Conclusion

In this review we had a look at perhaps the only consumer CPU thermoelectric-based cooler that has been released after 2010. While Phononic has extensive knowledge and experience on various cooling and refrigeration topics, this is their first retail product aimed at household consumers. The use of a TEC to support the performance of a typical air cooler is not a new concept but Phononic has managed to offer an electronically controlled product that is both simple and safe to use right out of the box.

The most distinct advantage of the Phononic HEX 2.0 is its size. The 12.5 cm tall cooler can easily fit in narrow cases, even some Mini-ITX and desktop designs. When space is an issue and neither large air or liquid coolers are an option, the Phononic HEX 2.0 can provide very good thermal performance on a modern CPU. However, do note that the TEC of the HEX 2.0 will insert additional thermal losses into the case. We do not recommend using it with a case that has very limited cooling capabilities.

The thermal performance of the HEX 2.0 is a complicated matter. The presence of the TEC allows the HEX 2.0 to provide exceptional performance when having to deal with low thermal loads, but the performance degrades as the thermal load increases. For very high thermal loads, the HEX 2.0 is equivalent or worse than an advanced air cooler, hardly justifying its price and energy consumption. That being said, while the HEX 2.0 is good for low temperatures in low power environments, it does add another 20W to the power consumption, perhaps negating the point of a low power system. It should work wonders if installed on a modern energy-efficient CPU, even with some moderate overclocking, but it cannot compare against top-tier air coolers and liquid coolers for advanced overclocking. Bluntly put, if thermal performance is your primary concern and space is not an issue, this is not a product for you. 

In summary, the Phononic HEX 2.0 is a very interesting product but it is clearly aimed at a very specific segment of the market, which is users that have serious space limitations and or cannot use liquid cooling solutions for any given reason. If large air coolers or liquid coolers can fit, it is highly unlikely that the HEX 2.0 will have any distinct advantage, let alone justify its $150 retail price.

Testing results, low fan speed (7 Volts)
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  • saratoga4 - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    >Note that a large percentage of this energy consumption is inserted as additional thermal load for the cooler to dissipate.

    All of it should show add to the air cooler load. Energy is conserved.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    This is one of those times where you're reminded why coolers use the tech that they use. It seems to be tough to beat.

    Good review though. Always interesting to see new things.
    Reply
  • LordOfTheBoired - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    Honestly, in this case it seems like poor design decisions.
    They went with an unusually small fin stack, and thus unusually limited heat dissipation area, for a cooler design that needed to dissipate more heat than the norm.
    Reply
  • evilpaul666 - Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - link

    I was surprised to see this review when I popped in today. I'd recently remembered the TECs of the early 2000s and wondered, "Whatever happened to those?" Back in the day they were too expensive and poorly controlled so condensation was a serious risk.

    The latter seems to be addressed by this product, but having just picked up an AIO 480mm water cooling solution for slightly less money than the older ones I looked up that were still listed on Newegg/Amazon this one is still a bit more expensive although it solves the MASSIVE heatsink that won't fit into most cases problem that older TEC solutions had. Possibly to its detriment as the performance doesn't scale great. That might be fixed by different design decisions like you mentioned.
    Reply
  • Demi9OD - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    I ran a TEC with a water cooler way back in the day on my Pentium 3. Condensation was awful, I needed a catch under my CPU for the dripping water. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    I had severe condensation problems with a TEC cooler I purchased at a computer show on an AMD K6-3. It didn't ruin the motherboard, but when I pulled the cooler off to check on things after running one for a couple of days the trench around the rim of the heat spreader was filled with water and the underside of the chip was damp. It didn't offer any additional overclocking headroom either, which was what I purchased it for to begin with. It was a 400MHz chip and I never got it to reliably hit 450. After discovering the condensation, I popped my cheap air cooler back on the chip and never looked back. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    Alas, I had condensation issues with my peltier/liquid cooling on my Athlon slot-A which left some options to address over a socketed CPU, but still did something dramatically different to address it.

    I moved the peltier to the water reservoir, installing a heat sink/fan on the peltier. The water reservoir was made of copper so the chilling effect conducted well and this dropped the water temperatures to sell below ambient.

    This system worked awesome for a long time until one day my water pump failed. Yep, the water got so cold it froze. I didn't out antifreeze or anything in, opting for wetter water instead because of its better high temp properties.
    Reply
  • Marlowe - Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - link

    Samus: That's actually really smart. Although in retrospect you should've applied some antifreeze :-) In what way do you think can a modern AIO water solution incorporate a peltier element? Reply
  • Bigman397 - Friday, September 30, 2016 - link

    A new class of AIO cooler that has an external reservoir/fin stack with a peltier? Seems like an interesting idea. I always figured if I went to the lengths of making a big custom watercooler set I would use a multi-loop system with a heat exchanger, obviously ridiculous in a practical sense but fun to theorize. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Sunday, October 2, 2016 - link

    Another option is to have the peltier on an adjustable voltage slope. When the CPU is idle, it doesn't do much. But as temps increase, it too increases. That way you kind of have the best of both worlds. Reply

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