Noctua is a company that has grown a name based soley on their quality product and after sales. I don't think we ever have tested one product that we didn't like. As such it should be no surprize that this is the same for the products as tested today. Noctua CPU coolers have a lot of capacity, we like that very much. The result as such is that the cooler becomes even more impressive when you start to overclock and then observe the sheer (low) noise levels.
The looks remain trivial. We stated many times that Noctua could really use a change in their color schema in regards to their products. The brown/beige colors simply are not in line with today's high-end preferred and colored products. Despite the colors the end-users are willing to look away, as the quality of the coolers themselves are so good, which matters more. Perhaps a hint to Noctua, how about a black cooler with darker brown/beige fans? We do understand the dilemma at hand for Noctua though, Gigabyte uses Blue, ASUS ROG used Red and each company really has their own house color design and thus trademark for company branding.
Both coolers perform excellent within its range. The 120mm based NH-U12S simply is good. With higher overclocks and increased processor voltages however it becomes a little more "mainstream" in the heatpipe segment. Adding a 2nd fan will help, albeit we noticed only a little temperature decrease. The product comes standard with one fan though. So yes, the big winner in my eyes is the NH-U14S, I seriously like it. It doesn't have that huge dual-radiator design opposed to some of Noctua's other models like the D14. This one has a single radiator design with that sincerely cool NF-A15 fan, the combo kicks ass. The NH-U14S performs really well, even with Ivy Bridge at 4600 and 1.3 Volts for a heatpipe based cooler that performance is impressive.
Granted we have our motherboard PWM controlling the fans. But for both coolers combined with one or two fans the sound levels are just not an issue. With the lwo RPM fans both the NH-U12S and NH-U14S under normal operation are silent, even more silent then liquid cooling. I can write an entire paragraph about this fact, but let's just call it what it is and get it over with, the noise levels are darn good and thus extremely silent, even with two fans in push-pull configuration noise should not be an issue whatsoever.
The one thing that Noctua is not, is cheap, well... their product pricing I mean. The NH-U12S and NH-U14S will be available at a suggested retail prices of EUR 59.90 / USD 64.90 (NH-U12S) and EUR 69.90 / USD 74.90 (NH-U14S). Mind you that is a suggested price. Shave off another ten bucks for each cooler once they are available in good volume in e-tail. But each EURO is well spend IMHO, this is quality, great after sales and pure silence.
Noctua cooler are just fantastic in terms of performance versus silence. The NH-U12S we like, the NH-U14S we like the best. The latter one is a just great in terms of cooling versus sound versus size. We just mentioned the prices and allow me to add that you will understand the price level once you unpack the cooler as the intricate detail just oozes even from the packaging. The mounting kit is superb, sturdy and easy to install. Sure the motherboard will need to come out, but the mounting design and ease of use in installation is just great. Even a Philips screwdriver is included in the kit. Performance wise, you'll achieve great heatpipe based cooling for the NH-U12S and downright impressive performance for the NH-U14S. The noise levels are great, heck even if you can't PWM control the fans, small resistor wires are included to force the fans at low RPM. Silence I say... SILENCE. The looks and aesthetics, well you either love or hate the Noctua colors I guess, there is nothing in-between it. We would really like to recommend Noctua to look into aesthetics more, these coolers end up in high-end systems, and these are all black or at least have a black base color these days.
Overall we feel the Noctua U12S and NH-U14S coolers are very nice, the looks are a matter of taste, the performance winner however is the NH-U14S. Both products can be found in the stores as we speak and are covered by a 6-year carry in warranty. So once again two thumbs up for Noctua, and we do apologise if that is getting a little boring ;)
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