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Noctua is truly the last word in the industry when it comes to quiet, high-performance air-based cooling products. Three years ago they released the highly regarded NH-U12P heatsink - a unit that was only challenged by the legendary Thermalright and Prolimatech units. Always improving their products, Noctua is once again back at it with a fully redesigned six heatpipe, massive dual fin array tower cooler - the NH-D14 is air cooling at the most high-end level imaginable. With immense manufacturing quality and an equally immense price tag, the NH-D14 carries quite a few expectations regarding performance. And, considering a consumer is now able to purchase a quiet, high-performance, self-contained water cooling unit (like the H50) for a slightly lower price than that of the NH-D14, the performance results should be beyond impressive.
Size: 160 x 140 x 158 mm (height x width x depth)
Fan(s): NF-P14 and NF-P12
Weight (with fans): 1240 g
Socket compatibility: Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA 1155, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required)
Warranty: 6 years
6 heat pipe dual radiator design
Dual NF-P14/NF-P12 fan setup
Asymmetrical dual fin stacks
Excellent component cooling
SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system
NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua's Product Page
Price (at time of review): $85.83 @ Amazon
With the NH-D14, Noctua sticks to the tried and true packaging that both Noctua and Coolink have so successfully manufactured. For those who are unfamiliar with the Noctua packaging, I will briefly summarize; if you would like more details, you can read my review of the Coolink Corator DS here. Noctua's packaging consists of multiple, thick cardboard containers inside of the actual box. The first container holds all of the accessories. Below that is a a two-piece cardboard unit protecting another, smaller box - inside of that smaller box is the heatsink and fan assembly itself. In essence, Noctua did a solid job of ensuring that the product is kept safe. As a whole, the packaging looks great. The product packaging design definitely matches the "premium" price that the NH-D14 carries. It is both simple and functional - including plenty of pictures and all of the critical product information a consumer needs to discern.
Inside the Packaging:
The NH-D14 comes bundled with a fully-featured accessory package - it's essentially an extension of Coolink's already impressive Corator DS bundle. Inside you will find the ever-popular SecuFirm 2 mounting hardware (it is compatible with all modern AMD and Intel platforms); a much welcomed addition that should make installation quick and painless. They've included a perfectly shaped screwdriver, which is something that I have always wanted to see included with a tower-style heatsink. In terms of standard accessories, they have included both a set of silent fan grommets and regular metal case fan mounts (if you want to use one of the fans off of the heatsink), a tube of Noctua's highly-rated and non-conductive NT-H1 thermal paste, a 3-pin y-adapter (this will allow you to plug both of the fans into the same 3-pin motherboard header), and, because the provided fans do not allow for variable speed over 4-pin, Noctua has included two of their standard "Ultra-Low-Noise" adapters - these will drop both of the included fans to 900 RPM. And if those "mission critical" accessories weren't enough, Noctua also has thrown in a nice, all-metal Noctua case badge - I certainly recommend proudly "wearing" the owl on your chassis.
As usual, Noctua includes a highly detailed, error free instructions manual for both the SecuFirm AMD and Intel installations. Both of the manuals are tucked into the pictured "booklet"; you can examine the front Intel, back Intel and front AMD, back AMD manual pages at the links provided. All in all, I am pleased with Noctua's accessory list - it's practically the best in the business.
The Unboxing Video:
The Noctua NH-D14 Itself:
Just by looking at pictures, it's practically impossible to comprehend how massive the Noctua NH-D14 is. With both of the fans attached, the unit has a mass of 1240 grams. This converts to approximately 2.734 pounds - this is nearly three entire pounds! To put it into perspective, the Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 is only 2.07 pounds (with the fan attached). In terms of overall dimensions, the NH-D14 is 160 x 140 x 158 mm. This means that you should definitely check to see if you have enough clearance in your computer chassis. The maximum allowable heatsink height for my Cooler Master Elite 341 chassis is equal to the 160 mm height of the NH-D14. Even after removing the side fans, it was still kind of a tight fit, but definitely manageable.
The dual tower design is absolutely impressive. It's almost like having two TRUE towers mounted to your processor via twelve heatpipes. It's also certainly nice to see that Noctua properly put the increased heatsink volume to use. Instead of keeping each of the six (per side) heatpipes close together, they fan out in a wide formation to evenly cover the tower units. Each of the towers contains a high-density cluster of forty-two sturdy, flex-free fins - this should allow for very quick heat transfer. The fin pattern also allows for decreased static pressure, which means more cooling performance. In the middle of the tower cluster is one of Noctua's high airflow, low noise NF-P14 fans. Thanks to this clever positioning, the oversized fan pushes air not only through the fin array, but also around your motherboard - this helps keep the ambient temperature throughout your system relatively low. I do have to say, however, that I am slightly disappointed Noctua did not include mounting hardware for a third fan. While it is nice that everything is pre-assembled, I know, especially from reading through forum threads, that the NH-D14 has no problem supporting another fan. This, out of the box, would make for the ultimate push-push-pull configuration (although, most cases would not be large enough to accommodate this and a rear chassis fan). In-between each of the mounted fans Noctua has included 1/2-inch thick silicone spacers. These strips, along with the unique fan mount, should result in low vibration and reduced noise.
One of the most important aspects of a heatsink (in terms of heat transfer rate) is the quality of the mounting surface. If you have a thick, unfinished surface, it doesn't matter how many heatpipes you have - it will still take longer for heat to move. Not only that, but small pockets of heat will build-up next to the TIM of your processor. That is something that you definitely do not want to happen. I am happy to report, however, that Noctua has not made that mistake. The base is thin and properly finished. There are no scratches, pitting, or any other machining defects on the mounting surface. The thin base should result in heat being forced to quickly travel through the heatpipes. You do not want large quantities of heat to stay next to your processor.
I won't go over the installation process step-by-step, you can check out the linked manual pages above for that. I will, however, point out a few items of interest. Getting the Noctua NH-D14 mounted via the SecuFirm hardware, provided you take your time, is relatively straightforward. You do, however, need to remember that this is a gigantic heatsink. Keeping that in mind, it is best to forgo your chassis's motherboard tray CPU cutout and simply remove the entire motherboard - this will give you a lot more room to carefully work. When it comes down to it, all you really have to do is screw a few components down - no funky "twist-locking" systems like on the Corsair water cooling units. It's also nice that Noctua thought out their SecuFirm installation as well as they did - because of how the mounting bracket is configured, you can't even purposely over-tighten the heatsink! The only annoyance is that, before you mount the unit, you must remove the center fan. This will allow you to use the provided screwdriver to secure the heatsink to the mounting frame. It will definitely be a pain if you try to reinstall the fans while your motherboard is still inside of your computer case.
To give you an idea of the clearance available when the NH-D14 is mounted, Noctua has provided a helpful schematic. They warn, however, that on small motherboards there is a high probability of the metal fan clips touching the rear components of a video card - their recommendation is that a user, in this predicament, should insulate the clips in electrical tape. It would have been really nice if Noctua insulated the metal clips from the factory. That issue aside, unless you've got particularly tall heatsinks on your memory modules (you will need to remove those), ram clearance issues are relatively minimal. It's also important to note that you will definitely not be able to mount this unit if you have enormous chipset cooling. All in all, the compatibility is surprisingly good for such an enormous unit. It shows that Noctua's designers spent a lot of time testing out the unit.
I tested both the Coolink Corator DS and the Noctua NH-D14 at the same time. So, for the sake of reference, I will be using the same performance results. I used OCCT on default processor burn-in settings, for ten minutes, with an Intel i7-920 D0 processor running at stock frequency (2.66 GHz) and voltage (this will help make comparison straightforward). Thankfully, the recorded ambient temperature was roughly constant at 25 degrees Celsius. This means, however, that I will not be reporting delta temperature values; each number is rounded to the ones place. You should keep in mind, however, that my test system is running 12 Gigabytes of DDR3 memory; this means that the memory controller will be a bit taxed, so temperatures might be higher than usual.
For testing, I chose the stock heatsink, the higher-end Corsair H50 (in a push-pull configuration), and the mid-range Coolink Corator DS tower. For each heatsink, I used Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste. The results are truly impressive. Even at lower RPM values, the Noctua NH-D14 easily outperforms Corsair's H50. The Noctua NH-D14, without the U.L.N.A. on each fan, is much quieter than the perceivably silent Corsair H50; the unit with both fans averages roughly 23 dBA. To really put the NH-D14's performance into perspective, I believe that you will only be able to out-perform this unit with an expensive, custom water cooling configuration. Even then, it'll be hard to match the low-noise of the pump-less NH-D14.
It's really hard to not love Noctua's NH-D14. Ignoring the MSRP, you can usually find the NH-D14 for just ten dollars more than Corsair's H50. The installation is easier, the performance is better, and the quality is much higher - you do not have to worry about leaking anything onto your expensive components. Not only that, but the NH-D14 performs well even with the low RPM fans that Noctua has included; this means, with an additional purchase, it is highly likely that you could get unheard of performance out of your NH-D14. The overall retail package is impressive and definitely makes you feel like you aren't simply purchasing a cooling component, but becoming an "owner" of a Noctua product; Noctua is also one of the few companies to offer a six year warranty. If you're in the market for a new heatsink and can scrounge up the money to purchase the NH-D14, know that your money is being well-spent (even if you aren't overclocking your processor).
Two high-end, silent fans included
Amazing performance; beats out enclosed water cooling units
Retail package includes useful accessories
Unit uses the incredible SecuFirm mounting system
Unit will interfere with large memory heatsinks
Included fans are a bit on the "slow" side
Clearance issues will crop up for many configurations
Update: Jakob Dellinger, Noctua's press representative, has let me know that users interested in obtaining mounting hardware for a third fan can contact Noctua's customer support. They will, provided you have valid proof of purchase, send you a set free of charge. That's what I call customer service!
Thanks go to Noctua for the opportunity to take a look at the Noctua NH-D14!