Noctua NH-U9B SE2 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on July 3, 2012
Let’s test the NH-U9B SE2 CPU cooler from Noctua. This cooler has a tower heatsink, four U-shaped heatpipes, and two 92 mm fans.
Noctua calls the NH-U9B SE2 a “compact premium cooler.” It is actually smaller than most tower CPU coolers with 120 mm fans, which are typically around 6.3 inches (160 mm) tall. When using 92 mm fans, it is only 4.9 inches (125 mm) tall, fitting some small form factor cases that don’t support bigger coolers.
Figure 1 shows the box of the NH-U9B SE2 that brings the typical colors seen in other Noctua products.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: heatsink, fans, a syringe of thermal compound, manuals, power adapters, a Y-harness for connecting both of the fans to a single motherboard fan connector, and installation hardware.
Figure 3 displays the heatsink of the NH-U9B SE2.
This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
Figure 4 illustrates the front of the heatsink, which carries the high constructive quality we are accustomed to seeing on all Noctua coolers.
igure 5 reveals the side of the cooler. Part of the fins is bent, making a partially closed surface.
In Figure 6, you can see the top of the cooler. The fins are almost rectangular, and the tips of the heatpipes are exposed.
Figure 7 shows how the heatpipes are distributed in the base.
Figure 8 illustrates the base of the cooler. The heatpipes don’t touch the CPU directly; there is a nickel-plated copper plate at the base. The base surface does not have a mirror-like finishing.
Figure 9 reveals the 92 mm fans that come with the NH-U9B SE2. They don’t support PWM speed control.
Figure 10 shows the NH-U9B SE2 with the fans in place. The cooler comes with silicon strips that absorb the vibration from the fans.
The installation system is the same as the one that we saw on the NH-U12P SE2, called SecuFirm2. The first step to install the cooler is to attach two clips with spring-loaded screws at the base of the cooler, as seen in Figure 11. In Intel systems, you also must prepare the backplate, shown in Figure 12, inserting the screws in the appropriate holes. On AMD systems, this cooler uses the stock backplate.
The next step is to install four plastic spacers and two metal bars, where the cooler will be attached.
Put the cooler in, attaching the screws to secure it.
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|
|Deepcool Frostwin||24 °C||46 dBA||1650 rpm||78 °C||54 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Advanced||13 °C||56 dBA||2000 rpm||62 °C||49 °C|
|Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition||9 °C||48 dBA||2100 rpm||53 °C||44 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||1750 rpm||59 °C||38 °C|
|Noctua NH-U9B SE2||12 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||64 °C||52 °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-U9B SE2 CPU cooler include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The Noctua NH-U9B SE2 CPU cooler performed well, especially if you keep in mind that it is a “compact” cooler, being only 4.9 inches (125 mm) tall. It is not aimed at super-hyper gaming computers built inside huge cases, but at computers mounted on small form factor cases where typical tower coolers with 120 mm fans won’t fit.
This cooler is also very quiet, which is very important on this kind of “compact” computer.
For being a compact CPU cooler with good cooling performance, excellent quality of construction, nice look, and low noise, the Noctua NH-U9B SE2 receives the Hardware Secrets Silver Award.