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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  • FreckledTrout - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Yeah this did remind me of my old Thermalright TRUE 120. I have it in a friends computer running an old 2600K I donated. That cooler is/was very nice. Reply
  • mjz_5 - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Would love to see how this compares to the stock Ryzen coolers Reply
  • keyserr - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the review. I'm becoming one of 'those' people that likes silence in their PC. I was waiting for this fan to come out and build a system around it! However, I have since read that the NH-D15 / NH-D15S is quieter and this review suggests that since it performs well at low rpm. Lower rpm than than the NH-U12A. I might also wait for the fanless monster.. for a mITX beast system :) Reply
  • Hyper72 - Saturday, July 20, 2019 - link

    I'm with you there. I like my computer out of hearing and sight so it's great to see a nice review! Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Just love that fake limb plastic colour. Reply
  • Ashinjuka - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    While this is interesting and I understand why AnandTech would review it, similar to feelings expressed towards the extreme high end PSUs and folks asking for more realistic and everyday reviews to compare to, I'd love to see you folks do a round-up of some of the middle and lower end 3rd-party CPU coolers that are out there.

    My last few "utility" builds have used PCCOOLER Corona GI-X2B's and... they're fine. They're really fine. Basically silent under normal use. One 120mm fan with a LED ring, 2 heat pipes, rated for up to 105 TDP, for $15.

    Sure, I wouldn't try to do any major overclocking with that but I suspect that for the 99%, these cheaper, less halo-premium CPU coolers are perfectly adequate and still way better than, for instance, stock Intel.
    Reply
  • webdoctors - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    +1

    Really wish it was compared to regular budget coolers like the 212 in the graph.

    At $100 its hitting the AIO water cooler heatsinks.

    I see at newegg the CoolerMaster 212 is $35 with free shipping,

    Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED with PWM Fan, Four Direct Contact Heatpipes, Unique Fan Blade Design, Red LEDs, Optimized Bracket

    I'd love to know how this compares to that, its sort of the benchmark (pardon the pun) comparison point since its been used for ~10 yrs and on a multitude of platforms.

    Using the stock AMD Wraith cooler, and putting that $100 into a better CPU would be much better, you'd get a substantial upgrade in CPU performance.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    But they did compare it to the 212 in the thermal resistance vs sound pressure level graph.

    The difference is stark.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    " At $100 its hitting the AIO water cooler heatsinks." maybe.. but how well would those AIO's cool compared to this one ? here. AIOs start at $65 cdn, but i doubt they would cool as well as this would.. i bought an NH-D15 for my 5930k, and at full speed.. my case fans are louder, and it keeps the cpu pretty cool even overclocked.. i liked the NH-D15 so much.. i grabbed one each for all of my comps, Phenom 2, an AMD FX, and my 2 X58 based cpus. Reply
  • Skeptical123 - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I think you're misunderstanding the target consumer here. Noctua has made such a solid product for so long now they have established themselves not only as a market leader but as a premium brand. Just look at the NH-U12A for example. While a very good product they raised the price higher giving it likely some of the highest profit margins of any cooler on the market because they can command that price. As their core market segment does not want water coolers no matter the price. Due to too many moving parts, etc. Or simply not have the room in the case and or not want ing to mess around with mounting a radator Reply

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