The Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler

Phanteks is a fairly new company that was founded in 2007 by engineers and a Dutch design team.  They first came to fame with their PH-TC14PE cooler.  Since then, they have diversified by developing a case, fans, and several other CPU coolers. 

TC12DX Cooler

Today, they have sent over the PH-TC12DX the little brother to the PH-TC14PE.  This cooler is based on the tower design, with four heatpipes, dual 120mm fans and a universal mounting system.  In addition, like their previous coolers it features the P.A.T.S. and C.P.S.C. coatings on the fins.  While it is similar to the PH-TC14PE, there are small feature differences.  First, the PH-TC12DX is a single tower system rather than the dual tower like the PH-TC14PE.  This also means, that only two 120mm fans can be attached to the PH-TC12DX, where the PH-TC14PE could support three 140mm fans.

PH-TC12DX CPU Coolers

Like their other CPU cooler lines, Phanteks does a great job at making a cooler to fit nearly any color scheme.  The TC12DX cooler is offered in four different colors, Red, Blue, White and Black; these are probably the most popular color choices in cases; Orange is not available in the TC12DX line.  They also go one step further by color matching the fan blades to the cooler.

TC12DX Overview of Components

The Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU cooler comes with everything necessary for a successful install on most motherboards.  Included are mounting brackets for the AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1 and FM2 sockets.  Intel compatibility is just as diverse with brackets for the 775, 1366, 115x series and 2011 sockets.  Phanteks doesn't stop with just a wide range of socket coverage, they also include a 5 year warranty for $49.99 shipped on Amazon.

Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler Specifications:

Type Heatsinks and Fans
Compatibilities Intel Socket: LGA 2011/115X/1366/775
AMD: FM1/FM2/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2 (stock back-plate required)
Colors White / Black / Blue / Red
Material Copper (Base and Heat-pipes), Nickel Plated
Aluminum (Fins and Top Cover)
Patented P.A.T.S (Physical Anti-Oxidant Thermal Shield)
Patented C.P.S.C (Cold Plasma Spraying Coating)
Fan Model PH-F120HP PWM Premium Fan
Fan Size 120 x 120 x 25mm
Fan Compatibilities 120 x 120 x 25mm (2pcs)
Bearing Type UFB (Updraft Floating Balance) Bearing
Blade Geometry Nine Blades with MVB(Maelström Vortex Booster) Design
Speed (RPM) 600 – 1800 RPM ± 10%
Max Airflow 23 – 68.5 CFM
Max Air Pressure 0.39 – 2.07mm H2O
Acoustical Noise 21.9 – 27.6 dB(A)
Input Power 2.16W
Current (Ampere) 0.18A
Rate Voltage 12V
MTBF >150,000 h

Heatsink Dimensions

(LxWxH)

126 x 57 x 157mm (without fans)
126 x 107 x 157mm (with dual fans)
Package Dimensions 220x163x173 (LxWxH)
Scope of Delivery 1x PH-TC12DX Heatsink
2x PH-F120HP PWM Premium Fans
8x Fan Clip Adapters
4x Rubber Bar,
4x Fan wire clips (PH-F120HP Fan’s Accessories)
SoliSku Mounting Kits for Intel and AMD (Stock back-plate required)
1x Y Fan Splitter (4pin)
1x PH-NDC Thermal Compound
2x Phanteks PH-TC12DX User’s Manual
Warranty 5 Years.

 

Unboxing the PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler

TC12DX Box Front

Starting at the front of the box, we can see that Phanteks has gone with a simple black and white color scheme.  On this side, we get the model name, a small view of the four colors the cooler is available in, and a little larger view of the bottom corner.  Not much information is provided here.

TC12DX Box Back

The back provides little additional information, it briefly goes over a few of the features; although it is presented in 10 different languages.

TC12DX Box Sides

The sides are used to present all the information that a user would be interested in.  On one side it goes over the features such as P.A.T.S. and C.P.S.C., thermal paste and some information on the fans.  The other side goes over the specifications of the cooler.

TC12DX Packaging Material

Opening the box reveals a foam box to keep the CPU cooler from getting damaged.  Accessories are packaged in their own little box, kept away from the CPU.

TC12DX Internal Packaging

The CPU cooler is placed in a form fitted foam container, with the fans next to it; the fans are individually wrapped in a plastic bag.

TC12DX Accessories

Other than the two multi-language installation sheets, the generic accessories included with the PH-TC12DX CPU cooler include a Y fan power cable, a piece of anti-vibration rubber, tube of thermal paste, four fan mounting wires, and eight fan clips.  The second bag of generic accessories include four screws, spacers and caps.  Next is the AMD accessories, two brackets, four screws and four spacers.  Intel is next with the large X support bracket and two bracts.  Finally there are four additional double sided screws for Intel's LGA 2011 motherboard.

A Closer Look at the PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler

TC12DX Cooler

The Phanteks PH-TC12DX cooler is rather large coming in at 126 x 57mm x 157mm (LxWxH), many cases will fit coolers up to 160mm in height so it should fit in many cases.  Once the two fans are added the width goes up another 50mm.  The fins are split down the middle to allow air to flow between the two sets of fins.  On each side, there are 48 fins, plus the full length cap; both the fins and the cap are aluminum.    On the base there are three thumbscrews, two on each end and one in the middle.  The middle one secures the main mounting plate to the base, while the two thumbscrews on the end secures the cooler to the brackets on the motherboard.

TC12DX Cooler Top

 

I like the design of the top, the ends of the heatpipes aren't visible so it doesn't have an "unfinished" feel.  Phanteks has put their name on the top of the cooler, which will be visible once it is installed.  Depending on the orientation you install it, their name might look a little odd.

TC12DX Cooler Bottom Label

The baseplate has a piece of plastic to protect it.  Obviously it has to be removed before installing the cooler.

TC12DX Bottom

With the protective covering removed, the baseplate is visible.  It does not have a mirror finish, however it is smooth and appears to be flawless.  The four U shaped heatpipes go through the baseplate, so they are not in direct contact with the CPU.  The base and heatpipes are made out of cooper, with a nickel plating.

TC12DX Fan

Upon a closer look at the included fans, the MVB(Maelström Vortex Booster) feature can be seen on the blades.  The fans measure 120 x 120 x 25mm (LxWxH), which comes to the 50mm addition to the width of the cooler once they are attached.  The fan cable is nicely wrapped in a rubberized fabric wrap, the wrap itself is white to match the fan housing, and covers the entire length of the cable.  At the ends of the wrap, shrink tubing has been used to make a nice neat finish. 

TC12DX Fan Label

On the other side of the fans is a label which provides the model number and a little additional information.  These fans are the PH-F120HP, which are rated for a maximum of 1800RPM with a noise level of 27.6dBA, this should make them fairly quiet and efficient. 

 

Phanteks PH-TC12DX Installation

Installation is pretty easy, with one exception, while I will get into shortly.  The first thing to do is determine which of the brackets you will be using and prepare your system for the TC12DX cooler.  I won't get into this particular step as it will be different for each chipset.  The system the TC12DX will be installed on is an Intel LGA 1155, so the Intel brackets will be used.

TC12DX Rubber Strip Installation

To prepare the cooler, the anti-vibration rubber strips need to be applied to the cooler.  These are scored so they come apart pretty easily, however the scoring is on the sticky side so you have to begin peeling off the backing in order to separate them.

TC12DX Back of Motherboard Support

Next, the correct backplate will need to be installed on the motherboard.  Use the custom backplate for Intel motherboards or the OEM backplate for AMD motherboards.  There is no adhesive on the Intel backplate, so it'll be easier to install if the motherboard is not in your case.  However, even if it is the installation is still pretty easy.  While holding the backplate in place, use your other hand to put on the support bracket and screw it down.

TC12DX Intel Supports

Now it is time to attach the CPU cooler to the support brackets.  There are only two pre-attached spring loaded screws to secure the cooler to the support brackets, a few turns on each of them at a time is necessary to make sure you have consistent pressure and they go on evenly.  Eventually, you'll screw them all the way down until they stop; I found it easier to start the screws using my fingers, and then eventually switched to a Philips screwdriver about halfway down to finish the job.

TC12DX Fan Installation

The final step is to attach the fans and provide power.  Attaching the fan clips is a pretty simple process.  The hardest thing is to make sure they clip onto the fan so they'll attach to the CPU cooler in the proper direction for the desired airflow pattern.  The little black fan clips go through the normal screw holes and will point away from the CPU cooler.  The fan mounting wires should fold down with the little handle pointing towards the outside of the fan.

TC12DX Installation Completed

The instructions are great, they are detailed with both text and pictures and provide some tips to successfully install the PH-TC12DX.  I ran in to a slight issue while following the instructions.  I was tightening everything down as I went (per the instructions), and when I went to attach the cooler to the brackets, I couldn't get one of the thumb screws to line up.  After trying several different ways, I loosened one of the brackets so the bolt caps were just barely on.  That provided enough give to allow the thumb screws on the cooler to line up with the bracket.  Once the cooler was secure, I proceeded to tighten down the other bolts.  So my recommendation is not to tighten down all the screws until the cooler is attached.  Save yourself the headaches.

TC12DX RAM Space

One of the concerns that many people have with the larger CPU coolers is whether it'll fit with the enthusiast grade memory that has larger heatsinks.  Taking a close look at the space between the fan and the first piece of memory, it looks like some of the taller memory will work fine; it will be a tight fit though.  However, be aware that with these large coolers it is possible there will be clearance issues.

Test System and Temperature Testing

As previously mentioned, the Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU cooler will be tested on an Intel based system.

  Make / Model 
 CPU Intel i5-3570K
 Memory Kingston KHX1866C9D3K4/16GX
 Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5-TH
 Video Card Gigabyte HD 7870
 Hard Drives Intel 520 180GB 
  OCZ Vertex 4
  Seagate 2TB 
 Power Supply Lepa G-Series 650W
 Chassis Bitfenix Raider
 Operating System Windows 8.1 RTM 
 Ambient Temperature 19.5C

In addition the test system components, the TC12DX will be tested against two other coolers.

CPU Coolers tested
Intel i5 OEM CPU Cooler 
Zalman CNPS9900-MAX 

Today, I will be using CPUID HWMonitor 1.21 to monitor all temperatures.  Idle temperatures were achieved by leaving the computer idle on the desktop with no applications running for 30 minutes.  Load temperatures were recorded while running Prime95 v.25.11 on the "Blend" Torture Test.  Each test was run 3 times with the average of the four cores recorded.  Arctic Silver 5 was used for the thermal paste on all three coolers.

TC12DX Thermal Chart

It should not come as a surprise to anybody that the Phanteks was able to outperform the stock Intel cooler.  What was surprising was the thermal differences between the Phanteks PH-TC12DX and the Zalman CNPS9900-MAX.  While the Phanteks was 6 degrees Celsius cooler than the Zalman cooler at idle, once things heated up, there was only a 2 degree Celsius difference between the two coolers, with the TC12DX still taking the lead.

TC12DX Overclocked Thermals

A cooler like the Phanteks PH-TC12DX should be able to cool the processor enough to allow overclocking.  The i5 3570K is unlocked so it can be overclocked.  With the Zalman CNPS9900-MAX, I was able to take it up to 4.4GHz at 1.5V.  However, with the Phanteks PH-TC12DX a little extra overclock was possible to 4.6GHz.  While the max overclock on the Zalman was lower than the Phanteks, overclocking was kept at 4.4GHz to keep things on the same level.   Once again, the Phanteks cooler outperformed the Zalman.  At idle, the difference was 8 degrees Celsius, while at load the difference was smaller, at 3 degrees Celsius.

During the load testing, I made note of the volume difference in the various fans.  Obviously, the loudest was the Intel OEM cooler; the Zalman CNPS9900-MAX was a little louder than the other components in the test system.  However, the PH-TC12DX cooler, both fans were indistinguishable from the other components in my system at any level.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The Phanteks PH-TC12DX is the first cooler by Phanteks that I have had the privilege of taking a look at.  After the experience, I would have no problems recommending it as a great alternative to the OEM coolers many users use.  The TC12DX is offered in four colors, which should allow it to match most color schemes.  Of course, looks are really a small part of whether or not  it should be recommended.  For me, the most important aspects are how well it can cool the CPU and what that cooling costs.

TC12DX Installation Completed

While the Intel OEM cooler does the job at keeping the CPU below the maximum threshold, keeping the CPU cooler will allow it to run better and extend its life.  For $49.99 shipped, the TC12DX dropped the temperature from the OEM cooler by 28 degrees Celsius while idle and the load temperature was dropped by 19 degrees Celsius.   Even when the CPU was overclocked to 4.4GHz the load temperatures were lower than the Intel retail boxed CPU cooler by 7 degrees Celsius!  There is a price for that cooling capabilities, the TC12DX is a large cooler, measuring 126 x 107 x 157mm (LxWxH) with both fans in place.  When coolers get this large, occasionally there are interference issues, especially with RAM slots.  Be sure to keep this in mind when choosing your components.

It includes everything necessary for most modern AMD and Intel motherboards, high quality fans, and a simplified installation.  It comes with a 5 year warranty, which is great.  However, as often as the sockets change I hope Phanteks will offer compatibility upgrades should the need arise.

TC12DX Overview of Components

The only issue that I encountered when installing the TC12DX was attaching the cooler to the support brackets.  The instructions say to tighten the screws until they stop; which is good advice to make sure they are on securely.  However, when I was trying to attach the cooler to the brackets, it wouldn't line up properly.  I loosened two of the support bracket screws, and was then able to secure the cooler to the brackets.  Afterwards, I could tighten the screws on the support bracket to complete the installation.

LR Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line:  Phanteks has designed a great cooler to be the little brother version of the TC14PE.  It has left an impression on me, and is certainly one that I will add to my recommended list of coolers.