Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on June 7, 2012


Hardware Secrets Bronze Award

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.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 1: Package

Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: heatsink, fans, a syringe of thermal compound, manuals, adapter cables, and installation hardware.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 2: Accessories

Figure 3 displays the heatsink of the NH-U12P SE2.

Noctua NH-U12P
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Figure 3: The NH-U12P SE2

This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.

The Noctua NH-U12P SE2

Figure 4 shows the front of the cooler. The fins are well-spaced, and the heatpipes are nickel-plated for a nice appearance.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 4: Front view

Figure 5 reveals the side of the cooler. The fins are folded in the center area, creating a partially closed panel.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 5: Side view

Figure 6 shows the top of the cooler, where you can see the shape of the fins and the tips of the heatpipes.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 6: Top view

The Noctua NH-U12P SE2 (Cont’d)

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.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 7: Base

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 8: Base

Figure 9 reveals the twin 120 mm fans. They have three-pin connectors, which means they don’t support PWM speed control.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 9: Fans

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.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 10: Fans installed


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.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 11: Backplate

You must screw two “tabs” on the base of the heatsink, as shown in Figure 12.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 12: Tabs with inner thread screws

Put the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, and then install the metal bars shown in Figure 13.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 13: Metal frame

Then put the cooler in place and secure it, fastening the screws on the base tabs.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 14: Heatsink installed

The last step is to install the fans, as shown in Figure 15.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2
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Figure 15: Installation finished

How We Tested

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.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

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

Our Tests

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.

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseSpeedCore Temp.Temp. Diff.
Cooler Master Hyper TX318 °C50 dBA2850 rpm69 °C51 °C
Corsair A7023 °C51 dBA2000 rpm66 °C43 °C
Corsair H10026 °C62 dBA2000 rpm64 °C38 °C
EVGA Superclock26 °C57 dBA2550 rpm67 °C41 °C
NZXT HAVIK 14020 °C46 dBA 1250 rpm65 °C45 °C
Thermalright True Spirit 12026 °C42 dBA1500 rpm82 °C56 °C
Zalman CNPS12X26 °C43 dBA1200 rpm71 °C45 °C
Zalman CNPS9900 Max20 °C51 dBA1700 rpm62 °C42 °C
Titan Fenrir Siberia Edition22 °C50 dBA2400 rpm65 °C43 °C
SilenX EFZ-120HA518 °C44 dBA1500 rpm70 °C52 °C
Noctua NH-L1220 °C44 dBA1450 rpm70 °C50 °C
Zalman CNPS8900 Extreme21 °C53 dBA2550 rpm71 °C50 °C
Gamer Storm Assassin15 °C48 dBA1450 rpm58 °C43 °C
Deepcool Gammaxx 40015 °C44 dBA1500 rpm60 °C45 °C
Cooler Master TPC 81223 °C51 dBA2350 rpm66 °C43 °C
Deepcool Gammaxx 30018 °C43 dBA1650 rpm74 °C56 °C
Intel stock cooler18 °C41 dBA2000 rpm97 °C79 °C
Xigmatek Praeton19 °C52 dBA2900 rpm83 °C64 °C
Noctua NH-U12P SE218 °C42 dBA1300 rpm69 °C51 °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.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2

In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.

Noctua NH-U12P SE2

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU cooler include:

* Researched at 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.

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