Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler Review – Best CPU Air Cooler?

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Test Setup

Our test setup for testing the Noctua NH-U12A CPU cooler includes the following components below. I didn’t use Noctua’s NT-H2 thermal compound as shown on the photo above. I only used the parts that came with the box.

Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64bit ver. 1809
Motherboard: MSI MEG Z390 ACE
Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12A
Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3000MHz
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition
Storage Drives: WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD, Crucial MX500 2TB
Power Supply: Seasonic 850W Prime Titanium
Chassis: Thermaltake Core P5

Noctua NH-U12A Benchmark Results

The Idle Temperatures

Noctua NH-U12A idle stock temperature

The screenshot above is when the system is on idle. There’s very low to no load at all. The CPU is also running at stock, and the everything is set to auto including the fan curve. The fans run at around 400 to 450 RPM at this state. Since the fans are running this slow, it would be better if they were not running at all and cool the CPU passively. Just like the 0dB feature on the newer graphics cards today.

Noctua NH-U12A idle temperature overclocked CPU

Overclocking the Core i7-8700K to 5GHz with a voltage of 1.35V bumps the idle temperature by 2° to 3° Celsius higher. The system is still in idle state, but somehow there are spikes in the temperature as you can see from the line graph above.

Noctua NH-U12A idle temp increased fan speed

Cooling the CPU passively or at minimal fan speed is okay, but for those who wants their CPU to stay cool as possible, you can bump up the speed to around 1500 RPM or 75% fan speed. As you can see from above, the idle temps went down to 36° Celsius. One the screenshot above, the CPU is running at stock by the way. In overclocked settings, expect temperature to go down as well, only a tad higher than 36° Celsius.

The Full Load Temperatures

Noctua NH-U12A full load temperature stock CPU

Now here comes the real test. Running the system at full load for around 17 minutes, we can see that the CPU temperature is just around 60 Celsius. The Core i7-8700K is running at 4.3GHz with a core voltage of 1.2V.

If you increase the fan speed a bit, we can see that the temperature goes down further to around 56°-57° Celsius. If you are using an open-type chassis or test bench, you may hear the fans humming. But, it will be (almost) inaudible on a closed-case setup.

Noctua NH-U12A full load temperature overclocked CPU

Finally, above you see the CPU running at full load and overclock to 5GHz all cores with 1.35V. The Noctua NH-U12A was able to handle the heat of the CPU quite well. Hovering at around 71° Celsius (only) is quite impressive considering that it’s just an air cooler.

Noctua NH-U12A vs Corsair H100i RGB Platinum

We compared the performance of the Noctua MH-U12A vs the Corsair H100i RGB Platinum (a 240mm AIO liquid cooler). Below are the full load stock and full load overclocked CPU benchmarks of the Corsair H100i.

Corsair h100i rgb platinum temp full load STOCK Corsair h100i rgb platinum temp full load overclocked

In full load stock configuration, the CPU was running at around 57° Celsius with the Corsair H100i. While with the Noctua NH-U12A, the CPU was running at around 60° Celsius. That’s not bad at all, considering the difference is just 3 Celsius.

Meanwhile, when the Core i7-8700K is overclocked to 5GHz @ 1.35V, the Corsair H100i manages to cool the CPU with a temperature of 69° Celsius. The Noctua NH-U12A is close at 71° Celsius, with a difference of around 2° Celsius only. That’s a really impressive performance for an air cooler if you ask me. Time to warp up this review then…

Pricing and Availability

The Noctua NH-U12A CPU cooler is now available and comes with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $99.90 USD or £89.95 EUR. The Noctua NF-A12X25 PWM can also be purchased separately with an MSRP of $29.90, if you want additional fans. Noctua is so confident with their product that they’re offering a 6-year manufacturer’s warranty for the entire package. Meanwhile, the supplied NF-A12x25 fans feature an MTTF rating of more than 150,000 hours. Retail prices do change, so for latest pricing, availability and where to buy; check out the links below.

Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler latest pricing and availability:
For US: available on Amazon.com here
For UK: available on Amazon UK here
Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM Fans available here.
Noctua NT-H2 Thermal Compound available here.

Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler Review

Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler Review Conclusion

I’m very impressed with the performance of the Noctua NH-U12A overall. As you have seen in our test results, it was able to rival an AIO liquid cooler. And it’s not just a typical AIO liquid cooler, it’s the Corsair H100i RGB Platinum, a 240mm high performance AIO liquid CPU cooler.

The NF-A12X25 PWM fans are quite impressive as well. They perform quite well while staying almost inaudible most of the time. It is a very silent fan indeed, and I hope Noctua would produce a black version of this fan.

Speaking of black version, Noctua did released a series of new all-black CPU cooler. Unfortunately, a black NH-U12A is not one of them. You can check the new Noctua chromax.black CPU cooler here.

I haven’t tested a push-only configuration, or single fan only, in this review. But I’m confident that a single fan would also work well in cooling a mainstream CPU. The temperature might be a few degrees higher compared to a push-pull setup, but I don’t think it would be that far.

At the end of the day, I can’t find any fault or reasons not to recommend the NH-U12A. It is simply one of the best, if not the best CPU air coolers released recently. Perhaps, you may find the color of the fans not to your liking, but you can always replace them with your preferred fan. Note that performance may be affected if you change the fan.

It’s a bit more expensive compared to other 120mm CPU air coolers in the market, but you do get what you paid for. The NH-U12A is a premium CPU cooler with two premium and very silent fans included. You simply can’t go wrong with it, not unless your setup is quite unique or over the limits of the NH-U12A.

thepcenthusiast editor's choice award

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I love computers since I was a kid. I’m always fascinated with new technology, especially in the PC world. Many years ago, I was curious if the reviews I read were true and real. So, why not test them myself and share my first-hand experience? And thus, here we are. Thanks for reading!

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