Cooling performance and noise levels are what every PC enthusiast considers when purchasing an aftermarket CPU Cooler for their PC. Some will completely disregard one of the two, and that’s because they don’t want to compromise on what they deem more important.
With that said, the Noctua NH-D14 doesn’t make the choice so tiresome if you want both. Noctua is well known for its extremely silent, yet powerful fans. The word ‘quality’ comes to mind when I think of them, and it’s certainly the case with their flagship CPU Cooler, the NH-D14. This beast sports two of Noctua’s award-winning fans, the NF-P14 and the NF-P12. With the 140mm fan wedged in the middle of two very large, tower-structured heatsinks, and the 120mm fan on the outside, positioned over your RAM modules. This creates a very effective push/pull system that can be achieved on the other side as well, by either clipping on a third fan or having a rear case fan in the same line of airflow. Using another Noctua fan for this would mean your PC would stay extremely quiet too.
Of course I haven’t even mentioned the most talked about feature of this cooler. It’s size. This thing is huge, it’s so big it protrudes past my side panel, forcing me to tape it on. Not to worry, my current case isn’t even a full sized mid-tower and I’ll be purchasing a new one shortly. As I mentioned before, the 120mm fan is positioned directly over the your RAM and this could add more problems for people with high-profile RAM heatsinks. Fortunately, we are given this lovely chart for compatibility with various brands of RAM modules. If you are given the okay here, have a case wider than 180mm and your motherboard doesn’t show problems here, you’ll be fine with the size of the NH-D14.
If an aftermarket cooler can’t beat a stock cooler by laps, then it’s not worth your time. Especially if you’re dropping in over $80 (USD) on one. Some will consider this a hefty price, but this is aimed for the overclocking enthusiast. If you’re not too worried about dragging as much speed as possible out of your CPU, you can get away with a $25 (USD) cooler from Cooler Master that will do you just fine. Of course that price will rise quite a bit when adding better fans, especially for a push/pull system. Although I am pleased with the results I got, even though my CPU didn’t want to budge over 3.9GHz.
When I was running my computer through Prime95, I found that my system could only stay stable at 3.9Ghz and under. This was quite disappointing for me. I had run Prime95 at 100% load for 2 hours and my Phenom II didn’t go anywhere over 36°C during the whole stress test. This wasn’t the NH-D14’s fault though, and if possible I would’ve been about to hit 5GHz no sweat. Luckily Intel machines have better luck, so above is a benchmark comparing the NH-D14 in different modes against other popular coolers. This is on first gen Intel i-series cores.
And as you can see the Noctua NH-D14 out performs everything on the chart and next in line is Prolimatech’s Megahalem, which is using the NH-D14’s fans anyway. I think it’s now a bit more self explanatory, and the price of the NH-D14 starts to look a lot more fair. With the Megahalems coming out over 5°C hotter and it being priced at $70 without any fans, the $85 price tag of the Noctua cooler is justified.
Then Noctua is very generous with the amount of quality accessories bundled with the NH-D14. What we get here is the two mounting brackets for both AMD and Intel, a Y-Splitter for both fans, speed control cables for the fans, screws and anti-vibration plugs for mounting the 12cm fan to your case if wanted, and Noctua’s very effective NT-H1 thermal compound. The rest are quite standard accessories, but it’s Noctua’s thermal compound that strikes me. It so good it’s comparable to the well known Arctic Silver 5, and if I need to replace this cooler or apply a new one on another rig, I’ll be using the supplied NT-H1.
If you’re looking for a decent aftermarket cooler that will allow you to boost your clock up only around a gig, I’d have to tell you to look at Cooler Masters’ Hyper 212 Plus. When it’s at about a third of the price of the Noctua NH-D14, it’s a good deal. This probably isn’t the case if you’re looking at the NH-D14 in the first place. You will be expecting some serious overclocking with this behemoth, and Noctua provides this with class. Not only does it keep your CPU extremely cool, it stays super quiet. That’s what you should be looking for.
That leaves me with the cooler’s only little gripes. Noctua’s daring colour scheme, and the size being just too big. Other than those things, this product comes very highly recommended by me.
+ Excellent cooling
+ Extremely silent
+ Generous amount of accessories
+ NT-H1 is awesome
+ Looks mighty
+ Excels compared to competition at the same price point
– Burgundy/beige isn’t for everyone
– Could be too big for some mid-tower cases