After seeing the performance results, the best way to sum up the Noctua NH-D14 is that it is an absolute juggernaut of a cooler, plain and simple. It utterly crushed the competition, and keep in mind, these were not second-rate heatsinks that were beat; these were top-class CPU coolers. It is not unusual for a top cooler to outperform competitors by one degree Celcius, as illustrated in our charts, but to jump ahead by several degrees is unheard of.
Not only is the NH-D14 a beast in terms of performance, but also in design and sheer size. This cooler is by far the largest we’ve ever seen or tested, and is frankly not what we’ve come to expect from Noctua (but we’re not complaining!). Noctua is known for conservative designs that showcase restraint bordering on boring. Well, we can safely say that Noctua has done a complete about-face with the NH-D14 and blown the doors wide open. This cooler may still use the same colour scheme as its predecessors, but the overall design and performance is an utter revolution.
Perhaps more shocking is the fact that it is extremely rare to have a cooler that not only performs well but is also quiet. It’s been our experience that you can’t really have low noise levels and top cooling performance; the two are inversely proportional, gain one and lose the other to an extent. However, this Noctua cooler is a rare exception, providing exceptional cooling performance at very low noise levels.
Due to the massive size of the NH-D14, installation is a bit tricky as there will likely be some space issues if you don’t have much to work with. It will also likely impact your DIMM slots if you have memory modules with tall heatspreaders, but the actual installation procedure and backplate use are very straightforward and easy. Noctua has posted a RAM compatibility list, so check that http://www.noctua.at/main.php?show=compatibility_ram_gen&products_id=34 before you purchase the NH-D14.
The NH-D14 has slightly limited availability at online retailers, but can be found for about $85 USD, putting it at the very top of the price range for air coolers. That price is indeed high, but you do get an absolute beast of a cooler that simply shames all other top competitors, while costing only about $15 more at most. So the question becomes, "Are you willing to pay the premium?" We can’t answer that for you, but when you consider how far it will allow overclocking your CPU, how cool it can run, and how quiet it will be, we have no hesitation with the price premium.
The Noctua NH-D14 is quite simply the best performing air cooler we’ve ever seen. It is massive and expensive, but no other cooler can come close to matching its prowess, and certainly not at these low noise levels. You will not find a better CPU cooler on the market than this.
Our thanks go to Noctua for providing the NH-D14 for this review.