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[drupal=692]Review: Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler *Update*[/drupal]

By Colin M. Ormsby

If you recall the original review of the Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler, back in June of 2011, all of the testing was carried out on a relatively modest AMD Athlon II X2 250 CPU running at 3.0Ghz. Like most of us, the upgrade bug has bitten me and my main PC is now running on an AMD FX-8120 - 8 cores at 3.1GHZ which self-overclocks to 3.9 under load. The question is, can this Editors Choice winning 10/10 CPU Cooler handle it? Read on to find out...

It isn't often we here at TBCS go back and look once again at a review but we're making an exception today. It is relatively obvious that Noctua are aiming it's NH-C14 CPU Cooler at higher end system, considering the size and price of the unit. Our original testing was carried out on a fairly mid-range system in order to acknowledge the coolers' HTPC suitability.

Having recently moved the cooler from the HTPC and into a much more powerful PC, it seemed only reasonable to re-test it in the interests being thorough.

In the original HTPC, the cooler was installed to cool an Athlon II X2 250 running two cores at 3.0Ghz and as the original review (available here) attested, the NH-C14 did an outstanding job, knocking almost 20 degrees C off of the stock cooler and 15 off of the Arctic Cooling PWM64 cooler, as you can see in the following chart.

The question before us today, however is will the cooler be as impressive on a 125W 8 Core CPU as it was on the 65W 2 core unit?

The revised core specifications of the test PC are as follows.

Antec 900 PC Case
AsRock 970 Extreme 3 Motherboard
AMD FX-8120 8-Core Bulldozer CPU

As before, the tests were carried out using freshly applied thermal paste, although in this case a quality generic paste was used instead of the Noctua NT-H1 paste originally provided with the cooler. The same paste was used on all three coolers in this test for the sake of continuity.

The "stock" AMD cooler is different unit to the stock cooler used in the original testing - AMD provides a much better stock cooler with the FX-8120 than with the Athlon II X2 250, and the mid-range cooler used for comparison is a step up from the original Arctic Cooling unit - this time it's a Freezer Pro 64 with a single 120mm fan as opposed to the PWM64 with an 80mm unit installed.

The results....

Simply stunning. There is a MUCH much better level of airflow in the current case than in the Thermaltake unit used in the original review. The Thermaltake had no case fans whatsoever, relying utterly on the PSU fan to expel hot air whereas the Antec 900 has a pair of front mounted 120mm intakes, a rear mounted 120mm exhaust and a top mounted 200mm exhaust all of which almost certainly helped but there's no denying the difference between the coolers in the same system. Give or take a week or so, the time of year is the same, so ambient temperatures will be fairly close between the systems, and the tests were carried out in the same room.

The NH-C14 actually managed lower temperatures on the 125W 8-core CPU than on the 65W 2-core unit although the case airflow has to have been a contributing factor. Nevertheless, a drop in temperature from 47C (stock cooler) down to 29 is a great result and fully reinforces my previous conclusions.

With these results in mind, I have no problem whatsoever confirming both the Editors Choice award and the original 10/10 score. This is a serious CPU cooler which is more than capable of taming mid and high-end CPU's alike.

This product was provided free of charge by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.