beQuiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 and Dark Rock PRO C1 CPU Coolers Review

Today we will talk about very beautiful high-quality cooling systems from beQuiet! Company equipped with excellent fans. Read our new review for more details!

by Sergey Lepilov
08/08/2011 | 01:02 PM

Our regular readers already know that the German beQuiet! Company makes some of the best fans for cooling systems and system cases. That is why the moment they announced two new CPU coolers, Dark Rock Advanced C1 and Dark Rock PRO C1, all of us were really looking forward to the first test results, hoping the impeccable quality and ultimate attention to every little detail will definitely pay back here, too. However, things turned out not quite the way we expected them to. But let’s start from the very beginning here.

Closer look at Dark Rock Advanced C1

 

Dark Rock Advanced C1 cooler is the junior model in the beQuiet! CPU cooler lineup, although its size, price and ability to dissipate 180 watt of heat will hardly allow us to call it “junior”. The cooler ships in a tall black box made of thick cardboard bearing the cooler image and model name on the front panel of it:

The other sides of the box are also not empty. They list all the peculiarities and technical specifications of the cooler inside:

  

There is additional casing made of polyurethane foam inside the box, which holds the cooler. So, the cooler is very well protected against any possible transportation mishaps.

At the top of the box there is a smaller box with accessories:

Here you can find everything necessary for assembly and installation, including a pair of wire clips for attaching the fan and a little syringe with thermal paste. Dark Rock Advanced C1 is designed in Germany and this is also where it goes through meticulous quality control. But it is actually manufactured in China. This cooler comes with a three-year warranty and is priced at €59.90.

I have to admit that Dark Rock Advanced C1 looks superb:

 

 

Very solid nickel-plated heatsink with heatpipes, which tips are carefully covered with steel caps, black aluminum panel with the company name and a 120 mm fan with profiled blades – all go very well together. However, it is the quality of manufactured that simply leaves us speechless. I can’t find words to describe how good it is, you can truly feel it once you take the cooler into your own hands. It is built impeccably and in this respect Dark Rock Advanced C1 is absolutely perfect.

Well, let me get my emotions under control and proceed with the cooler design and functionality :) It measures 167x95x122 mm and weighs 1100 grams. The cooler heatsink consists of 44 aluminum plates, each 0.4 mm thick, which are spaced out at 2 mm from one another:

    

These plates sit on six copper heatpipes 6 mm in diameter that go through the copper base covered with a piece of protective film:

 

We didn’t notice any traces of soldering or thermal glue anywhere on the heatsink, all the contact spots are very clean and neat, so it is impossible to tell how the heatpipes contact the heatsink plates without taking the whole thing apart.

The effective heatsink cooling surface is about 7,770cm2. Among the visible optimizations we should point out jagged shape of the heatsink side edges where the airflow enters the heatsink. Besides, the general shape of the heatsink is slightly concaved:

The heatpipes are arranged in staggered order inside the heatsink array, which will allow distributing the heat over the heatsink body more evenly:

The base is also very well made: heatpipes lie in special grooves, with about 1-1.2 mm between them and the thinnest part of the base plate measuring about 1.2 mm:

The 43x36 mm base plate contact surface is decent, but not superb. You may think that the little figurine in the next photo is moving, but in fact it is not:

The overall exceptional quality of Dark Rock Advanced C1 is somewhat ruined by the evenness of its base, which sports an obvious concavity across the base:

 

Of course, it affected the shape of the thermal paste imprint left by the CPU heat-spreader in one of the cooler positions:

  

Although when we turned the cooler by 90 degrees, we achieved a better contact and produced a better imprint, as well:

 

The test results also improved in this case, but we are going to talk numbers a little later.

Dark Rock Advanced C1 is equipped with a 120 mm fan, which we have already discussed previously: beQuiet! SilentWings PWM. It is BQT T12025-LF-PWM model:

Maximum rotation speed of this fan is 1500 RPM. It creates 50.5 CFM airflow and generated 18.8 dBA of noise. The rotation speed is adjusted automatically using pulse-width modulation method (PWM), but the minimum speeds aren’t mentioned anywhere in the fan specs. beQuiet!’s patented Fluid Dynamic bearing (FDB) should not only last 300,000 hours or almost until the user’s retirement age (up to 34 years), but should also need no more than 1.1 W of power.

The fan is attached to the heatsink in a very interesting manner: using silicone mounts inserted into the heatsink all the way through and catching on to the other side of the heatsink:

The mounts have soft ribbed base, which should help transfer vibrations from the fan to the heatsink and therefore reduce the noise from the fan. If you wish to install a different fan, you can use the enclosed wire clips, which will be inserted into the grooves on the sides of the heatsink. However, as for the second fan, the cooler doesn’t allow it, unfortunately.

Dark Rock Advanced C1 is compatible with all contemporary platforms. The manual describes cooler installation procedure in detail, and it is not really difficult, but rather inconvenient. The installation approach is pretty much the same for all platforms and looks schematically as follows:

First you have to attach a pair of steel plates compatible with your processor socket type to the base of the cooler using included screws:

After that you apply a layer of thermal paste to the processor heat-spreader, turn the cooler upside down and place the mainboard with the backplate on top of it. The mainboard is fastened to the cooler retention plates using long screws and plastic washers:

It is pretty challenging to get into the retention holes, especially since you have to hold the cooler and the mainboard at the same time. But once you succeed, you will be rewarded with very secure high-pressure hold between Dark Rock Advanced C1 and the mainboard:

 

The distance between the mainboard and the lowest heatsink plate is 49 mm, which will be more than enough to ensure that there is no interference with the tall heatsinks over the mainboard voltage regulator components. However, as far as compatibility with the memory modules featuring tall heat-spreaders is concerned, we can’t give a definite yes answer here: the cooler is hanging over the first DIMM slot in both installation positions:

 

We will not talk about the dependence of the cooling efficiency on the cooler position on top of the processor, because you already know that its base is of concaved shape. In our specific case Dark Rock Advanced C1 cooled the CPU better when its heatpipes ran across the CPU heat-spreader, and the air-flow was directed towards the top exhaust fan (photo on the right).

Closer Look at Dark Rock PRO C1

Dark Rock PRO C1 ships in an even larger box:

The informative part on the box front and side panels is exactly the same as on the package of the Dark Rock Advanced C1, only the actual specifications and features are different, of course:

  

The package is just as reliable and the accessories are exactly the same as in the previous case. The recommended retail price, however, is different. Dark Rock PRO C1 is a very expensive cooler priced at €79.90.

Dark Rock PRO C1 looks very impressive. It measures 166x133x150 mm and weighs a little over 1.5 kg:

 

 

Despite external similarity with the Dark Rock Advanced C1 (the nickel-plating, the decorative panel and constructively identical fans), the flagship beQuiet! cooler uses a two-array heatsink with one fan per array. There are 44 plates in each array, each 0.4 mm thick and 2 mm gaps between them, which is exactly the same as we have just seen by the Advanced C1 model. However, the calculated effective heatsink cooling surface is 11,100 cm2, due to a larger total number of plates, which is as good as the today’s best cooling systems can offer.

   

Besides the two-array heatsink, Dark Rock PRO C1 has more heatpipes – a total of seven. They are of the same 6 mm diameter. The heatpipes are arranged inside the heatsink body in a triangle-like pattern:

  

This heatpipe distribution may help spread out the heat more evenly over the heatsink body, but at the same time it may create additional resistance for the airflow.

To lower this resistance, beQuiet! engineers applied the same optimizations of the heatsink side where the airflow enters the heatsink body, as we have just seen by Dark Rock Advanced C1.

The heatsink base plate, grooves and gaps between the heatpipes in the base are exactly the same as by the previous cooler. And so is the finish quality of the base plate contact surface:

As for the evenness, things are even worse here:

 

Maybe the cross-concavity of the base plate is a unique trait of all beQuiet! coolers, but I doubt anyone will be happy with the thermal imprints like that:

 

Once we rotated the cooler by 90 degrees, the contact definitely improved, and so did the cooling efficiency:

 

The heatsink arrays are equipped with two beQuiet! SilentWings PWM fans, but the model here is a little bit different: BQT T12025-MF-PWM:

Their maximum rotation speed is a little higher – 1700 RPM. Looks like beQuiet! decided to increase the cooler efficiency not only by adding a second heatsink array and a second fan, but also by increasing the fans rotation speed. The maximum noise level is declared at 25.9 dBA, and the airflow from each of the fans is at 57.2 CFM. The bearing in this fan is exactly the same as in the other model, but the motor consumes 2.4 watts of power instead of 1.1 W. The fans are connected with a single four-pin cable:

The compatibility and installation of Dark Rock PRO C1 are exactly the same as those of the previously discussed Advanced C1 model, so here we will simply provide a link to the installation manual available online and a photo of the cooler inside the system case installed in two different positions:

 

If you want to equip your system with memory modules featuring tall heat-spreaders, make sure that they are no taller than 49 mm, because Dark Rock PRO C1 hangs over first two memory DIMM slots on the mainboard.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We performed all cooler tests inside a closed system case. Here is our testbed configuration:

We overclocked our six-core processor (with its default non-lapped heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 25x and “Load-Line Calibration” (Level 2) enabled to 4.325 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.4 V in the mainboard BIOS:

Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technologies were disabled during our test session. The memory voltage was at 1.64 V and its frequency was 1.4 GHz with 7-7-7-16_1T timings (Extreme profile). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and related to CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.

All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 operating system. We used the following software during our test session:

So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:

The CPU was loaded with two consecutive CST test runs with the settings as indicated above. The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 8-10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core for the results charts. Moreover, we will also provide a table with the temperature readings for all cores including their average values. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1 °C precision that allows hourly monitoring of the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 21.2-21.5 °C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 36 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

Sicne beQuiet! coolers are so expensive, we can compare then against our ultimate reference – Thermalright Archon tested with one Thermalright TY-140 default fan:

As well as with two Scythe Slip Stream 140 fans, which we already reviewed before. We also additionally tested our beQuiet! coolers with the same Scythe fans:

 

Now let’s see if the results demonstrated by the two new beQuiet! coolers really prove up to their superb manufacture quality.

Cooling Efficiency Tests

The results are summed up in the diagram and table below:

First let’s discuss the results obtained with default fans. Even at maximum rotation speed of 1500 RPM beQuiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 barely coped with a moderately overclocked six-core processors. 93°C under peak load is a very high temperature, even in the heat of summer, which has been an inalienable part of our test sessions over the past few months. As we have expected, beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 turned out a more efficient cooler, but its advantage is not too grand. At 1220 RPM of its two fans beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 wins one degree from its younger brother, and at the maximum speed of 1690 RPM - 6°C. It seems like a decent result, but look at the CPU temperature with Thermalright Archon! The same temperature of 87°C at 810 RPM and 81°C at 1260 RPM of its only fan, which creates a 6-degree advantage over the heavy two-array beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1. Well, with results like that and the same price tag on these two coolers, the choice will hardly be in beQuiet!’s favor.

The results obtained during tests with alternative Scythe Slip Stream 140 fans show that the original fans of these two coolers do not do their job well enough. For example, the cooling efficiency of beQuiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 increases quite rapidly as the rotation speed of its fan starts to grow, and at 1500 RPM this product cools the test CPU 7°C better than at the same 1500 RPM of its default fan. Of course, the noise in this case will be higher, but note that with the 140 mm fan rotating at 1000 RPM beQuiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 is more efficient than with its default SilentWings PWM fan at its maximum speed. The same is also true for the beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 cooler. Two powerful Scythe fans make this cooler much more effective. Despite the fact that we have artificially increased the cooling efficiency of the two beQuiet! coolers by using more powerful fans, they still can’t catch up with Thermalright Archon with one default fan. And once we use identical fans on all our testing participants, beQuiet! products fall even farther behind.

In conclusion to our cooling efficiency tests we tested how well the best of the two beQuiet! coolers - the two-array beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 – can overclock our test processor. With two Scythe Slip Stream 140 fans at 1730 RPM this cooler could make the CPU stable at 4425 MHz and 1.44375 V Vcore with the maximum temperature of the hottest core not exceeding 90°C:


beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1

Thermalright Archon

The results of our beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 are fairly average. Thermalright Archon with the same fans and in the same testing conditions overclocked identically overclocked processor 10°C better.

Acoustic Performance

The amount of noise produced by the coolers was measured throughout the speed range of their fans according to the method explained above. You can see the results in the following diagram with table:

Once again we see that beQuiet! SilentWings fans are very quiet. If we compare their noise on heatsinks against other models used in our today’s test session, the advantage in favor of SilentWings fans will be significant. For example, both - Dark Rock PRO C1 and Advanced C1 coolers – remain acoustically comfortable at up to 1400 and 1500 PM respectively, while the TY-140 Thermalright fan on the Archon cooler can only be considered acoustically comfortable up to 1140 RPM, just like Scythe Slip Stream 140 when installed on Dark Rock Advanced C1. The difference in rotation speeds and noise is exactly the same at the assumed zero-noise threshold. So, in this aspect beQuiet! coolers are undoubtedly the absolute best.

Conclusion

I have to say that beQuiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 and Dark Rock PRO C1 didn’t prove up to our expectations. Despite very smart design, heatsinks of superior quality and excellent cooling fans, the coolers didn’t demonstrate the cooling efficiency worthy of solutions with such high price, large size and heavy weight. It could be the concaved base plates, but I am sure you will agree that this is hardly a problem for the users to solve, but rather for the manufacturer. Issues like that are unacceptable, that is why we tested the coolers “as is” and didn’t invest any time into evening out the contact surfaces.

Among the obvious advantages of the new beQuiet! Dark Rock PRO C1 and Dark Rock Advanced C1 we should definitely point out their attractive exterior, versatility, reliable retention and exceptionally quiet fans. By the way, considering the high price of beQuiet! SilentWEings PWM fans (€18.50), it could also make sense to have Dark Rock coolers offered in a fanless configuration, too. This would allow lowering their retail price substantially and offer the users the opportunity to pick their own fans without spending too much extra. Although, they have to fix the issue of concaved base plates first, because unless it’s done, nothing else will really matter.