bequiet Dark Rock Pro 3 Review
Those of you who are regulars to OC3D and in particular our CPU cooler tests will be familiar with what we refer to as the holy trinity test. The three divine tenets by which a cooler is measured, namely those of Looks, Noise and Performance. The overall impression of a cooler is a measure of all three, with the better units having a pretty even spread as opposed to dominating in one particular area. If you disagree and think pure performance is king then think again, after all, who wants a high performance cooler that sounds like a hoover and is as ugly as an ape's arse.
Casting our highly critical eye over the Pro 3 we could find nothing to fault. It’s one very well put together cooler. There's attention to detail in spades, take for example the full length rubber strips attached to the fin stacks that serve to isolate the stack from vibrations caused by the fans, and the near perfect mirror finish of the contact plate. We're also rather taken with the looks of the Pro 3. No flashy LEDs or glow in the dark badges and logos, just a simple twin tower stack, finished in Black Nickel coating and with a Black anodised Hair Brushed Aluminium top plate finishing things off. We think it will look great in any case, but especially those with a bit of the old brushed ally on the outside. Although at 137 x 163 x 150 mm (WxHxD), the Pro 3 is on the large side, bequiet haven't backed themselves into a corner. Keeping the height down to 163mm means that it will be compatible with a good many Mid towers and even a fair few of the SFF cases on the market at present. It's also not half as bad to fit as we were prepared for, mind you we were prepared for a fitting process that was going to be as comfortable as being rogered with a cactus. Thankfully our Ani remained cactus free and the Pro 3 went in with little trouble (into the case that is, not our Ani).
So it's good looking and relatively easy to fit, but how loud is it. Well for once we can genuinely say the clue's in the name. It really is very quiet indeed. In fact we'd go as far as to say it's one of the quietest coolers we've ever tested, and yes, that does include the Noctuas and yes we do mean the D14 also. We test all our coolers at the full twelve volts, and where some AIOs may be screaming like a Sharon on a Saturday night the Pro 3 was as quiet as a peado in a Barney suite.
And so to performance. Well the graphs speak for themselves. What? You haven' looked at the graphs? After all the time and effort we put in you've simply skipped to the conclusion? Shame on you. Now bob off and have a little look at the graphs...Ok, back with us. So now you'll know that although the Pro 3 doesn't make it into the hallowed 4.6GHz club it does perform extremely well, In air cooler terms being bettered only by the D14, and even then, not by much. What's more interesting is that it dances all over most of the 120mm based AIOs out there, something even more advanced air coolers aren't usually able to do, and remember to produce those figures, most of the 120 AIOs will have their fans whining like a 6 year old at a wedding.
Competition wise, if you're looking for an air cooler there isn't actually much else to put on your shopping list. Granted the D14 performs better but not by much and it is arguably a little louder (yes, we actually said that), and let’s be honest, unless you like natural Aluminium fins and fans the colour of poo and prosthetic limbs then you have to agree the Pro 3 does make the D14 look rather like the Ginger step kid. Even if we compare the Pro 3 to AIOs out there it still stands up rather well. Bettering most and for about the same money as some, and less than a good few others.
We said at the beginning of this review that it had been a while since we reviewed a traditional tower CPU cooler, an indication, if any is needed that the market is swinging ever more towards AIOs. The traditional tower cooler isn't quite dead yet though, far from it as with the Dark Rock Pro 3 bequiet have shown that you can still get excellent performance with good looks and low noise. And all that for less than £70
It's not often that something really surprises us, we have to say we weren't really expecting greatness from the Pro 3 but it really has made us stand back and take another look at things. We've long said that although the D14 is king of the crop it does let itself down in the looks stakes. Well if you're willing to trade just a few degrees for better looks and a lower sonic signature, the Pro 3 is the cooler for you. It goes without saying that the bequiet Dark Rock Pro 3 gets a gold and because it does all this for less than £70 it gets our coveted VFM award. We can't wait to get our hands on the rest of the range.