Our LGA 2066 system is a whole different beast with its overclocked 18-core Core i9-7980XE and proves again that you should not extrapolate performance from one socket to another. Noctua still delivers a fantastic result for an air-cooler, one that’s on par with multiple mid-range 240mm-based AIO designs, but larger and more premium water-cooling solutions do flex their muscles more clearly here, and Noctua is reliant on keeping airflow up, as even dropping the fan speed by 15 percent with the LNA cables saw the temperature rise by 5°C. That still left Noctua outperforming the Dark Rock 4 by 7°C, though. If you’re keeping your LGA 2066 system at stock for stability purposes, the NH-U12A clearly fits the bill, but if you’re going the overclocking route you’ll want to stick with liquid-cooling.
Lastly, our AM4 system sits at a mid-way point between the two Intel ones with its overclocked eight-core Ryzen 7 1800X. With both fans at full speed, the delta T is 49°C, which again keeps pace with many all-in-one coolers. Better yet, having only one fan or two fans with the LAN cables fitted only sees temperatures go up by 2°C, and even with a single speed-limited fan the NH-U12A posts a respectable result of 54°C, which is 4°C better than Be Quiet!’s Dark Rock 4.
In terms of noise, the cooler is clearly audible when both fans are running at full whack, but it isn’t annoying or whiny. Using the LNA cables only knocks 300 RPM or so off the maximum speed, but this seems to have been carefully chosen, as noise drops noticeably. You’ll still hear it over an otherwise quiet system, but it hits a great balance of noise to performance, and the optimum setup in our opinion is to have both fans mounted and both LNA cables in place while using a PWM curve.
Noctua’s colour scheme will always divide opinion, especially these days, but at least the brand has an identity. Other than that, the only reason not to buy this if you’re seeking premium air cooling is if you have space for the company’s 140mm-based coolers, as we reckon you’ll get even less noise from the larger fans. Overclocking on LGA 20xx CPUs is also still best served by liquid-coolers, but on mainstream sockets the NH-U12A embarrasses a large portion of the AIO market, and there’s no need to worry about pump noise, leaks, or degrading performance over time.
September 17 2021 | 10:20