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Having forged their reputation on amazing performance, exceptional quality, and ultra-low noise levels, Noctua stands out as a premier manufacturer of PC-cooling products. Not everyone is the fan of Noctua Color Scheme but only the top tier of hardware enthusiasts that settle on nothing but the best find it the perfect blend of performance and decency. Today we review the latest Noctua cooler, the NH-U12A. There is no need to introduce this Austrian company, as it’s one of the most recognizable names on the market. The NH-U12A had its official launch on the 19th of March. I have been using it since June and I can say, I am pretty impressed with it. Let us do a proper review. Shall we?
Overall, the NH-U12A is designed to fit top-tier cooling performance into a more compact 120 mm cooler, as opposed to larger and more traditional 140 mm coolers. In this respect, it’s especially useful for users building compact and transportable gaming systems. It is an excellent choice if you are working with high end PC in a small form factor case. At the time of review, this CPU cooler holds a price tag of 99.90 EUR/USD.
Previously, On PGR we’ve reviewed Noctua Coolers and there is one thing for sure, Noctua does not fail to impress. Of all the coolers I have tested from Noctua, each one has been distinct in its performance. Each cooler has give more of what has been expected from it. Slight drawbacks, if any, are compensated with the cooling performance and low noise levels. Noctua is one hell of a choice when it comes to CPU Air Coolers.
We’d like to thank Noctua.at for providing us with the review sample of the Noctua NH-U12A. The Noctua NH-U12A is not available in Pakistan at the moment but we’ll surely update this review if it arrives in Pakistan.
Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the review!
|SOCKET SUPPORT:||Intel: LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066|
AMD: AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+, AM4
|HEATSINK:||Material: Aluminium (Fins)|
Copper (Heat pipes)
Dimensions: 158 mm x 125 mm x 112 mm
Heat pipes: Ø6 mm – 7 pcs
Weight: 1220 g (w/fans)
|FAN:||Model: NF-A12x25 PWM|
Dimensions: 120 mm x 120 mm x 25 mm
Fan Speed: 450 – 2000 RPM (PWM)
Fan Airflow: 60 CFM (max)
Fan Noise: 22.6dBA (max)
|FEATURES:||7 heatpipe dual tower design|
Low-Noise adapter included
Compatibility with past and future sockets with SecuFirm2 mounting system
100% RAM compatibility on LGA115x and AM4
Soldered interface between heatpipes and fins
Noctua NH-U12A comes is a huge cardboard box which is very durable to protects the components inside.
Inside the box, we found the cooler very well protected, placed below layers upon layers of thick cardboard packaging. The supplied mounting hardware and extra items can be found in a smaller, compartmentalized cardboard box.
On the back side, you can see some more info about the features, as well as specifications listed in 8 languages.
Other sides of the box aren’t that much interesting except there are some highlighted awards and achievements Noctua has been crowned with. These are pretty amazing to see how much Noctua NH-U12A is inspiring.
On the other side, there is the name of the cooler along with the specifications of the PWM fan supplied with the cooler. This is a four pin PWM fan which is software controlled to achieve a custom curve if necessary.
Opening the box, we get the cooler itself with fan attached to it. There is also a box which includes all the parts to mount and set up the cooler once it;s out of the box.
Everything is placed in a box of recycled cardboard protected with seals and covers. You get the mounting brackets for CPU socket, screws and bolts, some standoffs and a thermal paste as well. Noctua’s SecuFirm2 mounting system includes everything necessary for the installation of the NH-U12A on pretty much every modern socket. Older sockets and upcoming ones are supported via optional add-ons, which is par the course for Noctua and their legendary support.
Common parts supplied for mounting include:
- 4x LGA20XX bolts
- 4x AMD mounting screws
- 4x AMD AM4 spacers (black)
- 4x AMD spacers (white)
- 4x Intel spacers (black)
- 4x Thumbscrews
- 4x Fan clips
- 2x AMD mounting arms
- 2x Intel mounting arms
- 2x 120 mm x 25 mm fan
- 2x Low noise adapter
- 1x Intel backplate
- 1x Tube of NT-H1 thermal paste
- 1x Phillips screwdriver
- 1x Metal Noctua badge
- 1x Y-cable
Noctua’s NH-U12A is a traditional tower-style heatsink made up of fifty aluminium fins, with heat being transferred to them from the base via seven Ø6 mm nickel-plated copper heat pipes. As for the design, it tops out at 158 mm in height, meaning it stays below the 160 mm limit of many standard cases. That said, one thing should be quite clear from the photos: any bare aluminium cooler will be a fingerprint magnet, so don’t be like me—get some gloves and avoid leaving greasy mitt prints everywhere.
The base seems chrome plated to give off a brilliant aesthetic and is surely durable.
There are no dimpled surfaces or eccentric design elements as the NH-U12A uses smooth fins with only a slight cut out in the center of the fin stack. The edges are folded down, which maintains fin spacing, but keeps air moving through the heatsink rather than out the sides for hot air to be funneled straight to the rear exhaust fan in a traditional system.
The top plate is plain with only the Noctua logo stamped into it with no RGB LEDs or fancy designs elements. Instead, it is simple, clean, and understated. As for the heat pipes, they are spread out to distribute heat to the fins more evenly. When it comes to the base, it is smooth, clean, and nickel-plated, just like the heat pipes. Front and back dual mounting fans are one important landmark for this cooler, which act as “push and pull” system to increase the air flow and in turn, the cooling performance and low noise levels.
Due to the dense fin array, Noctua’s engineers had to optimize air pressure and went with two fans instead of one. The fans used are the company’s own 120mm NF-A12x25 fans, which combine airflow with good air pressure, making them ideal for fan speed controlled CPU coolers. Still, it appears that the very dense array of fins on the NH-U12A forced the designers to use two fans in order to maintain viable airflow levels, at least when the speed of the fans is low.
The base of the cooler that makes contact with the processor is split into two parts. The bottom half of the base is made out of nickel-plated copper, maximizing the heat transfer rate from the CPU to the heat pipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The top half serves only as a mechanical support and is made out of aluminum, while the mounting bracket is nickel-plated steel.
The two fans included by Noctua are of their new NF-A12x25 PWM model, which pushes 60 CFM and has an RPM range of 450–2000. Some of the images of the unit NH-U12A along with the PWM Fans are depicted in the gallery above.
To begin with, we installed Noctua NH-U12A on the Asus Crosshair VI with Ryzen 7 1700. Mounting is simple – specially with Noctua SecuFirm 2, it is always a piece of cake. It took me a couple of minutes and a screw drive to mount the cooler and I was ready to proceed with the testing and cooling performance.
All testing is done at a room temperature of 26°C (78.8°F) with a 1°C margin of error. It is to be noted that climate of Pakistan is warm and CPU coolers are really pushed to their limits when being tested.
Let’s dive straight into the testing!
We used the classic set of software including HW Info/Monitor to control the parameters of the work and most importantly, the temperature. OCCT’s CPU test (Large Data Set, 64 bits, Infinite, the maximum number of threads) was used for the load. After an hour of load, we recorded the results and these maximum/minimum idle/load temperatures are shown in the graphs below. This cooler proved to be grateful for overclocking, and a somewhat weird fan that helps cool the VRM and the noise levels were not what we can call annoying. With CPU under stress test and fans running at 100%, I was still not able to call the noise levels irritating. Though I do not have a very silent ambience but the noise levels were under check and they never surpassed 46 dBA in my testing and I consider those levels as ideal, specially if it is an air cooler with dual fans acting as push and pull. Fan noise testing could not be done accurately, as stated before, because of my noisy ambience but for the sake of giving an idea, 46 dBA was all I could achieve on sound meter with Noctua NH-U12A with both pwm fans running at 100%. That is really impressive.
To start with, Noctua NH-U12A is a small form factor air cooler, designed with overclockers kept in mind. This CPU cooler has an insane cooling potential with ultra low noise levels. This CPU cooler can serve you ideally if you are a hard core gamer. Design, form factor and aesthetics, all kept in balance with this one, makes this one affordable cooling solution if you are into air cooling.
As is the usual with Noctua coolers, the NH-U12A is exceptionally easy to install with the SecuFirm2 mounting hardware remaining one of the best designs on the market. Not only does it work well and is compatible with current, past, and even future socket, but overall build quality is again amazing and covered by an exceptional 6-year warranty. My only grievance is with the frame of the Noctua NH-U12A which is made of aluminum. Not because it does not dissipate heat well, but bare aluminium is an absolute fingerprint magnet—once you get oil from your fingers on the cooler, it is a pain to get it clean and pristine again.
The only other issue otherwise, or non-issue depending on which camp you belong to, is the Noctua NH-U12A lacks in RGB LEDs. Rather than give in to market pressure, Noctua has stayed true to their roots with the fans coming in that lovely brown and tan you know and love or likely hate. This will keep many consumers from getting this cooler who are into gimmicks of RGB LEDs. Still, this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, especially compared to the price tag. Costing more than the NH-D15 and D15S while being a bit louder and offering slightly less performance means Noctua has better and quieter performers available for less. The main benefit of the NH-U12A is better memory and graphics card clearances because of its smaller size. Also it makes its place into small form factor cases and there is no need to worry about the air flow, the dual fan working on “push & pull” make more air flow than you can imagine.
Overall, the NH-U12A is an exceptional cooler that has an impressively high price tag to match. Even so, looking at build quality, performance, noise levels, and warranty, I have no issue recommending the cooler. It is a deal breaker and the cooling performance leave many AIOs behind. The MSRP is 99.90 EUR/USD, which is quite steep for an air cooler, a 6-year warranty coverage is included though. At this price, many AIOs come into play as well, but this cooler certainly outperforms many of those AIOs as well, so there is no exception on cooling by this little guy here. But the price it comes for, is not justified and it won’t be getting a value awards for the reason.
I have no issue recommending the cooler. It is a deal breaker and the cooling performance leave many AIOs behind. The MSRP is 99.90 EUR/USD, which is quite steep for an air cooler, a 6-year warranty coverage is included though. But at the end of the day, it is still an air cooler no doubt, even so, looking at build quality, performance, noise levels, and warranty, I have no issue recommending the cooler. It wins our Editor’s Choice Award.