Dark Rock TF Review – In order to stay relevant in the increasingly competitive CPU cooling market, a company really needs to know what it’s doing. This is doubly true for making air coolers. Simply adding more metal and faster fans only goes so far. It’s obvious that German manufacturer be quiet! got the memo, because its Dark Rock TF heatsink-and-fan combo beats the heat by working smarter, not harder.
The Dark Rock TF is sizable, sure, but the cooler’s real genius is the way be quiet! uses the space, so to speak. The key is the “TF” in the Dark Rock TF’s moniker, which is short for “top-flow.” Rather than latching onto either end of the heatsink like most coolers’ fans, the 135mm SilentWings fans packaged with the Dark Rock TF lay flat across two beds of aluminum fins. This confers a couple of benefits. First, by blowing air toward the motherboard, the Dark Rock TF provides residual cooling to the motherboard components that surround the CPU socket—capacitors and VRM circuitry in particular. Orienting the fans this way also offers the advantage of not adding extra width to the cooler’s physical footprint, likely giving you more clearance for your system’s memory modules. For example, there’s 1.94 inches of space between the base of the Dark Rock TF and the bottom of the lower fan, well over half an inch more than the Dark Rock Pro 3’s 1.37 inches of clearance.
Although we put an emphasis on how a manufacturer assembles the building blocks of an air cooler, the building blocks still matter. Those in the Dark Rock TF are first-rate. The heatsink’s copper base is CNCmachined and polished to a mirror finish. There are six 6mm copper heatpipes that pass through the base and the top array of aluminum fins, while four of the six also pass through the heatsink’s lower fins. Strips of rubber line the top and bottom edges of the larger series of fins, helping to minimize fan noise once they’re clamped to the heatsink.
The fans at work in the Dark Rock TF are worthy of mention, too. That pair of SilentWings fans use fluid-dynamic bearings with a copper core, and their six-pole motors run smooth to reduce turbulence. Even running at full speed (1,400rpm), the fans produce a mere 26.7dBA noise. In other words, we doubt you’ll notice they’re there.
So, on paper, the Dark Rock TF has all the makings of a—if you’ll excuse the indulgence—rock-solid cooler. We tested it on a pair of rigorous benchmarks and found that it’s a great performer in the real world. First, we left our Intel Core i7-5930K to idle for 10 minutes and then came back to take our processor’s temperature; the average temp of our cores during the idle period was 28 degrees Celsius. When we turned on POV-Ray to turn up the heat, the Dark Rock TF acquitted itself well, maintaining an average core temp of 50.7 C and a peak of 57 C. Finally, we pushed the cooler to its limit by running Prime95’s Small FFTs test for 10 minutes. This punishing benchmark raised the average core temperature to 61.7 C, and one of the 5930K’s cores peaked at 68 C during the run.
Available for less than $80, the Dark Rock TF is proof that air cooling ain’t dead. With an excellent pair of fans and a thoughtfully designed heatsink, this is yet another CPU cooler from be quiet! that demands your consideration.
Dark Rock TF Specifications
- Materials: Copper (base, heatpipes), aluminum (fins)
- Fans: 2 x 135mm PWM (1,400rpm max)
- Cooler dimensions: 5.1 x 5.5 x 6.4 inches (HxWxD)
- Socket compatibility: Intel LGA775/1150/1155/1156/1366/2011(3), AMD M2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/FM2/FM2+
- Warranty: 3 years