Noctua NH-D14 Reviewccokeman -
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Noctua's fans are an important part of the performance equation. Both the 120mm and 140mm fans are a nine blade design that feature Vortex Notches to improve the airflow and static pressure without increasing the noise the fans make. If you look carefully you will see that the notches are offset from one blade to the next. This helps to spread the airflow noise over many different frequencies so that you do not end up with any annoying fan noise. Another of the hidden bits that you don't see, but quickly appreciate, is the use of SSO (Self Stabilizing Oil Pressure) bearings to further reduce the noise and improve longevity. The NF-P12 pushes around 55CFM at its rated maximum speed, while the NF-14 FLX pushes right around 65 CFM at just under 20dBA. The quality build of Noctua's products are clearly evident. The wiring for each fan is sleeved with a rubbery-textured sleeving that has held up well on the older Noctua fans that I have.
Each of the two fans come equipped with a captured mounting clip to mount the fans to the NH-D14. The clip is held in place on each fan through a unique clip assembly that locks the clip into place. At first glance you have to wonder how it comes apart to use them as case fans if you choose to use the NH-D14 as a passive cooler. One end of the clip is bent with two 90 degree turns at the end that runs through the post assembly, while the other end uses a single bend so that when you lift the clip up, it will slide out and the clip can be rotated out of place. To lock the fan onto the NH-D14, you just lay it into place and pull the clip into position and lock it into the notch on the side of the fin array. This arrangement is much easier to use than the non-captured clips used on the NH-U12P. One detail I had not noticed before was the directional arrows on the outside of the frame that tell the direction of the fans rotation as well as the direction of the airflow.
The bundle of accessories that Noctua provides is top notch. You get pretty much everything you need, including the tools to install the NH-D-14. There is a manual for both AMD and Intel setups that includes very detailed instructions on how to install the heatsink. You get a bag with the AMD components, a bag with the Intel components, and a third bag that includes shared components. What you get in the shared components bag is a tube of Noctua's finest thermal paste NT-H1, a metal case badge to show your support, screws to mount the fans to your chassis, vibration isolators that accomplish the same function, a Y-harness to connect both fans to a single header, and the Low Noise and Ultra Low Noise fan adapters.
The SecuFirm2 backing plate for the Intel kit is a pretty sturdy piece and is insulated well so that there are no shorts on the back of the motherboard PCB. The backplate and brackets are drilled for use with multiple Intel sockets. You have compatibility with socket 775, 1156 and 1366 systems with only a single kit. This kit is a breeze to use with its use of positive stops on the attaching hardware, preventing you from over-tightening the mounting mechanism.
Fitting the NH-D14 onto the motherboard is not challenging by itself. The problems come when you stuff it into the chassis. Much like the Sapphire HD 5970, you need a larger chassis to take advantage of the NH-D14. It is large and takes up a large amount of space. In the Thermaltake Armour+ Full Tower I use, it was a tight fit against the top rail. Additionally, if you plan on using memory modules with tall heatspreaders, you may be out of luck if the fan overlaps the modules. If you have room, you could always relocate the front pusher fan onto the backside as a puller to help out. My Mushkin modules were fine in this case, as they use a shorter heatsink.
Let's see if the size of this cooler makes a performance difference over its contemporaries.