Friday, August 22, 2014

My first Noctua product - the NH-U12S CPU cooler

NH-U12S

The Decision

As I sent back the Silverstone HE-01 cooler due to erratic vibration issues (read about it here), after a lot of thought I decided to buy the reasonably new Noctua NH-U12S, single tower cooler. Although this is a very small cooler compared to all of the high-end coolers out there, even compared to the HE-01, it seemed to perform exceptionally well on reviews. I had the Noctua NH-D14, Thermalright Silver Arrow IB-E, Bequiet Dark Rock 3 and Bequiet Shadow Rock Slim in my mind as well. But in the end, I went with the NH-U12S because it would give me peace of mind when looking to buy a new GPU as all of the above seemed to have clearance issues if the GPU had a backplate on it. All of those seemed to have a problem with the clearance with the too most PCI-E slot in the motherboard.

The NH-U12S has two advantages over the HE-01 that I had.

  • Like I said, it's much smaller that means there will be ample clearance between the video card and the heat-sink. There were clearance issues with the HE-01 where I had to insulate the fan clip using tape because it touched the back of the graphics card.
  • While the HE-01 had to rev the fan at 2000RPM to get to its maximum cooling performance, this does it just with a silent-optimized, 120mm 1500RPM fan. A lot of reviewers seemed to praise the Noctua cooler because of its noise to performance ratio.

 

The purchasing

Unfortunately I could only find two stores (Oliospec and PC-Ones) carrying the product and both of them asked an unreasonable price for it. On top of that, I had to pay shipping as well. It kind of disheartened me because I was so used to buying stuff with free shipping from Amazon and some of the other well known PC stores such as Sofmap, Tsukumo and Dospara. However, as I was all set on that cooler I decided to go ahead with the purchase despite the price.  Obviously I went with the store that offered it at the cheapest accumulative price.

They didn't take long to ship it to me although it was the summer vacation here in Japan. Some of the stores, in fact that other store that carried the cooler was closed for a week. I thought it was so stupid of them because they would lose quite a few sales as everyone would be at home in this scorching summer vacation time, ordering stuff online and getting them delivered to their household. Well, it is none of my business and I am glad that the store that was open was the one I wanted to buy from in the first place.

Installation

Although the cooler arrived at home without much delay, I had to wait for the perfect timing because I knew it could take quite a long time to do the switch in the limited working space inside the small SG09 case. Not to mention, I had to remove the hard drives as well to gain access to the underneath of the motherboard where the CPU back-plate would go. However, as the Noctua was relatively smaller than the HE01 cooler than I had in there, it didn't take that long to get it in there.

I decided to use the stock thermal paste for no real reason. I applied a pebble sized amount of paste right in the middle of the IHS and installed the cooler. Even though all these reviewers praised the Noctua's Secure Firm mounting mechanism, I wasn’t sure which mechanism was the easier one - the HE01's or the Noctua's. Well, the HE01 needed more work but the actual installation part was simpler especially considering the sheer size of the cooler. I didn't have much of a hard time installing the fan because there was enough space for me to sneak in my fingers.

after installing the cooler

After installing the cooler

Performance

Ease of installation isn't really important because you don't go about installing a cooler often.  What matters the most is whether the cooler performed as expected. And in that regard, I was terribly disappointed. Not only that CPU ran hotter than when I had the HE01 (less than 80C max with HE01 at full fan speed vs. 87C max temps with NH-U12S at full fan speed at 4.6GHz), my 4.6GHx overclock wasn't stable anymore. I could pass 50 rounds of x264 benchmark before at 4.6GHz but now I couldn't pass 2. However I cannot say for sure that the temps made it unstable. Whatever I did couldn't make my 4.6GHz stable. I thought I made a grave mistake by not going with a cheaper or a bigger cooler.

And despite what others say, the Noctua NF-F12 fan isn't amazingly quiet either. Sure it was Inaudible at anything below 1000RPM but near 1500RPM, I could hear a hum. I guess I wouldn't be able to hear that if the PC was kept on the floor. Now that it is right next to my years, I can hear everything quite too well unfortunately.

Conclusion

So basically I made a huge mistake by going with the NH-U12S. I guess you cannot have everything but few days later I found out that I could have if I wanted. The Cryorig R1 Universal, which is among the top air coolers out at the moment actually fits in the case despite being taller (168.3mm) than the actual clearance specified by the case (165mm). It is a crazy world!!!

At least, I don’t have to worry about any component incompatibilities when I upgrade any of the components.

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