IntroductionIn the past when a new Noctua CPU cooler arrived on my doorstep, it was pretty much a given that I would have a new performance leader for air-cooled CPU heatsinks. Times are starting to change and I am beginning to have my doubts after the arrival of the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer and ZEROtherm ZEN FZ120. It is difficult to imagine anyone making a cooler than can rival the performance numbers achieved by these two products.Given the history I have with Noctua products, I still have confidence in the products and if anyone is going to dethrone the CCF and ZEN FZ120, Noctua will be the one to do it. The first two coolers I looked at from Noctua; the NH-U9 and NH-12U took CPU heatsink construction to a new level never before achieved in production; enthusiast class coolers. Later revisions like the NH-U12P that we reviewed last December built upon previous successes and increased construction quality by making the aluminum fins thicker. This led to cooling performance improvements and an even better cooler. Noctua's latest offering; the NH-C12P is a totally redesigned cooler, unlike anything the company has manufactured previously. When looking back at the history of the enthusiast CPU cooler, at first glance it would appear that Noctua is actually going back in time with the NH-C12P. This cooler, unlike many of the latest enthusiast coolers, returns to the traditional down draft fan design where the fan is mounted on top of the heatsink and blows directly to the motherboard. In a conversation with a Noctua representative, I was told that the NH-C12P was created for use with motherboards that require additional cooling on their large VRM coolers to achieve stability in high overclock situations.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
By moving the NH-C12P to a down draft or impingement design, several centimeters were shaved off the total height of the cooler when compared to the NH-U12P. Cases that would normally have difficulty with a large 6+ inch heatsink will benefit from the lower stance on the latest offering. To increase cooling efficiency Noctua added two additional heatpipes over their tower style heatsinks, taking the NH-C12P to six heatpipes in total. Unlike other C style coolers, Noctua didn't rely on heatpipes only to transition heat from the base to the fins. Fifteen of the aluminum fins, the set directly over the CPU, extend all the way down and make contact with the base. The NH-C12P fan is the same 120mm we looked at in the NH-U12P review, and it is special enough for Noctua to give it a product model name. The NF-12P is available as a standalone product and Noctua includes it with nearly all of their flagship products. Lots of thought went into the fans design and several new technologies were created in the R&D phase that eventually made the final draft. You can read more about the NF-12P at Noctua's website.The NH-C12P is currently on its way to retail and e-tail locations and the final cost should be around 55 US Dollars. At the time of writing, no one held stock but said that they were about a week away from receiving the first shipments. When compared to the tower style NH-U12P at 69.95, the 55 Dollar C12P is a relative bargain and it is going to need to be to compete with the 40 Dollar ZEROtherm ZEN FZ120 we tested just recently.
The front of the box isn't much different than other Noctua coolers. A short list of important features is displayed under the product name and a small window allows you to see that the cooler comes with a fan.
The red head is back; nothing says performance like...wait, wrong website. The mounting configuration is shown on the side. Close attention should be paid to the Northbridge heatsink size limit of 40mm; some motherboard makers have chosen to take their chipset cooling to the extreme and use larger coolers close to the CPU. If you are in a situation where the chipset cooling is larger than 40mm, you will need to mount the NH-C12P with the heatpipes to the side. Never mount a heatsink with the heatpipes making an inverted U shape as your cooling performance will be compromised.
The back of the box goes into more detail of the product features listed on the front of the box. The bottom of the box on the back side is dedicated to the fan and some of the advanced technology it features.
The remaining side is a multi-language description of the product and a small portion of the awards Noctua has received over the last year.
Noctua has always packaged their coolers well and the NH-C12P is no exception. The cooler is protected with a double box design package; the inside cardboard surrounds the cooler closely and will do a good job of keeping the cooler from being damaged in a shipping mishap.
The NH-C12P's heatpipes do a good job of putting the heat where it can be removed in an efficient manner. It is difficult to see here, but the pipes are actually soldered to the joints.
Here we see the fins that extend all the way to the bottom of the cooler.
The heatpipes are made of copper and coated with nickel so they won't tarnish and become unsightly. Along the top of the cooler you can see the wave pattern that is cut into each fin.
The fins that extend to the bottom of the cooler do not make it all the way to the side where the last heatpipe is located. This was intentional since you will need to fit a screw driver through the empty area when installing the cooler to a motherboard.
The area void of fins can be seen better from this angle.
With the fan installed, you can't see the missing fins. Here we see the Noctua NF-12U fan, look closely to the trailing edge of the blades and you can see the cuts made to reduce pressure.
The fan is held in place using the wire hanger method. The overall size of the cooler with the fan installed is only 114mm, much smaller than the NH-U12P.
The base of the cooler is not as reflective as other Noctua products I have tested previously, but I have seen worse from other manufacturers.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
Noctua does a good job of keeping the mounting hardware sorted. All three of the plastic bags are resealable, so if you switch rigs around your parts will not become mixed. In the 'common' bag of parts Noctua has included a tube of their premium thermal paste; NH-H1.
As with the NH-U12P, the manual for the NH-C12P is actually two individual manuals that are enclosed in a book. Just pull out the installation you need; either AM2 or LGA (775) and in a step-by-step fashion the instructions are laid out.
Test ResultsTweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
You can always tell how well a cooler and fan are paired by how close the idle and load temperatures are together. Aside from being well paired, the Noctua NH-C12P was able to beat out the ZEROtherm ZEN FZ120 and Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer, our most recent performance leaders. The C12U variant not only beat the U12P, but all of the other coolers we have tested over the last year in both idle and load tests. This included the U12P when using two Noctua fans.
The fan on the C version is the same as the U tower version and the numbers recorded were the same, other than the additional 1dB we recorded extra on the Load, 12 Volt setting. There are many reasons why this can happen, but we are not going to worry about 1dB. Still, the fan is quiet and it can be recommended for nearly all situations.
Final ThoughtsGoing into this review, from the time I opened the box until I verified my first performance numbers I wasn't sure how the NH-C12P would perform. Maybe it was the change in design of the fact that we just tested two remarkable coolers, but I didn't think the new Noctua was going to be leading the charts after the review, unlike the previous coolers. I couldn't have been more wrong and should have just paid more attention to Noctua's history, knowing that the NH-C12P would be the best to date when it comes to cooling performance. The NH-C12P is currently leading out performance boards and the factory fan is very quiet. Now that Noctua has a cooler that is not as tall as the Statue of Liberty, I can recommend one of their coolers for use in a home theater PC. Since many HTPCs are only around six to eight inches tall, most of the Noctua coolers will not work in a small enclosure. The 55 US Dollar price is very attractive for this class of cooler. Many enthusiast coolers cost more, in some cases considerably more and yet they deliver less performance than the NH-C12P.The only drawback with the cooler and Noctua products in general is availability. With the company only being a couple of years young, many retail and even e-tail locations have been a little slow to pick up on the brand. I would like to see Noctua coolers in more retail locations, maybe with the lower price of the new cooler more retail chains will be willing to dedicate valuable shelf space to Noctua.
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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.
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