It’s always exciting to get new tech in the Newegg offices that we can geek out over, but that excitement is even better when one of these products completely blows us away. When we received the darkFlash Shadow CPU Cooler, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.
We haven’t incorporated any darkFlash parts in our PC builds in the past, and some of us weren’t even familiar with this manufacturer, let alone their CPU cooling product line. Intrigued by what some believed to be a scrappy upstart, we unboxed this mysterious piece of kit and uncovered not only an excellent CPU cooler, but a manufacturer with a legacy of excellence.
A Trusted Brand Comes out of the Shadows
darkFlash (previously Aigo) may not be a household name, even among PC enthusiasts, but dig a little into their history and you’ll find that they’ve developed a strong pedigree over the past 25 years.
Aigo was established in 1993 as a keyboard manufacturer, selling at narrow margins so retailers would be encouraged to order high quantities of their products. Since then, Aigo has come a long way from their humble origins, diversifying their product lines to encompass such categories as mobile electronics, camera accessories, memory, and even a digital music service akin to iTunes.
But through it all, they’ve never abandoned the PC component business, and their darkFlash line of cases, coolers, and fans shows that they haven’t lost touch with their original core strengths.
Aigo has been toiling for years delivering value-packed components; the darkFlash line is the culmination of their years of perfecting their design, combining premium features with beginner-friendly designs and fair prices. Now, the darkFlash line is coming out of the shadows with one of the strongest budget CPU coolers we’ve checked out, and Aigo has rebranded themselves as darkFlash for the North American market.
More Than a Flashy Design
The most pleasant surprise and one of the first things we noticed when unboxing the darkFlash Shadow is just how attractive the cooler is. darkFlash went with electroplating as a key design element here, which usually is only found on fans in a higher price range.
While this doesn’t impact performance, it’s a more premium styling feature, and to see it here left a good first impression on us. It lends the Shadow a more sleek and clean look, and one that’s easy to integrate into many build design schemes. The Shadow isn’t simply all style; they have produced a cooler with sturdy build quality that feels as premium as it looks.
We were already in love with the how the Shadow looked and felt, but things got even better when we hooked it up to one of our test benches. If you’re a beginner to PC building, the Shadow is a particularly excellent CPU cooler option. This cooler was easier to install than many we’ve worked with; all it demands is affixing the included bracket to the back of the board and screwing down the four points on the cooler into the corresponding points on the bracket.
darkFlash includes thermal paste in the package, which was easy to apply. Even nicer are the cables, which are long and easy to work with. Connecting the Shadow to the motherboard headers was much easier than on many other coolers we’ve installed.
We installed the Shadow on an LGA 1151 motherboard. The official product listing for the board mentions the older LGA 1155 and 1156 socket boards, but we’re happy to report that the Shadow works on newer boards like ours— which should be expected, since the 1151’s mounting holes are the same. To make sure you have the optimal motherboard for your build, check out our guide on how to choose the right motherboard.
The darkFlash line places a high priority on beautiful RGB tech, and based on what we’ve observed on the Shadow, they’re delivering. The fan’s diffuser is bright, with a good vibrancy and color range. The pictures speak for themselves already, but it looks even better in person. Again, to carry on with the theme, it’s far better than we expected in such an inexpensive cooler.
If you’re concerned that using a lesser-known RGB cooler like the darkFlash Shadow will result in compatibility issues with your board’s RGB control system, cast away any worries because the Shadow uses a standard 3-pin addressable RGB header. That makes it fit perfectly into many RGB ecosystems like AORUS/Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion (used in our build), Asus Aura, MSI Mystic Light, and more. As long as your board sports the compatible 5V header, you should be free to control the darkFlash Shadow’s gorgeous lighting to your heart’s content.
The Shadow covers a lot of surface area; it goes out pretty far over the VRM while permitting plenty of airflow over it. It was remarkably quiet and we observed little to no wobbling. The only downside we could find was the lack of copper plating for transferring heat off the chip, but the airflow and strong cooling performance more than makes up for it if you’re not trying to tax your CPU.
Even though the darkFlash Shadow offers some of the best performance in its price range, we hesitate to recommend overclocking with the Shadow; because of its compact size, it simply doesn’t reach the level of thermal performance needed for taxing your CPU. As mentioned earlier, this is a better choice for beginners who aren’t concerned with overclocking, or for lower performance builds that aren’t concerned with making the processor buckle.
Welcome to the Dark Side
We were thrilled to discover darkFlash’s best-in-class cooler. They have set a new standard in what users should expect in a budget CPU fan. Many of us (myself included) were unfamiliar with their products before the Shadow showed up in our offices, but judging by the strong results turned in, I would say the darkFlash line has earned a spot in our future builds.
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Note, all prices and products are accurate at the time of article publication, although some may have changed or are no longer available.