Noctua is a well known designer and manufacturer of top performing air coolers of various sizes with the easily recognized burnt red fans. Established in 2005 as a partnership between the Austrian company Rascom Computers and the Taiwanese based Kolink International, Noctua has been steadily producing high performing air coolers with a focus on silence. Noctua not only produces high end air coolers, but you can always count on receiving at least one of their signature color scheme fans, which looking through their website it is difficult to decipher whether the company pride favors their coolers or their fans. Either way, Noctua products are well known for quality and cooling your processor while keeping noise low.
Of the many coolers available from Noctua, we have the NH-U12P SE on the bench for testing. The NH-U12P comes from our in-house supply and was purchased from a local Micro-Center several months ago while I was moving the lab from one room to its current home and needed to keep my WCG cruncher farm running. With my long winded intro out of the way, time to take a closer look at the NH-U12P.
The Noctua NH-U12P SE that we have on the bench today does not have a large range of socket compatibility, since I was only looking for LGA1366 mounting when I was strolling through Micro-Center I was not looking at socket compatibility. However, since my purchase Noctua has released the SE2, which specifically covers socket compatibility for all current Intel (LGA775, LGA1156, LGA1366) and AMD (AM2, AM2+, AM3) sockets. Staying with the topic of sockets and mounting, the mount system on the NH-U12P was extremely easy as I’ll describe for you, but keep in mind the mount system is different on the newer revision SE2 and Noctua does include an easy to follow manual for installation. Simply put the backplate with preset posts through the 1366 mount holes and put the plastic spacers on the posts. With the spacers on, drop the two mounting bars on and secure the mounting bars with the included thumbnuts. I recommend putting the mounting bars on parallel to the socket arm, since this was our best orientation through testing. With the mounting system ready, now you need to attach the mount arms to the cooler. Turn the cooler base up, place the two screws for the mount arm in the holes and hold the mount arm on the top side of the base (between the base and fin tower), now tighten the screws and repeat for the second mount arm. There ya go cooler and board are prepped. Now apply your TIM and place the cooler on the chip while aligning the screws over the threaded posts on the mount bars, then tighten the screws down until they reach their stop… all done.
We may have jumped ahead of ourselves a bit by covering mounting first, but I found the mounting system extremely simple even though my description may have been difficult to follow. Taking a step back, the NH-U12P is a heatpipe and tower fin cooler, sporting four 6mm copper heatpipes running into a copper base. The base is flat, but there is a texture to the base, which I tried to capture in the last photo on this page, but can only do so well without a macro lens. On the base. there are extremely small ridges that run perpendicular to the heatpipes. My thoughts here are the ridges are to increase the surface area for contact of the base, TIM and IHS. All of the copper components are nickel plated giving the Noctua a shiny silver-ish finish, which is certainly appealing visually.
Moving up the heatpipes from the base we come to the fin tower. No shock here, the NH-U12P uses aluminum fins soldered to the heatpipes which are what gives all tower coolers their heat dissipation ability. Noctua squeezes 36 fins measuring 126mm wide, 71mm deep (at the edges) and 1mm thick into the 107mm tower section. For you quick with math, the fins are spaced 2mm apart, which works very well with the low noise and RPM NF-P12 fans that come standard with the retail package. Before we talk more about the fans, lets finish up on the overall dimensions first… The NH-U12P measures in at 158mm tall, 126mm wide and 71mm in depth without fans strapped on. Mount one fan and the depth increases to 95mm, and two fans tops out the depth at 120mm. After eyeing the opening photo you will see a recess for the fans to nestle into, and Noctua provides little strip pads for the edges of that recess to cut down on vibration noise.
Before we take an eye candy break, we need to talk about the unmistakably Noctua burnt red bladed NF-P12 fans that come in the retail package of the NH-U12P. Not only does Noctua include two NF-P12’s but they also include connectors with inline resistors to control the fans to 1100 (black connector) and 900RPM (blue connector) without requiring motherboard or fan controller intervention. The published ratings on the NF-P12’s are 54.3CFM/19.8dBA/1300RPM, 46.2CFM/16.9dBA/1100RPM, and 37.3CFM/12.6dBA/900RPM. For my own ears, 1300RPM is silent, so the lower speeds obviously don’t even register to my ears. I also want to note the amp draw on the NF-P12, listed at 0.09A which is extremely low. Okay, one final detail to note is the NF-P12’s are open corner and the fan clips for the NH-U12P only work on open corner fans, which is extremely important if you’re looking to change from the stock NF-P12 fans that are included in the retail package.
And now for your viewing pleasure, a few photos including all the goodies and a shot of the base…
To note, all of the photos were taken after running the NH-U12P for several months and after testing the cooler for this review. Time to cover our test methodology before diving into the performance data…