Noctua NH-U12A CPU Air Cooler Review

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Noctua NH-U12A feature

A CPU air cooler featuring brown & beige fans? That can mean only one thing….a new product from the Austrian giants of cooling, Noctua. From experience we can be almost certain that the NH-U12A will be everything an air-cooling fan will want – but almost certain won’t cut it, so please join me as I delve deeper into this new arrival.

Noctua NH-U12A box

Noctua NH-U12A Specifications & Features

Cooler

Socket compatibility Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066 and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM1, FM2(+)
Height (without fan) 158 mm
Width (without fan) 125 mm
Depth (without fan) 58 mm
Weight (without fan) 760 g
Height (with fan) 158 mm
Width (with fan) 125 mm
Depth (with fan) 112 mm
Weight (with fan) 1220 g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 120x120x25
Contents ·         2x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fan

·         2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)

·         4-pin PWM y-cable

·         SecuFirm2™ mounting system for Intel and AMD

·         NT-H1 thermal compound

·         Noctua Metal Case-Badge

6 Years

Fan

Model Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM
Bearing SSO2
Max. rotational speed (+/- 10%) 2000 RPM
Max. rotational speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 1700 RPM
Min. rotational speed (PWM, +/-20%) 450 RPM
Max. airflow 102,1 m³/h
Max. airflow with L.N.A. 84,5 m³/h
Max. acoustical noise 22,6 dB(A)
Max. acoustical noise with L.N.A. 18,8 dB(A)
Voltage range 12 V
MTTF > 150.000 h

Noctua NH-U12A Closer Look

As with every other Noctua product I’ve ever had the privilege of handling, the presentation of the product is immaculate.

Noctua NH-U12A unit

The NH-U12A comes straight out of the box with both fans attached, giving you an immediate look at the finished article. Two 120mm fans clad the tower in the now unmistakable colour scheme of brown & beige.

Noctua NH-U12A heatpipes

At the base of the fin stack we find no less than 7 heat pipes, all polished to perfection.

Noctua NH-U12A cold plate

Flipping the cooler over we find a huge cold plate, with almost a mirror finish to the nickel plating which clads the solid copper base.

Noctua NH-U12A heatsink

Unclipping the fans we get to see the heatsink, which has been redesigned over the last generation to ensure a bigger fin surface area than the previous iteration to maximise the heat dissipation.

Noctua NH-U12A top

Protruding from the top of the heatsink we have the seven heat pipes, with the tips once again showing the polished nickel finish we saw earlier.

Noctua NH-U12A fans

With the NH-U12A being the premium 120mm cooler from Noctua, it’s no surprise the fans themselves are no less than the flagship NF-A12x25. The colour scheme will continue to divide opinion, but the performance won’t.

Noctua NH-U12A accessories

Finally a nod to the bundled accessories, which again is presented in a high quality way. No cheap plastic seal bag here, but a nice thick box, with everything clearly illustrated on it’s outer.

Noctua NH-U12A: Thermal Performance

Since our previous cooling reviews prior to November 2016, we have decided to update the method accordingly for better and consistent results. It isn’t ideal running Prime95 for a prolonged period of time and if you get called away to do something, it could be left running for much longer than needed. Our new methodology involves running a very stressful multi-threaded performance benchmark called ROG RealBench.

It should also be noted that the reason we omit acoustic/noise testing is due to an inaccuracy within the readings and method. To provide truly accurate readings, you need a lab setting with the same ambient noise on an hour by hour, day by day and week by week basis. As ambient noise can increase at different times of the day, we believe that it’s pointless providing noise testing if we can’t measure consistent and accurate data due to our office being a busy setting.

Test Setup

In addition to keeping our test setup consistent for all CPU cooling tests, we also always use the same thermal paste rather than any that comes supplied or pre-applied. Our thermal paste of choice is NT-H1 from Noctua.

Idle Testing Methodology

To test each cooler at idle, the minimum temperature is taken after leaving the PC with only start-up programs on Windows 10 being allowed to run for 5 minutes. After this, the minimum temperature with the core temperature being offset against the room temperature; thus achieving delta.

Load Testing Methodology

To load test, we run RealBench while selecting the heavy multitasking benchmark only. We run this a maximum of 3 times concurrently and the maximum temperature recorded is taken. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.

Results

Noctua NH-U12A 4.2Ghz idle

Noctua NH-U12A 4.2Ghz load

Noctua NH-U12A 4.5Ghz idle

Noctua NH-U12A 4.5Ghz load

The Noctua NH-U12A Review: The Verdict

Anyone who has ever heard of Noctua will expect that the NH-U12A performs well…and it didn’t let us down! There has never been an air cooler on our test bench that reached the thermal performance of this. Not only that, but it also beats a number of all-in-one liquid coolers from some very big names in the industry!

As mentioned before, the presentation of the product itself is premium, and that quality is evident throughout. From the outer packaging to the unit itself, every single inch of the NH-U12A is polished (pun intended). From every single inch of it’s welds, to every millimetre of fin on the heatsink, and even down to each label on the included accessories is perfectly constructed & finished.

Perhaps the only area where people will potentially have varying opinions is with Noctua’s decision to continue with the brown/beige colour scheme to their fans. We know they make black fans, but I actually applaud Noctua for continuing to use what has become one of their signature features. The sight of an unmistakable Noctua fan automatically makes you aware of the brand in use. The beige fans have become synonymous with performance & quality, something which brands continually strive for.

What’s hot:

  • Performance is unmatched by any air cooler we have ever seen.
  • Build quality & finish is unrivalled by any cooler we have ever reviewed before.
  • Whilst the price isn’t cheap, given the awesome performance, the actual value for money is really good.

What’s not:

  • The brown/beige fans will continue to divide opinion.

The latest iteration of the NH-U12A is the best performing air cooler to date. Retailing at £90 in the UK it’s not cheap, but it’s a premium product, and therefore carries a premium price tag. I have no hesitation in giving the NHU12A our highest award…Platinum.

Noctua NH-U12A Platinum Award

Thanks to Noctua for sending a sample of the NH-U12A in for review.

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