Normally I wouldn't start out with the complaints, but the issue I have is something I think may have just been overlooked, but none the less needs addressed, in my opinion. It isn't even the cooler, it is the fan chosen to go with it. I get why the fan is open, it lets in the maximum amount of undisturbed air into the cooler, giving that 15mm thick fan every chance it has to cool such a small area of fins. Where the problem lies is on the sides and even across the top.
While the ring around the blades is more for structural support, it does almost nothing for keeping the wires out of it. Considering this is meant to go in a SFF chassis, where wire management is challenging at best, I can see this fan stopping dead and things getting warm really fast. In fact, on the test rig, I got up to go in the other room, came back and found the bend I put in the fan wire had gotten lose and stopped my fan taking the idle temperature up to 55 degrees, and mine is an open air system. Imagine if it had been in the FT03, for example. I know that the CPU will throttle to combat this issue, but who wants to find that out the hard way that any rouge wire could considerably increase heat in an instant.
Flipping the coin, there are some good things to go with, too. The size of the cooler is great. It will fit in any chassis the motherboard will. You saw the image looking over the memory; it's just the fan that stands above anything else on the board, and even then its 15mm more at the worst. I like the white color so that the heat sink doesn't disappear on the motherboard, there is no doubt the bright white of the PH-TC90LS will make this a very recognizable cooler. I was really impressed with the noise levels that I got when using it as well.
To be honest, the temperatures weren't all that great. Putting things into perspective is what this is about though, and for its size and limited air flow into the cooler, I am impressed with the results I got. The last thing that really will win over any user is the absolute simplicity of the mounting system. The back plate is ready to go, just slap it on the back and flip the board over. Add four screws and tighten in a revolving X pattern and that is, its installed.
With limited availability, there isn't the option to shop around. With only Newegg showing me they have then for sale at $34.99 right now, that's it, you either like their price, or you don't buy one. I think the pricing is completely justified, though. Even with my personal vendetta against the fan, I still have two options. Deal with it as I did to get through the review and make sure when I use it in a rig that I pay special attention to the wiring, or I can try any 80 or 92mm fan that I want, the hardware still works, and I may even see better temperatures, but I know it is going to be hard to beat the silence that the PH-TC90LS from Phanteks delivered.
For anyone media streaming to a small box in the living room, anyone infatuated with the smallest of Mini-ITX cases, or even those that just want some flash where the stock cooler is currently still sitting, you definitely need to try out one of these to appreciate what it's all about.