A couple of years ago, there was a rather small company called Noctua, they offered a variety of fans and heat sinks for sale and their company was based in Austria. Today, Noctua have made themselves known for having some of the best quality fans and heat sinks on the market. Noctua’s heat sinks have been renown for being built to last and designed with a multitude of things in mind such as silence, airflow, static pressure and quality. Thus far Noctua have also come into an element of their own when designing their coolers, notably the NH-UH12P and the so called “king of coolers,” the Noctua NH-D14 which I have on my test bench today. Despite the increase in competition from the newcomer Phanteks, the veteran Thermalright, Prolimatech and other cooler designers, Noctua have still made a name for themselves as one of the best in terms of cooling and quietness. However, with the recent influx of new heat sink designs Noctua may have a bit more of a fight on their hands than when the NH-D14 was first released which should at the very least make for a very interesting review.
The D14 as it is commonly called, is a twin aluminium finned radiator cooler with a total of six heat pipes which are in a U shape configuration. The heat pipes go from one tower of aluminum fin stacks down to the base, and back up to the other stack of aluminum fins. The included mounting bracket fits an entire range of platforms, from both the Intel and AMD side of things. For this product package, there are two fans included with the D14, the NF-P12 120mm SSO bearing fan and the 140mm NF-P14 SSO bearing fan. Both of which are made specially for quiet and efficient operation.
After so many years, will the D14 still be able to hold on to the performance crown which it claimed when it was released? Or will Noctua have to abdicate its crown to one of its competitors? Let’s find out… but first, here is a little about Noctua’s history.
Noctua comes from a cooperation of the Austrian Rascom Computer distribution Ges.m.b.H. with the Taiwanese cooling specialist Kolink International Corporation, pooling more than ten years of experience in the development, manufacturing and marketing of high-end cooling components. Established in 2005, Noctua took the international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class leading quiet cooling performance.
|Socket compatibility||Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1150, LGA775, LGA2011 on request, Asus X-socket™& AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2 (backplate required)|
|Height (without fan)||158 mm|
|Width (without fan)||126 mm|
|Depth (without fan)||71 mm|
|Height (with fan)||158 mm|
|Width (with fan)||126 mm|
|Depth (with fan)||95/120* mm|
|Weight (without fan)||600 g|
|Weight (with fan)||770/940* g|
|Material||Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating|
|Fan compatibility||120x120x25mm / 120x120x38mm|
|Scope of Delivery||2x NF-P12 premium fan|
|Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)|
|Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)|
|NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound|
|SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kits|
|Blade geometry||Nine Blade Design|
|Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)||1300 RPM|
|Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)||1100 RPM|
|Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%)||900 RPM|
|Airflow with L.N.A.||78,5 m³/h|
|Airflow with U.L.N.A.||63,4 m³/h|
|Acoustical Noise||19,8 dB(A)|
|Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.||16,9 dB(A)|
|Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.||12,6 dB(A)|
|Input Power||1,08 W|
|Voltage Range||12 V|
|MTBF||> 150.000 h|
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging for the Noctua NH-D14 falls under the category of: Function over Form. It’s not the most eye-catching or flashy design you will ever see, but the packaging does do one very important job very well: protecting your rather precious and expensive heat sink. That said, Noctua have made quite the reputation for themselves for being rather generous with their products and that also extends to their packaging which shows in the box’s construction which includes some very nice and thick cardboard and separate packaging for each component. The overall design of the packaging (and arguably the cooler as well) revolves around minimalism, simple and effective; something that I definitely am fond of. In the context of the packaging presentation, personally I am not one for huge ostentatious splashes of colour or flair unnecessarily splattered on the packaging so the plain approach is just right for me. Some might say that a lack of flash is boring, but I just don’t see the need for such pomp.
On the front of the box, you will find a sneak peek of the D14 itself as well as some of its key features which are listed and consist of things such as the six heatpipes and a dual radiator design, the asymmetrical design, its dual fan configuration as well as component cooling and the SecuFirm2 mounting system that is utilised among all Noctua coolers today. On the side of the box, it gives a very brief overview of the cooler and features in six different languages. Oddly, none of the overviews on this area of the box are in English (or Dutch for that matter) so I cannot tell you what it says.
Flipping the box over gives us information about the dimensions of the D14 and it also tells you that the cooler has a six year warranty. Six years is a quite long time for anyone to hold on to a cooler but the warranty is there should you ever need it. If anything such an extensive warranty from Noctua conveys a large degree confidence that the product is well built and capable of long term use. Interestingly, there actually is a product overview in English but it’s on it’s own independent area: the back of the box. The overview mentions a plethora of things including the dual fan design, the mounting system, the six heat pipe and dual radiator design, component cooling capabilities, the asymmetrical design of the cooler and the bundled NT-H1 thermal compound which is one of my all-time favourite thermal pastes.
Opening up the box gives us the same organized layout layout which is typical of Noctua which can be found in pretty much all of their cooler packaging. It starts off with the accessories box which houses the mounting kits and the extra goodies such as the U.L.N.A (Ultra Low Noise Adapters) for both fans, thermal compound and the included screw driver to mount the cooler. As an aside, the inclusion of the screw driver is a nice touch, albeit a bit unnecessary given it’s relatively small size.
Below the accessories box lays the box within another box sort of compartment for the cooler. I have to commend Noctua here and say that the packaging is superb, there is next to no chance of there being any sort of damage to the cooler or the fans during transit as they have gone above and beyond the expectations of most consumers in terms of packaging quality. An apt comparison would those Russian dolls, a box outer shell and then smaller individual boxes as you unpack the rest of the package. Although the box couldn’t withstand being stood on without being damaged, the package will definitely be able to withstand the brunt of your average courier.
What’s this? Is it finally something that resembles a cooler? Why yes, yes it is!
A Closer Look
Noctua were one of the first, if not the first, to release a dual tower based cooling system. Most coolers before this (if anyone remembers) were single tower coolers, such as the Scythe Mugen, probably more notably the Thermalright TRUE. Since then though, CPU heat sinks have gone from very small and even fanless based systems back a few year sago to something massive which dominates a sizeable amount of your case with its presence. It’s not all about size, though. Performance is also a key feature of such a cooler and the designers at Noctua believe they have done what it takes to create a world class and class leading air cooler.
At first, you’ll notice how the two fans are positioned on the cooler. You’ll also notice that there is room for a third at the back of the cooler, but that third fan will need to be purchased separately. As far as I am aware, the addition of a third fan would make a negligible difference to the operating temperatures of the NH-D14, but it does make the cooler look much more imposing. Additionally, the 140mm fan in the middle can be positioned slightly above or blow the heat sink depending on your preference. I would recommend you position the 140mm fan to the lowest point on the cooler as the airflow underneath the cooler will aid with cooling the surrounding components such as the VRMs and other components on your motherboard.
As with all heat sinks, the main purpose is to cool the CPU. Given that drawing heat away from the CPU is a very important factor, Noctua have made sure there will be no issues with heat dissipation by utilizing no less than six heatpipes on this cooler. Instead of going with eight smaller heatpipes, they chose to use six larger pipes measuring 6mm in diameter each. In this image, you can also see the jagged fin design which Noctua have used on the D14, this is supposed to improve heat dissipation. What jagged fins actually do is create a bit of air turbulence making the air a little more unsettled to come into contact with more of the surface area to ensure better heat dissipation from the cooler which would then be removed by the fans.
The two fans which come with the Noctua NH-D14 are both three pin non-PWM designs which is a shame given that PWM has been around for quite some time now. They are however pretty quiet as you will discover in the audio tests later on in this review. The fans are of course made by Noctua and carry a six year warranty which most likely won’t be needed, but it definitely is handy considering how much stress fans go through. The two fans that Noctua batches with the coolers are actually different sizes, one being 120mm and the other being 140mm, with the 140mm sitting in the middle of the cooler and the 120mm sitting on the outside of the cooler. The two fans respectively are NF-P12 and NF-P14 fans which are renown for their quiet operation along with their high static pressure and airflow capabilities. The fans can be plugged in on their own separate headers or you can use the included 3-pin splitter (if you don’t have two available for example) to power them as well.
Installing the D14 is a straightforward process and requires minimal effort compared to some coolers which I’ve tested previously. As with all large CPU heat sinks, the D14 requires a variation of a backplate in order to spread the pressure over the motherboard rather than confining it to four, small points causing serious PCB damage. Oddly Noctua have not bundled any form of clips to keep the screws from falling out whilst you turn the motherboard over to install the rest of the SecuFirm mounting system, but this is not an issue as the screws are secured in place by the rubber washer that presses against the motherboard to ensure that the pressure is right and to ensure that there is no metal touching the your precious motherboard avoiding catastrophic short circuits.
Once the backplate is placed into its position, it’s time to secure the backplate with the rest of the heat sink by completing the rest of the mounting system. Therefore, it’s time to flip over the motherboard, and install the rest of the components near the socket. It starts off with the placement of four plastic spacers which the two brackets sit on top of. The brackets are secured in place by a thumb screw on either side. They can be tightened with a screw driver if you wish but I don’t think that it is necessary and tightening them with your fingers will suffice. Once both sides are complete, it’s time to move on to the final stage and mount the rest of the cooler by screwing it into the two brackets.
In order to mount the cooler, you need to remove the centre fan which is done by unclipping it from the heat sink. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to put your thermal paste on to your CPU and then it’s time to mount the cooler. To mount the cooler you can either use a screw driver of choice,provided that it is long enough to reach the screws, or use the supplied screw driver that Noctua gives you. I never opt to use the one provided by Noctua as I find it far quicker and far more efficient to use my own longer and easier to grip screw driver. Nevertheless, it’s a nice inclusion and just one of the ways that demonstrate how Noctua, with their attention to detail have become a class leader in the cooling industry today. As you can see from the image below, tall RAM modules are not going to be suitable if you plan to use the NH-D14. In all hoensty, Low profile RAM is most definitely the only way to go unless you mount the fan on the other side of the heatsink rendering the cooler less effective. Surprisingly you can run the cooler without the fan on the outside, as the temperatures are very similar based on the small bit of testing I did testing outside of this review, but you paid for it so you may as well use it… right?
Noctua are still quite the force to be reckoned with when it comes to the cooling performance, not only with their coolers but also with their excellent fans as well. It was not too long ago that everyone would recommend the D14 as the top end cooler if you were planning to spend the dosh on one. But does the D14 manage to keep it’s crown or has it been usurped? Let’s bring this review together and inspect the data to see if the D14 still deserves it’s fame, starting with the design of the cooler and then the rest of the cooler.
The mounting design of the Noctua NH-D14 is brilliant. I have spent quite a lot of time mounting various coolers over the past few months and I have to say that the Noctua is without a doubt one of my favourite coolers to mount. By far the mounting system Noctua uses is one of the most efficient, secure and easy to use, which is all you could ask for from a mounting design. In regards to the mounting kit, it still sets the bar.
In regards to the design of the cooler itself, Noctua still hasn’t missed a step with it’s originally innovative and now copied dual tower design. The performance of it remains brilliant, and it has proven very difficult to beat by both air and closed loop CPU coolers. There honestly isn’t much that touches the Noctua NH-D14 in terms of quality and performance. When coupled with the consideration that this cooler is a couple of years old now and still remains one of the best performing and recommended top end coolers, it’s actually a very impressive feat that Noctua still remains in the top end of the heat sink hierarchy. To put it bluntly; Noctua did a brilliant job by designing the D14.
In terms of the D-14’s performance however, it is not the quietest of coolers on the market due to the usage of 3-pin fans, but it is certainly nowhere near the loudest cooler either. Because the cooler was tested on my test bench, I found it a bit more audible. However I will posit that in an enclosed case the D-14 will be largely unnoticeable in terms of noise. Noise however, is not the only aspect when reviewing a cooler, obviously the cooler must also be able to cool your CPU. With that said, when looking at CPU cooling ability, Noctua took the crown in three out of four thermal tests, only losing to the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E in overclocked tests in part to the difference in fan speed between the two coolers. Due of the fan speed difference of 1200RPM vs. 2500RPM on the Silver Arrow SB-E compared to the D-14 it wouldn’t be fair to really knock Noctua given that the rather large speed difference would easily cause a discrepancy in air moved. That said, the D-14 in comparison to the Silver Arrow was only a degree or two off in the worst and most extreme of circumstances. In my books, the Silver Arrow SB-E certainly isn’t worth the extra noise for a degree in a day to day usage environment. If you’re overclocking heavily however, and require additional thermal dissipation on air cooling, the addition higher RPM fans on the Noctua D-14 would probably be the most ideal solution. However, given it’s original design revolving around the aspects of silence and excellent thermal performance the Noctua performs in spades.
All things considered, Noctua did not only provide the world with a true class-leading cooler, they also went above and beyond the norm and went through quite the effort to make sure you got the very best air cooling performance for your money. Admittedly the D-14 is a little expensive at £65 but its unrivaled in its capabilities and coupled with the added accessories that many manufacturers do not include such as the low-noise adapters as well as the screw driver, the D-14 makes for a very compelling purchase. Additionally, the packaging is among the best I’ve seen and it is something I’ve grown to appreciate and expect from Noctua. For this very reason, I’ve decided to award it with no less than our Editor’s Choice award.
I’d like to thank Noctua for today’s review sample.
If you’re looking for one of the very best air coolers on the market today, look no further than the Noctua NH-D14. The aesthetics may not be to everyone’s liking, but the performance definitely will be. It’s quiet and it keeps the processor cool, even under heavily overclocked situations. For its price of £65, you get a lot for your money and it is worth noting that the fans are a good £15 each on their own. Want one the best? You’ve found it.