Noctua NH-C12P CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on August 27, 2009


After reviewing Noctua NH-U12P it's time to test a similar model, NH-C12P, which is a six-heatpipe cooler where the 120 mm fan in placed horizontally, thus fitting some SFF cases. Let's check if its performance is similar to its brother's.

Like NH-U12P this model is only compatible with Intel socket LGA775 or AMD sockets AM3, AM2+ and AM2 CPUs. Actually, its fastening system is identical to NH-U12P's. Its box is also practically the same, only with a different text.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 1: Box.

Inside the box we found the heatsink, the fan (which doesn't come installed), three plastic bags with installation hardware, one NT-H1 thermal compound tube and the installation manual. This manual is actually made by two folders, one explaining the installation process on Intel processors and the other one for AMD CPUs. We also found two speed reducers for the fan, which are simple resistors to be put in series with the fan power wires.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 2: Box contents.

In Figure 3, you can see how the NH-C12P heatsink looks like. Like NH-U12P the fins are thick, giving a solid constitution to the cooler.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 3: Noctua NH-C12P heatsink.
Viewing the heatsink from the side we can note that the fins over the CPU go straight from the base to the top of the heatsink. Unfortunately these fins are practically under the center of the fan, where there is no direct airflow. The heatpipes start on the base and bring the heat to the fins near the fan.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 4: Side view.

Introduction (Cont'd)

The heatpipes are well distributed, leaning on the base and distributed on the whole area on the heatsink. The fan is installed over the heatsink with wire clips similar to the ones used on NH-U12P model, but unlike to what happens on this other model there is no way to install two fans.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 5: Front view.

In Figure 6, you can see how the cooler looks like from the top.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 6: Top view.

The cooler base is smooth but has no mirror finishing, as you can see on Figure 7.
Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 7: Base.

The fan is the same model used on NH-U12P, with no PWM control. Noctua included with this cooler two rotation speed reducers called "Low Noise Adaptor" (L.N.A.) and "Ultra Low Noise Adaptor" (U.L.N.A.). These adapters are just resistors in series with the positive wire of the fan, making it to receive a lower voltage.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 8: Fan.


On Figure 9 you can see the complete contents of the three bags that come with the cooler: one with the installation hardware for AMD processors, one with Intel socket LGA775 parts and the last one with parts that are common to both kinds of CPU. As you can see the difference between the two sets is the shape of the plate installed under the motherboard and of the clips that fasten the cooler to the motherboard.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 9: Installation hardware.

To install this cooler you must attach the corresponding holder on the motherboard and screw the tabs shown in Figure 10 to the cooler base, just like what happens on NH-U12P model.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 10: Tabs attached to the base.

Before installing the fan it is recommended to stick both adhesive silicon strips that come with the product to the heatsink, so they will help to absorb the fan vibration, reducing the noise level.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 11: Silicon straps.

On Figure 12 you can see NH-C12P with its fan installed. But in order to install the cooler on the motherboard it is necessary to remove the fan, so you can access the screws that you need to tighten in order to hold the cooler on the holder that you installed on the motherboard.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 12: Fan installed.

On Figure 13 you can have an idea how it looks inside our case. Even though it is not as tall as NH-U12P, it is a big cooler, fitting in "normal" tower cases but not on some SFF (Small Form Factor) models.

Noctua NH-C12P
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Figure 13: Installed.

How We Tested

We are adopting the following metodology on our CPU cooler reviews.

First, we chose the CPU with the highest TDP (Thermal Design Power) we had available, a Core 2 Extreme QX6850, which has a 130 W TDP. The choice for a CPU with a high TDP is obvious: as we want to measure how efficient is the tested cooler, we need a processor that gets very hot. This CPU works by default at 3.0 GHz, but we overclocked it to 3.33 GHz, in order to heat it as much as possible.

We took noise and temperature measurements with the CPU idle and under full load. In order to achieve 100% CPU load on the four processing cores we ran at the same time Prime95 in "In-place Large FFTs" option and three instances of StressCPU program.

We also compared the reviewed cooler to Intel stock cooler (with copper base), which comes with the processor we used, and also with some other coolers we have tested using the same methodology.

Temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer, with the sensor touching the base of the cooler, and also with the core temperature reading (given by the CPU thermal sensor) from SpeedFan program. For this measurement we used an arithmetic average of the four core temperature readings.

The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed 4" (10 cm) from the fan. We turned off the video board cooler so it wouldn't interfere with the results, but this measurement is only for comparative purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be done inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, what we do not have.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 2 °C error margin, i.e., temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.

Our Tests

On the tables below you can see our results. We ran the same tests with Intel stock cooler, Thermaltake BigTyp 14Pro, Akasa Nero, Cooler Master V10, Thermaltake TMG IA1, Zalman CNPS10X Extreme, Thermaltake ISGC-100, Noctua NH-U12P and Noctua NH-C12P. Each test ran with the CPU idle and the with the CPU fully loaded. On BigTyp 14Pro and TMG IA1 the tests were done with the fan at full speed and at minimum speed. On Noctua NH-U12P we tested using the fan speed reducing device (U.L.N.A.) and then tested again with the fan connected directly to the motherboard (full speed). Noctua NH-C12P was tested connected directly to the motherboard. With Intel stock cooler, Akasa Nero, V10, Zalman CNPS10X Extreme and Thermaltake ISGC-100 the motherboard controls the fan speed based on CPU load level and temperature.

CPU Idle

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseFan SpeedBase Temp.Core Temp.
Intel stock14 °C44 dBA1000 rpm31 °C42 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (min. speed)17 °C47 dBA880 rpm29 °C36 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed)17 °C59 dBA1500 rpm26 °C34 °C
Akasa Nero18 °C41 dBA500 rpm26 °C35 oC
Cooler Master V1014 °C44 dBA1200 rpm21 °C26 °C
TMG IA1 (max. speed)16 °C47 dBA1500 rpm22 °C30 °C
TMG IA1 (min. speed)16 °C57 dBA2250 rpm21 °C30 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme16 °C44 dBA1200 rpm21 °C29 °C
Thermaltake ISGC-10018 °C44 dBA1450 rpm35 °C49 °C
Noctua NH-U12P (low speed)15 °C42 dBA1000 rpm20 °C30 °C
Noctua NH-U12P15 °C46 dBA1400 rpm20 °C28 °C
Noctua NH-C12P17 °C46 dBA1400 rpm23 °C28 °C

CPU Fully Loaded

CoolerRoom Temp.


Fan SpeedBase Temp.Core Temp.
Intel stock14 °C48 dBA1740 rpm42 °C100 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (min. speed)17 °C47 dBA880 rpm43 °C77 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed)17 °C59 dBA1500 rpm35 °C70 °C
Akasa Nero18 °C48 dBA1500 rpm34 °C68 °C
Cooler Master V1014 °C54 dBA1900 rpm24 °C52 °C
TMG IA1 (max. speed)16 °C47 dBA1500 rpm27 °C63 °C
TMG IA1 (min. speed)16 °C57 dBA2250 rpm25 °C60 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme16 °C51 dBA1900 rpm24 °C50 °C
Thermaltake ISG-10018 °C50 dBA1800 rpm58 °C93 °C
Noctua NH-U12P (low speed)15 °C42 dBA1000 rpm28 °C59 °C
Noctua NH-U12P15 °C46 dBA1400 rpm25 °C54 °C
Noctua NH-C12P17 °C46 dBA1400 rpm37 °C76 °C

On the graph below you can see the temperature difference between the cooler base and the room temperature with the CPU idle and fully loaded. Values shown are in Celsius degrees. Remember that the lower the number the better is cooling performance.

Noctua NH-C12P

On the next graph you can have an idea on how many Celsius degrees was CPU core hotter than room temperature during the tests.

 Noctua NH-C12P

Main Specifications

Noctua NH-C12P main features are:

* Researched at on the day we published this review.


Noctua NH-C12P is a CPU cooler with an excellent construction quality, with thick and solid fins just like its "brother" NH-U12P. The silentful fan is also the same, as well as the holding system. The only difference between them is the heatsink shape: NH-U12P uses the already popular tower format, with four U-shape heatpipes (acting, thus, as eight heatpipes pumping the heat from the base to the heatsink), while NH-C12P uses six heatpipes to carry the heat to the heatsink, which stays in horizontal position. An advantage of this design is the fact it is not as tall, and therefore can fit into SFF cases. Another positive point is that since part of the fan stays over the chipset heatsink it helps cooling down one of the hotter areas of the motherboard.

With the CPU idle NH-C12P was pretty efficient. Unfortunately at full load the performance from the reviewed cooler was not good, being very inferior to NH-U12P. It was not as bad as Thermaltake ISGC-100, but it performed worse than the other coolers we tested so far.

Considering it is a relatively expensive cooler - costing more than NH-U12P (which provides a higher performance) - we cannot recommend buying Noctua NH-C12P, unless your case is too narrow to fit a tower-design cooler and your CPU doesn't get very hot.

Updated on 10/23/2009: After we published this review the manufacturer contacted us saying the low performance achieved by this cooler could be due to a defective sample. We received another sample, which was tested and achieved results similar to the first sample.

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