At first glance this might look like any other single tower CPU cooler from Noctua like the U12S but with two fans. This is nothing further from the truth because this U12A is as good as it gets and it’s just a hair behind the D15 ! This, fellow readers, is the best 120 mm single heatsink tower CPU cooler money can buy !
Established in 2005, Noctua took international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise-conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class-leading quiet cooling performance.
Designed in Austria, Noctua’s premium cooling components are internationally renowned for their superb quietness, exceptional performance and thoroughgoing quality. Having received more than 6000 awards and recommendations from leading hardware websites and magazines, Noctua’s fans and heatsinks are serving hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers around the globe.
Prices and Availability
This thing charges a pretty penny, at $100 which is the same price as the dual heatsink monster D15 (when it’s back in stock) and almost twice as a regular U12S. But as you would expect, there is always a reason with Noctua and as you will see, it’s gonna be worth it.
24.09.2020 – The video review is live as well !
Presentation and Specifications
* Courtesy of their website.
The U12A is at its 5th generation with regular tweaks and improvements on the U12 platform. Then the last picture says it all, that this cooler can match or even outperform most 140 mm coolers while offering 100% RAM compatibility. This is a bold statement but we know Noctua means business. I mean what other single tower heatsink do you know that has 7 heatpipes?
The NH-U12A comes in the famous Noctua colour combo and design packaging. Anybody would recognise their coolers from a mile away. We have on top of the box all of the main highlights including a sticker that states the potential of this cooler – that it’s able to surpass most 140 mm CPU coolers despite the fact that it is has a 120 mm footprint.
On this side we have a list of all of the specification regarding the heatsink and fans.
Here we have a quick multilingual introduction regarding the U12A.
The final side goes in depth regarding all of the main highlights and features.
Opening the box we are greeted by the famous accessory box that has a quick inventory list.
Speaking of the supplied accessories, we have:
2x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm premium fans (pre-installed)
2x Low-Noise Adaptors (L.N.A.)
1x NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
1x SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit (Intel & AMD)
1x Noctua Metal Case-Badge
1x Custom long Philips screwdriver
1x 4-pin PWM y-cable
3x Booklets which cover all of the installation instructions
The U12A is perfectly secured in its own cardboard cocoon.
So here it is, the product to challenge virtually most air coolers out there – an elegant, sleek and compact slayer – the U12A.
The heatsink measures 158 mm x 125 mm x 58 mm (H x W x D) and weighs 760 g. Adding the extra fans brings the total weight to 1220 g and increases the depth to 112 mm.
We have 50 aluminium fins which are secured into place by seven (!) 6 mm thick copper nickle plated heatpipes.
This reminds me of the classic Ferrari 312 Formula 1 racing cars with top exhaust. For petrolheads, this is a thing of beauty !
The base is fully polished and can be used with ease as a signalling mirror.
The included NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fans feature all the latest technologies from Noctua and are just beyond overbuilt. They are rated up to 2000 RPM while displacing up to 102,1 m³/h while being silent at a maximum acoustic rating of 22,6 dB(A).
Just look at the size of that oil-based hydrodynamic bearings rotor which has an additional magnet that supports the self-stabilisation phenomenon.
This is called SSO2 (self-stabilising oil-pressure bearing) and it’s the second generation which means that it uses metal bearing shells and a new injection moulding techniques, while the magnet is now placed closer to the rotor axis and thus exerts higher magnetic force to it. This results in even better stabilisation, precision and durability.
Finally, from a top view perspective, the ends of the heatpipes basically dominate the area with a Noctua engraved logo in the middle of the plate.
To test the claim of 100% RAM compatibility, let’s use an ITX system, on the AM4 socket. The installation process is identical to all of the previously reviewed Noctua coolers and it’s really easy. Just make sure that for the AMD socket you keep the stock motherboard backplate.
Remove the stock brackets.
Install the AM4 spacers.
Attach the side brackets.
Apply the thermal paste.
Then bolt down the heatsink.
Finally reattach the fans to the heatsink and then plug them in the motherboard.
So it’s true. Zero interference all around and especially regarding the RAM area; thus you can use memory modules with heatspreaders as tall as you want.
Being under 160 mm this will fit most mid-sized ATX cases and upwards.
- The AMD Ryzen 7 1700 CPU will be tested at stock settings and then overclocked at 3.70 GHz for 1.325v
- As the main torture test, we will employ a 2 minute run in AIDA64
- Room temperature was recorded at ~ 21°C
- For the noise testing, we used our Pyle PSPL01 placed 30 cm away from the setup – all other fans will will be off or set at minimum RPM
- Thermal paste used – Noctua NH-H2
- We will compare the results to other CPU air coolers close to its price/performance bracket
- All CPU fans will be left on the ‘standard’ auto % rpm curve to simulate real life usage patterns and the side panel is removed and the case fans are off
- Any results over 90° C in any condition are considered a fail
Competition CPU Coolers:
– Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition – 120 mm
– Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black – Dual 140 mm
– BeQuiet! Dark Rock Slim – 120 mm
– Noctua NH-U12S – 120 mm
– Alpenföhn Ben Nevis Advanced RGB Black Edition – 130 mm
– AMD Wraith Spire LED RGB – 92 mm
– CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 AM4 – 8c/16t @ 65W TDP
– RAM 8GB DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000 MHz CL15
– Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B350-i Gaming mITX
– Boot SSD: ADATA XPG SX6000 128GB M.2 NVMe TLC
– Storage SSD: Team Group DELTA MAX RGB 500 GB SATA TLC
– Video card(s): KF2 GTX 480 Anarchy Accelero Xtreme Plus
– PSU: Seasonic S12II-620 Bronze
– Case: Sahara P35 Tempered Glass Mid Tower PC Gaming Case
– Case fans 120 mm: Noiseblocker eLoop X-Series ARGB Black PWM – B12X-P-BL 2000 RPM
– OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 1909
– GPU Drivers: NVIDIA GeForce WHQL 391.35
– Core Temp v1.16 – To see the temperatures in real time
– CPU-Z v1.92 – To verify the CPU’s statistics
– AIDA64 Extreme v6.23 – Another popular total system stability test
– Cinebench R15 – Popular CPU benchmark
– Cinebench R20 – The new revised version optimised for the newer multi-core CPUs
– MSI Afterburner v4.62 – To record the FPS and load/temperatures
Resolution for our test game Witcher 3, is set at 1920×1080 with everything at medium quality settings.
Testing, Results and Analysis
Let’s start in order of CPU load difficulty. First up is the Cinebench R15 test. On the left we have the CPU in stock form while on the right we have it overclocked. We get very interesting results. The U12A virtually matches the D15 king in this test !
The Cinebench R20 is a more modern up to date multi core benchmark suite. So naturally we will see a bigger load and thus a larger temperature figure than the R15. Here the hierarchy is preserved as well while the D15 takes the led by one degree in the OC test which we can attribute to the margin of error.
In AIDA64 we isolated the stress test just for the CPU therefore we should get the highest stress scenario for the CPU. Mind you the R20 proves to be almost as demanding as the stress test so the numbers are very close. We notice that the U12A takes the lead here which seams very weird but after 3 runs apparently there are the numbers.
Given our older GPU, Witcher 3 was chosen for this test but the CPU isn’t stressed as much so we get really good results across the board.
Noise levels are exactly what you would expect. Perfection. It goes without saying that anything at 100% RPM will be heard but here everything is the 60-80% RPM range of their total output since nobody keeps the fans at 100% in day to day usage.
This is a tricky one to gauge since it makes you wonder why would you need anything bigger than this U12A especially considering its excellent results. So we know the U12A from a performance point of view it truly delivers from the ‘holy trinity’ that we are accustomed from Noctua, which consists of cooling capability, noise output and overbuilt quality. Of course this charges a premium price and it’s up to you to decide. So ask yourself this: Do you need something this potent in such a compact package? If yes, than the U12A is the best there is out there. It really needs the chromax.black treatment to make it even more desirable.
+ Perfect cooling performance and low noise output
+ As good as the NH-D15
+ Overbuilt maximum quality
+ 6 years warranty
+ Best all-arounder money can buy
– Hoping for an all black version as well