Reviewed: Noctua’s NH-U12A chromax.black

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Today we’ll be looking at Noctua’s NH-U12A chromax.black and testing it with Intel’s i9-12900k.

Prior to this review, most coolers I’ve tested have failed to keep the 12900k cool enough to run without throttling in scenarios like Cinebench when power limits are removed. Only one, MSI’s s360 CoreLiquid, has been able to keep the 12900k cool enough in the hottest of workloads.

While previous generation Intel CPUs such as the i9-11900k or i9-10900k, a quality cooler could handle up to 300w loads – but with Alder Lake most coolers throttle around 220w in loads like Cinebench. This happens because the increased thermal density of the 10nm++ Intel 7 manufacturing process in comparison to the 14nm process of previous generation coolers.

Parts used for testing

CoolerNoctua NH-U12A chromax.black (sent by Noctua)
Comparison CoolerDeepCool Castle 360EX A-RGB (sent by DeepCool)
BeQuiet Pure Loop 280 (sent by BeQuiet!)
MSI s360 Coreliquid (sent by Intel)
Noctua NH-D15 (sent by Noctua)
DeepCool AK620 Air Cooler (sent by DeepCool)
Shadow Rock Slim 2 (sent by BeQuiet!)
Enermax Aquafusion 360 Addressable RGB AIO CPU Liquid Cooler (sent by Enermax)
CPUIntel i9-12900K (sent by Intel)
MotherboardMSI z690 A-Pro (purchased from Amazon)
Computer CaseBeQuiet! Silent Base 802 Window (sent by BeQuiet!)

Noctua NH-U12A chromax.black Tower Cooler

Noctua’s NH-U12A in the box it was received in

The NH-U12A arrived in a medium sized box, with padding on the sides for protection of the outside of the box, and cardboard protection for the insides of the box.

Included with the unit are the following:

  • Heatsink
  • 2x 120mm fans
    • fan splitters
    • low noise adapters
  • Mounts for all modern CPU sockets, including LGA 1700
  • Instruction Manual
  • Thermal Paste
  • Screwdriver

Cooler Installation

The installation of this cooler on LGA 1700 was fairly simple, as detailed in the picture taken from the user manual below.

Cooler Specifications

CoolerNH-U12A chromax.black
Cold Plate MaterialCopper
Heatpipes7x Copper Heatpipes
Cooling FinsAluminum
Size158mmx125mmx112m (with fan)
Weight1220g (with fan)

Fan Specifications

There’s more to a cooler than just it’s heat sink. The fans included have a huge impact on cooling performance and noise levels.

Fan2x Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM chromax.black
Size120x120x25
Max Fan Speed2000 RPM
Air Flow102.1 m3/h
Noise22.6 dB(A)
Static Pressure2.34 mm H20
Voltage range12 V

What’s different from other coolers

Noctua’s mounting brackets are amongst the easiest to install on the market, and their customer support is top tier – they support their coolers with complimentary bracket upgrades when new sockets are released and don’t charge for things like replacement screws.

Testing Methodology

For each cooler, I used the thermal paste provided by the manufacturer.

To test the limits of thermal capabilities, I have tested Cinebench with 3 TDP settings: no power limits, 200w, and 140w. OCCT includes 200w and 140w results. I’ve also tested Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed : Odyssey results, as these are the most thermally demanding games I own.

Thermal Results

Since all previously tested coolers – with the exception of MSI’s s360 CoreLiquid – have failed to keep the i9-12900k under TJMax while running Cinebench with power limits removed, that was the first thing I tested. When power limits were removed, the NH-U12A was able to cool approximately 220w of power consumption in long term loads while operating at TJMax. This result is in line with other high end air coolers, and most liquid coolers, that are on the market.

While testing Cinebench, Noctua’s NH-U12A performed better than both the AK620 and the EX360 AIO, and only 1 degree behind Noctua’s larger NH-D15. However, with OCCT with a 200w power limit the situation was reversed – the U12A was the worst performing cooler which technically passed the testing, and it did so while reaching TJMax.

Now some folks might scratch their heads when seeing gaming thermal results, but at stock settings the i9-12900k will use up to 123w of power consumption in Cyberpunk 2077- making it a realistic “real life” example of a medium intensity heatload. In these results the NH-U12A performed similarly to it’s closest competitors.

Acoustics

I don’t feel the equipment I currently have is good enough to perform a proper scientific test of the loudness levels of CPU Coolers, but I would say that the noise level of Noctua’s NH-U12A was about the same as the NH-D15 – but with a higher pitch.

Conclusion

The Noctua NH-U12A chromax.black performs well as an air cooler with Alder Lake, able to handle up to 220w long term loads when paired with Intel’s i9-12900k – performing almost as well as the bigger NH-D15. The all-black asthetic of this cooler will appeal to those who are tired of seeing RGB plastered everywhere, and Noctua’s top-notch customer support means you’ll know this cooler will be supported for years to come.

Noctua NH-U12A chromax.black
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