Noctua NH-D14 Review Page: 1

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Introduction

BOGOF.... Yep thats right, BOGOF or buy one get one free as its otherwise known. How many times have you been walking round the supermarket and bought something just because you get another free? What is it inside us that makes us so happy when we think we get something for free?

Overclocking your PC is very similar to that notion, you ramp up you base clock and effectively get a much faster CPU than you really paid for. The direct trade of with overclocking is with increased volts brings increased heat which needs to be dissipated. So many times on the OC3D Forums I have seen the threads "best air cooler for a 4ghz i7 920?"

The trouble is that its not a simple answer. In my books 60 - 70c on air is as high as Id like to go. Over 80c is an absolute no-no in my eyes for extended use. That's where the search for the best cooling starts and so often leads an enthusiast into buying a custom water cooling loop or having their PC sounding like a wind tunnel. Is it really possible to tame a 4ghz i7 without water cooling or needing 220cfm Deltas?

Noctua seem to think so, and today we will be testing the NH-D14. Without further ado let's take a look at the specifications.

NH-D146 heatpipe dual radiator design
Providing more surface area, better heat-distribution and superior airflow efficiency than conventional tower style heatsinks, the NH-D14’s six heatpipe dual radiator design was developed to provide ultimate quiet cooling performance in dual fan mode.

NH-D14Dual NF-P14/NF-P12 fan setup
The NH-D14 sports a premium quality dual fan setup consisting of Noctua’s award-winning NF-P12 (120mm) and NF-P14 (140mm) fans, both of which feature Vortex-Control Notches, SCD technology and SSO-Bearings in order to achieve a perfect balance of performance and quietness.

NH-D14Asymmetrical design for high compatibility
An asymmetrical design that gives more clearance towards the RAM slots ensures good compatibility despite of the cooler’s size. The NF-P12 fan can be moved upwards or left off in order to further improve compatibility.

NH-D14Excellent component cooling
Hanging out at the bottom of the fin-stacks, the NF-P14 fan doesn’t only contribute to the NH-D14’s superb CPU cooling capabilities but also provides massive airflow over surrounding motherboard components and heatsinks, thus ensuring excellent component cooling performance.

SecuFirmSecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system
Noctua’s enthusiast grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting provides broad socket compatibility (LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA775, AM2, AM2+ and AM3) and meets the highest demands in safety, contact pressure and ease-of-use.

NT-H1NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua's much-acclaimed NT-H1 is a well proven pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease-of-use and outstanding reliability

 

Lets move on for a first look at the heat sink.   



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Initial Impressions

When the box first arrived for the NH-D14 I thought my luck was in and I had been sent two by mistake! On closer inspection I found that, to my amazement, it was just one unit. The box is huge for a heatsink, measuring in at W210mm, D195mm, H232mm. Normally when we are surprised with the size of packaging it turns out to be lots of empty boxes inside, but not with the Noctua at least 80% of it is the actual heatsink box!

The heatsink comes with all the fittings needed for 775,1165 and 1366 Intel sockets plus AM2, AM2+ and AM3 sockets as well, just for good measure there is a tube of the NT-H1 thermal paste and a pair of 'Ultra Low Noise Adapters' which is pretty much a fan cable with a in-line resistor.

Noctua NH-D14 Review Packaging     Noctua NH-D14 Review Packaging

It took a good 15 minutes after opening the heatsink box for me to recover my jaw from the floor. This thing is absolutely massive and is the biggest heatsink I've ever personally seen or used. Even with the massive size Noctua have managed to keep the weight down so much that even using it on a normal vertical motherboard configuration shouldn't have your prized motherboard warping under the weight. There are 6 heat pipes which are connected to both sides of the heatsink, the only way to describe it is it really does look like 2 775 heatsinks on one mounting plate linked by the 6 heatpipes.

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Fans are listed as 1x120mm and 1x140mm, the circular design of the centre fan slightly protrudes from the main body of the heatsink, but this helps with airflow around the socket of the CPU to aid cooling, of the mosfets for example. Fitting the heatsink was very simple, you just push the back plate through the motherboard, mount the secondary retention brackets and then screw the main body of the heatsink into place. Yep that's it. All very simple but still feeling very secure.

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One issue some of you may have is clearance with your RAM or North Bridge if you use oversized heatsinks as the Noctua covered the first 3 RAM slots on our Rampage 2 Extreme test motherboard. This wasn't an issue with our test set-up, but it is something that should be taken into account before making a purchase.

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My long suffering other half assures me size doesn't matter, but lets head over to testing to see if our system approves of a bit of extra girth!



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Testing

When it comes to the 1366 socket it’s not hard to realise that the cheapest CPU in the line up the 920 is also the most popular. This is re-enforced by the fact most 920 D0’s will hit the 4ghz milestone if you know your way round your BIOS. Couple this with the £210 price tag and it means they fly off the shelves.

It's this popularity that made us choose the 920 for testing today. It's not quite as simple as you may think though. Over-clocking them can be very simple, keeping them cool however is not. It's not unusual for our forum members to be mentioning over 90degrees when testing on a sub standard coolers and even the CPU’s shutting down because of the increased heat.

When it comes to over-clocking a 1366 we pulled out the old faithful set of equipment that we know inside out and back to front and set our 920 up with a 4ghz overclock (200x20) at 1.35vcore.

Test System

Intel i7 920 D0
Asus Rampage Extreme 2
Corsair Platinum 6gb 1333mhz
Asus ATI 5870
OCZ 1000w Gold Series PSU
Samsung Spinpoint F1 1tb

Overclock settings

200 BCLK
20 x Multiplier
1.35vcore
1.38 QDPI
1.64 VRAM

All tests were carried out in a temperature controlled room at 20degrees, and each of the heat sinks tested 3 times with a fresh mount and application of Arctic Cooling MX3 each time. An average temperature was taken from the 3 tests to provide our results. With each fresh mount of the heat sinks we allowed the system to idle for 30minutes before running Prime 95 on its ‘maximum heat, maximum stress’ setting for a further 30minutes before a maximum temperature was taken.

All tests were run at both 12v and also using the Noctuas ‘quiet fan cables’ (Intel and V8 were left set to maximum fans when using the resistor cables to eliminate the fans running any slower )

We used the new Intel 980x cooler as the first of our heat sinks to compare. It was starting to struggle without being in performance mode, although the faster fan does help it cool much better it is also pretty much unbearable to sit next to. In quiet mode it is a lot more usable, but still not acceptable for late night use and the temperatures were getting very close to the CPU shutting down.

Next in comparison was the Cooler Master V8, much regarded as one of the higher end coolers available and we also tested this at both minimum and maximum fans. The cooler did cope quite well at maximum fans managing to stay below 80c, but in silent mode the temps rose quickly above and the CPU came very close to shutting down.

Now on to the reason why we are here, the Noctua. Even with the fans running at 12v immediately this cooler stands out from the crowd, or rather hides in the shadows, as it is so quiet I even checked to see if the centre fan was actually running.  With the fans at 12v the hottest core on the CPU never went above 68 degrees. Yeah that’s right it never even got to 70 degrees! Something that was also very apparent was the sheer amount of heat pouring out the back of the heat sink, just placing your hand near the back of it you could feel the warm air, nothing unusual but the temperature and the amount of air being forced out the back at such an inaudible rate was a massive shock to me.

So stage one went very well, but for some reason I didn’t hold out much hope for the fans being run at silent, especially not with our 4ghz over clock… right? Well put your cup of tea down, swallow that mouthful of sandwich because you about to spit it out or choke in shock.

 


With the fans on low, which I might add is about as close to silent as you will ever get with 2x 140mm fans pushing over a heatsink, the CPU’s hottest core never went above 72c! A 4ghz overclock on an i7 920 on air, with silent fans at 72c! Not quite believing this I left the sytem running on the final test for the whole day, a total of 6 hours in the end running at 100% and still even after that it never went above 73c!

For all those that didn’t take my warning, clean your keyboard and monitor before heading over to the conclusion.

 



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Conclusion

Ill start by affirming my love for water cooling right here and now before I start this. Proper water cooling that is, not the £100 cheap 120mm kits that are available which need to be given a very wide birth, but before the emails start flooding my inbox I'll explain why.

The Noctua NH-D14 is the first heat sink that’s actually made me question the point for a CPU only water loop. The water loop is not only more expensive, but is quite daunting to install for a first timer, and it also has more chance to go wrong with failing pumps, and if it leaks it can actually kill your whole system.

If you were to buy the Noctua not only would you save money, not have the worry anything  other than the fans can go wrong but I’m also willing to put money on the fact that there would only be a couple of degree’s in temperature difference and I openly invite any water cooling shop to send me a 120mm kit for around £100 and prove me wrong.

With the ease of use, silence and the water cooling like temperatures all for £69.99 the only problem I can see with the NH-D14 is its size, so please do look at your system carefully, north bridge heat sinks and ram sizes are the particular issues I can see for most users. If none of these look like they will be an issue then I’d have to say this is the best cooler we have tested to date.

I’m so amazed by this coolers low noise yet class leading performance I will not only recommend it and award it with our coveted gold ‘Best in Class’ award but most importantly for a reviewer I am actually going to continue using it in my own personal rig which is worth more than any award in the real world!

So that’s it. The gauntlet has been laid down guys. This is the cooler to beat. If any manufacturer thinks they can beat these temperatures and be this quiet at the same time then you can contact me through the usual channels.

Good
- Awesome Cooling
- Near silent
- Even tamed a 4ghz i7

Mediocre
- Size - its not the smallest sink in the world is it!
- have to remove centre fan to mount

Bad
- They didnt make this before!

 

Thanks to Noctua for the sample today, you can discuss this in our forums