While stock coolers are adequate for handling the basic thermal load of a CPU, they often fall short in noise efficiency and cooling performance. For this reason, advanced users and system builders typically bypass stock coolers in favor of aftermarket solutions that better align with their specific requirements. The high-end segment of this market is exceptionally competitive, as manufacturers strive to offer the most effective cooling solutions.

Be Quiet!, established over two decades ago, has a reputation for quiet computing solutions. Initially making gradual progress, the company took significant strides after 2010, positioning itself as a leading manufacturer of advanced PC components and peripherals. Today, Be Quiet! boasts an extensive range of PC power and cooling products, with its particularly noteworthy air coolers.

In this review, we focus on the Dark Rock Elite, Be Quiet! 's formidable entry into the high-end CPU air cooler segment. This cooler is designed to rival top-tier models like the Noctua NH-D15, offering massive proportions for optimum cooling efficiency. The Dark Rock Elite is crafted to meet and exceed the demands of the most powerful mainstream CPUs, setting itself apart amidst fierce competition from various manufacturers. Our review will delve into the capabilities of the Dark Rock Elite and its place in the aftermarket cooling market.

Be Quiet! Dark Rock Elite CPU Cooler Specifications
Type Tower Cooler
Dimensions 120 x 136 x 168
Fans 2 x 135 mm "Silent Wings" Fan
2000 RPM (max)
RGB Yes (ARGB)
Supported Sockets Intel: LGA1700, LGA1200, LGA115x

AMD: AM5, AM4
Warranty 3 Years
Price $115
 

Packaging & Bundle

The Dark Rock Elite arrived in Be Quiet! 's signature sleek black cardboard packaging, a common theme across their product range. The box features minimalistic details and essential information about the cooler, with a QR code on the side that directs users to a pool of more comprehensive information. The robust packaging and additional cardboard inserts ensure the cooler's safety during transit.

Upon opening the box, we found the necessary mounting hardware and instructions, reflecting a no-frills approach to packaging. This streamlined bundle is characteristic of Be Quiet!, focusing on essential components without excess. The included mounting hardware is compatible with a wide range of CPU sockets, accommodating both Intel (1700 / 1200 / 2066 / 1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 2011(-3)) and AMD (AM5 / AM4) processors, making the Dark Rock Elite a versatile option for various PC builds. Be Quiet! also includes a long screwdriver, necessary for the easy installation of the cooler.

The Be Quiet! Dark Rock Elite CPU Cooler

The Dark Rock Elite stands out with its massive tower CPU cooler design. It incorporates seven high-performance 6 mm copper heat pipes that efficiently conduct heat away from the base to the two expansive fin arrays. Measuring a considerable 168 mm (6.4 in) in height, its size is something to consider for even large ATX cases. The cooler weighs over 1.3 kg, and users should never transport the system without removing it from the motherboard.

One of the cooler's most notable features is its special black coating with ceramic particles. This not only adds to the visual appeal of the cooler but also supposedly enhances heat transfer efficiency. While we cannot verify its heat transfer enhancement properties, we cannot argue that it is an impeccable paint job that covers almost the entire cooler, contributing to its sleek and modern appearance. This specialized coating is also practical, as it helps protect the copper components from oxidation, thereby maintaining the cooler's appearance over time.

 

The Dark Rock Elite also features an addressable RGB-lit top cover. This adds a touch of elegance and serves as a distinguishing feature in its design. Beneath the magnetic surround, we find a simple switch that allows the user to select between the "performance" and "silent" mode fan profiles. The silent mode will restrict the speed of the fans to a maximum of 1500 RPM and reduce their speed by about 20% across most of the PWM range.

 

The Dark Rock Elite cooler incorporates a unique front fan mounting rail design, significantly enhancing its compatibility with different RAM configurations. This rail design offers adjustable height settings, allowing for substantial clearance over RAM slots. This feature is particularly beneficial for setups with elevated DIMMs or larger RAM modules. Still, one needs to consider that raising the front fan to clear tall RAM modules will also increase the total height of the cooler itself, requiring a case of even greater width. Raising the front fan too high will also be an aesthetic dissonance.

On the intake side, the fins are recessed to reduce turbulence noise, a design choice that effectively minimizes acoustic output while maintaining airflow efficiency. Similarly, the fins adjacent to both sides of the central fan are also slightly recessed, though to a lesser extent, further contributing to noise reduction. The fins on the exhaust side of the cooler exhibit an asymmetric design, likely intended to enhance aerodynamic performance, thereby improving air circulation and heat dissipation. Furthermore, the lower section of the fin arrays is deliberately shortened. This design ensures the cooler remains compatible with VRM heatsinks on various motherboards. While this modification slightly reduces the heat transfer surface area, it significantly increases the cooler's adaptability to different motherboard layouts and configurations, striking a balance between efficiency and versatility.

The base of the Dark Rock Elite is more intricate than what we typically see in standard tower cooler designs. Be Quiet! has engineered the base to function as a small heatsink in itself. While this might not lead to a drastic enhancement in performance, it contributes to the dissipation of a certain amount of thermal energy, marginally boosting the cooler's overall efficiency. The cooler's heat pipes directly contact the CPU shim, optimizing heat transfer. Although it does not come with a pre-applied thermal pad, the nickel-plated base is designed to be compatible with high-performance thermal compounds, including liquid metal thermal greases. This approach might require more careful application, but it allows for superior thermal conductivity and caters to the needs of enthusiasts who prefer customizing their thermal interface material.

One of the defining features of the Dark Rock Elite is its Silent Wings PWM fans. Unlike the Light Wings fan of the Pure Rock 2 FX, the Silent Wings fans do not feature LED lighting, which can now be found only on the top cover of the cooler. These fans have a state-of-the-art motor and airflow-optimized fan blades, ensuring efficient heat dissipation. They operate at varying speeds based on the selected mode, with a maximum of 2000 RPM in performance mode, balancing cooling efficiency with quiet operation.

Testing Methodology
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10 Comments

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  • ObamaWasRight2003 - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    Looks nice and great performance but cant say I want to spend 3x the price of a thermalright phantom spirit 120 on it Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, December 6, 2023 - link

    They are also competing directly with Noctua at this price, which is a tough sell even if it performs better, because Noctua has unrivaled support. Reply
  • emn13 - Sunday, December 17, 2023 - link

    It's not really any better than the D15. The noise vs cooling perf in these graphs is very slightly better at high fan speeds; and very slightly worse at low fan speeds.

    If anything, I think the latter matters more (most of the time, my CPU isn't running flat out), but given the size of the margin it's all moot anyhow.

    The pricing vs. support trade off is what matter here.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    I just upgraded my Media Room PC (no Xbox or Playstation for me) and I went with the Shadow Rock 3 cooler. BeQuiet has a great Motherboard Compatibility app on their website that will help you pick the right cooler. This is very important as motherboards today have some very tall VRM cooling solutions.

    The ATX motherboard specification is crazy old now. I can't help to think that the industry could benefit from a new spec that moves the RAM above or below the CPU socket location.
    Reply
  • Threska - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    It already is.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GP7V2W5?th=1
    Reply
  • Flunk - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    Not having Be Quiet's last top-end aircooler the Dark Rock Pro 4 in this review is a serious omission. Reply
  • E.Fyll - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    The Dark Rock Pro 5 is the latest - and I am on it. Reply
  • XacTactX - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    It would be great if you could review the Thermalright PS120, it's always available for less than $40 and I have a feeling that the performance will be a few degrees worse than the best heatsinks that you have reviewed. Thank you so much for putting up this content! Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, December 4, 2023 - link

    Thank you. I know coolers aren’t the sexiest product but I appreciate the review quality and simply having the content here on the site :) Reply
  • craznazn - Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - link

    Price to performance is a pretty big L that you guys seem to skip on. For this price, you can buy an arctic freezer II. For 1/3 the money, you can get a PA120/PA120SE. In fact, not having price/performance comparison is pretty lacking. Reply

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