be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 review: This compact CPU cooler is mighty impressive

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3
be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

The market for affordable, mid-range CPU coolers is rather busy and be quiet! thought it would be a good idea to roll out the new Shadow Rock 3. This air-cooler is rated at 190W TDP, meaning it should be able to handle overclocked mid-range processors like the Intel Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 5, as well as more enthusiast setups.

If the Dark Rock Pro 4 is a little overkill at a whopping 250W TDP, the Shadow Rock 3 should be a much better solution for your system requirements.

You'll love the Shadow Rock 3 cooling performance

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Modern processors are vastly more efficient with each major refresh and this allows one to throw more cores into the mix with a lower thermal design power (TDP) rating for even more budget-friendly coolers to cope with. The Shadow Rock 3 from be quiet! is priced in the mid-range bracket, but it offers some serious numbers on paper.

Impressive, quiet CPU cooling performance at a reasonable price.

Specifications-wise, we're looking at an all-aluminum build for the heatsink, five 6mm nickel-plated copper heat pipes, support for numerous AMD and Intel sockets, and a maximum power capacity of 190W. This should be able to cover a Ryzen 9 3950X or Intel Core i9 9900K without much issue, though you'll really want to use liquid or more premium air coolers if you go into overclocking mode.

Unpacking the cooler, you're greeted by the usual be quiet! packaging I've come to know and appreciate — these guys know how to compact high-quality goods in a clever fashion. Out-the-box, the Shadow Rock 3 is separated into three components. The aluminum heatsink is joined by a single 120mm Shadow Wings 2 fan, the same you'd find in the considerably more expensive Dark Rock Pro 4.

The fan hooks onto either side of the cooler (and this allows for the installation of a second blower if needed), though the Shadow Rock 3 has an interesting design characteristic in that it's asymmetrical. While it may look damaged from shipping, this actually allows for be quiet! to get as much heat dissipating material in place without affecting RAM clearance.

To test the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3, a testbench was deployed with an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core CPU, ASUS X470 GAMING PRO motherboard, 32GB of DDR4 RAM at 3200MHz, and a 600W EVGA PSU. The system ran for around an hour before testing commenced. Ambient temperature was measured at 21C (70F).

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Idle55C (131F)42C (108F)
Gaming74C (165F)59C (138F)
Stress test82C (180F)64C (147F)

Idle temperatures were stable at around 42C (108F), firing up Cities Skylines in a compact, busy metropolis of more than 100,000 residents saw the Ryzen 9 3900X to jump up to around 59C (138F) and reached 74C (165F) before the cooler ramped up to bring the temperature down. Stressing the CPU saw an initial leap up to 82C (180F) before settling at 64C (147F) throughout the 30-minute test.

The Silent Wings fan used with the Shadow Rock 3 doesn't spin as fast as competitor CPU blowers, making it easier for be quiet! to keep the noise down. Sound levels of 22dBA were measured at 50% fan speed from a distance of one meter using an open bench test rig. Inside a PC chassis, it's difficult to hear the fan spin up.

Things you will not like about the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

The fan attachment mechanism comes as small metal clips that are pulled to lock into the heatsink. It's not the easiest method of installing a fan to a tower cooler like the Shadow Rock 3 and you may end up with a few cuts. However, it's also not the worst. It would have been good for be quiet! to come up with a better solution.

You won't be able to use the Shadow Rock 3 with enthusiast builds since the bracket supports included don't work with TR4, TRX40 or Intel equivalent sockets. Sure, it's limited to 190W TDP but you could easily get away with some processors that simply aren't supported by the cooler and that's a shame.

Should you buy the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3?

be quiet! Shadow Rock 3

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

The Shadow Rock 3 is worth considering. Like other be quiet! CPU coolers, it performs well and for the price, it's a strong competitor against Noctua and Corsair. Even with a powerful processor like the Ryzen 9 3900X or Intel Core i9 9900K, you're going to have no issues keeping the CPU cool, and the acoustics are great.

At $50, it's well-positioned as a mid-tier CPU cooler, providing a worthy alternative to water-cooling, be it in an AIO or custom loop. It's a shame about the fan attachment clips, as well as the limited selection of socket brackets, but overall this is a rock-solid cooler that will perform well in most PC builds.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.