Noctua NH-C14 Review

ccokeman - 2010-12-10 20:50:52 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 5, 2011
Price: $89.99

Introduction:

The stock CPU heat sink is often maligned for being inadequate for the task of removing the heat from our processors while they are running well outside the boundaries AMD and Intel set for the designs. What's a person to do but try and find the best cooling solution for their needs! That can include everything from a simple improvement over the stock design all the way up to phase change and liquid nitrogen, albeit the latter is more for the the true hardcore benchmarking enthusiast. The selection process often has as much to do with looks, reputation, on line buzz, price and personal experience as it does with actual performance and noise characteristics. One man's trash is another man's treasure they say. What I have to look at today is another offering from Noctua with their NH-C14 C style CPU cooler. I have looked at more than a few of Noctua's offerings including the NH-U12P SE 1366 , NH-D14 and the heat sink that compares most closely to the NH-C14, the NH-C12P SE 14. As a successor to the NH-C12P design, the NH-C14 is bigger and equipped with a pair of Noctua's NF-P14 FLX fans that offer high airflow, static pressure and a low noise signature. All hallmarks of the company's design philosophies. Each of the aforementioned cooling solutions from Noctua have been well engineered as a system that works with extreme loads all while delivering great thermal performance with little of the noise normally associated with high-end air cooling solutions. The NH-C12P was a highly touted C style heat sink that delivered exceptional performance. The question is will the NH-C14 deliver even better performance? By the end of this review I will have the answer.

Closer Look:

Noctua's packaging is ideal for use in a brick and mortar retail store. Just about everything you would want to know about the heat sink can be found by looking through the illustrations and information on the four sides and top. The front panel shows a picture of the cooler as well as a listing of the type of cooler this is, how it can be used, as well as the mounting solution. The left side provides more detail on this information while the right side has technical drawings of the NH-C14 giving all of the critical dimensions as well as listing the contents of the package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you open the package you can see that Noctua takes as much care in designing the packaging to transport the NH-C14 as it does in designing the cooling solution. The accessories are held in a separate box while the cooler is inside a pair of boxes that are strategically braced to keep transit damage to a minimum. The box that houses the accessories is slim but contains all that is needed to install the NH-C14 including the SecuFirm2 mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel, s screwdriver for installation, Noctua thermal paste, a bag of common parts and detailed installation instructions.

 

 

The SeciFirm 2 mounting hardware supports all of today's popular sockets from AMD including AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required) and Intel including LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775. The AMD solutions use the existing back plate from the motherboard while the Intel solution uses a universal back plate that is insulated to prevent shorting out against motherboard components.

 

The Common Parts kit for the NH-C14 includes a "Y" harness to attach both of the NF-P14 fans to a single header, a pair of "Low Noise Adapters", A pair of "Ultra Low Noise Adapters" one for each of the fans, a tube of NT-H1 thermal paste, a metal case badge, four mounting brackets, four rubber studs to mount one of the NF-P14 fans to the chassis, screwdriver and the detailed instruction manual for both AMD and Intel installations. As has been seen in the past, Noctua includes everything that could be needed to get their product installed on your CPU/motherboard combination.

 

 

I must say Noctua does not fail to impress with the package they put together. Let's see how the NH-C14 looks and then put it to the test.

Closer Look:

The Noctua NH-C14 is a C shaped cooling solution that uses a total of six heat pipes to transfer the the thermal load from the nickel plated copper base plate up to the large aluminum fin array. In a direct comparison to the NH-C12P SE14, the NH-C14 is taller by 16mm at 130mm, wider without the NF-P14 fan by a total of 14mm and deeper by again 14mm without the fan. This added size increases the cooling capacity of the NH-C14 and also the weight by a total of 150g driving the weight of the cooler to 700g without the fans attached. Weight creeps up to 1000g with both fans installed. Part of this added weight comes in the form of a brace used to help support the aluminum fin array. The NH-C14 has several modes it can be used in to fit a variety of installation scenarios. Both fans can be used for the best cooling while the bottom fan can be removed to address clearance issues while the top fan can be removed to fit the cooler into a tight chassis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling the NF-P14 fans off you get a look at the construction of the NH-C14. The base is typical Noctua. The machining grooves on the contact surface can be felt when running a fingernail over the surface. This seems to not present any challenges to the cooling performance. The SecuFirm 2 mounting plates attach to the side of the base plate and use spring loaded screws to provide the optimum pressure to hold the heat sink's 1000g weight in place. Situated right above the screws are a pair of access holes in the fin array. The included screw driver or a long stem Philips screwdriver is needed to tighten the mounting screws down.

 

 

 

The fins on the NH-C14 are notched to create a larger surface area for the air flowing through the heat sink to remove heat. The six heat pipes as well as a brace (not used on the NH-C12P) support the 140mm wide fin array. Even this brace gets vibration dampening, Noctua's engineering makes sure that when a product goes out the door it will deliver the lowest noise possible. The six heatpipes run though the two piece base plate with an aluminum heat sink built into the top section.

 

 

 

The fans mount to the NH-C14 with a pair of wire clips that are captured onto studs in the fan mounting holes. This keeps the wires from getting lost as well as reducing the difficulty factor when installing or removing the fans. Noctua is all about delivering quiet performance. The fin array has a series of rubber blocks on the top and bottom that the NF-P14 fans ride upon when mounted to the NH-C14. The purpose of these blocks is to act as vibration dampeners to eliminate the fan vibration against the fin array that is sometimes heard when a fan is "Hard" mounted to a heat sink.

 

 

The heat sink is only part of the NH-C14 package. While the heatsink itself is an important part of the package, the fans play a significant role in the performance profile that is delivered by the assembly. Noctua could have used any fans they wanted for this heat sink but why go outside when you have one of the best fans in the business in terms of noise and static pressure? The latter is what is really needed to force air through a heat sink. Big airflow numbers are all for naught when they can't deliver the higher static pressures needed to push air through the tightly spaced fins of a heat sink or radiator. The NF-P14 fans are designed to do just those things with special features that improve static pressure and airflow. On each of the fan blades there is a pair of "Vortex Notches". These notches are offset from the prior and following blade in the nine blade sequence. These notches control the vortices created by the blade in the housing resulting in smoother airflow and less velocity loss. The frame of the NF-P14 FLX fan uses the common 120mm bolt pattern but can still be installed into a 140mm platform using the supplied adapters. Under the fan hub is where an additional amount of engineering has taken place. Inside is a CNC machined brass hub that reinforces the hub assembly to create less vibration. Instead of a sleeve or ball bearing, Noctua uses what is called an SSO or Self Stabilizing Oil pressure bearing. The benefits are reduced noise, increased MTBF less gyro effect and vibration during start up. Both of the NF-P14 fans use a rubberized braided covering over the wiring to the fan for both improved looks and abrasion resistance.

 

 

 

Installation of the NH-C14 is a fairly straight forward process using the SecuFirm 2 mounting system and is discussed in detail in the included manual. The back plate for use on Intel systems covers socket 775, 1366, 1155 and 1156. After the installation and testing, I installed the NH-C14 in place of an NH-U12P SE 1366 in another of my test platforms to see how it fit using a different motherboard. Even in a large chassis like the HAF 932 the NH-C14 is very substantial in size.

 

 

If the NH-C14 performs anywhere near as well as the NH-C12P SE14 then the NH-C14 should easily handle the thermal load better based just on size and the implementation.

Specifications:

Socket compatibility     
Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required)
Height (without fan)
105mm
Width (without fan)
140mm
Depth (without fan)
166mm
Height (with fan)
130mm
Width (with fan)
140mm
Depth (with fan)
166mm
Weight (without fan)
780 g
Weight (with fan)
800g/1000g
Fan compatibility
140x140x25 & 120x120x25mm
Material
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Scope of Delivery
2 x 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
Warranty
6 Years

 

Fan specifications
Model
Noctua NF-P14
Bearing
SSO-Bearing
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1200  RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A./U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
900/ 750  RPM
Airflow
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
MTBF   
> 150.000 h

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Noctua @ http://www.noctua.at/main.php?show=productview&products_id=37&lng=en&set=1

Testing:

To put the latest performance heat sink from Noctua (the NH-C14) 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 this monster-of-a-heat sink 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 26.5 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 3.6 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:

Comparison Heat sinks:

 

 

 

   

   

 

 

The NH-C14 delivered great idle temperatures in both stock and overclocked scenarios. The 130+ CFM of air pushed by the NF-P14 FLX fans contributes significantly to this result. Under load at stock settings, the NH-C14 just barely outperforms the highly touted NH-C12P SE14. When you push the thermal envelope a bit higher, the NH-C14 moves ahead and into territory occupied by some elite company.

Conclusion:

The Noctua NH-C14 is an improvement over the NH-C12 in both size and cooling capability. With this cooler you have the tried and true C style design from Noctua with an added twist. The addition of a second NF-P14 fan to assist the top mounted fan in moving airflow through the heat sink. When tested against the NH-C12P SE14 in the stock testing, it delivered slightly better cooling numbers in both the idle and load tests. Where the NH-C14 excels against it predecessor is when the thermal load increases. In the overclocked testing, the NH-C14 bested the NH-C12P SE14 by three degrees Celsius in the load testing. This result puts the NH-C14's cooling capabilities ahead of some of the all-in-one liquid and tower solutions in the comparison field. In the looks department, Noctua continues to impress with the nickel plating and finish. I did not notice any areas that looked like the finish was ready to come off. These good looks and excellent fit and finish come with a price tag though. At $89, though steep for a heat sink, you get what you pay for it seems when it comes to fit, finish and cooling performance.

Noctua has equipped this cooler with two of its largest fans to push the airflow needed to keep the thermals in check. The NF-P14 FLX fans come with a wealth of innovative technologies that deliver increased static pressure without increasing the noise signature of the design. The use of offset Vortex notches on each of the blades reduces the effects of turbulence to improve airflow velocity and static pressure, making these fans ideal for use on a heat sink. In addition to the the Vortex notches, the NF-P14 FLX fans use a combination of a metal reinforced (brass) bearing shell and SSO (Self Stabilizing Oil Pressure) bearing to minimize any imbalance for added longevity and noise suppression. With two of these fans in place, you have the ability to remove either one to fit the NH-C14 into any number of situations. You can go ultra low profile with a single fan under the fin array for use in HTPC or shallow chassis. High clearance mode allows for a single fan on top to address clearance issues caused by dram modules or motherboard heat sink cooling solutions. While, the dual fan option can be used in all other situations. Noctua's Secufirm 2 mounting solution is standard with this cooler and the Noctua lineup. This mounting solution has got to be one of the easiest to work with and provides excellent retention properties to hold the up to 1000g weight of the NH-C14 when equipped with both fans. It is a bolt through design but if you are putting together a new build then it's no harm, no foul but, if this solution is an upgrade, then motherboard removal will be necessary. There is no doubt that the NH-C14 is larger than the NH-C12. Fitting this heat sink into a cramped chassis may present some unique challenges. When installed horizontally, the NH-C14 hangs over the top edge of the motherboard by about .75 inch in my chassis. This is not a problem in the HAF 932 but in a mid-tower it might be an issue with the cramped quarters normally associated with the PSU motherboard spacing. This again means that depending on the location of the socket on the motherboard being used this may not present an issue.

Noise is just about always the enemy of a good air cooled heat sink. As proven in the past, this does not have to be so. Noctua engineers their cooling solution to be effective with their own low noise, high performance fans. This means that when the NF-P14 FLX fans are spinning at 1200+/- rpm they are pushing over 65CFM at 19.6 dBA. By using the "Low Noise" and "Ultra Low Noise" adapters, the fan speed as well as noise signature drops to an almost inaudible 13.2 and 10.1 dBA respectively. Couple the low noise generated by the fans and the rubber isolation mounts for both fans attached to the fin array and you have a very low noise solution with no vibration noise that can cause an irritation to the senses. I did not think that a C style heat sink could stand up any better to the tower heat sinks or all-in-one liquid solutions on the market but Noctua again delivers a product that does the job of removing the thermal load while looking good and remaining dead silent.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: