While a stock cooler is supplied with most retail CPUs, enthusiasts often want something better; be it a more powerful cooler, a quieter cooler, a liquid cooler, etc. As a result the market for third-party coolers remains strong, providing variety against the backdrop of more limited stock coolers. And with that, there's no shortage of designs, with coolers for pretty much ever need, want, budget, and size limitation.

In today's review we are taking a look at the NH-U12A, a tower CPU air cooler made by Noctua. Noctua is a company renowned for its advanced products that usually – and deservedly – carry a premium price tag. The NH-U12A is the latest version of their family of 120 mm-based single-tower CPU coolers, which are designed to offer a balance between performance, cost, complexity, and compatibility.

Overall, the NH-U12A is designed to fit top-tier cooling performance into a more compact 120 mm cooler, as opposed to larger and more traditional 140 mm coolers. In this respect, it's especially useful for users building compact and transportable gaming systems.

Diving right in, we received the NH-U12A in an exceptionally sturdy cardboard box. Noctua is using the same simple artwork on the packaging of all their products, focusing on elegance and the provision of information rather than an eye-catching design.

 

Inside the box, we found the cooler very well protected, placed below layers upon layers of thick cardboard packaging. The supplied mounting hardware and extra items can be found in a smaller, compartmentalized cardboard box.

Aside from the typical mounting hardware necessary to mount the NH-U12A onto a CPU socket, Noctua also supplies a basic screwdriver, a fan power splitter cable, two fan “low noise” adapters that limit the speed of the cooling fans, a tube of NT-H1 thermal grease, and a metallic case badge.

The Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler
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  • Tunnah - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I was on board until the price. I paid £60 for my NH-D14 and expected a price bump considering it's now 8 years old, but nearly double the price is a bit too far. Reply
  • GreenReaper - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    The pound isn't worth what it used to be eight years ago, either:
    https://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=GBP&to...
    Reply
  • nivedita - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Noctua isn’t an American company Reply
  • logamaniac - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    nor the pound an American currency Reply
  • Dug - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Nice to see a new cooler review. Hopefully more can come down the pipeline and get rid of the old coolers on here that you can't even buy. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the review. Two questions/comments:
    1. You mentioned the Evo212 in some paragraphs and a graph. I also believe that this is a good comparison cooler, as it also addresses price/performance. And, while the Noctua is a bit of a niche product, I would have like to see how it did compared to the higher priced "extra quiet" heatsinks shown. If you have the data, could you share them?
    2. I know that many people who are looking for that kind of cooler wouldn't care for whatever setup came with their CPU. However, those have the best price - free (with the CPU). It would be nice to know just how much extra thermal performance one gets by replacing the coolers that come with the CPU. May suggestion is to show the performance of the respective boxed Intel and AMD cooler alongside. With AMD making noise about their Wraith Spire cooler's performance (included with most of their desktop CPUs), I would really like to know just how much better these aftermarket ones are. Thanks!
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    For question 1. "It refers to the 212 cooler, the Noctua is obviously already shown. Reply
  • Mil0 - Friday, July 12, 2019 - link

    I second the suggestion for comparing it to the wraith (spire), esp with Ryzen's PBO. Reply
  • Edkiefer - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I always liked the NH-U14S there going for low 60$ (about same as NH-U12S). You do need a case to support the height. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    I'd absolutely love to find out how the newest Noctuas (UH12A, NH-U14S NH-D15, NH-D15S) compare to the older NH-D14, NU-U12S, and the Thermalright TRUE 120.

    The results on Noctua's new gear is amazing, but I contacted Thermalright to ask about heat dissipation for my TRUE Black 120 from 2008, and found it's rated for a stunning 240 watts. I have two Noctua Redux 120mm 1300rpm fans on it and it's keeping a Core i9-9900K (running all eight cores at max turbo 4.8GHz at 100% usage in Folding@Home) stable , a bit over 80C at 160+ watts load under constant use. An eleven year old (admittedly heavy nickel-plate copper with six heat pipes) cooler. I'm still impressed.

    I'd love to know how far we've really come since the D14 and TRUE120 just to see if there's a significant difference.
    Reply

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