be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 Review: Quiet Cooling on a Budget

Out of the Shadows and atop the apex: a new mid-size cooling performer arrives from be quiet!

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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Sitting atop our Intel Core i7-5930k running at 4.20 Ghz and 1.20v, the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 gets an ample dosing of thermal load in watts from our test system sitting within a Corsair Graphite 760T chassis. 

We’ll will compare a few other highly-rated midsize heatpipe coolers in recent months from the likes of the Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo, Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M and Noctua NH-U12.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 makes a big impact by narrowly beating out some of the most notable midsize heatpipe coolers, including one of our long-time favorites, the Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M and Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo.  While these performance numbers are incredibly close and within mere fractions of percentages, it does show the level of performance of the new Shadow Rock 3 – it certainly hangs with good company, here.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 is the test cooler to utilize just a single 120mm cooling fan while the others make use of a pair of them.  Interestingly enough, the Shadow Rock 3 has a deeper cooling fin stack, while the remaining three use a more compact cooling tower design, allowing for greater surface area to handle dispersion of thermal load.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

While rotational fan speed often indicates greater noise levels, we see less disparity across the quartet of coolers with the exception of the Cooler Master, which does not have the fastest fans, but certainly does turn in the highest decibel levels.  The be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 lives up to its moniker by turning in nearly inaudible registered sound pressure levels.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Having the lowest recorded decibel levels along with the lowest thermal load temperatures puts the Shadow Rock 3 in great position for our acoustic efficiency chart.  We are seeing highly effective cooling performance at nearly inaudible levels with this cooler.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

With a price of $50 upon release, the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 becomes a budget-friendly, uber-performer in our all-star roundup, costing about 50% less than the impressive Noctua NH-U12A.  It should be noted that due to how well all coolers in the grouping perform, the graph offsets provide an amplified set of evaluations from the closest of performance margins.

Thermal imaging from our FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera shows only minor differences between 100% and 50% fan speeds on the Shadow Rock 3 under load.  The larger heatsink cooling fin stack looks to be more efficient overall, regardless of fan speed.

be quiet! typically provides system builders with high quality cooling products for nearly any build size, spec or budget, and its new Shadow Rock 3 is no exception.  Priced at $50 and designed for the midsize PC market, the Shadow Rock 3 is a nearly-silent, high performer with enough style to impress those with even the most scrutinizing eye.

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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.

  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Nice to see a cooler without RGB or lighting. A winner for sure , looks like a H7 with a different fan.
  • Co BIY
    What does mid-range mean ?

    What TDP will this work for ? (answered own question - Be quiet website says it's good for 190TDP)

    Good enough for a i7 stock or i7k OC ?

    I think the heat handling power of these cooling solutions should be better quantified.

    I would also like all around pictures of the box specs like on a quality PSU review.
  • rubix_1011
    I believe I used the term 'mid-sized' cooler - not a compact cooler, not a ultra-large tower cooler; this was also explained in a few areas. I tried to avoid 'mid-range', although this also does apply somewhat there, as both price and performance compared to each of the above.

    This depends on your definition of TDP.
    So, based on this information, it is difficult to 'state' a value without a) a lot of high-end equipment to validate results reported by user-grade hardware, and b) using a normalized standard which would apply to any/all coolers regardless of what is printed on the packaging.

    Our test system is an overclocked six-core i7-5930k at 4.20Ghz @1.20v. So, yes, an overclocked i7.

    I'd rather show photos of the product rather than the packaging. Photos of the box can be seen online or you can read more details on the be quiet! site, if you prefer. My thought is that I want to provide the visualization of the product a person is not going to see, even if they are holding the package in their hands (to read and inspect the box). Most retailers don't like you taking products out and messing about with them in the store.

    Thanks for the feedback and your opinions, hopefully I was able to clear some details up.
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    I personally like when they show the products and packaging too. Brings a realism to the review.
  • jmcgaw
    admin said:
    The be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 displaces top performers in our mid-range heatpipe cooler go-to list.

    be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 Review: Quiet Cooling on a Budget : Read more
    "Lack of RGB lighting options"

    Is that a reason do downscore? This is a device meant to cool CPUs. You admit that it does it well. If you are going to chop the score because it doesn't do things other than its job then you might as well knock off points because it won't mow the lawn or cook a chicken.
  • gasolin
    You can't buy a second 1600 rpm fan only a shadow wings 3 1100 rpm fan and a a silent wings 2 1450 rpm fan , the inferior silent wings 2 is 1500 rpm