Thermalright Phantom Spirit 120 Review: Simply the Best

Thermalright established itself as a top cooling contender in decades past, with options like its all-copper SP94 cooler. More recently we’ve tested their Frost Commander 140 and found it to be one of the best air coolers on the market, and we use their LGA 1700 Contact Frame in our cooling reviews to keep socket bending at bay.

Today we’ll be looking at the company’s latest mid-range air cooler offering, the Thermalright Phantom Spirit 120. This dual-tower air cooler features seven heatpipes and fans tuned for low noise levels. Is this new design effective enough to make it one of the best CPU coolers you can buy? We’ll have to put it to testing to say for sure, but first here are the cooler’s specifications.


Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cooler Thermalright Phantom Spirit 120
MSRP $45.90 USD
Radiator Material Aluminum
Socket Compatibility Intel LGA 1700/115x/1200/2011/2066
Base (CPU & SSD) Nickel plated Copper
Max TDP (Our Testing) 234W on Intel i7-13700K
Heatsink Size 110mm (L) x 125mm (W) x 157mm (D)
Warranty 3 years

Packing and Included Contents

Like other Thermalright products, the Phantom Spirit arrives in a plain brown box with black print identifying the product on the outside. This definitely isn’t the flashiest presentation, but as we’ll see later in testing, it’s clear the company is spending its money where it matters.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

To secure the product during transport, the cooler’s contents are protected by molded foam, molded carboard, and plastic coverings.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Included with the package are the following:

  • Two 120mm fans
  • Dual-tower heatsink
  • TF7 thermal paste
  • PWM splitter cable
  • Mounting for Intel and AMD CPUs

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

AMD AM5 and Intel LGA 1700 Cooler Installation

1. Intel users will need to begin by pressing the backplate against the motherboard, and secure it by sliding on the standoffs. AMD users will need to remove the default cooler mounting clips around the CPU socket, and then seat the red plastic standoffs atop the motherboard.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

2. Place the mounting bars on top of the standoffs and secure them with the included screws. Then, apply thermal paste to the CPU.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. Remove the plastic peel from the base of the heatsink, and then place it on top of the mounting bars. Secure the cooler with a screwdriver.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

4. Attach the fans to the heatsink, then, use the included PWM Y-Jack to connect both fans to the motherboard.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Features of the Thermalright Phantom Spirit 120

*️⃣ Dual-tower heatsink, 42mm RAM compatibility

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The Phantom Spirit’s heatsink is comprised of a dual-tower radiator that features a solid black etched metal top. Heat is dissipated through evenly spaced fins that have recessed edges for increased RAM compatibility of up to 42mm (1.65 inches) in height. If your RAM is taller, like mine, you’ll have to slide the rear fan upwards a few mm to avoid compatibility problems.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

*️⃣  Seven copper heatpipes and nickel-plated copper CPU block

Most air coolers have only five or six 6mm heatpipes, but the Phantom Spirit takes it up a notch (literally) by including seven copper heatpipes connected to a nickel-plated copper CPU block for maximum thermal dissipation capability.  

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

*️⃣  Budget MSRP of $45.90 USD

The Phantom Spirit 120 has an affordable MSRP of $45.90 USD, but packs performance that rivals coolers that are twice as expensive. And Thermalright’s cooler is often found for sale at below its MSRP. In short, this cooler brings top-tier air cooling performance down to a previously unheard of price. 

*️⃣  Full tube of Thermalright TF7 thermal paste

Most coolers come with either a small tube of thermal paste or pre-installed paste. But despite being shockingly affordable, Thermalright includes a standard-size tube of it’s TF7 thermal paste with the Phantom Spirit 120.

(Image credit: Thermalright)

*️⃣ Two TL-C12B V2 120mm performance fans

There’s more to a cooler than just the heatsink or radiator. The bundled TL-C12B V2 fans have a significant impact on cooling, noise levels, and the unit’s aesthetic. These 9-bladed fans have been tuned for low noise levels, and feature rubber anti-vibration tips. They are simple in appearance, solid black with no ARGB lighting.  

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Model Thermalright TL-C12B V2
Dimensions 120 x 120 x 25mm
Fan Speed Up to 1500 RPM +-10%
Air Flow Up to 66.17 CFM
Air Pressure Up to 1.53 mmH2O
Bearing Type S-FDB
Lighting None
MFFT Unlisted

LGA1700 Socket Bending

Note there are many factors other than the CPU cooler that can influence your cooling performance, including the case you use and the fans installed in it. A system’s motherboard can also influence this, especially if it suffers from bending, which results in poor cooler contact with the CPU. 

In order to prevent bending from impacting our cooling results, we’ve installed Thermalright’s LGA 1700 contact frame into our testing rig. If your motherboard is affected by bending, your thermal results will be worse than those shown below. Not all motherboards are affected equally by this issue. I tested Raptor Lake CPUs in two motherboards. And while one of them showed significant thermal improvements after installing Thermalright’s LGA1700 contact frame, the other motherboard showed no difference in temperatures whatsoever! Check out our review of the contact frame for more information.

Testing Methodology

Modern CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past reaching 95C+ on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern – but with today’s processors, it is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.

All testing is performed with a 23C ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler in a variety of conditions, and acoustic measurements are taken with each result. These tests include:

1. Noise normalized testing at low noise levels

2. “Out of the box”/Default Configuration Thermal & Acoustics Testing

     a.) No power limits enforced

     b.) Because CPUs hit Tjmax in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption.

3. Thermal and acoustics testing in Power Limited Scenarios

     a.) Power limited to 175W to emulate a medium intensity workload

     b.) Power limited to 125W to emulate a low intensity workload

The thermal results included are for a 10-minute testing runs. To be sure that was sufficiently long to tax the cooler, we tested both Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE and DeepCool’s LT720 with a 30-minute Cinebench test with Intel’s i9-13900K for both 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The results didn’t change much at all with the longer test: The average clock speeds maintained dropped by 29 MHz on DeepCool’s LT720 and 31 MHz on Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE. That’s an incredibly small 0.6% difference in clock speeds maintained, a margin of error difference that tells us that the 10-minute tests are indeed long enough to properly test the coolers.

Testing Configuration – Intel LGA1700 Platform

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPU Intel Core i7-13700K
Motherboard MSI Z690 A Pro DDR4
Case Be Quiet! Silent Base 802, system fans set to speed 1 setting.
PSU Cooler Master XG Plus 850 Platinum PSU

Testing Configuration – AMD AM5 Platform

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 7700X
Motherboard ASRock B650E Taichi
GPU MSI Ventus 3x RTX 4070
Case DeepCool CK560WH
PSU Cougar Polar X2 1200W

No Power Limits Thermal Results

Without power limits enforced on Intel’s i7-13700K, the CPU will hit its peak temperature and thermally throttle with even the strongest of air coolers. For most coolers, we’ll measure the CPU package power to determine the maximum wattage cooled. You won’t see the strongest AIOs I’ve tested on this chart because they are able to keep the CPU under it’s maximum temperature.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

I almost couldn’t believe the results from Thermalright’s Phantom Spirit. With an average of 234W cooled, this sub-$50 cooler’s results are on par with Cooler Master’s MA824 Stealth, DeepCool’s AK620, and Noctua’s NH-D15S. It’s only beaten by DeepCool’s Assasin IV, Thermalright’s own Frost Commander 140, and liquid coolers. 

For a $45 cooler to be this competitive with the highest-tier air coolers (most of which cost twice as much) is impressive on its own. And you would expect there to be a “catch” in the form of loud fans – but the Phantom Spirit 120 reaches a maximum noise level of 41.9 dBA, which is one of the quietest results I’ve seen from any cooler that I’ve ever tested.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Thermal Results with noise normalized to 38.2 dBA

Finding the right balance between fan noise levels and cooling performance is important. While running fans at full speed can improve cooling capacity to some extent, the benefits are limited and many users prefer a quiet system. 

With this noise normalized test, I’ve set noise levels to 38.2 dba. This noise level is a low ( slightly audible to most people) volume level. The performance of the Phantom Spirit 120 was especially impressive here, achieving the second-best result I’ve seen when paired with Intel’s i7-13700K. With 224W cooled during the course of testing, it’s beaten only by its bigger brother, Thermalright’s Frost Commander 140.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

175W Cinebench Results

Most coolers on the market are able to keep Intel’s i7-13700K below peak temperature if the power consumption is limited. So for this test, we’ll be looking at the CPU’s actual temperature. The Phantom Spirit continues its impressive streak here, tying Cooler Master’s MA824 Stealth and DeepCool’s AK620 for the third-best air cooler results I’ve seen in this scenario.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

But as you should know, temperatures aren’t the only part of the story with a reduced wattage workload; noise is equally important. With a measurement of only 41.9 dBA recorded, the Phantom Spirit 120 doesn’t run loudly. A result like this means that you don’t need to tune your fans with this cooler if moderate noise doesn’t bother you.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

125W Cinebench Results

The lowest power limit I test with Raptor Lake CPUs is 125W. This is a high enough limit to allow the CPU to maintain its base clock speeds, even in the most intensive tests.And most coolers should be capable of keeping the CPU below Tjmax – even low end coolers.

Looking at thermal performance, the result of 44c over ambient is among the best results from air coolers. But really, thermals do not matter much in this scenario. Even Intel’s basic stock cooler can handle a load like this with ease.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Noise levels, rather than CPU temperature, are the most important factor here – and the Phantom Spirit is tied for the quietest results I have in this test. I measured 37.3 dBA. This is the same measurement my system fans generate when set to the low setting of BeQuiet’s Silent Base 802. So it’s likely that the Phantom Spirit 120 actually runs quieter than 37.3 dBA. 

Let’s move on to the Ryzen results so we can check out the noise measurements from our quieter DeepCool CK560 case.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

AMD Ryzen 7 7700X Thermal Results

It’s great to see how coolers perform with hotter CPUs like Intel’s i7-13700K, but that performance doesn’t always directly translate to how other CPUs will operate with the same coolers. Some coolers might perform better – or worse – depending on the CPU it’s paired with. Today’s review I’ve included AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X to show how coolers might respond with more commonly used CPUs.

Thermal Results with noise normalized to 36.4 dBA

The results with Intel’s i7-13700K were impressive, and the results with AMD’s Ryzen 7700X are no different. For noise-normalized results on Ryzen, I’ve set the noise levels to an almost silent 36.4 dBA. Here the Phantom Spirit delivered the second-strongest results I’ve seen from any air cooler on my Ryzen testbed, cooling an average of 124W.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Maximum Cooling Capacity with maximum fan speeds

Allowing fans to “stretch their legs” and run at full speed allows the cooler to perform at its peak potential, though at the cost of increased noise levels. Thermalright’s Phantom Spirit cooled an average of 128W during testing, putting it just a hair behind competitors like Noctua’s NH-D15S and Cooler Master’s Hyper 622 Halo, and among the best results we’ve seen from any air cooler.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Thermal performance is important here, but noise levels are also a key part of the user experience. The Phantom Spirit is among the quietest results of coolers we’ve tested with AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X. Only Be Quiet’s Dark Rock Pro 4 is quieter.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Thermals and Acoustics with a 95W Power Limit

You won’t always push your CPU to its absolute limits or maximum power draw, so it’s a good idea to test coolers across different power limits. For a user of AMD’s Ryzen 7700X, 95W will represent loads more demanding than gaming but less demanding than rendering. In these scenarios, noise levels are generally considered more important than cooling performance.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

When it comes to thermals, the Phantom Spirit 120 continues to impress with the third-strongest result of air coolers we’ve tested on Ryzen – beaten only by Thermalright’s own Frost Commander 140 and DeepCool’s Assassin IV. It doesn’t run loudly either, at 40.3 dBA, it’s quieter than most other air coolers featured in this chart.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Thermals and Acoustics with a 75W Power Limit

With power draw reduced to 75W on AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X, this thermal load shouldn’t be difficult for most coolers to handle. This is roughly the amount of power the Ryzen 7 7700X CPU will use during gaming, and it’s also the maximum power consumption of AMD’s non-X Ryzen 7 CPU.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

At this lower level of power consumption, cooling difficulty isn’t hard at all and even the most basic coolers should have no problems here. So temperature isn’t important – noise levels are much what’s worth noting. That being said, the Phantom Spirit’s thermal performance here was on par with coolers like Scythe’s Fuma 3 and DeepCool’s Assassin IV.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Noise levels are the important thing in this test, and when tied to the default fan curve of ASRock’s B650e Taichi, noise levels reached 37.3 dBA. This noise level is fairly low, and ties for the third quietest result we’ve seen from air coolers in this test. Of course, if you prefer absolute quiet, our noise-normalized results show this cooler performs excellently even when set to run silently.


Thermalright continues to push the bar in both performance and value with the Phantom Spirit 120. At only $45.90 USD (and often found for less), it delivers performance comparable to high-end air coolers that are twice as expensive, while maintaining low noise levels in all workloads.

So long as your case has room for it, the Phantom Spirit 120 is arguably the best option available. And for folks looking to save every dollar possible, Thermalright also offers this cooler in an SE version with a slightly less refined look, for about $5 less.

This post was originally published on this site