be quiet! Dark Rock TF CPU Cooler Review
   
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be quiet! Dark Rock TF CPU Cooler Review

December 11th, 2015 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

We’ve already seen a couple of impressive products form German manufacturer be quiet! in the form of the Silent Base 800 and the Dark Power Pro 11 Power Supply. This time around we turn our attention to cooling, something that that be quiet! have been involved in from the start. This is then is the be quiet! Dark Rock TF CPU Cooler, and as you can see from the images below this is no ordinary CPU Cooler…

The Dark Rock TF is a top down, low profile CPU Cooler that measures 162.6mm (L) x 140mm (W) x 130.8mm (H) and is equipped with two PWM controlled SilentWings® 135mm fans. Both fans feature fluid dynamic bearings and rotate at a maximum speed of 1400RPM. It is these fans, the overall dimensions and the six 6mm heatpipes that allows the cooler to dissipate up to 220W of heat! The Dark Rock TF supports both Intel (Intel: 775 / 115x / 1366 / LGA2011(-3) Square ILM) and AMD (AMD: AM2(+) / AM3 (+) / FM1 / FM2(+)) sockets and weighs in at approximately 810g.

 

bequiet-large ‘This top-flow cooler with two powerful heat sinks is an extension of the well-established successful be quiet! product series Dark Rock and a compact cooling beast. It is designed to bring the famous be quiet! silent technology into your PC. With the best performance-to-noise ratio available in the compact cooler category, it strikes the perfect balance between cooling and serenity with absolutely no compromise in silence and performance.’

 

be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box front be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box back

 

The be quiet Dark Rock TF arrived at pcG in a large black box with an image of the cooler on the front. In addition to this other than the brand and product name we find a be quiet! slogan ‘NO COMPROMISE SILENCE AND PERFORMANCE’ and the cooler’s 220W TDP. Looking at the side of the box the silver grey strip lets us know that the Dark Rock TF is a product from be quiet!’s high-end range. In addition to this be quiet goes to highlight the following.

  • Virtually inaudible operation at max. 26.7dB(A)
  • Two SilentWings® 135mm PWM fans
  • Extremely high cooling efficiency
  • Powerful dual heatsink layout
  • Compatible with Intel and AMD
  •  

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box left be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box right

     

    Both the left and right sides of the box go on to describe the application (systems with restricted space) and the TF cooler itself in English as well as a handful of other languages. In addition to this the right side of the box lists a number of awards from publications around the world that this series of Coolers has received. While the left side of the box reminds us of that 220W TDP again…

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - box open

     

    Un-boxing the be quiet! Dark Rock TF was a pleasant affair as everything was well packaged and nicely presented. There was one fan in the top and one fan in the bottom of the box, while the heatsink itself was packaged with soft-cell foam in the centre. Also sandwiched in the middle we find another small cardboard box containing the accessories etc.

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - accessories

     

    Within the box other than the main heatsink itself we find a universal Intel backplate a fan splitter cable for the dual fans, an array of nuts, clips and brackets, four fan clips, some thermal paste, a scope of delivery document and a installation guide.

     

    At the time of writing, the be quiet! Dark Rock TF is retailing at Overclockers UK for approximately £65 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

     

    Specifications/Features

    courtesy of be quiet!

    Overall dimensions without mounting material (L x W x H), (mm)
    Total weight (kg)
    TDP (W)
    Socket compatibility

    Backplate Mounting
    Fan model, number
    Decoupled fan mounting
    Overall noise level (dB(A)) @ 50/75/100% (rpm)
    Dimensions (L x W x H), (mm)
    Number of fins
    Fin material
    Base material
    CPU contact surface
    Heatpipe number / Diameter (mm)
    Surface treatment
    Fan dimensions (mm)
    Speed @ 100% PWM (rpm)
    Air flow @ 12V (cfm / m3/h)
    Air pressure @ 12V (mm H2O)
    Bearing type
    Motor technology
    Rated voltage (V)
    Input current (A)
    Input power (W)
    Connector
    Cable length (mm)
    Lifespan (h / 25°C)
    162.6 x 140 x 130.8
    0.81
    220
    Intel: 775 / 115x / 1366 / LGA2011(-3) Square ILM
    AMD: AM2(+) / AM3 (+) / FM1 / FM2(+)
    2x SilentWings PWM 135mm
    11.9 / 19.3 / 26.7
    162.6 x 140 x 108.8
    top: 62 ; bottom: 64
    Aluminum
    Copper
    CNC machined
    6 / 6
    Aluminum / Dark nickle-plated
    135 x 135 x 22
    1,400
    67.8 / 113.8
    1.85
    Fluid Dynamic Bearing
    12
    0.20
    2.4
    4-pin PWM
    220
    300,000

    * Additional details available here

     

    First Impressions

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF

     

    First impressions of the be quiet! Dark Rock TF are very good, I very much like both the design and the look of the cooler. I have to confess to simply liking the aesthetic of this style (horizontal/top down) of cooler, although I don’t really know why! And, the Dark Rock TF has to be one of the best looking that I’ve seen so far. Build quality also seem right up there too, this truly is a good looking cooler IMHO! 🙂

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - heatpipes be quiet! Dark Rock TF - side be quiet! Dark Rock TF - front

     

    Looking at the be quiet! Dark Rock TF from the back we see the six 6mm heatpipes that connect the upper heatsink to the baseplate. Note though that the TF is NOT a direct contact (where the pipes physically touch the CPU) CPU Cooler, as can be seen in the image above left. The pipes themselves reside within the CNC machined copper base.

    Personally I think the be quiet! TF looks especially great from the side, with that smart, yet subtle be quiet! logo on the lower heatsink just adding that little bit of, dare I say, class!

    Looking at the cooler from the front we can now see how be quiet! has tided up the aesthetic here by covering the ends of the six heatpipes in the top heatsink. We can also see the four heatpipes that connect the baseplate to the lower of the two heatsinks.

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - baseplate

     

    As I mentioned above the baseplate is made from a section of CNC machined copper. Now while the heatpipes are within the cooper baseplate, they are not in direct contact withe the CPU in any way, this may negatively affect cooling capacity, but I guess we will have to see. Note the holes either side of the baseplate, these are for attaching the mounting brackets, that you would normally mount to your motherboard, but not here on the Dark Rock TF! Oh, and don’t forget to remove that plastic film protector before installing… 😉

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - SilentWings® fans

     

    The SilentWings® PWM controlled fans that come with the be quiet! Dark Rock TF are rather unusual in that fact that they are a custom size, measuring at 135mm and only 22mm wide. Each fan has a maximum rotational speed of 1400RPM producing a CFM of 67.8. Each fan also has a nicely braided black cable that’s approximately 220mm in length. The fans themselves feature a fluid dynamic bearing and seem to be really well made, as suggested by their 300,000 hour lifespan.

     

    At this point, having had a good look at the be quiet! Dark Rock TF, I have to say that I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. The heatsink and the fans all appear to be extremely well made and the whole package simply looks great! Let’s now get the Dark Rock TF installed and put it through its paces…

     

    Hardware Installation

     

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair Professional Series AX 760i
    Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K6 CPU Intel Core i5-6600K
    CPU Cooler be quiet! Dark Rock TF RAM G Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB
    Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified SSD HyperX FURY 120GB

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - one fan fitted be quiet! Dark Rock TF - two fans fitted

     

    Installation of the be quiet Dark Rock TF is somewhat unusual to say the least, and one thing to bear in mind before you start installing is that installation of this cooler is best done outside of the case!

    One of the first tasks that I did was to install the fans to the heatsink, as this came be done before installation and is simply far easier to do up front. This was a simple case of placing the fans (logo side facing up) on the rubber mounting strips on the heatsinks and securing with the spring clips. As usual these spring clips are a little difficult to get into place, but with a little trial and error, doing one side at a time the job was completed in around five minutes. As you can see from the images above, with the fans in place the be quiet! Dark Rock TF starts to look pretty damn purposeful!

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - installation parts for LGA115x be quiet! Dark Rock TF - brackets

     

    The next task was to assemble all of the parts that would be required for our Intel Core i5-6600K Skaylake (socket LGA 1151 based) processor. And what a lot of parts there are, far too many in my honest opinion. In fact this cooler may have the largest number of parts that I’ve ever seen (over thirty in all) for a CPU Cooler install! 🙁 The parts can be effectively split into two groups. The parts for the backplate (backplate, x4 screws & x4 plastic clips) and the parts that fit directly to the side of the cooler itself, consisting of x2 brackets, x4 studs, x4 nuts & x4 screws. As I said a lot of parts…

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - brackets installing be quiet! Dark Rock TF - brackets installed

     

    First the studs and nuts need to be secured to the correct position (middle for LGA 115x) on the brackets, ensuring that you get the bracket up the right way (see images above). The studs themselves are inserted from below and secured by a nut at the top. This then exposes a female thread ready to accept the screws that protrude from the base plate. Each bracket is then secured by the four small countersunk screws (x2 per side) provided. The end result can be seen above right.

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - MB backplate installed

     

    Now for the backplate you can either position the backplate at the back of the motherboard and thread the screws through from there, or; thread the screws through the backplate first and try and thread them through while attached in position. Both are a little tricky! Once done the screws are secured into position by way of the four black plastic clips. A very unusual design this, and not one I’ve seen before and not one that I’m that keen on either…

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - installed (front) be quiet! Dark Rock TF - installed (side) be quiet! Dark Rock TF - installed (back)

     

    Due to the design the be quiet! Dark Rock TF can be fitted in any orientation, I choose to overhang the cooler over the RAM, as is often normal with this style (horizontal/top down) of cooler. The problem here though (and the reason why you’ll want to do this outside of the case) is that you need to hold the cooler from the front while the screws are tightened at the back!? No easy task, even with no case in the way! To be honest the whole install of the Dark Rock TF is a bit of a faf, too many parts and the fact that the cooler needs to be accessed at the back really don’t help the situation…

    But, as you can see from the images above (and below), once it’s in place it does look pretty darn cool (no pun intended!). We can also see a good amount of RAM clearance, suggesting that even the tallest of modules will fit.

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - in case (above) be quiet! Dark Rock TF - in case (side)

     

    At this point my enthusiasm for the be quiet! Dark Rock TF has been a little marred by the somewhat unusual install that’s both time consuming and awkward! Not a task you would want to do with the motherboard in situ, that’s for sure…

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF - ambient For CPU Cooler testing, we here at pcGameware run Prime95 for a 15 minute period. During this period the temperature is monitored via ASRock’s F-Stream utility and the CPU temperature recorded. Between each stress test we allow a 15 minute cool-down to allow for more accurate results. To adjust the fan speed we simply use the UEFI. A close eye is also kept on the ambient temperature, with the maximum being recorded for each run, this allows us to calculate the Delta temperature (Core – Ambient = Delta). Each run was performed with the Intel Core i5-6600K CPU at the following frequencies: 3.9GHz (Stock) and 4.4GHz (using the ASRock OC Tweaker, shown in the images below), all results have also been recorded with CPU-Z.

    * Please note: To ascertain the maximum and minimum noise levels produced by our test CPU Coolers, the dBA is recorded at a distance of 1 metre from the cooler, with all case fans unplugged to isolate the sound in question.

     

    ASRock UEFI - main ASRock UEFI - Load Optimized CPU OC Setting

     

    Processor speed is set using the OC Tweaker tab within the UEFI, “Disabled” for stock speeds (3.9GHz) and “Turbo 4.4GHz” for the overclock tests. It should be noted that changing the OC settings resets the Fan Speeds, so these are checked on the next reboot and reset to “Full Speed” (see above right). All the fans installed in the system are set to 100% speed using the displayed settings, this is simple with the ASRock UEFI with the option of “Full Speed” being available for all system fans.

     

    Hardware Performance

     

    As stated above, to make our performance tests easier to follow and to get the most accurate recordings, all of the following tests have been carried out with case fans set at 100% and the be quiet! Dark Rock TF fans also set at 100%.

     

    • Intel Core i5-6600K – 3.9GHz (stock)

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF (Stock) - F-Stream

    ASRock F-Stream CPU @ 3.9GHz @ 1.184v (fans @ 100%)

     

    CPU Cooler Air/Liquid Fan Speed Ambient Temperature Max CPU Temperature (core average) Delta Temperature Noise Level
    Alpenföhn Atlas Air 100% 21.00 42.00 21.00 39dB
    NZXT Kraken X31 Liquid 100% 22.00 43.00 21.00 39dB
    Noctua NH-U12S Air 100% 22.00 44.00 22.00 38dB
    be quiet! Dark Rock TF Air 100% 22.00 48.00 26.00 38dB

     

    As you can see from the list above it’s pretty short! That’s because we just upgraded all of our Test Rigs to the new Skylake platform and this (unfortunately) means that all of the past results are no longer valid. But we have to upgrade at some point, so please bear with us as over time this list will surely grow…

    Unfortunately the be quiet! Dark Rock TF finds itself at the bottom of our (somewhat short) results grid with a maximum CPU temperature of 48 degrees Celsius (Delta 26), which is a shame. But we have seen in the past that coolers of this nature (top down/horizontal) don’t perform as well as their tower counterparts. This is probably due to the fact that the air is blown down onto the CPU cooler and is therefore not being exhausted out of the case so easily. I’m at this point beginning to question that 220W TDP on the front of the box also!?

     

    • Intel Core i5-6600K – 4.4GHz (OC Tweaker)

     

    be quiet! Dark Rock TF (OC) - F-Stream

    ASRock F-Stream CPU @ 4.4GHz @ 1.312v (fans @ 100%)

     

    CPU Cooler Air/Liquid Fan Speed Ambient Temperature Max CPU Temperature (core average) Delta Temperature Noise Level
    Alpenföhn Atlas Air 100% 21.00 58.00 37.00 39dB
    Noctua NH-U12S Air 100% 21.00 59.00 38.00 38dB
    NZXT Kraken X31 Liquid 100% 22.00 61.00 39.00 39dB
    be quiet! Dark Rock TF Air 100% 21.00 63.00 42.00 38dB

     

    Adding more voltage hasn’t really helped (obviously) as the Dark Rock TF again finds itself at the bottom of our results grid, and by some margin unfortunately. With a maximum CPU temperature of 63 degrees (42 Delta) the Dark Rock TF is some three degrees shy of the next best performing cooler the NZXT Kraken X31.

    But to moan about the be quiet! TF’s lack of cooling would be to miss the point of this cooler completely. As the be quiet! Dark Rock TF is designed to fit where other coolers cannot and it does this very well thanks to its compact design and a height of just 130mm. And testing with Prime 95 is also only a stress test, designed to do just that. The bottom line is that the Dark Rock TF will still have no problems keeping your overclocked CPU cool, as long as your not looking for world record overclocks. And if you are, you’re already reading the wrong review anyway! 😉

     

  • Acoustics
  •  

    Despite the two SilentWings® 135mm fans running at 1400RPM (we measured 1370 & 1397) the the noise produced by the be quiet! Dark Rock TF is relatively low. We measured a maximum noise output of 38dBA with our test equipment, with the fans at 100%. With the fans on a standard PWM setting (via the UEFI) the cooler effectively becomes inaudible as it drops closer to 30dBA.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    The be quiet! Dark Rock TF is an unusual cooler in that it’s unconventional in its design and unusual in the way it is fitted. It unfortunately also doesn’t seem to live up to its 220W TDP. But to dwell on these issues is to maybe miss the point of this low profile cooler, as the Dark Rock TF is likely to fit where others cannot…

    The be quiet! Dark Rock TF arrived at pcG in a large smart, predominately black box, with all of the contents both well packaged and well presented. Once out of the box it soon becomes apparent that the cooler is quite the looker. I have to confess that I rather like the aesthetic of these top down horizontal coolers, although I have no idea why, but there you go! 😉 The cooler itself and the SilentWings® fans for that matter all seem to be beautifully made and general quality levels are very high.

    Of course a cooler such as this, measuring in at 162.6mm (L) x 140mm (W) x 130.8mm (H) is designed to fit in confined spaces, and I’mm sure the Dark Rock TF will indeed fit in most modern cases. And this is probably the main reason most people will buy this cooler, it’s all about the low profile. RAM clearance is also very good meaning that the Dark Rock TF will allow you to fit all but the tallest of memory.

    The whole package including the fans is one that I’m really impressed with, although I also have to confess this is the first be quiet! CPU Cooler we’ve seen here at pcG. In fact I would happily opt for this cooler above others as I simply like the overall look that it provides. It’s a shame then that the installation process is more complex than it should be…

    Before you actually start the install you know that you may be in for a hard time when you count out the 30+ parts needed for installation, yes there really is that many!? 😮 What’s also unusual is that the whole backplate and heatsink parts are all assembled first, the end result being that you just screw (via four screws) one part to the other. The real oddity (and bugbear) is that this needs to be done from the back of the case, while holding the CPU Cooler on the other side, no easy task I can assure you. In fact the whole install/build process is best completed on the desk, well away from your chosen case. be quiet! really need to address this IMHO, installation although not hard, is too complex for its own good. Once installed the whole setup looks great though and the Dark Rock TF offers a certain look that few other can provide.

    When it came to cooling the 220W TDP highlighted on the box promised much, but didn’t really seem to deliver if you ask me. We have seen before that top down coolers don’t tend to perform as well as tower based coolers. But this time around, due to the size and that TDP I thought that the Dark Rock TF would perform better than it did. Unfortunately the cooler found itself at the bottom of out test grid in both the Stock and the Overclocked tests with Deltas of 26 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius. But as we’ve said many times before here at pcG, there’s not many of us (I hope!) who sit down for an evening of Prime 95. Our stress test is exactly that, therefore in normal use you’ll never going to encounter temperatures as high as these, and they’re not even high anyway!

    A definite plus point for the be quiet! Dark RocK TF are the two SilentWings® 135mm fans, that are quite quiet (wow, that was weird to type!) even when both are running at their maximum speed of 1400RPM. We measured just 38dBA with our test equipment that’s more than acceptable to most of us not looking for complete silence. Of course leave those fans on a standard PWM setup in the UEFI and they’re going to be even quieter…

    Despite the tricky install process and the large number of parts needed, and despite the somewhat lackluster cooling performance I still rather like the be quiet! Dark Rock TF. It’s a great looking cooler, that will fit all sockets known to man (well almost!), it’s beautifully made and is very quiet in operation. And more importantly it will still cool an overclocked Skylake CPU with ease. But most important of all is where it can be installed, and the answer to that is almost anywhere…

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…

    Overclockers UK



    be quiet!
    Dark Rock TF

    button_buy_now

     

    Design/Quality pcGameware awards the quiet! Dark Rock TF a Silver
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to be quiet! for providing this sample for review

     


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