Noctua NH-C12P: A Top-Down Cooler Rises Up

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The mounting system is vital to the performance of any heatsink. Without proper mechanism for secure contact, the rest of the heatsink design is meaningless. We pay very close attention to the human interaction aspect of aftermarket heatsink design: People who are not necessarily PC hardware building experts have to install these things to get good use out of them. The installation process with the NH-C12P is a bit convoluted but not difficult, and it results in a secure, safely mounted heatsink on both AM2 and the more troublesome 775 socket boards.

Accessories. LGA775 mounting equipment on the lower left, AMD on the lower right.

Along with the necessary mounting hardware, Noctua includes rubber strips for soft fan-mounting, fan clips, thermal compound, and two 3-pin fan adapters for reduced fan speed, the Ultra-Low-Noise-Adaptor (U.L.N.A.) and the Low-Noise-Adaptor (L.N.A.). Both AMD and Intel installations require four sets of hardware: A backplate for the underside of the motherboard, mounting arms for the topside of the board, steel wings for the heatsink, and spring-loaded bolts to secure it all together.

Socket 775 wings installed for the spring-loaded bolts. Note that the gaps in the fin array will be used to access these screws with a screwdriver.

LGA775 mounting arms attached. They could also have been mounted differently, across the path shown by the red lines, which rotates the heatsink 90 degrees. Which is the better way? It just depends on the details of your board. With AM2, the heatsink can only be mounted one way, dictated by the orientation of the heatsink retention bracket mounting on the board.

The backplate is placed on the underside of the motherboard, and then washers placed over the four mounting holes to prevent short-circuits. Mounting brackets are attached on the top side of the motherard via screws through to the backplate .

Installed. Note slanted fit of spring-loaded screws.

The holes on the wings attached to the heatsink attach to the mounting arms and spring-loaded screws finish the job. They did not appear to be perfectly aligned, ending up slightly crooked. It was an extremely tight mating. Rotating the heatsink was impossible once it was screwed on properly.

Postscript, June 17, 2008: A day after the review was posted, Noctua sent an email and explained that... "We've already modified the shape of the holes within the fastening brackets slightly to allow for a more convenient fit. You can also avoid the slanted fit of the spring-loaded screws by making sure that the mounting bars (on the motherboard) are pushed as close to the socket as possible during installation."

Fan installed.

In the picture above the fan is not flush with the heatsink. The fit was so tight that it could not be laid on top casually and actually needed to be pushed down with some force to ensure proper contact. The fan clips were also very tight.

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