Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware; Installation
If we could call the Noctua NH-D9L a baby of the mammoth NH-D15, then likewise, the Noctua NH-U9S is the biological child of the NH-U14S, except to a lesser degree. They share the same model name convention, which would make me to believe they are from the same family. They both also utilize a singular heatsink, rather than splitting into two sides, as we see in the D-series of Noctua's fans. However, in terms of actual dimensions, it seems the NH-U9S is slightly more chubby than tall in proportion, while the NH-U14S is skinnier. This would be akin to comparing straight jeans to skinny jeans. If the NH-U9S was an anime character, I would be calling it kawaii (Japanese for "cute" or "adorable"), but I digress. Included with the Noctua NH-U9S is the preattached NF-A9 fan, which is held onto by a metal wire clip, but I will look into this later. An additional NF-A9 can be attached to the heatsink as well.
As you see 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 one side, and the other has a larger semi-circular cutout, so users can reach the installation screw, but you will see more on this later. 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 forty three fins on the radiator, which is eight more than the Noctua NH-D9L. 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 reasonable when you consider the size.
As for looks, Noctua has continued the trend of mixing tan, burgundy, and silver. The heatsink is completely silver, because of the material choices of aluminum and nickel plating around the entire unit. The fans are the tan and burgundy colors, which might clash with the gamer-centric flashy blue, or fire engine red, but it stands out for its non-conventional colors. Since Noctua has been doing it this way for so long, it at least gets brand recognition from any knowledgeable user. Noctua's logo of an owl can also be found engraved on top, which is a nice touch.
At a total mass of 524g without a fan, and 618g with a fan, the Noctua NH-U9S is not exactly the lightest of CPU coolers, especially considering the Intel stock cooler is around half the weight at 330g. Adding a second NF-A9 bumps this figure up to a hefty 712g. Noctua heatsinks are heavy in general, with the NH-D15 tipping the scales at just under 1kg. In comparison, the NH-D9L is about eighty grams lighter overall, but this is because it is smaller, too. Most of the weight can be attributed to the material choices of the heatsink itself, as you will also find out later.
As I have mentioned before, the fan on the NH-U9S is very easy to remove. As it utilizes a similar system found in previous Noctua coolers, these wire clips are also very sturdy when mounted on the heatsink. It clips on the outside of the fan and goes around the sides of the heatsink fins. You can see these raised and ridged edges are integrated into the fin itself. Plastic clips are not required; just attach the wire clips directly to the fan. The wire clip retention length is also reduced to a balanced level, so attachment stability is not compromised. Thus, the fans are 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, but thankfully due to the small cooler, this should not be a huge deal. The fans themselves 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, the single NF-A9 PWM comes preattached with the NH-U9S. This is the exact same fan as the one used in the NH-D9L, as I have already mentioned. The 92mm fan has a Noctua specified rotational speed range of 400-2000 RPM, an airflow rating of 78.9 cubic meters/hour, and a static pressure of 2.28 mmH2O. It also comes with a low noise adapter, which reduces all of the numbers I have stated above in order to keep the output noise low. Rated mean time before failure is approximately 150000 hours, which is just over seventeen years. While you could find different fans to place on the heatsink, I would not recommend swapping out the Noctua fans, unless they produce a new set of 92mm units. Noctua has made great fans in the past, and I have no problem recommending these ones either.
Taking a step back, the Noctua NH-U9S as a small heatsink in total. With dimensions measuring at 125mm in height, 95mm in width, and 95mm in depth, the rectangular prism of a cooler is a very tiny thing. In comparison to last week's cooler of the NH-D9L, the NH-U9S is 15 mm taller, resulting in more fins and more space in between each fin. While this extra height may make the NH-U9S unsuitable for some owners with an already limited headroom, the NH-U9S should find its home easily in any micro ATX case, as there is plenty of room for this cooler. The NH-U9S, much like other heatsinks from Noctua's U-series, is asymmetrical, which helps it from overhanging into the memory area. From the base where the metal makes contact with the processor, five 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 10 heatpipes in total. According to Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan, 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 Noctua's NF-A9 PWM fan should be able to deliver very good heat dissipation performance, but we will see if this statement is true on the next page.
Like the Noctua NH-D9L, 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. While the clearance is approximately 3.2cm from the bottom of the base to the lowest fin, this will not interfere with the memory slots, whether your memory has low or high profile heatspreaders. When I installed this on my ATX motherboard, there was more than enough room for the single fan. If you add a second Noctua NF-A9 PWM fan, you probably will not need to move anything either, as long as the second fan is added to the back of the heatsink, and there is nothing on that side. As Noctua also allows users to configure the cooler in four different orientations, you always have the option to turn the cooler around for better fitting.
A shot of the bottom of the Noctua NH-U9S CPU heatsink. The photo above shows the configuration of the heatpipes more clearly in relation to the base leading into the fin array. As you can see, 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, and instead show a mirror-like finish. If you ever find yourself in a lost in the wilderness and in need of a mirror, the NH-U9S can be used to signal rescuers, but I would not necessarily recommend it for that purpose.
The following sections have been borrowed from Jonathan Kwan's Noctua NH-D15 review. As with all Noctua heatsinks we have reviewed in the past, the NH-U9S is a copper/aluminum hybrid heatsink electroplated with nickel. 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 keeps the NH-U9S as light as possible to reduce stress on the motherboard from the weight. Aluminum has a thermal conductivity of 237 W/mK, which is not as optimal for heat transfer as it retains more thermal energy, but the compromise is understandable.
Visually speaking, the NH-U9S from Noctua has none of the copper color with its copper heatpipes and base. According to the specifications, the Noctua NH-U9S is electroplated with nickel on top of its copper -- which has a thermal conductivity of only 90.9 W/mK. While nickel has a lower thermal conductivity than copper which may limit heat transfer, the electroplated layer is very thin, and should not directly affect performance to a significant degree -- but it is likely related to the corrosion allowance factor. 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 contact base in the Noctua NH-U9S has a generally clean and flat finish for optimal performance, as you can see in our photo above.
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 1455°c, 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 therefore corroded material won't build up on the surface in the long run. It is surely a good sign, because the NH-U9S 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, as well as the fact the heatpipes are soldered to the fins, so it will not lose contact over time. Lower quality heatsinks offer high initial performance, but degrades over time as contact between metals decreases due to thermal expansion and contraption. Overall, the Noctua NH-U9S appears to be built very solidly. Reliability should also be excellent as Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan swears by them for their long endurance and retaining performance over time. If you are not convinced, the NH-U9S also comes with a six year warranty, so this guarantee is backed by Noctua, too.
As you have read in our other Noctua reviews, installation is pretty much as we expect, which is awesome. The same system used with the NH-D9L and larger heatsinks like the NH-D15 is found here, which Noctua calls the SecuFirm2 system. Therefore, if you have another recent Noctua cooler, you are more than likely able to exchange between the two for parts. The metal backplate is pictured above, with "Rev. 2" engraved on the back and part number NM-IBP2. This comes with preattached bolts for easier installation of the entire unit. Following the user manual step by step proved to be easy, but even only after installing a Noctua once prior, I barely used the manual for the NH-U9S. Of course, my careful tendencies still made me double check. Starting from the beginning, be sure to align the circular openings on the supplied backplate with the screws on the stock backplate, and flip the motherboard over.
On the other side, two mounting bars are included to attach the heatsink to the motherboard. Once the backplate is pushed through, place the plastic spacers on each bolt. 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 the NH-U14S. From the photo above, I have placed the bars in order to get a horizontal orientation, as you will see soon enough. Once you tighten the thumb bolts on the bars, you can get to the heatsink itself.
Before doing so, be sure to place a bit of thermal paste between the processor and the heatsink. Noctua advises to put a small dot measuring in 4 to 5mm in diameter. Next, remove the attached fan from the NH-U9S, and place the heatsink over the two protruding screws on the mounting bars. At this point, I would actually recommend you to use the screwdriver provided, as the room to access the screw is very limited. With this tool, tighten the screws, alternating between each screw to evenly fix the heatsink to the motherboard. Finally, reattach the NF-A9 fan to the heatsink. Once again, installation proved to be seamless, and took me very little time to get the NH-U9S up and running.
As I have noted before, the NH-U9S did not interfere with my RAM, as the cooler has quite a small horizontal footprint. Even adding a second NF-A9 to the heatsink did not get in the way of adjacent components, as the fan does not add too much additional extra overhang. However, depending on your installation orientation, this secondary fan could possibly be obstructive. With the physical inspection, we can see Noctua has kept consistent in both its build quality and aesthetics as past products. But can it live up to the past legacy of other Noctua products, or is this cooler too small to perform well? Let us read on to find out!
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware; Installation
3. Test Results