Noctua NH-U12A Review

👤by Matthew Hodgson Comments 📅03-04-19
Noctua don’t release many products, instead operating a “quality, not quantity” mindset. This philosophy shines through during our testing procedures.

Starting with the aesthetics. Of course, Noctua don’t expect you to love the beige and brown colour scheme, but it’s here to stay and can be appreciated for its different style and also for it’s ability to stand out from the crowd. Their NF-A12x25 fans have a charm of their own with the crystallised structure in the blades and the incredible tolerances achieved through proper engineering. The heatsink itself, however, in plain silver, looks fantastic! The simplicity of it, while appearing properly manufactured, goes a long way.

Installation was a simple process. As simple as they come, anyway. All coolers are a little fiddly; you’re dealing with expensive, sensitive equipment while messing about with a screwdriver; there’s risks, but Noctua go a long way to reduce those risks by using clear, accurate instructions. The fact that only two screws are required to attach the cooler to the SecuFirm2 mounting bracket also helps in distributing the pressure onto the CPU, thus improving temperatures.

Now, onto the performance; this is where the Noctua takes the crown for the quietest cooler, thanks largely to those NF-A12x25 fans, once again they’re almost unbelievable in how quietly they operate, we saw idle noise levels as low as 25.5dB(A) and an average of 26. Even with the CPU overclocked to 4.4GHz, with an idle CPU power draw of roughly 70w, the fans didn’t nudge up by more than a single dB. While making a quiet cooler can be seen as relatively easy, you could just turn down the fan speed or reduce its size; maintaining decent CPU temperatures at the same time is what requires real expertise. Our Core i7 3930K didn’t peak any further than 63°C with our 4.4GHz overclock applied and stayed well below 60°C at stock clocks. Considering the 135W TDP, at stock, of this CPU, that result cannot be dismissed; there are coolers that are slightly better, but they all produce more noise in doing so.

Pricing is somewhat of an Achilles heel of the Noctua NH-U12A, at currently around £20 more than the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, which we feel is this heatsink’s biggest rival. The be quiet! Is a little louder but just as capable at keeping our i7 cool. However, things like memory compatibility will likely suffer with the Dark Rock. If quietness is paramount, then an extra £20 shouldn’t be too big of a hurdle.

One word of warning for any potential customers – make sure the rest of your system is whisper quiet or you may find yourself noticing fan noises you didn’t know existed. We have granted this the Performance award for it's quietness.

When it comes down to it, having a quiet system, to some, can be crucial to their mental wellbeing, while others can just ignore the fans whirring away. If you absolutely must have a quiet system, this cooler is 100% for you; we can’t think of anything we’d recommend instead.

+ Beautifully quiet
+ Incredible cooling capacity
+ 100% RAM compatibility (Intel LGA115x and AMD AM4)
+ Easy installation
+ 6-year warranty

+- Questionable colour scheme
+- Don’t include their new NT-H2 thermal paste

- Expensive

Click here for an explanation of our awards at

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