The NH-D15 is undoubtedly one of the best air coolers you can find in the market and some even call it the king of air cooler because of its excellent performance. But things didn’t stop just there yet, as Noctua has been continuously improving its design to deliver an even better cooling performance and the NH-U12A that we have here is one it.

Equipped with a pair of NF-A12x25 PWM fans, the NH-U12A is a new single-tower CPU cooler from Noctua. Despite not having a dual-tower design like the NH-D15 does, the showcase at Computex 2019 proves that the NH-U12A is actually a very capable air cooler just like the NH-D15.

Specifications

Model
  • NH-U12A
Socket Compatibility
  • Intel LGA115X
Dimension
  • 158 x 125 x 58 mm (HxWxD) – without fan
  • 158 x 125 x 112 mm (HxWxD) – with fan
Weight
  • 760g – without fan
  • 1220g – with fan
Fan Compatibility
  • 120x120x25 mm
Fan Model
  • NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm x 2
Fan Rotational Speed
  • 2000 RPM – Default
  • 1700 RPM – With Low-Noise Adaptor
  • 450 RPM – PWM
Max Airflow
  • 102.1 M3/h – Default
  • 84.5 M3/h – With Low-Noise Adaptor
Max Acoustical Noise
  • 22.6 dB(A) – Default
  • 18.8 dB(A) – With Low-Noise Adaptor
Accessories Included
  • Low-Noise Adaptor x 2
  • 4-pin PWM y-cable
  • SecuFirm2 mounting system for Intel/AMD
  • NT-H1 Thermal Compound
  • Noctua Metal Case Badge
Warranty
  • 6 Years

Unboxing

Noctua NH-U12A - 01

Starting off with the packaging, the NH-U12A ships in the white-brown themed box that is sure to be familiar to most of the Noctua product users out there. Although many of us know that a pair of the NF-A12x25 is included together with the cooler, Noctua decided to make the 7 heatpipes as the main highlight for the cooler instead.

Noctua NH-U12A - 02

At the front of the box, you’ll find some description regarding the features of the NH-U12A such as the 140mm class performance in 120mm size, good compatibility for memory modules, the fans included and its accessories, as well as the 6 years long warranty coverage from Noctua itself.

The accessories box is neat as usual, everything is very well organized and has a dedicated compartment of its own. As usual, you’ll find the SecuFirm2 mounting bracket for both Intel and AMD platform, a syringe of NT-H1 thermal compound, 2 x Low-Noise adaptor, a 4-pin PWM y-splitter cable, and a Noctua metal case badge.

Noctua NH-U12A - 03

Under the accessories box, you’ll find the NH-U12A that is well packed in its box compartment waiting to be taken out for use.

The Noctua NH-U12A

Noctua NH-U12A - 08

Equipped with a pair of NF-A12x25 and comes with a total of 7 heatpipes that spans through the fins on the large heatsink, the NH-U12A is already a solid looking single-tower CPU cooler at first glance – except for the color scheme, some people still can get over with the brown-beige color scheme.

Noctua NH-U12A - 07

From the top of the cooler, we can see how Noctua positioned the heatpipes through the fins on the heatsink to achieve the optimal cooling performance on a cooler at this size. Just for a quick comparison, the NH-U12A is actually slightly thinner than the NH-U12, which measures at 70mm thickness, but packs more heatpipes than the latter.

The optimized 7 heatpipes layout is definitely something you don’t get to see even on some of the best performing air coolers in the market nowadays. With the number of heatpipes available and large surface area on the heatsink fins, you can expect some pretty interesting performance from this cooler.

Noctua NH-U12A - 13

The base of the cooler is the usual hard-wearing Nickel-plated Copper base with a mirror finish, something that I believe many Noctua CPU cooler owners are familiar with.

Clearance for Memory Modules

Clearance for memory module is just right if you’re using the NH-U12A on ATX motherboards, regardless of the height of your memory module. Though things are a little bit different if you mount it on an mATX or ITX board and you can’t just install it in any orientation as compared to an ATX motherboard.

If it’s installed in the incorrect orientation (Noctua logo on the right side from top view) you might have a minor clearance issue with tall memory modules with a fancy heatsink due to the more compact layout. When installed in the correct orientation (Noctua logo on the left side from top view), you’ll get pretty much all the clearance you need for both PCIe and the DIMM slots.

Test System Setup

The test is done using the following setup under an ambient temperature of 31°C, and CPU stressed with RealBench, 3 sets of tests, each at a duration of 2 hours and utilizes as much memory as possible.

CPU Intel Core i7-8700K
Motherboard ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex
Memory G.Skill Trident Z Royal 16GB @3600MHz
Graphics Card Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5600 XT 6G OC
Power Supply Enermax MaxTytan 1250W
Primary Storage Kingston KC2000 1TB
Secondary Storage WD Black 6TB
CPU Cooler Various CPU Coolers
Chassis Cooler Master Test Bench V1
Operating System Windows 10 64bit

 

Noctua NH-U12A Intel i7-8700K (1)

While running at its default clock speed, the Intel Core i7-8700K will boost up to 4.7GHz on a 100% load, which is the baseline for our thermal test for this CPU. Compared to the list of selected CPU coolers from the list, not only that the NH-U12A can perform just as good as the dual-tower NH-D15, but it can also cool our i7-8700K better than some AIO with a 240mm radiator.

Noctua NH-U12A Intel i7-8700K (2)

With the CPU clock bumped up to 5.0GHz with 1.32V on the Vcore, the i7-8700K is generating a lot more heat as compared to its stock clock even though it’s just a 300MHz difference. Here we can see that the NH-U12A can still perform on par with the dual-tower NH-D15 and Dark Rock Pro 3 from be quiet!, beating both 240mm rad AIO from Raijintek and Cooler Master by a margin of 2-4°C.

Final Thoughts

Despite being a single-tower air cooler, the NH-U12A can take the NH-D15 head-on with its single-tower 7 heatpipes heatsink paired with two NF-A12x25. To see such performance on a single-tower air cooler, it’s safe for us to say that the NH-U12A is pretty much the new king of air coolers now – clearly dethroned the current revision of the NH-D15.

If you’re using an ATX motherboard, the NH-U12A packs the same cooling performance as the NH-D15 but in a much more compact and lighter design. This gives you a better clearance for components such as memory modules and PCIe expansion cards. Smaller form factor motherboards such as mATX or ITX will still face clearance issues with tall memory modules if you install the cooler in the incorrect orientation. Just make sure that the Noctua logo on the heatsink is located on the left if it’s viewed from the top, and you’re good to go.

Price-wise, the NH-U12A is a premium CPU cooler that will cost you RM 499, which is almost the price of some of the AIO liquid coolers out there. It’s true that AIO liquid coolers will give you better clearance with the smaller CPU block+pump combo, or bigger radiators to cool down your CPU, the NH-U12A is more of an option for those who still prefer air cooling for their system – considering that it’s probably the best single-tower CPU cooler now.

Pros

  • Excellent cooling performance, on par with the NH-D15
  • Compact and lighter design than the NH-D15
  • Comes with two NF-A12x25 PWM fans
  • Silent operation without the low-noise adaptor
  • Very easy to install

Cons

  • No?

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