Introduction & Closer Look
Something a little different today on the CPU cooler test bench, in the form of bequiet!’s Shadow Rock TF 2. This is the successor to the popular original Shadow Rock TopFlow cooler, and again is designed in such a way to provide a space saving design, to be used where case clearance is at a premium.
The Shadow Rock TF2 has support for all the major Intel and AMD sockets, including AM4. The sockets supported are:
775 / 1366 / 1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 1156 / 2011(-3) Square ILM
AM2(+) / AM3(+) / AM4 / FM1 / FM2(+)
Whilst this is aimed at taking up less space than a conventional tower design, the Shadow Rock TF2 is by no means “small” cooler. In fact the fan employed here by bequiet! is a fairly substantial 135mm in diameter.
With the fan and cooling fins sat horizontally in relation to the CPU, the thickness of the fan has been reduced somewhat, in order to limit the overall height of the unit. However, even with this, it stands 112mm tall, which is much larger than other low profile coolers currently on the market. Therefore whilst the Shadow Rock TF2 sits lower than a tower cooler, I certainly wouldn’t call it the ultimate low profile solution.
Due to the sheer size of the unit, and the fact that it sits in a horizontal orientation, it means that the Shadow Rock TF2 has been designed to actually overhang your RAM sticks. My first thought here is “clearance”… and are we going to see any issues?
No issues on our test bench, but we are using the Crucial Ballistix Elite, which has a really low profile. If you have RAM sticks that have tall heat spreaders, you may want to get your ruler out, and see if they sit any higher than the 50mm clearance we measured from the motherboard, to the lowest point of the cooling fin array.
- Type of cooler: Shadow Rock TF 2
- Model number: BK003
- Warranty: 3 Years
- Dimensions, incl. fan (L x W x H in mm): 137 x 165 x 112
- Weight, incl. fan (g): 680
- Heat sink material: Aluminium
- Fan dimension (mm): 135 x 135 x 22
- Fan motor technology: 4-pole
- Bearing type: Rifle
- Fan speed (rpm) @ 100% PWM: 1,400
- Noise level (dB(A)) @ 2,000rpm: 20.8
- Airflow (cfm ; m3/h): 67.8 ; 113.8
- Air pressure (mm / H2O): 2.1
- Input current (A): 0.11
- Connector: 4-pin PWM
- Lifespan (h): 80,000
Since our previous cooling reviews prior to November 2016, we have decided to update the method accordingly for better and consistent results. It isn’t ideal running Prime95 for a prolonged period of time and if you get called away to do something, it could be left running for much longer than needed. Our new methodology involves running a very stressful multi-threaded performance benchmark called ROG RealBench.
It should also be noted that the reason we omit acoustic/noise testing is due to an inaccuracy within the readings and method. To provide truly accurate readings, you need a lab setting with the same ambient noise on an hour by hour, day by day and week by week basis. As ambient noise can increase at different times of the day, we believe that it’s pointless providing noise testing if we can’t measure consistent and accurate data due to our office being a busy setting.
- CPU – Intel Core i7 6700k – (4.2GHz at 1.25v & 4.5GHz at 1.38v)
- Motherboard – Asus ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha
- GPU – ZOTAC GTX 1060 AMP! Edition
- RAM – Crucial Ballistix Elite 16GB DDR4 3000MHz
- PSU – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
- SSD – Crucial MX300 525GB SSD
- Case – Cooler Master Test Bench V2
- Monitor – Philips P-Line 241P6 4K Ultra HD
Idle Testing Methodology
To test each cooler at idle, the minimum temperature is taken after leaving the PC with only start-up programs on Windows 10 being allowed to run for 5 minutes. After this, the minimum temperature with the core temperature being offset against the room temperature; thus achieving delta.
Load Testing Methodology
To load test, we run RealBench while selecting the heavy multitasking benchmark only. We run this a maximum of 3 times concurrently and the maximum temperature recorded is taken. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.
From a cooling performance point of view, the Shadow Rock TF2 performs really well. At stock speeds, it matched the Cooler Master MasterAir Pro 4, which is the best air cooler we have seen to date. It slipped behind it a little during our overclocked test, but still performed admirably.
From a noise perspective, the fan was almost inaudible, even when under load during the overclocked test. I expected nothing less from bequiet!, but it’s just further proof that they are the masters of keeping noise levels to the absolute minimum.
It’s nice to see something different, and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design of the Shadow Rock TF2… however, there are mixed results here. It doesn’t boast the lowest of profiles, but it manages to pack in a pretty big fan & cooling fin array into quite a small area.
One element of the design I’m not a fan of however, is the installation process. The manual is excellent, and other companies could take a leaf out of bequiet!’s book here, as I have seen some shockers in the past. However, the method of attaching the cooler to the motherboard is way too tricky than it needs to be. Assembling the backplate & brackets are straightforward… but having to screw the cooler into place from the back of the motherboard, whilst trying to hold the cooler in place, is not easy to do. I have lost count of the number of coolers I have fitted, and even I found it far more fiddly than it really needs to be, so a beginner could really struggle here.
At the time of the review, the RRP for the Shadow Rock TF2 is £59.99 in the UK. This certainly puts it at the top of the price range compared to other low profile coolers on the market… but the TF2 isn’t really like its competitors, and stands more as a hybrid between these and a conventional large fan, tower cooler.
I’ve had to think long & hard about what accolade to award the Shadow Rock TF2. From a performance perspective, it’s really good, and one of the best air coolers we have seen. It also looks really good too. It boasts a lower profile than a tower cooler, but it may still be too big if you are tight for space in a small form factor case.
The elements that let it down are the price, and the over-complicated assembly. At an RRP of £59.99, this is not a cheap air cooler by any means. The fitting method mentioned earlier is also not ideal, and can really only be achieved with the motherboard outside of the case.
Therefore, taking all this into account, the bequiet! Shadow Rock TF2 gets our Silver Award.
Huge thanks to bequiet! for sending the Shadow Rock TF2 in for review
– Excellent performance from an air cooler
– Interesting design, allowing for a huge fan to be deployed in a fairly low profile unit
– Price is high
– Fitting the unit to the board is not the easiest
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