Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler

The colorful Phanteks PH-TC12DX shares the same DNA as the massive dual tower PH-TC14PE, in a more modestly sized single tower body and 12cm fans.

Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler

January 27, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Phanteks
Street Price
US$60

CPU coolers are now dominated by monstrous dual tower models weighing in at
well over a kilogram and sporting 14 cm fans like the Phanteks
PH-TC14PE
reviewed last year. The smaller PH-TC12DX takes us back a
couple years to a time when single towers with 12cm fans were as big as they
got. While 12cm fan tower types of coolers can still be pricey, they are no
longer top performance, at least when heavy overclocking is involved. But in
many situations, a more modest sized heatsink is more suitable.


The PH-TC12DX (blue).

Given Phanteks’ inclination to borrow heavily from Noctua, one might assume
offhand that this is a copy of the NH-U12P,
but that’s not the case. The TC12DX is noticeably skinnier, measuring 57 mm
wide compared to the 71 mm thick Notcua U12P tower. Its design is essentially
the same as that of the larger Phanteks TC14PE, shurnk slightly to a more modest
form factor. Like other Phanteks coolers, the TC12DX is available in several
different colors. The heatsink body and fan blades come in matching sets of
blue, red, black, and white. The shade of blue on our sample is striking and
a novel change from the usual chrome of its competitors. It helps differentiate
Phanteks in a market saturated with products that look mostly the same.


Box and contents.

Phanteks also copies Noctua’s packaging protocols, shipping all their larger heatsinks with a common universal installation kit with the hardware segregated into separate plastic bags. Aside from the documentation and necessary mounting gear, there are fan isolation strips, a tube of thermal compound, and a sleeved Y cable for connecting both fans to a single fan header.

Phanteks PH-TC12DX: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
ColorWhite / Black / Blue / Red
MaterialCopper (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 ModelPH-F120HP PWM Premium Fan
Fan Size120 x 120 x 25mm
Fan Compatibility120 x 120 x 25mm (2pcs)
Bearing TypeUFB (Updraft Floating Balance) Bearing
Blade GeometryNine Blades with MVB(Maelström Vortex Booster) Design
Speed (RPM)600 – 1800 RPM ± 10%
Max Airflow23 – 68.5 CFM
Max Air Pressure 0.39 – 2.07mm H2O
Acoustical Noise21.9 – 27.6 dB(A)
Input Power2.16W
Current (Ampere)0.18A
Rate Voltage12V
MTBF>150,000 h
Heatsink Dimensions (LxWxH)126 x 57 x 157mm (without fans)
126 x 107 x 157mm (with dual fans)
Package Dimensions220x163x173 (LxWxH)
Scope of Delivery1x 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
Warranty5 Years.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Phanteks PH-TC12DX sports a copper base soldered to 4 x 6
mm thick "U" shaped copper heatpipes with 48 aluminum fins, all nickel-plated.
We measured it to be 158 mm tall and approximately 520 grams while the fans
add an additional 140 gram each to the total weight. By modern standards its
size is on the conservative side.


The heatpipes on each side have their own set of fins while a gap is left
in the center, reminiscent of Prolimatech coolers like the Megahalems
and Armageddon.
The heatpipes on modern towers are typically fanned out to give them more
breathing room but the TC12DX has the pipes aligned in straight rows.


The fins are an average of 0.39 mm thick and spaced an ample 2.3 mm apart,
suitable for good low airflow cooling.


The TC12DX’s nickel-plating shines nicely in the right lighting conditions.
The base is similarly plated. The mounting clip is pre-installed, secured
above the base with a single thumbscrew.


The base surface is very slightly convex, jutting out in a small mound
at the center to maximize thermal dissipation. Most of a CPU’s heat is
in the middle of the heatspreader.


Like the TC14PE, the TC12DX’s fans have ridges on the blades, along the
the edges on the exhaust side, and three placed equal-distant at the center
of the blades on the intake side.

BASE & INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.


Mounting hardware and fan accessories.


The PH-TC12DX employs a mounting system similar to that used on Thermalright,
Noctua, and Prolimatech coolers. Bolts go through the backplate and plastic
spacers, and are secured to mounting clips with nuts.


The crossbar above the base is attached to the clips with spring-loaded
bolts. This scheme exerts considerable pressure on the base and is easy
to remove for maintenance. Isolation strips are applied to the heatsink
surface to create separation for the fan and damp vibration.


Fully installed with fans mounted. Notice how the fan clips are almost flush against the sides of the fans. This creates compatibility issues with 14 cm fans even if they have the appropriate 12 cm mounting holes.


The heatsink comfortably clears the VRM heatsinks around the CPU socket
of our test board, with a distance of 46 mm between the motherboard and
the bottom fin.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
520 g (+140 g for each stock fan)
Height158 mm
Fin count48 (not including the name plate at top)
Fin thickness
0.39 mm
Fin spacing
2.30 mm
Vertical Clearance*
46 mm
* measured from motherboard PCB to bottom
fin of heatsink
Large Heatsink Comparison:
Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
SilverStone Heligon HE02
0.52 mm
3.30 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
0.34 mm
3.12 mm
Scythe Ninja 3
0.39 mm
2.64 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Noctua NH-D14
0.43 mm
2.33 mm
Thermalright Archon SB-E
0.49 mm
2.33 mm
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
0.40 mm
2.30 mm
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
0.39 mm
2.30 mm
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
0.31 mm
2.25 mm
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
0.40 mm
2.21 mm
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
0.38 mm
2.22 mm
Prolimatech Armageddon
0.51 mm
2.08 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
0.40 mm
2.00 mm
Scythe Kabuto & Zipang 2
0.34 mm
1.94 mm
NZXT Havik 140
0.41 mm
1.91 mm
Scythe Mugen-2
0.31 mm
1.89 mm
Swiftech Polaris 120
0.43 mm
1.85 mm
Thermalright Venomous X
0.53 mm
1.84 mm
Noctua NH-C14
0.38 mm
1.79 mm
Enermax ETS-T40
0.40 mm
1.79 mm
Scythe Yasya
0.32 mm
1.78 mm
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
0.30 mm
1.70 mm
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
0.38 mm
1.66 mm
Reeven Kelveros
0.47 mm
1.61 mm
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
0.16 mm
1.59 mm
Thermalright Silver Arrow
0.32 mm
1.57 mm
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
0.43 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
0.56 mm
1.52 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
0.42 mm
1.50 mm

Testing on larger heatsinks are done on our
LGA1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our LGA1155 heatsink testing platform. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in LGA1366 Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme
    Nehalem core, LGA1366, 3.2GHz, 45nm, 130W TDP.
  • Asus
    P6X58D Premium
    ATX motherboard. X58 chipset.
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent
    graphics card.
  • Intel
    X25-M
    80GB 2.5" solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 3GB QiMonda
    DDR3 memory. 3 x 1GB DDR3-1066 in triple channel.
  • Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM
    650W ATX power supply. This PSU is semi-passively cooled. At the power levels
    of our test platform, its fan does not spin.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Noctua 140 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 140x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 120 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

The systems are silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
1250 RPM
28~29 dBA
9V
990 RPM
21 dBA
7V
770 RPM
15~16 dBA
6V
660 RPM
13 dBA
Reference Nexus 120mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
1080 RPM
16 dBA
9V
890 RPM
13 dBA
7V
720 RPM
12 dBA

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the LGA1366 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores (with Hyper-threading) are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,

    used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.

  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab’s variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using Prime95 to stress the processor, and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Stock Fan Measurements

Specifications: Phanteks PH-TC12DX Stock Fan
Manufacturer
Power Rating
2.16 W
Model Number
PH-F120HP
Airflow Rating
23 ~ 68.5 CFM
Bearing Type
UFB (Updraft Floating Balance)
Speed Rating
600 ~1800 RPM ± 10%
Corners
Open
Noise Rating
21.9 ~27.6 dB(A)
Frame Size
120 x 120 x 25 mm
Header Type
4-pin
Blade Diameter
113 mm
Starting Voltage
4.1 V
Hub Size
41 mm
Weight
140 g
Data in green cells provided by the manufacturer
or observed; data in the blue cells were measured.

The PH-F120HP is designed similarly to the 14 cm PH-F140 that ships with the TC14PE. The mounting holes are equipped with thin rubber washers, the struts are curved, and the blades have straight edges making them appear petal shaped. The hub is unusually large for a 12 cm model, measuring 41 mm across which is the same as the 14 cm version, creating a big dead-spot at the center.

At lower voltages the stock fan had a pleasantly smooth overall sound, similar to that of the larger PH-F140. Starting at about 7V, its acoustics got rougher, developing a low pitched hum at about 170 Hz. This persisted at higher speeds and as the turbulence increased, so did the whininess. The faster it spun, the worse it sounded.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
One Fan
Two Fans
SPL@1m
Avg. Speed
SPL@1m
12V
35~36 dBA
1820 RPM
40 dBA
9V
30 dBA
1410 RPM
32~33 dBA
7V
23 dBA
1100 RPM
25~26 dBA
6V
18 dBA
940 RPM
21 dBA
5V
14 dBA
750 RPM
16 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The measured SPL was high at full speed, 35~36 dBA@1m for just one fan. A speed
of about 1,000 RPM or lower was required to make it quiet. The noise level of
this fan was a bit higher than most running at similar speeds.

Test Results

Test Results: Phanteks PH-TC12DX
Fan Voltage
One Fan
Two Fans
SPL@1m
Thermal Rise
SPL@1m
Stock 120mm Fan
12V
35~36 dBA
39°C
38°C
40 dBA
9V
30 dBA
40°C
38°C
32~33 dBA
7V
23 dBA
42°C
40°C
25~26 dBA
6V
18 dBA
44°C
41°C
21 dBA
5V
14 dBA
47°C
44°C
16 dBA
Reference Nexus 120mm Fan
12V
17~18 dBA
40°C
39°C
22 dBA
9V
13~14 dBA
42°C
40°C
16~17 dBA
7V
11~12 dBA
45°C
43°C
13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

Given its size and construction, it was no surprise that the TC12DX cooled
our test CPU with ease. However, when the fans were set to quiet levels, the
temperatures were higher than most premium heatsinks. The TC12DX performed considerably
better with out reference Nexus fan, showing 4~5°C temperature improvements
at similar noise levels.

Equipping a second fan was really only beneficial at low fan speeds. There was almost no difference at full speed using either the stock or reference fans.

Heatsink Comparison Table

CPU Coolers (with ref. 120mm fan):
°C Rise Comparison
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m*
12V
9V
7V
15~18 dBA
12~14 dBA
11~12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Thermalright Venomous X
38
41
43
Prolimatech Megahalems
38
41
44
Noctua NH-U12P
39
42
44
Scythe Mugen-2
39
42
45
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
40
42
45
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
40
42
45
Prolimatech Armageddon
40
42
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
43
46
Noctua NH-C14
39
42
48
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Thermalright Archon SB-E
42
43
49
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
(stock fan)
44
47
N/A
Enermax ETS-T40
44
46
50
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Swiftech Polaris 120
46
49
54
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
47
50
52
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
48
50
52
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
48
50
53
Reeven Kelveros
47
51
55
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
45
52
57
Antec Kühler H20 620
(pump at 7V, almost inaudible)
52
52
53
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

Paired with our reference fan, the TC12DX is one of the better 120 mm fan heatsinks,
coming within spitting distance of the Ultra-120
eXtreme
and trailing the Noctua
NH-U12P
and Scythe
Mugen-2
by a very thin margin. With the less effective stock fan, the
heatsink is merely average.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re in the market for a 120 mm fan CPU cooler, the Phanteks PH-TC12DX
is one of the better models available. Essentially a smaller, single tower version
of the TC14PE,
it performs well and has an excellent mounting system. If your chassis has a
side window, the colorful heatsink body and fan blades can make for a nice flourish
compared to the ubiquitous uniform silver heatsink. The second fan is unnecessary,
increasing the noise while generating only marginal improvements though the
extra fan can obviously be used elsewhere.

The stock fan doesn’t live up to the excellent acoustics and performance of
the 14 cm fan used in the TC14PE. Not only does it sound noticeably worse than
its big brother, its efficiency leaves a lot to be desired. While our reference
Nexus fan is well-known as an excellent performer, the average stock 12 cm fan
is usually only beaten by 2~3°C at equivalent noise levels. The PH-F120HP’s
margin of defeat was 4~5°C which is closer to the bottom end of the spectrum.

Given its US$60 price-tag, the TC12DX is positioned as a premium 12
cm fan heatsink but the poor fan performance makes it hard to justify the cost.
The Noctua
NH-U12P
SE4 can be had for a similar price and its twin fans
are far superior. In addition, budget coolers like the Scythe
Mugen-2
and Cooler
Master Hyper 212 Plus
also compare favorably but can be found for much
lower cost. All of these considerations make it hard to recommend.

Our thanks to Phanteks
for the PH-TC12DX CPU cooler sample.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Phanteks PH-TC90LS Mini Cooler
Zalman CNPS9900DF Dual Fan Flower Heatsink
SilverStone Heligon HE02: Monster Fanless CPU Cooler
Prolimatech Panther CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC14PE Dual Fan CPU Heatsink
GELID GX-7 & Tranquillo Rev.2 CPU Coolers

* * *

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