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Noctua NH-U14S CPU Cooler Review

Manufacturer: Noctua

Cooler Comparison Testing

Cooler Testing Methods

To best gage the quality of the system coolers under review, system CPU temperature and cooling system audio measurements were taken with the CPU idle and under load. To replicate CPU idle conditions, the system was rebooted and allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes. To replicate a stress system load on the Z77-based system, a combination of LinX and FurMark were run over a 30 minute period with LinX running for 500 loops with Memory set to All and FurMark running at 1280x1024 resolution and 2x MSAA in stress test mode. For the Z87-based system testing, Aida64 System Stability Test was used in conjunction with FurMark for 30 minutes per run. After each run, the system was shut down and allowed to rest for 10 minutes to cool down. Then the CPU cooler was removed, cleaned, and remounted to the CPU with fresh thermal paste applied. This procedure was repeated a total of 12 times for each cooler - three times each for the stock and overclocking speed runs on the Z77 and Z87-based systems.

Temperature measurements were taken directly from the CPU thermistors using RealTemp (the newer Tech|Inferno edition). For the Z77-based systems, the highest recorded value for idle and load temperature were used for the run. Because of the volatile nature of the Haswell thermistor readings, the Z87-based system temperatures were measured in a different manner. For idle temperatures, the highest recorded value was used for the run. For load temperatures, a series of three values were notated: the average (high and low) across all cores, the average (high and low) across the single highest core, and the high temperature.

To adequately measure the Noctua NH-U14S CPU cooler performance, performance testing was done for all scenarios under three operational conditions - single fan, single fan with LNA (low-noise adapter), and dual fan. In single and dual fan modes, fans were directly connected to the PSU and run at full speed. In single fan with LNA mode, the included low-noise adapter was plugged in between the fan and the PSU power adapter. Noctua AF-15S NF-A15 140mm fans were used for all test scenarios run.

Note that the temperature values are reported as deltas rather than absolute temperatures with the delta value reported calculated as CPU temperature - ambient temperature. For all tests, room ambient temperature was maintained between 23-27C. Sound measurements of the system cooler where taken with the sound meter placed 3 feet away from the system with all other devices in the room silenced. The Sound Meter Pro applet on a Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone was used to measure decibel level.

Intel Z77-based Ivy Bridge System Testing

CPU Stock Speed Testing

The CPU stock speed testing was conducted with the BIOS defaults set with Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 3.4GHz CPU speed, 1600MHz memory speed, and 100MHz base clock. The Intel Speedstep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

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The Noctua NH-U14S cools a stock speed Ivy Bridge-based processor very well no matter the configuration used. Even using the LNA (low noise adapter) cable in conjunction with its stock configuration, the cooler keeps the temps neck in neck with the other test units.

CPU Overclocked Speed Testing

The CPU overclocked speed testing was conducted with known stable settings from a previous board review with Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 4.4GHz CPU speed, 1960MHz memory speed, and 105MHz base clock. Also, the CPU-integrated graphics processor was disabled to reduce the processor heat generation. The Intel Speedstep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

Board voltage settings were configured as follows:

  • CPU Core Voltage - 1.2750
  • CPU I/O Voltage - 1.150
  • DRAM Voltage - 1.6255
  • System Agent Voltage(SA) - 1.0850
  • CPU PLL Voltage - 1.7500
  • PCH 1.05 - 1.0995

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The Noctua's performance dynamics change with the processor speed increased. The NH-U14S' cooling potentials scales within expectations with the dual-fan, full-speed configuration lagging slightly behind the top performers. Even with the LNA cable with a single fan, the Noctua's performance lags that of the dual-fan configuration by a mere 4C when stable. We found that the system remained stable by a hair's breadth when used in conjunction with the low speed fan configuration with system crashes exhibited in 2 out of 4 runs.

Intel Z87-based Haswell System Testing

CPU Stock Speed Testing

The CPU stock speed testing was conducted with the BIOS defaults set for the CPU (including enabling of the CPU-integrated graphics processor) and Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 3.4GHz CPU speed, 1600MHz memory speed, and 100MHz base clock. The Intel Speedstep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

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The Noctua's performance changes slightly with the hotter Haswell processor at stock speeds. The performance potential begins to lag when using the LNA cable slightly. Otherwise, the NH-U14S makes a strong showing.

CPU Overclocked Speed Testing

The CPU overclocked speed testing was conducted with known stable settings from a previous board review with Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 4.68GHz CPU speed, 1780MHz memory speed, 4.0GHZ ring bus speed, and 167MHz base clock. Also, the CPU-integrated graphics processor was disabled to reduce the processor heat generation. The Intel Speedstep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

Board voltage settings were configured as follows:

  • CPU Core Voltage - 1.25 + 0.005
  • VCCIN Voltage - 1.90
  • DRAM Voltage - 1.55
  • CPU Ring Voltage - 1.125 + 0.005
  • CPU SA Voltage Offset - +0.100
  • CPU IO Analogue Voltage Offset - +0.100
  • CPU IO Digital Voltage Offset - +0.100
  • PCH 1.05 Voltage - 1.120

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The Noctua performs well with the overclocked Haswell processor with a single oddity - performance was the same or better in stock single-fan mode with single fan and dual-fan configurations temperatures compared. The performance grouping remains tight no matter what configuration used (even with the single-fan LNA cable configuration), but the unit's performance does lag the other coolers by up to 4C. However, the system remained fully stable for the duration in all test configurations.

Sound Testing

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The Noctua NH-U14S cooler is not a loud unit, even with dual 140mm fans strapped to it. Dual-fan mode operation was noticeably louder than single fan or LNA-mode operation, but noticeable at system idle only. The unit was inaudible over the system fans in any configuration, and were wholly drowned out by the graphics card fans once the system stress testing was started in earnest.

April 25, 2014 | 08:53 AM - Posted by Edkiefer (not verified)

I assume this cooler being 150mm width wouldn't fit Intel MB that have graphic slot at top , instead of many that have PCI-E 16lane down one slot .

cheap price ,54$
http://www.ncixus.com/products/?sku=82802&vpn=NH-U14S&manufacture=Noctua

April 25, 2014 | 01:27 PM - Posted by Feikz (not verified)

Another horrible testing/review from PCPer. Good job!

April 25, 2014 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What about it is so horrible? Care to make some constructive criticism?

April 25, 2014 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Paws (not verified)

People are idiots. Great job PCPer as always, and Go Big Blue!

April 25, 2014 | 06:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the review, any plans with the D15?

Rather than testing two CPUs which both produce relatively little heat but use lackluster heatspreaders, I think it would be more useful to test one of those and a high power, soldered CPU (LGA2011 or AMD).

April 25, 2014 | 09:41 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

D15 review will be coming sometime in the next few months.

Thanks...

April 25, 2014 | 11:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The 'continue reading our review...' link on the front page for this article links to pcper.com, not the article.

April 26, 2014 | 08:57 AM - Posted by AnonymousAndy (not verified)

Any idea if you can buy a second low noise adapter and use it for a dual fan set=up? I get that it should make the dual fan set-up quieter but run hotter, but how much cooler or how much hotter?

My first guess would be it would run very similarly to the single fan configuration without the LNA.

April 28, 2014 | 04:23 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Your best bet would be to contact Noctua support to see if they can either send you one or sell you one (an LNA adapter that is).  If you buy a second Noctua branded fan, they normally package them with the LNA adapter as well.  You could also make one yourself if your technically savvy enough - its just a power cord with an in-line resister to dampen the fan voltage.

As far as performance goes, you'd probably see an increase of 1-2C over full speed with the Noctua fans so most likely equal to single fan operation or sitting in between single fan full speed and LNA operation.

April 27, 2014 | 02:07 PM - Posted by Justin (not verified)

The 'continue reading our review...' link on the front page for this article links to pcper.com, not the article. i

April 28, 2014 | 05:38 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Fixed.  Thank you...

April 28, 2014 | 04:20 PM - Posted by TheGlasman (not verified)

" I get that it should make the dual fan set-up quieter but run hotter, but how much cooler or how much hotter?"

Minor increase in noise, minor increase in performance.

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