The NH-U12S from Noctua brought me back to the days of my past. It just goes to show that you don't have to go and spend $80 to $100 to get something that can hold its own in our charts, and still be dead silent while doing it. I am sort of at a tossup at this moment thinking back to the Thermaltake NiC C5 that proved that a single tower cooled with 120mm fans can hang up there with the best of them, and may be slightly better, but the noise levels of that cooler are not something I am prepared to deal with every day. The NH-U12S offers similar features to what Thermaltake was showing with allowing users to have room to actually access everything without having to remove the cooler, but the Tt cooler had those ingenious fan shrouds. In defense of Noctua, they have never had to use a shroud, and with the line they have taken this far, I doubt they ever will.
I like all of the new features found here as well. The hardware is easier to install for Intel users now that the screws are mounted into the back plate, where before you had to insert them all into the proper holes, and keep the heads from spinning. Since they dropped LGA775 and LGA1366 support, it allowed them to simplify and improve it. Another thing I liked was that the top bracket seemed much tougher to screw in because of the resistance from the springs, and I do believe this also increased the socket pressure being applied. Also something as simple as allowing the wire fan clips to just clip onto the fans without the use of the plastic inserts makes life easier, as well.
I know it is sort of cheesy, but I even liked the way all of the hardware is in separated boxes now. It used to be that the cellophane bags would break in the larger box and sometimes spill their contents. Packaged as it is, there was none of that, and it keeps parts from rubbing against each other, and makes it easier to find later, if you keep the box.
What I really like about this improved trip down memory lane is that the pricing seems to be a throwback as well. We have seen some really great air coolers over the last year, but in reality, most of the better performers, even some of the not so great ones, will cost you in excess of $100, and that doesn't sit well with the average buyer. Noctua delivering the NH-U12S with an MSRP of $64.90 puts this cooler in reach of most looking for better than average performance, and excellence in the limitation of noise level. A simpler look of yesteryear, and a cooler that allows you to have complete access to screws, memory, and connectivity for wiring, the NH-U12S is definitely a cooler you should spend some time pondering.
I for one really like it and Noctua has shown you don't need a huge cooler, fancy shrouds, or anything "outside of the box" to contend. You just design and build a great cooler, and hopefully more people can get past the colors to enjoy what Noctua has offered for years, and I am glad to say, continues to do today.