Manufacturer: Be Quiet!
UK Price (as reviewed):£33.90 (inc VAT) US Price (as reviewed): Currently unavailable
The £30-£40 price range is a very competitive area for CPU air cooling. It's filled with coolers that are cheap enough to justify the performance difference between them and more expensive all-in-one liquid coolers, but pricey enough for consumers to reasonably expect a well built piece of hardware that cools their CPU well while keeping noise levels to a minimum. Within the last few months alone we've seen the Zalman CNPS14X, Thermalright's Macho Rev.A and the Enermax ETS-T40 all attempt to strike that delicate balance between price, performance and design.
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Coming in at £33, The Be Quiet! Shadow Rock TopFlow SR1 finds itself right in the middle of this competition. If you'll excuse the pun, we're big fans of Be Quiet!'s own Dark Rock series of coolers, and the most recent one we saw, the Dark Rock Pro 2, performs well and is very quiet, but it's an absolutely massive piece of kit. It's very expensive too, priced a little too close to the excellent Corsair H80 and ]H80i liquid coolers that easily outperform it, so on the price front, at least, the TopFlow SR1 gets off to a good start.
Like many an air cooler, the TopFlow SR1 sports a flat copper baseplate connected via four heat pipes to its dense aluminium fin stack. As with the ETS-T40, its copper areas are nickel-plated to ensure a consistent finish.
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The shape of the cooler itself looks as if someone has taken a regular tower cooler and bent it over by 90 degrees. Even with a fan on top, this reduces the TopFlow SR1's height to the point where Be Quiet! can advertise it as low profile. At 126mm tall with its fan attached, it's around 30-40mm shorter than your typical CPU tower cooler. As such, it's by no means the smallest cooler around, but it's certainly versatile and should fit in many smaller micro-ATX cases, with the space between the fins and the baseplate providing clearance for memory modules and motherboard heatsinks too.
Cooling comes courtesy of a Be Quiet! Shadow Wings 135mm PWM-capable fan, one of which was also featured in the Dark Rock Pro 2. As it blows air down directly onto the CPU and its surrounding area, it will also treat your motherboard's power circuitry to a slight breeze. The fan also has a rubber edging so as to dampen vibrations.
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Mounting the TopFlow SR1 isn't the most elegant of procedures, unfortunately. It involves lining up the backplate and cooler at the same time and screwing them together from the rear of the motherboard. Consequently, it's all but impossible to mount the cooler with your motherboard still affixed to your case, and is instead easier to lie the cooler fan-down on a flat surface, position the motherboard upside down on top of it and screw it into place from there. It's hardly inconvenient, but it's a quick process that provides a tight fit. To ensure adequate heat transfer, enough thermal compound for a few mounts is also provided.
Out of the box, there's no support for LGA2011 systems, so we've been unable to run this test. A free mounting kit for this socket can be ordered once you've purchased the cooler, but given that even the Dark Rock Pro 2 could barely keep our toasty test system from overheating and throttling itself, it's hard to imagine the ShadowRock SR1 would have been able to itself, giving its somewhat reduced proportions.