Noctua NH-U12S Reviewccokeman - December 4, 2013
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Noctua NH-U12S Closer Look:
The Noctua NH-12S is a tower-style heat sink in the ever popular U12 series, which measures 158x125x71mm with a single NF-F12 fan attached. Adding a second fan brings the depth to 96mm. Minus the fans, the fin array is only 45mm thick; 26mm narrower than the fin array of the NH-U12P and narrower than competitor Thermaltake's NiC-F4. Naked, the NH-U12S weighs in at 580g, while it jumps to 755g when equipped with a single fan. Slimming down the fin array accomplishes the ultimate goal of this cooler: providing 100% memory compatibility by allowing space for memory modules that use taller heat sinks on the DIMMs. A single NF-F12 Focused Flow fan is provided with the NH-U12S, but you can add an optional second fan to improve thermal performance.
Pulling the fan off the heat sink, we see that the NH-U12S follows tradition, using a baseplate with five U-shaped heat pipes that carry the thermal energy from the CPU through the base and into the fin array to be dispersed by the airflow through the large aluminum fin array. One thing you'll notice is that the fin array is not as dense as some offerings, but this does not seem to impact performance in the slightest. Using the high static pressure Focused Flow fan, there is no problem with airflow on this heat sink.
The top view of the tower shows the termination points for the five nickel-plated copper heat pipes. Noctua's logo and name are embossed in each of the fins and adds a nice touch if you have a case window. When you look at the shape of the fins in the array. they are slightly tapered inwards toward the center with several notches that add surface area for added cooling performance. The hole in the top is used to access the retaining screw for the SecuFirm2 bracket on the heat sink base. The nickel plated copper base is smooth with very fine machining marks that I have seen on each of the Noctua heat sinks I have looked at. So far this surface has not been an issue as far as cooling performance is concerned. Each of the five U-shaped, nickel-plated copper heat pipes are run strategically through the aluminum fin array to deliver the best possible cooling performance.
Noctua's Focused Flow fan is included with the NH-U12S instead of the popular NF-P12 used on earlier iterations of the U12 heat sink family. Having looked at the NF-F12 Focused Flow PWM fan earlier, I found it outperformed the NF -P12 at a lower noise level with the advantage of PWM control. Measuring 120x120x25mm, the NF-F12 uses "a stepped inlet on the fan body to promote turbulent airflow into the fan, which improves compression of the air stream and reduce the noise signature. Small inner microstructures also help to improve airflow and static pressure efficiency on the suction side of the Heptaperf fan and reduce the fan noise. The improved airflow stream is pushed through the 'Focused Flow' frame, where it is straightened, channeled, and 'Focused' by the 11 stator vanes. These vanes are equipped with Vortex control notches and are placed at variable intervals that range from 31 to 37 degrees apart; all in the name of improved flow and reduced noise. The second generation SSO2 full metal bearing is machined from solid brass for a longer lifespan and improved fan blade stabilization. The motor magnet is placed closer to the axis of the fan blade shaft; again, for improved stabilization in combination with the new metal shell. The NF-F12 PWM has removable rubber vibration dampers to keep vibrations quiet. The back side of the motor houses the new NE-FD1 PWM IC, which incorporates SCD technology to reduce noise at very low fan speeds, as the NF-F12 PWM can run as low as 300 RPM."
Installation of the NH-U12S is for all intents and purposes, one of the easiest heat sinks to install thanks to Noctua's oft-copied SecuFirm2 mounting system. As long as you have a chassis with an opening in the motherboard tray behind the socket (most do these days), you will not need to remove the motherboard for installation. Simply push the back plate through the heat sink mounting holes around the socket, place the spacers on the studs, place the brackets on the studs, thread on the retaining nuts, and then tighten in an alternating sequence until the nuts bottom out on the spacers. All that is left is to apply the NT-H1 thermal paste and use the supplied screwdriver to tighten the NH-U12S onto the mounting brackets. Mount up one or two NF-F12 Focused Flow fans and you are ready to go. Once installed, the reasons for putting the successful U12 series on a diet was to provide clearance for high performance memory modules that use larger-than-normal heat sinks, like the Mushkin Redline kit pictured here. Clearance between the modules and NF-F12 fan is about an eighth of an inch. Not a lot, but the Redline Ridgeback heat sink is really robust. On the backing plate, you see the designation 115X. This means that Intel socket compatibility using the back plate is going to be limited to Intel Socket 115X motherboards. Mounting to an Intel LGA 2011 or AMD socket does not require the use of the back plate and is slightly different in that the installation utilizes parts of the existing socket mounting package to complete the installation on these platforms. If working with sockets not supported out-of-the-box, Noctua does provide the NM-I3 SecuFirm kit free of charge to support additional socket compatibility.
Wedging five heat pipes into a slimmer fin array and having the ability to use a pair of NF-F12 fans looks like a promising combination to handle the thermal load of the Core i7 2600K. The question is, how will the slimmer design actually work?