When it comes to single tower CPU air coolers, most will think of a 120 mm (or a 92 mm) heatsink since it has been in the last decade or so, ground zero for a mental picture to what we compare and rate everything. Thus, Noctua has decided to expand their ‘redux’ line with their first full sample from this class.

This is the U12S redux, basically a highly affordable U12S which promises all of the key selling points including the 6 years warranty, excellent RAM, case and PCIe compatibility. The epic SecuFirm2™ mounting system is still present and the heatsink even comes with the pre-applied NT-H1 thermal compound.

Along side U12S redux, they even offer a second fan upgrade kit called NA-FK1 redux. Usually upgrading to a push/pull-style dual-fan setup, this will further improve cooling performance or reduce noise levels by having two fans running at lower speeds. Therefore, today we will explore both scenarios.

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

 

As for the main attraction, the U12S redux can be had for (just) $49.95 which is a significant reduction from $79.95 if you want the U12S chromax.black and even the regular U12S which costs $69.95. The U12A is a different beast altogether, but this will give us an overall perspective regarding all of the single tower 120 mm heatsinks from Noctua.

 

Regarding the second fan upgrade, the NA-FK1 redux retails for $16.95 and comes with a Y-splitter and low noise adapters. Thus you get a lot of cooling potential for around $70, when combined with the U12S redux.

 

Presentation and Specifications

 

* Courtesy of their website.

 

Visual Inspection

 

As you would imagine, there would be a different packaging design to keep things obvious that this is the redux series. A light grey is the theme here with minimal branding.

The U12S redux comes shipped in a smaller box when compared to the regular U12S for example, a small detail from where they cut down the costs. However, it is still very well protected inside.

No more visual depiction of the actual heatsinks but they still touch on the main highlights.

The mandatory detailed spec list is still present.

The NA-FK1 redux has an identical presentation to the U12S redux.

Let’s open the second fan upgrade kit.

This is what it contains:

As you can see, Noctua included two low noise adapters to make sure that if you want to use them, it needs to happen in tandem with the original fan from the heatsink because they clearly state not to use the L.N.A on the Y-splitter.

1x NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM fan
4x NA-AVP2 grey anti-vibration pads
2x Fan mounting clips
1x NA-YC1 4-pin PWM y-cable
2x NA-RC14 Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)

The NF-P12 redux fan spins up to 1700 RPM and will push up to 120,2 m³/h of airflow and 2,83 mm H₂O static pressure. It’s rated over 150.000 hours of continuous operation, the same as every premium fan that they sell and has an acoustic rating of 25,1 dB(A).

The fan has nine highly optimised airflow blades that use Noctua’s signature Vortex-Control notches. They split up trailing edge vortices and thus spread the fan’s noise emission over a wider range of frequencies.

It uses the first generation of their amazing SSO hydrodynamic/magnetic bearing rotors.

Finally the 4-pin PWM cable is a bit shorter than what we know from the other models but still fully sleeved.

The only difference between this fan and the one in the U12S redux, comes in the form of thicker anti-vibration rubber fan frame pads. These are chunky on purpose because they can absorb more vibrations and thus reduce noise.

Next up we have the U12S redux. This time around the accessory box is not present on the top but acts as a supporting element for the heatsink packaging.

As accustomed by Noctua’s tradition with attention to details, even this ordinary cardboard that holds the Intel backplate, is marked with ‘U12S’.

Regarding the full list of accessories, we have the following:

1x NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM (pre-installed)
4x NA-AVP1 chromax.grey anti-vibration pads
4x NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound (pre-applied)
1x SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit (Intel & AMD)
1x Installation manual

If this is how Noctua presents a ‘lower budget’ product, well I think they have no competition. The heatsink is as premium as any other one from their line-up.

The U12S redux stands 158 mm tall, has a depth of 45 mm (71 with the fan) and 125 mm in width. This will ensure that there will be no interferences whatsoever coming from the RAM and PCIe areas.

We have 50 aluminium fins that are held into place with the help of 4 nickel plated heatpipes.

There is an extra thicker top plate that has the ‘redux’ etched next to the access path towards the securing base plate.

Speaking of, it is held into place by these 4 Philips screws, one on each corner.

To make things even easier when it comes to the installation process, they even pre-applied the NH-H1 thermal paste in this honeycomb pattern.

If you wish to remove the paste to apply your own or further down the line when you remove it from you computer, you will discover that the base plate doesn’t have a mirror polish but the machining process is perfect.

The fan is identical to the FK1 kit which we covered earlier.

 

Installation

 

Our main testing platform is centred around AMD’s AM4 socket but in an ITX format to fully test any RAM compatibility issues, since on this layout, all of the components are crammed more together than the larger motherboard formats.

Noctua’s SecuFirm2™ mounting platform is still present and from previous experiences, this is one of the easiest and most straight-forward installation sequences ever, especially on the AM4 socket.

Just retain the stock motherboard backplate and remove the plastic front AM4 brackets. Then attach the grey Noctua spacers.

The next step is to screw down the metal brackets.

Another cool detail from Noctua, they even specify the toque down values.

Since the thermal paste is already pre-applied, just attach the heatsink without the fan and bolt it down.

Install the fan to the heatsink and connect it to the motherboard.

It easy to see that there is no interference of any sorts in any direction, even on an ITX board.

Now this is how it looks with the second fan attached. Don’t forget to use the included Y-adapter if your motherboard doesn’t have multiple CPU fan ports.

 

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 ~16°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 now attached and the case fans are set at a fixed 30% RPM
  • We will also test the U12S redux in a dual fan configuration, but just for the OC scenario
  • Any results over 90° C in any condition are considered a fail

Competition CPU Coolers:

Noctua NH-U14S – 140 mm
Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black – Dual 140 mm
Noctua NH-U12A – 120 mm
Noctua NH-U12S chromax.black – 120 mm
Noctua NH-D15S chromax.black – 140 mm
BeQuiet! Pure Loop 280 mm AIO – Dual 140 mm
Alpenföhn Glacier Water 280 mm AIO – Dual 140 mm

Hardware used:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 AM4 – 8c/16t @ 65W TDP
RAM 8GB DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000 MHz CL16
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
Case fans 140 mm: Noiseblocker eLoop X-Series ARGB Black PWM – B14X-P 1500 RPM

Software:

OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 20H2
GPU Drivers: NVIDIA GeForce WHQL 391.35
Core Temp v1.16 – 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 in the middle we have it overclocked and both scenarios are for the 1 fan configuration. The third picture has the OC scenario with the second fan attached. Be mindful of the low ambient temp and we notice that the U12S redux in its stock form performs as expected and empirically beats the regular U12S just because its fan will spin a bit higher. However, in the dual fan configuration, the U12S redux has an additional headroom by about 3°C.

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 overall rankings are preserved but this time the delta for the dual fan setup revolves at around 2°C.

In AIDA64 we isolated the stress test just for the CPU therefore we should get the highest stress scenario for the CPU but sometimes we get mixed results where the R20 will push the CPU further than AIDA in terms of heat output. Nothing changes from the previous test and we get again excellent results in the dual fan mode.

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. Since the game isn’t pushing the CPU as much as a synthetic benchmark, we get really good results.

Now for the noise levels tests. Despite its higher overall RPM, the NF-P12 redux fan is still very quiet even in the higher RPM range. Now the best thing here is that in the dual fan mode on auto % fan curve, both fans will spin lower because they are dividing the worklog. Suffice to say, than the U12S redux in both single and dual fan mode will provide an overall quiet acoustic experience.

 

Conclusion

 

When most companies downscale their products to make sure they meet specific price targets, the overall quality usually suffers. Noctua not only avoided that, but even created something that instantly becomes a best buy – it’s like they don’t know how to downgrade in quality. That’s why their brand is synonymous with quality among many other things. The U12S redux is most definitely a must have for anyone who wants all of the Noctua hallmarks (build quality, cooling and noise performance) at a very attractive price level. Backed by 6 years warranty and the sheer fact that for the price of one regular U12S you can have both the U12S redux and the FK1 upgrade package, well that is definitely a no brainer.

The good:

+ Amazing price/performance ratio
+ All of the Noctua hallmarks (quality, cooling and noise performance)
+ Hassle free installation
+ Excellent RAM, case & PCIe compatibility
+ Primed for dual fan cooling thanks to the FK1 kit
+ 6 years warranty

The bad:

– Colour scheme for the fans

Glob3trotters “Gold Standard for 120mm” Award – 5 out of 5

GG

Many thanks to Noctua for supplying us with these sample !

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