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.
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.
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.
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.
In Figure 6, you can see how the cooler looks like from the top.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We adopted a 2 °C error margin, i.e., temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.
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.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Fan Speed||Base Temp.||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock||14 °C||44 dBA||1000 rpm||31 °C||42 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (min. speed)||17 °C||47 dBA||880 rpm||29 °C||36 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed)||17 °C||59 dBA||1500 rpm||26 °C||34 °C|
|Akasa Nero||18 °C||41 dBA||500 rpm||26 °C||35 oC|
|Cooler Master V10||14 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||21 °C||26 °C|
|TMG IA1 (max. speed)||16 °C||47 dBA||1500 rpm||22 °C||30 °C|
|TMG IA1 (min. speed)||16 °C||57 dBA||2250 rpm||21 °C||30 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||16 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||21 °C||29 °C|
|Thermaltake ISGC-100||18 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||35 °C||49 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P (low speed)||15 °C||42 dBA||1000 rpm||20 °C||30 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P||15 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||20 °C||28 °C|
|Noctua NH-C12P||17 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||23 °C||28 °C|
CPU Fully Loaded
|Fan Speed||Base Temp.||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock||14 °C||48 dBA||1740 rpm||42 °C||100 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (min. speed)||17 °C||47 dBA||880 rpm||43 °C||77 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed)||17 °C||59 dBA||1500 rpm||35 °C||70 °C|
|Akasa Nero||18 °C||48 dBA||1500 rpm||34 °C||68 °C|
|Cooler Master V10||14 °C||54 dBA||1900 rpm||24 °C||52 °C|
|TMG IA1 (max. speed)||16 °C||47 dBA||1500 rpm||27 °C||63 °C|
|TMG IA1 (min. speed)||16 °C||57 dBA||2250 rpm||25 °C||60 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||16 °C||51 dBA||1900 rpm||24 °C||50 °C|
|Thermaltake ISG-100||18 °C||50 dBA||1800 rpm||58 °C||93 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P (low speed)||15 °C||42 dBA||1000 rpm||28 °C||59 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P||15 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||25 °C||54 °C|
|Noctua NH-C12P||17 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||37 °C||76 °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.
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 features are:
* Researched at Newegg.com 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.