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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  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    https://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph14621/111...

    We reached 1920 RPM, which is well within the manufacturer's margin of error for the fans.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    This stupid cooler is way overpriced and outdated. Nickel does not transfer heat better than copper. Why 2 fans? They’re only mere 2 inches apart, why not slap another 2 fans on it? Why Noctua always like to make heavy and big coolers? I’ll never support self-proclaimed “engineers” who has no clues about how to make better products. Reply
  • Korguz - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    ok sonny73n if you think you can design something better for less.. then go do it... Reply
  • D@ Br@b($)! - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    He doesn't have to. There are already coolers with similar performance for less money. Reply
  • keyserr - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I would like a section for performance @ normalised sound, maybe at 32db, 33db, 34db etc because 7volts gives different rpms and noise. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Scythe Mugen 5 for me too. When I last found comparisons of this against eg Noctua it offered equivalent results for much less money, and has been working great for me.

    But I'll probably just go with the Wraith cooler that will come with a top Ryzen 3000 chip. That does depend on 3950X tests when they surface, but current indications are that better cooling won't increase clocks.

    This new AMD lineup will go a long way towards making high-end air - and of course any water loops - unnecessary. Those vendors must be getting nervous.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    " This new AMD lineup will go a long way towards making high-end air - and of course any water loops - unnecessary. Those vendors must be getting nervous. " how so ?? Reply
  • Arbie - Thursday, July 18, 2019 - link

    Because, as I indicated, increasing the cooling on Ryzen 3000 CPUs does not appear to increase their boost clocks. I had certainly hoped otherwise. Beyond that, very few people will manually overclock Ryzen 3000 because that achieves nothing over PBO, except to waste power all the time.

    So why go to premium air? And why even consider water? Except on Intel, but any vendor dependent on sales of those chips ought to be very nervous - as I said. The niche markets involved are getting smaller (for air) and much smaller (for water).
    Reply
  • D@ Br@b($)! - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    +1 Reply
  • beginning - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    Thank you for the article. Lives up to the level of scientific rigor that anandtech has gotten me used to. This is very helpful and the graph of average thermal resistance at 12V will be a part of my go-to reference materials. I would like to request a similar graph for AIO liquid coolers if possible. Thank you once again for this in-depth article. Reply

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