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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  • AstroGuardian - Monday, July 15, 2019 - link

    Don't even think about using a boxed Ryzn cooler. That BS is crap. Reply
  • Qasar - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    at least a cooler is supplied with a ryzen cpu, and seems its pretty good for a " stock " cooler. intels cpus dont even come with one Reply
  • AshlayW - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    They are not "crap". The Wraith Prism is a fantastic cooler considering its size, and even has RGB. It has quad cooper heatpipes and can handle the 2700X at 4.1 Ghz all core (let alone the 3700X with its lower power use). It is sufficient for running stock 3900X or a very slight all core OC on the 8 core parts. And as someone else said, it's certainly a lot better than the "competition".... which doesn't even include one.

    The Wraith Spire and Stealth are adequate for their respective CPUs, at stock. You don't have to pay a single penny extra to get your system up and running, with the "K" series from Intel,add $30 onto their asking price just to get a cooler.

    Sorry for the long comment, just wanted to combat the misinformation
  • AshlayW - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    copper* , sorry fat fingers Reply
  • Dragonstongue - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    ahem careful there
    "among the best fans" absolutely, best is VERY far stretching IMO
    also, just because they list for $30 per fan ($20 is about highest average usually ~$15 + ship etc)
    that is NOT their cost, take at base price say $15 per =$30 the cooler alone another $30 = $60 they should list at not $100+, why is quite simple actually, when you are producing something that is at best middle ground for 150w coolers it should not be priced above the vast majority of even top end coolers, not when there are so very many options to choose from, even from a "niche"
  • GreenReaper - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    The pound isn't worth what it used to be eight years ago, either:
  • nivedita - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Noctua isn’t an American company Reply
  • logamaniac - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    nor the pound an American currency Reply
  • Dug - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Nice to see a new cooler review. Hopefully more can come down the pipeline and get rid of the old coolers on here that you can't even buy. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the review. Two questions/comments:
    1. You mentioned the Evo212 in some paragraphs and a graph. I also believe that this is a good comparison cooler, as it also addresses price/performance. And, while the Noctua is a bit of a niche product, I would have like to see how it did compared to the higher priced "extra quiet" heatsinks shown. If you have the data, could you share them?
    2. I know that many people who are looking for that kind of cooler wouldn't care for whatever setup came with their CPU. However, those have the best price - free (with the CPU). It would be nice to know just how much extra thermal performance one gets by replacing the coolers that come with the CPU. May suggestion is to show the performance of the respective boxed Intel and AMD cooler alongside. With AMD making noise about their Wraith Spire cooler's performance (included with most of their desktop CPUs), I would really like to know just how much better these aftermarket ones are. Thanks!

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