One of the more interesting aspects of the CPU cooler market is the truly international mix of products on the market. While Asian companies do dominate in the manufacturing side of the cooler marketplace, cooler designs come from all over the world. Noctua is a case, fan, and cooler company based in Austria, and designs for their new products are developed in their labs in Austria. Manufacturing is provided by a partnership with Kolink International, a cooling specialty manufacturer in Taiwan.

Noctua's "Designed in Austria" approach brings some very interesting resources to bear in new Noctua coolers. Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H. is based in Austria and handles the design and distribution of new Noctua products. Kolink is also involved in R&D with Rascom, but the primary Kolink responsibility is the manufacturing and on-site Quality Assurance for Noctua products.

The Rascom design in Austria also brings additional advantages. Rascom is a principal in Österreichisches Institut für Wärmeübertragung und Ventilatorentechnik, ÖIWV (The Austrian Institute for Heat-Transmission and Fan Technology). This development partnership between Noctua and ÖIWV brings extensive scientific resources to Rascom that greatly enhances the product design process.


The current product line from Noctua features heatpipe tower CPU coolers based on 92mm and 120mm ultra-low noise fans, 80mm and 120mm low-noise fans, and a fanless chipset cooler which is basically a miniaturized CPU cooler. The NH-U12F that is the subject of this review is the top-of-the-line Noctua cooler, and it's a refinement of their earlier 120mm fan coolers.

Noctua packages and markets their ultra-low-noise fans through specialty cooling shops with noise suppression plugs to lower fan noise to incredibly low levels. Noctua fans are well-known for their super low noise, and they are normally among the leaders in fan reviews looking for low noise. Noctua attributes their success with low-noise fans to the design partnership with the Austrian Institute for Heat-Transmission and Fan Technology.

It should be abundantly clear to all readers at this point that Noctua as a company caters to quiet PC solutions. This is certainly obvious in the specifications and reviews of Noctua products. It is likely therefore that Noctua will have no problem at all meeting our expectations for low noise in a CPU cooler design. The bigger question for the Noctua NH-U12F is whether Noctua can also deliver the cooling performance needed to satisfy overclocking enthusiasts - with their kit fan or a quiet high-output fan from another manufacturer? We will try to answer that question as the Noctua is benchmarked and overclocked on the Intel X6800 processor.

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  • Hulk - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    1. Equip all fans with a variable speed controller and adjust the speed so that the decibel level is exactly 40dB, 45dB, etc... Record the temps. This would isolate the thermal transfer efficiency of the cooler. For better isolation of cooler thermal efficiency you could use the same fan on all coolers.

    2. This time adjust the fan speed to acheive the same load temperature. This time record the fan RPM and the noise level. Of course some units might not even make the temp at full speed but that would be okay. As it is right now you have to take into account cooling performance when looking at noise. It be nice to see how much noise they make when they are all drawing away the same amount of heat from the processor.

    3. In order to really give these coolers a workout how about adding an overclocked quad core to the tests?

    I enjoy reading these reviews. Great job!

    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    No word on fitment again. Fitment is really the number one thing people want to know: Will this fit on my board? If it doesn't fit their board, it doesn't really matter to them how well it cools. Would be great to hear if it does or doesn't clear a variety of boards you have around the testing labs, particularly a couple 680i, 650i, P965, and 975. Pick one that's fairly reference in design and a couple of the ones people tend to purchase that often have passive cooling heatsink/pipe configurations on the northbridge and MOSFETS, and let us know how well the darn thing clears it all, especially if it requires a back brace and some boards have stuff on the back beneath the CPU socket (like the MSi P6N-SLI Platinum) and whether or not it still fits.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, April 26, 2007 - link

    The Noctua is narrower than most heatpipe towers, but as wide as a thermalright. The shape is much like a thermalright. The top plate can be installed in two directions and the cooler can be turned 90 degrees if necessary, so mounting is very flexible.

    The Noctua fit the EVGA 680i (barely, due to width and very tall chipset cooler near the socket), Asus, Striker, Asus Commando, and Asus P5W-DH Deluxe. We did not have the MSI board you specify in the lab to check, but the back plate has an open center and is designed to clear back components.

    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    Any word on fitment on an MSi P6N-SLI Platinum? This is important as the board supposedly has a few items on the back such that certain backplates do not fit too well and it would be important to know if this hsf can clear them alright. Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    Very nice. I like the balance of low noise and above average performance. Any plans to look at the Thermalright HR-01 fanless cooler with the ducting that can connect to a rear case fan? I would love to see the cooling abilities of such a configuration. Reply
  • xsilver - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    hey wes; how many more hsf setups are still in the pipeline for review? care to list?
    is the thermalright ultra 90 one of them?
    or anything else that is of the "cheaper" level?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    We have a few more top-line HSFs and then we will do an "under $30" HSF roundup. We also have a wide assortment of 120mm fans in the labs for a fan roundup.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    oh also, was there any plans to put some "classic" coolers in the chart as a control reference?
    Im thinking thermalright xp-90/120
    zalman 7000/7700

    how do these type of coolers compare to the ones currently being reviewed? no full review is really needed but putting them in the charts would be nice.
    Reply
  • puffpio - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    The 'Final Words' page is actually a duplicate of the 'Noise' page Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    The posting error on Final Words has been corrected. Reply

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