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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  • Drkrieger01 - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    While the price for the fan is high, so is its performance. The fans used outperform most 140mm fans, and are very quiet. I'd gladly pay the price for the fan considering they have MTBF's far beyond all the fans you see sold to consumers (typical Noctua MTBF on fans are 150k hours, other brands 30-50k). They are best used on radiators for liquid cooling, or dense-fin tower coolers Reply
  • dqniel - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Nidec fans are still the best for pushing air through dense fins. Reply
  • Showtime - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    I have 140mm Phanteks, and I guarantee these 120mm fans don't keep up with them at the similar decibels. They hold their own against my 140mm Noctua's. Those Phanteks cost me between $10, and $15 each so there are plenty of options if you're willing to research.

    Remember kids, it's not night and day. You're paying double for what usually just a few decibels, or degrees from other good coolers/fans.
  • poohbear - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    Yes but they last longer, and the quality is topnotch. My uncle always used to say: "I'm a poor man, so i only buy expensive things". Mind you, he lived long before brand name clothes were as ridiculous as they are now. You get what u pay for. Reply
  • tigz1218 - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    Decibels are a funny thing. Did you know that for about every 10db the perception of loudness doubles? Only a few decibels can make a big difference to what you actually hear. Here is a good article:
  • Death666Angel - Friday, August 2, 2019 - link

    Couple of things on that: The A12-25 is their bread and butter fan that can serve pretty much any purpose inside a case (case fan, heatsink fan, radiator fan). Noctua has cheaper alternatives like the S, F and P series, some of which are available in a redux version with no addons. Normal Noctua fans have screws, anti vibration mounts, a splitter cable, an extension cable and a low noise adapter. I bought two redux NF-P12 1700 PWM fans for 28€ (not on sale). The cheapest option like that from Phanteks would be 30€.
    Another thing: Noctua has a 6 year warranty and if the damages to the item are identified as being genuinely covered under warranty (which unless you bath the fan in liquid is almost always the case) then they rebate the shipping costs. Phanteks website claims 5 year warranty for fans and no rebate for shipping costs.
    And lasty: I have yet to see a Noctua fan die on me. I have most other types of fans die due to some sort of hub or gearing issue (graphics cards, case fans, heatsink fans), even brand names like Silverstone, Noiseblocker, Be Quiet, Asus (which was Delta). So in my experience, depending on the product, the small extra cost upfront is made up with by extra performance, longevity and support. They also once sent me a new mounting kit for the NH-C12P. I probably wouldn't buy the 30€ 120mm fan that is used here, but then I also don't need 2000rpm max and Noctua offers cheaper options on their own.
  • Oliseo - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Imagine, someone has to take a chance on employing you when you finally leave school.
    It's the people who have to work alongside you I feel pity for due to the stupidity of any manager that does.
  • eddieceidde - Saturday, November 7, 2020 - link

    Doubt Reply
  • mariush - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    A RETAIL fan may be $30 but may cost as little as 5-10$ to make. It's mass produced, already have tooling for it, and so on... Reply
  • Foeketijn - Sunday, July 14, 2019 - link

    In most industries, the BOM is about a tenth of the retail price. So probably even less than that 5 dollars. In case of fans, I can imagine the relative BOM even being less.
    A load of R&D goes into the design of the blade. That's it.
    IKEA can sell you a half decent battery powered screwdriver for less.
    The cost of making it, is not really relevant is it?
    Is it worth the money.
    For me a silent computer is very important. So next time I will use a boxed Ryzen.

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