Maximum PC Staff Sep 04, 2009

Noctua NH-U12P

At A Glance


Great performance, multiple speed options, quiet at any setting.


Flimsy fan clips; bulky. Additional fans don't give better performance.

Cool and quietly competent

At first glance, the Noctua NH-U12P is nearly identical to another tower-of-power CPU cooler: Thermalright’s Ultra-120 eXtreme ( reviewed July 09 ). Like that cooler, the NH-U12P consists of a copper heat exchanger and four dual-heat pipes, topped with a tall stack of aluminum cooling fins with a front-mounted fan. At 6.2 inches high, 5 inches wide, and 2.8 inches deep, the NH-U12P is nearly the same height as the Thermalright, not quite as wide, but quite a bit deeper.

Noctua ships its cooler with a top-of-the-line brown-and-beige NH-P12 fan with nine slightly beveled blades, which is held onto the cooling fin stack by a set of rather flimsy wire clips. The fan itself comes with three 3-pin power options: regular, low-noise, and ultra-low noise, which set the fan to spin at 1,300rpm, 1,100rpm, and 900rpm, respectively. The fan is impressively quiet even at top speed.

The Noctua NH-U12P is one of the best coolers we've ever tested, and quite quiet at that.

We like Noctua’s SecuFirm mounting system—two mounting brackets screw into a backplate and the cooler is fastened to the brackets via a pair of spring screws. This makes installation considerably easier than on similar models, in which the whole cooler must be mounted directly to the backplate, although the position of the mounting screws means fans must be attached after the cooler is mounted.

In our tests, we found that the NH-U12P, paired (as shipped) with a single NH-P12, performed to within a few degrees of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme at both idle and full burn. Noctua shipped ours with an extra $20 NH-P12 to clip to the other side of the heatsink, but we saw no reduction in temperatures when we used two fans instead of one.

A few gripes: The wire clips that attach the fan to the heat dissipaters are flimsy and difficult to attach, especially with the cooler already mounted to the motherboard. And the cooler just plain takes up a lot of room. But for all that, it offers powerful, quiet cooling with performance and price nearly identical to our champion Thermaltake U-120 eXtreme, with an easier install process to boot.

Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme Noctua NH-U12P Stock Cooler
Idle (C) 24.75
25.25 38.25
100% Burn (C) 40.75 42.25 69.5
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour's worth of CPU Burn-in (four instances). Test system consists of a stock-clock Q6700 processor on an EVGA 680i motherboard inside a Cooler Master ATCS 840 case with stock fans.

Noctua NH-U12P

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