Massive. That's the word I would use to describe my first impression of the cooler that's the subject of this review. I've reviewed many CPU coolers in the past, and this was the first one which stood out enough for my wife to ask me while I was testing, "What is that thing?"
This 'thing' is Noctua's NH-D14 CPU cooler. And even Noctua uses the word massive to describe it for its product data sheet. Like most other Noctua coolers of the past, the NH-D14 was designed for ultimate quiet cooling performance. So I'll be testing to see if that description holds true in practice.
The reason why the NH-D14 is so big is because it's essentially two heatpipe tower heatsinks in one. There are six heatpipes which run through the base of the heatsink and into two separate towers of aluminum fins. And not only is the NH-D14 large, but it's also hefty at 900g without fans, and 1200g with fans installed.
Each tower of fins has the 6 copper heatpipes running through them. The heatpipes are evenly spaced.
The space in between the towers is where Noctua's NF-P14 (140mm) fan is installed. Looking between the towers the base and mounting system is visible. The two screws on the base of the heatsink are used to attach the NH-D14 to the Noctua SecuFirm2 mounting system, which is attached to the motherboard. Noctua's logo and name are pressed into each fin. The notches at the bottom and top of each tower (based on the orientation of the photo above) are used for the fan mounting clips. More on the installation process will follow shortly.
The base of the NH-D14 is nicely polished and made of nickel plated copper. Unlike many popular coolers now, Noctua chose to have a base plate rather than go the route of direct contact heatpipes.
The NH-D14 comes packaged with two Noctua fans, the NF-P14 and NF-P12. The former is a 140mm fan which goes in between the two towers. The fan rotates at 1200rpm while producing 110m³/h of airflow and 19.6dBA of noise. The latter is a 120mm fan which rotates at 1300rpm, and produces 92m³/h of airflow and 19.8dBA of noise. Both fans are powered via 3-pin connectors and thus are not controlled via PWM (the new NH-D14 S2011 kit comes with PWM versions of the fans).
The fans are clipped to the heatsink via wire clips which are insulated to the fans via rubber knobs. A benefit of Noctua's style of fan clips is that the fans have a bit of leeway as to how high or low they can be positioned on the heatsink. This can help with clearance issues, should any come up with your setup (RAM with exotic memory, I'm looking at you). There are also rubber spacers mounted to the heatsink to reduce vibrations between the fans and heatsink. For users looking to add a third fan to the heatsink, no additional mounting equipment included to allow for this.
The included fans both have notches on all of the blades. Noctua calls these Vortex Control Notches. They are supposed to reduce noise by altering the frequency of sound generated, and increase the efficiency of airflow produced with each stroke of the fan.