Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on March 3, 2011


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 1: Package

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 2: Accessories

In Figure 3, you can see the NH-C14.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 3: The NH-C14 CPU cooler

In the next pages, you will see this cooler in detail.

The NH-C14

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 4: Side View

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 5: Front view

In Figure 6, you check the cooler rear side.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 6: Rear view

In Figure 7, you can see the cooler from the top, where the top fan is visible.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 7: Top view

The NH-C14 (Cont'd)

In Figure 8, you can see the bottom of the cooler. Note that the six heatpipes are connected directly to the base.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 8: Bottom view

In Figure 9, you can check the base of the cooler. It is plain, with no mirror-like finishing.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 9: 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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 10: Fan

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 11: Badge, thermal compound and power adaptors

Installation

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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 12: Intel holders

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 13: Holders installed on the 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.

Noctua NH-C14
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Figure 14: Instaled in our case

How We Tested

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.

The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed 4" (10 cm) from the fan. We turned off the case and video board cooler fans so they wouldn't interfere with the results. This measurement is only for comparison purposes because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which is not the case here.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 2 °C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.

Our Tests

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. 

 

Idle Processor

Processor at Full Load

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseSpeedCore Temp.NoiseSpeedCore Temp.
Intel stock (socket LGA1156)14 °C44 dBA1700 rpm46 °C54 dBA2500 rpm90 °C
Cooler Master Hyper TX3 G114 °C47 dBA2050 rpm33 °C56 dBA2900 rpm62 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme14 °C45 dBA1400 rpm27 °C53 dBA1950 rpm51 °C
Thermaltake Silent 115614 °C44 dBA1200 rpm38 °C49 dBA1750 rpm69 °C
Noctua NH-D1414 °C49 dBA1250 rpm27 °C49 dBA 1250 rpm53 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Performa14 °C46 dBA1500 rpm28 °C52 dBA1950 rpm54 °C
Prolimatech Megahalems14 °C40 dBA750 rpm27 °C60 dBA2550 rpm50 °C
Thermaltake Frio14 °C46 dBA1450 rpm27 °C60 dBA2500 rpm50 °C
Prolimatech Samuel 1714 °C40 dBA750 rpm40 °C60 dBA2550 rpm63 °C
Zalman CNPS8000A18 °C43 dBA1400 rpm39 °C54 dBA2500 rpm70 °C
Spire TherMax Eclipse II14 °C55 dBA2200 rpm28 °C55 dBA2200 rpm53 °C
Scythe Ninja317 °C39 dBA700 rpm32 °C55 dBA1800 rpm57 °C
Corsair A5018 °C52 dBA1900 rpm33 °C52 dBA1900 rpm60 °C
Thermaltake Jing18 °C44 dBA850 rpm34 °C49 dBA1300 rpm60 °C
GlacialTech Alaska18 °C43 dBA1150 rpm36 °C51 dBA1600 rpm60 °C
Deepcool Gamer Storm18 °C43 dBA1100 rpm35 °C48 dBA1600 rpm62 °C
Corsair A7026 °C56 dBA1900 rpm40 °C56 dBA1900 rpm65 °C
Deepcool Ice Blade Pro23 °C45 dBA1200 rpm38 °C52 dBA1500 rpm64 °C
AC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 223 °C47 dBA1750 rpm44 °C51 dBA2100 rpm77 °C
Corsair H7027 °C60 dBA1900 rpm37 °C60 dBA1900 rpm61 °C
Zalman CNPS9900 Max27 °C55 dBA1600 rpm38 °C58 dBA1750 rpm63 °C
Arctic Cooling Freezer 11 LP25 °C45 dBA1700 rpm51 °C49 dBA1950 rpm91 °C
CoolIT Vantage26 °C60 dBA2500 rpm37 °C60 dBA2500 rpm62 °C
Deepcool Ice Matrix 60025 °C46 dBA1100 rpm41 °C53 dBA1300 rpm69 °C
Titan Hati26 °C46 dBA1500 rpm40 °C57 dBA2450 rpm68 °C
Arctic Cooling Freezer 1327 °C49 dBA1950 rpm41 °C53 dBA2300 rpm70 °C
Noctua NH-C1426 °C52 dBA1300 rpm37 °C52 dBA1300 rpm61 °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.

 

Noctua NH-C14

 

Main Specifications

The main features of the Noctua NH-C14 CPU cooler include:

* Reseached at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

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.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Noctua-NH-C14-CPU-Cooler-Review/1210


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