be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 Review: Sibling Rivalry

Low profile, high expectations

be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2
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Immediately we can see that the be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 is in good company, aligning nicely with some of the best premium air coolers we’ve covered.  But while it does a respectable job, it still cannot reach the level of potential exhibited by the Noctua NH-D15, Deep Cool Assassin III or the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4. 

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Making use of a pair of 135mm fans, the be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 boasts neither the fastest nor slowest fans of our testing group as many utilize smaller 120mm blades or larger, 140mm fans. 

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Fan speed can be a good indication of noise levels, but this isn’t necessarily true in all scenarios.  Regardless, our noise level chart is absolutely impressive, as all compared coolers post sub-30 decibel noise readings under all circumstances. Silence truly is golden. 

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In our acoustic efficiency chart, both the be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 and Noctua NH-D15 see large bias, but for different reasons. The Dark Rock TF 2 sees very low noise levels and good cooling capacity, while the NH-D15 posts the best air cooling results we’ve seen and also is nearly silent. 

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Our performance value chart brings price into the equation, and we begin to see how the balance of lower-priced coolers prove their practicality by sticking close to the pack in performance, while remaining quiet during operation. Priced on release at around $86, the be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 might be at the upper limits of some budgets, but there are more-expensive air coolers out there. 

Thermal images from our FLIR ONE Pro shows a marked difference at both 100% and 50% fan speeds, although each shows consistent heat loads across the entire cooler.  We can also see that the heat bloom is slightly cooler at 100% around the perimeter of the cooler and around the motherboard and roof of the case due to the additional volume of air being moved by the pair of 135mm Silent Wings fans.

The be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 lives in a complex habitat in terms of price and performance. Unless you’re buying it specifically for its low profile, it directly competes against other be quiet! offerings, which also have their own distinct advantages. If you don’t need a compact, downdraft design, there are alternatives in both the price and performance range the Dark Rock TF 2 occupies.

The $86 Dark Rock TF 2 is nearly as pricey as some of the largest and most powerful heatpipe air coolers on the market, depending on sales and general availability. One of these the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, which surpasses the Dark Rock TF 2 in performance at the same price point.  Another comparison exists with both the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 and Shadow Rock Slim 2, as both perform within ~2C of the Dark Rock TF 2, while costing not much more than half the TF 2’s price.  

However, the Dark Rock TF 2 has a more focused purpose, as a cooler in PC builds which require a lower profile premium air solution where other options are too tall or too large, such as in low-noise media HTPCs, recording studio workstations or powerhouse small-form-factor systems. This specific niche may not be huge, but with so many other capable coolers in the Dark Rock family already, it’s obviously one that be quiet! is happy to occupy.

Garrett Carver
CPU Cooling Reviewer

Garrett Carver is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering thermal compound comparisons and CPU cooling reviews; both air and liquid, including multiple variations of each.

  • Johnpombrio
    Does anyone else get frequency "beats" as a pair of fans close to one another go in and out of sync or RPMs? I put a pair of low noise fans on an air cooler only to have to remove one of them due to the constant ramp and down of noise when the fans interfered with one another. I will no longer put any pair of fans in line on a cooler nor buy an air cooler that uses two fans.
  • KTB84
    This type of cooler is really best suited for use in pc cases where it can intake air from a mesh panel directly over top of the cooler. The case used in this review is a bit of a worst case scenario, with its tempered glass side panel. I'd really recommend these top flow coolers only to people using cases with mesh panels near the cooler's fans, which should help close the performance gap between it and the big boys (NH-D15 and Assassin 3).
  • rubix_1011
    It's not really tempered glass, its actually a clear acrylic.

    Also, if we change the case just for the benefit of reviews where 1 product would benefit and others do not, we're altering different variables meaning that our comparisons between all coolers is no longer valid.