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Noctua NH-U12A Cooler Review: Expensive Excellence

Editor's Choice

Testing Results and Conclusion

Comparison Products

Using our overclocked Core i7-5930k at 4.20 Ghz @ 1.20v, we will be comparing the Noctua NH-U12A to a few coolers of similar price and size, the Arctic Freezer 34 eSports DUO, Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M TUF, and the Dark Rock 4.

Benchmark Results

The Noctua NH-U12A provided solid thermal test results in a testing group of some of our best-performing mid-size heatpipe coolers. With the thermal performance of all coolers maintaining such a tight grouping, it’ll be interesting to see how the remainder of our charts stack up.

The Noctua’s 2000 RPM fans look to provide some indication as to where the NH-U12A gets its cooling muscle in comparison to the other solutions in the group. The only cooler of the quartet utilizing a single-fan setup is the be quiet! Dark Rock 4, which consequently also delivered the best thermal performance.

Normally, the highest fan RPM results in the highest registered decibel levels, but this is not a hard rule, as we see the fans on the Noctua NH-U12A aligning as one of the quieter coolers of the group.  This often indicates that fans are matched well for the cooling solution they are bundled with, not only for thermal performance but also to achieve lower noise levels. 

Acoustic efficiency evaluates thermal load temperatures and measured decibel levels to provide an indication as to how well a thermal solution performs and how quietly it runs in the process. 

Performance value takes our acoustic efficiency comparison one step further and includes unit pricing as part of the equation.  Priced right at $100, the Noctua NH-U12A takes a hit for its high price, skewing our final chart in a way that doesn’t make the Noctua look great..

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Thermal imaging from our FLIR ONE Pro shows even dissipation of heat within the Noctua NH-U12A’s cooling tower at 50%, and even shows a significant low temperature region with the fans at 100% speed.  Even with the terminal ends of the heatpipes protruding at the top of the cooling fins, they do not show signs of focused heat spikes, which would indicate proper dissipation of thermal loads from the heatpipes to the cooling fins, exhausted by the twin 120mm fans.

Conclusion

The NH-U12A provides solid thermal performance with low noise levels in a very Noctua-like package -- a plated heatpipe cooling tower, armed with a pair of the company’s signature brown-and-tan fans.  Premium thermal solutions are designed and engineered to perform and present well. And Noctua’s products are often mentioned with reverence surrounding each of those traits.

At $100, the Noctua NU-U12A certainly commands a price premium over other solutions, while delivering the quality and results consumers have come to expect and rely upon from the company.  A higher price doesn’t always afford guarantee of better performance. But with the Noctua NH-U12A the extra dollars spent (if you so choose) are an investment in engineering, effectiveness and character.

Image Credits: Tom's Hardware

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