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Noctua NH-U14S Slim 140mm Tower Cooler

The NH-U14S is a lean and mean CPU cooler in the distinctive Noctua style, with a slender physique to help avoid memory interference while still packing a surprisingly heavy punch.

September 15, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Noctua NH-U14S
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Noctua
Street Price
US$75

Over the years Noctua has created some memorable premium offerings but at a seemingly slow, deliberate pace with high attention to detail. They’ve kept the same design aesthetic over the years, making their products easily recognizable and presumably streamlining fabrication. Uniformity is part of their strategy to the point where every heatsink released in a given year has identical packaging, accessories, and mounting hardware. It’s not all just for show either, as they invariably produce elite performance and often the only valid complaint is price. In many ways, Noctua is the Apple of CPU coolers.


The NH-U14S.

The last Noctua we reviewed, the NH-U12S, was a slim tower heatsink with a 120 mm fan that offered high efficiency in a more compact form factor than the usual fare. The NH-U14S is its big brother, a more substantial version with a 140 mm blower. Compared to the NH-U12S, it’s 7 mm taller and thicker, and 25 mm longer, though by modern day standards it’s still rather slender. Both coolers look a bit undersized compared to their respective stock fans. The narrow physique of the NH-U14S is specifically designed to not overhang memory slots on LGA2011 boards as well as most LGA115x and AMD models.


The box.


Package contents.

The gear included in the package is neatly segregated into three different boxes. The longer box contains common accessories: a long screwdriver, an extra pair of fan clips, an additional set of anti-vibration pads, a tube of thermal compound, a low noise fan adapter, and a metallic case badge. The mounting hardware for Intel and AMD sockets is separated into their own respective boxes as well.

Like the NH-U12S, the Noctua’s old universal Intel backplate has been replaced with a fixed LGA115x version. LGA1366 and LGA775 users aren’t left entirely in the cold though as Noctua provides an optional compatible mounting kit for free. It still seems rather bizarre that they’d abandon a perfectly good backplate for a more limited one and then provide the old one at no extra charge. It may be that they streamlined manufacturing of the backplate to cut costs and are using an excess stock of adapter kits to give away to the few, dwindling users who need them. For LGA2011, the heatsink mounts directly to the socket frame while for AMD installs, the stock backplate is reused.

Noctua NH-U14S: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Socket compatibility Intel LGA2011 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2 (backplate required)
Height (without fan) 165 mm
Width (without fan) 150 mm
Depth (without fan) 52 mm
Height (with fan) 165 mm
Width (with fan) 150 mm
Depth (with fan) 78 mm
Weight (without fan) 770 g
Weight (with fan) 935 g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 140x150x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 140x140x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 120x120x25
Scope of Delivery NF-A15 PWM premium fan
Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
Anti-vibration pads and fan-clips for second NF-A15 (optional)
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty 6 Years
Fan Specifications
Model Noctua NF-A15 PWM
Bearing SSO2
Max. Rotational Speed (+/- 10%) 1500 RPM
Max. Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 1200 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM) 300 RPM
Max. Airflow 140,2 m³/h
Max. Airflow with L.N.A. 115,5 m³/h
Max. Acoustical Noise 24,6 dB(A)
Max. Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 19,2 dB(A)
Input Power 1,56 W
Voltage Range 12 V
MTBF > 150.000 h

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Noctua NH-U14S is composed of 57 aluminum fins, six 6 mm thick copper heatpipes, and a copper base, all nickel-plated. According to our measurements, the heatsink’s dimensions are 15.0 x 5.2 x 16.5 cm (L x W x H) and its weight is 770 grams (930 grams including the fan).


Measuring 150 mm across, the NH-U14S has a wide face intersected by six heatpipes. The fins are 0.42 mm thick and spaced 1.72 mm apart, on average.


At 52 mm, the body is thicker than the NH-U12S, but it’s still relatively shallow for tower cooler. It stands 165 mm tall, which is a bit high as most tower coolers are usually 160 mm or shorter.


The nickel-plating on all the fins and heatpipes and the soldered joints gives the heatsink an air of quality.


The mounting clip is pre-installed and can be tightened via a long screwdriver hole running down the center.


The base has a dull finish but it’s been worked to produce a convex surface in order to maximize contact with the center of the CPU heatspreader.


The stock fan is a 1500 RPM, 15 x 14 cm, PWM model with quasi-round/octagonal frame and anti-vibration pads.

BASE & INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the cooler’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.


Our test motherboard is an LGA1366 model so it isn’t supported by the NH-U14S out of the box. However, as you can see in the image above, the mounting bars have the necessary holes for both LGA1366 and LGA115x. We borrowed a backplate from the NH-D14 to make it work.


Noctua’s system is notoriously easy to assemble, and the retention frame can be put together without any tools. Not having tiny screws to deal with is a big advantage.


The pre-attached mounting clip has spring-loaded bolts with a stopper at the bottom to prevent over-tightening. It’s also advisable to confirm the screw at the center which secures the clip to the base is firmly in place.


Fully assembled. With the fan mounted in the position recommended by Noctua, the height of the total product is increased by 1 mm to 166 mm but you can slip the fan further down the heatsink so it doesn’t stick out past the pipes.


Coolers like the Thermalright HR-02 and Scythe Ashura use an off-center design to minimize memory interference while the NH-U14S pulls it off simply by being thin. Clearance between the board the and the lowest outer fin is 46 mm.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
770 (+160 g with stock fan)
Height 165 mm
Fin count 57
Fin thickness
0.42 mm
Fin spacing
1.72 mm
Vertical Clearance*
46 mm
* measured from motherboard PCB to bottom
fin of heatsink

 

Large Heatsink Comparison:
Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
SilverStone Heligon HE02
0.52 mm
3.30 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
0.34 mm
3.12 mm
Scythe Ninja 3
0.39 mm
2.64 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Noctua NH-D14
0.43 mm
2.33 mm
Thermalright Archon SB-E
0.49 mm
2.33 mm
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
0.40 mm
2.30 mm
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
0.39 mm
2.30 mm
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
0.31 mm
2.25 mm
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
0.40 mm
2.21 mm
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
0.38 mm
2.22 mm
Prolimatech Armageddon
0.51 mm
2.08 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
0.40 mm
2.00 mm
Scythe Ashura
0.43 mm
1.97 mm
Scythe Kabuto & Zipang 2
0.34 mm
1.94 mm
NZXT Havik 140
0.41 mm
1.91 mm
Scythe Mugen-2
0.31 mm
1.89 mm
SilverStone Tundra TD03 (radiator)
0.43 mm
1.86 mm
Swiftech Polaris 120
0.43 mm
1.85 mm
SilverStone Argon AR01
0.30 mm
1.85 mm
Thermalright Venomous X
0.53 mm
1.84 mm
Scythe Mugen 4
0.30 mm
1.82 mm
Noctua NH-C14
0.38 mm
1.79 mm
Enermax ETS-T40
0.40 mm
1.79 mm
Scythe Yasya
0.32 mm
1.78 mm
Noctua NH-U14S
0.42 mm
1.72 mm
SilverStone Argon AR03
0.42 mm
1.72 mm
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
0.30 mm
1.70 mm
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
0.38 mm
1.66 mm
Reeven Kelveros
0.47 mm
1.61 mm
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
0.16 mm
1.59 mm
Thermalright Silver Arrow
0.32 mm
1.57 mm
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
0.43 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
0.56 mm
1.52 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
0.42 mm
1.50 mm

Testing on larger heatsinks are done on our
LGA1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our LGA1155 heatsink testing platform. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in LGA1366 Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme
    Nehalem core, LGA1366, 3.2GHz, 45nm, 130W TDP.
  • Asus
    P6X58D Premium
    ATX motherboard. X58 chipset.
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent
    graphics card.
  • Intel
    X25-M
    80GB 2.5″ solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 3GB QiMonda
    DDR3 memory. 3 x 1GB DDR3-1066 in triple channel.
  • Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM
    650W ATX power supply. This PSU is semi-passively cooled. At the power levels
    of our test platform, its fan does not spin.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Noctua 140 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 140x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 120 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

Key Components in LGA1155 Heatsink Test Platform:

The systems are silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1250 RPM
28~29 dBA
9V
990 RPM
21 dBA
8V
880 RPM
18 dBA
7V
770 RPM
15~16 dBA
6V
660 RPM
13 dBA

 

Reference Nexus 120 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1080 RPM
16 dBA
9V
880 RPM
13 dBA
7V
720 RPM
12 dBA

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1470 RPM
17 dBA
9V
1280 RPM
14 dBA
7V
1010 RPM
12 dBA

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    All instances are used to ensure full stress.
  • CPU-Z,used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab’s variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using Prime95 to stress the processor, and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

STOCK FAN MEASUREMENTS

Specifications: Noctua NH-U14S Stock Fan
Manufacturer Noctua Power Rating 1.56 W
Model Number NF-A15 PWM Airflow Rating 140.2 m³/h
115.5 m³/h with L.N.A
Bearing Type SSO2 Speed Rating 1500 RPM
1200 RPM with L.N.A
Frame Size 150 x 140 x 25 mm (120 mm holes) Noise Rating 24.6 dBA
19.2 dBA with L.N.A
Hub Size 43 mm Header Type 4-pin PWM
Blade Diameter 133 mm Starting Voltage 4.5 ~ 5.0 V
Cable Length 20 cm Weight 160 g
Corner Type Open Retail Availability No

Additional notes:

The NH-U14S’ stock fan carries the model number NF-A15 PWM, which is the same as one we tested during one of our 140 mm fan roundups. However, this is actually a faster variant with a nominal speed of 1500 rather than 1200 RPM. If your motherboard lacks PWM control, a low noise adapter is included that brings down the speed to 1200 RPM (the equivalent of around 9V) but as all modern boards have PWM support, you can most likely toss it to the side or save it for use with a different fan.


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the NH-U14S stock fan on voltage control.

This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the NH-U14S stock fan on PWM control.

Hooked up to our fan test system, we were surprised to discover the fan can be dialed down to very low speeds via PWM control. On voltage control, it stopped spinning below 700 RPM (about the equivalent to 5V).

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1460 RPM
30 dBA
9V
1160 RPM
24 dBA
7V
940 RPM
18~19 dBA
6V
810 RPM
16 dBA
5V
680 RPM
13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

Upping the speed on the NF-A15 PWM may have been an attempt to appeal to overclocking crowd but for the rest of us, it’s unnecessary. The fan is very loud at top speed, and the sound output is uncomfortable even with the low noise adapter attached (~1200 RPM). The fan enters the quiet zone (below 20 dBA@1m) at just under 1000 RPM and is barely audible at 5V which is conveniently close to its starting voltage.

While not the same NF-A15 PWM fan you can buy in stores, it does have a similar acoustic character to its slower-spinning brother. At higher speeds it’s turbulent and buzzy with a slight rustling sound. At 7V / 940 RPM it’s generally quiet and smooth but there is an audible scratchy sound as if some kind of fabric is rubbing up against it slightly. This artifact is fairly soft-sound though and is thus preferable to the typical tonal issues that plague most acoustically-challenged fans. As the speed is decreased further this oddity starts to fade and is replaced with a faint hum.

TEST RESULTS

Test Results: Noctua NH-U14S
Fan Voltage
Single Fan
Dual Fan
SPL@1m
Thermal Rise
SPL@1m
12V
30 dBA
34°C
N / A
9V
24 dBA
36°C
7V
18~19 dBA
38°C
6V
16 dBA
40°C
5V
13 dBA
43°C
Reference 140 mm Fan
12V
28 dBA
36°C
35°C
32~33 dBA
9V
22 dBA
38°C
36°C
25~26 dBA
8V
18~19 dBA
40°C
39°C
22 dBA
7V
14 dBA
41°C
39°C
18 dBA
6V
12 dBA
44°C
40°C
14 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The NH-U14S was an excellent cooler, producing a thermal rise above ambient of 43°C at 5V and 34°C at 12V. The stock fan generated a 2°C advantage at the 18~19 dBA@1m level over our reference Noctua 140 mm fan but at lower speeds, they were about equal. Being such a skinny heatsink, the NH-U14S didn’t benefit much from adding a second fan except when they were running at close to inaudible levels.

HEATSINK COMPARISON TABLES

°C Rise Comparison: CPU Coolers with Single Stock Fan
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Thermalright Archon SB-E
39
 
40
 
43
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
39
40
41
43
Scythe Mugen 4
40
42
45
Noctua NH-U14S
38
40
43
Scythe Yasya
40
43
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
41
43
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
42
47
Scythe Ashura
42
44
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
54
Silverstone Argon AR03
43
48
Scythe Ninja 3
44
46
SilverStone Argon AR01
44
50

Compared to other coolers that ship with one stock fan, the NH-U14S is a formidable opponent, landing in fourth spot on our chart, barely edged by the Scythe Mugen 4 and Thermalright HR-02.

°C Rise Comparison:
CPU Coolers with Single 140 mm Reference Fan
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m*
9V
(~21 dBA)
7V
(~15 dBA)
6V
(~12 dBA)
Thermalright Archon SB-E
37
40
42
Noctua NH-U14S
38
41
44
Prolimatech Armageddon
39
42
45
Scythe Mugen 4
39
42
45
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
39
43
45
NZXT Havik 140
40
43
47
Scythe Ashura
41
44
46
Noctua NH-C14
(top mounted)
40
44
48
Noctua NH-C14
40
44
49
Thermalright Silver Arrow
39
45
49
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
42
45
48
SilverStone Heligon HE02
45
48
50
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
49
51
53
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

Paired with our reference 140 mm fan, NH-U14S jumps ahead of the Mugen 4 and HR-02, just behind the top-ranked Thermalright Archon SB-E .

°C Rise Comparison:
CPU Coolers with Dual 140 mm Reference Fans
Heatsink
Fan Voltage / SPL*
8V
(~20 dBA)
7V
(~16 dBA)
6V
(~13 dBA)
Prolimatech Genesis
36
37
39
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
36
37
40
Noctua NH-C14
37
39
41
Thermalright Silver Arrow
37
39
41
Noctua NH-U14S
39
39
40
Noctua NH-D14
38
40
42
Scythe Mugen 4
39
40
42
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
39
41
43
NZXT Havik 140
39
40
43
Scythe Ashura
40
41
43
SilverStone Heligon HE02
43
44
46
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

While going from one to two of our reference Noctua 140 mm fans doesn’t net the NH-U14S much improvement, it’s still a formidable dual fan cooler, competing well with massive twin tower heatsinks like the Silver Arrow and NH-D14.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Noctua NH-U14S is an excellent performer overall but when you also take into account its size, it’s fairly impressive. That such a thin, single fan, single tower heatsink can rub shoulders with bigger, heavier, premium coolers is delightfully surprising. Perhaps more amazing is that Noctua continues to crank out successful coolers one after another with nary a misstep. The NH-U14S is just another in a long line of solidly built, easy to install, and highly competent heatsinks.

Noctua made sure to maximize the NH-U14S’ compatibility with regard to memory interference but its 165 mm height makes it less than perfect. It may be a bit tall for some of the slimmer tower cases on the market. Our other complaint is the fan, but only because of the standard Noctua set for itself with the NF-P14. The NF-A15 PWM is not quite as smooth with an odd flutter at medium speeds, but it’s still better than what most manufacturer’s are offering.

The only really big issue with the NH-U14S has nothing to do with the cooler itself but with the hefty price-tag. Considering the amount of materials that go into producing this thin cooler, the US$75 street price is substantial. At some retailers, you can find the larger dual fan Noctua NH-D14 for a bit less. It’s nice that the NH-U14S is slim and avoids memory interference problems but the off-center design of the Thermalright HR-02 and Scythe Ashura accomplishes something similar, and they, along with the Scythe Mugen 4 and a few others, offer better value overall.

Our thanks to Noctua
for the NH-U14S CPU cooler sample.


Noctua NH-U14S
is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Scythe Ashura CPU Cooler
SilverStone Tundra TD03 Liquid CPU Cooler
Scythe Mugen 4 CPU Cooler: Scythe Strikes Back
SilverStone Argon AR02 CPU Cooler
NoFan CR-95C Copper Fanless CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-U12S Slim Tower Heatsink

* * *

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