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Testing Results & Conclusion
We compared the NH-U12S TR4-SP3 against other CPU coolers that have had the distinct pleasure of working with our eight-core 1900X Threadripper CPU running at 4.1Ghz at 1.40v on our MSI X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard mounted inside our standard Corsair Graphite 760T chassis. As such, we stacked it up against two of its siblings, the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 and NH-U9 TR4-SP3, as well as the large, dual-tower Cooler Master MasterAir MA621P.
The quartet of air coolers were thermally close at both full and half-speed fans, but we do see wider spread in how the motherboard’s power delivery system is cooled by each. Since the MSI motherboard's power regulators and large heatsink are located directly above the CPU socket, Noctua seems to have engineered their coolers for directional airflow focused through their coolers, while the thermal probe located on the PWM heatsink saw lower readings from the MasterAir MA621P.
Since all four coolers perform similarly, it is interesting to look at the fan speeds utilized to accomplish the task of moving enough air to effectively cool the CPU. Both the NH-U12S (120mm) and NH-U14S (140mm) run slower fans than the NH-U9 (2x 92mm) and MA621P (2x 120mm). Interestingly, in comparing the 120mm fan solutions, the NH-U12S TR4-SP3 was able to match the cooling potential of the larger, MasterAir MA621P despite having slower rotational speeds and one less fan.
Predictably, the faster fans of the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 and MasterAir MA621P peaked at higher decibel levels than the NH-12US and NH-14US. With the whisper-level readings of both the NH-U12S and NH-U14S, the ‘S’ for silence naming convention lived up to expectations.
Given that all coolers performed similarly in thermal load testing, it stands to reason that acoustic efficiency would indicate better performing hardware at lower noise levels. Our data shows those tendencies.
Introducing unit pricing often flattens the peaks and fills some valleys of our previous chart in an effort to create a performance-per-dollar visual. Surprisingly, there was minimal difference between cost and the overall average of all coolers compared.
Thermal imaging from our FLIR One PRO showed relatively cooler temperature readings across the top of the cooling tower at 100% fan speeds and distinct hot spots at the tips of the heatpipes at 50%. The focused airflow design of the NF-F12 seemed to be doing exactly the job it was designed to do by moving well-formed columns of air through the heatpipe fin tower.
Noctua has long been widely heralded for its NH-U12S CPU cooler, and we now have the opportunity to deploy the solution to AMD Threadripper and benefit from great thermal performance. A simple, elegant installation platform and professional-grade cooling ability lands the Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3 placement on any performance-oriented Threadripper PC build.
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Garrett Carver is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering thermal compound comparisons and CPU cooling reviews; both air and liquid, including multiple variations of each.
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