Cooler Comparison Testing
Cooler Testing Methodology
To best gage the quality of the system coolers under review, system CPU temperature and cooling system audio measurements were taken with the CPU idle and under load. To replicate CPU idle conditions, the system was rebooted and allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes. To replicate a stress system load on the Z77-based system, a combination of LinX and FurMark were run over a 30 minute period with LinX running for 500 loops with Memory set to All and FurMark running at 1280×1024 resolution and 2x MSAA in stress test mode. For the Z87-based system testing, Aida64 System Stability Test was used in conjunction with FurMark for 30 minutes per run. After each run, the system was shut down and allowed to rest for 10 minutes to cool down. Then the CPU cooler was removed, cleaned, and remounted to the CPU with fresh thermal paste applied. This procedure was repeated a total of nine times for each cooler – three times for the stock speed runs on the Z77 and Z87-based systems, and 3 times for the overclocked speed runs on the Z77-based system.
Temperature measurements were taken directly from the CPU thermistors using RealTemp v3.70. For the Z77-based systems, the highest recorded value for idle and load temperature were used for the run. Because of the volatile nature of the Haswell thermistor readings, the Z87-based system temperatures were measured in a different manner. For idle temperatures, the highest recorded value was used for the run. For load temperatures, a series of three values were annotated: the average (high and low) across all cores, the average (high and low) across the single highest core, and the high temperature. To measure these average values accurately, the RealTemp readings were reset 20 minutes into the run while the CPU remained at full load. This allowed the software to measure accurate load high and lows for all cores over the last 10 minutes of the run with the three measured values taken from these readings.
Note that the temperature values are reported as deltas rather than absolute temperatures with the delta value reported calculated as CPU temperature – ambient temperature. For all tests, room ambient temperature was maintained between 26-28C. Sound measurements of the system cooler where taken with the sound meter placed 3 feet away from the system with all other devices in the room silenced. The Sound Meter Pro applet on a Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone was used to measure decibel level.
Intel Z77-based Ivy Bridge System Testing
CPU Stock Speed Testing
The CPU stock speed testing was conducted with the BIOS defaults set for the CPU and Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 3.4GHz CPU speed, 1600MHz memory speed, and 100MHz base clock. The Intel SpeedStep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.
The NH-D14 performs well with the Ivy Bridge CPU at stock speed, matching performance with the Phanteks cooler. However, it cannot compete well with the Thermalright air cooler nor with the XSPC-based cooler kit.
CPU Overclocked Speed Testing
The CPU overclocked speed testing was conducted with known stable settings from a previous board review for the CPU with Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 4.4GHz CPU speed, 1960MHz memory speed, and 105MHz base clock. The Intel SpeedStep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.
Board voltage settings were configured as follows:
- CPU Core Voltage – 1.2750
- CPU I/O Voltage – 1.150
- DRAM Voltage – 1.6255
- System Agent Voltage(SA) – 1.0850
- CPU PLL Voltage – 1.7500
- PCH 1.05 – 1.0995
The NH-D14 drops off significantly as the processor speed is increased. Out of the three runs attempted at the overclocked speeds, the cooler was able to complete a single run for the full 30 minute period. Two of the three runs failed, with LinX crashing about 10 minutes into the run. During the recorded stable run, the NH-D14 managed to beat out the Corsair cooler by a mere 1C.
Intel Z87-based Haswell System Testing
CPU Stock Speed Testing
The CPU stock speed testing was conducted with the BIOS defaults set for the CPU and Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 3.5GHz CPU speed, 3.5GHz Ring bus speed, 1600MHz memory speed, and 100MHz base clock. The Intel SpeedStep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.
With the Haswell CPU at stock speeds, the NH-D14 comes in just above the last place cooler, lagging the leaders by over 4C across the board. However, the CPU remained full stable throughout the run.
The Noctua NH-D14 is barely audible even at full speed with the other case and video card fans easily drowning out any noise it may be contributing. However, air flow through the radiators can be felt only barely on the exit end of the cooler.