Review | Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler

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On our last Noctua review, the NF-A12x25 gave us a a good glimpse of what a premium 120mm fan could offer. It is just a performance oriented product, be it inside a case or on a compatible CPU cooler.

Now what we actually have here is the Noctua NH-U12A. A tower CPU cooler resembling the popular NH-U12S but is thicker and has two NF-A12x25 supporting its cooling capabilities. That said, the NH-U12A appears to be more akin to a high performance cooler such as the NH-D15.

Technical Specifications

Cooler
Socket Compatibility Intel LGA 2066, 2011-0, 2011-3, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 / AMD AM2, AM3, FM1, AM4
Heatsink Material Copper, Nickel, Aluminum
TDP 140W
Fan Compatibility 2x 120mm mount fans
Fan
Model Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM
Speed 450-1800RPM
Noise 16.8-23.9dBA
Airflow 70.8-94.2CFM
Dimensions
Length 146mm
Width 128mm
Height 70mm
Weight 390g

Packaging and Accessories

The Noctua NH-U12A comes packed inside a premium looking packaging. It comes with the following documentations and accessories inside:

  • 2x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fan
  • 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)
  • 4-pin PWM y-cable
  • SecuFirm2™ mounting system for Intel and AMD
  • NT-H1 thermal compound
  • Noctua Metal Case-Badge

Design, Layout and Build Quality

The NH-U12A is yout typical Noctua product. Brimming with quality, oozing with class and is just an awesome boxy cooler to look at especially with the fans in tow.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler (3)

Dimensions are exactly 70 x 128 x 146mm which is within the standards of your normal tower cooler. It is as compact as it looks even with the NF-A12x25 fans attached on both sides.

Noctua-NH-U12A-Tower-CPU-Cooler-(2)

Noctua had the copper base of the NH-U12A coated in nickel, much like the the heat-pipes. This allows the cooler to resist corrosion and provide a more appealing finish. Again, in a typical Noctua fashion.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler (6)

There are 7 soldered heat-pipes stretching out to the aluminum tower which is one pipe more than the NH-D15. Now again, Noctua had the NH-U12A bundled with their own Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM fans. It is a 120mm spinner with a rated speed of 450-1800 RPM and noise levels at 19.2-24.6dBA. The Noctua NF-A12x25 is extremely well built and comes with a 6 year warranty. Mind blowing.

Noctua-NH-U12A-Tower-CPU-Cooler-(7)

Clearance and Installation

The NH-U12A comes with the SecuFirm2 mounting kit. This is a tried and tested mounting solution built from the ground up by Noctua for both Intel and AMD. It is easy to use with a build quality that’s just as good as the older SecuFirm kit.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler (8)

The NH-U12A could be mounted in four positions, with a number of fan mounting options. Using the default option will net you the best possible RAM clearance and if that is not enough, you may adjust the fans as you wish.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler (9)

Test Setup and Methodology

Coolers are far from the hardest components to test, but it doesn’t mean they are easy enough to deal with since there are multiple factors to take into account while benchmarking. Factors includes the ambient noise, ambient temperature, the enclosure, and the test system’s overall configuration.

Test System Specifications
CPU Intel Core-i5 6600K
Motherboard ASUS Z170-A
Cooler Noctua NH-L9i
Memory ADATA Premier DDR4
GPU ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1060 OC
Storage Crucial BX200 480GB
Case Thermaltake Core P3
PSU CORSAIR RM850X
Display DELL U2715H
OS Microsoft Windows 10 Pro

The AIDA64 Extreme Edition System Stability Test is used to stress our Intel Core i5 6600K. The CPU, FPU, Cache and Memory are selected at the options. AIDA64 has been chosen due to its inclusion of AVX, AVX2 and FMA – 3 important instructions that will help us push our CPU to its limits.

  • Ambient Temperature – 27°C (±1°C)
  • Ambient Sound Level – 34dBA (±1dBA)
  • Stock Profile – 3.9GHz (1.088v)
  • Overclocked Profile – 4.4GHz (1.248v)

Temperature

Temperatures are tested with attainable CPU clock speed configurations that should resemble common systems. To measure the cooler’s capabilities, the CPU temperature is logged with HWiNFO64 and is cross referenced with AIDA64.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler Benchmarks (3)

The Noctua NH-U12A showed us excellent stock cooling performance with 42.7ºC of maximum working temperature at load. It is sandwiched between the single and dual fan configuration of the NH-D15 cooler.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler Benchmarks (4)

With our CPU overclocked at 4.4GHz, the Noctua NH-U12A again showed that it is just capable to cool off our CPU. Note that we do not bother testing this cooler on its single fan configuration.

Noise Level

Noise levels are tested on a variety of fan duty cycle settings available thru our motherboard. To measure the levels, a sound level meter is secured on a tripod with a foot of distance away from the cooler.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler Benchmarks (1)

The NH-U12A outputs 36.4dBA at 50% fan duty cycle. Not bad considering that’s already whisper quiet.

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler Benchmarks (2)

Like its standalone brethren, the NH-U12A’s NF-A12x25 fans doesn’t have the best acoustic performance at 100% load. This is not surprising even at 1800RPM.

Software, Lighting and Special Features

The Noctua NH-U12A doesn’t feature any software nor lighting effects. It comes with abundant accessories though and an outstanding 6 year warranty. That’s for both the cooler and fans.

Final Thoughts

Noctua once again showed us that less is more with the NH-U12A. It is essentially one of their best coolers to date with performance similar to that of the gargantuan NH-D15.

Again, we are basically looking at a cooler with 140mm cooling performance on a 120mm package. Just like what I said with the stand alone NF-A12x25 fans. The same could be said with the acoustics though, so dial it in at your desired RPM if you value acoustics more than cooling performance.

Build quality wise, it’s a Noctua. The thing is practically a tank with a 6 year warranty in tow.

The Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler currently retails at about $99 USD. A price that will net you either an AIO or a Noctua NH-D15 with extra spare cash to boot. With that said, the space you’ll save, RAM clearance and the comparable performance figures to the said items definitely made the NH-U12A a worthy proposal over the two. Finally, another no BS attached air cooler that I could get by.TechPorn Awards 2018 (6)

Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler

  • Performance - 9/10

    9/10

  • Build Quality - 10/10

    10/10

  • Features - 9/10

    9/10

  • Design - 9/10

    9/10

  • Value - 8/10

    8/10

9/10

Summary

The Noctua NH-U12A Tower CPU Cooler currently retails at about $99 USD. A price that will net you either an AIO or a Noctua NH-D15 with extra spare cash to boot. With that said, the space you’ll save, RAM clearance and the comparable performance figures to the said items definitely made the NH-U12A a worthy proposal over the two. Finally, another no BS attached air cooler that I could get by.

Pros

  • Noctua NH-D15 performance
  • Footprint and clearance
  • Astonishing build quality
  • Bundle and presentation
  • 6 year warranty

Cons

  • Acoustics at 1800RPM
  • Price point

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Leo Bien Durana is the Owner and Chief Editor of TechPorn. A competitive PC gamer with a robust technical background. He usually breaks a lot of stuff though.
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