Phanteks PH-TC14PE Reviewairman -
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The first thing that stands out to me about these coolers is the fact that the top fin is completely flush with no heatpipes protruding through the top. This design is unique because I have not seen a tower cooler manufactured in this way; all of the fins are usually "stabbed" by the heatpipes with the ends of the heatpipes extending past the top. Although that's still true with these coolers, the top fin bulges out by a couple of millimeters with the Phanteks logo stamped into it so that it covers the ends of the heatpipes, which is neat. Other than this, the heatsink looks very similar to other two-sided tower coolers such as the Noctua NH-D14 and Thermalright's Silver Arrow. With this being said, it shows that anyone can take some bent-up copper rods and some aluminum sheets and make a heatsink. However, it's the design and engineering the manufacturer puts into a product that makes a particular one special and more appealing.
The edges of the fins of this cooler are completely open, as opposed to some recent coolers where some sides are folded down. This folded design tries to "contain" the air flow moving through the cooler, but isn't truly necessary for a multi-fan design and may actually impede fan performance. Though the coolers are featured in different colors, the heatpipes and bases are left with an uncolored, nickel-plated finish. The cooler itself has high ground clearance, making it suitable for computers with tall memory modules and should ease the minds of those who need a heatsink meeting that criteria. The five, 8mm heatpipes gently swoop out from the base and end up evenly-spaced through the rest of the fins, perpendicular to the airflow to allow maximum convection around them.
A better view of the lack of heatpipe tips can be seen by looking at the top of the cooler, where the Phanteks logo resides on each half. Looking straight down at the cooler shows a threaded hole in the top of the base for the mounting hardware, and will be used for both Intel and AMD sockets. AMD users be wary; the fact that the stock AMD backplate is used to mount this cooler means that it can only be oriented in one direction (dependent upon the orientation of the backplate itself). The base of the cooler is covered by a protective film which clearly declares the necessity of its removal prior to installation.
Looking up towards the bottom of the fins, it's clear that the inner layers of fins are actually split into halves around the heatpipes. Located on both ends of the fins, a folded flap is used to lock each set of fins together. Usually I come across one-piece fins, so a split down the middle is somewhat different from what I'm used to seeing. The same method used to hold these halves together around the heatpipes is also used throughout the rest of the heatsink's construction. Even though the fins themselves are soldered in place, as clearly seen below, having these locked together helps keep the individual fins from bending out of shape. Looking at the heatpipe/base interface, I observed that the heatpipes are nicely sandwiched inside and soldered into place. Actually being able to see the solder on the metal-to-metal contact joints is a first for me, and having it visible assures me that they are indeed soldered! Something I noticed is the matte/light finish on the visible section on the bottom fin. I believe this is evidence of the P.A.T.S. - the Physical Antioxidant Thermal shield.
The base itself is of decent quality, but is not polished and machining marks are evident. A check for flatness revealed a little bit of convexity or bow in the direction opposite the heatpipes. Sure, a perfect base is rarely found, but for nearly $100 I would have hoped it was a little bit closer to perfect than it is. Some of the other bases were a little bit better, but I picked the most exaggerated out of the four for this picture to show the worst case. However, after further contemplation, I realized this may have been the intent of Phanteks since the results are similar on all four bases. Also, other reviews on the internet that inspected the base noted the same convexity. With that being said, there may be some research out there showing processor IHS's are slightly concave, or they will deflect slightly to form better to the base, or something of the like.
The fans themselves, including each of the four colors I have here, are of excellent build quality and could last for quite a long time. The frames of each fan are all the same color which is a light gray that appears almost white. The colors of the blades match the color of the heatsink, though the blades on the plain, silver model are the same color as its grayish-white frame. Towards the edge on each of the nine blades, there are three triangle-shaped teeth on the surface. Described by Phanteks as Maelstrom Vortex Booster blades, this shape and overall geometry of the blades should make the air current that flows through the cooler more advantageous for convection to take place. Attaching the fans to the cooler requires the use of the included rubber "nails" that will remain in each corner to which the metal clip will attach. Each fan requires two clips that snag onto the notches in the fins to keep it in place.
Each fan is rated to operate at 900~1200RPM on 12V and pull 0.15A (1.8W) on a 3-pin, non-PWM plug. At 15~19dBA, they produce 0.69~1.21mm H2O with a MTBF of > 150,000 hours.
Installation of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE is a very familiar process (at least for Intel). First, the backplate is positioned with each of the four posts set to the correct hole depending upon the socket. Each mounting strip is attached across two posts. On each mounting strip is a threaded stub onto which the heatsink is bolted. This 2-point approach should allow even-pressured contact between the heatsink base and the processor surface. On a side note, the pressure created by the mounting hardware acts in a direction that is favorable to correcting the slight bow of the base. Phantek may have designed the mounting hardware this way on purpose, but I cannot confirm that this is why the base is bowed. This installation process can easily be done inside or outside the case. Once the heatsink is in place, the fans are attached and plugged into the motherboard.
With everything put together, I can safely say that I am pleased with the PH-TC14PE aside from its slightly "off" base, but I'm not going to look at it negatively just yet. Hopefully the mounting hardware and provided thermal paste can work effectively enough for this to not cause an issue!