Noctua is a truly international cooling company, with design in Austria, manufacturing in Taiwan, and marketing throughout the world. Some markets may know the Noctua brand better than others, but where Noctua is well established its name is synonymous with quiet. That is a good reputation to have in a market with segments obsessed with silence.

As quiet as Noctua's solutions proved to be in our review of the NH-U12F, Noctua has knocked at the top performance door but has not yet managed to break through. Top air-cooling performance continues to belong to Thermalright, with Tuniq, Scythe, and a few others following close behind.

Noctua does have some significant resources in its "Designed in Austria" approach. Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H. is based in Austria and handles the design and distribution of new Noctua products. 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.

These resources come into play with the latest Noctua design, which is the subject of this review. Noctua is determined to produce the top air-cooler on the market, period. The company also believes it can do that without compromising the low noise for which its coolers are already famous. The result of these latest design efforts is the Noctua NF-P12 fan.

Noctua fans are already justifiably famous for low noise and long service, but the NF-P12 adds a number of innovations to move the design to new performance heights - and they say they have done it without compromising noise. These include a pressure-optimized Nine-Blade design, SC (Smooth Continuous) Drive to reduce torque variations, and a new SSO (Self-Stabilizing Oil-pressure) bearing for exceptional quietness and long-term stability.

Perhaps the most interesting innovation is the notches you see in the blades of the above fans. Noctua calls these Vortex Control Notches. These notches are "psychoacoustic optimizations", staggered to reduce noise levels from the fan.

All of these fan innovations have one real goal in mind: to run the NF-P12 fans faster without introducing more noise. In the end, such optimizations can skirt laws of physics but they can't really break the laws. For improved air-cooling, you need to remove heat efficiently with a great heatsink design, but that heat must be dissipated with sufficient airflow to be effective.  Higher airflow means higher noise, but the large fan size and fan design innovations aim to provide the needed high air flow while still maintaining low noise.

Noctua believes their current top heatsink design, which we first saw on the NH-U12F, is as good as anything on the market. They have coupled that heatsink with the NF-P12 fan and they claim this combination will move them into serious competition at the top of our performance charts while still maintaining lowest noise. Does this work; has Noctua found a way to accomplish both highest performance and incredibly low noise? This review of the Noctua NH-U12P will find out if Noctua has accomplished the seemingly impossible.

The Noctua NH-U12P Cooler


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  • poohbear - Monday, March 24, 2008 - link

    im going on previous cpus that overclocked upto 70%, currently the wolfdales that go from 2.6 to 4ghz are'nt a 50% overclock, but still bloody impressive. My opty 165 goes from 1.8-3.0ghz, which is a 66% overclock.:) Reply
  • Nihility - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    I thought the F7P had terrible build quality, at least that's what I hear from the reviews on newegg. Reply
  • RamarC - Saturday, March 22, 2008 - link

    many newegg reviewers are idiots.

    i've had two f7p's for the past 14 months. problems: zero; performance: fantastic. anything that can keep a pentium d 945 in the 50s under load and not sound like a f'n jet engine is fantastic in my book. and my e6600 @ 3ghz peaks in the low 40s with the fan spinning at only 800rpm.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 23, 2008 - link

    Yeah, we pretty much">found the same thing in our review. No, you're not going to match the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, but then at 1/4 the cost you can't complain too much. The F7P is substantially better than retail HSF in noise levels and performance, at a cost of">$20 shipped. Reply
  • Syzygies - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    I too have a Thermalright U120E push pull, using a pair of Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F fans, in an Antec P182 case decked out with other fans. I too used cable ties: One can fashion a pair of four-sided harnesses, using four cable ties each. Size them almost to fit, trimming so there's still a bit of plastic to pull on, then gingerly tighten a click at a time to snug, for a perfect fit.

    Anandtech has the best air cooling reviews, period, lending much-needed credibility to any comparisons with water cooling. In contrast, another site has a water cooling review that cools a 3.2 GHz Q6600 to 58 C to 62 C at full load, comparing favorably with a Zalman 9700. Those are exactly the numbers I'm getting with my U120E, and I'm getting nowhere on that forum pointing out how cooked the review looks.

    For those of us trying to wring every advantage from air, we're unlikely to use an "average" case, and we're likely to consider lapping. Besided returning the U120E to the ring in push pull mode, those are my questions.
  • silhrt - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    Back on the Noise Levels page, I noticed that at 6", 7 of them were at the same and at 24", 9 of them were at the same level. Rarely, if ever, are these tests with so many the same. ( not even .1 differenece ) So, this leads me to wonder if the method of testing is accurate.

    Is there any way to get a sensor that reads below 30? Maybe near 20?

    Since its at the low end of the sensor, maybe its bottoming out?
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    As clearly stated in the review those noise levels are the noise floor of the test system, which is equivalent to a suburban bedroon at night. Since we are running a varaiable speed low-noise power supply and fanless video card these levels represent the quietest power supply we could find that also realistically supports overclocking. The video card is fanless and zero noise.

    We don't test or try to measure even lower levels because that is not the way people actually run their systems. If you are interested in the noise level of a component in isolation with a power supply in another room there are other web sites that will provide you that information.
  • a09805 - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    I would not blame the sensor.
    I guess the problem is a higher-than-desired ambient noise. There's evidently something else in the testing room that shouts in the background, and that covers the whisper of the fans. We need a more silent environment to compare noise from a fan or two. Also, we should measure noise at about 1m, that would be a typical real-world minimum distance.
    For some serious thoughts and hints about silent computing visit
  • woofersus - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    So when are you going to slap that fan on a the big thermalright? Best fan meets best heatsink? Could be a match made in heaven even without push-pull.. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    You read our mind - or at least the hints in the Final Words :) We'll be doing it soon. Reply

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