First off, let me clear the air a bit as to what I am seeing asked around in many forums. Phanteks is its own entity and has no affiliation with Noctua or the parent company, Rascom. While the basic concept and design of this cooler is based heavily on the already famous D-14, there are no ties between it and what we are about to look at from Phanteks. Phanteks actually looked beyond the limits that Noctua set with the D-14 and into every possible way to improve on the basic concept. This attention to detail and from what I am told and by the literature on their site, Phanteks backs this cooler with one of the best warranties on the planet. Not only does this product carry a 5 year warranty, but if an issue arises within the first year of ownership, Phanteks offers a full on advanced RMA. They will send you a replacement cooler along with a return shipping label to return your ill fated original cooler.
This moves us into the mentality of Phanteks and what their bottom line goal is in today's market. Through various emails about the warranty conditions and all the finer points of the cooler, I did get a bit of a bottom line statement. I was told the goal here is to offer premium quality cooling, with a warranty that will put any buyer at ease as they click the "add to cart" button. Taking a basic aluminum cooler and slapping some fans on it is something that anyone can do really, but it takes things like a huge feature set, terrific aesthetic appeal and the knowledge that I know I can take the cooler from one build to another with superior universal mounting, and in this instance five years in which to reap the benefits of this cooler under warranty.
Today we are going to get up close and personal with one of the four PH-TC14PE coolers being sold. More specifically, we are going to test the PH-TC14PE_BL, or an electric blue colored version. Let me set the stage a bit here. Not only did I get the PH-TC14PE and its pair of included fans, Phanteks also sent along a third fan that matches the two supplied in the box, but in its own retail packaging. So right when you thought the D-14 made a motherboard disappear, just wait until you see the PH-TC14PE with three fans installed on my GIGABYTE later in the review! This cooler may be massive, but as you will see as we continue on, it offers plenty more than the average contender in almost every aspect.
Grab a beverage and get comfortable as I take you through one of my longest CPU cooler reviews I have ever written. This venture will go through everything from some new features specific to Phanteks coolers, the unique fans used with this cooler and some really interesting three fan cooling results. For those looking to find the best that air cooling has to offer, sit tight and have a detailed look at what I am about to bring to you. Phanteks has impressed me with what I have seen in the PH-TC14PE and I think you will be just as impressed as I am by the time I am done!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Touching on some of the finer points mentioned in the specifications list, as I'm sure you can read all the finer details and comprehend them fine on your own. This brings me first off to the PH-F140 Premium fans, two of which are included with the kit. These fans are not only 140mm, they use a UFB bearing with a vortex booster design all incorporated, but the life expectancy is three times that of most retail fans sold! This cooler will fit anything AMD since socket AM2, but requires the use of the stock AMD back plate to mount the PH-TC14PE. As for Intel, this cooler fits anything LGA775 and newer with the included hardware in the box. The last thing I want to cover is the sheer weight of this behemoth! - If you run it passively it will weigh in at 970 grams. With one fan the weight jumps to 1100 grams, and once the second fan is clipped into place you raise the bar to 1250 grams of cooler hanging off the motherboard.
Moving past the technical specifications and into a bit of patented technology, I want to discuss the P.A.T.S. and C.P.S.C. tech that also goes into the PH-TC14PE. The Physical Antioxidant Thermal Shield (P.A.T.S.) is introduced which is claimed to offer a barrier to external heat sources. In other words, it is employed to deflect heat from the GPU, chipset heat sinks and even the power delivery systems' heat will not affect the coolers efficiency. The second system is the Cold Plasma Spray Coating (C.P.S.C.) technology. This not only gives the PH-TC14PE its range of colors, but Phanteks says it benefits the thermal conductivity of the cooler, raising the overall efficiency of this cooler. It looks like there really is no stone unturned with the design and implementation of technology into the PH-TC14PE from Phanteks.
Availability in the US is limited; in fact, they just showed their face on Newegg.com. As I mentioned, there are four versions of this cooler. The "vanilla" or white version is the cheapest of the four. The white one demands $89.99 at Newegg.com, while the blue, red, or orange versions demand $99.99. As one would expect with the premium quality and features implemented along with the five year warranty, the product wasn't going to come cheap! At this point at so close to $100 US dollars, Phanteks had better pack some amazing results in with the PH-TC14PE to justify this pricing. Hang tight, after some images of the packaging through the hardware, I will get right to the testing results so you can see for yourself if in fact the near $100 investment is worthy of your hard earned dollars.
The front of the box has a pattern of black, grey and white swirls that wrap around the front and terminate into an image of the PH-TC14PE in white. Other things to note are the windows showing the four color options, and that the PH-TC14PE will fit even the latest sockets right out of the box.
On the side you will find white text over a black background displaying the specifications for both the cooler and the PH-F140 Premium fans included inside. At the bottom of the chart there is also a listing for the "scope of delivery" or the hardware you will also find inside the box.
On the back Phanteks takes this room to describe what they think goes into making a premium cooler. It covers the aerospace engineering, P.A.T.S, the C.P.S.C., the twin tower design and the ease of use in nine languages.
This last side contains descriptions of the six key features of the cooler or included in the packaging. At the bottom, there are some broken up images of the base of an orange version and the heat pipes of a red version of the PH-TC14PE inside this box.
Inside the box I just described you will find the PH-TC14 comes surrounded in more cardboard and sheets of high density foam for added assurance that this cooler is packed very well and should protect the investment as it is shipped to your door.
Removing the foam and paperwork, and then opening the side of the inner packaging, you can now see just how well the cooler is protected. Fans flank the outsides while the cooler is locked in the middle. The towers of the Phanteks are kept separated with a snugly fit hardware box slid between them.
The Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler
This electric blue aluminum twin tower cooing design is stacked on five 6mm heat pipes that receive nickel plating with a thick copper base to extract the heat from the CPU. There are other color options for the fins and fans, but obviously we go the blue version to test.
The top of each tower receives a cover fin to cap the typically exposed heat pipes. This little measure of perfection also gave Phanteks two large areas to imprint with the company name.
Each of the fins is made of a two piece construction with the 6mm heat pipes slid through press fit openings. The leading and trailing edges of the fins receive this rounded saw tooth pattern with tabs in three positions to keep proper spacing of each fin.
The center of the five heat pipes does the least bending, but I do like the very gently sweeping bend of the other four pipes. There was some time taken here as not to deform the heat pipes allowing them not to collapse on themselves or have unattractive kinks as they make the bends allowing them to have very even spacing through the fin body.
Removing the thick plastic "warning" sticker we can get a look at the base of the PH-TC14PE. They went with a solid base design that is milled level, but has noticeable groves left from the milling process. As you can see there is little reflectivity in the base. Here it is about surface area and not a mirror shine.
Between the towers you can get a look at the top of the base. Here there are two grooves cut across the raised centre to allow for a cross bar included in the hardware kit. This bar gets mounted with a thumbscrew in the threaded hole in the middle to make final installation much easier.
The Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler - Continued
Digging into the hardware, I grabbed the silicone spacers for the cooler. These self adhesive strips are supposed to be laid on the tabs to keep the fan from touching the fins isolating any vibrations the 140mm fan may put out.
As the PH-TC14PE comes shipped, we see it here in the dual fan configuration. The fan clips are sort of a pain to get into the black inserts, but once in the fan, the clips work great on the side of the fins.
Looking at it from the side, you can see there is the slightest gap to the second fan from the right toer of fins. This allows a bit of room for the second fan to draw in cooler air from the sides along with the pre-heated air from the first tower helping to keep the cooler more efficient.
Since they sent the third fan along with my cooler, I figured I would show the PH-TC14PE in the triple fan configuration. The hardware already had the mounts, fan hole mounts, and silicone strips included, as if Phanteks wants you to use three fans on it anyways.
With the third fan strapped to the back of the cooler it leaves the PH-TC14PE measuring in at 7.25" from left to right across your motherboard. If you do go this route with three fans, you may have to remove the rear case fan to allow for a proper fit and airflow within the cooler.
Accessories, Documentation, and Fit
The hardware comes packaged in assembly packets clearly marked with what they contain. In this image you see the bag for the socket LGA 2011 mounting legs that screw into the board socket. On the right is the LGA775 through LGA1366 mounting kit. This hardware includes an isolated back plate, four hex head screws to run through the board, four plastic spacers and four thumbscrews. The last thing contained in this bag is the pair of mounting braces that accept the cross bar that mounts to the cooler base.
The AMD kit on the left needs the stock AMD back plate to allow for AMD mounting. This kit comes with a pair of braces for AMD socket mounting, four screws, four white plastic spacers, and you use the thumbscrews from the Intel kit to secure it. The accessory bag on the right contains all sorts of goodies. There is six rubber strips to isolate the fans, twelve fan hole adapters that work with the six wire fan mounting clips. There is a tube of thermal compound, a 3-pin "Y" splitter, and a noise limiting adapter with inline resistor. You also get a block of 3M foam, fan screws for the case, and the cross bar for mounting the base of the cooler to either kit.
Inside the box along with some other paperwork you find the stand alone LGA2011 instruction sheet. As you can see, with six easy steps you are a compound application away from mounting the cooler to the motherboard.
For the other Intel sockets and AMD sockets on the reverse, Phanteks ships two instruction sheets. One is in English and the other is multi-lingual, but both take you through every step and make installation a breeze if followed.
The pair of 140mm fan included, in my instance, is constructed of nine blue fan blades supported with an updraft floating bearing and held in place with the round white frame with only three supports to disrupt the outgoing air flow. Both fans are powered with a 3-pin connector and with the adapter can be both powered from one header.
As I mentioned, they also sent a third fan in the retail packaging. The PH-F140 Premium fan comes in a packaging very similar to that of the cooler, so they should be very easy to recognize at a glance.
On the back there is a full display of all the specifications for the fan inside the box. Again you don't have to buy the blue ones. All the fans come with white frames, but the blade color can be orange, red, or white as well.
Along with the fan you get quite the assortment of hardware here too. There are regular fan screws and rubber fan pull tabs for mounting options inside of a chassis. There is also a noise reducing adapter along with a 4-pin Molex to 3-pin fan adapter. The most ingenious part included is the metal bracket that works with the screws of the expansion cards and allows this fan to be mounted on the side of your cards to blow on them directly, room allowing in the case of course.
Installation and Finished Product
Mounting the cross bar takes a bit of patience, there isn't a lot of room to get your fingers in here, so I used some pliers to get the screw into place, then as you can see you screw in the thumbscrew to lock the bar to the top of the base.
The motherboard end of the installation is really easy. Put the screws in the back plate and send them through the holes in the board. Then you set on the spacers, top it with the braces, and then secure them with thumbscrews. It is that easy.
The Intel back plate will allow for the four sockets listed on it. You just need to stick the screws with oversized hex heads in the right set of holes. As you can see the size of these heads allows the screws to "lock" as they are spun, against the bent sides of the plate.
With the cooler installed, still fan-less, you can see the body of the cooler sits very high off the motherboard and allows plenty of room for my taller Mushkins to have room under the fins.
Even though the cooler body cleared the closest memory stick, the one furthest away did cause the fan in the front to need to run a bit higher than it should, but it still fit like this in my mid tower 600T SE like this.
I added the third fan just to show how massive the PH-TC14PE can be as it makes the whole top half of my motherboard disappears in this image. There is enough room left to get to the 24-pin connection, and you can see the top of the rear I/O components, but that is it!
Test System &Thermal Results
With the system listed above, I apply Arctic Cooling MX-2 to all the coolers I have tested on the GIGABYTE motherboard to even things out with all the cooler manufacturers. To gauge the idle temperatures I allow the PC to run for a few minutes from the fresh reboot. I then open RealTemp and let things again settle as the reading spikes until the processor is again fully idle. At this point I get the reading and report it to the charts.
For the load testing, both stock and overclocked, we use Intel Burn Test to supply the system load. In this application I set it to work eight threads for 50 passes, and maximize the memory tested to over 3000MB to generate as much load as possible to the coolers. With RealTemp open for the entire run, I report the highest temperature seen during the test run. All cooler testing is done open air on a test bench with an ambient temperature of 25C.
As far as the idle testing goes, I really am not that surprised to see the PH-TC14PE give the best results so far considering the massive amount of surface area to rid the cooler of any heat at this level.
This is just the proof shot for the dual fan testing with the overclock applied.
Again, just in case you don't want to believe the results you are about to see in the charts, here is the proof for the three fan testing results.
The three green bars show the stock run with two fans resulting in 55C which is really good, tying the best results at this clock speed. The next mark you see is the 64C of the overclocked results with three fans on the PH-TC14PE, and you can see it out performed the stock results of other coolers. As the cooler is shipped, I got a 67C reading when overclocked.
Noise Level Results
As far as the noise levels go, I was impressed here as well. These PH-F140 fans offer some 10 CFM more than the Noctua 140mm solution, but as you can see, that CFM doesn't come at a huge gain in noise levels. The 39 dB rating we recorded is very respectable and is what I would consider "quiet".
Once the fans received 12V and were spinning at speeds between 1175 and 1207 RPM in AIDA64, the noise levels do increase a bit, but again the 54 dB reading I got here is still far into the top half of the charts. While it was audible on the test bench, I don't hear it during normal operation inside of the 600T SE it is housed in now.
In my position as a reviewer and one that gets to get his hands on just about everything case and cooler related, I am really torn with this review. On one hand, I sort of expect new companies to bring forward something completely new, not something modeled almost exactly to something we all know already. On the flip side of that coin, I do see a lot more engineering involved in the PH-TC14PE than the D-14 it resembles. Even though everything about this cooler including its packaging and its hardware screams Noctua, Phanteks does fill a void in the market, and with a cooler that took everything I could throw at it offering some of the best results with direct CPU testing. On top of the P.A.T.S. and the C.P.S.C. Phanteks steps in and offers four solutions to those with the comment of Noctua coolers having an unappealing color scheme. With the PH-TC14PE, not only do you get a kick ass huge cooler, you have the option to select a color to match the theme of almost any case build.
Some things to think about while pondering the purchase of the PH-TC14PE. On top of the fact that it is outright huge and can weigh up to 1250 grams, you need to be sure you have the room to house this monster. While I had no issue with the memory clearance, it did push the fan higher in my installation, and this could cause issues with the side panel in thinner cases. The last thing to consider is do you want the best experience and efficiency level by adding a third fan? Since the hardware kit is all inclusive for three fans already, you may as well go ahead and get one. I mean let's be honest here. If you are in the market for this beast to begin with, your PC doesn't sit at stock, and you are in the market for the best air cooling has to offer to even consider this cooler in the first place. So in that respect, why not add the third fan that showed an advantage of an additional three degrees of headroom to push your CPU to the bleeding edge.
I could go on forever about the aesthetics of the PH-TC14PE; in blue it looks like it is made perfect for any of the older blue GIGABYTE boards or any of the ASUS boards with the electric blue accents as well would look good under this cooler. With red, it brings in many other boards that would look great; orange is a bit more limited, but even the all white version would look good in an all white chassis. On top of that, the cooler is super easy to mount, even if the motherboard is still in the case. One thing to note is that the AMD hardware is not unidirectional, the cooler will only mount in the orientation of the socket, so pay close attention or this cooler will need to blow at the top of the chassis in many instances. All of the bits and pieces in the hardware kit will make this cooler as shipped go into any build with the minimal stress in how to get both fans powered or even lower the noise if desired.
Ringing in at the counter with a very premium price, I feel that is justified. If I could say that the D-14 was worth its price, but the PH-TC14PE is worth a bit more to many buyers simply based on the aesthetics between the two, and while I am spoiled and don't like seeing similar products, Phanteks went above and beyond with their offering and could quite possibly eclipse the D-14 I keep comparing this to. I wish all four versions of the cooler were demanding a similar price, but it will cost you ten more dollars if you want this in anything other than the white solution. As tested, the PH-TC14PE_BL is $99.99 at Newegg.com. There is one point that will hurt the overall score, but the limited availability is expected with a cooler so fresh on the market, so don't let that little fact sway your buying decision.
If you are looking for a cooler that offers everything you could want and then some more, you really need to give Phanteks serious consideration. If you can afford the premium pricing, there is no reason to go with another cooler when you can get the PH-TC14PE to match any theme and still deliver some of the best performance I have seen in air cooling!
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