Bequiet Shadow Rock TopFlow Review
We've already established that we're not assessing this cooler in it's ability to tame a massively overclocked CPU. We're assessing it on it's ability to provide good cooling in a small space with as little noise as possible. In essence we're assessing it as an HTPC /SFF cooler.
From that viewpoint it measures up pretty well. Ok, it can't handle the heat created by the higher volts required by the toasty i7 range to get it above 3.0GHz, but it should be quite capable of giving you a better overclock than that on some of the cooler CPUs on the market now such as the ever popular 2500K.
Looks wise the TopFlow is very much an understated affair. Once in the case pretty much all you'll see of it is the fan anyway, and as most HTPC cases don't really major on windows then looks are largely irrelevant anyway.
Quality wise all the boxes are ticked. As we would tend to expect from a German company. The fins are straight, the Nickel coating is well applied and blemish free. The unit has an air of quality about it. Not overly done, but just right.
It's when we look at the sonic characteristics that this cooler starts to make sense. It's quiet, really quiet, and that's with the fan racing at the full 12 volts we test at. Drop it from 1500rpm down to 900rpm via the PWM and you struggle to hear it at all.
The size of the cooler and it's top down approach to cooling also make it a sensible if not obvios choice for an HTPC or SFFbuild. Mounted laterally the Cooler overhangs most if not all of the RAM slots in addition to the MOSFETs and VRMs. Mate it with a Micro ATX or Mini ITX board and you may well be cooling most if not all of the rest of the motherboard, and all with a fan that is to all intents and purposes silent.
Competition wise there's not really a lot out there apart from the really basic coolers that are just a small step up from the OEM cooler that comes with a CPU. A notableexception is the Noctua NH-C12P which at 114mm tall is 11mm lower than the Shadow Rock, and at £56 is also a good £16 more expensive. The biggest competition though probably comes from the Enermax ETD-T60 again 10mm or so lower than the Shadow Rock but this time the same price. Both the coolers mentioned above come from manufacturers which have a reputation for making quiet fans so we can expect them to be as quiet as the Shadow Rock. Having a lower height though is a double edges sword. On the plus side they may fit into slimmer cases, but on the other you increase the probability of RAM encroachment issues.
So it looks like the strengths of the Shadow Rock TopFlow are just where they need to be. If the spec was to design a cooler that was able to hold a mild overclock, that looked nice and simple with high levels of quality but overall must be as quiet as possible then be quiet have succeeded. Just a shame they don't seem to have invited the chap who designs the mounting mechanism to the project board meetings!