Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler Review

Introduction

Noctua have really impressed with the products that have been reviewed on Verdis Reviews before; this week we take a look at another cooler from the same company that has received over 150 awards for its high quality design. The NH-U12P has been around for a little while now but is still able to compete with many of the newer additions from rival companies. Enough said, time to have a better look and see what we think.

Company Information – Noctua

“Noctua aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance “Designed in Austria” through paying attention to the users’ needs in a market burdened with all kinds of frills and furbelows and providing sound-optimised premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.”

Features

  • 4 dual heat pipes
    4 dual heat pipes, soldered joints and widely-spaced aluminium cooling fins guarantee optimal heat dissipation even at low fan speeds.
  • Award winning NH-U design
    Noctua’s NH-U coolers allow for perfect airflow direction and have received more than 150 awards and recommendations from leading international websites and magazines.
  • NF-P12 premium fan
    The NF-P12 has been specifically developed for applications like CPU cooling and brings the performance of the NH-U12 to a whole new level. Thanks to psycho-acoustic optimizations and Noctua’s premium-grade SSO-bearing, the NF-P12 achieves exceptional quietness and long-term stability.
  • Improved compatibility
    Thanks to its raised fin-stack, the NH-U12P offers improved compatibility with main boards featuring very high chipset coolers.
  • SecuFirm™ multi-socket mounting system
    Noctua’s professional SecuFirm™ mounting system for LGA 775, AM2, AM2+ and AM3 provides superior reliability and contact pressure.
  • Incl. Noctua NT-H1 high-end thermal compound
    Noctua’s NT-H1 is a pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease-of-use and long-term stability.

Specifications

Contents & Packaging

The box is a considerable size and features Noctua’s usual colour scheme. There is an interestingly shaped cut out on the front through which the NF-P12 fan is visible. On the blue part of the front, the features are listed in white print. A small circle highlights the fact that Noctua NT-H1 is included.

 

The back sees the six features explained fully each with a little diagram. At the bottom, there is a little bit of description about the NF-P12 fan to do with the vortex-control notches.

 

One side shows how the cooler is installed with separate diagrams for both the AMD and Intel sockets. When the NH-U12P cooler was released, i7 technology had not been developed and so obviously the cooler is not compatible with LGA1366. However, Noctua have created a mounting mechanism for this socket so that it can be used with i7 which can be purchased as the NH-U12P SE1366 which is essentially the same product with a different accessory bundle.

 

Finally, the last side sees six translations for multi-lingual purposes along with a box full of awards for the NH-U12P.

 

The accessories all come nicely packaged up into three bundles along with a manual: common parts, AMD installation parts and Intel installation parts. The installation pieces consist of brackets and screws for the appropriate socket. In the common parts are the following items:

  • Tube of NT-H1 Thermal Compound
  • Mounting clips for two fans
  • LNA and ULNA noise adapters
  • Rubber strips for installing fans

The Product – Noctua NH-U12P

The tower format cooler has a total of four dual ‘U’ shaped heat pipes that bend up from the base through the many layers of aluminium fins. The fins are quite widely spaced compared to many other CPU Coolers and this is done so as to optimise heat dissipation.

The NH-U12P uses the higly popular tower format design with a front-mounted fan which draws air through the aluminium fins in order to disperse the heat. In order to attach the 120mm fan, metal clips are provided that attach the fan very securely to the main heatsink.

 

On the top, the four dual heat pipes are rounded off nicely to give a professional finish along with a Noctua logo situated in the middle which has been printed into the metal.

 

The heat pipes are all soldered into the main fin stack and are nickel-plated so as to be the same colour as the whole design. This not only looks good but allows for maximal heat dissipation as the pipes are spread out.

 

The base has a protective plastic cover that stops any dust, debris or fingerprints from spoiling the finish. Removing this reveals the very flat surface that should provide a very good contact area. An indicator to how good a cooler will perform is often the base finish and in this case, despite not being very reflective, the finish is certainly high quality – very flat and smooth.

 

The nine-bladed NF-P12 design is specially designed for use with CPU Cooler’s and other cooling systems. This is due to having a high static pressure which means that the fan can still create high airflows even when it is harder to push the air (for example through a heatsink). Another feature of the NF-P12 is the sound optimised blades which alter the frequencies of the sound produced so as to make the sound not only quieter but also less annoying to listen to.

For a full look into the Noctua NF-P12, check out the review here.

 

The problem with many large heatsink and fan combination CPU coolers is clearance as with many motherboards, other heatsinks and parts get in the way and make it much harder to install these larger coolers. Thus, Noctua have come up with a couple of solutions to make it more compatible. Firstly, the fin stack has been raised up to ensure it’s not in the way of any parts on the motherboard around the CPU (i.e. the chipset heatsink).

Moreover, the mounting bars that are attached to the motherboard and screw into the backplate are raised so that they fit over the capacitors near the CPU in order to use mounting mechanism.

Installation

The Test Setup:

ProcessorIntel C2Q Q9450 Quad Core @ 2.80GHz
MotherboardGigabyte S-Series GA-73PVM-S2H
Graphics CardXFX 8600GT
MemoryCorsair XMS2 PC6400 (2x 1GB)
Hard DriveHitachi HDT7250 (250GB)
Power SupplyNOX Apex 700W
OSWindows XP Pro 32bit

The first step to installing the main cooler is to screw the appropriate brackets to the heatsink using the screws provided (I am using socket775 so I will be using the Intel parts).

 

Then the two raised brackets need to be attached to the backplate through the motherboard. This can be done in two different ways so as to install the NH-U12P with different orientations.

 

Then squeeze a blob of thermal paste onto the CPU and place the cooler on top, it can then be turned to spread the paste. After this, using the spring screws, screw the cooler down.

 

Installing the fan is very simple; firstly stick the rubber strips to the cooler in order to prevent any vibrations getting transferred to the heatsink and thus amplified.

 

Then, using the mounting clips just push the bent around part through the hole nearest the heatsink in the fan and push the clip backwards so that it snaps in place into the grooves. These clips are very easy to use and make the fan very secure.

 

This completes the installation process; just make sure the cable is connected to the motherboard.

Testing

Methodology

At Verdis Reviews, we test CPU coolers by booting the PC up into Windows XP and then taking temperatures in both idle and load states.

The temperatures are taking using Speedfan using the PC’s own diode. For idle testing, we simply leave the PC for 30 minutes and then come back and take the temperature readings. For load, we both two processes of CPU Burn-in and then again leave the computer for 30 minutes before taking a representative reading.

All temperatures are the average of three readings all take 10 seconds apart so as to give the most reliable results.

A range of different thermal compounds along with different fan speeds and cooler orientations are also tested to see what gives the greatest performance.

Finally, noise is that final factor that is tested; however, at Verdis Reviews, we are not yet at the stage where we can use high tech sound equipment and therefore, noise testing is left to the human ear – not the most scientific but it gives a good impression of how noisy the cooler is.

All testing was done with the CPU overclocked slightly to 2.8GHz and the GELID Silent Spirit, Stock Intel cooler and Scythe Kama Angle were used for comparison purposes.

Ambient temperature was 20 degrees.

Results

Cooling

Clearly the Noctua NH-U12P is the best performer from the bunch and despite some of the coolers being mid-to-low end, the fact that the Noctua cooler can beat the likes of the Scythe Kama Angle – a much newer product I might add, demonstrates the impressive nature of the product.

Overall, the performance is first rate with no problems at all.

If you would like to increase the cooling even more an additional NF-P12 or other 120mm fan can be attached to the other side so as to increase airflow even more; however, this does bring added noise levels.

 

Again as we’ve seen on many previous occasions, the NT-H1 compound excels beating all the rivals albeit not by a great deal but then thermal paste testing never varies too much. Not much else to be said here except use the included thermal paste!

 

Finally, fan speed testing was done using the LNA (low noise adapter) and ULNA (ultra low noise adapter) which were provided. These are the equivalent of a fan controller except they restrict the voltage flow in order to set the fan speed to a certain value. They are included so as to allow the noise outputs to be lowered if the user so chooses.

From the results, a nice step down pattern has been created with each drop in fan speed relating to a couple of degrees increase in temperature. Even using the ULNA the results are still impressive but I would recommend sticking with 1300RPM as this offers maximum cooling and to be honest the noise outputs aren’t very noticeable at all.

Noise
Like I just mentioned, noise outputs aren’t really an issue hear as the vortex-control notch technology used in the NF-P12 which alter the frequencies of the sound to make it more pleasant. It’s not really very loud at all but there is a faint hum that is audible. If you’re looking for quieter cooling, the noise adapters would be a good bet as using those drops the noise down quite a bit.

Cost
Unfortunately, cost is a big issue with the NH-U12P and it will still set you back about £35 despite having been on the market for quite a while. A great product though, you just need to determine how much you are willing to spend on a CPU cooler.

Conclusion

Noctua, yet again, have proved their technical expertise and design quality and come up with an exceptional cooler. There is really no way to fault it besides the high price but you really do get a top quality product in all departments – cooling, noise and ease of installation – if you decide to spend that little bit extra.

I can’t really find any way to fault the cooler except that it is very big and so could be a problem for some motherboards and cases.

Overall though a very impressive product that undoubtedly deserves the Editor’s Choice!

Pros

  • Great cooling
  • Low noise outputs
  • Easy and secure installation
  • Professional

Cons

  • Very big
  • High price point

editors choice

Thanks go to Noctua for providing the CPU cooler for review.

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