Phanteks PH-TC14PE (vs. Noctua NH-D14) CPU Cooler Review

Competition is fierce in the high-end air cooling market as there are a plethora of performance CPU coolers available from numerous brands.  The highest performance air cooler to date is still the Noctua NH-D14. It still hasn’t been matched by any other model in our tests, letting us achieve some very impressive overclocks.
Today we are going to look at the Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU cooler which is designed to battle head on with the likes of the Noctua NH-D14.  Phanteks may not be a very well known brand in enthusiast circles but we can’t help but get a little excited by the PH-TC14PE cooler.  It features a similar sandwich design to the Noctua NH-D14 and also features large 140mm fans, but the big question is – can it take on the D14 in the ultra high end sector?
Specification
  • Compatibility: Socket LGA 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155, AM2/2+/3/3+
  • Material: Nickel plated copper base and heatpipes, aluminium fins
  • Fans: 2x 140mm Phanteks PH-F140 140, UFB bearing, 9 blades
  • Fan Speed: 1200 RPM (900 RPM with Q.S.A.)
  • Max Airflow: 78.1 CFM (60.1 CFM with Q.S.A.)
  • Noise Level: 19 dBA (15.2 dBA with Q.S.A.)
  • MTBF: >150 000
  • Heatsink Dimensions (without fan): 134 x 140 x 160 mm (LxWxH)
  • Heatsink Dmensions (with dual fans): 159 x 140 x 171 mm (LxWxH)
  • Heatsink Weight (without fan): 970 g
  • Heatsink Weight (with fan): 1100/1250g (single/dual fan)
  • Warranty: 5 years

The PH-TC14PE is supplied in a reasonably large cardboard box which should provide ample protection for the cooler during transit.  It features a black and white livery and the front of the box contains a snapshot of the cooler alongside four images showing the different colours available.

Turning the box around reveals a detailed list of the specifications alongside a list of the different features.  We do feel that Phanteks could have incorporated stronger internal packaging as the cardboard isn’t likely to shield the heatsink quite as well as foam.  But the cardboard is recyclable so will appeal to eco-friendly consumers.

Inside the box we find the cooler closely packed together with all the bundled accessories.  Phanteks include a pair of their own 140 mm fans alongside all the required mounting accessories and a tube of thermal paste.  They have separated the different parts into bags which are clearly labelled for Intel and AMD systems to facilitate the installation process.  Phanteks have also sent us a PWM adapter separately which will be included with some models of the cooler.

There are a number of different versions of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE available for purchase depending on which colour takes your fancy.  We have the PH-TC14PEPH-TC14PE_BL version for review which, as the suffix to the name suggests, is coloured blue.  This means it is easier for you to colour co-ordinate the components in your system.  The cooler is available in white, orange, red and blue finishes.

Phanteks have used a sandwich design similar to that of the Noctua NH-D14 which is sure to set it in good stead when it comes to performance.  The two heatsink stacks are arranged across five 8mm U-shaped heatpipes which are moulded into the CPU block at the bottom of the ‘U’.

The sandwich design of the cooler means that there is room for a maximum of three fans in a push, push/pull, pull configuration.  Despite only including two fans with the cooler itself, Phanteks thoughtfully include the required mounting accessories for the third fan, should you wish to install the third.

Both of the included fans are 140mm Phanteks PH-F140TS units, differing from the Noctua NH-D14 which is supplied with one 140mm fan and one 120mm fan.  Phanteks supply each colour variant of the cooler with different coloured fans.  The fans run at a fixed speed of 1,200 RPM and generate a maximum airflow of 78.1 CFM.  Even though they are 140mm fans, they have 120mm mountings which mean that you can install any 120mm fan in their place should you wish.
Phanteks have started offering a PWM adapter with the PH-TC14PE which allows the system to control the fan speeds depending on the temperature of the CPU.  While this may result in higher CPU temperatures, the reduction in fan speed should make the cooler considerably quieter, especially when the system is idling.
The installation guide that Phanteks include with the PH-TC14PE is far from the best we’ve experienced.  The diagrams are very small and the quality of English used in the instructions leaves a lot to be desired.  While this may put off some less advanced users, we imagine that most people who buy a top end heatsink like the PH-TC14PE will be an enthusiast with a reasonable level of technical know-how.

It’s clear that Phanteks have taken some inspiration from Noctua when designing the mounting mechanism for the PH-TC14PE.
In this section we will be detailing the installation procedure on a Socket 1155 system but the cooler is also compatible with Socket 775, 1156, 1366 and 2011 motherboards.  First, we were required to secure the backplate to our motherboard using the four bolts and strip adapters using the four thumb-nuts provided.  We have to be careful to install the strip adapters the correct way round so we don’t run into trouble later in the installation procedure.

We were then required to install the mounting plate to the cooler itself which is secured using a single thumb-nut between the two heatsink towers.  This is quite a fiddly process as it’s difficult to reach the area with a screwdriver or your hands.
Then we are required to attach the fan clips to the fans using the rubber plugs provided.  Again this is quite fiddly and much more complicated than the system that Noctua use.  Then we are instructed to attach the four (six if you are installing three fans) adhesive rubber strips to help prevent fan vibrations.

We attach the cooler to the backplate using the two screws on either end of the mounting plate.  This was a simple process but it is worth considering that you need quite a long screwdriver for this which, unlike Noctua, Phanteks don’t include with the cooler.
Next we can attach the fans to the cooler using the clips provided.  Phanteks include a 3-pin cable splitter with the cooler which means that you can attach both fans to a single header or to the PWM adapter if you wish.

As you can see, the PH-TC14PE leaves little room for RAM with tall heatspreaders so low profile memory will be necessary for the vast majority of motherboard installations.
We decided to use an Intel Core i5-2500K combined with a Gigabyte Z68X-UD5-B3 motherboard to test the Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU cooler.  We overclocked the CPU to 4.7 GHz with a core voltage of 1.43V.

Test System
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD5-B3
  • Memory: 4 GB (2x 2GB) Kingston HyperX Genesis DDR3 1600MHz
  • Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-3
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6950
  • Graphics Card (noise tests): HIS Radeon HD 5550 Silence
  • Chassis: Fractal Design Define XL
For our temperature tests we set of the both fans to maximum and loaded the system for 15 minutes using Prime 95. We then restarted the system and left it idling at the desktop for 15 minutes before recording temperatures. Room temperature was maintained at 22 degrees Celsius for the duration of the tests.


We can see that the Phanteks PH-TC14PE has a clear lead over the Noctua NH-D14 in both the idle and load tests which is very impressive indeed.
In our noise level tests we switched off all the case fans so we are just taking into account the noise generated by the fans themselves.
We observed the noise level of our test system with the Phanteks PH-TC14PE and Noctua NH-D14 installed and in both cases, the noise level was below the 30 dBA minimum sensitivity.  This is thanks in part to the excellent sound insulation of the Fractal Design Define XL.
With the side panel removed, both coolers remained reasonably quiet but the Phanteks model was more noticeable.  With the PWM adapter installed, the cooler was effectively silent under normal usage.
We are very impressed with the Phanteks PH-TC14PE as it offers everything we would look for in a high end cooler.  Many enthusiasts will like the fact that there are a number of different colour options available to colour co-ordinate their system.  We would like to see Phanteks considering some other colour options in the future, such as green and black as we feel these would be well received by the market.
Obviously, the most important factor to consider for any enthusiast is the performance of the cooler.  In our tests, the PH-TC14PE performed extremely well, beating the Noctua NH-D14 by about 1-2 degrees C in the temperature tests.  Even though it was only a small margin, the NH-D14 is widely regarded as one of the best air coolers on the market and is great for overclocking.  It isn’t surprising though as the Phanteks heatsink is slightly larger and features even thicker heatpipes.
The PH-TC14PE was able to handle our overclocked i5-2500K at 4.7 GHz (1.43V) with ease and we expect that we could push it further without a great deal of trouble.
Beating the Noctua was a great engineering effort, but the overall package needs improving. What do we mean? Well, for a start, the mounting system is very similar to Noctua’s but not as good. Phanteks’ engineers should look at this. also, the instructions do not match the price tag. It needs to be re-written and be delivered with improved illustrations. If the Phanteks is going to deliver the king of the air coolers, then it needs to be delivered on a throne. Customers should be really happy with their purchase decision, from the moment they open the box.
Considering the performance of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE, it’s not surprising that it demands a price of £65 at OCUK.  At around £60, the Noctua is slightly cheaper, but anyone spending this kind of money on a cooler is probably not looking at a 5-10% price difference as much as they would a measurable drop in CPU temperature. The Phanteks PH-TC14PE has more attractive aesthetics and measurably better performance – ensuring the best possible overclock for your system.
Pros
  • Supreme cooling performance
  • Good build quality
  • Different colour options
Cons
  • Expensive cooler
  • Mounting system could be better
  • Needs better instructions and presentation to make you feel you got good value
බලු කුක්කා නම් කියන්නේ: A great cooler that offers an unrivalled level of performance. It’s been a long time coming, but finally we can say that the king is dead – long live the king.
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About Yomal Malinda

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