Noctua NH-U12S Reviewccokeman - December 4, 2013
Category: CPU Cooling
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Noctua NH-U12S Introduction:
If you are talking about high performance air-cooled solutions, then the name Noctua is sure to enter the conversation. When you start mentioning high performance air coolers that don't use fans that will make your ears bleed, the list shrinks dramatically, leaving just a few really strong players with Noctua being in the top two. Having first-hand experience with many of the company's innovative designs, gives me a distinct perspective on what they have to offer the end user. With the NH-U12S, Noctua has addressed one of the glaring problems associated with high performance air-cooled solutions: the inability to use all the DIMM slots on a motherboard due to heat sink interference. This is especially true when you are talking about modules with large heat shields, such as the Patriot Viper Series, Mushkin Ridgebacks, Corsair Vengeance and Dominator modules, and many more out on the market. It's an issue that means a compromise on how you cool the CPU or how much memory to install in the system, not to mention whether you can use a set of high performance modules or have to stick to standard modules.
These are problems that are not Noctua-specific, but rather an issue with pretty much any company that offers a large tower-design heat sink. Some companies have addressed the issue with new slim tower designs, like Noctua's NH-U12S, or moved to one of the many all-in-one (AIO) liquid solutions on the market. An AIO solution is nice, but over the long term, most people do not trust liquid solutions and would rather stick with straight-up air cooling. In that case, Noctua has an option for that user in its NH-U12S. Priced at $69 and equipped with a six-year warranty, Noctua has what may be one of the best cooling solutions to meet the challenge of memory compatibility head on. Let's see how it does when put to the test.
Noctua NH-U12S Closer Look:
Noctua's packaging is not flashy, in that it does not use wild graphics and bright colors to draw attention to the package. Instead, Noctua uses an understated design that is full of information on all sides to ensure the consumer has all the needed information for an educated purchase decision. That is when shopping at a brick and mortar locations, of course. The front panel shows a list of specifications without a lot of detail to draw you in. On the back is a brief description of the attributes that make the NH-U12S a solid product, while one side panel features technical specifications, with the opposite side providing details on some of the unique features of the NH-U12S.
As I have seen in the past, Noctua packs the box with everything you will need while making sure the heat sink arrives unscathed. The hardware accessories are packaged individually in boxes, including the AMD-specific, Intel-specific, and common parts. These boxes take up what little available space there is inside the packaging.
Individually packaging the accessories has always been something that Noctua has done. The method of delivery has changed this time around, with each part of the SecuFirm2 mounting kit segregated into boxes rather than bags. The AMD brackets are used specifically for AMD solutions and support all the latest sockets. The Intel SecuFirm2 bracket kit includes a robust backplate that is designed specifically for Socket 115X usage, rather than being multi-socket compatible like much of the rest of the line up. I understand the reasoning though, as this cooler is designed to address a specific issue seen on Intel Socket 115X, 2011, and AMD platforms with memory clearance. The common parts kit includes a screwdriver, low noise adapter, fan mounting hardware for another NF-F12 PWM fan, and Noctua's own NT-H1 thermal compound.
Each time I have looked at a heat sink from Noctua, it's amazing to see how the engineering work behind a quiet, high performance cooling solution is implemented. When you sit down and think about it, each thing the company does is for a reason and addresses the shortcomings of other designs, in order to deliver on the company's core principles.