Getting Real: The Noctua NH-U14S & NH-U14S TR4-SP3

In order to translate high-level concepts into real world numbers, we need to take a look at actual Threadripper processors and coolers. To that end, Noctua courteously volunteered to help us prove our theory by shipping us one of their most popular coolers, the NH-U14S, along with a socket AM4 adapter. We've previously taken a look at the NH-U14S, and it was one of the best performing tower coolers we've reviewed, so we know from experience that this model cooler is already ahead of the pack in terms of cooling capabilities.

Despite that pedigree, Noctua is one of the very few companies that advise against mounting their older cooler designs on SP3/TR4 processors. For users that wish to move to a Threadripper platform, Noctua’s engineers have designed TR4-specific coolers. For those building new TR4 systems, Noctua developed the NH-U14S TR4-SP3. Still, mounting the original NH-U14S on a Threadripper processor using the AM4 socket braces is a frequently discussed and easy mod, as is with all AM4-compatible coolers. Note that Noctua's AM4 adapter does not make the NH-UxS coolers TR4-compatible out of the box!

The NH-U14S and the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 initially look as if they are the same cooler. The two coolers share the same 52 mm deep and 150 mm wide fin array, as well as the same six heat pipes. Each heat pipe expands to either side of the cooler, forming twelve evenly distributed thermal energy transfer lanes from the base of the cooler to fin array. Noctua nickel-plated the copper heat pipes to prevent them from corrosion.


The difference between the NH-U14S and the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 practically is only the base of the cooler. Both coolers have a nickel-plated copper base but the contact area of the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 is much greater than that of the original design. The larger base adds a little bit of weight and mass, but it would not be nearly enough to make a significant difference in the performance of the cooler if both could cover the processor's surface. As such, these two coolers are perfect for us to research just how important having a cooler that makes full contact with the processor’s lid is.

Modding the AM4 kit to fit on the TR4 cooler requires only 10 mm brackets (or just wide T-nuts and a handful of screws), which can be easily found in hardware shops, be 3D printed, or be made with a Dremel and a little bit of patience. In our case, since we already had the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 whose braces fit the size of the NH-U14S like a glove, we simply removed them from the TR4-SP3 and used them to fix the NH-U14S onto the TR4 socket.

Noctua NH-U14S mounted using the braces of NH-U14S TR4-SP3

AMD Threadripper Processors & Cooler Compatibility Testing & Results
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  • FireSnake - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    Awesome review, thank you!
  • iter - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    Hmm, the cooler should cover the chip it is cooling... who would have thought that to be the case?

    "AMD’s Threadripper processors certainly do not require liquid coolers to function properly at stock"

    Moot point, as nigh end noctua coolers easily beat AIO water coolers and can only be marginally bested by significant custom loop systems.

    Finally, it might have been a good idea for amd to invest in a third socket for dual die chips. Sure they saved some money on underusing SP3 for TR, but that might have backfired more than the savings - the socket is huge, complex and expessive, takes up too much space, limits mobo designs and a lot of users report serious problems with the installation. On top of rendering existing coolers rather inefficient, something that would not have been a problem with a dual die socket.
  • ravyne - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    I wager we might see AMD introduce a new socket with Threadripper being a success. It's been reported that TR was essentially a passion-project for the engineers and so they didn't have the full resources at their disposal, even if they had the blessing of execs. There's the Epyc embedded 3000 series just coming out, which is a 1-or-2-die package supporting full PCIe lane potential and quad-channel memory in the two-die configuration, but it's designed to be soldered. Perhaps we'll see a socketed version, which would make ITX form factors possible and uATX more comfortable, and possibly reduce motherboard socket costs. I think they've committed to supporting the current TR socket for 3 generations of CPUs, but supporting two different sockets shouldn't be overly difficult given the multi-die/interposer construction and being able to leverage similarities/economies-of-scale with Epic 7000. Plus, if mainstream core counts continue to increase we're gonna need more PCIe and DRAM channels anyway, so maybe this just becomes the new mainstream socket.
  • eek2121 - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    We won't see a new socket for a while. Threadripper was a HUGE success and AMD wants to keep the Gravy Train rolling. I bought an Enermax 360 for mine and even when overclocked to 4.1 the machine runs silent and cool.
  • Martin Malice - Thursday, April 19, 2018 - link

    I have Enermax 360, I'm having troubles with cooling. Idk why but my Threadripper can't fall below 45 degrees Celsius when I'm working. When I start rendering something the temp goes up to 68 and clock speed starts dropping down. I don't know what's the problem, I've re-applied the thermal paste recently but the problem went away just for a short time and then it slowly reappeared.
  • Alexvrb - Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - link

    Not sure how you could have "serious problems" with the install. I for one like the overbuilt socket. I mean, unless you're one of the strange people aiming for an ITX TR build.

    I don't have any plans to own a TR system for personal use... I don't need more than 8 cores, quad channel RAM, or a crapload of PCIe lanes. But if you do it's a decent platform, and relatively affordable.
  • eek2121 - Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - link

    I would love to see them make a mobile variant.
  • LostWander - Thursday, March 15, 2018 - link

    No need for the hate. It's an obvious conclusion but it's nice to have some of the "why" laid out so well for those of us with only introductory engineering knowledge.
  • iter - Thursday, March 15, 2018 - link

    I wasn't aware that it takes engineering knowledge, introductory or otherwise, to possess common sense. "Contact" IMO is a pretty intuitive and self-explanatory concept...

    Yet it seems certain overly sensitive individuals have put emphasis on developing nonsensical sensibilities and neglected developing precious common sense... To the point of misidentifying sarcasm as "hate"... It is not hate, it is simply not being a dumb robot person whose worldview is so narrow that literally techniques slip outside of his norms for "appropriate"...

    I for one don't find it all that positive that people need such things explained in the first place, it is rather alarming to say the least.
  • LostWander - Thursday, March 15, 2018 - link

    Lots of assumptions there friend. Really sad honestly there were a lot of better (and more accurate) interpretations of my comment available.

    I'm so sorry for anyone in your life. Get help for their sake.

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