Noctua NF-P14 FLX Review

With the continued flux of PC cooling companies on to the international scene, reputation is key and perhaps it is this, Noctua’s seemingly legendary status as a premium quality cooling Solutions Company that has held them at the forefront of the market for several years since its establishment in 2005. Formed through the merger of Austrian Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation, Noctua has focused predominately on the cooling of the central processing unit with an array of aluminium heatsinks and fans symbolised by their peach and brown colour schemes.

Noctua’s fan selection is reasonably extensive and previous designs such as the Noctua NF-P14 have been highly decorated with awards but it is until now that the cooling company has decided to add a larger, 140mm fan to its prestigious range.

With limited coolers requiring a 140mm fan though, the NF-P14 FLX is essentially an alternative for the more commonly used 120mm designs making use of a larger impeller for a superior airflow/noise ratio but with the ability to fit on to both 120mm and 140mm mounts. Let’s take a closer look…

Features

  • 140mm Impeller with Vortex Control NotchesThanks to its psycho-acoustically optimised nine blade impeller with staggered Vortex-Control Notches, the NF-P14 combines superb quietness with exceptional airflow and static pressure.
  • Metal ReinforcementsBoth the impeller hub and the bearing shell of the NF-P14 are metal reinforced in order to achieve ultimate manufacturing precision, high durability and vibration-free running.
  • Round frame with 120mm mounting holesusing a round frame with the same hole-spacing as common 120mm fans and producing more airflow due to its larger diameter, the NF-P14 is a perfect upgrade for 120mm CPU or case fans. Thanks to the supplied adaptors, the NF-P14 also fits common 140mm mounting holes.
  • 3 speed settings for full flexibilityproviding 1200, 900 and 750 rpm speed settings via the supplied Low-Noise and Ultra-Low-Noise Adapters, the NF-P14 FLX (Flexibility) can be fine-tuned for superior airflow or maximum quietness.
  • Smooth Commutation Drive 2The latest version of Noctua’s advanced SCD drive system ensures superb running smoothness by eliminating torque variations and switching noises.
  • SSO-BearingNoctua’s time-tested SSO-Bearing technology has become synonymous with supremely quiet operation and exceptional long-term stability.

Noctua NF-P14 Specifications

Noctua NF-P14 FLX

The skeletal fan image and white background of the Noctua NF-P14 FLX move away from Noctua’s previous brown and blue coloured packaging but the open-out back page is retained offering a much more in depth explanation of the technology outlined in bullet-points on rear of the package.

The accessory bundle included with the Noctua NF-P12 is consistent with the 120mm Noctua NF-P12 and Noctua NF-S12B FLX fans with four rubber mounts (a quieter alternative to installation with metal screws as vibrations are reduced, of which four are included) and three adapters. A three-pin to molex header gets around the problem of limited fan headers on the motherboard whilst the L.N.A (low-noise-adapter) and U.L.N.A. (ultra-low-noise-adapter) offer silent enthusiasts the ability to easily drop down fan speed and thus noise.

The adapters, essentially resistance wires, contribute to the FLX (flexibility) part of the Noctua NF-P14 case fan’s name allowing for speeds of 900 and 750rpm. This eliminates the need for a cumbersome fan controller although of course the flexibility is limited in comparison to a fan speed dial.

The combination of peach casing and brown impeller is unique to Noctua fans – not an obvious choice but they do stand out. The NF-P14 FLX has a round frame as opposed to the conventional square casing so as to allow it to fit 120mm fan mountings.

N.B. Metal brackets are included to make the fan compatible with 140mm mounting.

Though previous designs and the past years, Noctua has been fine-tuning the technology incorporated into its fan designs, including the Noctua NF-P14 case fan. The company, prided on quiet cooling solutions, lays great emphasis on the Vortex Control Notches cut into each of the nine blades in order to spread the noise over a wider range of frequencies. In short, this is achieved by staggered notches blade to blade so that there are several smaller vortices instead of one distinct vortice.

The Self-stabilising oil-pressure (SSO) bearing is once again the bearing of choice although a brass metal casing of the impeller hub and bearing shell has been implemented in order to improve stability; something which is harder to achieve due to the larger, and therefore heavier, rotating impeller.

The last part of technology that we’ll cover is much more technical and to do with electric motors in general. Essentially, an electromotive force (voltage) is induced when there is relative motive between a magnet and an electromagnet creating a rate of change of flux linkage; brushless electric motors used in computers have permanent magnets on the rotor and static electromagnets eliminating the need for brushes and allowing a much more accurate control of the rotor speed.

As the magnet rotates and passes each coil, the rotor receives a torque pulse that, depending on the fan speed and materials, can produce audible noise. Noctua’s Smooth Communication Drive (SCD) aims to make the transition between each coil as smooth as possible so as to reduce communication noise to a minimum although specific details aren’t available.

Comparing the NF-P14 FLX to the NF-P12, the 140mm spins slightly slower but produces 110.3m3/h, 18.0m3h or 19.5% more airflow, over the NF-P12 at a marginally lower noise level of 19.6dBA. The numbers certainly favour the larger impeller.

Testing Procedure

ProcessorIntel Core i7 C0 920 @ 2.67GHz
MotherboardAsus P6T
Graphics CardXFX 1GB Radeon 4870
MemoryOCZ Gold Triple Channel PC3-10666 @ 1333MHz, 9-9-9-24 @ 1.65v
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB
Power SupplyNOX Apex 700W
EnclosureCooler Master ATCS-840
OSWindows Vista 64-bit

Methodology

A fan’s purpose is a very simple one: to move air from one place to another giving the fan a number of different uses but always performing the same function. In combination with a heatsink, acting as an intake fan, removing hot air or blowing air on to a component.

Inevitably, a larger airflow yields better results in terms of temperature; if airflow was the sole concern of an enthusiast, manufacturing a fan would be a much simpler process. However, the PC world, for the most part, is also hugely concerned with the noise outputs of a said fan. Thus, the perfect balance between airflow and noise is a constant struggle that is very hard to achieve.

As a result, there are two main areas for testing the Noctua NF-P14 case fan – airflow and noise. The former is relatively difficult to measure accurately and so we prefer to install the fan, block of all other system fans, and then measure a range of temperatures from different components.

Unfortunately, the later (to test properly) requires an expensive decibel meter of which we cannot get hold of and so the noise testing is down to the trusty human ear and so the results are more of a guide than concrete evidence.

Fans:

  • Gelid Wing 12 (FN-FW12-15-B)
  • Scythe Gentle Typhoon (D1225C12B4AP-14)
  • Noctua NF-P12
  • Noctua NF-P14 FLX

Software:

  • CPU – Prime95 v25.8 & Core Temp 0.99.4
  • GPU – Furmark 1.6.5
  • System – SpeedFan v4.38

Results

Cooling

*All Temperatures are Delta T recorded at load states.

The Noctua NF-P14 FLX temperatures across the board reflect what’s on paper favouring the NF-P14 FLX by one or two degrees. Perhaps not a huge decrease but remember that just one fan was used throughout testing, fitting out a case with multiple Noctua NF-P14’s should equate to a bigger reduction in temperature.

NoiseThe larger impeller of the NF-P14 FLX allows it to spin at lower revolution per minute and this enables the noise levels to be even better than the NF-P12. The vortex control notches help to although whether I’d describe the noise as being “more pleasant”, I’m not so sure. Still it can’t be denied that the airflow to noise ratio is very good indeed for Noctua’s largest fan to date.

The L.N.A. and U.L.N.A. adapters can be implemented to drop down the noise levels even further making the fan almost inaudible from a metre away.

PricingAt £20, the Noctua NF-P14 FLX is at which an enthusiast is prepared to pay for a fan is certainly being tested; as always with Noctua, the quality and technology come at a high price.

Noctua NF-P14 FLX Case Fan

Noctua’s legendary status remains very definitely intact with another premium quality fan. The NF-P14 FLX implements previous Noctua technology as well as some added extras that combine to add an extra dimension to the Noctua fan range.

The airflow to noise ratio is almost perfect offering better cooling capabilities than the 120mm models at quieter running speeds due to the larger impeller. The 140mm offering seems a much better choice in all departments except from the obvious – size – and being a little more expensive.The noise adapters and different mounting brackets to suit 120mm and 140mm holes make this latest Noctua fan very flexible, indeed the overall package is incredibly well put together.

In terms of performance there are no substantial faults to note and so the only issues are superficial. The peach and brown colour scheme could be considered a little old-fashioned without any LEDs or UV reflective impellers to keep the more aesthetically conscious enthusiasts happy; then again gizmos never were Noctua’s forte and many users will appreciate the lack of garish lighting and other fanciful extras.

Strong in almost every department, the NF-P14 FLX is top quality case fan but the pricing seems over-the-top for a single functioned object even with a very impressive six years of warranty. Essentially it’s the age old question: pay extra to get the best or compromise to save money? Well, in our experience quality speaks and in this instance the Noctua NF-P14 FLX speaks volumes.

Pros

  • Great airflow to noise ratio
  • Flexible
  • High quality product
  • Quieter than 120mm alternatives

Cons

  • Price
  • Aesthetics (Arguably)

Thanks go to Noctua for providing the fan for review.

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