Review Index:

Noctua NH-U12S CPU Cooler Review

Manufacturer: Noctua

Features and Cooler Design


Courtesy of Noctua

  • Award-winning NH-U12 series
  • 100% RAM compatibility
  • Classic 120mm tower size for excellent overall compatibility
  • NF-F12 120mm Focused Flow™ fan
  • PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptor
  • Anti-vibration pads and fan-clips for second NF-F12 (optional)
  • SecuFirm2™ mounting system
  • Compatibility with past and future sockets
  • NT-H1 thermal compound
  • 6 years warranty

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The Noctua NH-U12S CPU air cooler is a large cooler with a single radiator tower, featuring a 120mm fan, nickel-plated copper heat-pipes and CPU base plate, and an aluminum-finned radiator. The heat pipes are copper-based, optimizing heat absorption from the CPU base plate and transfer to the radiator. The aluminum radiator optimizes the transfer of the heat from the copper heat pipes to the air medium. Noctua added a thin coat nickel-plating to the heat-pipes and the copper base plate for corrosion and scratch resistance, as well as for aesthetics purposes, giving the copper a click chromed appearance.

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The tower radiator designed into the NH-U12S has a fin density of 12 fpi (fins per inch) with a width of approximately double that of a standard 25mm case fan. The fin density gives the cooler the ability to work well with slower speed fans while the radiator thickness adds surface area to better disperse heat from the aluminum fins as it is transfered from the copper heat pipes. Further, the aluminum fins are individually soldered to the heat pipes to ensure an optimal heat transfer interface between the two metals. The unit's base has an integrated hold down plate with two spring-loaded screw-in nuts, giving the base plate a good amount of focused force to ensure a solid mount with the CPU surface.

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From the side view, you are better able to see the size of the unit. The unit comes with a single 120mm fan, held to the radiator by wire-based holders, but can support dual fan mode in a push-pull configuration. The unit's five heat pipes are oriented in a U-shape, terminating in the radiator's top plate, and passing through the unit's copper base plate.

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The radiator's rectangular shape gives it the ability to maximize its internal surface area while minimizing its depth footprint for motherboard compatibility. The top plate is stamped with the Noctua corporate logo and name, acting at the termination point for the five embedded heat pipes. The heat pipes are soldered in place and capped to ensure heat pipe integrity, keeping the contents under pressure and promoting the phase change required for the heat pipe transfer medium to be effective. Integrated into the sides of the radiator are dual hook configurations to hold the fans in place. The wire fan holds have two set of straight sections that lock into the hooked sections of the radiator to firmly secure fans to the front and/or rear sides of the radiator.

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The unit's base plate is a nickel-plated, seamless copper plate. The nickel-plating helps to prevent corrosion and surface scratches on the CPU mounting surface of the base plate, minimizing surface imperfections that can lead to less than optimal heat transfer from the CPU. The base plate sandwiches the copper heat pipes with an upper plate with the hold down assembly is fixed to the upper plate as well. The heat pipes run through the center portion of the base plate to ensure optimal heat transfer. The base plate is machined flat and polished to a mirror finish, ensuring a near perfect mating surface for the CPU.

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When mounted to a Z87-based board, the cooler clears the board's VRM heat sink on all sides. There is more than sufficient clearance for the cooler to mount without the side heat pipes contacting the heat sinks. There are are no fit issues to the front and rear of the cooler - you should even be able to use all four DIMM sockets without issue.

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The closeup shots give you a really good perspective on just how precisely Noctua designed the NH-U12S to the socket specifications. They don't exceed the specs in any way, but come close to the right and left of the socket, especially with those larger VRM heat sinks on the MSI Z87 MPOWER board. The really nice feature is the ability to use front and rear fans on the unit without space contention issues.

June 24, 2014 | 03:53 PM - Posted by H1tman_Actua1

why not spend $10-15 dollars more and buy a nice closed loop water cooler and get better performance, better looking and save space. Not to mention this monstrosity is butt ugly.

June 24, 2014 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Troispoint (not verified)

Huh? It's quieter, cheaper and performs nearly as well. I would actually buy this over a H100i.

June 28, 2014 | 03:45 PM - Posted by H1tman_Actua1

then your a straight up tart. nothing is quite about the Noct. and any closed loop if you actually own or have used one is silent.

June 24, 2014 | 07:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AIOs are loud, overpriced, poorly built, and risk leaks. If you want the ultimate performance shy of custom water cooling, the D15 is really the only choice.

June 24, 2014 | 06:12 PM - Posted by Qrash

Ugly? It's a classic tower design as stated early in the review. Not everyone is ready to try liquid cooling. For several years now Noctua has pushed the development of quiet fans for PCs, doing original research and design in Austria. Look, I don't like the colours either, but there's no mistaking a Noctua fan for any other brand. Plus, they just announced two new lines that are more muted in colour.

June 25, 2014 | 07:59 AM - Posted by demaksi

Is this much better than 35€ Raijintek Ereboss? In Serbia this Noctua is 60€.

June 25, 2014 | 11:46 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I have not tested that unit, but based on the specs and build of the Ereboss, I would expect similar or better performance.  The only odd thing with teh Ereboss that *may* work against it is the included fan.  With the thickness of the Ereboss' radiator tower, a thin fan may not cut it well if you plan to o/c because the fan does not have the power to push air with enough force though the radiator to effectively cool it.

Again though, the above is only based on looking over the specs of the Erebus in combination with my knowledge of how both air and water coolers function...

June 27, 2014 | 01:20 AM - Posted by Oblyvious (not verified)

I would check out the Raijintek Themis. From what I hear it actually does a better job at cooler due to the larger fan and is a bit cheaper.

June 26, 2014 | 08:42 PM - Posted by FernanDK (not verified)

Why Haswell has lower/better temps when being cooled by an watercooler?

June 26, 2014 | 08:54 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I assume you referring to the differences between the Silver Arrow air cooler and the XSPC DIY water cooler and the Corsair H100i all in one water cooler.  Haswell CPUs tend to produce quite a bit of heat and a water-based cooling system will tend to be able to keep up better with dispensing the heat because of the liquid medium's heat carrying capacity.  While the heat is dispersed via radiator in both water and air coolers, the water cooler radiator has a lot more surface areas within the radiator to transfer the heat out to so the the fans can dissipate the heat from the radiator.

June 28, 2014 | 03:47 PM - Posted by H1tman_Actua1

oh this must be where all the nay saying air cooled people rally. Afraid people of water cooling.

June 30, 2014 | 11:59 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Custom water cooling is great, no premade solution (air or water) can match the performance, but closed loop coolers only really offer less obstruction compared to air coolers, which are better in almost every other way.

Closed loop coolers combine all the disadvantages of custom water cooling (price, noise, risk of leaks) without actually performing better than a good air cooler.

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