum fan speed for this specific processor. Everything else has been tested at 100% and 50% duty-cycle, and the Dark Rock Pro 3 has a better cooling-to-noise ratio at any tested fan setting.
The Dark Rock Pro 3 even edges out DeepCool’s cheaper Assassin II in performance-per-price at full fan speed. The Assassin II’s price is more beneficial when comparing the two at 50% duty cycle, negating any comprehensive value leadership claims.
Because the best value in today’s comparison depends on how much cooling your CPU actually needs (that is, how fast the fans must run), it’s difficult to give the Dark Rock Pro 3 an award over the DeepCool Assassin II. On the other hand, the Assassin II already achieved an award, which makes equally difficult the withholding of any recommendation for the Dark Rock Pro 3.
Let’s not forget that the Dark Rock Pro 3 is six ounces lighter than the Assassin II, which makes it easier to recommend to people who move their machines around, even though it’s still too heavy to ship pre-installed in a complete system. I recommend it to anyone who’s willing to pay an extra $10 for a slightly quieter cooler, is able to move their machine gently, and has space for a cooler this height. Better still, that recommendation becomes firm when the cooler is on sale (unfortunately, an $18 discount has recently expired).
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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him onTwitter.
For convenience, would you please consider adding in the future the metric system equivalents for your readers who are unfamiliar with the imperial system?
I'll take that under advisement. Some readers are demanding "only metric" measurements while builders in USA continue to use inch-based tape measures to figure out clearence, so your suggestion makes sense.
I solved that problem years ago with "flat black" Testor's model paint on the fan cowling and blades on mine.
In any event, it is nice to see more alternatives in the top-tier air cooling market. However, I will state that when you cross over the $100 price tag, you are really getting into better-performing high end "all in the box" closed loop water cooling territory from the likes of Corsair's H100i GTX for just a few more bones.
Granted I'm not running the 5930k, just a 4690k but oc'd even under load the cooler doesn't ever ramp up. I got curious one day and wondered about the max fan speed noise levels and had to literally oc my cpu, run p95 and turn off every other fan in my case leaving only the cpu fan operational before it became audible.
My biggest issue is with the price as well, it's quite expensive most of the time. I lucked out and got it from ncixus during a sale where it was marked down to $55. Solid cooler, very well built and construction is high end. It may not be a noctua killer but it's definitely not lagging far behind and looks much nicer in a black/gray build. Great article.
That's true that the H100i GTX cools slightly better, but at the sacrifice of noise. The Corsair fans are extremely loud and many people need to replace them with SP fans which run $25 for 2. So the cost is about $40-60 more than these air coolers.