The Noctua U12A is regarded as one of the best 120mm single tower air coolers ever made. Thus, the sexy chromax.black treatment for it was just a matter of time until its release. As we already know from the regular U12A, this possess the most advanced 120mm fans Noctua has ever made, the asymmetrical single tower heatsink design that will guarantee zero ram interference and with the help of its 7 (!) heatpipes, this will rival most 140mm air coolers in terms of cooling capability.

It comes already compatible with Intel’s new upcoming LGA1700 socket thanks to its SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system.

Also Noctua offers the new NA-HC7 and NA-HC8 heatsink covers so now you can fully customise your NH-U12A chromax.black to fit the most popular build colour schemes.

Noctua:

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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

 

The asking price is a premium one because you get exactly what you pay for, maximum quality from any point of view. It’s $10 more expensive than the regular U12A anyway but at this price range you have an easy decision if the big boy D15 will not fit your case, nor the D15S, than the U12A at the magical number of under 160mm tall (158mm), is a clear winner.

As for the new heatsink covers, they all retail for $19.90.

 

Presentation and Specifications

 

* Courtesy of their website.

 

Visual Inspection

 

The new chromax.black treatment is very obvious from the packaging as well, where Noctua are masters at branding and displaying the specs of their products.

Security is tight, with the heatsink cocooned in the middle of the box, while the accessory box acts as a top cover.

All the accessories are stored neatly inside with a quick visual inventory on the cover.

Here is the complete list:

* 2x NA-RC14 Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)
* 1x NA-YC1 4-pin PWM y-cable
* 1x NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
* 1x Custom Phillips screwdriver
* Black SecuFirm2™ multi socket mounting kit (AMD & Intel)
* 1x Noctua Metal Case-Badge
* 2x Installation booklets

The U12A chromax.black comes out of the box Intel LGA1700 socket ready and you can see the designation on the Intel backplate and on the apropiate instruction booklet. Even the new spacers are coloured in blue.

Now for the fans which are the most advanced 120mm they have ever made to date. They have all the hallmarks that we know from Noctua and are rated up to 2000 RPM, push 102,1 m³/h with a static pressure of 2,34 mm H₂O while not going over 22,6 dB(A) of sound. With the chromax.black treatment, they have such an industrial but imposing look to them.

They features the amazing magnetic oil-based hydrodynamic bearings rotor technology called the SSO2. Then the blades have metal reinforcements and flow acceleration channels in order to lower vortex noise and achieve higher airflow efficiency.

Since Noctua builds their product with incredible quality control and thus tight tolerances, the blades sit at just 0.5mm from the frame (most fans are over 2mm and above). When they spin, there is a challenge to overcome called impeller creep which basically means that the blades may touch the frame due to stretching. To overcome this Noctua development a new material called Sterrox which is a novel liquid-crystal polymer (LCP) type material that has much better dimensional stability and less creep as compared to conventional engineering thermoplastics such as ABS, PA, PBT or PC.

The silicon gasket on each corner can be removed and replaced with any color you desire from their NA-AVP1 line-up. Then the power cable is fully braided and it’s only 20cm long but that’s on purpose to eliminate cable clutter since it will perfectly reach the CPU fan ports with ease on any motherboard.

Now for the sexy heatsink of the new U12A chromax.black which 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.

It has 50 aluminium fins which are secured into place by seven (!) 6 mm thick copper nickle plated heatpipes, still an incredible spec for any air cooled heatsink.

The copper nickle plated base plate has an almost mirror polish to it.

The machining, soldering and craftsmanship are ridiculously good.

With the fans attached the U12A chromax.black is a perfect item for any stealth build.

 

Installation

 

Since Noctua released the SecuFirm2™ multi socket mounting kit, the installation process is really easy regardless of the platform you use. On AMD’s AM4, the first step is to retain the stock motherboard backplate after you remove the front plastic brackets.

Then attach the grey AM4 plastic spacers.

Bolt down the metal plates in the correct orientation.

Apply the thermal paste and install the U12A heatsink with its ‘asymmetrical’ side facing the RAM area.

Thanks to the access grooves on this side, secure down the heatsink.

There are no clearance issues whatsoever in any direction so far.

Install the fans and if your motherboard has only one CPU fan header available, you can use the included Y-splitter.

Now for the final clearance check, as you can see, everything is perfect, especially there is no height limit on the RAM area.

As mentioned before, if you are after an stealthier build, this U12A chromax.black is an excellent option.

Now it’s a perfect opportunity to talk and install the new heatsink covers, specially made for the U12A.

As you can see, you can choose from 3 variants, where the NA-HC7 comes with multi-coloured inlays.

All of them are made from metal for the outer housing, have this magnetic top cover that uses this proprietary metal securing clamp and have plenty of rubber pads to not scratch your heatsink and to reduce any virabtions.

Thus installation is really easy, just attach the grey front inner plate and secure it with the metal clip.

Finally slide the metal housing and done.

Don’t forget to experiment with the multi-coloured inlays if you get the NA-HC7.

Just be aware that they will add a few millimetres on top of your cooler so double check if your case accepts the extra height. You can even lift the fans a bit to make them flush with the top cover if you desire.

 

Testing methodology

 

  • 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 ~ 19°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 plus other items for an even broader perspective
  • All CPU fans will be left on the ‘standard’ auto % rpm curve to simulate real life usage patterns and the side panel is attached while the case fans are set at a fixed 30% RPM
  • Any results over 90°C in any condition are considered a fail

Competition CPU Coolers:

Noctua NH-D15 chromax.blackDual 140 mm
Noctua NH-D15S chromax.black140 mm
Noctua NH-U14S140 mm
Noctua NH-U12S redux – 120 mm
SilverStone Hydrogon D120 ARGB Double 120 mm
SilentiumPC Fera 5120 mm
Noctua NH-P1Passive
AMD Wraith Spire RGB92 mm

Hardware used:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 AM4
RAM 16GB DDR4 T-Force Night Hawk RGB 3000 MHz CL16
Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX X370-F Gaming ATX @ BIOS 5220
Boot SSD: Sabrent Q 1TB QLC M.2 NVMe 1.3 Gen3 x4
Video card(s): KF2 GTX 480 Anarchy Accelero Xtreme Plus
PSU: be quiet! 550W Pure Power 11 FM Gold
Case: be quiet! Silent Base 802 Black
Case fans: 3x be quiet! Pure Wings 2 140 mm

Software:

OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 21H1
GPU Drivers: NVIDIA GeForce WHQL 391.35
Core Temp v1.17 – To see the temperatures in real time
CPU-Z v1.95 – 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 Rise Of the Tomb Raider, is set at 1920×1080 with everything at Medium quality settings and no AA.

 

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.

In this tier level, it’s very hard to distinguish purely based on the performance index since all of these air coolers (D15/D15S/U14S/U12A) are so close to one another. Th U12A chromax.black is still the best 120mm single tower out there.

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. THe whole package of the U12A behaves really well again.

In AIDA64 we isolated the stress test just for the CPU therefore we should get the highest stress scenario for the CPU but sometimes the R20 proves to be just as stressful (or higher) and the overall hierarchy is preserved.

Rise Of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic game and also a good testing title for both GPUs and CPUs. Still not as stressful as a synthetic torture test but a great indicator of real life usage.

The noise output is what you would expect, silent even in medium to high load.

 

Conclusion

 

Plain and simple the U12A chromax.black is the best single tower 120mm CPU cooler ever made. The new paintjob was a logical step for Noctua to release and it quite suits the U12A. This cooler is not about pure performance since if you do massive OC’ing than the D15/D15S/U14S make more sense, because here it’s all about the perfect balance in every department – cooling, noise output, max quality, zero interference all around the socket area. The fans alone are a work of art and nothing gets close to them from an equilibrium point of view. Yes, it’s expensive but you get everything you paid for.

The good:

+ Maximum overbuild quality
+ Zero RAM interference
+ The only single tower 120mm heatsink with 7 heatpipes
+ Most advanced 120mm fans from Noctua
+ LGA1700 socket ready
+ 6 years warranty

The bad:

– Expensive

Glob3trotters “Editor’s Choice” Award – 5 out of 5

GG

Many thanks to Noctua for supplying us with these epic cooler !

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