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Noctua NH-C14 Dual Fan Top-down CPU Cooler

Noctua NH-C14 Dual Fan Top-down CPU Cooler

December 26, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Noctua NH-C14

CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Noctua
MSRP
EUR 74.90 / USD 84.90

Counted among the top PC cooling manufacturers is a little Austrian company called Noctua. The strange thing is they have one of the smallest product catalogues you can imagine. They are known for their fans, which have only two basic designs, and their CPU heatsinks, of which they only carry five retail models. Despite this, their products are received exceedingly well so their apparent philosophy that quality is better than quantity has merit. Even their older products are still well-regarded, like the three year old Noctua NH-U12P which still holds a top five spot on our high performance CPU cooling chart.

The limited number of Noctua heatsinks makes a new release a fairly notable event, such was the case for the dual fan NH-D14. Utilizing a massive split heatsink design and a pair of fans (oddly of different sizes), it quickly established itself as one of the best air coolers money could buy. Noctua is hoping to do the same with the NH-C14, a larger version of the down-blowing NH-C12P with two 14 cm fans. The C12P and other top-down coolers do not fare well against their side-blowing competition, so a second fan may help tip the balance. Providing active airflow over the components surrounding the CPU can be beneficial, particularly to the power regulation circuitry, potentially increasing their efficiency and longevity.



The box.



The NH-C14's box has numerous layers.

It's a good sign that the most critical thing we have to say about the C14 is its unnecessarily large packaging. The box containing the actual cooler is in the center book-ended by two empty shells. Above and below are thinner boxes, one with accessories inside, while the other simply acts as a cushion. It's basically the world's most boring nesting doll.



Package contents.

Once all the boxes have been emptied, we found the contents to be neatly segregated into separate baggies for AMD hardware, Intel hardware, and communal parts. The C14 uses the same SecuFirm2 mounting system sold with the D14. It's very secure and practically idiot-proof.



The C14 is essentially a burger with two brown fan buns and a square heatsink patty.

Noctua NH-C14: Key Features
(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
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.
Top-down coolers provide better cooling for the RAM and other components near the CPU socket than side-blowing towers. The C14 is also significantly shorter than most high-end heatsinks.
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.).
The P14 is one of the best sounding 140 mm fans you can buy and the included adapters gives users the ability to undervolt easily.
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.
The C14 can be made even shorter by using only one fan underneath the main fin-stack.
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.
Removing the bottom fan creates greater clearance for elaborate chipset heatsinks and tall memory sticks.
SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system

Noctua’s enthusiast grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting provides broad socket compatibility (LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, AM2, AM2+ and AM3) and meets the highest demands in safety, performance and ease-of-use.
A solid, proven mounting system.
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.
Okay.


Noctua NH-C14: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Heatsink
Dimension: Socket compatibility Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required)
Height (without fan) 105 mm
Width (without fan) 140 mm
Depth (without fan) 166 mm
Height (with fan) 130 mm
Width (with fan) 140 mm
Depth (with fan) 166 mm
Weight (without fan) 700 g
Weight (with fan) 850/1000* g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 140x140x25mm / 120x120x25mm
Scope of Delivery * 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 Kits

* Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty 6 Years
Fan
Warranty Model Noctua NF-P14
Bearing SSO-Bearing
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%) 1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 900 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 750 RPM
Airflow 110,3 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 83,7 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A. 71,2 m³/h
Acoustical Noise 19,6 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 13,2 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A. 10,1 dB(A)
Input Power 1,2 W
Voltage Range 12 V
MTBF > 150.000 h

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Noctua NH-C14 is composed of a copper base, six "C" shaped copper heatpipes and a stack of 68 fins, all nickel-plated. By our measurements
it weighs approximately 1010 grams, 680 grams without the fans and clips, and has a height of 130 mm, 103 mm minus the top fan.



Two 14 cm fans are clamped onto both sides of the fin-stack to create a down-blower with plenty of airflow.



The fans clips hook into black gaskets inserted in the 12 cm mounting holes of both fans. Anti-vibration strips are used to dampen the edges of the fan housing, de-coupling the fan from the heatsink body.



The heatpipes are soldered to the base. A pair of metal mounting wings come pre-installed for use with both the Intel and AMD mounting hardware.



Without the fans, the C14 looks rather sparse. Unlike the C12P, its heatpipes are straighter and there is no small fin-stack above the base.



The fins are 0.38 mm thick and spaced 1.79 mm apart on average, significantly tighter than both the D14, and the C14's predecessor, the C12P. There are two holes on each side for screwdriver access to the bolts on the mounting wings.



The base has a rather dull finish though only very fine machining marks are visible. The surface is slightly convex like Thermalright heatsinks.

INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink's base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible. On the C14, Noctua uses the same SecuFirm2 mounting system featured on the D14. If you're familiar with it, skip ahead.



For AMD installs, two metal retention bars are secured to the stock backplate with screws and the C14's spring-loaded bolts attach to them. On AMD boards the heatpipes point to the side so in a typical tower setup the fins run vertically. In this orientation an exhaust fan at the top of the case is more beneficial than at the rear.



Intel installation is a little more complicated. Underneath the board, four bolts are inserted through the appropriate set of holes of a backplate. On the other side, plastic standoffs are laid down and the retention bars are secured to it with nuts.



Retention bars installed on out LGA1366 test motherboard.



Bolts screwed in.



Fully mounted. There was 46 mm of clearance underneath the bottom fan. Intel mounting holes being symmetrical, you can turn the cooler so that the heatpipes point toward the bottom or top of the board.



After mounting there are a few accessories left over including low noise adapters, a dual head 3-pin connector, thermal paste, and a spiffy metal case badge. Also provided is hardware to mount an unused stock fan in your case.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
680 g

1010 g with stock fan and clips
Height 103 mm, 130 mm with top fan
Fin count 68
Fin thickness
0.38 mm
Fin spacing
1.79 mm
Vertical Clearance*
46 mm, 72 mm without bottom fan
Horizontal Overhang**
-11 mm
* measured from the motherboard PCB to
the bottom fin of the heatsink.

** measured from the far edge of the heatsink to the top edge of the motherboard
PCB.


Comparison: Approximate Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Ninja 2
0.39 mm
3.68 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Scythe Ninja 3
0.39 mm
2.64 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Noctua NH-D14
0.43 mm
2.33 mm
Prolimatech Armageddon
0.51 mm
2.08 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
0.40 mm
2.00 mm
Scythe Kabuto & Zipang 2
0.34 mm
1.94 mm
Scythe Mugen-2
0.31 mm
1.89 mm
Cooler Master V8
0.30 mm
~1.85 mm
Noctua NH-C14
0.38 mm
1.79 mm
Titan Fenrir
0.36 mm
1.78 mm
Scythe Yasya
0.32 mm
1.78 mm
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
0.30 mm
1.70 mm
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
0.38 mm
1.66 mm
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
0.43 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
0.56 mm
1.52 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
0.42 mm
1.50 mm

Testing was done on our
i7-1366 heatsink testing platform
. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme
    Nehalem core, LGA1366, 3.2GHz, 45nm, 130W TDP.
  • Asus
    P6X58D Premium
    ATX motherboard. X58 chipset.
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent
    graphics card.
  • Intel
    X25-M
    80GB 2.5" solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 3GB QiMonda
    DDR3 memory. 3 x 1GB DDR3-1066 in triple channel.
  • Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM
    650W ATX power supply. This PSU is semi-passively cooled. At the power levels
    of our test platform, its fan does not spin.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Nexus 120 fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

The system is silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Nexus 120mm fan

Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1100 RPM
9V
13 dBA
890 RPM
7V
12 dBA
720 RPM


Reference Nexus 92 mm fan

Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores (with Hyper-threading) are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,
    used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab's variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using Prime95 to stress the processor, and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Stock Fan Measurements

We begin with an analysis of the stock fan, the NF-P14, which is also one of the fans that ships with the side-blowing D14 heatsink. It's a nine blade 140 mm fan with 120 mm fan holes and a round frame with open corners.

Specifications: Noctua NH-C14 Stock Fan(s)
Manufacturer
Power Rating
1.2 W
Model Number
NF-P14
Airflow Rating
110.3 m³/h
Bearing Type
SSO
Speed Rating
1200 RPM
Corners
Open
Noise Rating
19.6 dBA
Frame Size
140 x 140 x 25 mm
Header Type
3-pin
Fan Blade Diameter
130 mm
Starting Voltage
6.4 V
Hub Size
40 mm
Weight
150 g
Data in green cells provided by the manufacturer
or observed; data in the blue cells were measured.

Noctua's patented "vortex notches" which look like small bite marks are designed to break up turbulence. The blades have gentle curves and are relatively thin. The P14 fan has an unusually high starting voltage, so it's best to run 7V and above unless it can be controlled automatically.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Avg. Speed
SPL @1m
One Fan
Two Fans
12V
1230 RPM
26~27 dBA
29 dBA
9V
940 RPM
18~19 dBA
21 dBA
8V
850 RPM
16 dBA
18 dBA
7V
740 RPM
13 dBA
15 dBA
6V
610 RPM
11~12 dBA
12~13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.

Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The acoustics of the P14 are generally smooth, with most of the audible noise being in the form of air turbulence which of course is unavoidable. There is also an odd pulsing hum that is only evident at and close to 9V. The two fan samples varied in speed by only 10~30 RPM, not enough to develop any intermodulation effects, something that afflicted the NH-D14 which used a P14 with a P12. Combined, the C14's two fans become what we consider quiet at about 8V.



At 8V, the noise produced by the fans is mostly broadband with little to no tonality.

COOLING RESULTS

Fan Voltage
°C Rise
CPU
NB*
VRM*
Both Fans
12V
29 dBA
35
11
12
9V
21 dBA
36
24
14
8V
18 dBA
37
28
15
7V
15 dBA
39
30
20
6V
12~13 dBA
41
38
24
Top Fan
12V
26~27 dBA
38
32
17
9V
18~19 dBA
40
32
23
8V
16 dBA
40
40
26
7V
13 dBA
44
48
34
6V
11~12 dBA
48
53
41
Bottom Fan
12V
26~27 dBA
38
26
16
9V
18~19 dBA
40
32
18
8V
16 dBA
41
32
19
7V
13 dBA
44
38
24
6V
11~12 dBA
49
40
32
Bottom Fan (ref. 120 mm fan)
12V
16 dBA
39
25
21
9V
13 dBA
42
34
23
7V
12 dBA
48
41
34
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (22°C)
at load.

*NB and VRM temps taken with an IR thermometer from the hottest portion of each heatsink.

Virtually identical CPU temperatures were produced with both single fan configurations. Placing the fan underneath the fin-stack was far superior for cooling the board components as one would expect. With the fan closer to the PCB, we recorded much lower northbridge and VRM heatsink temperatures, up to 13°C and 9°C respectively depending on the fan speed. When the fans were used in tandem, CPU cooling improved marginally at similar noise levels. The same can be said for heatsinks around the socket, at least when the fans were set to quiet levels.

The only surprise was how well our 120 mm reference fan performed. Despite not covering the entire surface of the heatsink, the Nexus actually generated better overall results than the stock fan in the bottom configuration. The results with the fan on top were omitted for brevity; on average CPU cooling was 7°C worse while the NB/VRM took a 15°C hit. Using a single fan above the fin-stack should be avoided.

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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* * *

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