The Bottom LineNoctua's NH-C14S is better in every way to the original! It is more efficient, noise is of little concern, and the changes made by solidifying the design and reworking the fins makes for a much better cooler. We just wish pricing was closer to the MSRP, as at $99.95, the asking price is too high.
Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
Those of you who are not brand new to the market in CPU coolers may very well remember the NH-C14 that Noctua released some time ago now. The basic idea was to design a C-Style cooler that was up to snuff as far as Noctua coolers are concerned in build quality and efficiency, and sandwich a thick fin stack with a pair of 140mm fans with round frames. While we recall this being a very capable cooler, it took up as much room as a dual tower cooler, and with both fans in play, clearance could become an issue as well. For what it was, and the fact that it was a C-Style cooler that offers more airflow to the motherboard, we felt the NH-C14 was a very solid cooler without much if anything to change about it.
Noctua seems to have felt differently about this though; they felt if given a second chance at things, they could do things better this time. The main idea with this refresh was to take the airflow down a notch and sell this new version of the cooler with just a single fan this time. In order to keep a similar level of performance though, they needed something else as well to help boost performance, and to do that, they also reworked the fin stack, as well as increased the structural support that did seem thin for the amount of weight it had to handle.
So, where does this leave us then? Well, in this instance, it leaves us looking at the NH-C14S that follows along with another coolers naming we will soon see as well from Noctua. It has been a while since we took a spin with the original design, but the similarities are very hard to deny, but once they are set side by side, the similarities start to wane as you pick up on all the minor changes that allows Noctua to keep on offering the level of performance and durability we expect from their coolers, just this time doing it with just a bit less to suit more users than just those looking to fit the largest cooler money can buy into a build.
As for the specifications to this newly designed CPU cooler, Noctua holds nothing back in their chart. Starting with the cooler's compatibility, we find that it has full support for both versions of LGA2011, all 115X versions, and anything since AM2 on the AMD side of things, but with AMD you do need the stock back plate. The NH-C14S is 115mm to the top of the fins, it is 140mm from side to side, and from front to back, it is 163mm. If you opt to put the fan on the top, the height will then increase to 142mm overall, but the other dimensions stay the same. We are also told the cooler alone is 820 grams, and once you add in the fan, you are dealing with a cooler that weighs in at 1015 grams. As for what makes up the NH-C14S, we are dealing with six 6mm diameter heat pipes made of copper that are soldered into a copper base. Once that is together, it all gets plated in nickel, and it is then that the aluminum fins are slid onto the pipes and then soldered into place.
Of course, any 140mm fan with a square frame will mount to the NH-C14S, but we are sent the NF-A14 PWM fan to cool this fin array. This fan spins on an SSO2 bearing, with a maximum speed of 1500 RPM, but is also able to drop down to just 300 RPM on the low-end of the scale. The NF-A14 can also deliver 140.2 cubic meters of air per hour. Converting that, we find it is close to half the stated value when comparing to CFM, so near 70 give or take. It is nice to see that these fans will spin for up to 150,000 hours, but it is better to see that the entire cooler comes with a six-year warranty.
When the Noctua NH-C14S hit the news around the internet, we were lead to believe that there was going to be a direct Euro to US dollar conversion, as we saw the $74.90 pricing mentioned then. We know it is still early in the game for this cooler to hit a lot of stores on this side of the pond, but we were able to find one live listing with pricing to go along with it. It is through the Amazon, and we find that Noctua is the listed seller, and they are currently asking $99.95 with free shipping.
It could be a fluke, but with this being all we have to go on, and at $99.95, it better do amazing things. We do feel that the alluded to pricing of $74.99 suits this cooler much better though, and would suggest waiting a bit to see if pricing mellows as more of these coolers arrive on our shores.
The packaging screams Noctua with the cooler's name in the white block at the left. At the top right, we see that this is a C-style cooler, and in the large brown section, we see a peek of the NH-C14S with a list of eight features to read.
Again, we get the cooler's name at the top and off to the right, but this time the brown panel offers specifications, scope of delivery, and fan specifications. Also note that there is a pair of dimensional renderings at the bottom right as well.
Around to the back, we again get the NH-C14S shown in the left side, but in the larger brown section, we see a lot going on. The features here range from where the idea came from, what you will find about the cooler, down to noise levels, and that it includes thermal paste.
This last panel gives you the story of what the NH-C14S is, and just that you should expect to see from this "elite class top flow CPU cooler". The rest of the panel is repetitions of the same thing in various languages to cover their market share.
Opening the box, we find three separate packages of hardware in this box first. Under these, you find a layer of cardboard, and under that is the cooler with the fan attached packed well in a few more layers of cardboard as it gets encased in its own box before it goes into the bottom. Even with the visible damages to the box, the cooler inside showed up in perfect form and ready for testing.
Noctua NH-C14S CPU Cooler
With the NH-C14S fresh out of the box, we take a look at the front where we find a newly designed fin from the original is used and still sports the Noctua logo and six heat pipes poking through them. The fan is shipped below decks to show that this cooler is great for cases that won't allow a full-tower, but can use 115mm coolers.
From this side, we counted 68 fins across the stack, and even though the close off section of the sides is offset a bit high, there is a groove for a fan to be clipped along the top, just like the fan is clipped on from below.
With six heat pipes packed very close in the base, they angle away from each other as they move upwards, and all six of the pipes are set off to the sides where the majority of the airflow is found. The center bar is just for support, but replaces a much thinner bit of metal the NH-C14 had.
Since we covered the fan clips and fins on the last side, the last bit we have to note is the offset of the base to the fin stack. This allows you to shift the bulk of the cooler over the memory, over the top or left side of the motherboard, to add more cooling where it can be used best.
The top of the cooler is high on both sides and slowly drops in the middle. Along with the pair of large holes for mounting this cooler, we also see saw tooth patterns used on either side to help disturb the air nearest the bulk of the heat pipes.
The base of the cooler comes of course with the large plastic pop off cover to protect it. We also notice that the fan is installed to blow the air out and away from the motherboard. While not great for components, with the fan below the cooler, this is the most efficient way to keep CPU temperatures down.
Taking the fan away, we can see the top of the base and the mounting screws. The heat pipes are sandwiched into copper blocks along the bottom. As the base extends upwards, they have pinned the large diameter support bar in the base and screwed that down with a top plate.
Taking stability one step further. Not only has the support bar diameter greatly increased, but Noctua also added in a pair of braces to make certain that no matter the orientation, the cooler will not go out of shape.
Now back to the other side of the base, as we have now removed the plastic cover to show you what we found. Here we have milling marks plainly visible, and against a straight edge, the base is slightly convex.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of one of the three boxes, we find all of the Intel mounting hardware. At the top, we see four black plastic standoffs, the LGA115x back plate, and to the right are the four standoffs for LGA2011 mounting. At the bottom, we have a pair of mounting brackets; one on either side of the two manuals for installation, with the thumbscrews to secure the brackets below them.
The AMD kit is much simpler. Here we have a pair of socket brackets, with white plastic standoffs this time, and a set of four screws to hold it and your stock back plate together. If that all went over your head, it is all shown plainly inside of this manual.
There also was a third box of goodies to open, and in it we find this. There is a tube of NT-H1 thermal paste, a metal case badge, a 90 degree screwdriver, two extra fan clips, and a single Low Noise Adapter if you need to limit noise more than what this NF-A14 PWM offers already.
Speaking of the NF-A14, here it is. This fan is of course 140mm in size, it uses seven blades, offers PWM functionality, and is powered via a 4-pin fan connection at the end of black sleeved cabling.
Installation and Finished Product
Make sure all of the white o-rings are set properly on the studs, and set the back plate on the motherboard by running the studs through the holes, being mindful of the socket orientation, as this plate is only drilled to work three out of four ways.
With the studs through the motherboard, we dropped the black plastic pieces over them, installed the top brackets to orient the cooler the way we wanted it to go, and went ahead and locked it all into place with the thumbscrews on top.
When it comes to mounting the cooler to the rest of the hardware, we do recommend the fan is removed, but it can be done with it in place, you just need to be more careful. Simply slide the driver in the holes and get into the screw head and send them home, the threads will stop when you are there.
We decided to keep the low-profile mode going on when it came to the installation. In doing so, we can see that memory with normal heat spreaders or without them will have no issues fitting this way. There is even enough room left to get the fan in and out easily.
The nice thing about this is that even though we are getting very close to the memory, all we would have to do, room allowing, would be to put the fan on top. While we do cover the RAM and make it tough to remove, we are providing it with a good amount of airflow from the fan just above them.
Stepping back and looking at how the offset works for us here, it is not hard to imagine aligning it up to cool the top edge, or even towards the back cooling the I/O and power management there.
With everything in and ready for testing, we still have the fan under the fins blowing upwards. We will be testing a top down fan placement as well and see how that all shakes out performance wise in testing. We would like to mention that the first PCI-e slot is fully free from obstruction now as well.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results
Test System Setup
To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for that information.
While 53 degrees is way down the chart, keep in mind the best cooler we have tested is only six and a half degrees better than this cooler. As far as fan placement, at this level of testing, there were no dependable changes to the CPU temperature or the motherboards VRMs.
As we got to the overclocked testing, we find a slight increase in the gap to first nearer to eight degrees now, but still a good showing for a C-Style cooler with a single fan cooling it. 72.58 degrees is still well within the comfort zone, and well away from throttling. Flipping the fan was of little benefit here either. While the CPU results were about half a degree better on average, the VRMs seemed to like it though as they were 3 degrees cooler with the fan blowing down onto the motherboard.
Noise Level Results
Now we didn't see speeds as low as 300 RPM with PWM control, we were seeing speeds of 985 in our stock testing, and it was with these speeds that we took the 24 dB reading of this fan. Great results, and up with the best of the best when it comes to silent computing outside of passive cooling.
What we really liked hearing, or rather not hearing, was the fan at full speed. Reading speeds of 1440RPM in AIDA64, we again set the meter a foot away from the cooler and found it only to be reading 32dB at this time.
Refreshing the NH-C14 into this new NH-C14S may have seemed like a lot to do about nothing in the beginning, but by now, you have to be seeing the benefits this cooler brings to the table. I mean, look back at those charts; the NH-C14S is as efficient as the NH-D14. Opting to go with just one fan is a ballsy move in our minds, as we all know that a second fan can greatly increase the cooler's efficiency and drop temperatures, but even so, Noctua pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Taking what was a very decent cooler originally, rethinking it from top to bottom by restructuring and bracing it, a new fin design and density, and with only one fan shipped with this version, you have the choice of how you want to cool your system, and it also offers a cooler that can go from full-tower cases down into Micro-ATX towers and even some SFF designs.
The NH-C14S is super solid, built like a tank, and by offering a product like that, it is easy for Noctua to feel comfortable offering a six-year warranty against anything on the cooler that may go wrong during normal usage. We know that the original NH-C14 could not overtake the NH-D14 on the 2600K, but when it came around to this time, the revised NH-C14 with much less fin area to work with, and also down a fan in comparison, was still able to go blow to blow with it, and didn't do badly against the masses of others on the chart as well. What really takes the cake for a cooler such as this is that on top of the top tier performance levels, on top of the new much beefier cooler design, it only produces 32db of noise; in most instances, your PSU and GPU at load will be noisier.
The only thing that drags the NH-C14S down a peg is the current pricing. The truth is though that at the $74.90 MSRP or even if we saw it listed for $80 somewhere, we would feel much more comfortable recommending this cooler. As it is, however, with the only listing we can find being sold at $99.95 at Amazon, that is a bit too much for this cooler.
If it had two fans, maybe, but with their flagship cooler the NH-D15 only costing $93, paying more for the NH-C14, which is near three degrees less efficient, just doesn't make economical sense. The one thing that helps this out in the end though is that many of the coolers listed that performed better are much taller or are an AIO, which may not fit in all the same places that the NH-C14S will.
|Quality including Design and Build||99%|
|Bundle and Packaging||97%|
|Value for Money||74%|
The Bottom Line: Noctua's NH-C14S is better in every way to the original! It is more efficient, noise is of little concern, and the changes made by solidifying the design and reworking the fins makes for a much better cooler. We just wish pricing was closer to the MSRP, as at $99.95, the asking price is too high.
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As far as pricing is concerned, the NH-C14S should be sold at our MSRP of USD 74.90. The initial demand has been higher than expected though and unfortunately, we couldn't make supply catch up with demand yet, so some resellers are asking excessive prices. We're working hard to ramp up production as quickly as possible so that the NH-C14S will soon be available at its intended price of USD 74.90.
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