Noctua NH-U12A CPU Cooler Review


The performance of the NH-U12A cooler has been tested with the i7-11700K and i9-12900K processors, ASRock Z690 Extreme, Gigabyte Aorus Z690 Master and MSI Z590I Unify motherboards, Team Group Dark Z FPS 16GB DDR4-4000 and Kingston Fury Beast 32GB DDR5-5200 memory kits, Team Group Delta MAX 1TB SATA SSD, ASUS Strix RTX3070 8GB graphics card, Sharkoon 850W 80+ Gold PSU and Sharkoon Elite Shark CA700 chassis.

There are three settings: idle, which explains itself, a mixed load test, which includes a pretty long PCMark 10 Extended benchmark, and a max load CPU test with AVX/AVX2 instructions, performed by the AIDA64 stability test.

The results require additional explanation. All tests were performed at automatic motherboard settings. In theory, the i9-12900K runs at a 241W power limit. In reality, depending on the motherboard and additional variables, the maximum voltage during work differs, so I decided to present results on two different motherboards. BIOS updates will probably change how the CPU is acting, and it could be already done since results were made on early BIOS releases.

Let’s take a look at our results.

Alder Lake-S processors heat up less than the last generation but still run hot under full load. The CPU temperature on the Gigabyte motherboard was sometimes passing 100°C what is still safe for the CPU but causes throttling, so lowers its performance. The same test on the ASRock Z690 Extreme caused the CPU to run at 20W less with about 8°C lower maximum temperature and no throttling. The maximum CPU load test is far from reality, so the presented values are the maximum you probably never see during daily work or gaming. It’s still good to know where the limit is.

I have added the i7-11700K CPU to the comparison to show that the Noctua NH-U12A handles it pretty well, even at 263W. There is some throttling in AVX/AVX2 tests, but during longer gaming sessions, the temperature should be at about 60-70°C. Our mixed load tests show about the same temperatures as on the i9-12900K.

I mentioned that the Alder Lake-S processors run cooler than the previous generation. In fact, the temperature isn’t much lower when we look at the results, but the generated heat is lower, which helps keep a higher CPU frequency. As a result, we have more cores and a higher frequency, so it’s hard not to like the new Intel processors. Even though we see high temperatures under full load, the load balance during more typical work causes it to run fast and quiet. The maximum registered fan speed during high load tests was about 2050RPM. During mixed load tests to gaming, fans were spinning at about 800-1000RPM, so if the PC case is closed, we can barely hear them. A typical gaming graphics card makes more noise.

Of course, there was no problem reaching the maximum turbo frequency and our i9-12900K was often going up to 5.2GHz. Below is a quick test in Cinebench R23 on the Z690 Extreme motherboard. You can also see that the ASRock motherboard used 1.33V VID while Gigabyte passed 1.4V. Gigabyte released three new BIOSes last week, so I hope they improved the power management.

The NH-U12A remains my favorite CPU cooler and is now in black what looks even better and fits every gaming PC. The cooler appeared already in a couple of our reviews, and you can count on seeing it in the upcoming motherboard reviews.


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About Bartosz Waluk 453 Articles
Bartosz Waluk aka Woomack is from Poland. He's been interested in computer hardware and extreme overclocking for over 15 years. Bartosz has also over 12 years experience in IT what includes sales, technical support and computer building ... but not only. He joined the Funky Kit team in January 2013.