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Three coolers
So, on to the coolers. Let's start with the NH-U12P SE2, which is the cheapest of the trio at $63 online. This dual-fan air tower is a souped-up version of the original NH-U12P we faced off against a water-cooling system a couple of years ago.

The NH-U12P SE2 measures 4.7" x 5.0" x 6.2" (120 x 126 x 158 mm) and tips the scales at 2.1 lbs (940 g). Noctua has even more detailed measurements for all the coolers available on its website, but the important one to keep in mind here is 1.6" (40 mm), which is the distance between the base of the block and the lowest point on the radiator stackā€”the DIMM clearance, in other words.

Each of the NH-12P SE2's 120-mm fans spins at 1,300 RPM by default. Noctua also includes in-line resistors that'll knock the speed of each fan down to a low-noise 1,100 RPM or an ultra-low-noise 900 RPM. There are individual resistors for each fan and a Y-cable to connect both leads to a single motherboard header.

If one radiator and quad heat pipes aren't enough, the NH-D14 provides upgrades on both fronts. This behemoth sells for a whopping $86, and it's easy to see where the extra money is going: more pipes and a second radiator.

The NH-D14 links a pair of radiators with six heatpipes that blossom up from the CPU block. In between those radiators sits a 140-mm fan, while a 120-mm one clings to the outside of one of the cheese graters. There is 1.7" (44 mm) of clearance under the radiator, and the side-mounted fan can be pushed way up either of the twin towers to stay out of the way of taller memory modules or VRM heatsinks.

Interestingly, the NH-D14 is missing the pair of thin metal rods used to stabilize the radiators on the C14 and U12P. Perhaps due to that omission, one of our D14's radiators curves ever-so-slightly away from the CPU block, which is somewhat disappointing given the precise engineering on display elsewhere. Bending it back required more force than I was willing to exert on the toothy radiator with my bare hands.

All told, the NH-D14 weighs 2.7 lbs (1240 g) with appropriately plump 5.5" x 6.2" x 6.3" (140 x 157.5 x 160 mm) proportions. The 140-mm fan spins naturally at 1,200 RPM, while the 120-mm unit ticks over 100 RPM faster. Both can be knocked down to 900 RPM with the included ultra-low-noise adapters.

Don't have the vertical clearance for a tower? The NH-C14 cocks its radiator at 90 degrees and uses the fans to blow down on the socket. There are six heatpipes in total, and a separate support piece bears some of the weight of the radiator.

This comparatively low-slung design has 5.5" x 6.5" x 5.1" (140 x 166 x 130 mm) dimensions, and you can lop about an inch (25 mm) off its height by ditching the top-mounted fan. For those who require more than the 1.5" (38 mm) of clearance between the CPU block and the bottom-mounted spinner, the bottom fan can be removed to raise the roof on the RAM to 2.5" (64 mm).

As on the NH-D14, the C14's 140-mm fans rotate their blades at 1,200 RPM unless one attaches the resistor-based adapters. The low-noise adapter slows the fans to 900 RPM (which oddly qualifies for ultra-low-noise status on the D14), while the ultra-low-noise resistor cuts them to 750 RPM.

Despite having a single radiator, the NH-C14 sells for only $1 less than the D14. There isn't much more metal here than there is on the NH-U12P SE2; the C14 weighs in at an even kilogram, or 2.2 lbs.