The Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler

Noctua designed the NH-U12A to be a high performance CPU cooler, yet not too large or too expensive. The use of 120 mm fans allows the NH-U12A to be compatible with more cases and a bit easier to install as well, while it also reduces the manufacturing cost of the cooler a little. Overall, the NH-U12A is compatible with most of the motherboards and processors released in the past several years, including LGA 2011 and LGA 2066 processors. The only processor socket of note that it's not compatible with is AMD's socket TR4 for Threadripper processors; these large processors require a matching larger base, and Noctua has the NH-U12S TR4-SP3 specifically for that processor.

Physically, the NH-U12A is relatively simple. It is a single tower cooler, with the array of fins floating above a small base and relying on heatpipes to transfer the thermal energy away from that base and to the main body of the cooler. Despite the 120 mm fan size, the NH-U12A is not exactly compact – it is short enough to fit inside the majority of ATX-compliant cases, but the fin array is thick and the presence of two 120 mm fans makes the cooler even wider. Even though Noctua made sure that the NH-U12A will stay clear of the PCI Express slots, the cooler will cover a significant portion of the motherboard and is very likely to hang over the RAM slots on many boards, limiting RAM height on these slots to 42 mm.

Noctua claims that the NH-U12A brings 140 mm cooler performance in 120 mm size. We can see why, as the array of fins is significantly wider than that of the NH-U12S, a cooler that the company introduced as a top-tier 120 mm cooler and even made a Threadripper-specific version of it. Aside from the wider array of fins, the cooler has seven heatpipes, accelerating heat transfer even further. The heatpipes are made of copper but are nickel-plated. The joints are all soldered, ensuring maximum thermal transfer and mechanical cohesion.

Due to the dense fin array, Noctua’s engineers had to optimize air pressure and went with two fans instead of one. The fans used are the company’s own 120mm NF-A12x25 fans, which combine airflow with good air pressure, making them ideal for fan speed controlled CPU coolers. Still, it appears that the very dense array of fins on the NH-U12A forced the designers to use two fans in order to maintain viable airflow levels, at least when the speed of the fans is low.

The base of the cooler that makes contact with the processor is split into two parts. The bottom half of the base is made out of nickel-plated copper, maximizing the heat transfer rate from the CPU to the heatpipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The top half serves only as a mechanical support and is made out of aluminum, while the mounting bracket is nickel-plated steel.

Introduction, Packaging & Bundle Testing Methodology
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  • Qasar - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    for $100 bucks more then the NH-D15, i would hope so, or it would be a rip off ;-) Reply
  • FreckledTrout - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Yeah this did remind me of my old Thermalright TRUE 120. I have it in a friends computer running an old 2600K I donated. That cooler is/was very nice. Reply
  • mjz_5 - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Would love to see how this compares to the stock Ryzen coolers Reply
  • keyserr - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the review. I'm becoming one of 'those' people that likes silence in their PC. I was waiting for this fan to come out and build a system around it! However, I have since read that the NH-D15 / NH-D15S is quieter and this review suggests that since it performs well at low rpm. Lower rpm than than the NH-U12A. I might also wait for the fanless monster.. for a mITX beast system :) Reply
  • Hyper72 - Saturday, July 20, 2019 - link

    I'm with you there. I like my computer out of hearing and sight so it's great to see a nice review! Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Just love that fake limb plastic colour. Reply
  • Ashinjuka - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    While this is interesting and I understand why AnandTech would review it, similar to feelings expressed towards the extreme high end PSUs and folks asking for more realistic and everyday reviews to compare to, I'd love to see you folks do a round-up of some of the middle and lower end 3rd-party CPU coolers that are out there.

    My last few "utility" builds have used PCCOOLER Corona GI-X2B's and... they're fine. They're really fine. Basically silent under normal use. One 120mm fan with a LED ring, 2 heat pipes, rated for up to 105 TDP, for $15.

    Sure, I wouldn't try to do any major overclocking with that but I suspect that for the 99%, these cheaper, less halo-premium CPU coolers are perfectly adequate and still way better than, for instance, stock Intel.
    Reply
  • webdoctors - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    +1

    Really wish it was compared to regular budget coolers like the 212 in the graph.

    At $100 its hitting the AIO water cooler heatsinks.

    I see at newegg the CoolerMaster 212 is $35 with free shipping,

    Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED with PWM Fan, Four Direct Contact Heatpipes, Unique Fan Blade Design, Red LEDs, Optimized Bracket

    I'd love to know how this compares to that, its sort of the benchmark (pardon the pun) comparison point since its been used for ~10 yrs and on a multitude of platforms.

    Using the stock AMD Wraith cooler, and putting that $100 into a better CPU would be much better, you'd get a substantial upgrade in CPU performance.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    But they did compare it to the 212 in the thermal resistance vs sound pressure level graph.

    The difference is stark.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    " At $100 its hitting the AIO water cooler heatsinks." maybe.. but how well would those AIO's cool compared to this one ? here. AIOs start at $65 cdn, but i doubt they would cool as well as this would.. i bought an NH-D15 for my 5930k, and at full speed.. my case fans are louder, and it keeps the cpu pretty cool even overclocked.. i liked the NH-D15 so much.. i grabbed one each for all of my comps, Phenom 2, an AMD FX, and my 2 X58 based cpus. Reply

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