With Swedish House Mafia clearing my head and getting me in the mood to type away, I want to bring you the larger brother in the NH-U series of freshly released coolers from Noctua. From what we saw with the NH-U12S, it shows that the basic design we are used to over the past five or six years can still be a winning design. Any cooler that is worth its salt has to have great fans that come with it, though. It doesn't matter if we are talking about Delta ear bleeder fans or something silent as Noctua is well known to deliver. All you need to do is find the right balance of flow, disturbance, surface area, and while looking for this balance, trying to keep the overall size smaller to allow users to retrieve screws, memory sticks, or even just not having the cooler swallow the entire top half of the motherboard.
Along with the NH-U12S, this cooler uses a similar base and fin arrangement. Here you will get a two piece base, but Noctua adds a sixth heat pipe into the larger cooler. Along with the bottom of the fin stack needing some cuts and adjustments to allow room for the extra heat pipe, the width of this cooler has been increased to allow this tower to be cooled with a 150mm fan. The basic concept is still the same though, with the nickel plating of the base and pipes to look good next to the aluminum fins, and of course with the larger version, you will also be able to add a second fan to this, too.
With the smaller NH-U12S, Noctua also sent along the NH-U14S and an NF-A15 PWM fan for us to have a look at. What I do like about the NH14S up front is that is seems to offer all of the same attributes of the smaller cooler, yet increased the size of the cooler just enough to house the much larger fan. This will do three things, as I see it. One, it should increase the NH-U14S efficiency over the 12S. Two, it should theoretically be quieter, as larger fans typically are at similar speeds as smaller versions. The last thing it should do is cost a little more than the NH-U12S.
What I am about to show you is whether or not the performance and price increases are in line with the investment, as we continue getting much more up close and personal with the NH-U14S from Noctua.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Right at the top of the specifications chart you can tell that the NH-14S uses the same hardware from the NH-U12S cooler since both have now eliminated some older sockets from compatibility. We also see that the NH-U14S is taller at 165mm, wider at 150mm and slightly deeper at 52mm. The NH-U14S is also quite a bit heavier at 935 grams (with the fan on it). The materials chosen to build the tower are copper for the two piece base and the heat pipes, which are then nickel plated, but the fins are left in their natural aluminum state. Along with the cooler, you will also receive an NF-A15 PWM fan, the LNA adapter, NT-H1 TIM, SecuFirm2 hardware, anti-vibration fan pads and a case badge.
I made mention of the NF-A15 PWM fan that comes along with the NH-U14S to provide the air flow through the fin stack. This fan is supported with an SSO bearing and will spin at a maximum speed of 1500 RPM. The airflow has also increase with this to 140.2 m3/h, but static pressure is reduced to 1.51 mmH2O with the NF-A15, compared to the NF-F12. These fans are also rated to have a lifespan of 150,000 hours, 6250 days or roughly seventeen years. That in mind, there is no surprise to the fact that these coolers come with a six year warranty. If you wish to use the LNA adapter, this same fan will be limited to 1300 RPM, while pushing 0.89 mmH2O of pressure, and cuts flow down to 115 m3/h.
Just like what was the situation with the smaller of the two NH-U series coolers, the NH-U14S is not currently on the shelves as I type this. Noctua also released the pricing information for this cooler with the press release of these coolers, and for now the MSRP was set at $74.90 in this side of the pond. So, I was right, the price was going to increase, but when comparing apples to apples, the NH-U14S is only $10 more than the previously reviewed NH-U12S. Just on paper his is a really good deal if you had interest in the smaller version anyways.
I just hope we can get better results along with the price increase so that we can justify not only the cost, but the slightly larger size and potential intrusion on the rest of the components in your system build.
Starting with the top of the packaging, you see that there is the cooler naming on the left in the white area, and off to the right is a sticker denoting the award winning nature of this design, and above an image of the fan and cooler, you get a list of features.
Looking now at the front of the packaging you can see it repeats the top, sans the sticker. They do cover the awards, LGA2011 compatibility, RAM compatibility for LGA2011, the size, included fan, LNA adapter, the compatibility in general, included TIM and six year warranty are all covered.
This panel shows us specifications charts for both the tower and the fan used to cool it. You also get a box showing the inclusions with this cooler along with a pair of dimensional renderings of the cooler with the fan installed.
Noctua tells their customers in eight varying languages about what inspired this cooler and what should make it a success in your system.
Spinning the box once more we end up on a panel with eight features listed with an image and descriptions of what they are and how they benefit this coolers design.
Just like its little brother, when you pop the top on the NH-U14S, the hardware greats you immediately in these three boxes.
Packed under the hardware, you will find both the NF-A15 PWM fan and the NH-U14S cooler body surrounded in cardboard. There are shims of cardboard used to make this body fit in here very snugly, and unlike the NH-U12S where some of the fins had gotten bent, the NH-U14S arrived in much better shape.
Noctua NH-U14S CPU Cooler
Fresh out of the box and now looking at it dead into the fan, you can see that the fins on the NH-U14S are well taken care of by the NF-A15 PWM fan attached to it. It not only goes almost all the way side to side, but you can see it can stand well proud of the cooler, or a bit lower than the cooler if the fan is shifted.
On the side you can tell that the fins are deeper from left to right than on the previous cooler. On the 12S, the fan clip holding the fan in place was in the center, and here you can see it is offset a few millimeters to left of center. This is due to the sixth heat pipe that has been added in this design.
From the back of the cooler there isn't much to see other than to get some idea of the grooves visible that actually are just the deeper spots in the larger curved profile to these fins. You will also see that the bottom six fins have been cut short to allow for the heat pipes to pass easily to the outside of the cooler.
I wanted to angle the cooler this time so you could see the shape of the fins as they wrap around and allow the fan clips to be attached in them. Once past that area, you see the closed off fins that support each other as well as trapping the airflow.
If you have the desire to, you can also add a second fan to the back of the cooler, like I did here. Typically running a setup like this is worth two to three degrees of improvement to the thermal testing, doesn't add much more noise, but does make the cooler much thicker.
When both fans are clipped onto the NH-U14S, what used to be 78mm is now 103mm deep from right to left. While the box claims there is plenty of room, that number is starting to scare me a bit - it seems slightly too big to me.
Looking at the top of the stack of fins, you will see the Noctua name and logo with six pipe ends on either side of it to hopefully make things really efficient with heat dissipation. You can also notice the wide V created in the middle to allow the fan some room to build up speed before entering the fins.
From this angle you can see that the center of the cooler is mainly flat as it works its way outward. Once between the second the third set of pipes, the fins are irregularly shaped to rough up the air flow in this area to improve the transfer of heat.
At the other end of the cooler you have this two piece base assembly. This design makes it so the hardware to mount the cooler comes attached to the top section, and under it the six pipes are soldered to it and the lower section of the copper base. Once assembled, the pipes and base are nickel plated prior to having the fins pressed on them.
Laying the cooler over to get a look at where the fins are pressed on, you can see some concessions had to be made. There are holes in the lower fins for the inner most pipes to get through, as well as being cut short, so the outer pipes can make it smoothly to the outer edge of this design.
Under the base plate, there is solder holding these six pipes into place. Rather than filling the entire gap with solder, as the pipes bend and begin their trip away from the base, they do come away from the base, but the heat is already transferred to them long before they exit the base.
Since the base is milled and left machined with no extra polishing involved, you are left with fine grooves, but also a very flat and level surface to mate up to the CPU when it gets installed.
Accessories and Documentation
In one of the boxes of hardware you will find these bits. Here we get the silicone strips to isolate fans and an extra set of fan corners for the same reason. You also get an extra pair of wire fan clips, a case badge, the screwdriver, the LNA adapter and a tube of NT-H1 paste.
The Intel kit offers you a bag with the plastic spacers, mounting nuts, and the LGA2011 screws to the right of the instruction sheets. At the bottom you will see the top brackets to use with all of the Intel hardware, and the back plate that offers LGA1150/1155/1156 mounting.
In the AMD box you will find instructions, a pair of brackets for the top, and a bag with screws and spacers in it. To complete the mounting, you will need to rob the Intel kit of the nuts to keep this hardware secured.
I was also sent a second NF-A15 fan in the retail packaging so that I could test the NH-14S in a dual fan configuration.
Making the Velcro give way allows you to get a look inside the packaging on the right with a list of included bits around it. On the left you can see why the fan is able to force the flow of the air, a bit about the bearing, and another bit about the stepped edge of the fans frame.
As you can see, with the stock fan on the left with the fan clips still in it, along with the retail fan on the right, we do now have a pair of NF-A15 PWM fans for testing, but I did notice that the naming on the sticker changed color. It must have been a last minute change, but from my testing, both fans are identical in specs.
Installation and Finished Product
Since the back plate and threaded screws are all one piece now, all you have to do is slide it into the holes in the motherboard, just being mindful of the screw positioning of the socket retention mechanism.
From there you drop on the black plastic spacers, set the top metal brackets on it with the curves going out, and then you have to use the nuts to secure all of this hardware so we can put the cooler in place.
With the NH-U14S now on the motherboard, and you do need to remove the fans to mount the cooler, but once back on the fins, this cooler is pretty small in what room it takes up considering the reality of the dimensions listed.
Even if taller RAM sticks block some of the fan, there is plenty of fan to go around. You can see as it is centered on the fins, there is plenty of fan above and below to help cool not only the fins, but will add some cooling to the rear of the motherboard, where the CPU phases reside.
Without an LGA2011 board it is just a guess that the NH-U14S will allow for taller memory to sit in the innermost slots. With the four DIMM slots on this board, the NH-U14S definitely blocked half of the closest slot, and is why the stick isn't in that slot - it was too angled to safely clip in.
Now that we have both the motherboard and the NH-U14S mounted inside of the test chassis, it is time to do many rounds of IBT with various mounts, and both in single fan and dual fan configurations.
The Test System and Thermal Results
Testing for the CPU coolers is done with the use of RealTemp to ascertain temperatures, Intel Burn Test to deliver the load to the CPU and CPU-Z to verify the CPU speed and the voltage being used in Windows. All of the testing is done with an ambient temperature of 24.5-25°C and humidity is maintained to 35% sometimes less.
For the "stock" runs, it's more of a plug and play setup where the PWM of the motherboard is in control of the fans speeds for both the idle and load results. Speed Step is active and the processor idles at 1600 MHz and loads at 3500 MHz for the stock settings. I also set the memory to run at 1600 MHz for stock. As for the overclocked runs, I load the CPU at 4.5 GHz and idle results are obtained with 7.5V to the fans while the load run is set to deliver 12V to the fans. This allows me to gauge the lowest and highest fan ratings for my charts.
You will also see that the charts have been slightly adjusted. From now on I will mention the idle temperatures if there is something worth noting other than an average of twenty-five to twenty-seven degrees as the PWM controls and SpeedStep allow for almost ambient results in most instances. What you are now getting is a stock speed loaded temperature chart and an overclocked loaded temperature chart. To clean up the audio results, I also removed all of the fans that aren't on the thermal charts. If you want to compare those results to new coolers, the old chart is still available in the older reviews.
With a single fan on the NH-U14S, we do see a degree improvement over the NH-U12S, but once two fans were on the cooler, I was able to break into the top five coolers, while running the processor at stock levels. 50 degrees at stock with one fan is respectable, but the 47 degrees with a pair of fans on it, really does the NH-U14S some justice.
Once we changed the BI/OS to the overclocked profile, things are still very respectable. While there are a couple of cooler listed that beat the 70 degree rating of the single fan runs, with two fans on the cooler, we are taken right up there with the best of the best in air cooling, with a 68 degree result.
Noise Level Results
Increasing fan size has its advantages, even if it delivers less static pressure. Here we saw raw RPM winning over with more airflow. The bonus is that these fans at stock levels are some of the most silent fans I have used with a 24dB rating at roughly 750 RPM.
Even with full power to the NF-A15 PWM fan, they are barely audible, and you have to be within a foot or two to even hear them.
I had to take the reading a couple of times and I even changed the battery of the measuring device to be sure the 37dB rating I was getting was in fact correct for these fans.
What is there that I can't say that leaves this larger member of the NH-U series of coolers painted in a positive light? Well, to be honest, there isn't anything I can rightly complain about. When you have a cooler that is taking what other manufacturers have tried and failed, leaving them to resort to using a dual tower or a super thick single tower, and still some cannot compete at this level. Noctua has proven to me, once again, why I hold them in such high regard. They took the basic idea everyone has used for years, and with a few tweaks to the fin designs, figuring out the best method of heat pipe dispersal, and equipping the cooler with a 150mm fan that just kicks ass doesn't hurt things one bit either.
With just one fan on the NH-U14S there are only two coolers that were better on our charts, and from what I recall both of these coolers cost more when they were released. In all honestly, we are talking about a measly two degrees across all three of these air coolers, and if you want to spend an extra $25, you can get the second NF-A15 PWM fan and run right with the big dogs on the list.
The one thing you will get with the NH-U14S, that neither the Silver Arrow SB-E nor the Thermaltake Frio Extreme offered, is peaceful silence. Where the other option would dig deeper into your pockets, and also make your ears bleed, Noctua takes them head on and shows you can have the best of both worlds.
The icing on the cake is that you can run just behind the big dogs for less than $80. It seemed for a while there that no company was able to produce a top tier cooler that could take on the twin tower monsters that were such a success, but at the expense of just about everything on the top half of the motherboard. Noctua increased the size of this cooler not to get in the way too much, but allowed enough to be both cost effective and very efficient at removing heat from your CPU. I see absolutely no reason why I can't fully support and recommend the new NH-U14S, as it kicks ass and takes names, and like a ninja, silently takes on the competition, until it is left on the top of the pile after the successful battle.
Noctua may be a little outside the box for some, but they have proven to me that this cooler is where it's at currently, and should be a great selling cooler, once stock does arrive on shelves.
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