Taking a look at computer retailers online, and even our past CPU cooler review history, it's easy to see that the most popular style of heatsink right now follows the tower design. It's no surprise as towers with their heatpipes and large radiators perform well. But performance aside, they have major downsides including high height and low base clearance which interferes with RAM with tall heatspreaders. Both the benefits and downfalls of the tower style of heatsink were evident in our last CPU cooler review of Noctua's NH-D14.
In this review, Noctua enters the fray again with their NH-C14 CPU cooler. It was designed by Noctua with high performance and having less clearance issues in mind. Compared to the NH-D14, the NH-C14 is more than 1 inch shorter and provides about 1 inch more clearance between the radiator and the heatsink base.
The NH-C14 is a C-style CPU cooler. The large aluminum finned radiator in parallel to the base of the heatsink, and they are connected via heatpipes. This is opposed to tower style heatsinks in which the radiator is perpendicular to the base. The inherent space saving benefits of the C-style come from the difference in radiator orientation.
The NH-C14 has 6 heatpipes transferring heat between the base and the radiator. Looking closely at the middle of the heatpipes, there is a support bracket which helps prevent the heatpipes from bending, and it helps stabilize the radiator from vibrating due to the fans spinning.
The heatpipes go straight through the whole length of the radiator. They are spaced so that four of the six heatpipes pass through the zones on the radiator which receive direct airflow from the fans (not deadzones like the center of the fan, or the corners).
On the radiator, there are two square spaces in the fins. These are to assist in the mounting of the NH-C14. They allow you to pass through the included Noctua screwdriver to tighten the SecuFirm 2 mounting system.
Noctua really didn't want to waste space on the NH-C14, so even the base has some fins on it. The two screw and spring sets on the wings of the base are used for Noctua's SecuFirm 2 mounting system... more on that in a bit.
A later add-on after the NH-C14 was originally released, a support bracket now comes with the heatsink package. When installed, it helps to support the bottom fan. It was discovered that in some cases, having both fans installed and running made the heatsink vibrate. This bracket solves that problem.
The base of the NH-C14, like the heatpipes, is made of nickel plated copper. It's nicely polished and is very flat. There is a slight texture that feels like small ridges, and it's likely this is from the machining process.
The fans come preinstalled by Noctua in the package. They are oriented so that they blow downwards. This creates a cooling effect around the socket area, and also for RAM slots for some motherboards.
The NH-C14 comes with two Noctua NF-P14 fans. These fans each rotate at 1200rpm while producing 110m³/h of airflow and 19.6dBA of noise. Both fans are powered via 3-pin connectors and thus are not controlled via PWM.
The fans are clipped to the heatsink via wire clips which are insulated to the fans via silicone knobs. These are characteristic of most of Noctua's CPU coolers.
On the four corners of each side of the radiator, there are blocks of silicone which help to insulate the heatsink from the vibration of the fans.