Noctua's DH-14: Air Cooling Keeps Up With Liquid?


A few months back, we examined the performance of four liquid coolers for the Sandy Bridge-E socket LGA 2011 platform: Corsair's H80 and H100, Maingear's Epic 180, and Intel's own reference cooler. Liquid coolers are popular with high-end OEMs and some enthusiasts, but they aren't cheap -- and there's a certain group of enthusiasts who aren't comfortable with flowing liquid in their systems.

Recently, we spoke with the team at Noctua, who offered to send us one of its high-end air coolers for comparison. We've been curious about the company since it came across our radar with its upgrade offer for anyone upgrading to Socket 2011 last year.

Before we get started, we can't resist sharing the following:

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The banner above is running at NewEgg and it's hilariously inappropriate. Regardless of whether you favor air, liquid, or dropping your system in non-conductive oil, we promise you that it's *not* thirsty. Even if it somehow was, giving it a drink is a very bad idea. Like, feeding-Mogwai-after-midnight level bad.

Noctua's DH-14:

It's immediately obvious that Noctua takes a different approach than Intel and Corsair when it comes to product packaging and presentation. Both of the Liquid Cooler manufacturers are shipping what amount to rebadged third-party kits -- and it shows. All three products ship with the necessary mount hardware and a folded square of paper with diagrammed directions, and that's it. There's no accompanying text, no technical info on the fans or pump, nothing.

Noctua's DH-14 kit, in contrast, contains a full-color instruction brochure with numerous diagrams that show installation from various angles. It even includes a long screwdriver to aid with fan installation.

Does it matter? From a performance standpoint, no. An experienced enthusiast could figure out how to mount either kit without any instructions whatsoever; customers are ultimately concerned with how each cooler performs, not with how nice the packaging or documentation is. On the other hand, as someone with no previous experience with Noctua, the company's packaging, documentation, and the inclusion of a screwdriver were all impressive. Combined with the company's history of offering socket upgrade kits, it gives the impression of a manufacturer who views a cooler as a long-term investment.

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