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Test Hardware Configuration

Four Closed-Loop CPU Coolers Take On Noctua's NH-D14
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We wanted to use a top-performing case from our recent Quiet Gaming Case Comparison, but also wanted the case’s configuration to be as close to average as possible. That meant we had to look past the Define R4’s unique front-radiator mounting option. The P280’s radiator mount could have made it a good second choice, except that Antec has its own closed-loop liquid cooler. There was another, potentially better candidate...

The Deep Silence 1’s top panel supports dual-fan radiators in both on-center and offset mounting holes, with the offset designed to enhance motherboard clearance. It even resembles a more common gaming tower design after removing its pop-up top panel. So, that’s how we used it.

The top panel was replaced when installing the air cooler, promoting front-to-back airflow. But which air cooler would we compare?

Our decision could have been a toss-up between the CNPS12X and Noctua’s NH-D14. Zalman's a competitor in today's story though, so we went with the Noctua to keep everything as balanced as possible. Both heat sinks are equally suitable as our air-cooled baseline.

Installing and removing CPUs and CPU coolers is a terrible thing to do to Intel’s LGA contacts. We try to stay consistent, though, which means we use the same components over and over. Even though it should have been expected by now, we were still a little disappointed when our much-used P9X79 WS sample finally failed. We passed the torch to Asus’ overclocking-friendly P9X79 while retaining the rest of that test platform’s hardware and software.

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E): 3.30 GHz, 6C/12T, Overclocked to 4.25 GHz (34 x 125 MHz) at 1.325 V Core
CPU CoolerNoctua NH-D14
MotherboardAsus P9X79: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express, Firmware 0906 (12-22-2011)
O/C at 125 MHz BCLK
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9Q-16GBXLD 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-2200
Benchmarked at DDR3-1666 CAS 9 defaults
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 580: 772 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008
Maximum Fan for Thermal Tests, SLI
Hard DrivesSamsung 470 Series MZ5PA256HMDR, 256 GB SSD 
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerSeasonic X760 SS-760KM
ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 296.10 WHQL
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.3.1020
Benchmark Configuration
Prime95 v25.864-bit executable, Small FFTs, Eight-threads
RealTemp 3.00Highest core reading at full CPU load (60 minutes)
Highest core reading at 30 minutes idle
Galaxy CM-140 SPL MeterTested at 1/2 m, corrected to 1 m (-6 dB), dB(A) weighting
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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    EzioAs , December 31, 2012 3:27 AM
    Love the title!

    Nice review as well. Too bad you didn't test NZXT kraken cpu coolers.

    If you ask me, I'd rather stick with the D14
  • 18 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 31, 2012 3:37 AM
    Keeping up and beating with all the Water coolers should earn the NH-D14 a "best of the best" award of its own. And its a ~2-3 year old product!
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2012 5:20 AM
    austingI'm suprized to see a single 120mm rad can keep up with the h100i, bravo Zalman.
    Others are twice as wide, Zalman is twice as thick, if you're making that choice it should be determined by your case.
    mayankleoboy1Keeping up and beating with all the Water coolers should earn the NH-D14 a "best of the best" award of its own. And its a ~2-3 year old product!
    The NH-D14 already got a "best of the best" award.
    tanjoNo NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?
    Kraken samples got delayed until Christmas Eve, far too late for this article. All five of the companies who sent samples (the four tested plus NZXT) had previously requested this review.

Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    austing , December 31, 2012 3:22 AM
    I'm suprized to see a single 120mm rad can keep up with the h100i, bravo Zalman.
  • 20 Hide
    EzioAs , December 31, 2012 3:27 AM
    Love the title!

    Nice review as well. Too bad you didn't test NZXT kraken cpu coolers.

    If you ask me, I'd rather stick with the D14
  • 18 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 31, 2012 3:37 AM
    Keeping up and beating with all the Water coolers should earn the NH-D14 a "best of the best" award of its own. And its a ~2-3 year old product!
  • 3 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 31, 2012 3:39 AM
    Small nit : i would have liked to see similar test done with a 3770K and a high OC.
  • 6 Hide
    sluggercz , December 31, 2012 3:45 AM
    A possibly overlooked benefit of closed loop AIO systems are their ability to fit in SFF cases. While this certainly applies more to the single 120mm radiator designs, some cases (such as the Fractal Design Node 304) can accommodate 240mm radiators)

    (Source: Using a Corsair H60 w/ 2 Noctua NF-F12's in push-pull config in my Lian-Li PC-Q08; such large air-coolers as the Noctua could not fit due to the limited vertical clearance above the CPU)
  • 1 Hide
    hero1 , December 31, 2012 3:45 AM
    Awesome review. Keep it up. I remember commenting about how much better the closed loop CPU coolers have gotten and I got down voted but this just proved my point. I have very sensitive hearing and I can never hear my CoolIt R120(?) spin apart from the initial startup. And this is inside a CM Haf XM. I play games with CPU+GPU OCd to 4.5GHzby 1.2GHz and you can barely hear any noise. First I thought something was wrong then I got my friends and wife to listen whil I played with muted sound and they were impressed. Up next is water cooling my GPU when I add another one in a month in SLI mode. Gaming PCs FTW!
  • 9 Hide
    tanjo , December 31, 2012 3:47 AM
    No NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?
  • 8 Hide
    hero1 , December 31, 2012 3:48 AM
    BTW DH-14 still deserves an award alongside the H100i and Zalman. Not many, if any air coolers out there can keep up with top notch closed loop CPU coolers.
  • 2 Hide
    hero1 , December 31, 2012 3:51 AM
    tanjoNo NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?


    Bit-tech.net has a review of Thermaltake water coolers and their top end 240mm took the crown. Better than H100i and the rest shown here.
  • 8 Hide
    nukemaster , December 31, 2012 3:57 AM
    With MB control the NH D14 can be very quiet :) 

    It is HUGE, but I got it for 50$ and to me that was a great value. It was also on for 50$ again at NCIX's boxing day sale.

    Sure fills up an SSF system.
    Not embedding the image because it may mess up the page.
    http://imageshack.us/a/img39/1358/dsc0458s.jpg

  • -3 Hide
    kensingtron , December 31, 2012 4:44 AM
    I have the has even lower temps, quieter running, for a similar price and is 240g lighter!

  • -3 Hide
    kensingtron , December 31, 2012 4:44 AM
    I have read the NH "C"14 has even lower temps, quieter running, for a similar price and is 240g lighter!
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2012 5:20 AM
    austingI'm suprized to see a single 120mm rad can keep up with the h100i, bravo Zalman.
    Others are twice as wide, Zalman is twice as thick, if you're making that choice it should be determined by your case.
    mayankleoboy1Keeping up and beating with all the Water coolers should earn the NH-D14 a "best of the best" award of its own. And its a ~2-3 year old product!
    The NH-D14 already got a "best of the best" award.
    tanjoNo NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?
    Kraken samples got delayed until Christmas Eve, far too late for this article. All five of the companies who sent samples (the four tested plus NZXT) had previously requested this review.

  • 2 Hide
    cmcghee358 , December 31, 2012 7:03 AM
    I would've liked to see a timed trial. From my experience with an H50, H70 and NH-D14, the closed loop coolers will eventually increase in temperature overtime as they are unable to fully drop the fluid to ambient before it gets pushed back to the CPU and reheated. Heating it, and the CPU just a little bit more.

    I recommend at least a 60 minute Prime95 test of each cooler to get an accurate delta over ambient
  • 2 Hide
    rantoc , December 31, 2012 7:04 AM
    H100i seems to end up poorly in about all tests, The H80i performs about as well. The only time the H100i perform as it should is with a push / pull config using a total of 4 fans. Could be just a firmware issue (Yes the H100i can be flashed)
  • 0 Hide
    EzioAs , December 31, 2012 7:08 AM
    Quote:
    I would've liked to see a timed trial. From my experience with an H50, H70 and NH-D14, the closed loop coolers will eventually increase in temperature overtime as they are unable to fully drop the fluid to ambient before it gets pushed back to the CPU and reheated. Heating it, and the CPU just a little bit more.

    I recommend at least a 60 minute Prime95 test of each cooler to get an accurate delta over ambient


    60mins? Somewhere around 20mins isn't enough for these CLCs to reach equilibrium?
  • 4 Hide
    rantoc , December 31, 2012 7:19 AM
    EzioAs60mins? Somewhere around 20mins isn't enough for these CLCs to reach equilibrium?


    For an lcs without any reservoir - 60 mins sounds excessive to have them maxed out, 20 min sound more than sufficient. Some home reviewers have claimed that it takes about 60 mins for a lcs without reservoir to max out but its been busted when its been shown the ambient room temperature have been the major change for the last 45 mins...
  • -5 Hide
    athulajp , December 31, 2012 8:17 AM
    Yes, if you knock your PC over you'll probably break your motherboard, but with such a big cooler it's going to take a bit more force.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2012 8:30 AM
    cmcghee358I would've liked to see a timed trial. From my experience with an H50, H70 and NH-D14, the closed loop coolers will eventually increase in temperature overtime as they are unable to fully drop the fluid to ambient before it gets pushed back to the CPU and reheated. Heating it, and the CPU just a little bit more.I recommend at least a 60 minute Prime95 test of each cooler to get an accurate delta over ambient
    That could have been a useful suggestion if not for the fact that it was already the approximate method used.
  • 1 Hide
    Novuake , December 31, 2012 9:08 AM
    Is it just me or do Asetek coolers always eem to have little nitty gritty issues? Anyway. nice review. Loved it BUT I much prefer Silver Arrow SB-E extreme above the Noctua. But yes, its sad that not even the H100i outpaces the Noctua...
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