be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 CPU Cooler Review

Manufacturer: be quiet! be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 CPU Cooler Review

I have a longstanding love/hate relationship with be quiet! CPU coolers. I personally own two of their previous flagship Dark Rock Pro 3 coolers. I love that cooler. It performs very close to the best offerings from benchmark coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 and Deep Cool Assassin III, but is much more silent than any competitive tower coolers.

To this point, it is still my personal favorite air cooler among all that I’ve ever used. Unfortunately, the mounting system on it was just a nightmare, and historically, the mounting system has been my biggest complaint about the entire be quiet! cooler product line. With the latest iterations of their coolers they have taken some major steps to improve this, but they’re still not on par with the excellent mounting systems used by Noctua and Scythe.

The newest be quiet! model is a new version of their silence-optimized line, the Shadow Rock 3, and it continues the company’s well-deserved reputation of quality coolers, and (in this reviewer’s opinion) frustrating mounting.

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Product Specifications
  • Model: Shadow Rock 3
  • Overall dimensions w/o mounting material (L x W x H), 121 x 130 x 163 mm
  • Total weight: 0.71 kg
  • TDP: 190 W
  • Socket compatibility:
    • Intel: 1200 / 2066 / 1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 2011(-3) Square ILM
    • AMD: AM4 / AM3(+)
  • Fan model, number: 1x Shadow Wings 2 120mm PWM high-speed
  • Decoupled fan mounting: Yes
  • Overall noise level (dB(A)) @ 50/75/100% (rpm): 11.5 / 17.5 / 24.4
Pricing

$49.90 USD list

Manufacturer Description
“Shadow Rock 3 provides impressive cooling of 190W TDP and is designed for those searching for high performance air cooling and a low noise level. The brushed aluminum top cover with a bi-color surface adds a touch of elegance to this premium cooler.”

Cooler Design

Once you open the box, the first thing you’ll notice is that the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 is a very attractive cooler. The top cover of the cooler is made of brushed aluminum with striking black contrasting the bright silver.

True to be quiet!’s traditional looks, you will find no RGB on this cooler, and it does not need it. The next most striking thing about this cooler is the size. The Shadow Rock 3 is very large for a cooler in this price range ($49.90 MSRP), standing at a specified 163mm tall, 130 mm wide, and 121 mm deep (though it actually measures just under 165 mm tall and 131 mm wide).

It uses five direct-contact, nickel plated copper heat pipes for heat dissipation and includes one of be quiet!’s excellent new Shadow Wings 2 High Speed 120mm fans.

The Shadow Rock 3 comes with mounting brackets for AMD AM4 and AM3, as well as Intel consumer and HEDT platforms. A small amount of thermal grease and an additional set of fan clips is also included if the user wants to add a second fan at the back of the cooler.

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Speaking of the fan clips, be quiet! have re-engineered the clips so that they sit more flush against the cooler and would have less chance of contacting other components (such as the rear of a GPU). The downside with this new flush mount design is that once the fan is attached, it is very troublesome to remove or reposition the fan.

Cooler Installation

The new mounting system that be quiet! designed for the Shadow Rock 3 is definitely superior to previous systems, but there is still room for improvement.

Intel LGA115x motherboards will require the use of an included backplate, while HEDT and AMD systems will utilize the factory backplate. Once the mounting brackets are attached to the motherboard, it’s time to place the center mounting bracket and mount the cooler.

This is where it gets frustrating. The center bracket is not attached to the cooler base permanently, and due to the design, it is very easy for it to slip out of position during mounting. The cooler’s offset design (which is great for insuring clearance for tall RAM) means that you have to hold it with one hand while mounting, or it will simply fall backwards.

As the center bracket is not permanently attached, and the mounting screws for this bracket are not captive. You have to use the pass-through hole on top of the cooler to secure the rear side of the bracket. The pass-through is not large enough for the screw, so you will need to position the screw underneath first, and hope it doesn’t fall out while you’re trying to secure the front first.

My own initial attempt at mounting the cooler ended up with it being out of position. If be quiet! had simply made these screws captive, it would have solved every issue I encountered.

As it is now, I found the mounting process to be frustrating, which is sadly, an improvement over some previous experiences with be quiet! cooler mounting. With all that said, most users would be mounting the cooler only a few times during its lifetime, and the frustration of mounting would be of little concern.

Thermal and Noise Performance

The real importance of this product is how it performs. I will admit that I was a little concerned at the direct contact heat pipe design on the Shadow Rock 3 initially. For most CPUs, a direct contact design is fine, but on Ryzen 3000 processors, the actual CCX dies are offset from the center of the CPU. Because of this, a soldered heat spreader plate at the bottom of a cooler is probably a better choice for Ryzen 3000 processors, especially if one gets into processors with multiple CCX units.

The other issue with direct contact heat pipe designs, is that they are rarely flat, and often have high or low spots in the contact plate, as well as gaps between the heat pipes.

Judging from a razor blade test, be quiet! did a very nice job of keeping the contact plate flat and smooth on the Shadow Rock 3.

The 3800x processor that was used in my testing has 8 cores in a single CCX, offset to the lower left of the CPU, so I was very curious about how the Shadow Rock 3’s direct contact heat pipe design would do. I am pleased to report a very satisfactory performance.

Thermals

For testing, I ran the OCCT small FFT stress test for 20 minutes on an open test bed.

Cooler Test Platform
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
Motherboard ASRock X570M Pro4
Memory 16 GB (2×8) G-Skill Trident DDR4 3333
GPU Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 Ti AMP Extreme
Storage WD Black Edition 256 GB NVMe SSD

IC Diamond Graphite Thermal Pad used on all coolers for consistency in testing. All tests conducted at room temperature of 24 C.

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The Shadow Rock 3 performed almost identically (within margin of error) to the twin tower, Scythe Fuma Revision B, and was not far behind the much more expensive Mugen 5 ARGB. What makes that more impressive is that both of those coolers utilize two fans, while the Shadow Rock 3 was using only a single fan.

Noise Levels

More impressive were the noise levels (or lack thereof) with this cooler. At idle, and up to 1,000 RPM, the included Shadow Wings 2 fan was simply inaudible, and generated less noise than other system components.

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(Note: noise testing with Shadow Rock 3 performed with a measured noise floor of 27.9 dBA; previous results tested with 36.4 dBA ambient. This only affects idle noise comparisons here. – Ed.)

Under load, at the maximum 1700 RPM, this cooler came in only slightly behind the Dark Rock Pro 3 in terms of noise, but it emitted much less noise than any of the other similarly performing competing coolers.

Conclusion

I’ll be honest, I love be quiet! coolers. They always seem to put out products that perform well while living up to the company namesake. I just consistently hate their mounting mechanism designs.

Even after the improvements in their latest revisions, I think there is still a lot of work to do. If not for the mounting difficulties, this cooler would be on top of my list of recommendations. As it is, I still think it’s a very worthwhile purchase.

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be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 CPU Cooler: $49.90 USD

Bottom line: At just under $50 USD, the Shadow Rock 3 offers amazing performance for the price, and amazing silence at any price.

Review Disclosures

This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.

How Product Was Obtained

The cooler is on loan from be quiet! for the purpose of this review.

What Happens To Product After Review

The cooler remains the property of be quiet! but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.

Company Involvement

be quiet! provided the product sample and technical brief to PC Perspective but had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.

PC Perspective Compensation

Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by be quiet! for this review.

Advertising Disclosure

be quiet! has purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.

Affiliate Links

This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases made through those links.

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