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Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results



2.6GHz


As expected this coolers stock numbers with a single fan downright stink. This really is not surprising as Noctua may have done everything humanly possible to decrease the static pressure loads those two tower fin arrays require, but it still is a lot to ask from ANY 120x25mm fan. For now we are going to assume that this cooler was designed for massive heat loads and only “shows its stuff” when other coolers have surpassed their thermal envelopes.


3.42GHz


While not great, these numbers are certainly better than the stock cooling numbers the D14 posted. Also of note is the fact that it appears that we were right when we said that this cooler’s stock fans are just too slow for this beast. To us when a single fan equipped HDT cooler can beat the pants of a dual fan wielding giant like the Noctua D14….something isn’t quite right.


3.8GHz



When you look at the chart the single fan results obviously are not great and this was expected but what is unexpected (and certainly interesting) was the stock fan results versus the Prolimatech’s high speed fan results. We mused earlier that A) this cooler was designed to really only start to come into its own when the heat was turned up and B) the stock fans are just too darned slow for a cooler of this size. As you can see this cooler in its stock configuration beats (albeit by the slimmest of margins) the Prolimatech, when the Megahalems is matched to a high speed, high static pressure fan. If the dual fan vs dual fan results are the same or similar we may just be looking at a new king of air coolers!
 
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AkG

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Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results

Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results



2.6GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/266_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

These results are very surprising as we didn’t have very high hopes for the 1200rpm P14-FLX; heck those results are VERY close to what the dual stock cooling results are! Conversely, one NF-P12 fan just can’t cut the mustard at this heat load on this cooler. To be fair we are starting to feel that this cooler is the problem and not the fan and if the low speed results are similar it will be a done deal. To us this is not necessarily a bad thing as it would be a crying shame to run this monster of a cooler at stock speeds and not over clock the heck out of your CPU.


3.42GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/342_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

Once again the single fan results stink, and this does explain why Noctua does include two fans with this cooler. To our way of thinking very few if any buyers of the D14 are ever going to run this CPU cooling solution in single fan mode so it doesn’t really matter.


3.8GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/38_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

It really is becoming apparent that this cooler CAN handle being run in single fan mode as long as the heat is turned way, way up. Furthermore, it appears that this cooler doesn’t need high static pressure fans as the fin structure has been designed to be as free flowing as possible (as the downright low static pressure D14 does an admirable job at cooling it). This certainly is interesting and really does show that Noctua and Prolimatech are onto something as numbers don’t lie and these coolers kick some major tail when the heat loads are high. Hopefully, even more manufacturers will follow suit and get away from high density, high static pressure fin designs and go with this obviously better alternative!
 
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AkG

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Low Speed Fan Performance Results

Low Speed Fan Performance Results



2.6GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/266_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

At this speed the P14-FLX has anemic static pressure and while it does a very good job at cooling this heatsink, we doubt if the same could be said if it was paired to a high static pressure fin array (like the TRUE).


3.42GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/342_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

With such a minor difference in performance between dual and single fan results the old adage that says it is never a good idea to mix fans when doing a push-pull configuration holds true with this cooler. We have a sneaking suspicion that the dual and triple results are going to be better when the same model fan is used.


3.8GHz

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/38_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

At this point, there really isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. The D14 is not a great single fan solution and this why Noctua includes two fans. By the same token, it did pass this ultimate acid test and is the first dual tower cooler which could even had a chance at doing so. The numbers it posts may not be great but the very fact it did not fail this test IS a ringing endorsement. Heck, to our way of thinking this test is more a Pass/Fail one and any cooler which can walk away from it without failing out IS a winner.
 
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AkG

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Dual Fan & Triple Fan Performance

Dual Fan Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/38_dual.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

Earlier we stated that mixing fans is never a good idea and like the old saying goes: “the proof is in the pudding". Both dual NF-P12-1300’s and NF-P14-FLX’s results are much improved over the stock results. If you do decide this is the cooler for you and your case can accept 140mm fans AND you have a 140mm NF-P14 kicking around, we would strongly recommend you yank the P12 from this cooler and replace it with your P14. Alternatively, if you have a spare P12 laying around we would swap out the P14 for it as this too would result in better CPU temperatures. However, please remember that both of these options do add to the already extreme price of the D14.


Triple Fan Results



Its not often we get to add a new test to our testbed, but if we ever do come across another cooler capable of “Three Fan Mojo” it will be included in future reviews.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/3_fan_mojo.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

These test results really do show a couple things to us. The biggest of these is that Noctua seems to have a winner on their hands with the P14-FLX fan, but it may not be the best solution for ALL coolers. It is however, a great solution for THIS cooler as is evidenced by the excellent performance numbers. It may only be a slight difference but when you a looking to break records, a couple degrees can make the difference between a successful overclock and one that is a failure. Though to be honest, we doubt many people will bother mounting three P14-FLX fans as they would add another 40 or 50 dollars to the cost of this cooler and give a ton of installation headaches. The same can be said of the triple NF-P12-1300 fan results as it may reduce temperatures somewhat but the added expense may not be worth it (also $40 added to the price tag).

What may tempt a lot of people is the dual NF-P12 w/ single P14 setup. This setup will add $20 to the cost of the cooler, but it does seem to be the best combination of increased performance versus price. Though to be totally blunt we have a tendency to agree with Noctua and say that three fans are not really worth it. To us (and if we had our heart set on this amazing cooler) we would take that $40 or $50 and invest in a couple of higher speed fans. We truly hope that one day Noctua will either add a “Deluxe Edition” which comes with triple P14-FLX fans or adds a higher speed fan to their growing stable.
 
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AkG

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Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us coloring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/noise.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

From a noise point of view it appears that you are better off running THREE NF-P12-1300 fans rather than the stock two fans. If we were to hazard a guess why this is, it is because the odd match up of 120mm & 140mm does introduce some added resonance to the noise profile. Of course, a much simpler answer is that the P14-FLX is simply louder than the P12s. This would help explain why Noctua made it a full 100RPM slower than the P12. Our second guess is the more likely answer, as three P14-FLX’s was a lot louder than three P12s. All in all though, the noise envelope remains quite good.
 
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AkG

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Value

Value



The term “Value” is such an amorphous term that it truly has different meanings for different people. For some a CPU cooler is only as good as it over-clocking potential, for others it is how quiet it does its job; for others still it’s how effective it is for its cost. We here at HWC try to provide as many answers as possible for the term “Value”. Hopefully by this point in the review people looking at OC potential or loudness levels will have a fairly good idea of what its Value is. For the “best bang for the buck” crowd we have included a chart below showing how much each 1°C less costs when compared to Intel’s FREE stock cooler. No consideration has been made for noise levels, “looks” or any other extraneous factors; this is just raw performance vs. monetary cost. For any cooler which performs worse than the Intel stock cooler a rating of “FAIL” will be given. For any cooler which has a “Value” of more than $10 per 1°C a rating of “FAIL” will be used in the graph but the chart will list its actual “Value”.

All prices are based on either their MSRP (if no e-tailer prices were available at review time) or the online price they sold for at the time of their review. If a CPU cooler does not include a fan the price of a Scythe S-Flex 1200RPM has been included ($12).

To make it as easy as possible for you to modify this ratio we have also included the various coolers temperature difference so if you do come across one of them on sale you can easily modify its “Value” rating. We here at HWC are in no way saying this is the definitive answer to “Value”, rather it should be considered another tool to help you make your final decision. After all something is only as “valuable” as what you consider it to be.


Please Note: This chart has be calculated based upon the differences between Intel stock cooler’s average load at its highest OC on a 920 @ 3.42GHz versus various after market coolers average load temperatures (in their stock configuration with MX-2 TIM) also on a 920 @ 3.42GHz.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/value.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/D14/value_chart.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

Given the fact that this cooler is a huge chunk of metal, comes with two fans standard and can accept a third fan, the fact that it comes in at less than four dollars is quite surprising. When you get into the extreme air cooling end of the spectrum and want the best….the best is going to cost you. If you are looking for a great bang for your buck cooler you will have to look elsewhere as this is a lot like a Bentley car: its powerful, its expensive and its not for everyone, but if you can afford it you probably wont regret it.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In the past we have been extremely impressed by Noctua products and the NH-D14 is no exception. To be totally honest we went into this review with extremely high expectations of Noctua’s latest and greatest, and these expectations were not only matched but easily exceeded. No matter what the heat load -be it relatively low heat loads or high- this cooler’s performance was simply stunning. We just have to remember that to pull this off, this heatsink’s footprint had to be massive in every way.

While the D14’s single fan results were not stellar, the very fact that they were as good as they were does show how much Noctua got right with the D14 design. In the past, we have looked at a few products which used a dual tower approach and with the exception of the Prolimatech coolers, their single fan prowess left a lot to be desired. Noctua obviously took the time to look at other dual tower designs and find the true crux of their failures: dense fin structures resulting in the need for high static air pressures to cool them off and incorrect heatpipe orientation which reduced efficiency. It seems only Noctua has learned the recipe for success and it does pay off in spades. Even with low speed fans the shear mass of the D14 with its relatively low static pressure requirements yet highly efficient placement of the heat pipes makes for a truly potent combination. This is why the relatively slow P12 and P14 Noctua fans can do such a good job of cooling off even an overclocked i7. Unfortunately, this leads us to our one hope: that Noctua throws caution into the wind and releases some higher-RPM fans which can take full advantage of everything the NH-D14 has to offer.

Unfortunately, the sheer size of the D14 is a double edged sword. On the one hand it provides the thermal mass needed for insane overclocks and can suck up heat quicker than a politician can break his campaign promises. The other side of this coin is the fact that it is not only as heavy as a proverbial log…it’s as big as one too. This surprisingly is not much of a handicap and in all configurations except the triple P14 fan layout; motherboard and RAM incompatibilities are going to be minimal. With that being said we highly doubt anyone other than the extreme air cooling enthusiast is going to bother with adding in a third fan. The D14’s stock numbers are just too damn good to be bothered with the added hassle factor.


Making up for any perceived weakness in the accessory or fan department was the ease of installation. Noctua not only went with their tried and true mounting setup but actually improved upon it. Sure, it is now more capable and can mount on 1156 systems, but this is not what we mean when we say it has been improved. By pre-installing the cooler retention brackets to the base of this unit Noctua has taken their already easy installation and made it even easier. It doesn’t sound like much, but we you combine ease of installation with one of the best mounting setups going, the result is downright awe inspiring.

While any cooler which is as big as this unit is can’t be perfect for every market niche, we think that Noctua has a winner on their hands with the D14 and are on the right track for whatever they have planned in the future. Its combination of low speed prowess (which will make even the most fanatical Silent PC enthusiast smile) and triple fan mounting abilities for some extreme cooling makes this cooler one of the most versatile out there. Needless to say we are proud to present our Damn Good Award to Noctua and their NH-D14 CPU.


Pros:
- GREAT performance results
- Great looks
- Dual fans standard
- Quiet fans
- Three fan mojo capable
- Very adaptable to numerous situations and noise levels
- Triple fan (120mm only) setup should be possible on most motherboards

Cons:
- Price
- Really wish it came with higher speed fans
- Triple P14-FLX is a going to cause mounting issues


 
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