Noctua has recently released two new heatsinks into their U series, the NH-U12S (120 mm) and the NH-U14S (140 mm). We’ll be looking at the latter, which is the their top-of-the-line heatsink in the U series and its only superior in Noctua’s line-up would be the NH-D14.
Specifications & Features
(Courtesy of Noctua)
|Noctua NH-U14S Specifications|
|Socket Compatibility||Intel LGA2011 (square), LGA1156/1155/1150|
AMD AM2/AM2+, AM3/AM3+, FM1, FM2 (backplate)
|Dimensions without NF-A15||165 x 150 x 52 mm (H x W x D)|
|Dimensions with NF-A15||165 x 150 x 78 mm (H x W x D)|
|Weight without NF-A15||770 g|
|Weight with NF-A15||935 g|
|Material||Copper (base and heatpipes), Aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints, nickel plating|
|Fan Compatibility||140 x 150 x 25 mm (with 120mm mounting holes)|
140 x 140 x 25 mm (with 120mm mounting holes)
120 x 120 x 25 mm
|Scope of Delivery||NF-A15 PWM premium fan|
Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A.)
NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
Anti-vibration pads and fan-clips for second NF-A15 (optional)
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Packaging & Accessories
Noctua’s packaging is very informative and not over-the-top flashy as some manufacturers seem to like. It’s white and dark red themed with information everywhere! Below shows the NH-U14S box and the extra, optional NF-A15 that was sent along with the heatsink.
The front of the box has the product name/model and a bullet list of a few features. The right side of the box shows a list of contents, physical dimensions of the heatsink, and detailed specifications of both the heatsink and the included NF-A15 fan.
On the left side of the box, we have some features listed with descriptions, and there’s a short multilingual blurb about the NH-U14S on the back of the box.
The heatsink itself is packed tightly into its packaging using cardboard to separate the heatsink from the edges of the box, which could prevent possible shipping damage. The mounting kits are separated into their own boxes; one for AMD and one for Intel. That helps avoid any confusion with the mounting hardware during installation. The remaining accessories are also in their own box.
The “Accessories” box included to following parts: NT-H1 thermal compound, Low Noise Adapter for the fan, four larger vibration dampening corners for the fan, two rubber strips for vibration dampening, two fan clips, long L-shaped screw driver, and a metal Noctua case badge.
Next up is the extra NF-A15 fan that Noctua sent for a push/pull setup. Noctua’s fans have the most informative and extensive fan packaging I’ve ever seen with its two flaps that reveal any information one could possibly want about the fan.
Inside of the front flap are details about major differences in Noctua’s unique fan design and why it’s better than the traditional fan designs. It focuses on the airflow channels at the end of their fan blades, bearings being used, and their stepped inlet design.
The back flap has less detailed descriptions of the features on the front flap plus short blurbs about other minor features of the NF-A15 fan.
Here are the specifications and contents listed on the box. The part that stands out to me is the 1200 RPM max rotational speed. This is because the fan that’s bundled with the NH-U14S is also a NF-A15 fan, but its max rotational speed is 1500 RPM. Maybe it’s just me, but having two different fans with the exact same model number doesn’t make much sense at all.
Here’s the 1200 RPM NF-A15 and its accessories. There’s something missing though, the Low Noise Adapter. Even though it’s listed on the packaging as being included, it’s not.
Meet the NH-U14S
Of course there’s a teaser image first, but it does show the six heatpipes and Noctua’s owl logo.
We’ll start off with a full 360 of the NH-U14S, and you may notice that it’s wider and thinner than many other heatsinks. Another thing I noticed is that there are shorter fins that continue down towards the base of the heatsink so that the large 140 mm fan gets more surface area for heat dissipation. These fins being cut off could also allow for RAM with taller heatsinks to be installed without interference.
The heatsink comes with a plastic guard covering the base to help prevent possible damage. Typically, if there is anything protecting heatsink bases, it will be a thin film that really wouldn’t do much protecting. So, Noctua stepped up the base protection to make sure it would be very difficult to damage their specially designed base.
Here’s a close up of the NH-U14S base. It’s easy to notice that it’s not a mirror finish like most heatsinks nowadays, but instead it features small channels to help guide the spread of TIM across the base for a more even spread. So, there will be more TIM between the CPU and heatsink than when using a mirror-finished base, but there’s less likelihood of a bad TIM spread during installation that could cause abnormally high temperatures.
The Intel mounting hardware consists of a backplate, four spacers, two rails, four thumbscrews, and four double-sided screws for LGA2011. I’ll be installing the NH-U14S on Intel’s LGA1155 platform, so the double-sided screws are not used.
The first step in the installation is to put the backplate on the back side of the motherboard. Next, the black spacers are placed over the bolts connected to the backplate so that the rails can be mounted.
Installing the rails determines which orientation the NH-U14S will be facing when installed, so be sure you know how you want it facing before attaching the rails. For example, on some mATX boards like the Maximus V Gene, the heatsink may interfere with the top PCIe slot when its installed in a horizontal airflow configuration or it may interfere with tall RAM heatsink when installed in a vertical airflow orientation.
Mounting the heatsink to the rails is easily done with the included screwdriver or any other Phillips head screwdriver you may have laying around.
With the fans installed in Push/Pull. This installation orientation is the one that blocks the top PCIe slot on the Maximus V Gene.
Possible Clearance Issues
Before talking about clearance issues, I should first state that I’m using a micro-ATX motherboard, the Maximus V Gene, so these potential clearance issues may not arise when using a larger form factor board.
Now, on to checking RAM clearance. With the NH-U14S is installed so that air flow horizontally, there aren’t any clearance issues with the RAM. However, when installing the NH-U14S so air flows vertically, there could definitely be issues if the RAM being used doesn’t have the standard heatsinks that don’t add height to the sticks. My G.Skill Eco RAM just does clear the heatpipes, so any additional height would have prevented me from using the DIMM slot closest to the socket.
As mentioned above, when the NH-U14S is installed so that air flows horizontally, the RAM has perfect clearance. But, the edge of the heatsink and its fan clips prevent an expansion card from being installed into the top PCIe slot. When the heatsink is installed in the other orientation, the PCIe slot is clear, but possible RAM clearance issue could pop up for some people. So, in my specific case, using a Maximus V Gene and G.Skill Eco RAM, installing the heatsink in a vertical airflow orientation would avoid clearance issues.
Test Setup & Methodology
|Processor||Intel i7 3770K @ 4 GHz|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V Gene|
|RAM||4 x 2 GB G.Skill Eco DDR3-1600|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 680|
|Storage||256 GB OCZ Vertex 4|
|Power Supply||Seasonic SS-1000XP|
Thermalright Venomous X
be quiet! Shadow Rock Topflow
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2
Prolimatech Samuel 17
|Fluke 52 II Dual Input Thermometer|
|Tenma Sound Level Meter|
Cooling performance was tested as follows:
- Disabled all BIOS settings that cause the CPU clock speed and/or Vcore to fluctuate.
- Arctic Cooling MX2 thermal paste was used for consistency.
- Included fans and Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans were used for testing.
- Ambient temperature was measured with a Fluke 52 II at ~1 inch from the intake fan.
- Varied Vcore from 1.050 V to 1.400 V in 0.050 V increments to increase heat. Stopped increasing Vcore once a core reached 90+ °C.
- 5-pass 2048 MB RAM LinX runs at each Vcore interval were used to load the CPU.
- CoreTemp 1.0 RC5 was used to record minimum and maximum core temperatures.
Sound level in dBA was measured 10 cm from the intake fan, and then estimated for other distances using the following formula:
L2 = L1 – 20 * log10(r2/r1)
- L2 = dBA @ desired distance
- L1 = dBA @ reference distance
- r1 = reference distance
- r2 = desired distance
Why estimate sound level instead of measure at further distances? It’s because the meter I’m using is most accurate between 40-130 dBA, so I wanted to measure really close to the source to get as close to that range as I can to get the most accurate measurements.
First, we have the comparison using the stock configurations of the heatsinks. Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans were used for the heatsinks that do not include a fan. The NH-U14S had a good showing here coming in between the Push/Pull Thermalright Venomous X and the dual-finstack Prolimatech Genesis.
Adding the 1200 RPM NF-A15 fan as the pull fan did practically nothing as far as performance is concerned. I would attribute this to the fact that the NH-U14S was designed for quiet operation being relatively thin with low fin density.
When replacing the 1500 RPM NF-A15 fan with a Gentle Typhoon AP-15, the performance actually dropped by around 1 °C or less on average despite the AP-15’s superior RPM and static pressure. This is because the NF-A15 is a 140 mm fan and the AP-15 is a 120 mm fan. So, the greater coverage of the NF-A15 makes up for its lower RPM and static pressure, and the higher RPM and static pressure of the AP-15 brings it very close to the NF-A15.
First up in the noise testing is the stock configuration comparison with the NH-U14S using a single fan in push. The only heatsink that beats the NH-U14S in sound level while using its out-of-the-box configuration is the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2, and the difference is only less than a decibel. Replacing the stock fans with Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans brings the NH-U14S to a tie for the quietest heatsink in my testing group. So, if you want a lot less noise and can handle a small ~1 °C dip in performance, then using an AP-15 will certainly give you that.
Here is where a downside shows its face. The reason I decided to collect so much sound level data was because when adding the NF-A15 1200 RPM pull fan I noticed a high pitch squeal. After hearing that squeal, the first thing I did was remove the push fan and test pull only, and the high pitch squeal remained for both NF-A15 fans when used in pull.
To determine whether it’s the fan design or heatsink causing the squeal, I first checked a Gentle Typhoon AP-15 in pull only on the NH-U14S. The squeal happened when using the AP-15 fan as well, but it wasn’t as high pitch as the squeal from the NF-A15 fans. I also checked the NF-A15 fans on the Venomous X to see if it caused a squeal, and it did cause a less intense squealing noise (AP-15 doesn’t cause a squeal on the Venomous X). So, that means the NH-U14S and NF-A15 fans both contribute to the squealing noise when using a pull fan.
Everything above was done before I added the extra rubber spacers that are included with the NH-U14S, so the next thing to do was to test all of that again with the larger rubber spacers installed. These larger rubber spacers make the fan sit 4 mm further away from the heatsink than the original rubber pads, and are supposed to help with noise.
Adding the spacers to a pull fan did indeed reduce the SPL and perceived loudness. The perceived loudness was reduced by ~30% in the following configurations: 1500 RPM pull only, 1200 RPM pull only, and 1200/1500 RPM push/pull. The perceived loudness was only reduced by around 10% for 1500/1200 RPM push/pull. However, the spacers didn’t completely remove the squealing noise or bring the noise down to the same level as a push configuration.
Now, since we determined that we definitely want to be using the spacers for a pull fan, we can get to the sound pressure level differences of the different fan configurations. This shows that a push configuration is definitely the way to go with the NH-U14S for low noise. This, combined with the lack of increased performance in push/pull, clearly shows that a push config is the best combination of performance and low noise.
Noctua has a good heatsink on their hands with the NH-U14S. As far as looks are concerned, most people are either going to love it or hate it due to the beige and reddish-brown color scheme of Noctua’s fans. Regardless of what you think of the color scheme , the NH-U14S performed very well in my tests, having the best combination of cooling performance and low noise of the heatsinks I tested. For me, performance talks and that’s what gets me to purchase a product.
The biggest downside is the pull fan squealing noise, but this downside is basically irrelevant since running a push/pull fan configuration doesn’t effect performance. So, there’s no reason to run a pull fan in the first place, making the pull fan squealing kind of a moot point. Potential clearance issues could pop up for some people using smaller motherboards, like my mATX Maximus V Gene. So, be sure to do some research if you would like to use the NH-U14S on a small form factor board. The next two things aren’t really about the NH-U14S, but still odd to me. The two fans have the same model number, but different specifications. Also, the optional NF-A15 fan didn’t include the low noise adapter even though it says it does on the box.
The MSRP of the NH-U14S is right at $75.00, so it’s definitely in the high-end of the price spectrum. The NH-U14S was also the second best performing heatsink in the test bed, only losing by a little more than 1 °C on average. However, the $75 Genesis doesn’t include the two $16-18 Gentle Typhoon fans I used either (or any fans for that matter) which brings the cost of it up to around $110. That’s ~$35 more than the NH-U14S for ~1 °C better temps, so the NH-U14S is good on performance per dollar side as well.
Good showing overall by Noctua and their NH-U14S. The great performance, low noise, minor-to-irrelevant downsides, and reasonable price all help the NH-U14S earn an Approved stamp.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)