It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a CPU cooler, mostly due to the fact that we don’t get many of them, but also because it’s always a hassle. And one way or another, I usually end up with some sort of bloody cut. Given the size and sharp edges on the Noctua NH-D14, I was understandably cautious about this review, but my worries proved to be without merit.
Before I get into much detail, let’s just have a look at the Noctua NH-D14. Yep, it’s huge. So huge, in fact, that I just had
to take this shot with the Noctua NH-D14 on the ECS H67H2-I
mini-ITX motherboard I tested some time back. .
Measuring 160x140x158mm (including the fans), the Noctua NH-D14 is a behemoth of a CPU cooler. As such, I highly recommend you have a look at their compatibility list
for motherboards and ram before buying it. While the NH-D14 sat perfectly fine on our testbed Gigabyte P67A-UD7 motherboard, the Kingston HyperX ram modules wouldn’t fit, so I had to go with the recently reviewed G.Skill RipJaws X
instead. Also, check the maximum CPU cooler height allowable in your PC case as the NH-D14 will need at least 160mm of clearance.
Worries about its size aside, let’s see the NH-D14 in more detail. The base and fins are all made of copper, while the cooling fins are created from aluminum. Two fans provide the actual cooling, with one 120mm fan attached on the outside of the heatsink, and one 140mm fan in the middle of the two heatsinks. If you want, you can also take out the external fan and attach it to your PC case’s side as Noctua has provided additional rubber stoppers and cabling should you want to go that route.
Opening up the NH-D14, I was pleasantly surprised to find an extremely detailed, yet simple set of instructions for the applying the cooler. Applying the Noctua NH-D14 was actually a much more simple (and painless) process than the Intel XTS100H, however, it took twice as long; approximately 12 minutes from start to finish.
Each and every component feels nicely secured and extremely durable. The application process was really well thought out. I especially liked the inclusion of the L-shaped Philips screwdriver and the NT-H1 thermal compound.
The main competitor for the Noctua NH-D14 is the Cooler Master V6 GT I reviewed as part of the heatsink roundup
when Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs launched earlier this year. Costing roughly $20 less than the Noctua NH-D14, it’s almost equally huge and turned out to be one of the coolest heatsinks tested. For secondary comparisons I’ve also added our resident Intel XTS100H cooler. The rest of the testbed consists of an Intel Core i7-2600K (running at stock 3.4GHz), G.Skill RipJaws X DDR3-2133 4GB, Gigabyte P67A-UD7, WD VelociRaptor 300GB with Windows 7 Ultimate, all of which is powered by our Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold PSU. For overclocking the CPU, I raised the maximum multiplier in the BIOS to x47 (with the FSB already set at default to 100MHz) at 1.45v resulting in a total speed of 4.7GHz. The ram automatically switched to 2134MHz at 1.660v. Temperature readings were taken from Core Temp.
The Noctua NH-D14 performs great on all accounts, but it’s interesting to see the overclocked results. At 4.7GHz, the NH-D14 keeps the i7-2600K very cool at 33°C while idling, although Cinebench R11.5 seemed to put more stress than I thought, pushing the temperatures to 68°C. This was more than I expected as Prime 95 ran at a comparatively cooler 63°C. Still, keeping an i7-2600K at 4.7GHz below 70°C under full load is no small feat.
The incredible thing is that the Noctua NH-D14 remained just as silent during the load tests as it had been during idle state, in both stock and overclocked situations. It was about just as audible as the nimble XTS100H, a far cry from the Cooler Master V6 GT.
The Noctua NH-D14 is one of the more interesting CPU coolers I have reviewed in a while. On the one hand it is extremely efficient and effective at its job, but it comes at a cost. And I’m not talking about the $90 price tag either. This thing is huge, and if you have already purchased memory modules with big heatsinks, like our Kingston HyperX T1, then you’re out of luck. Still, nothing comes easy in this world. I would back the NH-D14 completely based on its operational prowess, just make sure to check out the aforementioned compatibility list for a headache-free installation process.