Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on March 3, 2011
We are reviewing today the Noctua NH-C14, a huge CPU cooler with a horizontal heatsink, six heatpipes and two 140-mm fans. Check it out!
The NH-C14 box is big, as you can see in Figure 1.
In Figure 2, you can see what comes inside the box: the cooler itself, installation parts, thermal compound, a case badge, and the product manuals.
In Figure 3, you can see the NH-C14.
In the next pages, you will see this cooler in detail.
In Figure 4, you see the side of the cooler. The NH-C14 has an unusual design, with a horizontal heatsink and two fans blowing the air from the top to the bottom. The manufacturer claims you can use this cooler three different ways: with two fans for maximum performance, with only the upper fan for high clearance (for example, if you have memory modules with tall heatsinks), or only with the lower fan for low profile needs.
In Figure 5, you can see the front of the cooler, where you can check the shape of the fins. The fans do not touch the heatsink directly, but use rubber pads to absorb vibrations.
In Figure 6, you check the cooler rear side.
In Figure 7, you can see the cooler from the top, where the top fan is visible.
In Figure 8, you can see the bottom of the cooler. Note that the six heatpipes are connected directly to the base.
In Figure 10, you can see one of the 140 mm fans from the NH-C14. It has a three-pin connector, thus not supporting PWM control.
In Figure 11, you can check the nice case badge, the NT-H1 thermal compound that comes with the cooler, and the four power adaptors which can be used to reduce the speed of the fans.
In Figure 12, you can see the hardware used to install the NH-C14 on Intel CPUs. The backplate goes on the solder side of the motherboard, and the metal holders stay at the component side. In Figure 13, you can see this holding system installed on our motherboard.
After installing the holders, the cooler is screwed to them (it comes with a long Phillips screwdriver). In Figure 14, you can check the cooler installed.
We tested the cooler with a Core i7-860 CPU (quad-core, 2.8 GHz), which is a socket LGA1156 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 3.3 GHz (150 MHz base clock and 22x multiplier), keeping the standard core voltage (Vcore), which was the maximum stable overclock we could make with the stock cooler. Keep in mind that we could have raised the CPU clock more, but to include the stock cooler in our comparison, we needed to use this moderate overclock.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU idle and under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all threads, we ran Prime 95 25.11 (in this version, the software uses all available threads) with the "In-place Large FFTs" option.
We compared the tested cooler to the Intel stock cooler with a copper base (included with the CPU), as well as with other coolers. Note that in the past, we tested coolers with a socket LGA775 CPU, and we retested some "old" coolers with this new methodology. This means you can find different values in older reviews than the values you will read in the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that accompanies it.
Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings. During the tests, the left panel of the case was open.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 2 °C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.
The table below presents the results of our measurements. We repeated the same test on all coolers listed below. Each measurement was taken with the CPU at idle and at full load. In the models with a fan supporting PWM, the motherboard controlled the fan speed according to core load and temperature. On coolers with an integrated fan controller, the fan was set at the minimum speed on the idle test and at full speed on the full load test. With the reviewed cooler, both tests were done without the speed reducers that come with it.
Processor at Full Load
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock (socket LGA1156)||14 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||46 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||90 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3 G1||14 °C||47 dBA||2050 rpm||33 °C||56 dBA||2900 rpm||62 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||14 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||27 °C||53 dBA||1950 rpm||51 °C|
|Thermaltake Silent 1156||14 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||49 dBA||1750 rpm||69 °C|
|Noctua NH-D14||14 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||27 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||53 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Performa||14 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||28 °C||52 dBA||1950 rpm||54 °C|
|Prolimatech Megahalems||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||50 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio||14 °C||46 dBA||1450 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||50 °C|
|Prolimatech Samuel 17||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||40 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||63 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8000A||18 °C||43 dBA||1400 rpm||39 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||70 °C|
|Spire TherMax Eclipse II||14 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||28 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||53 °C|
|Scythe Ninja3||17 °C||39 dBA||700 rpm||32 °C||55 dBA||1800 rpm||57 °C|
|Corsair A50||18 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||33 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||60 °C|
|Thermaltake Jing||18 °C||44 dBA||850 rpm||34 °C||49 dBA||1300 rpm||60 °C|
|GlacialTech Alaska||18 °C||43 dBA||1150 rpm||36 °C||51 dBA||1600 rpm||60 °C|
|Deepcool Gamer Storm||18 °C||43 dBA||1100 rpm||35 °C||48 dBA||1600 rpm||62 °C|
|Corsair A70||26 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||40 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||65 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Blade Pro||23 °C||45 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||52 dBA||1500 rpm||64 °C|
|AC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2||23 °C||47 dBA||1750 rpm||44 °C||51 dBA||2100 rpm||77 °C|
|Corsair H70||27 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||61 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||27 °C||55 dBA||1600 rpm||38 °C||58 dBA||1750 rpm||63 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 11 LP||25 °C||45 dBA||1700 rpm||51 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||91 °C|
|CoolIT Vantage||26 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||62 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Matrix 600||25 °C||46 dBA||1100 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C|
|Titan Hati||26 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||40 °C||57 dBA||2450 rpm||68 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 13||27 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||2300 rpm||70 °C|
|Noctua NH-C14||26 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||37 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||61 °C|
In the graph below, at full load you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the cooler.
The main features of the Noctua NH-C14 CPU cooler include:
CPU cooler with a horizontal design, where the heatsink is placed in parallel to the motherboard, has the advantage of helping cooling memory modules and motherboard components such as the voltage regulator transistors and the chipset, but normally do not present great performance. Usually in our tests they show far less cooling performance than models with tower heatsinks.
The NH-C14, however, surprised us, showing an extraordinary cooling performance.
Probably the two 140-mm fans explains the impressive performance of this cooler: the NH-C14 simply cooled our CPU better than any air cooler we have tested so far. If that wasn't enough, it achieved this extraordinary performance while presenting a far lower noise level than all high-performance coolers we have reviewed to date.
The Noctua NH-C14 is not only a big cooler, it is also a great one. So, it receives the Hardware Secrets Golden Award.