The Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler

Noctua designed the NH-U12A to be a high performance CPU cooler, yet not too large or too expensive. The use of 120 mm fans allows the NH-U12A to be compatible with more cases and a bit easier to install as well, while it also reduces the manufacturing cost of the cooler a little. Overall, the NH-U12A is compatible with most of the motherboards and processors released in the past several years, including LGA 2011 and LGA 2066 processors. The only processor socket of note that it's not compatible with is AMD's socket TR4 for Threadripper processors; these large processors require a matching larger base, and Noctua has the NH-U12S TR4-SP3 specifically for that processor.

Physically, the NH-U12A is relatively simple. It is a single tower cooler, with the array of fins floating above a small base and relying on heatpipes to transfer the thermal energy away from that base and to the main body of the cooler. Despite the 120 mm fan size, the NH-U12A is not exactly compact – it is short enough to fit inside the majority of ATX-compliant cases, but the fin array is thick and the presence of two 120 mm fans makes the cooler even wider. Even though Noctua made sure that the NH-U12A will stay clear of the PCI Express slots, the cooler will cover a significant portion of the motherboard and is very likely to hang over the RAM slots on many boards, limiting RAM height on these slots to 42 mm.

Noctua claims that the NH-U12A brings 140 mm cooler performance in 120 mm size. We can see why, as the array of fins is significantly wider than that of the NH-U12S, a cooler that the company introduced as a top-tier 120 mm cooler and even made a Threadripper-specific version of it. Aside from the wider array of fins, the cooler has seven heatpipes, accelerating heat transfer even further. The heatpipes are made of copper but are nickel-plated. The joints are all soldered, ensuring maximum thermal transfer and mechanical cohesion.

Due to the dense fin array, Noctua’s engineers had to optimize air pressure and went with two fans instead of one. The fans used are the company’s own 120mm NF-A12x25 fans, which combine airflow with good air pressure, making them ideal for fan speed controlled CPU coolers. Still, it appears that the very dense array of fins on the NH-U12A forced the designers to use two fans in order to maintain viable airflow levels, at least when the speed of the fans is low.

The base of the cooler that makes contact with the processor is split into two parts. The bottom half of the base is made out of nickel-plated copper, maximizing the heat transfer rate from the CPU to the heatpipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The top half serves only as a mechanical support and is made out of aluminum, while the mounting bracket is nickel-plated steel.

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  • Qasar - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    " At $100 its hitting the AIO water cooler heatsinks." maybe.. but how well would those AIO's cool compared to this one ? here. AIOs start at $65 cdn, but i doubt they would cool as well as this would.. i bought an NH-D15 for my 5930k, and at full speed.. my case fans are louder, and it keeps the cpu pretty cool even overclocked.. i liked the NH-D15 so much.. i grabbed one each for all of my comps, Phenom 2, an AMD FX, and my 2 X58 based cpus.
  • Skeptical123 - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I think you're misunderstanding the target consumer here. Noctua has made such a solid product for so long now they have established themselves not only as a market leader but as a premium brand. Just look at the NH-U12A for example. While a very good product they raised the price higher giving it likely some of the highest profit margins of any cooler on the market because they can command that price. As their core market segment does not want water coolers no matter the price. Due to too many moving parts, etc. Or simply not have the room in the case and or not want ing to mess around with mounting a radator
  • mobutu - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Way way way too expensive so totally out of the realm of even considering this product.

    For Ryzen is even totally unnecessary unless your into heavy overclocking. You can get mild overclocking with the free included wraith cooler.

    Spending that 100 usdollars into a better cpu/gpu is a no brainer.
  • sonny73n - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link


    Only idiots overclock the CPU and spend more money for the cooler.
  • azrael- - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    There's some very important info missing from the review: the weight!

    The first thing I look at with a cooler is its weight, considering how most of them hang off the motherboard. There's a reason AMD and Intel have cooler weight recommendations.

    And yes, I know I can simply look up the cooler on Noctua's web site, but that doesn't change the fact that this information should be part of the review.
  • jabber - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    People always go on about the Coolermaster 212 but it has the suckiest mounting system in HSF history. I detest the things. My heart sinks if a customer brings in a system with one of those.
  • DanNeely - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    "Overall, the NH-U12A is designed to fit top-tier cooling performance into a more compact 120 mm cooler, as opposed to larger and more traditional 140 mm coolers."

    This seems like a bit of an odd turn of phrase. AFAIK dual 120mm fan tower coolers have been around almost as long as single 120mm models; which has been a lot longer than 140mm models of any sort started to show up.
  • vailr - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    For half the price, the Scythe Mugen 5B (~$45 on Amazon) seems to offer equivalent CPU cooling.
  • D@ Br@b($)! - Saturday, July 13, 2019 - link

    +1 and it's more quiet too.
  • djayjp - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    Yeah sure 250W load at 7v and only like 55C lol. Bs

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