Out of the gate, once we looked at the NH-U12A as we spun it around in our hands, we thought it a brilliant design, and one that should be able to not only outpace many of the CPU air coolers in the chart but maybe even keep up with the NH-D15.
While the results are better than average and good for a cooler of this size, we are left pondering how to attack this part of the review. On the one hand, the performance is impressive, and if you stay under the control of the PWM circuit, the mix of performance and lack of noise is quite pleasing. At the same time, we have coolers like the FSP Windale 6 and the Thermaltake NiC C5 that throws a wrench into the gears.
One of these coolers also delivers ear-bleeding levels of noise to accomplish its thermal results, but as for the Windale 6, it either matches or bests the NH-U12A in both performance and sound. All the same, we have to give credit where credit is due, and it has been a long time since we have been this excited to test a cooler to see how it mixed in the charts to attempt 120mm fan cooled supremacy in CPU air coolers.
What it comes down to in the end is that if we had the Windale 6 in one hand, and the NH-U12A in the other, if priced equally, there is no doubt that the Noctua cooler is beefier and built much better. Even though the way in which the hardware is assembled to the motherboard and the cooler being mounted is similar, the SecuFirm 2 hardware is again beefier and higher quality.
Of course, the Windale 6 uses a thicker set of fins and a single fan, while the NH-U12A uses two fans on a slimmer tower, they are within 12mm of each other in-depth. Call it fanboyism, call it brand loyalty, call it whatever you want, but in the end, we still want the NH-U12A over it, as we tend to gravitate towards high-end components just like everyone else does. That being said, there is no way to deny that one can get similar or better performance with similar audio results for less money.
As much as we want to love on the NH-U12A and tell you that you should run out and get this over any other 120mm fan based single tower cooler, the fact is, that the NH-U12A will cost $99.99 to obtain. While we are used to the top-tier tax of Noctua coolers and fully expected this level of pricing, the results in the charts make it a tough pill to swallow.
Considering that pesky Windale 6 cooler released at $45, and likely can be found on sale, and even though the NH-D12A is a top ten air cooler, and trades blows with much more expensive AIO solutions, the bar was already set. On the flip side, the feel from the time the box arrives, through getting your hands-on the product and looking over all of the goodies is a much better experience than with the other cooler and can be something overlooked by many.
However, we do feel that to be competitive on a level we could thoroughly recommend, we would need to see the NH-U12A for somewhere around $80 or less. In that range, the extras pay for themselves, and the extra steps taken to deliver a build quality superior to just about everyone else's cooler would be more palatable. As it stands, we strongly recommend you check out the NH-U12A, but with all parts of the puzzle now together and taking all of the information in, we can't rightly give it an Editor's Choice award.
The Bottom Line
The NH-U12A does what it says, and can compete with coolers much larger and with larger diameter fans. However, the cost is a premium some may not be willing to spend when better performance can still be had for quite a bit less!