Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler Page: 1
Introduction

Noctua are  an Austrian cooling company fast gaining a good reputation in the world of cooling. We've taken a look at several of their  products and haven't failed to be impressed yet.

A little about the company:

Noctua aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance "Designed in Austria" through paying attention to the users' needs in a market burdened with all kinds of frills and furbelows and providing sound-optimised premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.

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.

Today we have their latest CPU cooler, the snappily titled NH-U12P. With an array of heatpipes and a clean look, we're hoping it matches their other offerings. Without further ado...

Packaging

The packaging on the NH-U12P is the usual Noctua blue and brown and it looks professional, though not exciting. To my tastes though, this makes it all the more attractive. There is a small window in the packaging that shows the fan with the heatsink (as reviewed here ).

noctua nh-u12p box

noctua nh-u12p rear box

The inside of the box shows us that the same amount of thought and professionalism that went into the outside.
 
box inside

The bigger box contains the fan and heatsink, with the smaller of the two boxes containing the accoutrement that comes with the fansink.

Package

The package to the Noctua NF-U12P has everything that you would ever need to use the heatsink. I'll list the basics:

* Noctua NF-P12 high-flow fan
* 4 x Fan vibration dampeners (commonly known as rubber sticky strips)
* 4 x Fan clips (for 2 x 120mm fans)
* Socket 775 mounting kit
* Socket AM2/939 mounting kit
* Noctua NT-H1 high performance thermal interface material
* 1 x 7v fan resister
* 1 x 5v fan resister
* Install manual for all the above
 
noctua package

If there's anything else you need with a cooler, then I don't know what it should be. Noctua have done a very good job with this lot and have even given you a good amount of TIM to work with.

Specification

 
From Noctua, may be subject to change. 
 
Socket compatibility: Intel Socket LGA 775, AMD AM2 & AM2+, Intel Xeon
on request
Height (without fan): 158 mm
Width (without fan): 126 mm
Depth (without fan): 71 mm
Height (with fan): 158 mm
Width (with fan): 126 mm
Depth (with fan): 95 mm
Weight (without fan): 600 g
Weight (with fan): 770 g
Material: Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins),
soldered joints
Application: Intel all frequencies, AMD all frequencies
Fan compatibility: 120x120x25mm / 120x120x38mm (2 fans can be installed)
Scope of Delivery: NF-P12 premium fan, Mounting-clips for 2 fans,
Ultra-Low-Noise-Adaptor (U.L.N.A.), NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound,
SecuFirm™ mounting kits for LGA & AM2(+)
Warranty: 6 Years

Fan specifications:
Model: Noctua NF-P12
Bearing: SSO-Bearing
Blade geometry: Nine Blade Design with Vortex-Control Notches
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%): 1300 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A. (+/- 10%): 900 RPM
Airflow: 92,3 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A.: 63,4 m³/h
Acoustical Noise: 19,8 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A.: 12,6 dB(A)
Input Power: 1,08W W
Voltage Range: 12V V
MTBF: > 150.000 h
 


Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler Page: 2
Noctua NH-U12P CPU cooler - Close up

On closer inspection, the Noctua NH-U12P is a very well made bit of kit. Constructed in Aluminium with an nickel coated base, the heatsink is a little more compact than the Scythe Infinity we have also previously looked at. The heatpipes are connected to the base in sets of 4 and loop up though the fins in that way.

noctua NH-U12p

noctua NH-U12P hsf

The advantage that the HN-U12P has over some of the competition is that it's side-on profile is relatively narrow. This means that you might be able to squeeze it into a setup which has varying levels of clearance around the periphery of the CPU socket. With some coolers this can be an issue because the profile/size of the cooler is standard regardless of the orientation of the cooler.
 
heatpipes

nh-u12p heatpipes and base

As you can see, the whole thing is very well constructed and looks very solidly built. The fact that it's all silver is also a bonus in the looks stakes.
 
nh-u12p top

The top is stamped with a Noctua logo which is a nice touch.
 
NH-u12p bottom finish


The base is, as you can see, very reflective with no discernible machining marks on it. It's very flat and I made sure of this by testing with a flat piece of glass and a drop or two of water.

Onto testing setup...


Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler Page: 3
Test Setup

The following Test Setup and Method was used:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: XFX 650i Ultra
RAM: 2gb Mushkin XP2-6400 4-4-4-12

HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
Power: Zippy 500w
Case: A+ Case Monolize
Graphics Card: Sapphire X1600Pro with Arctic Cooling Accelero S2

OS: Windows Windows Vista

The ambient temperature during testing of the Noctua heatsink was 24.1°C room temperature and the system temperature was 30°C.

Artic Silver 5 was applied onto both of the heatsinks to give as fair a comparison as possible. Please note that as AS5 "cures" (about 200hours and at least 2 cycles), the temps are likely to drop 1-3°C. Due to time constraints neither cooler had this luxury, and this was a fair comparison.

For the testing I had the E6700 clocked both at stock settings of 266 x 10 (2.66GHz) @ 1.3v and 330 x 10 (3.3GHz) @ a fairly high 1.45v to really push the coolers.

Temperatures were logged using CoreTemp monitoring software. Temperatures were checked with a thermal probe and found to be fairly accurate.

For idle temperatures I left the PC for 30mins then recorded the idle temperature every 10 seconds for 5 minutes, making sure I did not use any program that was not already running at windows startup.

For the load temperatures I ran an instance of prime 95 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. Once again I left this for 30mins then recorded the temperatures over a 5 minute period.

For comparison I used Intels stock cooler, the Scythe Infinity , Asus's Triton Cooler and Akasa's Revo. Note that for the testing with the Asus Triton 75 testing with a fan I used the same fan as on the Scythe Infiniy for parity and fairness.


Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler Page: 4
Installation

Installation is slightly trickier on the Noctua NH-U12P than it was on the Akasa Revo.

noctua NH-U12P installation
 
Ignoring the horrible amount of TIM on and around the CPU that I cleaned off just after I took this picture, the Noctua requires you install a backplate on the motherboard and these two retention clips on the motherboard top.
 
noctua nh=-u12p mounting

After this is complete you have to install two plates onto the cooler itself which act as retention plates for the two screws (one either side) to grip onto. Whilst the most fiddly bit of this is installing the backplate onto the motherboard, the whole thing took no longer than 20mins (including taking out the motherboard again as it's a bit of a tight fit to fit a fan in the A+ I was using.
 
noctua nh-u12p installed 2
 
installed 3

As you can see, the fixing is very good and feels very solid. Certainly this is a better solution for retention than the standard 4 clips on socket 775. On the negative side, you have to put up with a slightly fiddly install, including taking out the motherboard if you're replacing another cooler.

Let's see what results we get.


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Test Results

The test results were as follows. Note that these are all performed under identical circumstances on the exact same test setup.

test results graph

As you can no doubt see, the Noctua does the best that we've had on our test setup at stock speeds. There was a slightly lower temperature in the room at the time of testing the Noctua (0.9°C cooler than the others), but even factoring this in the Noctua is the clear winner.

overclocked test results

Here again the Noctua NH-U12P did extremely well, beating the other coolers at idle by 5°C, 4°C factoring in the change in room temperature. At load the three top performers closed in a bit, but the Noctua was still a 1°C ahead (again factoring in the 0.9°C temperature difference). That's pretty darn good results from Noctua.

Noise

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 also is incredibly quiet, even when ramped up to it's top speed. On putting on one of the voltage fan extension cables provided, you quite simply could not hear any noise from the cooler.


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Conclusion

The Noctua NH-U12P performs very well, even against some of the top-rated heatsinks on the market. When I pulled the cooler out of the box I was initially impressed with build quality and then once it was in use I was highly impressed with it's cooling ability, as well as the performance of the excellent NF-P12 fans. Add in the fact that Noctua include some top-end thermal paste and we're onto a winner.

There are two slight down points to the cooler. Installation isn't particularly an easy affair with a bit of fiddling involved and taking out your motherboard can be a bit of a pain. The price is fairly high at an RRP of £41 although this does include and incredible bundle and a simply awesome fan and isn't really too much more than the other coolers out there. Noctua said that the heatsink will be available at their UK Distributer www.quietpc.co.uk and that the street price may be slightly lower at some other e-tailers.

Would I recommend the Noctua NH-U12P? If you don't mind a slighty fiddly installation then undoubtedly: yes.

For an excellent performance and an almost silent noise output, the Noctua NH-U12P gets a "Best in Class" Award.

best in class

The Good

+ Very quiet
+ Very well built
+ Great performance
+ Good looking
+ Excellent bundle

The Mediocre

* Slightly fiddly installation
* Price

The Bad

- You have to take out your motherboard for installation

Thanks to Noctua for the review sample

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