Noctua NH-C14 'C-Type Top-Flow' Heatpipe CPU Cooler Long-Term Review
By: Michael Phrakaysone
I’ve reviewed many CPU coolers over the years of running this website and have seen the evolution of how they were in the past and how design has gradually changed throughout the years. Heatsinks made from aluminum, copper without heatpipes, then heatsinks with heatpipes were introduced gradual increase in size and stature (tower types). Now Noctua has introduced a very unique heatpipe CPU cooler solution that is capable of top-flow, meaning the fan is blowing directly towards the CPU. Noctua is boasting quiet cooling performance with the NH-C14 and did I mention that it has a beastly presence?
Today I will be reviewing the brand new Noctua NH-C14 ‘C-Type Top-Flow CPU cooler that is capable of being installed on any current AMD and Intel offerings on the market, along with the upcoming LGA 2011 for the Intel Sandy Bridge-E processors (being provided for free with proof of purchase). Without further ado, lets dive right into the review.
Noctua comes from a cooperation of the Austrian Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H. with the Taiwanese cooling specialist Kolink International Corporation, pooling more than ten years of experience in the development, manufacturing and marketing of high-end cooling components. Established in 2005, Noctua took the international silent enthusiasts' hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class leading quiet cooling performance.
Designed in Austria, Noctua's premium cooling components are internationally renowned for their superb quietness, exceptional performance and thoroughgoing quality. Having received more than 1000 awards and recommendations from leading hardware websites and magazines, Noctua's fans and heatsinks are chosen by more than a hundred thousand satisfied customers around the globe.
Noctua NH-C14 Product Overview
The NH-C14 brings top-flow cooling to a new level by offering an exquisite, uniquely flexible 140mm dual fan setup: The two supplied NF-P14 premium fans can be installed on top and underneath the fin-stack to configure the cooler for maximum performance in dual fan mode and either lower profile (105mm) or maximum component clearance in single fan modes. Bundled with the award-winning NT-H1 thermal compound and Noctua’s SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system, the NH-C14 is a highly flexible, premium-class top-flow solution that further boosts the renowned quiet cooling performance of the much acclaimed NH-C12P series.
||C-Type top-flow design
The NH-C14’s six heatpipe c-type design allows for superb quiet cooling performance while maintaining a much lower profile than today’s tower-style coolers and providing excellent airflow over RAM modules and near-socket mainboard components.
||Dual NF-P14 FLX fans
The NH-C14 comes with two of Noctua’s award-winning, premium quality NF-P14 140mm fans that can be fine-tuned according to the user’s needs via the supplied Low-Noise (L.N.A.) and Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptors (U.L.N.A.).
||Low Profile Mode
Run with a single NF-P14 fan underneath the fin stack and with the top fan removed, the NH-C14 measures only 105mm in height, which makes it ideal for use in smaller enclosures and HTPC applications.
||High Clearance Mode
The lower NF-P14 fan can be removed in order to provide additional clearance for chipset coolers or RAM modules with tall heat-spreaders. Run with a single fan on top, the NH-C14 provides a full 65mm of clearance.
|| SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system
Noctua’s enthusiast grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting provides broad socket compatibility (LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1) and meets the highest demands in safety, performance and ease-of-use.
||Noctua NT-H1 high-end 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.
Noctua NH-C14 Product Specifications
First Impressions and Overview
As I mentioned before, I have gone through many CPU coolers over the years, and never have I seen a box for a CPU cooler as large and as carefully thought out as the one that holds the Noctua NH-C14. When I saw it for the first time I was very impressed with the design and the large scale factor, I immediately thought to myself “am I in for a treat or what?!”.
I could immediately tell that who ever designed the packaging thought it out carefully because the specific way the flaps inside fold to protect the CPU cooler from shifting and separating it from the accessory contents inside another smaller box. I love the fact that Noctua gives extra protection to the base of the CPU cooler by covering it with a plastic cap. I give top marks for the packaging because its easily one of if not the best packaging I’ve seen for a CPU cooler to date.
Purchasing the Noctua NH-C14 will provide you with the following items inside the accessory box...
- Noctua NH-C14 heatpipe CPU cooler
- 2x 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 Kit and Accessories Bag
- Noctua Metal Case-Badge
The bundle that Noctua provides with the NH-C14 is generous. Honestly if they wanted to, they could have sold the Low/Ultra-Low-Nose-Adaptors and NT-H1 thermal compound separately.
The thermal compound isn’t a tiny sample size and it’s not cheap stuff, it’s the normal size that they sell in a syringe which I found surprising. The thermal paste has a easy to apply consistency, yet also dry enough to hold its agents intact, it isn’t as watery as some thermal compounds. Spreading it on the CPU’s IHS is simply enough. The performance is also comparable if not better than its competitors so I do not have any reservations of using the NT-H1 thermal compound because I would definitely pay to use it.
The Noctua NH-C14 is really a monstrosity. When put together it reminds me of Star Trek spaceships floating in space. Without hesitation I believe this is the largest heatsink/fan combo I have come across thus far reviewing products such as these on this website. The fact that it’s so wide and tall automatically gets me thinking that this might be a tight fit and pose problems for smaller PC cases and or specific motherboards. We’ll see how it fits inside the Corsair Graphite Series 600T Mid-Tower case and Intel DP67BG (B3) motherboard combo.
For the amount of surface area the NH-C14 showcases, the weight shows for it. Weighing in at 700g without the fans and 1000g with the fans installed (or 2.2lbs), it makes the NH-C14 one of the heavier CPU cooler options on the market. I’m not sure how much stress this may put on to the motherboard, but I’m sure Noctua has things all taken care of.
Let’s look closely at the massive heatsink that is the NH-C14. The heatsink is composed out of a variety of materials that include copper for the base and heat-pipes, aluminium for the cooling fins (I counted 70 fins), soldered joints and all of this is topped off with nickel plating to provide resistance to environmental factors, wear protection, corrosion protection and not to mention it makes it look cool. The NH-C14 reminds me of a car radiator. Think of the CPU as the engine of a vehicle and think of the radiator that has the job of cooling down the engine and dissipating its heat as effectively as possible, that’s the analogy of any CPU cooler such as the NH-C14 with heatpipes, and this makes the Noctua NH-C14 like a high-end radiator. You will notice a few gaps around certain areas of the NH-C14 and these gaps are for placing the included screwdriver into and reaching the screws at the bottom when installing.
The Noctua NH-C14 does sell for a premium, so one would expect quality from such a product, and Noctua does not fail to deliver. Earlier if you remember, I was highly impressed with the packaging and once I’ve held and felt the NH-C14 in my hands, I cannot help but be impressed with the quality that the NH-C14 showcases. On cheap CPU coolers, the edges are sometimes sharp but the ones on the NH-C14 are smooth and sanded down for protection. The heatpipes on this are thick, the 70 fins I counted are evenly spaced out and don’t flex all that much, and even the screws on the base of this cooler are thick and not dinky screws.
Noctua bundles this cooler with their unique NF-P14 FLX fans. What makes these fans unique are a couple of key points about them. First of all the actual fan blade is 140mm, but the frame housing that it sits in can be mounted to a 120mm fan slot. Second is that each of the blades have these little notches on them that redirect airflow for more efficiency. Noctua calls this Vortex-Control Notches, which basically allows the fan to operate with less velocity loss and turbulence making for reduction of noise operation according to Noctua. The last point I’d touch with these fans is that the fans come included with Low-Noise and Ultra-Low-Noise adapters which allow the user to select from three different speed settings of 1200, 900 and 750 rpm to suit your personal preferences. I noticed that the fan blades move very freely even me just flinging the blades with my fingers. For my test and preferences, I have used the Low-Noise adapters that you will see results for a little later on.
I have to say from an overall perspective, I think Noctua has done a fantastic job at addressing everything within the whole package for the NH-C14. They have thought about everything very carefully and the execution shows. The installation with the help of the clear, concise and pictured manual and included high quality metal screwdriver makes things go easy and without complication. The only complicated thing is reaching the screws of the base of the cooler with the screwdriver, it may take a few wiggles here and there to get it done correctly, but when you do, everything is golden. There are no questions to how tight the screws must be. You tighten each screw in an X formation a few turns at a time until the springs compress fully.
The only negative issue I can see from installing the Noctua NH-C14 on the Intel DP67BG (B3) motherboard is that you may have clearance issues with your RAM modules if they are the ones with fancy and rather tall heat-spreaders on them as they will hit the lower fan in dual fan mode and low profile mode configurations. If you have RAM modules that have basic heat-spreaders on them, the fitment will be tight but give you approximately an inch to play with. So those with tall heat-spreaders on their RAM, you will only be able to utilize High Clearance Mode.
I’ve been testing the Noctua NH-C14 for 8 months now and have had zero reliability issues to report of. With the Low-Noise adapter being used for dual fan configuration on the Noctua NH-C14, cooling the Intel Core i7-2600K processor inside of the Corsair Graphite Series 600T PC case, I cannot hear much of any fan noise in this configuration.
As you can see from the above results, the Noctua NH-C14 is a top performer. It balances noise and performance prowess perfectly. CPU temperature in idle is superb and load performance is equally impressive considering the amount of noise being emitted. An additional benefit from the top-flow design on the Noctua NH-C14 is that it blows around the surrounding motherboard area, so not only will CPU temperatures be affected, the motherboard and its components, including RAM, capacitors, transistors, and more will also be cooled off since the fans are effectively blowing on a larger surface area (140mm fan blades).
Without a doubt, the Noctua NH-C14 is the best air cooler I have ever tested to date. The complete package when I look at it from afar is executed brilliantly and I have to give kudos to those who took the time to think everything through because it clearly shows. Absolutely brilliant packaging, accessories, cooler construction, quality and performance, everything from the smallest to largest component is top-notch. The Noctua NH-C14 easily earns our Editors Choice Award.