Noctua NH-U12A Air Cooler Review

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It’s our first brush with Noctua, and it seems we have been missing out for a couple of years now. Well, better late than never. Our first hand experience will be at the mercy of the Noctua NH-U12A, and we behold it in its full glory of classy aesthetics and superb cooling performance. Let’s get it on.

Technical Specifications
Noctua NH-U12A
Socket compatibility
Intel LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2066 and AMD AM4, AM3(+), AM2(+), FM1, FM2(+)
Dimensions (without fan)
158 mm x 125 mm x 58 mm
Dimensions (with fan)
158 mm x 125 mm x 112 mm
Weight (with fan)
1220 g
Material
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility
120x120x25
Warranty
Six Years
Inclusions
2x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fan
2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)
4-pin PWM y-cable
SecuFirm2™ mounting system for Intel and AMD
NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Price
$99

PACKAGING


The Noctua NH-U12A arrives in quite a compact box for its actual size. Key features from compatibility to warranty duration are printed on the front of the box, along with other product information slapped around.


DESIGN


The NH-U12A dons Noctua’s signature look – a massive heatsink paired with Noctua’s signature beige and brown color scheme. It looks super classy and a bit industrial, and it looks good in our books. Moving forward, the NH-U12A sports some upgrades from its predecessor. It now comes with a significantly larger heatsink and more heatpipes for improved heat dissipation. The NH-U12A also features two of Noctua’s NF-A12x25 120mm fans.


Furthermore, the NH-U12A’s asymmetrical design also gives it 100% RAM compatibility as it won’t overhang with the RAM slots on both Intel’s LGA115X and AMD AM4 motherboards. For case compatibility, it only measures 158mm tall and 125mm wide with the fan and fan clips included, making sure it steers clear of the top PCIe slot.

INSTALLATION


Noctua’s SecuFirm2’s mounting system isn’t as quite daunting once you finally get to try it for yourself. Installation is quite easy – Noctua even provides a couple of instruction pamphlets for both AMD (AM4) and Intel CPUs (LGA 115X and LGA 20XX) platforms. We’ve done our run on our AMD AM4 motherboard here.


Just to note, installation will be much easier when you’re mounting the heatsink flat since the spacers can fall off when you’re attempting to mount vertically. Once you’re done with the initial setup on securing the mounting bars together with the right spacers, all that’s left is securing the heatsink after adding a drop of thermal paste. Do remember to take the fans off (which you can easily re-attach anyway) in order to securely screw it in with the supplied screw driver. 

PERFORMANCE


The NH-U12A marks the 5th generation of Noctua’s NH-U12 series of 120mm size premium-quality quiet CPU coolers. Noctua claims that it can rival the performance of 140mm size coolers while still offering 120mm class case and PCIe compatibility through its combination of two NF-A12x25 PWM 1200 fans together with a completely redesigned heatsink that features 7 heatpipes and an increased fin surface area to deliver better heat dissipation.

We’re currently testing out stuff on our AM4 platform, and we’ll be testing it out on both our Ryzen 5 1600’s stock and overclocked profiles to see how it fares. For reference, our ambient room temperature is 27°C (±1), with the stock profile at 3.2GHz and OC profile at only 3.8GHz (1.35V). The temperatures were then measured from HWInfo, and then crossed check with Ryzen Master, while the loads are done on AIDA64 Extreme's System Stability Test with CPU, FPU, cache and system memory stressed.

Test System Setup
Motherboard
GIGABYTE AB350-DH3
CPU
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 3.2GHz
GPU
Palit GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
RAM
ZADAK 16GB DDR4
Cooler
Noctua NH-U12A
Storage
Plextor M9Pe(G) NVMe 512GB M.2 SSD + Seagate BarraCuda HDD 4TB + Western Digital Green HDD 2TB
PSU
EVGA 500 BV
Case
Silverstone RL06
OS
Windows 10 Pro N
Monitor
ViewSonic VX2758 1080p 144Hz Monitor

Temperature



Noise Levels

It's quite hard to standardize our results when it comes to noise levels for cooling solutions. There's plenty of factors to consider that may affect the results such as unpredictable noises in the environment. To test this out, we placed a microphone four inches away from the cooler. Ambient Noise Level is at 27dB



CONCLUSION



Our very first Noctua experience has been wonderful. The NH-U12A cooler definitely delivers remarkable cooling performance considering its size. Noctua's engineering also deserves praise for the NH-U12A's 100% RAM compatibility on LGA 115X and AM4 motherboards, not to mention case and PCIe compatibility. Build quality is super solid, and Noctua's design on the NH-U12A is just something you'd fall in love with. If that's not enough, its full 6-year manufacturer's warranty is the cherry on top. 

But before we end this, Noctua puts a $99 price tag on the NH-U12A. Many would argue that it is a bit steep, especially when you consider the price point Noctua's very own NH-D15, which retails at the same price and even lower on sale, or its predecessor the NH-U12S at way below this price point, the NH-U12A has some serious contenders to deal with for your money. There's a price on engineering after all. 

When all is said and done, we believe the Noctua NH-U12A is well worth the price of admission. There's just plenty to love even with its premium price tag.

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