In order to test the thermal performance of the Dark Rock Advanced we conducted a few simple tests. To test the product we first allowed the system idle for a period of 20 minutes and then take the average temperature reading for that time period. For the load temperature we ran the Prime95 stress test for a period of 20 minutes and noted the maximum temperature. We ran the tests on 2 different configurations which were as follows:
Configuration 1: Overclocked settings, 3.48GHz, 1.4v Stock Voltage
Configuration 2: Overclocked settings, 3.7GHz, 1.475v Overvolted
First thing we would like to mention is that in the final test at configuration 2, the Stock cooler failed. 73 degrees represents the maximum temperature that we were willing to go to (within AMD specifications) that we deem ‘safe’, in reality the temperature could have been substantially higher if we allowed the testing to continue.
With that out the way the results look very impressive for the Dark Rock Advanced. The idle temperature of the AMD stock cooler is only 1-3 degrees lower than the load temperature on the Dark Rock Advanced in all three tests. Although some may see this test as ‘overkill’ due to the low-end nature of the CPU, we still think this is a good test because the temperatures of the Athlon II X3 in all configurations represent similar temperatures you can expect from other Athlon II and Phenom II quad or triple core processors and a lot of people still use processors like the AMD Phenom II 955 or the AMD Athlon II 640 for their gaming systems. That said the TDP produced by an overclocked and overvolted Athlon II processor is similar to that of Sandy Bridge too.
What we don’t really take note of here that is very important is whilst running these tests the AMD stock cooler PWM control pushed the fan up past 4000RPM giving noise levels that were by far the loudest in the system, although we didn’t measure specifically we would hazard an educated guess that they exceeded 50dBA. Whilst using the Dark Rock Advanced noise was dramatically reduced to the point where the loudest part of the system was the ‘collective hum’ of all the fans working together in tandem. The fan never exceeded 1200RPM in the most demanding configuration we tested it in, 1200RPM roughly correlates to about 16dBA which really is as silent as silent can be.
We think that as impressive as these results are the maximum load temperature of 41 degrees would suggest the Dark Rock Advanced has a huge amount more potential to give. It is very well equipped to take on much hotter processors like the 1100T, 2500K or FX 6100 processors, since most modern processors can run ‘safely’ at the 60-70 degree region without degrading.
While its hard to give a completely objective conclusion to this product, as everyone’s experiences will differ based on their hardware configurations, it is important that I point out a few very key things with this product. The first is that it has a large thermal capacity and is more than adequate at taking on high performance processors at overclocked configurations, in fact the Dark Rock Advanced’s ‘Bigger Brother’ the Dark Rock Pro (which is essentially a Dark Rock Advanced with an extra fan) takes on some entry level water cooling loops like the Antec Kuhler 620 and scores better results. We would definitely recommend this over the Dark Rock Pro if you’re looking to save yourself £15. Most people these days that would need this type of product would be running a quad core (or more) Sandy Bridge, Bulldozer or an older Phenom/Athlon/Nehalem processor. And this cooler would be capable of dealing with all processors from these families with ease and stock and overclocked settings.
The second thing that is of importance to us is the noise levels. We really cannot express how refreshing it is to have a product with such solid performance that is matched by its ability to remain close to totally silent. The almost silent nature of the Dark Rock Advanced makes it an ideal purchase for anyone looking to eliminate noise from a noisy CPU cooler but at the same time is looking for a fair amount of overclocking and overvolting headroom. And if you end up pushing this cooler to it’s ‘limits’ you can easily shell out another £10-£15 picking up another 120mm fan to add a ‘push-pull’ configuration and give results which match the better and more expensive Dark Rock Pro.
Finally, value for money is a must for any product these days. If a product is priced as much as £5 out, it can easily turn it from a good product to an average one. However, we think the Dark Rock Advanced is really spot on with its pricing of £40-£45 (depending on the retailer). The only real negative we have is the issues with mounting which included a really rather fiddly mounting system that was just way too much hassle especially when you consider how easy some other manufacturers make the mounting. For AMD systems another minor issue was the fact you can only have the fan blowing air over the heatsink towards the top or bottom of the case, you can’t have the fans facing to the rear of the case due to the way the product mounts.
Being almost totally silent, offering potent cooling potential and with a fair price tag the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced is a solid choice for any silence-loving enthusiast.
Overall Rating: 83%
We would like to award this product with a Silver award. Award image pending.