Noctua NH-U12S redux Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware; Installation

As expected from the name and Noctua's press material, the Noctua NH-U12S redux is looks very similar to the original Noctua NH-U12S. As such, this is like other U-series Noctua coolers, with a single stack of fins and several heatpipes going through it. As we have already reviewed the NH-U12S, the more subtle differences here start at the top with the extra aluminum plate at this top with the redux branding engraved on it. I do appreciate the original silver look, but this also has no standard Noctua owl logo you would find on their standard and lineup. The heatsink is made out of aluminum, with some copper and nickel elements dispersed throughout the unit.

From the top, Noctua has implemented a hybrid approach in the leading edges of the heatsink fans. There is a slight V-shaped slope towards the middle on both sides. There are also a few zigzagged teeth on both sides of the metal fin edges. Both of these optimize the ability to permit airflow in between the fins while reducing the resistance and noise, all while only negligibly decreasing the heatsink surface area. There is a total of fifty fins on the radiator. The spacing in between each fin is approximately 2.0mm. From my calculation, the total surface area of the cooling fins combined is close to 0.54 square meters, which is unsurprisingly the same as the vanilla NH-U12S.

At a total mass of 755g with the single included fan installed, the Noctua NH-U12 redux maintains the same weight as the original once again, which is not a surprise. For some perspective, a typical Intel stock cooler is a lightweight at 330g, while the AMD Wraith Prism stock cooler weighs 582g. Most of the weight can be attributed to the material choices of the heatsink itself, as you will also find out later.

Taking a step back, the Noctua NH-U12S redux dimensions are what you might expect. It measures 158 mm in height, 125 mm in width, and 45 mm in depth. With the single included fan installed, the depth increases to 71 mm. At 158 mm in height, this is probably out of the question for use in slimmer media computer cases, but should be fine for most mid-tower ATX cases. The NH-U12S redux is symmetrical, as it is slim enough to avoid overhanging into the memory area. One change here is that Noctua reduced the number of heatpipes by one. From the base where the metal makes contact with the processor, four continuous U-shaped heatpipes lead away from the CPU contact, splitting into two sides of the same radiator to dissipate the heat. This effectively makes eight heatpipes in total. The heatpipes are supposed to efficiently lead the heat away from its source due to the low heat of vaporization, or phase change energy, of alcohol. The heatpipes are aligned in an alternating manner to spread out the heat in the single array of radiating fins. The 0.54 square meters of surface area, combined with a NF-P12 redux fan, should be able to deliver very good heat dissipation performance, but we will see if this statement is true on the next page.

This CPU cooler is aligned, so when the single fan is attached in its default position, there is no part hanging over into other areas on the motherboard like the RAM slots or the first PCI Express slot underneath. With a clearance of approximately 4cm from the bottom of the base to the lowest fin, Noctua mentions this cooler has full compatibility with the modern Intel and AMD sockets without any interference with memory modules. The downside to this is you are not going to get much, if any, airflow in the area between the contact base and the first cooling fin generated by the intake fan, since it does not extend into this area.

The single fan on the NH-U12S redux is held on with two wire clips that are easy to remove. This is the same fin system employed by Noctua for quite a while, as they keep the fan sturdily mounted to the heatsink. It clips on the outside of the fan and goes around the side of the heatsink fins. Raised edges are integrated into the fin itself to secure the clips. The wire clip retention length is also reduced to a balanced level, so attachment stability is not compromised. Thus, the fan is easier to remove with these tabs and the clips can be removed uniformly. The wire clips also have an advantage by allowing users to be a bit more flexible in terms of the fan-heatsink location. The fan should not need to be removed, except for during installation, as the single fan blocks one of the mounting screws.

As for the fan in question, we have a single Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM fan. Internally, we have the Noctua SSO bearings, which are a hydrodynamic bearing for quiet operation and long life. This 120mm fan has a specified rotational speed range of 450 to 1700 RPM, maximum airflow rating of 120.2 cubic meters/hour, and static pressure of 2.83 mmH2O. Rated mean time before failure is approximately 150,000 hours, which is just over seventeen years. This fan uses the redux color scheme of two shades of gray, which looks alright, but may seem a cut below compared to the standard Noctua tan and brown or the all-black finish.

The photo above shows a shot of the bottom of the Noctua NH-U12S redux CPU heatsink and the configuration of the heatpipes more clearly in relation to the base leading into the fin array. You can see the base is very flat, which means practically the entire base should rest evenly on top of the processor. A quick inspection also reveals there are no abnormalities here, although on closer inspection, some of the circular milling marks are visible when they finished the surface. As you can see here, Noctua has pre-applied their NT-H1 thermal paste in a honeycomb pattern, which means this paste is a one-time use. Afterwards, you will need to add your own thermal paste for subsequent installations. As we have seen from past Noctua heatsinks, this heatsink is composed of copper, nickel, and aluminum. The base and heatpipes are built using copper for best heat transfer ability with a thermal conductivity of 401 W/mK. The heatsink fins utilize aluminum as it is quite a bit lighter in comparison to copper. This compromise allows the NH-U12S redux to reduce its weight and thus reducing the stress on the motherboard. Aluminum has a thermal conductivity of 237 W/mK, which is not as optimal for heat transfer, but the trade-off is understandable.

Visually speaking, the Noctua NH-U12S redux conceals the copper color with its copper heatpipes and base. The electroplating of the base with nickel on top of copper has a thermal conductivity of only 90.9 W/mK. While nickel has a lower thermal conductivity than copper, the electroplated layer is very thin and should not directly affect performance to a significant degree. Instead, this is done this way to keep the base from corrosion. Nickel and nickel-base alloys generally have desirable properties that can withstand corrosive environments and high temperatures, which are especially beneficial for a heat dissipation device. The reason why nickel has such a property is because of nickel's ductility and toughness all the way up to the melting point of 1455c, measured at non-standard pressure. Nickel's face-centered cube crystal structure is virtually unaltered all the way up to that temperature. Nickel, like titanium, is highly resistant to corrosion so corroded material will not build up on the surface in the long run. As a result, the Noctua NH-U12S redux will be less prone to losing its cooling performance over time as juxtaposed to a corroded copper surface.

Additionally, all the joints are cleanly soldered at the base. On the other hand, the fins are pressed to the heatpipes, as opposed to other Noctua heatsinks, which have their fins soldered to the heatpipes. Pressed fins are pretty typical, but this may lead to degradation over time as contact between metals decreases due to thermal expansion and contraption. Overall, the Noctua NH-U12S redux does show some notable cuts in the number of heatpipes and the lack of soldering, although the finished product appears to be built solidly. Reliability should still be great and Noctua offers the same six-year warranty as their other products should anything go wrong.

As you have read in our other Noctua reviews, installation is straightforward and easy. The same system used with practically all of Noctua's heatsinks is found here, which they call the SecuFirm2 system. Therefore, if you have another recent Noctua cooler, you can exchange between the two for parts. If you are installing into an Intel system, you can use the included metal backplate with part number NM-IBP2. This comes with fixed bolts for easier installation of the entire unit. However, if you are installing the NH-U12S redux onto an AMD motherboard, you can use the integrated plate that you will have received with your motherboard.

On the other side, two mounting bars are included to attach the heatsink to the motherboard. Once the backplate is mounted, the plastic spacers can be installed to space out the mounting bars. With an Intel system, the two mounting bars can be placed in a horizontal or vertical configuration, depending on what the user chooses for their installation orientation. The bars included here are the NM-IMB3, which are the same mounting bars found with other U-series heatsinks. With an AMD system, like the one I have above, the bars included here are the NM-AMB7. These are screwed into the backplate with the plastic spacers in between and only fit in one orientation. Once you tighten the thumb bolts on the bars, you can install the heatsink.

Normally, I would tell you to place thermal paste on your CPU, but since Noctua has already done so, this step is unnecessary and could mean you are using as much thermal paste as the guy from The Verge. To install the heatsink, you will need to remove the attached fan from the NH-U12S redux and place the heatsink over the two protruding screws on the mounting bars. I do wish we had the longer L-shaped screwdriver, as it can be tricky to get the screw near the back of the heatsink. Once in place, be sure to tighten the screws in an alternating fashion to evenly attach the heatsink to the motherboard. Finally, reattach the NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM fan to the heatsink. As I have noted before, the NH-U12S redux does not interfere with my RAM, as the cooler has quite a small horizontal footprint. I am happy to report that Noctua has still kept their excellent installation process even on the redux lineup of heatsinks.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware; Installation
3. Test Results
4. Conclusion