While a stock cooler is supplied with most retail CPUs, enthusiasts often want something better; be it a more powerful cooler, a quieter cooler, a liquid cooler, etc. As a result the market for third-party coolers remains strong, providing variety against the backdrop of more limited stock coolers. And with that, there's no shortage of designs, with coolers for pretty much ever need, want, budget, and size limitation.

In today's review we are taking a look at the NH-U12A, a tower CPU air cooler made by Noctua. Noctua is a company renowned for its advanced products that usually – and deservedly – carry a premium price tag. The NH-U12A is the latest version of their family of 120 mm-based single-tower CPU coolers, which are designed to offer a balance between performance, cost, complexity, and compatibility.

Overall, the NH-U12A is designed to fit top-tier cooling performance into a more compact 120 mm cooler, as opposed to larger and more traditional 140 mm coolers. In this respect, it's especially useful for users building compact and transportable gaming systems.

Diving right in, we received the NH-U12A in an exceptionally sturdy cardboard box. Noctua is using the same simple artwork on the packaging of all their products, focusing on elegance and the provision of information rather than an eye-catching design.

 

Inside the box, we found the cooler very well protected, placed below layers upon layers of thick cardboard packaging. The supplied mounting hardware and extra items can be found in a smaller, compartmentalized cardboard box.

Aside from the typical mounting hardware necessary to mount the NH-U12A onto a CPU socket, Noctua also supplies a basic screwdriver, a fan power splitter cable, two fan “low noise” adapters that limit the speed of the cooling fans, a tube of NT-H1 thermal grease, and a metallic case badge.

The Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler
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  • Mil0 - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I second the suggestion for comparing it to the wraith (spire), esp with Ryzen's PBO. Reply
  • npz - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    One thing I would like to see is in addition to standard dB sound loudness, is frequency spectrum. Two fans of the same dB can sound vastly different depending on the frequencies with some fans being intolerably annoying despite not being loud. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Note that this is already taken into account to a large degree with A-weighting, which we use. It doesn't necessary capture "annoying", but it accounts for how loud certain frequencies are perceived. Reply
  • npz - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the info. Saw the db(A) so I see the confirmation. But A weighting emphasizes upper midrange and really de-emphasizes the lower freqs while just cutting off higher frequencies... I found sometimes some fans have a vibration that can be detected with lower freqs. And sometimes those vibrations / hums transmit through the heatsink into the case and cause weird resonances. At higher speeds I find some fans have a frequency component that permeates through most modern cases (clear sides/glass sides with gaps) Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    At that point you aren't testing the fan anymore, you are testing the whole system. So unless someone has 100% the same components and tightens the screws exactly the same etc. it is a useless test unfortunately. Reply
  • Edkiefer - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I always liked the NH-U14S there going for low 60$ (about same as NH-U12S). You do need a case to support the height. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I'd absolutely love to find out how the newest Noctuas (UH12A, NH-U14S NH-D15, NH-D15S) compare to the older NH-D14, NU-U12S, and the Thermalright TRUE 120.

    The results on Noctua's new gear is amazing, but I contacted Thermalright to ask about heat dissipation for my TRUE Black 120 from 2008, and found it's rated for a stunning 240 watts. I have two Noctua Redux 120mm 1300rpm fans on it and it's keeping a Core i9-9900K (running all eight cores at max turbo 4.8GHz at 100% usage in Folding@Home) stable , a bit over 80C at 160+ watts load under constant use. An eleven year old (admittedly heavy nickel-plate copper with six heat pipes) cooler. I'm still impressed.

    I'd love to know how far we've really come since the D14 and TRUE120 just to see if there's a significant difference.
    Reply
  • npz - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I have the Noctua Redux P12s and the NF-A12x25 used here. I find the NF-A12x25 much quieter at 1300 rpms with about the same airflow. If you're satisfied with that level of noise then you can run NF-A12x25 at 1600 rpms or maybe even 2000 rpms for better performance. Reply
  • Oliseo - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I run a Corsair 115i Platinum (280mm) AIO on my i9 9900k, running at 5Ghz all cores with no AVX offset. (Uncore at 4.8)

    It never goes above 72 degrees, when running 100% rendering 3D models. (Where AVX is used heavily).

    I do have the Noctua NH-D15 on my sons i7 9700k, but it's simply not as good as my AOI.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    for $100 bucks more then the NH-D15, i would hope so, or it would be a rip off ;-) Reply

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