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Thread: Noctua NH-U12A

  1. #1
    Xtreme Reviewer
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Noctua NH-U12A


    Today we are going to look at one of the latest additions to Noctua's range of high performance CPU coolers, the NH-U12A.The NH-U12A is the latest, 5th generation of Noctua's award-winning U12 series of 120mm size coolers. The original NH-U12 was the very first product we introduced back in 2005 and the U12 series has been at the core of our product line-up ever since. This time it's not uses only a 120mm fan, but a dual fan push/pull configuration that uses the new, state-of-the-art NF-A12x25 fans. Plus, Noctua also increased fin surface area and redesigned the heatsink body to incorporate 7 heatpipes.


    Packaging & Contents

    The packaging of the NH-U12A is very familiar indeed, following very similar design themes to products we've seen in the past from Noctua. The box itself is fairly compact and features an attractive white and brown livery. Overall, the box is fairly plain but sturdy. The front proudly lists off the product features. These also include full memory compatibility on LGA115X-AM4, a six-year warranty, PWM support, and the inclusion of low-noise adapters. The top side has the same list of features as the front.

    The left side of the box again lists the features but pairs them with small images to give a better idea of what the feature is and does.

    The other side lists the heatsink's and fan's specifications, including weight, MBTF, and scope of delivery.

    Here is a short paragraph in many different languages. It gives a brief rundown on the Noctua NH-U12A.

    Opening the box, I am once again greeted by exceptional packaging--a norm for Noctua. Accessories and mounting hardware are placed on top.

    The heatsink and fans are held in place by the cardboard underneath. The cooler itself is packaged with the fans pre-installed.

    Noctua's SecuFirm 2 mounting hardware once again makes an appearance.The Intel mounting kit box contains a backplate with the posts built-in unlike previous SecuFirm2 backplates (part no. NM-IBP2), four black plastic standoffs (NM-IPS1), a pair of mounting bars (NM-IMB3), four bolts for LGA2011 mounting (NM-IBT2) and four thumbscrews for securing the mounting bars (NM-ITS1). In the AMD accessory box, there are four white plastic spacers (NM-APS1), four long screws (NM-ALS1) and a pair of AMD mounting bars (NM-AMB3).

    Inside the accessories box we find a pair of Low Noise Adapters, a tube of NT-H1 thermal interface material, a Phillips screwdriver, a Y-cable, and a metal Noctua badge.

    There are 3 manuals. One is for the AM4, one is for the Intel LGA 2011 and the last one is for the Intel LGA-115(x). Manuals are very well laid out and provide pictorial information on how to install the cooler.

    A Closer Look

    The NH-U12A is a 120mm U-Type Tower cooler, based on the award-winning NH-U series. Measuring 158 x 1125 x 58 mm (H x W x D), the Noctua NH-U12A is designed with to be a slimmer-bodied heatsink with superior RAM compatibility compared to some dual-towered coolers.

    The left and the right sides of the heatsink are identical in the layout. The edges are raised and the center has a large fin joint assembly from top to the bottom. The angled edges help in mounting the fan(s) with the clips.

    The top side of the heatsink has the Noctua brand name and the logo in the middle.

    There is a bit of curvature layout in the middle of the heatsink which is implemented as an inset in a triangle shape.

    We can see 14 heatpipes are terminating on the top in 2 groups each with 7.

    With many heatsinks, the fins are press-fitted to the heatpipes. Due to the different thermal expansion coefficients of copper and aluminium, this fit can loosen over years of thermal cycling, which may lead to reduced performance. By contrast, the NH-U12A's fins are soldered to the heatpipes in order to guarantee a superior thermal interface that doesn't deteriorate even after many years of usage.

    The fin pack is also deeper (58mm, up from 45mm) to provide 37% more surface area.

    Let's take a look at the bottom side of the heatsink. We have 7 nickel-plated heat pipes of 6 mm thickness going inside the heatsink from different points to maximize the point of contact with the fins hence covering the large surface area for maximum heat dissipation. Below picture is to show the heatpipes displacement inside the heatsink.

    The base top has a non-removable mounting bar with two spring loaded screws on each end.

    The CPU contact surface is not highly polished but has visible rounded micro-machining marks which makes it ideal for higher viscosity thermal compounds.

    On both sides of the radiator you can mout two fans for push and pull configurations (2x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fans included with package). Each fan is capable of rotating between 450 and 2000 RPM and a lifetime of no less than 150,000 hours of use before present any kind of problem.

    Both fans feature the latest in Noctua fan technology including AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) frame or Flow Acceleration Channels and combines them with a record tight tip clearance of only 0.5mm, which is made possible by using the novel Sterrox liquid-crystal polymer (LCP) compound as well as a metal-reinforced motor hub and axis for ultimate precision. Integrated anti-vibration pads made from extra-soft silicone minimise the transmission of minute vibrations.

    Installation Process

    The installing process takes a little time to accomplish but it isn't hard to do. The whole thing begins with placing the motherboard back plate to the back of the motherboard.The kit features a new, sturdy one-piece backplate with fixed struts that has been specifically designed to facilitate installation on LGA115x sockets. Due to the fixed struts, it's now even easier to align the backplate and to attach it to your mainboard. Yes, you guessed it, the Noctua cooler does not use the typical Intel mounting system. Over the years, SecuFirm2 has become synonymous with impeccable long-term stability and flawless craftsmanship. Enthusiast users and industry clients alike trust the time-tested quality of Noctua's professional mounting systems.

    The second step in installing the Noctua NH-U12A is to screw the posts from the SecuFirm 2 mounting kit in.

    At this stage, we slide the mounting arms down over the posts. Screw down the mounting arms and apply the thermal paste after deciding upon the final orientation of the cooler.

    With the SecuFirm 2 kit firmly attached to the motherboard and the thermal paste applied, it is time to mount the Noctua NH-U12A. Simply line the crossbar on the heatsink up with the posts on the mounting arms before tightening the heatsink down. Make sure to alternate as it becomes impossible to screw down the opposite side if you over tighten one side at the start.

    All that is left to do then is to attach the fans to the heatsink before plugging the fan power header into the CPU fan header on the motherboard.

    Installed - Memory Clearance

    Due to its asymmetric design, the NH-U12A does not overhang the RAM slots on Intel LGA115x and AMD AM4 based motherboards, which ensures easy access to the modules and 100% compatibility with tall heat-spreaders. On LGA2066, the rear fan will overhang the RAM slots on the left-hand side of the socket, so RAM modules should not exceed 42mm in height. Measuring 125mm wide (including fan and fan clips), the cooler stays clear of the top PCIe slot on most standard ATX or Micro-ATX motherboards, ensuring optimum compatibility with multi-GPU setups.

    Test System & Methology

    Test System:

    Processor: Intel Core i7 4770k @ 3.7 GHz & 4.3 GHz OC
    Motherboard:MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
    Memory: 16GB Mushkin
    Graphics Card: Sapphire HD 6970
    Power Supply: Antec HCG 750W
    Chassis: DimasTech Bench/Test Table EasyXL
    Boot Drive: Ocz Vector
    Storage Drive: 3TB Seagate Barracuda


    CPUID HW Monitor 1.23
    CPUID CPU-Z 1.65
    Prime95 v27.1

    I am testing the performance as follows:

    Ambient temperatures are kept at 23C throughout my tests.
    The CPU Fan is set to 100% to eliminate inconsistencies as a result of PWM control.
    Idle temperatures are obtained after booting the PC and idling on the desktop for 30 minutes.
    Load temperatures are obtained after running Prime95′s Small FTTs test for 15 minutes.
    To measure noise levels i disable the two front in-take fans, rear exhaust and GPU fan.
    On the following pages you'll have the opportunity to read what NH-U12A is capable of.

    Results - Temperature

    With the fan RPM being pretty low at this point of testing, we did find the idle temperature to hover in the 30 degree range, which is fine for 24/7 idle temperatures. The NH-U12A with an all-new suite of two NF-A12x25 PWM fans outperforms the NH-U14S at 55C.

    With the increase in fan speed for the overclocked testing, the idle temperature was only 33 degrees at this point. The large Noctua NH-D15 was the best performer of the four Noctua options. It is made for large cases when plenty of space for airflow and bridges the gap between more complex water coolers and air cooling. If you have space, the Noctua NH-D15 is an excellent option to move a lot of air through a big heatsink. We also see that NH-U12A did not give one inch when it comes to performance.

    Results - Noise Level

    With the PWM controls turned off, and the two L.N.A. in place, the Noctua NH-U12A registered at 35 dB of noise. Removing the resistor and keeping the BIOS set to still deliver maximum voltage to the connection, all I was getting was an ever so mild hum coming from the cooler and registering at 44 dB for this test.


    The NH-U12A is the heatsink featured in this review, and it did surprisingly well. One would expect that it would not be able to outperform top air coolers. Instead, this one tower heatsink surpassed all our expectations and beat out 140mm top heatsinks, while outperforms also the NH-U14S by 2C. The included fans can move a lot of air at low noise levels which is another great benefit. While this cooler didn't have the fancy colors like we have started to see recently from other brands, Noctua stuck to the basics and kept a simple, elegant design and style that is Noctua is known for. The brushed aluminum finish, along with the chrome and nickel plating is something to applaud. The non-interference with the RAM was a big plus in my book. Even on my Micro-ATX board i was able to access all four DDR slots if needed. There are very few air coolers available on the market of this size that will allow for that. Its great to see customers having more options with large coolers that have tell heat speader RAM. The easy install is also a huge plus. I say that about most Noctua coolers, but the SecuFirm 2 mounting system really is exceptional, and the heatsink's design makes it even easier to work with now.

    Naturally, all of this comes with a premium price tag so the NH-U12A can be had for $99.90 which puts it in the high-end category. This cost may sound high for some but for users looking for the TOP powerful air-cooling alternative to a 140mm-tower design, the NH-U12A is the best option to have. Like all Noctua products, the NH-U12A also comes with a 6-year warranty, longer than any CPU cooler in the market which further justifies the value aside from all the tangible goodies and extras out of the packaging. For a top performance against 140mm coolers and top of the line build quality, the Noctua NH-U12A earns the “Excellent” award.

    Last edited by testman78; 04-07-2019 at 10:27 AM.

  2. #2
    Xtreme Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Long Island, NY
    I've been using the stock HSF on my 4770k since 2013 when my Swiftech H220 crapped out. Twice.

    I think it's time to delid, OC, and purchase this.

    Thanks for the review!
    New rig: INWIN D-Frame, i7 4770k @ 4.7 Ghz/1.38V, Swiftech H220, MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming, Team Vulcan DDR3 1600, 9-9-9-24, Samsung 840 pro 256GB, EVGA GTX 780, Corsair 850W
    Old rig:Antec 900/GIGABYTE GA-X38T-DQ6
    E6750 @ 3.5 GHz/Thermalright 120 extreme/MX2
    CORSAIR Vengance 8GB
    PNY 8800GT/Thermalright HR-03 GT

    Old, old rig: FX-53/GIGABYTE K8NSNXP-939 nForce3 Ultra/1GB CORSAIR 3200XLPRO
    X800XTPE/WD 74GB Raptor/250GB Caviar

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