Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 review

Overall Score

"It’s not a tumor!"… Arnold Schwarzenneger is famous for a lot of things.  He is a body building icon, a movie star and most recently the Governor of California.  You might also know that he was born and raised in Austria.  What you might not know is that Austria is also home to Noctua. 

[img]noctua_logo_b500px.jpg[/img]

Noctua originates from Athene Noctua, or little owl, and is the symbol of the Greek Goddess, Athene (uh THEE nee).  She is the virgin goddess of intellect and wisdom.  Much like an owls silent yet effective hunting skills, Noctua models its products to be silent and effective.  In partnership with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology, and comprised of the Austrian Rascom Computer distribution Ges.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation, Noctua’s products go through rigorous testing and simulation to provide silent but enthusiast-worthy cooling solutions.

If you have never heard of Noctua or seen the products they offer, we think you need to check them out.  You can visit their homepage here.  Noctua products can easily be distinguised from others by the color scheme of their fans.  A beige shroud and sort of reddish brown fan provide a very earthy and welcoming sight.  Color is a very personal choice when it comes to your desktop computer, but the performance of the fans provided by Noctua speak for themselves. 

In this review we will show you how the Noctua NH-U12P compares to the recently reviewed Cooler Master V10, V8 and TRUE 120.  The Cooler Master V10 review can be found here.  To start off, we will take an up close and personal look at the NH-U12P.

Marketing is an important aspect of any product.  How a company showcases its products usually has an impact on how the product does in the marketplace.  Packaging is essential in most cases, but sometimes a product speaks for itself.  Take PC Power and Coolings 1kw SR.  That power supply ships in a gigantic white box that doubles as product packaging.  The outside of the box for the 1kw SR is very bare except for the company name, PSU that’s in the box and some specifications.  Then you have motherboard packaging such as that of ASUS’ Rampage II Extreme.  The box is colorful, full of information about the product and a definite eye grabber.  In either case the products speak for themselves yet the packaging works for both, as well. 

Noctua sits rather in the middle of both extremes.  The packaging for the NH-U12P is neither excessive nor bare.  It provides you with all you would need to know about the air cooler inside.

[timg]front_box.jpg[/timg] [timg]back_box.jpg[/timg]

Protecting the cooler inside the main packaging is sometimes overlooked by manufacturers.  Noctua makes sure nothing will happen to the NH-U12P while in transit to its destination. 

[timg]box_open.jpg[/timg]

Sometimes the most exciting part of a product, besides the product itself, is the accessories.  Air coolers usually do not have extravagent accessories.  Noctua provides the necessary parts to get your NH-U12P attached to your X58 motherboad.  Along with the heatsink you get two fans with a range of 900-1300rpm.  Noise range is 12.6-19.8dBA from lowest to highest fan speeds.  The Noctua NF-12 fans that are included with the NH-U12P run in three modes: 

  1. normal operation which yields 54.3CFM
  2. L.N.A. – Low Noise Adapter which pushes out 46.2CFM
  3. U.L.N.A. – Ultra Low Noise Adapter which pushes out a mere 37.3CFM

[timg]accessories.jpg[/timg] [timg]fan_1.jpg[/timg]

Out of the box and all alone, the NH-U12P looks like a typical heatsink.  Four heatpipes on each side help cool the processor.  The base and heatpipes are made of copper with a nickel plating.  The fins are made of aluminum. 

 [timg]heatsink.jpg[/timg]

 Nickel plating looks very sleek and stylish, but is also a personal choice.  There are a total of four heat pipes which run from one side of the heatsink to the other.  Here you get an up close view of the base of the heatsink and the heat pipes:

[timg]heatsink_bottom2.jpg[/timg]   [timg]heatsink_bottom_side.jpg[/timg]

In our first test we used a single fan.  Once mounted, you can begin mounting the hardware on the motherboard and the heatsink base.  Noctua uses a stylish mounting mechanism.

[timg]heatsink_withfan.jpg[/timg] [timg]mounting on heatsink_1.jpg[/timg]

[timg]mounting on board_1.jpg[/timg] [timg]mounting on board_1.jpg[/timg]

Once the mounting hardware is on the motherboard and the heatsink, installation is easy.  The mounting hardware on the heatsink screws into the motherboard socket mounting hardware.  You can see the fan and heatsink installed and also the dual fan setup which is configured in a push-pull configuration.

[timg]heatsink_mounted.jpg[/timg] [timg]heatsink_mounted_dual fans.jpg[/timg]

Our up close and personal look at the Noctua NH-U12P is complete.  On the next page we take a look at the test setup we are using in this review.

 

 

 

[img]heatsink_mounted_2.jpg[/img]

To test the Cooler Master V10 we housed it in a Cooler Master ATCS case which was equipped with the following setup:

  • Gigabyte EX58-Extreme Motherboard
  • PC Power and Cooling 1kw Power Supply
  • EVGA GTX 280 GPU
  • 6GB OCZ DDR3 1600 RAM with 7-7-7-21 timings
  • Intel Core i7 Extreme 965
  • G.Skill Titan 128GB SSD
  • Ceramique TIM was used for each test run, in lieu of TIM provided by the manufacturer

The ambient room temperature was kept at 20C throughout all tests.  We used Windows Vista Ultimate x64 as the OS and Prime95 to stress the CPU.  Prime95 was run for 30 minutes at each setting to properly heat the CPU and obtain a maximum load temp.  Idle temps were taken with the system sitting idle for at least 15 minutes.  Temperatures were measured using Real Temp v2.70.

Each cooler used in this review was setup directly out of the box.  In other words, no modifications were done to the coolers such as adding stronger fans.  The only item not used directly out of the box is the TIM used for our testing.  We chose to be consistent in all tests in order to eliminate any advantages or disadvantages offered by the thermal interface material provided by the manufacturer of each air cooler.  In addition to the Noctua NH-U12P we are also testing the Cooler Master V10 and V8 along with the TRUE 120.

The TRUE most commonly comes with no fan.  Thermalright does offer a complete TRUE 120 kit.  Our particular unit can be found here for $74.95.  The factory fan that comes with the TRUE 120 is rated at 63.7CFM @ 1600RPM and 28dBA.  Our reasoning behind the out of the box review is simple.  Most consumers looking to purchase a CPU cooler want a solution that is easy to use and "ready to run" out of the box with little to no assembly.  Our hardcore enthusiasts will not be left out, however, because we are working on an ultimate performance review of today’s best coolers.

With the test setup and our testing method out of the way, we finish up with the results and conclusion.

Before we get into the test results we would like to reiterate our testing method.  Each air cooler in this review was used as is from the manufacturer with the exception of the thermal interface material.  Results from our testing are obtained from a controlled environment and the results of individuals may differ slightly.  Our testing in this review is used to determine how an air cooler performs in comparison to other air coolers under identical testing conditions.  As mentioned in our Cooler Master V10 review, we are in the process of putting together an extreme air cooler review for enthusiasts and the like.

The first test results we are looking at is performance at stock CPU settings.

[timg]3.2GHz Idle.jpg[/timg] [timg]3.2GHz Load.jpg[/timg]

At idle, the Noctua NH-U12P runs relatively warmer than the other three air coolers in this review.  Dual fans yields the same results as a single fan at idle CPU speeds.  The reason the NH-U12P sits 7-8C warmer than the competition is because of the L.N.A. and U.L.N.A. (Low Noise Adapter and Ultra Low Noise Adapter) settings at which the fan operates when the CPU is idle or under little load.

As you can see from the load testing at stock CPU settings, the fans on the Noctua NH-U12P operate under normal operation mode.  This allows the full potential of the Noctua air cooler to be realized.  With a single fan, the NH-U12P is able to hold its own against the V8 and TRUE 120.  When the second fan is added (please note that the second fan is included in retail packaging) performance is increased and the NH-U12P outperforms all except the hybrid cooler from Cooler Master, the V10.

The second, and last, result we will be looking at is performance at a CPU setting of 4GHz.

[timg]4GHz Idle.jpg[/timg] [timg]4GHz Load.jpg[/timg]

Looking at the results while the CPU is under idle and load conditions at 4GHz, we see the same situation repeat itself.  At idle and with a single fan the NH-U12P actually sits about even with the TRUE 120 due to the fact that the fans are now operating at a higher RPM.  With dual fans on the NH-U12P is on par with the TRUE 120.  The V8 and V10 from Cooler Master outshine both the TRUE and NH-U12P in our testing.

What are the advantages to the NH-U12P?  With a price tag of $84.99 from Newegg, you get two ultra quiet high performance fans.  It is noteable that the fans on the NH-U12P are so quiet under idle and load settings, that we could hear the traffic outside.  Even at 4GHz, the fans were whisper quiet.  If you are looking for a super quiet solution for an HTPC or a low noise desktop, the NH-U12P can not be beat (that is with no tweaking or modding). 

The only disadvantages this cooler has comes as a personal choice from the consumer.  Some may not like the color of the fans included with the NH-U12P and others may find the price a bit out of their range.  Other than that, Noctua has an excellent product in the NH-U12P.  Xtreme CPU highly recommends this air cooler to those looking for ultra quiet performance at an enthusiast level.

Remember, there is more to Austria than Arnold Schwarzenneger!  Noctua is a fine representative of stylish design and engineering.  So, the next time you are asked what you know about Austria, you’ll have more than just a body building movie star governor as an answer.

Xtreme CPU would like to thank Noctua for providing the NH-U12P and Cooler Master for the ATCS case and V8/ V10 coolers.

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