Noctua NH-C14 Dual Fan Top-down CPU Cooler

Cooling
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Comparison Chart

The following is a comparison chart of the top coolers we've tested so far on our LGA1366 heatsink platform. The results were generated using our reference Nexus 120 mm fan as is indicative of CPU cooling performance with a single low airflow/noise fan.

°C rise Comparison
Heatsink
Nexus 120mm fan voltage /
SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Noctua NH-C14
(two stock fans)
7V
6V
15 dBA
12~13 dBA
39
41
Prolimatech Megahalems
38
41
44
Noctua NH-D14
38
42
45
Noctua NH-U12P
39
42
44
Scythe Mugen-2
39
42
45
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
40
42
45
Prolimatech Armageddon
40
42
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
43
46
Noctua NH-C14 (bottom)
39
42
48
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Noctua NH-C14
(stock fan, bottom)
8V
7V
 
41
44
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
45
52
57
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
Scythe Kabuto
51
53
60

The C14 outperforms its smaller predecessor, the C12P, by about 4°C on average. This makes it easily the best down-blowing cooler we've tested, and on par with many reputable tower models. With two fans it's propelled into elite status. While this isn't a fair apples-to-apples comparison, it's still an impressive display of prowess for top-downer.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The design of the Noctua NH-C14 is nothing mind-blowing, essentially a larger version of the NH-C12P with Noctua's updated (though not that different) universal mounting system and a pair of 14 cm fans. However these more powerful fans allowed the Noctua to pack the fins more densely without sacrificing low airflow performance. The end result is superb CPU cooling when both fans are utilized, and solid cooling with just one. It manages this while delivering airflow over the circuitry around the CPU, over the VRMs, capacitors, and chipset as well. Down-blowing heatsinks typically do not perform as well as their side-blowing brethren when it comes to CPU cooling, but the C14 bucks this trend.

Perhaps more importantly, it possesses something that most high performance coolers do not: a diminutive stature. With a fan on top, it measures 130 mm tall, about 25~30 mm less than most large tower heatsinks, allowing it to fit into smaller cases. The shorter height also allows many enthusiast case owners to keep the ubiquitous extra fan on the side panel hanging over the CPU area. The C14 becomes even shorter, measuring only 103 mm high if you opt to use a single fan underneath the fin-stack. Alternatively, you just use a fan on top to avoid interference with tall memory sticks or an oversized chipset/VRM heatsink though this configuration isn't optimal for performance. The C14's three different fan configurations make it the most versatile heatsink we've ever encountered, though for most users we recommend just the one fan on the bottom.

We also admire Noctua's attention to detail. Like all of their coolers, from the moment you open the box to when you finish mounting, there's this feeling that they've thought of everything. All the accessories are sorted, separated, and labeled. The installation instructions are clear, and the multi-socket SecuFirm2 mounting kit is not only secure, but simple to put together. For those of us who lack fan control, 7V/9V low noise adapters are included. Only using a single fan? Fan isolators, screws, and 140 mm adapters are provided to use the second fan elsewhere in your case. You even get a screwdriver and a fancy metallic case badge rather than a cheap tacky sticker.

The first class treatment and top-notch cooling comes at a hefty price though as the NH-C14 has a steep MSRP of US$85, though we expect the best street price to be a bit lower. Its side-blowing brother, the NH-D14 debuted at US$90 but you can pick one up these days for US$70~$75 at some retailers. If you think about it, with quality 140 mm fans costing US$10~$15 separately, the heatsink alone has a value of US$55~$65 which isn't too shabby for a versatile short top-down cooler that delivers excellent performance. However if you don't care about board cooling, there are a dozen cheaper alternatives that will net you comparable or better performance.

Recommended by SPCR
The Noctua NH-C14 is Recommended by SPCR.

Our thanks to Noctua for the NH-C14 heatsink sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C & AC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
Scythe Ninja 3 & Scythe Yasya CPU Heatsinks
Gelid Slim Silence & Prolimatech Samuel 17 Low Profile CPU Coolers
AMD Phenom II Stock Coolers
Intel LGA1366 Stock Cooler: Good Enough?
SPCR's 2010 CPU Heatsink Test Platform [Updates: 10 April & 31 May]

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