be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – 2021 Review
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
- Excellent cooling
- Looks great
- Practically inaudible
- Very easy to install
- Might be too big for some cases
Disclosure: be quiet! provided Blog of Dad with the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about be quiet! products in this article are based on my own experiences. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.
Building a new computer can be a lot of fun! Maybe I’m a little odd, but the process of comparing and picking the best components for a set budget, then putting them all together is almost as thrilling as then using it. That moment of truth, when you press down the power button for the first time, is as heart-pounding as any AAA game.
One thing that I have learnt over many previous builds is that skipping on quality is almost always a bad idea. While it can be extremely tempting to save a dollar here and there when the budget looks tight, that saving can come at a cost of poor performance, excessive noise or inadequate longevity. This can be especially true of things that don’t directly provide performance, such as cases, fans, PSUs and CPU coolers. The temptation to go as cheap as possible on these components is real.
But, as seasoned builders know, these components do have a direct and substantial impact on the expensive performance components in your new PC. You see, heat is the enemy of performance. When spending upwards of $1500 (minimum) even on a budget-oriented new build, it makes sense to invest a little bit extra in the components that will unlock the performance potential of expensive CPUs, GPUs and RAM.
These builders also know that purchasing high-quality, reliable components might have a slightly more expensive outlay, but that this actually leads to cost savings in the long run. This is because the component needs to be replaced less often, but also because they can extend the life of those expensive parts. The end result of the investment in quality is inevitably a superb build that performs brilliantly, quietly, and (less importantly) looks great! I have been testing the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 CPU cooler as part of my latest, Ryzen 5600X-based build.
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – First Impressions
The first thing most people will undoubtedly notice about the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 is that it is big! Most custom cooling solutions are a lot more substantial than stock coolers (it is part of what makes them more effective), but the Dark Rock Pro 4 has a particularly impressive stature! That might cause problems for people looking to build a compact system, but for anyone using a compatible case, the result is glorious! be quiet! do offer more compact options, if your build demands it.
The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 doesn’t use RGB to attract attention. This might be a sticking point for some, although my casual surfing of battle station-based forums leads me to believe that garish, RGB-laden builds are already a bit on the nose. Instead, the Dark Rock Pro 4 contributes to the aesthetic by commanding attention as a large, dark block in the middle of the motherboard. The blackness of the cooler is only interrupted by the small white be quiet! logo on the top and the white/orange logo on the front fan. It looks fantastic! In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the best-looking air CPU cooler that I have seen on the market.
Seven high performance copper heat pipes (painted black to match the “dark” theme) draw heat away from the CPU and up into the expansive aluminium twin cooling fin towers. Those cooling fins show off be quiet!’s extensive cooling know-how, with wave-contoured fins with small surface dots to increase air circulation. The black coating might look fantastic, but it also serves a more practical purpose, as it is specially designed with ceramic particles to maximise the transfer of heat.
Attached to the double-tower heat sinks are two of the legendary be quiet! fans. A 120mm Silent Wings 3 fan sits at the front of the Dark Rock Pro 4, while a 135mm Silent Wings fan sits inside. These should provide excellent air movement while at the same time helping the Dark Rock Pro 4 live up to the company name – be quiet!
Despite its large size, be quiet! Have added some thoughtful finesse to make the Dark Rock Pro 4 as versatile as possible. A good look at the underside of the Dark Rock Pro 4 reveals little cut-outs that are designed to improve RAM compatibility. This is a thoughtful touch that will appeal to a lot of system builders who are sick of their coolers adversely impacting their RAM choices.
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – Installation
Anyone who has been attempting to build their own computer recently will be well aware of the difficulties with obtaining components. Thankfully, supply of CPUs like the Ryzen 5600X is trickling back in, and the recent release of the latest 11th Generation means there are more options too. No matter which way you go, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 is compatible with a huge range of both Intel and AMD CPUs.
I finally landed a Ryzen 5600X (at a reasonable price too!), so my installation experience is based around the AM4 mounting. Based on what I could see, it should be a similarly easy experience with other mounts.
I’m not going to lie, I was terrified about my first ever experience mounting a 3rd party cooler. It wasn’t the Dark Rock Pro 4 that worried me so much as the application of the thermal paste. For some reason I had been led to believe that it would be a horrible experience and difficult to get right.
After much watching of YouTube instruction videos and reading heated debates on build forums, I settled on the “pea” method. This seemed like the simplest (and least messy) way to go, with the video below providing enough evidence to convince me.
I needn’t have worried so much. The small tube of thermal paste provided with the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 was easy to use. I placed a small (pea-sized) blob of the paste in the middle of the CPU and set about completing the rest of the installation.
The rest of the installation was a breeze. I followed the step-by-step guide (with diagrams) in the manual, to remove the stock bracket on my MSI B550 TOMAHAWK motherboard and place on the components of the Dark Rock Pro 4’s AM4 mounting system (this was before applying the thermal paste). I then placed the Dark Rock Pro 4 in position and secured it with the bracket and screws. Finally, I attached the middle fan and used the included double adaptor to connect both fans to the motherboard CPU fan header.
The following video from be quiet! Is great for showing the process step-by-step.
The whole installation took a matter of minutes. It was seriously easy, even for a novice installer like me!
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – Use
A common theme on forums across the internet seems to be the severe high temperatures that the new Ryzen processors seem to hit on stock or cheap aftermarket coolers. Temperatures in the mid-to-high 80oC range appear common, with quite a few reports of CPUs hitting the maximum 95°C. This is definitely not ideal and a factor that can severely impact the performance of your brand-new CPU.
Throughout the following testing I kept the CPU settings on the motherboard at stock. The only change that I have made in the BIOS is to set XMP to unlock the 3200MHz potential of my RAM.
The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 should significantly reduce these temperatures. I started by testing the CPU temperature at idle, with very pleasing results. Naturally, the Dark Rock Pro 4 was barely troubled, only using 38% CPU fan to keep the Ryzen 5600X sitting at a very comfortable 35°C.
In the notoriously heat-generating Cinebench R23 Multi Core test, with the CPU usage running at a sustained 100% and the frequency sitting around 4226MHz, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 kept the CPU temperature at a consistent 58-59°C. Even then, the CPU fan was running at 67%, which was completely inaudible from where I was sitting.
I used Forza Horizon 4’s Benchmark tool to test the cooling performance during game play. Again, the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 was outstanding, keeping the Ryzen 5600X running at 55-62°C with a frequency around 4650MHz.
In other games, the results were similar. In fact, no matter what I throw at the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, it cannot be fazed.
That’s not really surprising, given that the Dark Rock Pro is rated for an impressive cooling performance of 250W TDP, whereas the power-efficient Ryzen 5600X only rates at 65W TDP.
Does this make adding the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 to a mid-range, Core i5 or Ryzen 5600X build such as mine overkill? Possibly. After all, be quiet! do produce some smaller, but still very capable CPU coolers that would also be up to the task, as do many others. However, there are several advantages to attaching one of the best air coolers that money can buy to even a mid-range build, beyond the rock-solid performance already discussed.
Firstly, heat is a major factor in reducing CPU life and performance over time. With the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 making easy work of keeping the Ryzen 5600X cool even under sustained heavy loads, your CPU should be able to maintain its excellent performance for many years to come.
The second benefit of installing the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 in a build like this is noise. My current build is as close to silent as I could ever hope for. Part of that is due to the whole thing sitting inside the brilliant be quiet! Silent Base 801 case, but that only does so much. With my previous i7 6700 with stock cooler, there would still be a distinctive whine of the CPU fan when things got intense. The Dark Rock Pro 4 not only utilizes those brilliant Silent Wings fans, but it also hasn’t needed to run them beyond about 70%. Slower fans = less noise.
The final main benefit of the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 in a mid-range build is it’s capacity to accommodate future upgrades. With that 250W TDP, the Dark Rock Pro 4 is more than capable of cooling even the mighty Ryzen 9 5950X. In a few years’ time, when the 5000-series has been superseded and my 5600X is beginning to feel a little underpowered, a (relatively) cheap upgrade of the CPU will be a great way to squeeze a few more years of satisfaction out of my current build.
Alternatively, the Dark Rock Pro 4 may well find its way into my next full rebuild, so long as be quiet! develop a suitable mount. After all, the cooler is essentially a few giant pieces of metal – that hardly degrades over time. The weak point is the fans, but they are easily and cheaply replaceable in 5-10 years’ time. Basically, spending a little more upfront can equate to significant cost savings over time. This equation reminds me of one of my favourite Terry Pratchett quotes:
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
What About Liquid?
If you have been spending a bit of time researching your next mid-to-high-end build, chances are you have come across the option of liquid cooling your precious components. Many users swear by these components, but I can’t see a compelling reason to choose liquid cooling over the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4.
The major positives of liquid-cooling – cooling performance and quiet operation – are easily matched by the Dark Rock Pro 4 in all but the most extreme cases. In addition, the Dark Rock Pro 4 requires very little in the way of ongoing maintenance (other than an occasional blast with compressed air), whereas liquid cooling requires regular careful inspection at a minimum. Liquid coolers are also more complex in their design, with more potential points of failure. And, I still struggle mentally with the idea of installing a liquid component inside my precious computer. Liquid and electronics do not mix, and a leak can have some fairly severe consequences. I know such scenarios are unlikely, but as a naturally risk-averse person, I don’t see the need to go there. Not when air cooling can be done so simply, yet so well!
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 – Final Thoughts
Building a new computer is an exciting prospect, but it is important to remember the value that each and every component brings to the build. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 is an investment that protects the valuable CPU, looks brilliant and operates at practically inaudible levels. You can’t get much better than that!