Our next contender is the Noctua
NH-D14. The stock image below should give you a general idea of what this beast looks like before we delve into specifics.
It's been about six months since we've seen Noctua show up in the Bigbruin.com test labs, so it's a welcome sight to see them back. Noctua is known for great cooling and near silent operation which should make for quite the battle. In the first series of images below you'll see what the NH-D14 arrived in; a white box with nice stock images and a brief description of the cooler.
Moving along to the contents of the box, we see the plethora of mounting hardware that ships with the NH-D14. Since this is a multi-platform cooler, you get a bag for AMD and a bag for Intel. The bag of common parts contains four rubber fan grommets, one 2-to-1 fan header, two Ultra Low-Noise Adapters, four regular fan screws, a mini-folder that contains simple to follow instructions for both AMD and Intel installations, a tube of high quality thermal compound, and a Noctua case badge. The below right image gives you more details about the Intel mounting hardware - since that is the setup we will be testing later. You get four mounting bolts which fit snugly into holes on the universal Intel mounting bracket, four black plastic spacers, four mounting nuts, and two brackets which the cooler will eventually screw into. The AMD mounting kit is even simpler as there is no universal bracket, only four bolts, four spacers, and two brackets.
On to the cooler itself - once we got this out of the box, we were amazed at the sheer size and weight of this beast. This is clearly the largest cooler we've seen. It comes with both a 140mm center-mounted fan and a 120mm outside mounted fan. You could remove the 120mm fan and use it as a case fan (since Noctua has thoughtfully provided two sets of hardware for this) but for our purposes today, we'll leave it intact. The below left image is a side shot showing the fan orientation. You'll notice the center fan sticks up a bit in the middle to cover as much surface area as possible. It's difficult to see the base of the cooler at this angle. The image on the right shows us that while the base is not polished to a mirror-finish, it is certainly very smooth. You can also see how densely packed the 6 nickel-plated heatpipes are. Their spacing and the use of the famous Noctua fans should provide for some pretty good cooling.
Getting the Noctua NH-D14 mounted on our Gigabyte motherboard proved to be quite a challenge. First, we need to unclamp the 140mm center mounted fan so we could get to the mounting screw. Perhaps if you had a flexible shaft screwdriver, you could omit this step, but since we didn't it needed to be removed temporarily. In the below left image you can see this a bit better. You can also see how extraordinarily large this cooler is. While this may only be a microATX motherboard, the cooler takes up all of the real estate from the very top of the board all the way down to the primary PCI Express slot. Because of this clearance issue, we had to mount our video card in the secondary slot - the card was actually touching the heatsink fins no matter how we tried mounting it. The below right image shows you how little clearance we had - it might be hard to see, but the card is actually touching the heatsink fins.
The final image shows you the Noctua NH-D14 mounted in our case. There's no beating around the bush here folks; this is a massive cooler and you'll need a larger case if you want to use it. This may not be the best bet for an HTPC, but it would be great in a full tower case.
Priced at close to $90 (US), the Noctua NH-D14 is available at Newegg.com