Noctua’s original CPU cooler is reborn as the NH-U12A

When people talk about Noctua coolers, which one comes to mind? You probably think about the little L9, the huge C14, or even the mighty D15. Noctua's original CPU cooler was the U12, though. It was one of the first 120-mm tower coolers in general, and it set the stage for what would become the all-but-standard form factor for enthusiast CPU air coolers with its high performance and low noise. Now that the company has its new A12 fans out of their five-year development period, it's time to update the U12, and thus we now have the NH-U12A.

Despite the simplicity of what I just wrote, the NH-U12A isn't just a fan upgrade to an existing model. Noctua says the thick 2¼" (58 mm) heatsink is an all-new design using no less than seven heat pipes to transfer thermal energy from your CPU to the cooler. Noctua describes the NH-U12A as a "deluxe choice" and says that despite being a 120-mm cooler—with all the benefits to case compatibility that affords—it performs as well as its competitors' towers with 140-mm fans. Even still, Noctua says that the cooler tops out at 22.6 dBA, which is well below the noise floor in most environments.

The NH-U12A includes two of Noctua's latest NF-A12 fans, the company's SecuFirm2 mounting system, and a tube of NT-H1 thermal goop. It also comes with a six-year warranty. If you're after the latest and greatest from Austria, it's already available at Newegg and Amazon for a cool hundred smackeroos.

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    • James296
    • 7 months ago

    Not Impressed. at $100, I’d rather just go with a AIO like a NZXT Kraken (3 years of constant use and I just had to replace the fan because of a bearing gone bad)

    Edit: at $60-$75 range I’d be alot more tempted

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 7 months ago

      I’ve just experienced another pump failure on a Corsair AIO water cooling system. The NH-U12A is [b<]much[/b<] less likely to fail.

      • slash3
      • 7 months ago

      I’m on year 11 with my Noctua NH-U12P, running 24/7 on the stock fans.

      Noctua builds good stuff.

      • tony95
      • 6 months ago

      You are going to shell out considerably more for a Kraken, why not just go full custom loop?

    • Pbryanw
    • 7 months ago

    I’d also like to add that Noctua coolers are so easy to install too. Just pop the backplate on, then screw the cooler into the mounting bars (after applying thermal paste to your CPU). A much easier process than it was for my previous CPU cooler. I’ve also just discovered that Noctua have installation videos, in multiple languages, on each cooler’s product page.

    My own Noctua NH-U12S CPU cooler has made it through two self-builds. I see no reason why I won’t be able to use it for another one, in the future (especially as Noctua are so good at releasing new mounting hardware for existing coolers).

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 7 months ago

    Not gonna lie, I kind of regret selling my original NH-U12P on Craigslist 9 years ago.

    I used it on my first self-built PC, an e8400, 4GB of DDR2 800 MHz ram, an HD 4870, and a PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750. The CPU and RAM are still working today in a PC I built for my parents around 9 years ago, and the PSU is still working in an old PC with an i5 750 and a GTX 670.

    I sold the HD 4870 when a friend sold me his watercooled GTX 295 for $100 when he upgraded to HD 5870 Crossfire and he even threw in a waterblock for my CPU.

    I’ve been water cooling my CPU ever since but feel like the simplicity and reliability of my original Noctua cooler would have saved me a couple of headaches along the way, especially now that I have kids, rebuilding my loop every 2-3 years is a huge ordeal that I don’t really have time for.

    Not to mention, Noctua are very good about sending you new mounting hardware when you upgrade to a new socket platform. Their customer service is fantastic.

    A++ would buy again

    • drfish
    • 7 months ago

    That fan looks oddly familiar.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 months ago

    I’m still running an original U12.

    It’s overkill for stock voltage overclocks, and I’m long past the point in finding merits to an overvolt these days. The CPU is rarely a bottleneck in a modern system, and even if it is, overclocking beyond stock voltages yields so little performance that you have to ask yourself whether the expense in cooling, motherboard, energy bills, heat, and noise are really worth an extra 5%.

    Sure, if you’ve already bought yourself an i9-9900K, 4GHz RAM, and a pair of 2080Ti cards then money spent on overclocking makes sense. On the other hand, if you’re buying an i5, 2666MHz RAM and a GTX 2060, you absolutely should spend the $100 on faster hardware instead.

      • ptsant
      • 7 months ago

      I absolutely agree with two caveats:
      – OC hardware is often more tolerant of abuse and should last longer (for example, MBs with over-engineered power delivery or GPUs with better cooling)
      – An OCd lower-core part can be faster than a high-core part for single-threaded.

      With the development of highly intelligent turbo technologies in both CPUs and GPUs (XFR etc), and careful market segmentation and product placement OC is becoming less and less relevant outside of the absolute highest end.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 7 months ago

    I don’t understand the pricing on a lot of these “premium” air coolers. $100? Is this $55 better than a Cryorig H7 plus?

    At what price point do AIOs start to be a more effective option?

    (I don’t like the idea of a closed loop AIO for maintenance reasons, but I think once you’re looking at $100+ for an air cooler they should at least be considered).

      • dragontamer5788
      • 7 months ago

      Noctua’s coolers go toe-to-toe with the cheaper AIOs, while having [b<]no[/b<] liquid failure modes involved. IMO, there's no point in a lot of the cheaper closed-loop AIOs. Those tiny pumps integrated into the radiator (or the CPU-heatsink) are notoriously unreliable... and many AIOs have the whole copper + aluminum galvanic corrosion issue in the long term. [url=https://www.ekfluidgaming.com/ek-kit-a240<]All-aluminum custom kits start at $160[/url<]. EDIT: IIRC, this all-aluminum kit performs similarly to the cheap mass-produced Asetek designs, but the main benefit is the reliability. All-aluminum avoid galvanic corrosion, while the large pump is a proven long-term reliable design. Finally, you can maintain the fluid (swapping out the fluid each year if you wish). Its the minimum water-cooling that I'd recommend with regards to reliability and maintainability. Those extra $60ish you pay is good insurance to prevent leaks and issues in the future. $100 to $120 is still best served by air cooling IMO, once you factor in the reliability and failure modes of the cooler. $160 is where liquid cooling really begins. EDIT2: And guess what? The best fans you should mount on a liquid-cooling radiator are those $30+ NF-A12x25 that this kit comes with. The stock fans that come in those liquid-cooling kits aren't necessarily very good. So once you buy 2x NF-A12x25, you're spending like $220 on a liquid cooling kit + fan upgrade.

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 months ago

        I’m a huge Noctua fan and I’ve been using them since I had trouble getting hold of Thermalright coolers back in 2009 or so.
        Even so, I’m genuinely not convinced that $60 of fans is necessary, nor are they remotely good value.

        I have no problem with the high quality of those fans but unless everything else in your system is equally good (your GPU fans, case fans, PSU fan) then it’s irrelevant because you will only really notice the single the loudest component in your system.

        Spending money on quiet CPU cooling is like asking the person sitting to your left on a flight to talk more softly whilst the seat to your right is occupied by a baby screaming its lungs out at 125 decibels. Until you deal with the screaming baby your efforts are largely wasted.

          • Froz
          • 7 months ago

          The reason I enjoy Noctua so much is not just because the fan is simply not audible when desktop is idle and the sound is pleasant when the fan spins up. It’s because the fan is so freakingly reliable, it is unbelievable. I have it for a few years and it is still like new. I can’t say that about any other fan I owned. They always develop some kind of vibration and irritating sound even if they were great at first.

          I’m not saying only Noctua makes such nice fans, but I have great confidence that all Noctua sells is of similar quality, which I cannot say about some other brands I tried.

          I’m suspicious of much cheaper solutions, as I suspect they cheap out on the fans and even if their results might be comparable in reviews, the reviews do not show how they will sound a few years later.

            • Chrispy_
            • 7 months ago

            You’re right, though my original Noctua NH-U12 fan failed after around 4 years and I was easily able to replace it with something equivalent.

            I’m currently using a Silencio FP120 fan, the same one you get on a $30 Hyper 212 – it’s quiet at full load, comes with high-end fluid-dynamic bearings, intelligent IC in the motor to reduce ticking noises at lower RPMs, and is inaudible over the already quiet and high-rated Corsair ML fans I use for case cooling. In terms of balance and precision it seems good.

            It may not be quite up to the standards of the NF-A12x25 fans but it’s honestly more than adequate – in that it is not audible and the 4.2GHz overclock I have on my Haswell i7 is in the extemely comfortable sub-70C range under load. Sure, I could spend more, but the $10 Silencio fan is already overkill.

            I love my NH-U12, but it’s just a heatsink, and so is the considerably-better-looking, and similarly-performing Hyper 212, now available with said FP120 fan for $32. There’s only so much tech you can cram into a heatpipe and all the major heatsink manufacturers have been nailing it for years. [url=http://dvtests.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/New-Microsoft-Office-PowerPoint-Presentation.jpg<]Here's a 6-year-old shootout[/url<] between the NH-U12 and the Hyper 212 showing zero cooling differences between them. I can't help think that Noctua have overengineered this at great expense for near zero benefits. Oh, and it's still fugly beige and brown....

        • Freon
        • 7 months ago

        [quote<]Noctua's coolers go toe-to-toe with the cheaper AIOs, while having no liquid failure modes involved.[/quote<] I think the point is so does the H7, Pure Rock Pro 3/4, etc.

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 months ago

      The H7 is a really good, affordable air cooler.

      I’m not keen in the motherboard flex, and GPU/RAM clearance issues that larger 140mm tower coolers cause, either.

      There’s very little need for premium CPU cooling these days, simply because so little software is actually CPU-bottlenecked. If, on the other hand, you really do want that last tiny sliver of performance out of your CPU – then the biggest radiator your case can fit should be your only consideration.

      • firewired
      • 7 months ago

      Having owned many coolers and AIO’s over the years, I can speak from experience in saying that a good air cooler can be just as efficient as a good AIO, and by design more reliable as well.

      I have both the NH-U12S and a Corsair H115i Pro RGB. The 8700K I have runs at the same speed, voltage, and load temperatures with both coolers while running at 4.8 GHz. I can push it to 5.0 GHz with both coolers but it requires too much voltage, I lost the silicon lottery with mine.

      If you are curious, I keep the 115i Pro RGB installed but only because it is a bit quieter under load compared to the NH-U12S, though the 12S is certainly not annoying, just a bit louder.

      I also have a Cryorig H7, the older one, and it cannot manage to keep the 8700K at anything over 4.6 GHz, regardless of voltage.

      The reality is that a very good air cooler is worth the money you pay for it, and a poor air cooler is not worth anything more than a garbage Intel boxed cooler. Additionally, since the only moving part on air coolers is the fan itself, a good air cooler will be much more reliable than any AIO simply because its only moving part is the fan. That means it has fewer points-of-failure and your CPU will be safe at idle speeds even without the fan spinning should it actually fail, which is not a sure thing when you get into the AIO realm of pump failures, liquid leaks, or fan failures and liquid temperatures.

      • anotherengineer
      • 7 months ago

      ya, the price is probably because it comes with 2 noctua fans.

      I wish you could get the bare cooler for $50
      SOLD!

      • freebird
      • 7 months ago

      I agree. I bought a Noctua NH-D14, Premium CPU Cooler with Dual NF-P14 and NF-P12 Fans for $89.99 back in late 2014. It worked great and cooled my FX-8320 fine even running at 4.6GHz, but it was HUGE (dual cooling fins & fans) and restricted what I could get to in the case after it was built. AND ALSO cut the crap out of my hands doing it!!! ;D At least this model doesn’t have sharp edges on the cooling fins. They are usually pretty quiet also.

      I’ll probably put it back on the FX-8320 for a PC upgrade for my mom, but most new stuff, I’ll just go for an AIO probably, or stock fan if not overclocking. Although I still have used some Noctua fans to replace fans on radiators.

    • dragontamer5788
    • 7 months ago

    Hmm… to be fair, two NF-A12x25 fans are $60 already ($30 per fan).

    So the fact that this thing comes with NF-A12x25 means that its going to be far more expensive.

      • Captain Ned
      • 7 months ago

      The Amazon listing is clear that for $99.90 you get the heat sink, 2 fans, mounting hardware, a tube of goo, and some PWM/y-adapters. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the price.

    • Rand
    • 7 months ago

    $100?

    That’s a really tough sell. There are premium 140mm coolers that perform better then the NH-D15 for a similar or lower price. If your primary concern is size then something like the Thermalright Macho Rev. B or Scythe Mugen 5 are smaller and less then half the price, and I’m really hard pressed to believe this cooler performs meaningfully better.

    Noctua makes terrific coolers and all, but the price point on this one is ridiculous and completely out of touch with the competition.

      • dragontamer5788
      • 7 months ago

      The NF-A12x25 fan has the best specs by far. It has the most air pressure, the lowest noise, and the highest airflow out of all 120mm fans. Its just an expensive as all heck fan ($30 each).

      I’d definitely wait for reviews. Honestly, this might be a case of over-engineering: maybe only one of those fans is needed to adequately run this heatsink (and dropping the price by $30 would be great!).

    • DPete27
    • 7 months ago

    On most 140mm towers the fan(s) overhang the heatsink, so you’re losing air over the top/bottom of the fins instead of through them. It looks like that’s what’s happening with this heatsink as well. A couple fins too short.

    Not to mention….$100 !!!!!??

      • Krogoth
      • 7 months ago

      It has comparable performance/noise ratio to AIO water-cooling solutions that go around for the same price point.

      They are more far cost-effective HSF solutions out there if you don’t mind to compromise on performance or noise levels.

      • Neutronbeam
      • 7 months ago

      IMHO, no one has better quality or engineering than Noctua–maybe as good, but not better. Their fans are state-of-the-art, and their coolers are outstanding. 11 years ago I built my first (and only) price is no object rig, and I picked Noctua for the cooler and fans.

      The lack of RGB LEDs don’t hurt none either. Wonder how long that will last?

      • Luminair
      • 7 months ago

      They are aware of this, here it’s probably to keep the heatpipe tips and fan top at the same height. And the price is competitive

    • euricog
    • 7 months ago

    No rainbow RGBs? what’s the point? next you’ll be telling me that’s for cooling stuff down efficiently! as if!

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 7 months ago

      It ended last year.
      [url<]https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Noctua/NF-F12_PWM_chromax/[/url<]

      • Cuhulin
      • 7 months ago

      No doubt one could adapt led light strips around the edges to provide all the city lighting one could desire.

    • Captain Ned
    • 7 months ago

    Wow. Something that might finally replace the ancient (but still VERY effective) Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme.

      • HERETIC
      • 7 months ago

      Louder, and not as good but I find it hard to go pass a CM-212 at less than 1/2 the price.
      And even the TX3/103 for 65Watt CPU’s……………………..

        • Captain Ned
        • 7 months ago

        My TRU-120E has no issues keeping an i7-4790K (88w TDP) cool with 4C/8T all in hard use (music transcoding). It’s in an Antec P182, so noise isn’t an issue.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 months ago

        I agree. For $30, it’s great if your motherboard had decent fan speed controls, especially at stock voltage and no OC. It’s plenty quiet for me.

        • LoneWolf15
        • 7 months ago

        as a TRUE Black (TRUE 120 UE with black anodizing) owner, I have to say that as good as the Cooler Master is, this puppy beats it. Using it in a Corsair 650D, no noise issues.

        Plus, I’ve used it since I had an Intel Core 2 Quad 6600 all the way up to my current i7-4790K running at 4.2GHz and it still doesn’t break a sweat. My only change to it has been to use two Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120mm fans instead of one back in the beginning. And a new mounting kit is available for Ryzen should someone need it.

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