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Noctua NH-U9S CPU Cooler Review

Chad says that "bigger is not always better", and that proves to be the case with Noctua's NH-U9S CPU air cooler. Let's take a close look.

@chad_sebring
Published Fri, Mar 20 2015 9:20 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Noctua

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 33 IMAGES

Along with the NH-D9L, we were also sent another cooler that is cooled by the 92mm fan we saw in the NH-D9L design. This time, rather than staying within the confines of the 3U specification for cooler height, Noctua stretched this design a bit to make room for more cooler and increase the efficiency. While initial impressions of this cooler may lead you to believe the NH-D9L is the better of the two, we all know what happens when you assume things.

We did lose a bit of faith in Noctua with the last sample we received falling a bit short in the included hardware, but our faith has been restored this time around. We realize that mistakes can easily happen, but in our many years reviewing coolers, Noctua has been the hallmark by which we measure a lot of designs. Noctua continually displays a fine attention to detail, and their designs and finished products are high quality. With what we have already seen from their latest design, we jumped right back to the high level of quality we expect from Noctua, and this cooler has certainly shown us you don't have to go huge to control the temperatures of modern processors.

The cooler we are reviewing today is the Noctua NH-U9S, which is very small in comparison to most of the coolers in our charts, and is even more compact than the NH-D9L we just saw. Since even our high standards have been met from what we have already seen of the NH-U9S, we feel that anyone looking for a cooler (whether it's needed in tight confines or not) should really take the time to see what Noctua and their NH-U9S have to offer.

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Compatibility information tops the specifications chart provided for the NH-U9S. Here we see that Intel sockets are covered from LGA115X forward, and AMD compatibility covers AM2 and FM1 forward, but AMD installations require the stock back plate. We then jump right into the dimensions of the NH-U9S. The NH-U9S is 125mm tall, 95mm wide, and 95mm deep with the fan included. The chart also shows the cooler weighs 618 grams with the fan included. The metal components are responsible for the bulk of the cooler's weight. The fins of the cooler are made of aluminum, and the base and the five 6mm diameter heat pipes are made of copper. After the base and pipes are assembled and soldered, they are nickel plated to fight oxidation, and then the fins are soldered to each heat pipe. You cannot access the TDP guide from here, but we will tell you that it displays 140W TDP; however, it also says you can overclock that to closer to 160W or 180W TDP overall.

Under the section covering the bits included in the box, we also see that this cooler is shipped with a six-year warranty, and then we run into the fan section. This section shows that the 92mm fan chosen for the NH-U9S is the NF-A9 PWM fan on a SSO2 bearing. This fan can spin up to 2000 RPM, delivering 78.9 cubic meters of airflow. We also see this fan is rated at 22.8 dB(A), uses 1.2W of power, and should spin for 150,000 hours. As an added bonus, we received a second fan as well, so we will be mentioning performance levels there as well.

We shopped around a few e-tailers for the NH-U9S and found a total of four e-tailers with listings for the cooler; however, despite the listings, some e-tailers did not actually have the NH-U9S in stock. Nonetheless, all of the pricing is very similar across the board, but the best deal is currently at Amazon.com where they sell this cooler for $56.90 with free shipping, and they actually have stock to sell. We did see some lower initial pricing, but once shipping was factored in, the total cost was in the $70 range.

So, we know the NH-U9S is affordable, and we know it outperforms the NH-D9L, but the question is: by how much? Stick around and find out for yourself as we take you through the latest creation from Noctua. This cooler may just be the cooling solution for your next build.

PRICING: You can find the Noctua NH-U9S for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Noctua NH-U9S retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

Packaging

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The NH-U9S comes in a white and brown box with the "95mm U-type Tower Cooler" classification at the top. The silver sticker to the right says this cooler has better compatibility, and the largest section at the bottom offers a look at the cooler through the fan. The larger section also supplies a space for a list of eight features of the NH-U9S.

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The right side of the box offers potential buyers a full list of specifications in the large brown section to the left. At the right-hand side we find the cooler naming, and at the bottom we see two small renderings with dimensions listed on them.

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On the back of the box, the larger brown panel offers a statement regarding what went into this design, and what to expect from the NH-U9S. This information is repeated in various languages to cover the majority of Noctua's international markets.

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Rather than listing text explanations of the features as we saw on the front of the box, the left side of this box shows the features in a more in-depth fashion. Not only do we see iconography for the features, but there are also detailed descriptions of each feature.

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After opening the top of the box, we first find the hardware box, which is covering the box that contains the cooler. We like that the box is plainly marked with what should be inside of it, so you don't have to search for the paperwork to confirm its contents.

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While protecting the hardware is important, we also see that Noctua double boxes the cooler. What you see here slides out of the box after the hardware is removed, and the cooler is protected inside, free of any damages. Even with evidence of rough handling on the external packaging, our NH-U9S arrived in superb condition.

Noctua NH-U9S CPU Cooler

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Seeing the NH-U9S, or the lack of seeing anything behind that 92mm fan, should give you an idea of the size of this design. What we can see is that the fan is taller than the cooler and does a great job of covering the fins behind it.

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By spinning the cooler around, we can see the fan clips wrap around the front of the fan, across its side, and finally clip into the first notch at the front of the cooler. The majority of the side is flat, with the exception of two spots where the fins are supported to keep spacing correct. The back is designed like the front edge.

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Here we laid the cooler down to get a better view of the design at the back of the cooler. Both edges are similar in design, but here the sides support the fan, there is a lowered section in the middle with a saw-tooth pattern, and a final dip in the middle allows the cooler to be mounted.

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The fin stack and the fan clip look and work the same on the NH-U9S as they did on the NH-D9L, so we can move lower on this cooler. Here we see three heat pipes very close together near the front of the cooler, and the pair at the back angle off; all of the heat pipes are staggered in the fins to maximize efficiency.

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At the top of the NH-U9S we see the offset of the heat pipes as they run through the fin stack. We can also see the leading edge design and its similarity to the back, but since the cooler is offset, we don't need the deep groove for mounting it.

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At the base of the cooler we find a plastic snap-on cover protecting the finish. We can also see the solder marks allowing for the best thermal transfer at both ends of the pipes.

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Just like we saw when we looked at the base of the NH-D9L, this NH-U9S also has a convex base with a more finely polished surface than most other Noctua coolers. The milling lines are slightly visible, but the plating does fill the voids pretty well.

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As we always do when the option presents itself, we added the aforementioned second fan to the cooler. With the additional fan, the NH-U9S is now 120mm deep, and since the cooler comes with an extra set of fan clips, it's almost asking you to add one.

Accessories and Documentation

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Here we have laid out part of the Intel mounting kit. There are the four LGA2011 studs at the left, four black standoffs to go under the brackets at the bottom, and the four thumbscrews secure it all into place.

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For those of you using LGA115X sockets, you will be using this back plate with the studs mounted to it. This back plate is isolated with white washers at the end of each stud. Simply slide this in with the holes in the plate matching the back of the socket, and use the gear above to prepare for the cooler.

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No matter what socket you plan to install this cooler on for AMD installations, you will need the stock back plate from the motherboard. In this instance, you drive the screws through the brackets, through the white standoffs, and screw them into your back plate.

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The low-noise adapter, a tube of NT-H1, and the ninety-degree Phillip's head screw driver are also included with this cooler. Noctua also sends along an extra set of fan clips, a metal Noctua case badge, and easy-to-follow instructions that are broken down into each socket type to ease any potential confusion.

Installation and Finished Product

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The only concern here is matching the holes in the plate with the screws that protrude from the socket. The washers keep this isolated and away from the circuitry, and you can see the studs will not twist when you are tightening the rest of the hardware.

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To complete the first part of our installation we did the following: with the board flipped over, we dropped the black standoffs over the studs, installed the brackets in the proper orientation, and secured it all with the thumbscrews. At this point, the completed hardware should be solid and have no play.

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Now you just need to apply some thermal paste to the CPU, and after removing the front fan, grab the included screwdriver and drive the screws in until the threads stop. Of course, during this process be sure to alternate between screws, making a few turns each time, and repeating this pattern until it is fully screwed into place.

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It is strange to have such a small cooler peeking out from behind the memory, and the small stature definitely provides advantages in clearance.

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One of those clearance advantages is that once installed, the NH-U9S is completely clear of the memory slots. Regardless of whether you like to run naked sticks or those with huge spreaders and a fan, the clearance offered by this cooler will accommodate.

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As we step back a bit to see just how deep the cooler reaches across the motherboard, with the height of the front fan for reference, you will notice it is very easy to get the second fan on this cooler and remain within the original height specifications.

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Three other points about the cooler can be seen in this image: the small stature of the cooler leaves the first PCI-e slot completely clear, access to the motherboard screws is fully afforded, and the cooler is aesthetically pleasing.

Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results

Test System Setup

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I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Patriot, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with.

To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for that information.

Thermal Results

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While idling, we saw 27.5 degrees for the stock run, and when we loaded the processor, we received a 55.25 degree result. Of course, this is not the best thermal reading on the chart, but we are still within ten degrees of the best result on the list. This cooler is also much quieter and smaller than the top solution on this chart.

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Once we applied the overclock the idle temperature made a fair jump to 31.5 degrees. Most coolers only move a degree or slightly more. On the loaded end of the spectrum, we were able to keep this 4770K under 80 degrees with the 78.16 degree result we have in this chart.

The thermal results don't look that good initially, but considering the competition is largely 120mm coolers, the NH-U9S is doing a pretty great job overall. With a second fan added into the mix, the NH-U9S gave us a reading of 76.25 degrees at this point, which would move it upward by three slots.

Noise Level Results

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With voltage controlled at 7.5V, AIDA64 showed us that the fan was spinning at 1460 RPM, and for such a small fan at that speed, we were almost shocked to see only 24dB on the meter. We had to get very close to the cooler to hear anything with our own ears.

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I would not call 39dB super quiet, but looking at it from the perspective of the chart, there are only a select few that do better in this test. Considering this is a 92mm fan spinning at 2160 RPM in this test, you will be hard pressed to find another fan this size that can even come close.

Final Thoughts

Before we tested this cooler, we did have a hunch that the cute mini-monster Noctua gave us along with the NH-D9U would have been the better of the two, and now our suspicions have been confirmed. This NH-U9S stands tall and definitely delivers. Of course, in this design we are speaking of 125mm of height and fin stack to cool versus the 110mm of the 3U compliance; it is interesting to see what just a little extra height in a thick single tower can do. For such a compact cooler to keep your CPU less than 80 degrees while overclocked just goes to show that Noctua has their stuff together when it comes to design and implementation.

The intent of the NH-U9S was to stay compact, quiet, and offer full access to everything around it, and we feel Noctua hit the nail on the head with this design. The fact that when converted over to CFM, that near 80 cubic meters of air turns into roughly 55CFM is impressive enough, but there is plenty more to be impressed with here. What's really impressive about the NH-U9S is that it uses a 92mm fan, it's able to cool the tower with ease, and it still offers plenty of room in the design for a dual fan setup (unless you are using LGA2011 with tall heat spreaders on the memory) to increase the efficiency of this design. You may be able to find more affordable solutions out there, but you are probably not going to find something so simultaneously silent, compact, and feature loaded. Comparable solutions probably won't come with this level of hardware, extra goodies, or a six-year warranty either.

Looking at the NH-U9S for what it is, where it can go, and just how capable this compact the design is all lends to what we have been glowing about for this entire review. Not only is this a solid, more professional feeling cooler to use, but it fits almost anywhere (except in very small SFF cases and server racks), and stays unbelievably quiet for a cooler that uses a 92mm fan.

Since it only costs $56.90 to get one of these little monsters to your door, it is one of the more affordable Noctua solutions, and even better than the price is the fact it puts to shame many of the larger coolers that fall around the same level of performance. Those of you familiar with Noctua are probably already considering this cooler for a future build, but for those of you that are unfamiliar with Noctua, this is the perfect opportunity for you to get familiar with Noctua and get a really great cooler in the process.

PRICING: You can find the Noctua NH-U9S for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Noctua NH-U9S retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

TweakTown award
Performance89%
Quality including Design and Build97%
General Features99%
Bundle and Packaging98%
Value for Money97%
Overall96%

The Bottom Line: You have to look at this for what it is, and Noctua delivers in spades on the feature set and included bits. This allowed them to deliver a cooler, that while tiny and quiet, takes on larger coolers and puts them to shame, proving that bigger is not always better.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

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