Pros: Quiet, good cooling performance under full CPU load
Cons: Large, needs a big chassis and low profile DIMMs
I read a lot of good reviews on the Noctua NH-D14 SE2011, so I decided to give it a try.
The NH-D14 is HUGE !!! You need a big chassis to get it in. I have a Corsair 500R.
Next thing to watch out is memory clearance. I have an Asus Sabertooth X79 board fully equipped with 8x4GB Kingston memory. 4 of the DIMMs sit right under the Noctua cooler. You can't use high memory modules, i.e. those with cooling fins standing out. Check the Noctua website for details on memory / motherboard clearance - this is a MUST.
You may also need to check the clearance to your graphics adapter, though in my case there wasn't any problem. Other motherboards or some graphics adapters may pose problems.
If all is well, the installation is quite easy. The Noctua instructions are excellent. Everything necessary to install the cooler is there, and even more, for example special cables (with resistors) to lower the fan speed for ultra-quiet operation. I haven't used these cables/adapters as I want maximum cooling.
The fans are easy to remove and attach, once I figured out I had to pull the retaining clamps backwards to release them from the cooling fins.
When I built the PC and gave it a test drive, temperatures wouldn't exceed 50C for any of the cores, even under full CPU load of my i7-3930K. I use the sensor application under Linux to read and display each core's temperatur.
I had to return the PC to the lab because of memory problems. It took them nearly a month to solve the issue, and they often had to remove the cooler to replace the DIMMs. They also ran all the benchmarking software one could get, over prolonged times as well as overnight when ambient temps reached 35C (air conditioning off in a small lab room). No problem.
However, now that I got the PC back and everything is running smooth, I found that some core temperatures reach 72C when under full load. The cooler should seated alright, since each of the core temps are similar under full stress.
I suspect one of the following:
1. The lab guy forgot to apply thermal paste when last fitting the cooler.
2. The lab used some inferior thermal paste.
3. Too much or too little thermal paste, or a mix of two different sorts of thermal paste.
4. Only 1 fan works out of 2.
5. I have since fully equipped my PC with 2 graphics cards (though low wattage models), 5 hard drives and a SSD, with 32GB memory using all DIMM slots.
I can hear the fan(s) kick in when the CPU is under load, but I still need to check whether or not both fans are working. Again, since my original temperatures were much lower, I suspect there is a problem with the heat sink installation or fan connection.
Overall the Noctua does an excellent job in keeping the CPU temperature within specs. The CPU fans are usually not noticeable, only when pushing the CPU to maximum load can I barely make out some fan noise. For comparison, any of my 3 Dell laptops produce significantly more noise when the fan kicks in.
This new PC build has been by far the quietest PC I ever owned. Despite running a total of 10 fans.
Performance wise this PC is also the best I've ever used.
I give the Noctua CPU cooler a 5/5 rating - it deserves that based on my initial finds.
I will update the review once I've solved the relatively high temps I get now that don't compare well with other user reports using the same CPU.
Remark: I had to adjust the Asus BIOS settings since it complained about low CPU fan speed. The Noctua fans run at around 250 rpm when the CPU is idle.