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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  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - link

    ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 120mm 2-ball UFO Bearing / Transparent CPU Cooler - Retail ($36.00 after rebate)

    With the $10 rebate its the same price as the Arctic Cooler Freezer 7 Pro">
  • coolsmith - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    Just to complement my previous post on this fan

    I should have mentioned that I found leaving the speed setting to

    medium gave the best result for noise verse speed.

    This fan does cost a little bit more than the others but it should

    last a lot longer.
  • coolsmith - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    I installed one as a rear case fan and I'd have to say they are indeed

    quiet and do a good job.

    But I'd have to agree with most the color is a bit of a turn off, but

    since mine is inside the case a really don't mind.

    A well built fan but crappy color .

    If they were to change the color they would probably sell alot

    more of them, for sure.

  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - link

    I have a bit of a problem with the review and conclusion. This heatsink/fan looks to be good, the problem is it seems to be just as good as the:

    Nirvana, Ultra 120, Infinity, Ninja, Ultima90, Tuniq Tower

    all of which are less expensive. By using these "real world results" the test fails to really tell us what is different about the new design of the fan!

    I want to know that at 1/4, 1/2, or full voltage this fan either:

    a. is quieter (better design/aerodynamics)

    b. pushes more air (more efficient/ better design)

    It's great to show in your testbed that it works !great!, the problem is its not really that helpful to a potential buyer wondering WHY its so great.

    During video card reviews this site constantly takes heat from the H-site (we'll remain nameless :) ), on your reviews not being "real-world", and I've always sided with you guys because you are scientifically limiting your variables to give a good indictation of which card is better. But now I feel these heatsink/fan reviews are somewhat falling into the same trap of that other site in providing data points that are not accurate; just rather you can say that the Noctua, Alpine, Freezer 7, Nirvana, Ultra 120 Extreme, Ultima90, and Kama Cross are all below your artificial noise floor. It's the equivalent of testing all of the new video cards at 1024X768 resolution with a 60fps framerate cap in Quake3, they are all going to look like winners!

    What a competent review needs to aim for is removing all variable outside of what is being tested. When your testing video cards, make sure the cpu isn't the bottleneck, when your measuring hard drives, make sure you don't have a mobo/driver issue, and when your measuring heatsinks and fans, make sure that if your not actually checking their stated cfm's for accuracy, at least you are measuring the noise level of the fan.

    My case sits under my desk doing its thing out of sight. If I'm going to throw down $20 for a FAN, a freaking FAN man!, I want to know those pretty shaped blades are actually doing something measurably different and beneficial than a $5-10 one.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - link

    Our noise floor is limited by the Power Supply, which was selected because it is one of the quietest variable fan speed models we could find. That noise level is equivalent to a suburban bedroom at night as pointed out in every recent review. Real world is NOT running a power supply in one room so you can measure noise levels lower than you will ever see in a real system limited by power supply noise. If you want those measurements there are websites devoted to those esoteric numbers and you can find what you seek.

    For our part we did measure the single fan at high speed and the cululative two fans at highest speed in a system with a quiet variable speed power supply and a fanless video card. Both measurements were below our noise floor. All lower speeds with the shunts will be below that and are not measurable in our system.

    The sad fact about the current low noise obsession is that readers see so many low numbers they have lost perspective on what the numbers actually mean. Those screaming for measurements of 10 to 20 dbA should Google a few articles on noise measurement to see what those numbers actually measure and the laboratory needed to accurately measure those low noise levels.

    130 dBA Loud hand clapping at 1 m distance (maximum level)
    120 dBA Whistle at 1 m distance, test run of a jet at 15 m distance
    Threshold of pain, above this fast-acting hearing damage in short action is possible
    115 dBA Take-off sound of planes at 10 m distance
    110 dBA Siren at 10 m distance, frequent sound level in discotheques and close
    to loudspeakers at rock concerts, violin close to the ear of an orchestra
    musicians (maximum level)
    105 dBA Chain saw at 1 m distance, banging car door at 1 m distance (maximum level),
    racing car at 40 m distance, possible level with music head phones
    100 dBA Frequent level with music via head phones, jack hammer at 10 m distance
    95 dBA Loud crying, hand circular saw at 1 m distance
    90 dBA Angle grinder outside at 1 m distance
    Over a duration of 40 hours a week hearing damage is possible
    85 dBA 2-stroke chain-saw at 10 m distance, loud WC flush at 1 m distance
    80 dBA Very loud traffic noise of passing lorries at 7.5 m distance,
    high traffic on an expressway at 25 m distance
    75 dBA Passing car at 7.5 m distance, un-silenced wood shredder at 10 m distance
    70 Small car at 30 mph; 3 meters from a vacuum cleaner.
    65 1 meter from normal conversation. Busy office. About half the people in a large sample will have difficulty sleeping.
    55 Recommended upper limit for large open offices, restaurants, gymnasiums, swimming pools.
    45 Recommended upper limit for homes, hotels, laboratories, libraries, private offices, court rooms.
    40 Quiet office. Recommended upper limit for classrooms, churches, motion picture theaters (without the film soundtrack).
    35 Quiet bedroom.
    25 Countryside on windless day, away from traffic. Sound of breathing at 1m distance.
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - link

    So then please tell me how this fan is better than any $5 fan? If it doesn't matter if its below the noise floor, I don't know how you can come to the conclusion that its a good product? To me if it performs the same as a $5 fan its overpriced right?
  • marine73 - Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - link

    For those howling for readings in the 10-20dB range the world must be an incredibly noisy place. Ants on the sidewalk sounding like stormtroopers, ducks on a pond sounding like top fuel hydros...not sure how they can even enter a room with a PC running.
  • vajm1234 - Sunday, March 23, 2008 - link

    is there ny possibility of reviewin the new scythe zipang n all.
  • Thorsson - Saturday, March 22, 2008 - link

    The fan shown in the picture on the Installation page doesn't look like the new one to me...
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, March 23, 2008 - link

    They are both the new fans. Due to the curvature and sweep of the blades it is more difficult to distinguish the notches from the front view. That is why all the "notch" pictures are from the rear of the fan.

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