The Massive Noctua NH-D14
For those who don’t know who Noctua is, they are an Austrian base company that makes high quality, nearly silent CPU coolers. About the only way to get quieter is to run passive cooling. Now we first met Noctua and their then flagship cooler the NH-U12P two years ago. The NH-U12P beat everything we had then, and for some time after. So when Noctua said they had not only improved the performance, they also kept the cooler nearly silent, I was very eager to get my hands on one. Noctua was nice enough to send us their new flagship cooler for us to take a look at. I have spent the last several days testing the cooler and… well, before I get too far and put the cart before the horse, let’s take a look at the specs for the new NH-D14.
The NH-D14 has a total of six heatpipes and dual radiators equipped with dual fans! With specifications like this it is no wonder that the Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler is regarded as one of the premier CPU coolers on the market today, if not the best. This CPU cooler should easily be able to give entry level water cooling kits like the Corsair H50 a run for their money. Today we will be putting the NH-D14 to the test as we will be comparing it to the Corsair H50 water cooler, Titan Fenrir, Zalman 10x Extreme, Cooler Master V8 & V10 and nearly a dozen other top end CPU coolers that you might be considering for your next purchase.
When I picked up the box for the NH-D14 the first thing that ran through my head was, “it’s massive!” Luckily, it’s just big, and not massive.
Noctua has an interesting packing for the cooler. There is an outer hollow cardboard sleeve around an inner box that holds the cooler. Don’t get me wrong, the NH-D14 is big, just not as massive as the box makes you think.
With the NH-D14 out of the packing we can get a good look at it. This is different from Noctua’s previous dual fan configuration. Instead of twin 120mm fans front and back the NH-D14 has a front mounted 120mm and a center mounted 140mm fan. The cooler is also pretty much assembled; all you have to do is install the SecuFirm mounting system to your motherboard and put the cooler on.
Now, like I said before, the NH-D14 is not massive, but it is big. Here I have the NH-D14 next to a standard 12oz Dr. Pepper can for a little scale. Is bigger better? Guess we will find out together.
Pulling the fans off we can get a better look at the cooler itself. This time around Noctua made the sound reducing silicon strips way beefier than in coolers past. Past strips were 1/8" thick, and used a sticky backing to hold it to the cooler. The new ones are almost 1/2" thick and 1/4" wide, and pressed into the fins. The fins of the NH-D14 are a little thinner than those on the NH-U12P, but still feel very solid. I never felt like I was going to bend a fin.
Looking closer at the top of the cooling fins the profile looks like a saw blade, and if there was a doubt as to who made the cooler, Noctua has their name and owl logo stamped into the fins.
The NH-D14 has a twin tower arrangement with 6 heatpipes, giving 12 vertical pipes for dissipating heat. With the large amount of surface area of the fins, along with the dual fans and 6 heatpipes, the NH-D14 should do very well.
The base of the NH-D14 doesn't have a perfect finish, but neither did the NH-U12P. Here we can also see the pre-installed mounting tabs.
The NF-P14 Fan
New to the Noctua lineup is the NF-P14 fan. The NF-P14 fan has all the features that made the NF-P12 fan popular: high static pressure, good CFM rating, and the best part, its dead silent operation. It also has the one thing that I think most enthusiasts wish they could change about a Noctua fan: the color. Just like you can hear a Delta fan from across the house, you can always spot a Noctua fan from across the room, nothing else like it color-wise.
The fan is a 9 blade design that also has the Vertex Control Notches, SSO Bearing, and Smooth Communication Drive like the NF-P12. They beefed up the NF-P14 with a brass reinforced motor hub and bearing shell to help the fan stay balanced for long-term stability.
The NF-P14 and NF-P12 on the NH-D14 both use new style spring clips. These are very beefy compared to most spring clips I have used in the past. They also attach to the fans differently as well. At first I didn't like it, but after taking the fans off and on a couple times I like it. It really holds the fan tightly to the cooler, and is easier to put on and take off. With the clips captured in the pins there is no dropping them or misplacing them.
Installing the NH-D14
The NH-D14 comes with everything needed to mount the cooler to your favorite socket. Noctua also includes a long screw driver to reach the mounting screws just in case you don’t have one.
With the NH-D14 installed on my Intel DX58SO motherboard we can start to see that there could be some issues with components clearing.
In Noctua’s FAQ page there is a drawing with dimensions that will help you in measuring your board to see if you will have issues. There is a 44mm clearance from the top of the CPU to the first cooling fin, so modules like the Kingston HyperX T1, that comes in at 60mm in height, won’t work if the RAM slot is under the fins.
Also due to the NH-D14’s girth Noctua also states that on some P55 boards the video card in the first PCIe slot and the spring clips are very close. Noctua suggests insulating the clips with tubing or electrical tape to prevent any issues.
Now, if you were thinking about adding a third fan, well, don’t. The back of the cooler is so close to the back of the case and the rear fan that it most likely wouldn’t fit.
The Legit Reviews Core i7 Test System
Here are the parts that make up the Legit Reviews Core i7 test system:
|Intel Test Platform|
|Processor||Intel Core i7 920||Click Here|
|Motherboard||Intel DX58SO||Click Here|
|Memory||Kingston DDR3 3GB 1333MHz ValueRAM||Click Here|
|Video Card||ATI X1950 XTX||Click Here|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital 250gb SATA||Click Here|
|Power Supply||PC&C Silencer 750 Quad||Click Here|
|Chassis||Ultra M998||Click Here|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Ultimate (64bit)||Click Here|
To test the coolers I ran them on our Intel Core i7 test platform, which was then set to run at both default and overclocked settings. As a baseline all coolers will be compared to the retail boxed Intel cooler.
The list of previous coolers tested are:
- Asus Triton 81
- Cogage True Spirit
- Cooler Master V10
- Cooler Master V8
- Corsair H50
- Noctua NH-C12P
- Noctua NH-U12P
- Noctua NH-U12P SE2
- Scythe Mugen2
- Spire TherMax II
- Stock Intel
- Swiftech Apogee GTZ
- Swiftech Apogee XT
- Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme 1366
- Thermaltake ISGC-300
- Thermaltake ISGC-400
- Thermaltake SpinQ
- Titan Fenrir
- Vigor Monsoon III LT
- Zalman 10X Extreme
All of the temperatures were obtained by using Core Temp v0.99.3 after the system sat at idle for 30 minutes and then again under 100% load while running Prime95 (64bit) v25.8 for 30 minutes using the blended test. The room temperature was kept a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22c) for all benchmarking. All of the coolers were tested with Arctic Silver Lumiere as the thermal interface material.
With the system running at stock settings the NH-D14 did very well. Taking the number two spot from its predecessor, the NH-U12P, by beating it by 1.5 degrees, the NH-D14 cooler is only .25 of a degree out of first. The NH-D14 is also 19.25 degrees cooler than the stock Intel heatsink.
Turning up the heat a little with the system overclocked to 3.5GHz, the NH-D14 is really starting to shine beating the Cooler Master V10 by 2.25 degrees, and it is a massive 21.25 degrees ahead of the stock Intel cooler.
Now let’s put on a little more heat and raise our i7-920 to 3.8GHz. The CPU temp climbed up to 76.5* degrees at full load and 39.25*C at idle. I tried for 4GHz, but the CPU we have is the C0 stepping which is known to run hot and is notoriously temperamental for OC’ing passed 3.6GHz. Coupled with the non-OC friendly DX58SO motherboard to get a stable 3.8 I had it set to 190x20 and 1.3875v on the CPU. So those with D0 stepping i7-920's will see better results.
Noctua set out to improve on their previous design and they did, and it was a noticeable improvement. The NH-D14 is bigger and heavier than its predecessor, though. With both fans installed on the NH-D14 the cooler weighs in at a whopping 1.24kg so some may shy away from it just based on the weight, let alone its overall size, but there are those that will jump on this and not think twice about it.
Now for the cons to the NH-D14. This isn’t going to be a cooler you can just stick on any board with any component. You will have to do some research. This isn’t just an issue with the NH-D14, any large cooler like this will have this issue, but it is one to pay attention to. The only other con I can think of is a con that I have had from the first day I used a Noctua product: the fan color. I really like the performance, but I'm not digging the color. That being said, I still use them, but I would still love to see a black version.
You can pick up a NH-D14 for $79.99 plus shipping. Now in a slow economy it may be hard to drop that much on a cooler. I can agree with that, but it is worth the money and falls into the old saying “you get what you pay for.” With the Noctua NH-D14 beating out 18 other coolers on our overclocked Intel Core i7 920 processor we have to give it the Legit Reviews Editor's Choice award! Next up to review will be the Thermalright Venomous-X CPU Cooler, so it will be interesting to see if the NH-D14 will hold onto the top stop!
Legit Bottom Line: Noctua did what they set out to do: made a new cooler that performed better and was just as quiet. If you can shoe horn it in your case, it's well worth the money.