Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler

Performance Test Platform

The hardware chosen was picked to reflect that of a relatively modern computer system that an enthusiast may own. The configuration of the system is as follows:

  • Intel Core i7 2700k
  • ASRock Z68 Extreme3 motherboard
  • Crucial 2x2GB DDR3-1600 memory kit
  • Asus Radeon 4870 512MB video card
  • OCZ Vertex 3 240GB solid state drive
  • Western Digital Black 640GB SATA hard drive
  • Liteon iHAS124B SATA DVD-writer

Testing Methodology

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal compound was used for all CPU cooler testing results.  In our last thermal compound roundup, we found it to be one of the best performing thermal compounds tested.  Application of the thermal compound was done as recommended by the installation guide provided by the cooler manufacturer.  If no method was recommended, then a pea sized amount was applied to the center of the CPU's heatspreader (with pressure from the installed cooler to spread it).

We employ an open test bed (not installed in a case).  This is to remove positive/negative factors that a case can apply to coolers depending on design.  Keep in mind that temperatures achieved in this article will be lower than what a user will achieve when the cooler is installed in a case.  The ambient environmental temperature is maintained at 24 degrees celcius (plus/minus 1 degree celcius).

CPU temperatures are recorded using OCCT.  Since the temperature of each core is recorded individually, the average of these measurements is used to represent the 'Average' measure in the results.  The highest temperature recorded during testing among the individual cores is used to represent the 'Maximum' measure in the results.  Stress testing measurements are conducted using OCCT's CPU Test with the Small Data Set.  This is left to run for 30 minutes.  Idle measurements are taken 30 minutes after the the stress test has been completed (same method as the 'Average' stress test results).

The following motherboard configuration was used:

  • Hyperthreading disabled
  • Speedstep disabled
  • Turbo disabled
  • C1E, C3 & C6 State Support disabled
  • CPU Thermal Throttling disabled
  • CPU Load Line Calibration set to maintain level voltage regardless of load
  • Stock mode: default voltage, CPU Ratio set to 35 = 3500MHz
  • Overclocked mode: 1.3v, CPU ratio set to 45 = 4500MHz

Performance Test Results

Noctua's NH-C14 is an overall good performer.  It wasn't expected to do as well as the NH-D14, as it has less surface area on its radiator fins, but it wasn't far behind.  Running at stock speeds, the two Noctua heatsinks were in line.  With the increased heat load of the overclocked processor, the NH-C14 stayed within 2 degrees celcius of the larger NH-D14.  When switching to one fan, temperatures only increased by 1 degree celcius.  And while we didn't specifically test the RAM slots and the area around the CPU socket, there was a good amount of airflow in those areas with the NH-C14.

Conclusion

The NH-C14 CPU cooler was pretty quiet to our ears with both fans running.  When using only one fan, it was very quiet.  Inside of a decent case, I'd guess that it would be inaudible with a one fan setup.  And performance wise, switching to one fan barely made a change in temperatures.

While I'd still recommend the NH-D14 over the NH-C14 due to its leading performance, the NH-C14 still has a place in the market.  If clearance space is a concern, the Noctua's NH-C14 should be on your short list of CPU coolers to look at.  Its design allows gives consumers more flexibility in the ability to use smaller cases or install high-profile RAM, but still retain a high level of thermal performance.  It's highly recommended.