be quiet! Shadow Rock 2 Heatsink Review

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be quiet! has recently been moving into the US market, and we have had the chance to check out both PSUs and heatsinks from them. This time, we have another be quiet! heatsink to test out, the Shadow Rock 2. Let’s see how it compares to its siblings and the other heatsinks in the testbed.

Specifications & Features

(Courtesy of be quiet!)

Main Specifications
Overall Dimensions 147 x 122 x 160 mm (L x W x D)
Total Weight 1.12 kg
TDP 180 W
Socket Compatibility Intel: LGA 775/1150/1155/1156/1366/2011/1150
AMD: FM1/FM2/AM2(+)/AM3(+)/754/939/940
Backplate Mounting Yes
Fans be quiet! quality fan
Overall Noise Level 15.3/19.8/25.4 dBA (900/1250/100% RPM)
Heatsink Specifications
Dimensions 122 x 122 x 166 mm (L x W x D)
Number of Fins 51
Fin Material Aluminum
Base Material Copper
Contact Surface CNC Machined
Heatpipes 4 x 8 mm
Surface Treatment
Fan Specifications
Fan Dimensions 120 x 120 x 25 mm
Silent Wings
Speed @ 100% 1600 RPM
Air Flow @ 12 V 51 CFM (87 CMH)
Air Pressure @ 12 V 1.4 mmH2O
Bearing Type Rifle
Rated Voltage 12 V
Input Current 0.24 A
Input Power 2.88 W
Connector 4-pin PWM
Cable Length 220 mm
Life Span 80,000 h/25 °C
Service
Warranty 3 Years

Features

Exceptional Cooling Efficiency

  • Very high cooling benchmarks complement its high cooling capacity of 180 W TDP
  • Four high-performance 8 mm heatpipes carry heat to optimal location on the cooling fins

Extremely Low-Noise Operation

  • Turbulence-reducing wave design on cooling fins reduces noise generation from airflow
  • Optimized 120 mm be quiet! fan with PWM function supports the best balance of cooling performance and quiet operation
  • Even at 100% PWM function, noise is at scant 25.4 dB(A)

Highly Compatible, Highly Functional Design

  • Square, single tower design saves space and supports four-directional fan mounting for best heat convection
  • Compatibility with all current Intel® and AMDTM sockets
  • Freely-selectable fan mount point is recommended for AMDTM users

Engineering

  • Product conception, design and quality control in Germany
  • Top cover with brushed aluminum finish
  • Three year warranty

Packaging & Accessories

I like be quiet!’s packaging; it’s informative and gives you a picture of the actual product on the front. Something you don’t see everyday is the rated TDP of the heatsink listed on the packaging or in the specifications. The back of the box lists the specifications and points out four of the heatsink’s features: brushed aluminum top cover, low turbulence fin design, freely selectable fan mounting, and the large 8 mm heatpipes. On the left side of the box we have the French, Spanish, and Polish blurbs about the Shadow Rock 2 and a dinged up part of the box that looks like something from inside was being pushed out against the inside of the box. On the right side, there are English and German blurbs and a list of some awards from various review sites.

Box Front

Box Front

Box Back

Box Back

Left Side

Left Side

Right Side

Right Side

When opening the box, the first thing to greet you is the bag of accessories and the instruction manual. Once we peel back that first layer of cardboard, there are two more layers with holes that line up with the top of the heatpipes. These cardboard layers are the only things used to hold the heatsink in place since there isn’t any foam or padding on the sides of the heatsink. However, there is foam in the bottom of the box to protect the base of the heatsink from damage.

Top Opened

Top Opened

Layer 2 Opened

Layer 2 Opened

Heatsink Revealed

Heatsink Revealed

Empty Box

Empty Box

The accessories included are typical of heatsinks: a backplate, mounting screws, mounting brackets, thermal paste, and an instruction manual. The only thing I would like to see that’s not included would be an extra set of fan clips to set up a push/pull fan configuration.

Accessories

Accessories

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

The unique feature of Shadow Rock 2 is its brushed aluminum top cover. I personally love the look of brushed aluminum.

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

The heatpipes are not nickel plates, just polished copper. The fins have be quiet!’s serrated concave design that should act like a fan shroud to help the fan get better airflow coverage over the heatsink. The fan can be adjusted up and down the fin stack as you so choose, which could help avoid clearance issues with RAM or motherboard VRM heatsinks.

The Shadow Rock 2 is basically a cubic heatsink that has the ability to mount the fan on any of its sides… that is a pretty awesome feature, in my opinion. However, there are differences in mounting a fan on another side: it could be pushing into either two lines of four heatpipes or four lines of two heatpipes. Whether or not that makes a difference in performance is yet to be seen, but I would assume it does.

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

be quiet! Shadow Rock 2

The base of the Shadow Rock 2 is a literal mirror finish, I don’t think it could get more smooth. I mean, the reflections almost look better than the real thing…

Heatsink Base

Heatsink Base

The fan that be quiet! includes with the Shadow Rock 2 is their Pure Wings 2 fan. It’s a PWM fan that has nine blades and runs at 1600 RPM on 12 V and 0.20 A. The previous be quiet! heatsinks we looked at used the Silent Wings 2 and Shadow Wings fans, which were seven blade fans.

Pure Wings 2 Fan

Pure Wings 2 Fan

Fan Label

Fan Label

I was very glad to see the corners of the Pure Wings 2 fan, and that they are like typical 120 mm fans. This will give users the option to swap out fans with some from other manufacturers. The Silent Wings 2 and Shadow Wings fans on the Dark Rock Pro 2 and Shadow Rock Topflow had unique corners with only one flap extruding from the middle of the fans’ frames. I didn’t like that design since it limited the options available to end users. The Pure Wings 2 fan fixes that problem.

Fan Corners

Fan Corners

Installation

The first step in the installation is attaching the backplate to the motherboard. To do that, the backplate has to be lined up on the back of the motherboard, four screws are slid through the backplate and motherboard’s mounting holes, and black C-clip washers are attached to the screws on the top side of the motherboard. Then, the nut/screw combo pieces are attached to the screws to give the heatsink something to mount on.

Backplate Installed

Backplate Installed

Mounting Nuts Installed

Mounting Nuts Installed

Next, we have to install the correct brackets to the heatsink for use with the socket of the motherboard. In my case, that would be the LGA1155 socket, so the brackets shown below are the ones needed.

Intel Mounting Brackets Installed

Intel Mounting Brackets Installed

This is where the installation could get a tricky. The Shadow Rock 2 uses nuts to mount to the motherboard, which means we have to use a combination of a wrench and a screwdriver to tighten down the heatsink. The reason the nuts have to be used on the top side is because the Shadow Rock 2 covers the mounting holes with its large cubic shape. The best way I found to tighten down the heatsink is to use the wrench to hold the nuts in place while using a Phillips head screwdriver on the back side to tighten the screws down.

Wrench

Wrench

Shadow Rock 2 Installed

Shadow Rock 2 Installed

The most difficult part of the installation for me was accessing the nut on the top left mounting hole. Access was obstructed by the Shadow Rock 2 itself and the VRM heatsinks of the Maximus V Gene. I was able to get the wrench to fit in the slots of the VRM heatsink located just above the visible choke and slide it onto the nut. So, there could be some difficulty reach that nut when mounting the Shadow Rock 2 on some motherboards. Of course, the motherboard shown in the instructions didn’t have VRM heatsinks, even though the majority of mid-range to high-end motherboards these days have VRM heatsinks.

Difficult Access

Difficult Access

Difficult Access

Difficult Access

The Shadow Rock 2 is finally installed and I have the option to mount the fan on any side of the heatsink I want. So, I’m going to choose the orientation so that the fan is pushing through four lines of two heatpipes, since that’s the out-of-the-box orientation and the orientation I would expect to get the best performance.

Shadow Rock 2 Fanless

Shadow Rock 2 Fanless

Shadow Rock 2 Fanless

Shadow Rock 2 Fanless

Fan Installed

Fan Installed

Fan Installed

Fan Installed

Potential Clearance Issues

RAM

When using the Maximus V Gene, and possibly other SFF boards, there is the potential for RAM clearance issues. The Shadow Rock 2 does hang over the DIMM slot closest to the CPU socket. The RAM I’m using is Corsair Dominator GT sticks with extended heatsinks (64 mm tall), even without the extended heatsinks the Dominator GT sticks are taller than a lot of RAM (43 mm). I had to remove the extended heatsink from the RAM stick closest to the CPU socket, and that gave the RAM enough room to fit under the overhanging Shadow Rock 2 (43 mm). The maximum RAM height allowed under the Shadow Rock 2 is ~47 mm, and typical RAM like my G.Skill Eco is 32 mm tall.

Expansion Slots

None! That’s right, the Shadow Rock 2 doesn’t have the possible expansion slot clearance issues that the Shadow Rock Topflow and Dark Rock Pro 2 experienced on this Maximus V Gene.

Test Setup & Methodology

Test Setup
Processor Intel i7 3770K @ 4 GHz
Motherboard ASUS Maximus V Gene
RAM 4 x 2 GB Corsair Dominator GT DDR3-1600
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 680
Storage 256 GB OCZ Vertex 4
Power Supply Seasonic SS-1000XP
Heatsinks be quiet! Shadow Rock 2
Noctua NH-U14S
Thermalright Venomous X
Thermalright AXP-100
be quiet! Shadow Rock Topflow
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2
Prolimatech Genesis
Prolimatech Samuel 17
Equipment
Fluke 52 II Dual Input Thermometer
Tenma Sound Level Meter

Methodology

Cooling performance was tested as follows:

  • Disabled all BIOS settings that cause the CPU clock speed and/or Vcore to fluctuate.
  • Arctic Cooling MX2 thermal paste was used for consistency.
  • Included fans and Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans were used for testing.
  • Ambient temperature was measured with a Fluke 52 II at ~1 inch from the intake fan.
  • Varied Vcore from 1.050 V to 1.400 V in 0.050 V increments to increase heat. Stopped increasing Vcore once a core reached 90+ °C.
  • 5-pass 2048 MB RAM LinX runs at each Vcore interval were used to load the CPU.
  • CoreTemp was used to record minimum and maximum core temperatures.

Sound level in dBA was measured 10 cm from the intake fan, and then estimated for other distances using the following formula:

L2 = L1 – 20 * log10(r2/r1)

  • L2 = dBA @ desired distance
  • L1 = dBA @ reference distance
  • r1 = reference distance
  • r2 = desired distance

Why estimate sound level instead of measure at further distances? It’s because the meter I’m using is most accurate between 40-130 dBA, so I wanted to measure really close to the source to get as close to that range as I can to get the most accurate measurements.

Results

As I tested the Shadow Rock 2 I noticed that there was significantly more air exiting the sides of the heatsink adjacent to the fan rather than the opposite side of the fan where one would expect. This, combined with the rather thick dimensions of the Shadow Rock 2, makes me think that there might not be enough air being pushed through the heatsink for the heatpipes/fins on the exhaust end to be efficiently cooled, which could hinder performance some.

Cooling Performance

In out-of-the-box performance, the Shadow Rock 2 does okay. Surprisingly it’s closer in performance to the small top-down heatsinks than the others, even though it’s a rather large heatsink. The Shadow Rock 2 does handle high heat loads better than the small top-down units from Prolimatech and Thermalright.

shadow_rock_2_stock

Next, I changed the orientation of the fan so that the air was pushed into two rows of four heatpipes (2×4) instead of four rows of two heatpipe (4×2). It turns out that pushing into four rows was just over 1 °C better on average. I expected a larger difference between the two orientations, but that isn’t the case.

shadow_rock_2_config_2

When comparing the Shadow Rock 2 to the other heatsinks when the fans are the same, we can see that the Shadow Rock 2 doesn’t get as much benefit from the AP-15 as the other heatsinks. This is probably due to the Shadow Rock 2 being so wide and not having high fin density.

shadow_rock_2_ap-15

To test push vs push/pull, I had to use Gentle Typhoon fans since there was only one be quiet! Pure Wings 2 fan included. The difference between the two favored push/pull by 1.5-2.0 °C on average, which is typical when adding an additional fan.

shadow_rock_2_push_pull

Sound Level

The Shadow Rock 2 ended up having the highest SPL measurement of the heatsinks I’ve tested to date. All the heatsinks I’ve tested have been relatively quiet, with the only exception being the NH-U14S using a pull fan. All these heatsinks have an estimated dBA of mere 30 or less when at a 3′ distance. Also, don’t forget these measurements were taken with the test system on an open bench to guarantee consistency and also provide a worst case scenario since there isn’t a case to muffle sound. So, these results are the highest you can expect to experience.

shadow_rock_2_dba

Conclusion

The Shadow Rock 2 has an industrial look with its brushed aluminum top-plate and exposed copper heatpipes. This is a look that seems to be either a “love it” or “hate it” type of thing to many people, but I like industrial looks just as much, if not better, than the anodized/plated look.

I’m glad be quiet! decided to use the Pure Wings 2 fan with a typical 25 mm thick frame instead of the half-thick framed fans included with their Shadow Rock Topflow and Dark Rock Pro 2. This will allow users to easily swap out fans if they so choose.

Compared to the more expensive heatsinks in the testbed, the Shadow Rock 2 performed well enough, but not exceptional. I expected a little better from the large heatsink, but it performs about where I would expect considering the cost. The Shadow Rock 2’s SPL was higher than the other heatsinks, but all the heatsinks are still in my personal quiet-zone of ~30 dBA or less at three feet. So, for me, no big deal there.

The Shadow Rock 2 comes in at $49.90 MSRP, which seems pretty good. The Samuel 17 + AP-15 and AXP-100 both cost $10-15 more than the Shadow Rock 2, while performing worse. Which gives the Shadow Rock 2 decent performance per dollar. However, be quiet!’s own Shadow Rock Topflow is only ~$5 more and performs much better than the Shadow Rock 2 in the cooling department and is a little quieter to boot. So, if the Shadow Rock Topflow will fit in your system and not disrupt airflow, then I would recommend it over the Shadow Rock 2. If a tower heatsink is needed, then the Shadow Rock 2 is the best for the money out of the ones I’ve tested.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what it means.

– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)

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