All testing is done at a room temperature of 20°C (68°F), with a 1°C margin of error. The coolers are tested with Turbo, EIST, and C1E enabled, which will allow the CPU to clock down to a low 1.6 GHz while idle, or clock up to proper speeds under stock and overclocked conditions. With the use of XMP, the Intel i7 3960X ES chip I used for testing runs at 3.6 GHz under stock load. Overclocked, the chip is set to 4.1 GHz at 1.225 volts. During all these tests, fan speeds are set to run at 100% in the BIOS, with temperatures being recorded by AIDA64.
|Processor:||Intel Core i7-3960X ES @ 3.6 GHz & 4.1 GHz OC|
|Motherboard:||ASRock Fatal1ty Champion|
|Memory:||4x 4096 MB G.Skill Ripjaws Z F3-17000CL9Q |
@ 2133 MHz 9-11-10-28
|Video Card:||AMD Radeon HD 5450 1 GB|
|Hard disk:||OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB SATA II SSD|
|Power Supply:||NZXT HALE82-650-M 650W|
|Case:||LIAN LI PC-T60B|
|Software:||Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1|
|TIM:||Arctic Ceramique 2|
The idle test will consist of the CPU sitting idle at the desktop for 15 minutes. This will allow for a stable temperature reading that will be recorded at the end of those 15 minutes.
AIDA64 and its CPU-stability test represent a typical multithreaded user load. It is run for 15 minutes before the highest reading during the test is recorded and taken as the result. This test lets enthusiasts know what temperatures they can expect to see with games and applications.
Prime95 is the multithreaded stress test I will use to find the cooler's temperatures at maximum load. This is done by using the "In-place large FFTs" setting to truly stress the cooler's ability at keeping temperatures in check. The test is run for 15 minutes, and the highest recorded temperature is used as the result.
Fan noise testing is done at 20%, 50%, and 100% settings, and the dBA level is recorded by a Pyle PSPL25 sound pressure level meter at a distance of 30 cm. Fan RPM results are taken at the same 20%, 50%, and 100% settings.
At idle, the Phanteks PH-TC14PE takes the number one spot in both tests. The overclocked test shows a bit more variation between coolers and has the Phanteks cooler tying the Silverstone Heligon HE01 and Corsair H100, which is a good start.
During the typical load test, the PH-TC14PE takes top honors at stock, tying the Corsair H100 and beating the former top air cooler, the Silverstone Heligon HE01. Overclock testing also proved the Phanteks to be a strong contender by coming in second behind the Corsair H110.
When it came to maximum load testing, the Phanteks cooler once again proved effective. At stock settings, it came in third behind the Corsair H110 and H100, by just 1°C and 2°C respectively. It managed to beat the next best air cooler, the Silverstone Heligon HE01, by 1°C. These temperature differences are very small, but the performance gap widened during overclock testing. The Phanteks PH-TC14PE managed to move up into second place with the overclock test, falling behind the Corsair H110 by just 1°C. The Silverstone Heligon HE01 in third place straggles behind the Phanteks PH-TC14PE by 2°C, which makes the Phanteks cooler the best-performing air cooler I have tested to date.
Phanteks got it right when it comes to noise levels. The PH-TC14PE is quiet. 20% fan speed, or 860 RPM, has the Phanteks cooler tie the Gelid Black Edition for second place in noise output. With its fans approaching 50% fan speed, at which point we recorded an RPM of 1035, the cooler fell back to fourth place, which placed it behind the Noctua NH-L12 by 1 dBA. The Phanteks PH-F140 PWM fans hit 1270 RPM with a recorded noise level of 45 dBA at 100% fan speed, which placed the Phanteks cooler in third place behind the Noctua NH-L12, my quietest tested cooler to date, and the Silverstone Heligon HE01 in quiet mode.
These results are simply superb. Phanteks has done an awesome job in terms of both cooling performance and noise levels. The PH-TC14PE has taken the top spot for air coolers in my tests and gives the Corsair Hydro Series H110 and H100 a run for their money. The Phanteks PH-TC14PE truly stands on its own as one of the best options available when it comes to the best possible performance in air cooling.