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Review: Noctua NH-U12A

by Parm Mann on 17 May 2019, 14:00

Tags: Noctua

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Test Methodology and Performance

Comparison Coolers

Category Model HEXUS Review Reviewed Price Warranty Product Page
Air be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 April 2018 £80 3 Years
be quiet! Dark Rock Slim May 2019 £55 3 Years
Cooler Master MasterAir MA620P March 2018 £75 2 Years
Noctua NH-U12A May 2019 £90 6 Years
Liquid Aerocool Project 7 P7-L240 February 2018 £100 2 Years
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120R RGB May 2018 £100 2 Years
Corsair Hydro Series H100i Pro RGB July 2018 £110 5 Years
Corsair Hydro Series H115i RGB Platinum November 2018 £140 5 Years
Corsair Hydro Series H150i Pro RGB January 2018 £165 5 Years
Deepcool Captain 240 Pro January 2019 £150 3 Years
Deepcool Gamer Storm Castle 240 RGB July 2018 £96 3 Years
NZXT Kraken M22 March 2018 £90 3 Years

HEXUS CPU Cooler Test Bench

Hardware Components Product Page
Processor Intel Core i7-8700K (overclocked to 4.8GHz)
Motherboard Asus ROG Maximus X Hero
Graphics Card MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
Memory G.Skill Trident Z 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4-3200
Power Supply be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1,000W
Primary Storage 256GB WD Black PCIe SSD
Secondary Storage 1TB Crucial MX300 SATA SSD
Chassis be quiet! Dark Base 700
Monitor iiyama ProLite X4071UHSU-B1
Operating system Windows 10 Pro

Benchmark Process

Our test platform was last refreshed in 2018 and includes a hexa-core Intel Core i7-8700K processor overclocked using 1.225v to 4.8GHz across all cores. The 12-thread chip is paired to 32GB of dual-channel G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 memory set to run at 3,200MHz using the built-in XMP profile.

To get a feel for how the coolers compare, CPU temperature is logged while a large 4K video clip is encoded in multiple passes using the freeware HandBrake utility. The workload tasks all available threads for a prolonged period and, in order to provide a stabilised reading, we then calculate the average temperature across all cores from the last five minutes of encoding.

Actual CPU temperature is recorded and we also graph the delta temperature - that's CPU temperature minus ambient temperature. Last but not least, to give you an idea of cooler acoustics, we use a PCE-318 noise meter to measure overall system noise in both idle and load states.


Our be quiet! Dark Base 700 chassis is set to run with its two stock SilentWings 3 PWM fans - a 140mm front intake and a 140mm rear exhaust - both of which are set to low speed (setting 1) via the integrated fan hub. All CPU cooler fans are set to a 'silent' profile from within the Asus BIOS, and when testing liquid coolers the pump is connected to the motherboard's dedicated water-pump header.

When a radiator is used, it is installed in the roof or rear of the chassis and any bundled fans are configured to push air through the radiator and out of the enclosure.


We had a feeling the NH-U12A would perform well, but we didn't expect Noctua's 120mm solution to top the charts. Our overclocked Core i7-8700K has literally never been happier, and on LGA1151 at least, the NH-U12A proves that you can't judge a cooler on size alone.

Heck, not only does it perform better than any of the liquid coolers on show, it's also quieter. You can't really hear it when the test platform is idle, and though the fans become noticeable under load, the resulting hum is smooth and far from off-putting. It's worth noting that adding the low-noise adapters resulted in only a one degree increase in temperature, while peak noise levels reduced to 34.4dB; not quite as muted as the be quiet! pair, but nonetheless impressive for a 120mm solution.