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Noctua NH-U12A Cooler Review: Expensive Excellence

Editor's Choice

Our Verdict

Premium cooling and unique presentation often dictates a premium price. The Noctua NH-U12A certainly checks each of those boxes, providing formidable thermal performance and a signature look, with a price tag of $100

For

  • High-quality design and build quality
  • Very low noise levels
  • Good cooling performance

Against

  • Premium price
  • Fan color is not conducive to themed builds

Features and Specifications

Long revered for quality heatpipe air coolers and well-regarded fans, Noctua has recently added another stallion to its stable of cooling solutions with the NH-U12A.  The dual-120 mm-fan tower cooler features a pair of Noctua’s NF-A12 fans in their signature brown-and-tan color palette to push / pull ambient air through a polished set of seven nickel-plated copper heatpipes, while remaining quiet enough to power a home theater PC and appease the audiophile sitting next to it.

Noctua NH-U12A Specifications

Height6.125" / 155.6mm
Width5.0" / 127mm
Depth2.38" / 60.5mm (4.50" / 114.3mm w/ fans)
Base Height1.50" / 38.1mm
Assy. Offset0.25" / 6.35mm (1.50" / 38.1mm w/ fans)
Cooling Fans2x 120 x 25mm
Connectors2x 4-pin PWM
Weight40.3 oz / 1143g
Intel Sockets115x, 1366, 2011x, 2066
AMD SocketsFM2(+), FM1, AM2(+), AM3(+), AM4
Warranty6 years
Price (MSRP)$100

Features

Noctua ships the NH-U12A with mounting hardware to accommodate most current AMD and Intel processors, save for AMD’s Threadripper (TR4) platform. The usual collection of mounting brackets, backplate and standoffs accompanies a set of PWM extensions, an angled Phillips screwdriver and a tube of Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound.  An adhesive-backed metal Noctua case badge rounds out the goodies provided from the accessory box.

The workhorse of the NH-U12A is the stack of cooling tower fins which are soldered to the seven nickel plated heatpipes which collect at the cooler base as part of an integrated mounting base with spring-tensioning screws.  Heatpipes are offset to evenly distribute thermal load while also allowing airflow around them.

The base of the NH-U12A features a polished, nickel-plated base plate that provides a large mating surface to accommodate the entire surface of your CPU of choice. The sides of the cooling tower features a closed design to tunnel the airflow directly through the fin stack.

Noctua ships a pair of NF-A12 fans rated up to 2,000 RPM that get secured to the cooling tower with simple wire-spring clips that snap over side grooves of the cooling fins. The 120mm PWM fans prominently feature Noctua’s signature brown and tan color scheme, and they can run independently or with the included fan splitter to manage them as a pair.

Installation of the cooling tower is managed independently of the 120mm fans, which are clipped to the front and rear of the Noctua NH-U12A once the base is secured. The cooling base is slightly offset toward the front, so that the entire cooler avoids interfering with memory kits with tall heat spreaders. 

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  • hannibal
    The Ferrari of air coolers!
    Reply
  • JQB45
    hannibal said:
    The Ferrari of air coolers!

    Perhaps but not the best. The Be Quiet! seemed to win this competition.
    Reply
  • drivinfast247
    hannibal said:
    The Ferrari of air coolers!
    If they produced Ferraris in hideous colors.
    Reply
  • RodroX
    Having identical performance (almost between the marging of error) and similar noise levels, the great winner heres is the Artctic Freezer 34 Sport Duo, with at cost of almost 1/3 of Noctuas and 1/2 of Be Quiet! one.
    Reply
  • JQB45
    RodroX said:
    Having identical performance (almost between the marging of error) and similar noise levels, the great winner heres is the Artctic Freezer 34 Sport Duo, with at cost of almost 1/3 of Noctuas and 1/2 of Be Quiet! one.

    While I see your point I have both Arctic and Noctua products and I can say 100% hands down the quality difference is staggering. Noctua is in a class of its own in build quality, reliability and noise output. You pay more for Noctua but Noctua makes better products. In this case my comparison is limited to 120mm fans.

    I would still pay the Noctua tax because I would end up with a better product. In fact I am seriously considering the Noctua NH-C14S as my next CPU cooler. I would get a larger unit but my Corsair 100r is a little to thin to handle the larger tower coolers discussed in this article.
    Reply
  • RodroX
    JQB45 said:
    While I see your point I have both Arctic and Noctua products and I can say 100% hands down the quality difference is staggering. Noctua is in a class of its own in build quality, reliability and noise output. You pay more for Noctua but Noctua makes better products. In this case my comparison is limited to 120mm fans.

    I would still pay the Noctua tax because I would end up with a better product. In fact I am seriously considering the Noctua NH-C14S as my next CPU cooler. I would get a larger unit but my Corsair 100r is a little to thin to handle the larger tower coolers discussed in this article.

    Got your point, and if I could spend any money on a CPU cooler of course I would go with Noctua and on second place Be Quiet! (Well also if I could get those cooler where I live, which is not the case /sob).

    Then again yeah, if budget is low or tight I think is great that there are others options that, despite the somehow "simple" craftmanship can deliver almost identical performance for 1/3 of the money.

    But yeah for someone with no budget limits, considering the beautiful craftmanship and the big warranty Noctua gives to their cooler, is basically an amazing product to get. (Some of those coolers can have better performance than all 120mm AIO and even some 240mm and 360mm AIO).
    Reply
  • DaveTea
    JQB45 said:
    Perhaps but not the best. The Be Quiet! seemed to win this competition.
    'The BeQuiet seemed to win'??? You need to go to the optician - The BeQuiet was the worst in this group, apart from noise, due only to it using a single fan!
    Reply
  • Darkbreeze
    Much respect to Garret, because I know he does thorough testing and I have great respect for him as a very knowledgeable cooling enthusiast, but some other reviews show the NH-U12A being within one degree of the Cryorig R1 and the same temperature as the Noctua NH-D15S so I feel like something is skewed in the test results or playing field. No way those other three coolers should even be in the same conversation with this cooler or the other two I mentioned.
    Reply
  • JQB45
    DaveTea said:
    'The BeQuiet seemed to win'??? You need to go to the optician - The BeQuiet was the worst in this group, apart from noise, due only to it using a single fan!

    Can you point to the chart you are referencing with your statement? I maybe looking at a different chart then you are...
    Reply