Noctua NH-C12P SE14 Review

ccokeman - 2009-02-15 16:23:57 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 15, 2010
Price: $71.99


Heatsinks - they take away the heat generated by any number of components found in our systems. The CPU heatsink is one of the most important when it comes to the enthusiast, as not just any run of the mill heatsink will be up to the task. With the additional clock speed and voltage that we torture our precious little bits of sand with, leaves the stock solution in a position where it just cannot cope with the additional heat generated under load. Heck, even with the stock cooling solution fan running at 100%, you can get temperatures that really are not ideal and quickly climb to the levels that I for one, find uncomfortable. Fortunately, I am not in the minority, as replacing that stock cooling solution is one of the quickest improvements you can make to the operating temperatures of the CPU.

The Noctua NH-C12P SE14 is an update to the NH-C12P, which replaces the NF-P12 fan with the NF-P14 FLX 140mm fan to the already proven design. The 'c' shaped design is quite different from the tower design used on the NH-U12P SE 1366 and NH-D14, but still is loaded up with a total of six heat-pipes and a down-draft design that features airflow gaps to both allow cooling of the motherboard components around the socket, as well as providing an avenue to reach the SecuFirm2 mounting screws. If you look at all the technology and sound engineering of the Noctua cooling solutions, they do not just engineer one part of the solution. Instead, they provide the whole package - from the heatsink, to the high end fans, to the NT-H1 thermal compound. Let's see just how well this improved version of the NH-C12P performs.

Closer Look:

When it is time to make a purchase, information is king! Noctua has printed relevant information on all sides of the packaging, save the bottom panel. On the front panel, you have the product name (NH-C12P SE14), company name, a short list of features and a window to get a glimpse of the fan and heatsink. By spinning the box around, you get a detailed list of the features in English, then those features are listed on another panel in multiple languages. One side gives the critical dimensions, and even the top of the box gets into the act with the specifications of the heatsink and fan. Information will help you make the right decision when it comes time to picking out a heatsink on the shelf at your local shop, or PC mega-store.





The NH-C12P SE14 is well protected in the packaging and is packed tight enough to prevent the parts from moving around, or causing damage. Pop the top and the heatsink and accessory bundle are in two separate boxes. The bundle as it comes from Noctua, is the same bundle it seems, that ships with all of its consumer heatsinks and comes with its SecuFirm2 mounting components for both Intel socket LGA 1366, LGA 1156, LGA 775, AMD AM2, AMD2+ and AM3 systems. This allows you to attach the NH-C12P SE14 to just about any current system. You get an Intel kit, an AMD kit, detailed instructions for both Intel and AMD and last but not least, a bag of common components.




Each mounting "kit" comes with everything you will need to get the heatsink attached to your motherboard. With the Intel kit, you get the adjustable back-plate that uses a series of holes to allow you to mount it to all three supported socket types, just by installing the studs in the right holes. Spacing is 75mm for socket 775, 77mm for 1156 and 80mm for socket 1366. The rubber cut-out seen beside the back-plate, is used for socket 775 installations, as there is not a CPU socket back-plate to get in the way. This provides additional protection against short circuits. The AMD kit uses the back-plate already installed as part of the stock mounting solution and proves adequate for the job. The common components are parts that work with both socket types and include the brackets to secure the NF-P14 fan to the NH-C12P.



In the 'common parts' kit, you have quite a few items, including the fan mounting clips, anti vibration pads, a tube of Noctua's excellent thermal interface material, a single L.N.A (low noise adapter) and U.L.N.A. (Ultra low noise adapter) to slow down the already quiet fan, and a metal case badge to let the rest of the world know you are packing Noctua cooling in your rig. The only thing I did not see, was the screwdriver that normally accompanies a Noctua heatsink, but really that's not a big issue. Maybe that part just missed the trip. The manuals to install the NH-C12P SE14 are very detailed and provide clear direction on how to install the heatsink on your combination of parts.



After seeing the components, let's dig deeper into the fan and the heatsink, to see if they are quality items.


Closer Look:

The NH-C12P SE14 package has been put together using the proven NH-C12P 'c' shaped down-draft style heatsink, with the largest fan in Noctua's inventory - the NH-P14 FLX 140mm fan. At 114mm tall with the NF-P14 fan installed, this assembly comes in at 11mm shorter than the NH-U9B tower heatsink, also from Noctua, eliminating any height concerns. This heatsink is made using a copper contact plate and heat-pipes soldered to an aluminum fin array, with all of it soldered together and nickel plated for that high-class look that is so popular. The NH-C12P uses a total of six heat-pipes to transfer the heat to the aluminum fin array, in order to be dispersed by the airflow from the 140mm fan. You will notice that the fin array is not just hanging over the base-plate, but it is actually run down onto the base-plate to provide an additional path for the thermal load to travel through. Looking at the side views, you can see the branding on the end of the heatsink. Instead of having a flat surface, the fin array has ridges that help add surface area to the area directly under the fan. Looking at reverse side of the NH-C12P heatsink, you can see the six heat-pipes that are soldered to the base-plate and then run into the fin array.









The contact surface is typical of what Noctua delivers, with slight machining marks that do not really seem to hinder its performance. You can still see the reflection of a quarter on the base-plate. To the left of the contact plate you have what look like wings, but are really the mounting points for the SecuFirm2 hardware assembly. You have probably noticed that a large area of the fin array has been cut out. These are called "Air Gaps" by Noctua and are there primarily to promote airflow down and around the CPU socket components and by default will allow access to the SecuFirm2 mounting screws.



The NF-P14 fan mounts to the NH-C12P with the clips contained in the common components package, but before you mount the fan, you will want to put on the vibration dampers to make sure that you have the quietest install possible. These 4 gel pads stick in four notches of the heatsink, each located in a corner of the face of the NH-C12P. The bracket hooks into a notch in the side of the heatsink and flips up and over the lip and into the mounting screw hole of the NF-P14 fan. From this second picture, you can see the value of the vibration dampers. Lastly, there is a view of the whole assembly.



The NF-P14 FLX fan used to upgrade the performance of the NH-C12P heatsink, is the same fan first seen in use on the Noctua NH-D14. Noctua has used the technology on its smaller fans when building the NF-P14 FLX. The first thing that is noticeable, is the nine-blade design, with blades that feature a series of offset Vortex Control notches. These help reduce the noise generated by the fan, as well as increasing static pressure - something that is really what you need on top of the output airflow. It's great if you have a ton of airflow, but if you slap the fan on a heatsink or radiator and you can't move any air through it, then what have you gained? The fan assembly uses CNC machined brass reinforcements in the hub and bearing assembly, to keep vibration to a minimum and increasing the life-span of the whole assembly. Again, this reduces the noise of the assembly. SSO bearings are employed as another way to increase longevity and reduce noise. The wiring used on the NF-P14 is sleeved with a rubberized sleeving, that really has held up well on the older Noctua fans I have. When it comes to Noctua's fans, it is the technology that really makes the difference, whether the technology is in plain view, or hidden inside the hub.



Installation really was no different from installing the other Noctua heatsinks I have looked at recently. The SecuFirm2 mounting assembly is top-notch when it comes to mounting the NH-C12P SE14. Attach the base-plate and bracket to the motherboard and screw down the two spring loaded mounting screws for the perfect mount every time. In the large case I use, the heatsink fits comfortably without a hassle and allowed the airflow through the "Air Gaps" to cool of the MOSFETs to the side of the socket.


Now let's test this latest heatsink from Noctua and see just how well it handles the eight threads of the Core i7 920.



Socket compatibility     
Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required)
Height (without fan)
Width (without fan)
Depth (without fan)
Height (with fan)
Width (with fan)
Depth (with fan)
Weight (without fan)
550 g
Weight (with fan)
730 g
Fan compatibility
140x140x25 & 120x120x25mm
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Scope of Delivery
NF-P14 premium fan
 Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
 Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
 NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
 SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kits
 Noctua Metal Case-Badge
6 Years


Fan specifications
Noctua NF-P14
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1200  RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A./U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
900/ 750  RPM
110,3 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A./ U.L.N.A.   
83,7/ 71.2 m³/h
Acoustical Noise
19,6  dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A./ U.L.N.A.
13,2 / 10.1 dB(A)
Input Power
1,2 / 1,08 W
Voltage Range
12 V
> 150.000 h




All information courtesy of Noctua @


To put the latest performance heatsink from Noctua, the NH-C12P SE 14, to the test, I will be making a comparison of the temperatures at idle and under load. Both will be made while the CPU is at the stock voltages and clock speeds, as well as when the CPU is overclocked and 'over-volted'. This will help to show what kind of cooling performance that this monster of a heatsink has to offer, when compared to other socket 1366 compatible high-performance heatsinks. These heatsinks will be tested head-to-head as they are delivered from the manufacturer. I could throw in a bunch of testing variables, but it is not what the products are capable of as delivered. To test the idle temperatures, I will allow the computer to stay idle for 30 minutes and take the idle temperature at this point. For the load testing, I will use Prime95 version 25.9 and choose the blend testing and allow the processor and memory controller to heat up to the maximum temperatures. The time frame is a four-hour run, to allow the temperature to peak - usually in the 14K test. I will use Real temp 3.0 to take the high and low temperatures and average the temperatures generated over the four cores as my reported temperatures.

Testing Setup:


Comparison Heat sinks:







While all of these heatsinks perform within a three to four degree envelope at idle, both stock and overclocked, it's what they deliver under load that sets them apart. When compared to the NH-D14, the NH-C12P SE-14 delivers temperatures that are eight degrees warmer under load at stock speeds and nine degrees warmer when overclocked - the differential stays pretty consistent. Compared to the TRUE and NH-U12P SE 1366, the differential shrinks to four and five degrees, which is a pretty fair accomplishment to get that close.



The NH-C12P SE 14 is another solid offering from Noctua. When it was compared to the other high-end heatsinks tested, it performed well by comparison, falling between the NH-U9B SE2 and the Thermalright TRUE. This is an accomplishment in itself, because when overclocked, the temperature differential between the NH-C12P SE14 and the TRUE was only four degrees Celsius. At stock speeds, the differential between the two maintained the same four degree span. This shows that as the thermal load grows, the NH-C12P SE14 keeps pace with the tower-style heatsinks.

Noctua is a company that puts plenty of thought and good, solid engineering into the products they make. A fan is just a fan, right? Wrong! Noctua takes the concept and makes it better. You get the 'Vortex Control Notches' on the fan blades, the use of SSO bearings and CNC machined brass reinforcements in the hub and bearing shell, to give the fan a longer life. Not to mention it runs quieter, with reduced vibration and higher static pressure, which kills the myth that air cooling has to be noisy. By using a 140mm fan, Noctua has upped the ante on their tried and true NH-C12P heatsink and allowed it to perform almost up to the level of some of the top-end tower-style heatsinks, while coming in at a significantly lower height. While the NH-C12P SE14 is a large heatsink, it does seem to fit well without a lot of the difficulties with mounting or memory, that can arise with tall heatsinks. Although, if you populate all six DIMM slots on an X58 platform, you might run into an issue, depending on the orientation of the heatsink.

However you mount it and whatever platform you use, the SecuFirm2 mounting system is well designed and takes the guesswork out of how tight to tighten the screws. By using spacers under the thumb screws, you just tighten until you reach the spacer and screw them down for an even mount each and every time. At $72, the NH-C12P SE14 is not going to come in as an inexpensive addition to your shopping list, but excellent build quality and comparable performance come with a price tag attached. The NH-C12P SE14 delivers great performance, has great looks and would be a solid alternative to the tower-style heatsinks with its low profile design that can be used where a tower style heatsink just won't fit.