Table of Contents
“Noctua DH-14 Review” already nets 450,000 search results on Google, so why read this review? Simple, most of those results are from last year or even 2009. Just a guess, but most Overclockers.com members upgrade their CPUs at least once a year if not more. That means it’s due time to reexamine Noctua NH-D14 heatsink, widely considered one of the best air coolers on the market.
|Socket Compatibility||Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, LGA2011 on request|
AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1 (backplate required)
|Depth (with fans / without)||158 / 130 mm|
|Weight (with fans / without)||1240 / 900 g|
|Material||Copper (base and heat-pipes)Aluminum (cooling fins)Soldered jointsNickel plating|
|Fan Compatibility||140x140x25 & 120x120x25mm|
|Model||Noctua NF-P14||Noctua NF-P12|
|Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)||900 RPM||900 RPM|
|Airflow||110.3 m³/h||92.3 m³/h|
|Acoustical Noise||19.6 dB(A)||19.8 dB(A)|
|Input Power||1.2 W||1.08 W|
What separates a top brand from the competition is that even years after a product’s release, Noctua continues to support new socket technology by offering free mounting kits. Other high-end brands do the same, but this is by no means done across the entire marketplace. Despite its high TDP, Sandy Bridge-E is compatible with the NH-D14 through Noctua’s LGA 2011 mounting kit package available by request.
Another reason why Noctua’s service is truly top-notch is the comprehensive motherboard compatibility list that is updated regularly. Though most of the time physical measurements of the heatsink tend to be enough, Noctua’s compatibility list makes life so much easier. One quick glance and I know my Gigabyte P67A-UD7 will be able to handle the imposing footprint of the NH-D14. Going a step further, the list states a simple yes or no, but also includes a detailed comment in some cases, like “It might be necessary to remove the fan on the VRM-heatsink” or “Cooler extends over all RAM slots, please check RAM compatibility“. This allows for more tech-savvy users to make a competent decision before purchasing this pricey heatsink. For those readers who are still skeptical, we will test two motherboards for clearance later on in the article.
As for the contents of the mysterious box pictured above (other than the heatsink and fans):
- AMD and Intel Mounting Kits
- Phillips Head Screwdriver tool (it’s design makes mounting the heatsink much easier)
- NT-H1 Thermal Compound
- Instruction Manual (very easy-to-use diagrams, almost like a simpler version of an Ikea furniture instruction book)
- Y-Split Cable
- Noctua Case Badge (not pictured)
6 heatpipe dual radiator design
Providing more surface area, better heat-distribution and superior airflow efficiency than conventional tower style heatsinks, the NH-D14’s six heatpipe dual radiator design was developed to provide ultimate quiet cooling performance in dual fan mode.
Dual NF-P14/NF-P12 fan setup
The NH-D14 sports a premium quality dual fan setup consisting of Noctua’s award-winning NF-P12 (120mm) and NF-P14 (140mm) fans, both of which feature Vortex-Control Notches, SCD technology and SSO-Bearings in order to achieve a perfect balance of performance and quietness.
Asymmetrical design for high compatibility
An asymmetrical design that gives more clearance towards the RAM slots ensures good compatibility despite of the cooler’s size. The NF-P12 fan can be moved upwards or left off in order to further improve compatibility.
Excellent component cooling
Hanging out at the bottom of the fin-stacks, the NF-P14 fan doesn’t only contribute to the NH-D14’s superb CPU cooling capabilities but also provides massive airflow over surrounding motherboard components and heatsinks, thus ensuring excellent component cooling performance.
SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system
Noctua’s enthusiast grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting provides broad socket compatibility (LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1) and meets the highest demands in safety, contact pressure and ease-of-use.
NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua’s much-acclaimed NT-H1 is a well proven pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease-of-use and outstanding reliability.
The feature list is impressive, even with my pre-disposed discernment towards marketing language that is common in these situations. I am certainly no technical/material expert like our regular heatsink reviewer, muddocktor, so spending a ton of time analyzing the materials will not be helpful. Let’s just say that after using several different heatsinks and self-contained water coolers in the recent past, it is abundantly clear that Noctua did not cheap out on the materials here. The heatsink is very durable, even the fins which can sometimes be pretty fragile. Not to point any fingers, but we’ve had review samples damaged during shipping due to weak and flimsy fins. Not to make myself sound like even more of a klutz, but this heatsink has fallen off my desk (whoops) and made it through a bumpy ride to the Overclockers.com Benching Party in Philadelphia a few months back without even a minor ding.
As for the design, it is a pretty typical heatpipe design. There are heatsinks on the market with more or less total heatpipes, but the copper base and heatpipes should help set the NH-D14 apart performance-wise.
The process of mounting this cooler was pretty standard. A word of caution, ensure that there is enough space in the case and around the CPU socket on the motherboard. The NH-D14 has been known to have clearance issues on certain motherboards, specifically with the memory slots. Before purchasing this heatsink, or any cooling solution for that matter, take out a ruler and make sure it will fit.
This heatsink was installed on several different setups to test clearance, ease of installation and performance. The installation pictured below took place on an AMD mATX setup. To start, grab the AMD mounting hardware, which is labeled to avoid any possible confusion.
It’s really simple, just place the spacers on holes/threads that border the CPU socket. Top it off with the mounting bars and insert the screws. Tighten the screws. Once they stop, get the TIM out and apply your favorite (the included TIM is actually pretty good). Take the heatsink (sans fans) and fasten it to the mounting bar. Tighten the screws until they stop to ensure a good mount for optimal heat transfer. Be careful not to overdo it, as that can lead to extra pressure on the CPU.
That was easy, all that is left to do is clip the fans on. Let’s take a peak at how it looks all mounted, paying special attention to component and ram slot clearance.
It is a pretty tight fit on this mATX motherboard, but this was done to prove that it does in fact fit. The first two ram slots were pretty much rendered useless, but other than that, no major complaints. The Gigabyte P67A-UD7-B3 proved to be a much better motherboard for taming this huge heatsink.
Again, two of the memory slots are blocked, but everything works just fine. Even on a standard ATX motherboard, it’s a tight fit. It is always a good idea to measure before ordering any large heatsink.
Test Setup and Methodology
|Processor||Intel i7 2600K @ stock (speed & vcore) / 4.7 GHz (1.32vcore)|
|Cooling||Noctua NH-D14 Heatsink||CoolIt Vantage ALC|
|RAM||Kingston HyperX DDR3-2000 4GB|
|Video||Sapphire AMD HD 6950|
|Power Supply||PC & Power Cooling 750w|
|Operating Systems||Windows 7 x64|
Room temperature was kept between 74-77 °F (23-25 °C) during testing. Temperatures were recorded using CoreTemp. Idle and load temperatures are the highest temperature of a single core during testing. For load temperatures, Prime95 (Small FFTs) was run for 40 minutes with the highest temperature spike being included in the below graph. The system was then left to rest for 10 minutes, then recording began for the idle temperature, which was the highest reported core temperature over a 10 minute interval.
The numbers do not lie, the Noctua NH-D14 kept the 2600K quite a bit cooler than the CoolIt Vantage. At stock speeds the NH-D14 bested the Vantage by nearly 13% or 7 °C. If you are like me and only run at stock speeds when you have to reset CMOS because you gave the CPU more than it could handle, then you definitely do not care about stock performance. Moving on to what really counts, increasing the vcore and CPU speed led to significantly higher temperatures. Once again, the NH-D14 flexed its muscles keeping the CPU 7 °C cooler than the competition. This is nearly a 9% difference!
It’s been difficult for me to strike that old adage from my brain that water will always trounce air cooling. These days, it is simply not true with introduction of all these self-contained water cooling units. What I do like about them is the price, being able to jump into watercooling without doing a ton of research and the lack of noisy fans. However, in many ways the NH-D14 offers similar perks. The fans are pretty quiet, not much louder than the CoolIt Vantage radiator fans at the lowest setting. At the highest setting the CoolIt Vantage is significantly louder than the NH-D14 in stock configuration. It certainly helps that the fans are 120mm instead of 80mm. Plus, having two fans instead of one allows the airflow workload to be shared as opposed to being relegated to a single high-powered fan.
The Noctua NH-D14 performs admirably even under high heat situations. This heatsink allows for a solid 4.5 GHz 24/7 overclock, maybe even a bit further with the right chip and proper case airflow.
My only gripe is the sheer size of this cooler, but if you want top performance, the immense surface area will always come with it. All the top coolers on the market come in at about this size and approximately the same price. On Newegg, the Phanteks PH-TC14 PE is $89.99, while the Prolimatech Megahalems is $69.99, but does not come with any fans. Considering the price of alternatives and similar performance, there is no reason not to scoop up the Noctua NH-D14 when choosing a high-end air cooler ($89.99 at Newegg).
In short, the Noctua NH-D14 is most certainly Overclockers.com Approved.
Thanks to Noctua for supplying this review and being very patient with me in completing it. As you can see, my cooling articles do not compare to muddocktor‘s masterpieces, so stay tuned for more great heatsink reviews from him.