With the introduction of highly overclockable CPU's like Intel's Core 2 Duo range of processors, we have seen an increase in the damand for cooling solutions that will take the demands of extra heat produced by the chipsets, but are virtually silent. With ever increasing frequency, motherboard manufacturers are turning to proven 'heatpipe technology', in order to deal with this extraneous heat. Heatpipe technology has been used on CPU heatsinks for some time now, and is testament to how effective it really is. The benefits of heatpipes when cooling is not only the heat being drawn away more efficiently, but that it allows the manufacturer to make the heatsink totally passive and silent, or include relatively low cfm fans to provide additional cooling.
Noctua, are an Austrian based aftermarket cooling company, with whom I became acquainted after reviewing their NF-R8 and NF-S12 cooling fans. They had asked if I would be interested in reviewing their new NC-U6 chipset cooler, and I eagerly jumped at the chance. The NC-U6 chipset cooler utilises heatpipe technology and is definitely a great looking cooler; but how does it perform? Let's get it into the OC3D Labs, and take a look.
The NC-U6 implements a miniature-version of the well proven design of Noctua's award winning NH-U coolers. Sporting 2 Dual-Heatpipes, 29 aluminium fins and soldered joints for optimal heat-transfer, the NC-U6 is the ultimate solution when it comes to silently cooling today's high-end chipsets. The NC-U6's specifications have been taken directly from Noctua's website and included below.
Height: 85 mm Width: 70 mm Depth (cooling fins): 23,5 mm Depth (socket): 33 mm Weight: 130 g Material: Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints Mounting System: Push-Pins & Mounting-Hooks Warranty: 6 Years
Now that we've seen the specifications of the NC-U6, let's delve a little deeper...
Packaging and Contents
The packaging that Noctua have chosen to use with the NC-U6 is a fairly standard affair, but is neatly presented and provides ample protection for the chipset cooler. The NC-U6 fits snugly into the bubble pack, and all other necessary fittings are included in behind the cooler itself.
The installation guide provided with the NC-U6 is very well written, with ample pictorial content for the less tech minded. The NC-U6 is intended to be used on both Intel and AMD platforms, so appropriate installation hardware has been included.
The NC-U6 is shipped with mounting systems for Intel and AMD mainboards, using the existing fastening hooks or push-pin mounting holes. In order to achieve maximum compatibility with mainboards, VGA cards and CPU coolers, the NC-U6 can be turned by up to 120°.
I must admit that I had reservations about the strength of the included mounting hardware, particularly with the plastic lugs and springs. But, upon closer examination, my fears were allayed.
Noctua has also included thermal paste and a foam shim to protect the chipset transistors from shorting on the copper base. The thermal paste was particularly interesting because it appeared that the water content had separated from the TIM itself. I managed to get some degree of consistancy from the thermal goop by massaging the packet, and again coaxing the water back into the mix. However, the compound does seem extremely watery, perhaps Noctua could have a look at this problem and find some way of alleviating it. Regardless, there are alternative TIM out there, but for the sake of this review, we will be using the compound supplied.
Moving on, we shall now take a look at Noctua's NC-U6 chipset cooler in a little more detail.
Noctua NC-U6 Chipset Cooler Page: 2 A Closer Look
The first thing that stands out about the Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler is its impeccable build quality. The NC-U6 sports 2 Dual-Heatpipes, 29 aluminium fins and soldered joints for optimal heat-transfer. The mounting clips that come with the NC-U6 chipset cooler allow for 120 degrees of rotation, which will make it easier to install for those with crowded motherboard real estate.
The large hole on the centre of the fins is for adjusting the screw which attaches to the base of the cooler; facilitating adjustments by the user.
You can see by the left hand picture above that the base has been well lapped, although not to a mirrored finish. But, bearing in mind that a mirrored finish is in no way indicative of flatness. Slight rippling on the base is also visible, but it is in fact completely flat, after having checked the base myself on a flat piece of glass.
If you look closely enough at the picture on the right, it is clearly visible that there has been provision made for perhaps utilising a small fan to asist with cooling if the need arose. There is nothing mentioned of this in the product documentation I received, but, it would be quite easy to do so. A 60 mm fan would fit in the space provided amongst the fins quite easily.
Now that we have had a look at our review subject in detail, let's see how easily it is to install.
Noctua NC-U6 Chipset Cooler Page: 3 Installation
You can see from the picture below, how the supplied sticky foam pad protects the transistors on the Intel 965P Northbridge. Please excuse the sticky residue left over from my Jin Ting cooler, as it was extremely difficult to remove all traces of it.
Installation of the Noctua NC-U6 on my ASUS P5B Deluxe was an absolute breeze. The spring loaded plastic lugs made the installation process the quickest that I've ever had when changing NB coolers. The pressure applied to the chipset itself was firm and felt very secure.
The NC-U6 chipset cooler provides ample clearance from any of the surrounding capacitors on my motherboard, and at least a good 35 - 40 mm (or just over 1.5" for those who use the Imperial system) from the PCI-E graphics card slot.
The above two pics show just how versatile the NC-U6 is as far as ensuring system compatibility. Even with the the heatsink rotated, there is still ample room left for large aftermarket CPU heatsinks to be installed.
So how does the NC-U6 perform as a purely passive heatsink? Will it be able to withstand the rigours of testing Australian summer temperatures? Follow me onto the next page to see how it handles the heat.
Noctua NC-U6 Chipset Cooler Page: 4 Test Setup
The test setup chosen for todays review is as follows:
* Intel C2D e6600 * ASUS P5B Deluxe wifi/app * ASUS EN8800 GTS * CoolerMaster 830 Stacker
Prior to receiving the Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler, I was running the Forcetake Jin Teng active cooler on my Northbridge. The Jin Teng had proven to be an extremely efficient cooler, always keeping my Northbridge temperatures to around the 38 deg C mark. But, bearing in mind it does use a small 40 mm fan to assist with airflow.
In order to keep testing results valid and fair I shall compare the two coolers, but, the Jin Teng loses its active cooling capacity. I have also chosen to not include the standard P5B Deluxe heatpipe cooling solution in the testing as it cools both the Northbridge and VRM's around the Intel 775 socket.
Testing will be conducted entirely from within the case and no additional fans are included, with the exception of what is already inside the case. Idle temperatures will be measured 30 mins after the PC has been switched on, and I will be using Stanford's Folding at Home (F@H) client to simulate load temperatures. Three runs will be taken for each chipset cooler and an average taken. Both coolers have been installed using their respective TIM. The ambient air temperature in the OC3D lab at the time of testing is 31 deg Celcius.
All I can say is wow! The results are very impressive and in the favour of the Noctua NC-U6 cooler.
The results get even more interesting when I took the liberty of positioning an 80 mm fan, situated around 150 mm away so that the chipset coolers received additional airflow.
Whilst my CoolerMaster Stacker is a great case as far as maximising positive case ventilation, credit needs to be given to Noctua on producing such a fine performing product. There are several reasons as to why the test reults speaks so clearly in the NC-U6's favour.
* Due to the smaller footprint in both physical size and height of the Jin Teng cooler, the airflow it receives is greatly reduced by the positioning of the ram slots on the P5B motherboard - a problem that the NC-U6 doesn't experience due to its larger and taller stature; * The NC-U6 uses dual heatpipes, but the Jin Teng uses one and a reliance on an active cooling fan, and * The NC-U6's ability to be manipulated up to 120 degrees ensures that it can utilise whatever available air movement comes from within the case. Although the Jin Teng cooler is manoeuverable to some degree, its fiddly installation hardware and reduced range of movement certainly detracted from it's efficiency.
Let's move onto the conclusion page so we can see how the NC-U6 performed as a whole... And whether it's worth your outlay of cash.
Noctua NC-U6 Chipset Cooler Page: 5 Conclusion
Whichever way you look at the Noctua NC-U6, there's not a lot to detract from its performance as a whole. Exceptional build quality, platform compatibility and proven performance all make the NC-U6 a worthy contender for your hard earned cash. Whilst I would ordinarily suggest that a passive heatsink would remain within the domain of the HTPC or silent PC enthusiast, its performance in the OC3D Labs has earnt it a recommendation for overclockers as well.
The Noctua NC-U6 is available for around £17.03 Inc VAT from Scan.co.uk. The NC-U6 can be purchased in the US for around USD$27.90 via Noctua's official distribution partners.
The Noctua NC-U6 is comparitively priced to similar products on the market, which will make it extremely competitive
I was so impressed by the NC-U6 and its performance that I'm going to award it the 'Editors Choice award' award. Well done Noctua on an outstanding product.
Pros + Excellent build quality + Great looks + Value for money + Proven performance + Appealing to the silent cooling connoisseurs
Cons - TIM quality could be better - Mounting holes/clips for an optional fan would complete the product.
OC3D would like to extend a thank you to Noctua for providing us with the NC-U6.
Right to reply
After passing this review onto Noctua for perusal before going live, they were very swift to reply about the thermal paste issue that I had aluded to at the beginning of the review. Here is what Noctua had to say:
The only thing I'd like to comment on is the issue with the thermal paste. We haven't had any similar cases yet, but I'll advise the colleagues from the quality control to check on this."
It's great to see Noctua standing by their product, even on something as simple as thermal paste.