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Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler

A very interesting premium-class product.

May 21, 2008



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Usability

As we already noted many times in our reviews of leading cooling systems, Achilles' heel of practically all modern High-End coolers is time-taking installation procedures. Alas, the NH-U12P is not an exception. In order to install it on the Intel LGA775 platform, you must remove a motherboard from a PC case, then fix two brackets with screws to the backplate on the reverse side of the socket, then screw special mounting plates to the base of the heat sink, and only then install the cooler by attaching it to the retention brackets with two spring-loaded screws. A similar procedure is required for AMD Socket AM2. In this case you must also remove the standard mounting frame and use sophisticated brackets in case of South-North orientation of the socket. Whichever way you look at it, installation of the NH-U12P cooler is hardly a user-friendly process - it won't be a problem for experienced enthusiasts, of course, but it may be practically impossible for inexperienced users (Noctua publishes email address of its tech support almost in every paragraph for a reason, you know.)

However, it's not fair to criticize the NH-U12P for its complex retention module. Taking into account heavy weight of this cooler (about 800 g in the stock configuration, and up to 1 kg with two fans), it's easy to understand that typical retention modules - push-pins for LGA775 or Socket AM2 clips are of little use here. That's the nature of bulky heatsinks - heavy artillery as it is. On the contrary, a special retention module (Noctua calls it SecuFirm Mounting) guarantees truly secure installation of the cooler into the socket and provides tight contact with minimized thermal resistance between a processor and a heat sink. In fact, it contributes to the usability image of the NH-U12P.

Fortunately, there are no other physical reasons to balance on the brink of compromise in other usability issues. The NH-U12P gains revenge here, fully vindicating itself in our eyes. First of all, we should mention the bundled thermal compound (NT-H1). It's notable for the time proven composition of the filling agent (aluminum oxide and nitride). This grease is rather thick, so it may act as an all-purpose thermal interface, which can be applied even to the rough base of heat sinks. Running a few steps forward, the NT-H1 thermal compound improves thermal results of absolutely all contenders of our today's tests compared to the reference thermal interface Stars 420.

Another pleasant surprise: the NH-U12P comes with an additional installation bundle for the second fan (two clips plus two vibrodamping gaskets). The bundle proves that Noctua guys do not save on accessories. On the contrary, they package a full-blown product, which allows to use all its features without any problems. It's a good example to other cooler makers, who consider such accessories optional and coming for "an extra price".

We should also mention the long power cable of the NF-P12 fan - 40 cm (longer by 10 cm than the standard cable). Now that many enthusiasts often use large PC cases for their computers, extra 10 cm may come in handy, especially in case of two-fan configurations of the NH-U12P together with various multifunctional panels.

Well, we've cleared up the usability issues, there seems to be no need to elaborate. It's time to proceed to the most important part of today's article - performance results of the NH-U12P cooler.


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