Phononic Hex 2.0 Peltier CPU Heatsink Review
As we said in the introduction, the Hex 2.0 is something a little bit different, as although it may resemble a traditional tower cooler, it's actually a Thermoelectric cooler (TEC) or, if you prefer, a Thermoelectric pump or Peltier device, so called because it uses the Peltier effect. In simple terms, the Peltier effect creates a temperature difference by transferring heat between two electrical junctions. When a current is applied between the two conductors, heat is removed at one junctions and thus cooling occurs. What this means to us is that all being well, the Hex 2.0 should have the ability cool your toasty CPU way beyond the amount its petite stature would suggest.
From the top then, the Hex 2.0 comes well packaged and is supplied with an instruction booklet and all the fixings necessary to attach it to quite a few Intel and AMD CPUs. It also comes with a 4 pin fan extension cable and a mini USB cable, the latter being required to link it to your motherboard so that the downloadable Hex 2.0 dashboard can be utilised to control the device. To power the Peltier side of things though you will need a spare 6-pin aux Graphics cable, which could be a major problem if your PSU doesn't have one going begging.
The cooler itself is well built and feels considerably heavier than you would expect it to, which we guess is down to the weight of the Peltier components within. Assembly is a bit of a pig, not because the cooler itself is hard to mount, but because getting the removable central fan shroud back on is more than a fiddle, the end result being a good few smeary fingerprints over the otherwise spotless high gloss Aluminium fin stack.
In use the cooler is actually very quiet, especially when you consider it's running a 92mm, 2650rpm fan. Although both the fan speed and the Peltier are controllable from the dash board, we did of course run the fan at 100% via a separate 12v input. Never having heard one in action before, we were a bit concerned that the Thermoelectric pump side of things might be noisy when it kicked in. Turns out it doesn't make any additional noise what-so-ever, it just adds cooling.
before we talk about performance, we just need to fill in a little detail on the three operating modes and how they work. Basically the cooler starts of in normal heatsink and fan cooler mode, but as the temperature with which it needs to cope rises the Thermoelectric pump kicks in. The point at which this effect takes place is determined by three operating modes, which in ascending order are "Standard", "High Ambient" and the wonderfully named "Insane" In standard mode, the Peltier hardly kicks in at all, in High Ambient, it kicks in a little, and in Insane mode the Peltier appears to be on pretty much all the time, especially as the overclock and voltages to the CPU increase.
So what of performance? Well for a cooler this size the Hex 2.0 did quite well, but not fantastically. There's little to separate Standard and High ambient, and for the greater part, the cooler is simply working as a regular fin stack and fan heat sink, so as you would expect, it's down towards the bottom end of the charts with the other smaller heatsinks. Crank the volts up though and the Peltier adds to the cooling effect, keeping the Hex 2.0 about one third of the way from the bottom of the charts.
There is though an Elephant in the room. And it's one hell of a mahooosive Elephant at that. The Phononic hex 2.0 cooler costs a whopping £102.95. Yes you read that correctly, £102.95. Now by anyone's measure that's a lot of money. As with other ideas that are new to market, we suspect the price will fall as production costs are absorbed, but at present it's hard for us to recommend it over a standard low profile air cooler, or for that matter even a 120mm rad based AIO. both of which will cost you less that half the price and will most likely fit into the small enclosures the Hex 2.0 is designed to appeal to. The Hex 2.0 does though walk away with a well earned Innovation award.