be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 CPU Cooler Review
Top Tier Performance, Top Flow Compactness
There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of “another week, another new be quiet! cooler”. It is possible that I am not recalling that correctly, but it does seem accurate. Be quiet! has released several new products over the last few months, and two new coolers in the last three weeks. The newest model, the Dark Rock TF 2, is a unique top flow design.
According to be quiet!’s specifications, this cooler is capable of 230 watts of heat dissipation (just below their flagship Dark Rock Pro at 250 watts) all while being a much more compact form factor, with a maximum height of just 134mm. Testing will reveal how those claims hold up, but first, let’s take a closer look at the cooler itself.
- Dimensions, incl. fan (L x W x H): 163 x 140 x 134 mm
- Weight incl. fan: 945 g
- Heat sink material: Aluminum
- Number of heatpipes / diameter: 6 / 6 mm
- Socket compatibility:
- Intel: 1200 / 2066 / 1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 2011(-3) Square ILM
- AMD: AM4 / AM3(+)
- Maximum power capacity (TDP): 230W
- Noise level @ 50 / 75 / 100% PWM11.1 / 19.7 / 27.1 dB(A)
- Fan dimensions (L x W x H): 135 x 135 x 22 / 135 x 135 x 25 mm
- Fan Speed @ 100% PWM/12V: 1400 / 1300 RPM
- Input current: 0.2 / 0.4 A
- Connectors: 4-pin PWM
- Lifespan: 300,000 h / 25°C
The be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 Cooler
The Dark Rock TF 2 is a top flow cooler with six 6mm heatpipes. Despite its appearance, it is essentially a dual tower cooler, with the lower tower being much smaller than the top. The two fin arrays are arranged parallel to the CPU instead of vertically. This allows the cooler to take up a little less space than a traditional dual tower design, but also gives the additional benefit of the fans blowing directly down onto the motherboard components and RAM.
The entire unit has a very attractive, matte black ceramic coating. Like most of the recent be quiet! coolers, the TF 2 is a slight redesign of an existing model. The TF 2 has a greater level of optimization than some of the other models. They have not only upgraded their mounting system, but also redesigned the fans to optimize airflow, and updated the contact plate to increase mounting pressure and surface area.
In previous reviews, I’ve mentioned several times that if there is a failing in be quiet!’s cooler line, it has always been the mounting system. Even after upgrading from their previous, somewhat nightmarish system, there were still issues that I just wish they had done differently. I’m exceedingly happy to say that they have fixed all of them with the mounting system on the TF 2. The main crossbar support at the base of the cooler is permanently affixed, and the attachment screws are captive.
This was, by far, the easiest be quiet! cooler to mount that I’ve ever used, and the process was as simple as the best on the market. Unlike many of the other large be quiet! coolers, the TF 2 does not include a magnetic screwdriver. The nice thing is that with the captive screws, you don’t need a magnetic screwdriver. A standard Phillips head will do the trick.
With the horizontal design of the cooler, I was concerned that the lower fan would require low profile RAM, but even with the taller design of the G.Skill Trident sticks in my test bed, I was able to install the bottom fan with clearance to spare. I also found that the fan clips were easier to use than most, and there were no large protrusions sticking out that could contact other parts of a system and cause a short.
The engineers at be quiet! really did their homework on the TF 2, down to some very small details. It would even be possible to install the TF 2 into many existing systems, and not have to remove the GPU, although doing so would make the installation go much more smoothly.
For testing, I ran the OCCT small data set, extreme stress test for 20 minutes on an open test bed.
Test System Specs:
- AMD Ryzen 7 3800x
- ASRock X570M Pro4 Motherboard
- 16 GB (2×8) G Skill Trident Z 3333 (@3600) Memory
- Zotac GTX 1650
- Sabrent Rocket 4 500 GB NVMe SSD
- IC Diamond Graphite Thermal Pad (used on all coolers for consistency in testing)
- All tests conducted at a controlled ambient temperature of 24.5 C
As some of you may have noticed, my charts have changed, and some coolers previously represented no longer appear. Unfortunately, I encountered a problem with my test system that caused me to have to alter the hardware parameters, and some of the coolers previously present were no longer available for retesting. Still, from these results, it is obvious that the Dark Rock TF 2 is a very good air cooler. It falls just below the Dark Rock Pro (so be quiet!’s numbers look to be pretty accurate).
For a cooler that is only 134mm tall, these are amazing results. The Dark Rock TF 2 could be an excellent air-cooling solution for several smaller form factor builds (provided a design that allows for airflow directly above the CPU).
While be quiet! doesn’t mention this in their literature, or on their website, I wondered how the TF 2 would perform with only a single fan, which would drop the total height to only 109mm. The results were almost more impressive than with both fans.
While the overall performance did suffer slightly, with only the single fan, the Dark Rock TF 2 performed almost equal to the 163mm tall Shadow Rock 3. In this configuration, there are many SFF systems that the Dark Rock TF 2 would fit nicely into and provide excellent performance.
To summarize, the be quiet! Dark Rock TF 2 provides upper tier levels of performance in a relatively compact size. The fit, finish, and quality of the TF 2 is apparent from the moment you take it out of the box, and be quiet! has even fixed all the remaining complaints about their mounting system. The only issue some might have is the price of $85.90 US. While this is expensive for an air cooler, it is on par with similar quality products.
If there is another cooler on the market that can provide this level of performance while staying this compact, I have yet to see it.
This is what we consider the responsible disclosure of our review policies and procedures.
How Product Was Obtained
The product is on loan from be quiet! for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The product remains the property of be quiet! but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
be quiet! had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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