Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Page: 1
Introduction
 
Until recently, the Austrian cooling company Noctua were a name most were not familiar with. In past months, however, with the addition of the market topping NF-P12 fan and the outstanding NH-U12P CPU cooler (which received our Best In Class award) to their already solid line of products, Noctua have earned a much deserved spot at the top of the enthusiast's shopping list.
 
For those who are still not familiar with the company, there is a large amount of information about their background on their About Noctua page. For those who don't fancy a lengthy read, an idea of the company's background can be gleaned from the extract:
 
 
 
 
Noctua arises from a cooperation between the Austrian Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation and entertains a development partnership with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology (Österreichisches Institut für Wärmeübertragung und Ventilatorentechnik, ÖIWV). These connections form the key to the achievement of our goal: The partnership with the ÖIWV permits the application of scientific measurement instrumentation, methods of calculation and simulation technology in the R&D process. Rascom's long, customer-oriented experience in developing and distributing sound-optimised high-end products ensures a clear focus on the users' needs. The use of Kolink's advanced manufacturing technology and ultra-modern production plants allows us to efficiently implement our technical edge and provide solutions of the highest standard in quality and performance.
 
As you can see, the company has an impressive pool of experience and knowledge from which they can draw to aid them in their goals of creating the highest quality cooling solutions. With the results seen in reviews we have carried out of previous Noctua products, it's almost hard to believe that improvements can be made. Luckily for us, however, Noctua clearly do not share this view and have produced their new CPU cooling solution, the NH-C12P. The new cooler utilizes a fairly low profile copper and aluminium heatsink with 6 heat pipes and one of Noctua's NF-P12 120mm fans. So on paper, things are definitely promising.
 
 
Packaging
 
The packaging of Noctua products previously seen here at Overclock3D has not failed to impress. All the packaging has been more than sturdy and there has never been any question in the level of protection it has offered. Thankfully the NH-C12P packaging has followed suit.
 
Packaging Front  Packaging Back
 
 Using the same brown colour scheme and style box as the previous NH-U12P we've seen, the box conveys a massive amount of information about the cooler inside. Each visible surface carries either a diagram or specifications of both the heatsink and the fan.
 
Packaging Top  Packaging Side
 
Once inside the packaging, it is clear the same level of attention has been paid to the internals of the box. The cardboard casing of the actual cooler provides a more than adequate level of protection for the heatsink and fan.
 
Packaging Insides
 
 Inside the separate little box you can see to the left, Noctua have packed everything you will need to mount your new cooler:
 
Package Contents
 
As you can see, the package contains both LGA775 and AM2 mounting systems, a packet containing retention springs, sound dampers, fan brackets, low noise adapters and a tube of Noctua's own NT-H1 thermal paste. Along with this, users are provided with one of the best illustrated and clearly worded instruction manuals I've seen.


Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Page: 2
Specifications
 
As this is a new product, the specifications have been taken off the packaging. The specifications provided for the fan are solely for full voltage operation. For specifications of the fan while running the different low noise adapters you can refer to the full fan review.
 
 
Heatsink Specifications
 
Dimensions ( H x W x L )
91 x 152 x 126 mm
Weight
550g
Material
Copper / Aluminium
Fan Compatibility
1 x  120 mm
Socket Compatibility
LGA775, AM2, AM2+
 
Fan Specifications
 
Model
NF-P12
Bearing
SSO-Bearing
Rotational Speed
1300 RPM
Airflow
92.3 m3/h
Acoustical Noise
19.8 dB(A)
Input Power
1.08 W
MTBF
>150000 h
 
 
The Cooler
 
Usually the first thing you notice when you get your hands on a big piece of metal like a heatisnk is the weight (or lack of it). Unusually, in this case, the first thing that struck me when the cooler emerged from its boxing was the quality of its construction and lack of flex in any of the fins. Every joint, solder and tube end is completely flawless, all of which most likely contributes to the also very apparent sturdiness and unity of the whole construction.
 
Heatsink & Fan  Heatsink
 
All 6 heatpipes enter the same side of the base and travel fully through it before being pressed shut. The joints between the fins and the pipes is direct and very cleanly soldered. One thing I also noticed was the use of bracing bars traveling through the width of the heatsink, improving its strength and solidity.
 
Heatpipe Ends  Base Heatpipe Ends
 
Size wise, the heatsink has a pretty large footprint (towards the top) but is not particularly tall, which would make it a perfect candidate for desktop and HTPC systems, both passively and actively cooled.  With the fan attached the whole cooler does become a bit more substantial and was actually slightly troublesome to install due to the size of other components in the computer, but we will discuss that later.
 
Heatsink  Heatsink Underside
 
The fitting of the fan needs to be left until after the fitting of the heatsink within the case, but for illustrative purposes I have fitted it here.
 
Cooler with fan
 
The base of the cooler, while not bare copper, is extremely well polished and when tested with glass and a drop of water, looks to be very flat.
 
Base
 


Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Page: 3
Test Setup
 
For the testing of the Noctua NH-C12P the following test setup was used:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E4300
Motherboard: Abit IN9 32X Max
RAM: 4GB Corsair XMS2 DHX PC2-6400
 
The room temperature throughout testing remained at 10 degrees Celsius, all of the testing was done on a test bed with no additional airflow being directed at the heatsink. The room temperature was measured approximately 6 inches in front of the pull side of the fan.
 
For thermal interface paste, the provided NT-H1 was used. This thermal paste does not require a burn in time or numerous cycles to reach maximum effectiveness but nonetheless was given several cycles of 30 minutes to ensure good distribution of the paste. The paste was cleaned off fully after each cooler and replaced. To log CPU temperatures, the latest release of Abit uGuru was used. Usually we would opt for an application such as CoreTemp for this task but due to compatibility issues with the CPU used, another program needed to be used. uGuru was found to be most accurate with the use of a temperature probe. For the duration of the testing the fan was connected to a 12v molex with a 3pin adapter, voltages on the same rail were monitored via multimeter to ensure the fan was receiving full power at all times.
 
The CPU was tested at idle and at load for both stock speeds and voltage (200 x 9 (1.8 GHz) @ 1.325v), then tested with an overclock of 325 x 9 ( 2.93 GHz) @ 1.505v to gain a good idea of the capability of the cooler. For idle temperatures the computer was left with just uGuru running for 30 minutes then 5 measurements taken at 5-minute intervals to provide an average. For the load temperatures I ran an instance of Prime95 with in-place large FFT's for maximum heat and power consumption, as well as an instance of Folding@Home set to take up any spare cycles of the CPU. The same measurement system was used for taking the load results.
 
For comparison we will be using the stock Intel LGA775 cooler and a  NH-U12P, kindly supplied for testing by Specialtech. In previous testing the NH-U12P surpassed the performance of several widely used HSF coolers. Therefore if the NH-C12P succeeds in undercutting the NH-U12P temperatures we can draw a fairly finite conclusion.
 
 
Installation
 
The NH-C12P is packaged with both an LGA775 mounting system and an AMD AM2 mounting system. For this review we will only be able to test the 775 mounting system.
 
LGA775 Mounting System  LGA775 Backplate
 
As you can see the backplate is nicely made and well padded / insulated. Unlike the previous Noctua heatsink backplate, there is no adhesive applied to the foam. The parts which constitute the mounting system are equally well formed and should fit together without any hassle. The AM2 mounting system is much of the same.
 
AM2 Mounting System
 
The installation process itself is fairly simple and with the use of the fantastic installation manual should provide no stress for the user. To fit the cooler, first you must fit two bolt on plates to the base of the heatsink, extending the width outwards.
 
Base Attachment   Base Attachments
 
Once the two plates are attached, the LGA775 backplate is placed behind the socket and the two feet screwed through into it.
 
Cooler Feet 
 
Then it is a simple case of placing the cooler on the feet and using the two screw down springs provided to add pressure. As you can see the IN9 32X motherboard has a particularly large NB heatsink. This, coupled with the large heatsinks on the XMS2 DHX ram modules used, limited the fitting of the cooler to one position.. Were they both of average size I am fairly certain there would be no restrictions to mounting direction whatsoever. Not that it will make much difference.
 
Fitting Springs
 
Once the cooler is in place and secured properly the user can fit the sticky backed vibration dampers (seen above) and clip on the fan using the sprung steel bars provided. The NH-C12P will take one 120mm fan, whereas the NH-U12P will in fact take two in a push / pull configuration. Hopefully the slightly higher fin distribution density seen on the NH-C12P will keep the cooler on par with just the one fan.
 
Fan Fitting 
 
Overall the installation was without any significant difficulty and provided a perfectly stable mounting. When the cooler was later removed, the distribution of the thermal paste indicated a good level of even pressure. On the downside however, the installation does require the removal of the motherboard. While this is not a problem for a lot of people, those with more cramped cases and fastidious cable tidying  may find it a huge inconvenience.
 


Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Page: 4
Test Results
 
For comparison, the temperatures obtained are displayed alongside those of the two other coolers, as well as results for the NH-U12P with two NF-P12 120mm fans fitted.
 
Stock speed results
 
Overclocked results
 
Testing with the NH-U12P with the use of two NF-P12 fans in a push / pull configuration yielded a drop of two degrees at idle and three degrees at load (overclocked). Minor gains were had with stock speed testing but nothing worth adding to the graph.
 
With a constant ambient temperature in the room of 10oC, it is clear to see the results from the NH-C12P are fairly impressive for a cooler of its size, undercutting the Intel cooler by 20oC when overclocked. While the cooler has failed to surpass the performance of the NH-U12P in this instance, it has been reported that performance levels seen in current testing fluctuates from system to system, with the NH-C12P performing better in some instances.
 
As we have seen previously, the NF-P12 fans are pretty damn amazing and in a heatsink-fan situation this is no different. Not only does the fan produce a very good amount of airflow, it's also incredibly quiet, even when ramped up to its top speed. On putting one of the voltage fan extension cables provided in the equation, you quite simply could not hear any noise from the cooler.


Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Page: 5
Conclusion

Overall I am more impressed with the Noctua cooler than I had expected. When I received the cooler I was fully aware of the performance levels achieved with previous Noctua products that have passed through Overclock3D. In the back of my head I feared that the industry may be reaching the limits of what is possible with basic air cooled heatsinks. In some way this may still be true, but in this case development has been made not in reducing temperatures further, but reducing the size of the heatsink needed to get top end performance.

On the whole, the heatsink is everything it needs to be. Well built, good looking, performs well and mounts securely. Obviously, however, there is a limit to what a heatsink can do without the right airflow. It is lucky then that the heatsink comes packaged with such a fantastic fan. As seen in separate reviews, the NF-P12 fan delivers outstanding airflow for such low operating noise, and does so with great levels of static pressure - making it perfect for application in this situation.
 
Now for the painful part. The price. We are informed that when the cooler hits the market, prospective buyers will be looking at shelling out around 45-50 GBP in order to obtain one. Whether the coolers ability to fit in HTPC cases while maintaining near the performance of the tall NH-U12P justifies this, I shall leave up to you. I have always maintained that something is only worth what someone will pay for it and I expect people will indeed pay the large amount for it. Although it's certainly not for everyone.

Installation of the cooler was slightly fiddly, but by no means a hardship. The removal of the motherboard, while an inconvenience, has to be taken as a necessary step to provide a quality, high pressure mounting with the use of a backplate. So if you're buying for a new build or plain don't mind the extra work and you have very deep pockets, the NH-C12P is definitely a top contender.

The Good
- Fantastic build quality
- Brilliant performance
- Comes with fantastic NF-P12 fan
- Effective mounting system
- Very clear and well illustrated instruction booklet
- Low profile for a cooler of this performance

The Mediocre
- Involved removing the motherboard for installation

The Bad

- The price

Recommended Award
 
A big thank you to Noctua for providing the NH-C12P. The cooler will be available for purchase in the UK imminently, details of which will be added as soon as possible.
 
As usual feel free to pop into the forums to discuss