Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on June 7, 2012
The Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU cooler has a tower heatsink, four heatpipes, and two 120 mm fans. We tested the first version of the NH-U12P almost three years ago. The main differences between the NH-U12P and the NH-U12P SE2 (Special Edition 2) are that the SE2 has the SecuFirm2 mounting mechanism and comes with two fans.
The brown and blue box has a transparent window that allows the customer to see part of the cooler, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: heatsink, fans, a syringe of thermal compound, manuals, adapter cables, and installation hardware.
Figure 3 displays the heatsink of the NH-U12P SE2.
This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
Figure 4 shows the front of the cooler. The fins are well-spaced, and the heatpipes are nickel-plated for a nice appearance.
Figure 5 reveals the side of the cooler. The fins are folded in the center area, creating a partially closed panel.
Figure 6 shows the top of the cooler, where you can see the shape of the fins and the tips of the heatpipes.
In Figure 7, you can see how the heatpipes are connected to the base. There is a nickel-plated copper plate at the base of the cooler. Figure 8 shows the near-mirrored surface of the base plate.
Figure 9 reveals the twin 120 mm fans. They have three-pin connectors, which means they don’t support PWM speed control.
Figure 10 shows the NH-U12P SE2 with the fans installed. Notice the white silicon strips at the sides of the fans; they help to absorb vibrations from the fans.
Figure 11 shows the backplate for installing the NH-U12P SE2 on Intel CPUs with the screws inserted. The thick rubber pads on the tips provide excellent electrical insulating while avoiding damage to any SMD component on the solder side of the motherboard.
You must screw two “tabs” on the base of the heatsink, as shown in Figure 12.
Put the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, and then install the metal bars shown in Figure 13.
Then put the cooler in place and secure it, fastening the screws on the base tabs.
The last step is to install the fans, as shown in Figure 15.
We tested the cooler with a Core i5-2500K CPU (quad-core, 3.3 GHz), which is a socket LGA1155 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 4.0 GHz (100 MHz base clock and x40 multiplier), with 1.3 V core voltage (Vcore). This CPU was able to reach 4.8 GHz with its default core voltage, but at this setting, the processor enters thermal throttling when using mainstream coolers, reducing the clock and thus the thermal dissipation. This could interfere with the temperature readings, so we chose to maintain a moderate overclocking.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all cores, we ran Prime 95 25.11 with the “In-place Large FFTs” option. (In this version, the software uses all available threads.)
We compared the tested cooler to other coolers we already tested, and to the stock cooler that comes with the Core i5-2500K CPU. Note that the results cannot be compared to measures taken on a different hardware configuration, so we retested some “old” coolers with this new methodology. This means you can find different values in older reviews than the values you will read on the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that comes with it.
Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings.
During the tests, the panels of the computer case were closed. The front and rear case fans were spinning at minimum speed in order to simulate the “normal” cooler use on a well-ventilated case. We assume that is the common setup used by a cooling enthusiast or overclocker.
The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed near the top opening of the case. This measurement is only for comparison purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which is not the case here.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 2°C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2°C are considered irrelevant.
The table below presents the results of our measurements. We repeated the same test on all coolers listed below. Each measurement was taken with the CPU at full load. In the models with a fan supporting PWM, the motherboard controlled the fan speed according to core load and temperature. On coolers with an integrated fan controller, the fan was set at the full speed.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Temp. Diff.|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||18 °C||50 dBA||2850 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Corsair A70||23 °C||51 dBA||2000 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Corsair H100||26 °C||62 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||38 °C|
|EVGA Superclock||26 °C||57 dBA||2550 rpm||67 °C||41 °C|
|NZXT HAVIK 140||20 °C||46 dBA||1250 rpm||65 °C||45 °C|
|Thermalright True Spirit 120||26 °C||42 dBA||1500 rpm||82 °C||56 °C|
|Zalman CNPS12X||26 °C||43 dBA||1200 rpm||71 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||20 °C||51 dBA||1700 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Titan Fenrir Siberia Edition||22 °C||50 dBA||2400 rpm||65 °C||43 °C|
|SilenX EFZ-120HA5||18 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||70 °C||52 °C|
|Noctua NH-L12||20 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||70 °C||50 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8900 Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||2550 rpm||71 °C||50 °C|
|Gamer Storm Assassin||15 °C||48 dBA||1450 rpm||58 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 400||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||60 °C||45 °C|
|Cooler Master TPC 812||23 °C||51 dBA||2350 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 300||18 °C||43 dBA||1650 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Intel stock cooler||18 °C||41 dBA||2000 rpm||97 °C||79 °C|
|Xigmatek Praeton||19 °C||52 dBA||2900 rpm||83 °C||64 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P SE2||18 °C||42 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
In the graph below, you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the cooler.
In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.
The main specifications for the Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU cooler include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Our tests proved that the Noctua NH-U12P SE2 was designed to be quiet. It is one of the quietest CPU coolers we tested so far, even with two powerful fans. The overall quality is outstanding and the cooling performance was reasonable.
The cooling performance actually disappointed us a bit. The NH-U12P SE2 is so well-made that we thought it would show exceptional performance. But there are no miracles. As true as the “no pain, no gain” saying is, we can say “no noise, no chill,” or something like that, about CPU coolers.
If you are looking for a very quiet CPU cooler with great construction quality and reasonable cooling performance, the Noctua NH-U12P SE2 is a good choice.