be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 Review

The Dark Rock Pro 3 represents be quiet!'s greatest cooling-to-noise effort to date, but can it beat well-known Big Air rivals in overall performance or value?

The Dark Rock Pro 3’s “No Compromise Silence And Performance” tagline might be grammatically incorrect, yet it still conveys the low noise message of manufacturer be quiet! The firm has apparently put quite a bit of effort into matching noise-optimized fans with specifically sized heat sinks, but then again, so has its competitors.

Though functional differences between the Dark Rock Pro 3 and competing models aren’t visually identifiable, aesthetic improvements include a black-anodized, formed aluminum top with matching caps on its heat pipes. A 135mm fan fills the center position between two radiators, while the 120mm front fan’s smaller size provides additional clearance for DRAM. Overlap above DIMMs is almost certain with coolers this large, and the Dark Rock Pro 3 gives builders about 1.6” of clearance to work with.

Like the recently reviewed Dark Rock TF, the Dark Rock Pro 3 has a supremely flat, finely polished and plated base (see the reflection on the box art). It also uses the same mounting kit, though the upright radiators add height.

Specifications

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Features

While not the tallest Big Air cooler we’ve tested, the Dark Rock Pro 3 is certainly substantial at 6.6”. Fortunately, the firm was able to keep width and depth below 6”

Like its previously-tested sibling, most users of the Dark Rock TF can screw the brackets and standoffs to the cooler’s base, stick the support plate behind the socket, put screws through the support bracket and motherboard to hold the bracket loosely in place, use plastic clips to keep the screws from falling out, and attach the cooler’s mounting pieces to the motherboard’s mounting pieces by holding the cooler in place over its screws, while turning the screws from behind the motherboard with a screwdriver. LGA 2011 (v3) users get the special treat of screwing special standoffs to their motherboard’s retainer plate, placing the cooler with brackets over those standoffs, and reaching underneath the cooler’s body to secure these using nuts. An included thin wrench then allows the builder to finish tightening those nuts.

The Dark Rock Pro 3’s 120mm front fan also has a splitter cable on its power connector, to attach its 135mm center fan. One of those four wires is the fan tachometer, so I instead used two motherboard headers to capture RPM reading from each fan.

One nice thing about the Dark Rock Pro 3’s 5.5” width is that it falls within the cooling space limit of ATX-based motherboards. That includes Micro ATX and even Mini-ITX form factors, as long as the CPU interface is properly centered.

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  • Eggz
    Sleek! This is basically a black D-14 with a better look.
  • M for Moartea
    Good and concise article, a Dark Rock Pro 3 review is something I was looking forward to.

    For convenience, would you please consider adding in the future the metric system equivalents for your readers who are unfamiliar with the imperial system?
  • thor220
    I have one of these and they do indeed get very good temps.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Sleek! This is basically a black D-14 with a better look.
    Yeh, it does look pretty good doesn't it?
    Anonymous said:
    Good and concise article, a Dark Rock Pro 3 review is something I was looking forward to.

    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.
  • Tim_13
    It would be nice to see close loop liquid coolers added to the charts. I think a lot of people cross shop those with big air coolers b/c the price is so close.
  • 10tacle
    Quote:
    Sleek! This is basically a black D-14 with a better look.


    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.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    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.
    Amazon prices are screwy, this is an $80-$90 cooler at most high-volume sellers.
  • 10tacle
    Yeah I just checked other outlets like my usual suspects like NewEgg. That's more like it. Good alternative. Noctua needs to watch out!
  • synphul
    I've had this cooler on my i5 for about a year now and I love it. Matches the enthoo pro very well in the black minimalist type style with the subtle silver logo similar to phanteks uses on their case.

    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.
  • envy14tpe
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Sleek! This is basically a black D-14 with a better look.


    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.


    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.
  • JQB45
    Measurements should be in metric, even though I know exactly what an inch is, it does me no good when everything else in my computer is measured in mm. If you must add inches to keep the rest of the US audience happy at least also include mm too.
  • Xivilain
    I love this cooler. It fits my build theme well:
    http://pcpartpicker.com/b/YBnnTW
    It cools down my OC 4930K very well.
    28° C idle / 62° C on load
  • Xivilain
    Anonymous said:
    Measurements should be in metric, even though I know exactly what an inch is, it does me no good when everything else in my computer is measured in mm. If you must add inches to keep the rest of the US audience happy at least also include mm too.


    Sorry, didn't mean to downvote you. - I agree, the measurements should be in both Metric and Imperial.
  • Jason_52
    I still prefer the look of these to liquid systems. Don't know why, as I build plenty of both for clients. :??:
  • creapure90
    They should've use Coollaboratory Liquid Pro Liquid Metal Thermal Paste
  • atheus
    I've got this and an NH-D15 sitting in my cabinet here waiting for me to finish my Sky Lake build. I wound up buying a case with a window on it, so needless to say the Dark Rock Pro 3 wins by default. I'll just put this here...

    Dear Noctua,

    Your fans are fugly.

    Sincerely,
    Everyone
  • lieutenantfrost
    I so wanted to get one of these or the DH-15 but I just read the article about air coolers damaging skylake chips due to weight and pressure on the cpu. Now Im not sure which I should get.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    I so wanted to get one of these or the DH-15 but I just read the article about air coolers damaging skylake chips due to weight and pressure on the cpu. Now Im not sure which I should get.
    Single towers seam to be enough for that processor and most reasonable-voltage overclocks.
  • lieutenantfrost
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I so wanted to get one of these or the DH-15 but I just read the article about air coolers damaging skylake chips due to weight and pressure on the cpu. Now Im not sure which I should get.
    Single towers seam to be enough for that processor and most reasonable-voltage overclocks.


    Do you mean that the dark rock pro 3 is fine because its a single tower structure? or were you implying another model would be a better choice?
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I so wanted to get one of these or the DH-15 but I just read the article about air coolers damaging skylake chips due to weight and pressure on the cpu. Now Im not sure which I should get.
    Single towers seam to be enough for that processor and most reasonable-voltage overclocks.


    Do you mean that the dark rock pro 3 is fine because its a single tower structure? or were you implying another model would be a better choice?
    It's actually a dual tower. Single towers weigh less and appear sufficient. Shadow Rock Slim also looks good, for example, weighs less, costs less, etc.