Ever since I met Chris Ram and started discussing CPU coolers with him, the name Noctua was soon to be added from his side of the conversation. Chris was sure to make sure I knew they were some of the quietest, most efficient coolers money could buy, in his opinion. He has tested and personally used some of Noctuas products before, but this is my first time looking at one of their products to gauging whether or not what Chris had told me about these CPU coolers was true.
Today Noctua has sent us the NH-U9B CPU cooler for testing along with a matching optional fan to allow for dual fan testing. The Noctua NH-U9B is a scaled down version of the NH-U12P that we reviewed some time ago. The major difference with these two coolers is that this is a 92mm fan cooled version for HTPC, or possibly even some SFF cases. This four heat-pipe cooler shows promise from what I have read in reviews of other products, as well as word of mouth from forum members and highly experienced people like Chris.
I know, technically the NH-U9B shouldn't compete with its larger brother in temperatures, but Noctua pride themselves on quiet solutions to CPU cooling. With this in mind, I would hope this cooler is in fact quiet and can still hold its own footing battling temperatures. It is time we get to opening up Noctua's NH-U9B and see if everything I have been lead to believe is true.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As I stated earlier, the NH-U9B is a scaled down version of the 120mm version. They both share a four, copper heat-pipe configuration that starts inside of a copper base and takes the heat into the aluminum fins. All the joints on this cooler are in fact soldered and the cooler base and heat-pipes are also nickel plated to aid in fighting corrosion of the copper innards. The NH-U9B measures in at 125mm tall from the base of the cooler to the top of the tips of the heat-pipes. Being shorter in stature, leads to the use this time of a 92 mm fan to do the job of cooling. The NH-U9B weighs in at only 460g without a fan and as much as 640g if you choose to mount two fans to cool this.
Noctua's NH-U9B, as well as a few other of Noctuas products are carried at Newegg. I have seen them at various locations across the web to purchase the NH-U9B, so availability on these is quite high. I saw no inclination that anyone is out of stock of their products. Since Noctua is an Austrian based company, this really says a lot about their commitment to getting their products to the masses.
As I mentioned, I found this cooler at Newegg for 49.99 U.S. Dollars, with free shipping for the time being. I also mentioned that Noctua had included a second 92mm fan for dual-fan testing as well. This fan is also available at Newegg for 19.99 U.S. Dollars, but this time shipping isn't included. So, for roughly around $65 U.S. dollars you can have the dual-fan configuration NH-U9B, or you can opt to buy the single fan configuration as the NH-U9B is packaged for a reasonable asking price.
Noctua has packaged the NH-U9B in an attractive, dark red, blue and black, trimmed with all white. This should attract a bit of eye traffic on the shelf. To the right Noctua has listed the more prominent features just above a see through cut-away exposing the cooler itself. Worth noting also is that Noctua includes a tube of NT-H1 premium grade thermal material to use with the NH-U9B.
The right of the NH-U9B has a couple of illustrations to help explain the simplicity of the LGA775 and AMD mounting systems. At the very bottom is another couple of illustrations, this time showing overall measurements next to an included parts list.
The rear of the packaging is packed with even more information to aid in your knowledge about the purchase. Noctua has listed six features with images to aid in the understanding. The bottom is an explanation of some of the science behind what actually makes Noctua coolers as quiet and efficient as they are.
Spinning the box around to the remaining left side, Noctua comforts other countries with a brief explanation of the cooler and its included parts. At the bottom Noctua shows their pride, proudly displaying all of their product awards.
Not usually a point of interest, but I felt it was worth showing. Noctua adds information to the consumer at every turn. This is in fact the top of the box, where Noctua utilized the open space to show off the specifications of the heat-sink and the fan of the included NH-U9B.
With the outer cardboard box removed, you are greeted with an all-white cardboard inner shipping package. The NH-U9B is shipped in a snug fold-over cardboard container that keeps it protected from damage during shipping. There is an additional white box inside as well, that is shown to the right. This box has all the hardware and tools you will need to use this cooler on your motherboard.
The Noctua NH-U9B
This is the side of the NH-U9B. Starting at the bottom you can see that Noctua even goes as far as to ship the cooler with a protective plastic cover to keep the base free of damage. Moving up is the nickel plated, copper base with the four copper, nickel plated heat-pipes soldered inside of it. The heat is then transferred to the 37 aluminum fins. Lastly, you can see the heat-pipes do protrude from the top of this cooler, like the others in the Noctua line-up.
The top of the NH-U9B has a lot of features to explain. The left side and right side have small curved grooves to accept the wire fan mounts and flank and indent to allow a screwdriver to pass to the bottom. In the middle is Noctua's name and owl logo stamped into the fin. Above and below, again, are holes to ease in mounting this cooler if your install requires it. The fins themselves are also shaped with the outermost little tab of the fins being designed to snugly hold the fan into place.
With this straight on angle you can see how Noctua has also added the little edge notches to these thick fins to aid in better airflow. With the design and shaping done, this will reduce voids inside the cooler and in principle, make this a more efficient cooler than if they had left the edges stamped flat.
The base of the NH-U9B is flat, but far from mirror-like in finish. As you can see, there are defined milling marks left on the base, but depending on your train of thought some people take the side of small grooves being better at transferring heat than they do lapped or mirror finish bases.
The 92mm, 64.3m/h fan included is set on this angle to show a few "tricks" that Noctua uses to decrease the overall noise level and efficiency of their fans. Notice each blade has two notches cut from the trailing edge and that the end has a small amount removed to allow a bit of flow to sneak by the end, which also aides in noise reduction.
With the fan mounted to the cooler, you can see that the fan supplied does a great job of covering most of the fin area. A bit more noticeable from this angle is the end trimming of the blade I was explaining with the previous image.
A final look at the fully assembled NH-U9B, as it awaits the hardware to be able to mount it for testing.
Accessories and Documentation
This is a complete image of all the included hardware and goodies that come packaged alongside the NH-U9B. I will break these up in smaller groupings and explain a bit of what they are and do.
This bit of hardware is what you could say the general accessories bag. It contains the NT-H1 thermal compound and a right angle screwdriver for use with any of the supplied screws. There are two springs, which depending on AMD or Intel mounting, slip over the appropriate screws for tensioning the cooler. Noctua also includes two different resistance bearing fan connections. These will lower the voltage that is supplied to the fan if you choose not to use the BIOS controls to manage it. In the very middle in long strips is some anti-vibration material supplied to keep the fans quiet against the fins, which leaves me with the four, wire fan clips that the NH-U9B comes with.
This is the included LGA775 hardware for mounting. There are two metal plates that secure to the base of the cooler to the right and left extremes. At the top and bottom are the braces that mount the black, back plate to the motherboard. This section of the kit also includes white plastic, stick-on washers to protect the back plate from grounding out on the motherboard. The screws would of course use the springs in the general bag and screw onto the top of the braces mounted to the board.
The AMD mounting package that is included has by far the most parts for assembly, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully. To the right and left are two different mounting plates you can use, depending on how the AMD socket is turned. This allows for rear exit exhaust no matter which way the socket is laid out. The back plate is in the middle and has the thin plastic washers on it to make them a bit more visible. Below that are red plastic washers that go on the top of the motherboard before the AMD mounting gets applied to the top of the board with the brackets to the left and right of the back plate. Also included is a more specific set of screws for the AMD mounting, that again, you are to use the springs to surround. The four little screws are to use for the mounting to the motherboard.
Noctua has done a really nice job with even something as simple as a fold-out instruction manual. They have stuck them, both and AMD manual and an Intel manual, into a color coordinated card. These instructions are very descriptive and have great images to go along to help answer any questions while mounting the included hardware.
Optional NF-B9 Fan
As I mentioned in the very beginning, Noctua had included an optional fan in their care package they had shipped to my door. This fan is the NF-B9, 92mm fan. They have kept with the same packaging as the NH-U9B and this side displays the features and size of the included fan.
The back of the box opens like a book to reveal the science behind the fan and its design, as well as again showing off those awards. To the very right is an explanation of how the inline, resister having fan connectors are "capped off" at certain fan speeds when used.
Removing the plastic inner package from the cardboard box reveals you do get a lot more than just a fan from Noctua. They include four, anti-vibration case mounts found at the left. The third one down is broken, but I did that myself just prior to taking this image. Also at the bottom are four regular screws if you choose to use those instead, alongside a 4-pin to 3-pin converter. This package also includes two more connectors for the fan that have resistors inline.
This is just a better view of the hardware I described above, all laid out nice and neat.
I felt it was only fitting to end this section with an image of the dual fan configuration mounted to the NH-U9B.
TweakTown 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.
The Noctua NH-U9B performed admirably against the competition with a better than average reporting of temperatures. Idling at a temperature of 55.4 and loading at a maximum temperature of 61.4 Celsius is not an easy feat to do with a 92mm fan powered CPU cooler. I have taken the lowest reading, of course, from the two fan configuration and used the hottest load temperature from the single fan to express this conclusion.
The sound pressure level testing was done as it is every time I test a cooler, but the NH-U9B really starts to express why this cooler is so nice to use day to day. At idle with a single fan (and dual fans for that matter), this cooler is virtually inaudible. Taking the cooler onward to the load testing, there it was again, one quiet cooler. With both fans running at maximum RPM, I only recorded a 56dB sound level reading, which if you look back to the NH-U12P, the NH-U9B is only 3dB louder. This is where Noctuas fan design really steps ahead. If they can keep smaller fans almost as quiet as their 120mm counterparts, I say they did one hell of a good job!
In conclusion, I have to agree with Chris and everything he has told me about this company being true as could be. Noctua coolers not only can do a good job of ridding the CPU of its heat, but do it so quietly that it left me checking to see if the fans were even running. As far as tower style coolers go, with a small form factor in mind this is the quietest cooler I have tested yet. I have to say I am very impressed, to say the least. The well thought out overall design of the cooler doesn't just stop there. Noctua takes it all the way into the mounting hardware. Noctuas take on getting a CPU to stay in a comfortable range of temperatures, while leaving the surrounding area virtually free of noise puts this cooler high in my list of favorites I have tested.
Most good coolers fall under the "magic" $50 mark and the NH-U9B accomplished that too. To get the NH-U9B to your house will be just under that mark if purchased at Newegg for 49.99, currently offered with free shipping. If you plan to add the second fan, expect to pay another $19.99 plus shipping to get it to your doorstep. Personally, after dealing with some really loud fans, I can appreciate quiet and I don't feel the $49.99 asking price is unfair.
I keep looking at the Noctua NH-U9B and I'm trying to pick it apart and find something to fault Noctua on. To be honest, I only came up with one issue. With mounting the hardware I try to look at it from all aspects and I found a small flaw with the AMD mounting mechanism, but only if you are considering the dual fan option. The actual latch that puts the pressure on the socket and holds the cooler down sits about 3-4mm too high in my opinion. When using the dual fan configuration, I noticed the fan that is on that side has to rest atop the brace. This forces the fan to ride a bit proud of the top of the NH-U9B itself and might, ever so slightly, effect the cooling potential. But even with this small issue, the NH-U9B has left me very impressed and I have to say, if it fits in your case and you like things quiet, this cooler has to be added to your top picks list.
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