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Noctua NH-U12P tower Cooler

Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler: Noctua Strikes Again

June 26, 2008 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Noctua NH-U12P

LGA775 & K8 CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Noctua
Street Price
~$60 USD

The recently reviewed Noctua
NH-C12P
turned out to be the best top-down blowing CPU cooler we've seen to date.
The NH-U12P is an update
of the widely-acclaimed NH-U12,
a formidable performer in its day. Some small changes have been made to the
design, but the most visible difference is the inclusion of their NF-P12
fan.



The box. Noctua has an affinity for all things brown.

Few manufacturers give fan
selection much serious thought. Noctua designed the NF-P12 fan especially for
use in high-impedance applications, such as heatsinks. The "P" in
the model name stands for "pressure." Not only is it supposed to have
unique properties, it is also extravagantly priced. The NF-P12 retails for about
US$20 on its own. When we tested the NH-C12P however, we found that the NF-P12
did no better than two other well-known fans, the Nexus Real Silent case fan,
and Scythe Slip Stream L. The NH-U12P has similar fin thickness and spacing,
so so we expect it to perform similarly.



The provided mounting hardware is neatly separated. A screwdriver is provided
just in case.


Noctua NH-U12P: Key Features

(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief

Our Comment
4 dual heat pipes

4 dual heat pipes, soldered joints and widely-spaced aluminium cooling fins
guarantee optimal heat dissipation even at low fan speeds.
While most premium heatsinks
now come with six heatpipes, Noctua bucks the trend here with only four.
NT-H1 Award winning NH-U
design


Noctua's NH-U coolers allow for perfect airflow direction and have received
more than 150 awards and recommendations from leading international websites
and magazines.
The U-shaped heatpipe
is now common-place.
NT-H1 NF-P12 premium
fan


The NF-P12 has been specifically developed for applications like CPU cooling
and brings the performance of the NH-U12 to a whole new level. Thanks to
psycho-acoustic optimizations and Noctua's premium-grade SSO-bearing, the
NF-P12 achieves exceptional quietness and long-term stability.
The NF-P12 is designed
with high static pressure in mind.
NT-H1 Improved compatibility

Thanks to its raised fin-stack, the NH-U12P offers improved compatibility
with main boards featuring very high chipset coolers.
The NH-U12P's fin stack
is higher than its predecessor, creating more clearance for northbridge
and VRM heatsinks.
NT-H1 SecuFirm™
multi-socket mounting system


Noctua's professional SecuFirm™ mounting system for LGA 775, AM2 and
AM2+ provides superior reliability and contact pressure.
A secure mounting system
is essential for any heatsink.
NT-H1 Incl. Noctua NT-H1
high-end thermal compound


Noctua's NT-H1 is a pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal
resistance, excellent ease-of-use and long-term stability.
For continuity, we won't
be using their thermal compound. We'll take their word for it.


Noctua NH-U12P: Specifications

(from the product
web page
)
Socket compatibility Intel Socket LGA 775, AMD
AM2 & AM2+, Intel Xeon on request, AMD K8 (754, 939, 940) & Socket
F on request
Height (without fan) 158 mm
Width (without fan) 126 mm
Depth (without fan) 71 mm
Height (with fan)
158 mm
Width (with fan) 126 mm
Depth (with fan) 95 mm
Weight (without fan) 600 g
Weight (with fan) 770 g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium
(cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Application Intel all frequencies, AMD all frequencies
Fan compatibility 120x120x25mm / 120x120x38mm (2 fans
can be installed)
Scope of Delivery # NF-P12 premium fan

# Mounting-clips for 2 fans

# Ultra-Low-Noise-Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)

# NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound

# SecuFirm™ mounting kits for LGA & AM2(+)
Warranty 6 Years
Fan Specifications
Model Noctua NF-P12
Bearing SSO-Bearing
Blade geometry Nine Blade Design
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%) 1300 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A.
(+/- 10%)
1100 RPM
Rotational Speed with U.L.N.A.
(+/- 10%)
900 RPM
Airflow 92,3 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 78,5 m³/h
Airflow with U.L.N.A. 63,4 m³/h
Acoustical Noise 19,8 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 16,9 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with U.L.N.A. 12,6 dB(A)
Input Power 1,08W
Voltage Range 12V
MTBF > 150.000 h


PHYSICAL DETAILS

At first glance the NH-U12P differs very little from the NH-U12.
The dimensions are almost identical (the NH-U12P is 3mm taller and 2mm wider).



The NH-U12P, sans fan.

The NH-U12's base and heatpipes were composed of copper and exposed
to the elements. The NH-U12P improves upon this by using nickel-plating to protect
these components from oxidation. In addition, the fin stack has been raised
to create more clearance. The NH-U12 had very little room beneath the fins,
making compatibility an issue for some.



Fin layout.

In most other ways, the NH-U12 and NH-U12P are virtually identical.
The body is comprised of four, staggered U-shaped heatpipes and a large mass
of fins stacked together. Stability is provided by the heatpipes as well as
flaps in each fin layer at the edges and in the interior. It's a very secure
design, making it difficult to bend or damage them.

Two changes mentioned specially in a direct email from Noctua were 1) improved soldering during manufacturing, and 2) a better base. The former is impossible for us to verify except by thermal test results (which are subject to sample variances) and the latter is merely visible.



From the side.

The fins measured to be about 0.44mm thick with gaps of approximately 2.63
mm, basically the same as the NH-C12P. They are fairly thick and the spacing
is moderate compared to other CPU coolers.



The top.

The heatpipes are staggered giving them more access to direct airflow as well
as creating some separation between one another for better heat dissipation.
While this is better than being in a straight line, they are still packed pretty
close together.



The base.

The NH-U12P's base was very flat and smoothly finished. Like the NH-C12P,
there were some very light machine marks as well as some tarnishing,
possibly a byproduct of soldering. A look at the base of the original NH-U12 shows shows minor differences but it's difficult to judge whether or why they should lead to better performance.



Original NH-U12 base.

INSTALLATION

Noctua split the mounting hardware and accessories into three
different bags with AMD parts in one, Intel in another, and a set with parts
common to both platforms.



Mounting hardware.

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 9V and 7V fan operation. 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. Washers are also provided
to prevent short-circuits.



Wings attached.

Metallic wings are attached to the mounting plate via four screws.
The ones pictured above can be used on LGA775 and K8 motherboards (depending
on how the AMD heatsink retention frame is layed out). An alternate set of
U-shaped wings is provided which attach parallel to the heatpipes, giving
the NH-U12P the ability to mount in any orientation in an AMD-based system.



Mounting arms secured.

The backplate is placed on the underside of the motherboard,
and then washers placed over the four mounting holes. Mounting arms are attached
to the backplate via screws.



Firmly mounted.

The holes on the wings align with those found on the mounting
arms and spring-loaded bolts thread through them to finish the job. Once installed,
the heatsink was firmly held in place — no rotation was possible.



Installed fully, with fan.

Metal fan clips hook onto the inside of the fan on both sides,
and requires a fan with open corners. They form an exceptionally tight
fit.

TESTING

Some basic physical measurements have been
added to our test routine.

Noctua NH-U12Ps: SPCR Measurements
Weight 580g (heatsink
alone)

620g (heatsink, wings and bolts)

820g (heatsink, wings, bolts, and stock fan and clips)
Fin thickness ~0.44 mm
Fin spacing ~2.63 mm
Vertical Clearance (northbridge) ~51 mm (measured from the
PCB to the furthest reach of the heatsink)
Overhang
(power
supply)
~10 mm (this
will depend on the distance from the CPU socket to the edge of the PCB)

A comparison of fin thickness and spacing among various tower
heatsinks is interesting. The NH-U12P's fins are stacked conservatively —
neither tight or loose.

Comparison: Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Ninja
0.31 mm
3.95 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
0.33 mm
1.96 mm
Zerotherm Zen FZ120
0.37 mm
1.80 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120
0.45 mm
1.42 mm

Testing was done according to our
unique heatsink testing methodology
, and the reference fan was profiled
using our standard fan testing
methodology
. A quick summary of the components, tools, and procedures
follows below.

Key Components in Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel
    Pentium D 950
    Presler core. TDP of 130W; under our test load, it measures
    78W including efficiency losses in the VRMs.
  • ASUS
    P5LD2-VM
    motherboard. A basic microATX board with integrated graphics
    and plenty of room around the CPU socket.
  • Samsung MP0402H
    40GB 2.5" notebook drive
  • 1
    GB stick of Corsair XMS2
    DDR2 memory.
  • FSP Zen 300W
    fanless power supply.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Nexus 120 fan (part of our standard testing
    methodology; used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm fans)
Nexus 120 fan measurements
Voltage
Noise
RPM
12V
1100 RPM
9V
890 RPM
7V
720 RPM
5V
530 RPM

Test Tools

  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the
    heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply,
    used to regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • Bruel & Kjaer (B&K) model 2203 Sound Level
    Meter
    . Used to accurately measure noise down to 20 dBA and below.
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented
    in our standard fan testing
    methodology
    .

Software Tools

  • SpeedFan
    4.32
    , used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensor. This sensor is not
    calibrated, so results are not universally applicable.
  • CPUBurn
    P6
    , used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most
    real applications. Two instances are used to ensure that both cores are stressed.
  • Throttlewatch
    2.01
    , used to monitor the throttling feature of the CPU to determine
    when overheating occurs.

Noise measurements were made with the fan powered from the lab's variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress
the processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan was used to make sure that
the load temperature was stable for at least ten minutes. The stock fan was
tested at various voltages to represent a good cross-section of its airflow
and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 15 dBA and 21°C.

TEST RESULTS

Stock Fan Testing

The stock fan is the NF-P12. To maximize pressure,
the nine fan blades have less curvature than typical fans and there is very
little separation between them. This also results in more noise, so Noctua
implements something they call "vortex-control notches." According
to Noctua, these notches reduce turbulence and spread the noise generated
over a wider frequency range, making for a more pleasant sounding fan. A summary
of their claims can be read here.

Brand Noctua Power Rating 0.09A
Model Number NF-P12
Airflow Rating 92,3 m³/h
Bearing Type SSO (Sleeve variant)
RPM Rating 1300
Hub Size 1.61" Noise Rating 19.8 dBA
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Header Type 3-pin
Weight 1700g Starting Voltage 4.8V


Voltage
Noise
RPM
12V
1330 RPM
9V
1060 RPM
7V
840 RPM
5V
600 RPM

This fan model was also used on the NH-C12P, and it sounded identical. We also
have a third sample, a retail version of the fan, and we noted very little variance
between them.

Fan @ 12V: The fan was fairly loud at 32-33 dBA. It also throbbed with resonant
beats. Analysis of the acoustic profile revealed a tonal peak at 380Hz. The
throbbing, while less aggressive sounding than the normal buzz and whine common
with high speed fans, can be just as irritating. It has a much lower pitch than
most fans spinning around this speed.

Fan @ 9V: The fan was much quieter, registering only 22 dBA. However, it generated
an unusual sound effect, that of a distant aircraft engine — a low-pitched,
resonating hum. It hit just the right frequency and tone to create this eerie
effect in our test room. Analysis showed it developed tonality in the 360Hz
range.

Fan @ 7V: The fan was almost silent and very smooth. Close-up it was still
audible, and the same airplane-type noise persisted though to a lesser degree.

Fan @ 5V: The fan was effectively silent.



Low-Noise-Adapter on top, Ultra-Low-Noise-Adapter on the bottom. Each
appears to have an in-line zener diode to drop the voltage to the fan
to about 9V and 7V.

Cooling Results

During testing the NH-U12P showed itself to be an exceptional performer with
the stock Noctua NF-P12 fan. At 12V, the temperature increase above ambient
was only 12°C — an excellent result. Lowering the fan speed led to
very little detriment in performance. The temperature increased by two degrees
at 9V and an additional one degree at 7V. Not until 5V did the temperature spike
significantly.

Noctua NH-U12P
with stock fan
Fan Voltage
Noise @1m
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
32-33 dBA
34°C
12
0.15
9V
22 dBA
36°C
14
0.18
7V
16 dBA
37°C
15
0.19
5V
<15 dBA
42°C
20
0.26
Noctua NH-U12P with reference fan
12V
21 dBA
36°C
14
0.18
9V
18 dBA
38°C
16
0.21
7V
16 dBA
39°C
17
0.22
5V
<15 dBA
43°C
21
0.27
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~10 mins.

°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (22°C) at load.

°C/W: based on the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU (measured
78W); lower is better.

Our reference Nexus fan performed very similarly to the NF-P12, off by no more
than a degree or two at similar noise levels. Acoustically however, in our opinion,
the Nexus is superior, sounding far more innocuous than the NF-P12, despite
what the SPL registered. Combined with our results from our NH-C12P review,
we conclude that the "high-pressure" design, if it does in fact work
properly, is not advantageous when used in conjunction with either of Noctua's
current CPU heatsinks. It may perform better on a poorer quality heatsink with
tighter fin spacing, where high pressure would be needed more and any difference
in performance easily recognized.

Comparables

Comparison: NH-U12P vs. Competition
Fan Voltage
Noise @1m
°C Rise Above Ambient Temperature
HR-01 Plus
NH-U12P
Ultra-120 eXtreme
HDT-S1283
Zen FZ120
12V
21 dBA
13
14
12
13
15
9V
18 dBA
15
16
14
15
16
7V
16 dBA
16
17
17
18
19
5V
<15 dBA
20
21
24
24
24
All results generated with our reference Nexus 120mm
fan.

The NH-U12P turned out to be a superb performer, coming within one degree of
our current champ the Thermalright
HR-01 Plus
across the board. Such a small difference can be considered
negligible — they essentially perform the same. While the Thermalright
Ultra-120 eXtreme
edges both heatsinks with higher airflow, we appreciate
low airflow results more and thus award the HR-01 Plus and NH-U12P the top spots.

The data from the orginal NH-U12 is not included here as it is not directly comparable; the earlier test was done on a different CPU and motherboard. The original U12 never made the top of our charts, however.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

The recording begins with the ambient noise of the test
room. Please set your playback volume so that the ambient noise is almost inaudible,
then don't adjust the volume control again. For best results, save the sound
file to your own PC, then listen.

Noctua
NH-U12P with stock NF-P12 fan at 5V, 7V, 9V and 12V at 1m
The recording
starts with 5 seconds of the ambient in the room, then goes through 5 seconds
at each of the four voltages.

Reference Comparatives

Nexus
"Real Silent 120mm fan"
(at 5V, 7V, 9V and 12V at 1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Noctua NH-U12P is possibly the best heatsink we've tested thus far, rivaling
the Thermalright HR-01 Plus for the CPU cooling crown. It excels no matter how
much airflow is applied. With our reference Nexus fan, its performance scaled
very well as the fan speed was decreased, making it a very versatile product
for silent PCs. Mounting can be somewhat tedious, but getting to the back
of the motherboard is a necessity for all through-the-board bolt-and-spring systems, which we feel is the best for large heavy heatsinks.

The improved soldering process and base "tweaking" mentioned in Noctua's email to us appears to have made a difference in reducing thermal resistance. The NH-U12P is substantially better than the original U12.

All of our current top ranked CPU heatsinks have extremely
secure/tight mounting systems comprised of spring-loaded through-the-board bolts. The only exception is the Xigmatek HDT-S1283, but
it is quite light and it has direct touch heatpipes, which one can argue, makes up for its push-pin
mounting system. Scythe, once dominant in the field, has fallen from grace.
The Zipang, and Ninja Rev. B don't match the level
of cooling we've seen lately from other heatsinks with more secure mounting. Is their use of plastic pushpins for LGA775 installation
and the absence of solder on most internal joints a coincidence? We think not.

To editorialize a bit further, the highest performance low noise heatsinks today feature:

  • multiple heatpipes; the more the better
  • many large, thin fins with greater than 2mm spacing between them
  • solder as well as tight press fit to maximize heat transfer in joints within the heatsink
  • flat copper or direct heatpipe contact base
  • high, even pressure on the interface between CPU and heatsink base, best achieved with through-the-board spring-loaded bolts

The NF-P12 fan is interesting. Its notched blade
design alters the acoustic profile, producing a unique sound. Whether
it is more pleasant than other fans may come down to personal preference.
We prefer our reference Nexus fan or any of the Scythe Slip Stream varieties,
which sound very smooth, benign, and consistent throughout their speed ranges. It is quite possible, however, that the higher airflow of the NF-P12 fan at 12V will be useful for hotter CPUs that are overclocked.

Noctua NH-U12P
PROS



* Top-notch performance

* Secure mounting system

* Fan very quiet when used with supplied adapters
CONS



* Expensive

Our thanks to Noctua
for the NH-U12P heatsink sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

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


Thermalright
HR-01 Plus: 2nd Gen Killer Tower Cooler


Scythe
Zipang 14cm fan "blow-down" CPU cooler


Cooler Master Hyper Z600
CPU Cooler: A Real Heavyweight


Intel's HSF for high-end
Core 2 Extreme CPU cooler


Thermaltake V1: "Peacock
Tail" Cooler

* * *

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