Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 CPU Cooler Review - Where to Buy

By on December 15, 2011

Powerful, cool, and most importantly, quiet.

Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 CPU Cooler Review

The original Noctua NH-D14 was an instant hit at our office, and with the advent of Intel’s Socket LGA 2011 CPUs, it was time to see what Noctua had in store.

For this version, Noctua went with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and for all intents and purposes, the Noctua NH-D14 is just the regular NH-D14 with a new mounting for the new Sandy Bridge-E CPUs. And while the general 6-heatpipes in dual-radiators ‘tower design’ remains the same, the fans themselves have had a slight change.

What we have in the NH-D14 SE2011 are the new NF-P14 (140mm) and NF-P12 (120mm) FLX fans with PWM controls, making them incredibly easy to control the speeds automatically or manuall (in BIOS as well as any 3rd party programs). That’s exactly the kind of upgrade you’d expect in their latest flagship product.

First thing’s first, the Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 is a pretty big CPU cooler, as in 160mm tall and 158mm wide, so make sure your motherboard supports the girth. Once you ensure that the area around the NH-D14 SE2011 is adequate, you need to ensure that the ram modules you’re planning to put aren’t more than 44mm. Height specifications are something you can easily check on a manufacturer’s page before buying the ram you’re interested in. Our G.Skill RipJaws Z 4x4GB DDR3-1600MHz kit fit nicely on the testbed.

The first time I installed the NH-D14 SE2011 it took me just under 6 minutes to get the job done. Subsequent installations on different motherboards dropped the time down to just over 2 minutes. So I guess the average installation time of 5 to 6 minutes isn’t bad at all. And since there’s no rear plate, you can actually install the NH-D14 SE2011 on your motherboard even if it’s in the case.

So all you need to do is screw in the 4 bolts on each corner of the LGA2011 socket, keep the 2 mounting bars in the direction you want the NH-D14 SE2011 to be in (taking into account the direction of airflow) and finally screw in the 4 thumbscrews on top to secure the base in place.

With that done, apply an adequate amount of thermal paste on the CPU. The supplied NT-H1 is most suitable for the job, but I used the Arctic MX-4 since I’ve used that on all other heatsinks. After that you simply screw in the tower radiator onto the mounting bars, plug in the middle NF-P14 fan and then connect the two fans to your motherboard. You can use the Ultra Low Noise Adapters if you want, to further limit the maximum speeds. All of this in less than 6 minutes isn’t bad at all.

Now, the two supplied fans are PWM compatible, so pretty much every X79 motherboard can take care of them automatically. However, the NH-D14 SE2011 does like to go down to 300rpm when the CPU is idling, so during POST (and even within BIOS) you may get a “CPU Fan Error”. For instance, I encountered this error on all the ASUS X79 motherboards tested, but Gigabyte, ECS, MSI and even Intel didn’t make a fuss over this. The easiest solution to this is to set minimum CPU fan RPM to 300rpm; alternatively just increase the fan speeds in the BIOS.

With that out of the way, let me show our testbed.

For comparisons I have used the Asetek made RTS2011 Liquid Cooler that Intel will be supplying. This is pretty much the same model as the one Asetek made for the recent AMD FX-8150 octa-core CPU.

I used Core Temp to record the idle and load temperature on the i7-3960X, taking an average of the highest and lowest recorded temperature of all 6 cores. For ‘Idle’ temperature I left the PC running for 15 minutes after a fresh restart. For ‘Load’ temperatures I ran Prime95 using “In-place large FFTs” for 15 minutes.

As a final note, I would like to say that ‘Idle’ means the CPU was downclocked automatically to 1.2GHz, and under ‘Load’ the CPU was Turbo’ing up to 3.9GHz.  When I overclocked the system, I set the Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.6GHz with 1.42v on Core CPU Voltage. Both ‘Idle’ and ‘Load’ tests were run for the same 15 minutes duration. Once again, while overclocked the CPU idled at 1.2GHz, but under load the speeds went up to 4.6GHz.

Before we move ahead, keep in mind that the fans were set to automatic usage in BIOS, and the NH-D14 SE2011 actually runs from 800-1,300rpm. The RTS2011LC run from 800-2,200 rpm.

As you can see, on stock settings the NH-D14 SE2011 did fairly well, but the RTS2011LC outperformed it under load. The point I’d like to make here is that the RTS2011LC starts to hover around 1,900rpm making it fairly loud, whereas the NH-D14 would be around 1,000rpm. So the Noctua trades off 10°C for completely silent operations. Of course, the speeds can always be manually adjusted to full in BIOS or 3rd party software if you feel the need to always keep your CPU cool.

Under the 4.6GHz overclock, we see the tables turn as the RTS2011LC is a mere 3% cooler than the NH-D14 SE2011, but its wailing at 2,200rpm. The Noctua meanwhile is dead silent with 1,300rpm, making it the quietest component on the whole testbed.

So the Noctua NH-D14 is an extremely quite CPU Cooler for the new Sandy Bridge-E processors, with exceptional performance at overclocked speeds. At stock speeds it may not be as cool as Intel’s liquid cooling solution, but even then it makes up with silent operations. For anyone building a Sandy Bridge-E gaming PC, the Noctua NH-D14 is a definite consideration.


Most Read
Most Commented
Win two Toshiba AT200 tablets

This festive season Toshiba has 2 tablets to giveaway.

Win an MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 Motherboard

Thanks to MSI we have an great AMD FM2 motherboard to giveaway.

Win a Nokia Asha 311

Thanks to Nokia we have a great entry-level smartphone to giveaway.