Noctua NH-U14S Review
Before we go any further let’s make it clear that the NH-U14S is not another D14, so don't go expecting the same level of cooling that its big brother offers. The U14S does however share the same level of quality and attention to detail in build, accessories and packaging that we've come to expect from all Noctua products. As you can imagine we open a lot of boxes here at OC3D and few manufacturers bring as much joy as Noctua do when you open the lid and start to delve into the contents.
With everything out and your chosen fitting method extracted from its individual interlinked box the act of fitting the U14S could scarcely be easier. This is in no small part due to the clarity of the instructions and the intuitive design of the SecuFirm2 fittings. With a good sized syringe of NT-H1, additional fan clips, rubber isolation pads and even a screw driver there's nothing left wanting.
With the fin stack only 52mm thick without the fan fitted and 78mm with the fan you're pretty much guaranteed not to have any RAM encroachment issues. Noctua state that certain AMD boards RAM slots encroach on the CPU exclusion zone, so there are a few exceptions to this.
In use the U14S is one of the quietest coolers we've heard. This of course is mainly down to the NF-A15 PWM fan it comes bundled with. At 1500 RPM the fan is near silent producing only 24.6dB(A). A second NF-A15 can be added running at a slower 1200 RPM as advised by Noctua, with a set of 5mm thick rubber stand offs acting as a baffle and further reducing vibration. Under test conditions there was no discernible increase in noise when the second fan was added. It should be noted that Noctua do supply a LNA should you want to run both fans at the same speed.
if you've read through the whole review as we know you diligent OC3Dites have then you'll already know that we're not big fans of the Noctua's fan colour scheme. We understand that Brown and prosthetic limb beige are something of a signature colour for Noctua, and any enthusiast gazing through a case window will instantly know that quality lies within, but just as a thought wouldn't it be great to have sexy looking Noctuas. Imagine that, Noctua fans that actually go with the colour scheme of your case (we're making the assumption here that you don't have a suede and sand themed build).
We've already asserted that we're not expecting the U14S to match or even come close to the D14, but how well did it actually do? Well not bad, but perhaps not as well as expected. Certainly at stock and 4.0GHz it was only slightly better than the Megahalem black and the Matterhorn pure, both of which are smaller 120mm fan units. What is interesting is that it's performance is only slightly off that of the truly massive K2 which with its RAM encroachment and fitting issues makes it the weaker choice, especially when compared to the similarly sized D14. At 4.4GHz the U14S managed to squeeze through in dual fan trim, again only a degree or so off the pace of the K2.
But of course it isn't only air coolers that the U14S has to compete with. With AIO water coolers getting cheaper and more user friendly its biggest competition comes from the likes of the cheaper Cooler Master Seidon 120 and similarly priced Corsair H60. Add in the £20 cost of the additional NF-A14 fan required to hold temps down at 4.4GHz and the price tag of nearly £80 for the whole shooting match starts to look a little steep.
To summarise, if you've got tall RAM and are looking for a very quiet cooler then the NH-U14S is a good bet. It has quality (if not stunning good looks) in spades, and although the fans aren't to everyone's taste it will be instantly recognisable as a Noctua through your case window. This does of course come at a price especially when you throw in the second fan. Performance is acceptable if not blistering and as we might expect of a cooler of this size. If however you're feeling a bit braver and fancy trying an AIO then there are better bangs for your buck to be had.