Noctua NH-U9, U12S, U14S TR4-SP3 Threadripper cooler review

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Final words and conclusion

Final Words & Conclusion

Honestly, I did not think that a heat pipe cooler would be sufficient to cool down a 180w processor with 16 cores stressed. Well,  Noctua proofed me wrong here today. It's not perfect though. Due to the size of the coolers and fans, you'll quickly bump into your DDR4 memory. The U9, for example, is a no-go with full height memory. The U12S and U14S definitely can handle it, but marginally. And no DIMM is the same in height, so be sure to check that out. At default processor frequencies all coolers are sufficient enough to deal with the brutal 16 cores. In fact, they are just fine. That goes as well for the noise levels. Honestly, though, the U9 is restricted by memory, the U12S is good, but just for ten bucks more the U14S model is the one that makes the most sense. Its silent and offers the best performance. In fact, it even did beat the Kraken 140mm LCS unit both by default and tweaked clock frequencies and voltages, that is impressive. 


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Once you tweak, noise levels do become a bit of a thing, all coolers remain below a 40 DBa, which normally is described as totally silent, however, starting at 36~37 DBa could be heard. It is complex, as explained the fin design heatspreader of our G.Skill memory sitting directly in front of a fan immediately increases noise DBa levels by 3~4 DBa. Moving the cooling fan upwards by 1 cm, solved that. But that's the stuff you need to keep in mind with heatpipe coolers. In that respect, LCS is handier to opt as you do not need that much space to work with, and you simply get more tolerance from and towards DIMM DDR4 slots wise available to you. Other stuff then, Noctua is a company that has grown a name based solely 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 surprise 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.

Aesthetics & Design

This chapter will be repetitive: We stated many times that Noctua could really use a change in their color scheme 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 just too good, which matters more. Noctua, these days, does offer dark fans and some kits to alter the layout. However, these do need to be purchased separately and thus create additional costs.

Performance

All coolers perform excellently within its range with the proc at default clock. The dual-fan 90mm u( and 120mm based NH-U12S simply are good. With higher overclocks and increased processor voltages however it becomes a little more "mainstream" in the heat pipe segment. Adding a 2nd fan will help, albeit we noticed only a little temperature decrease. The winner in my eyes is the NH-U14S TR4/SP3, 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 and its DBa levels remain in line, albeit tweaked could be heard a bit


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Final Words

You probably will already have noticed it, but the U12S and U14S managed to cool better than the Kraken X40 LCS cooler, especially the U14S crunches down the cooling numbers. That's impressive, but also wasn't a very likely thing to happen. Here's my thought on that, it's the full cover heat block on the Noctua coolers that draw every Watt of heat they can deal with until they run out of capacity. Even tweaked with 16 cores at 100% stress / 1.38V the U14S managed to stay four degrees cooler compared to that Kraken X40 LCS unit, which is a lot in the cooling arena. Now of course, once you go pro with liquid cooling and bigger radiators, the dynamics will shift. But none-the-less this was very impressive to see. There are two things I have been struggling with though, 180 Watt (or much higher when overclocked) is a lot of heat to draw and dissipate, that made the Noctua cooler a bit more noisy compared to what I am used to. And when it comes to Noctua, I am used to 100% silence :) It is what it is though, not at all noisy, but especially the U9 can be heard when the 16 procs are stressed. The U12S and U14S less so. The second caveat is DIMM height tolerances, the U9 is a no-go for full profile and height memory, the U12S and U14S do have a bit more space, but it's ample really. It comes with the territory I'm afraid. 

So what's my top pick from her coolers as tested today, well? The U9 comes in third, it is noisier, has the worst DDR4 DIMM support and lowest (of the three) performance. But if you need that low height build, this might be your cooler to opt if you pick low-profile DIMM memory. In-between the U12S and U14S TR4/SP3 sits a whopping ten bucks. The U12S is fine at default clocks, the U14S, however, shines when tweaked, and I do seriously mean that it shines as it hovers at that 80 Degrees C marker 16c / 4 GHz / 1.38v. So if you purchase a 1000 USD processor, I do not believe for a second you'd opt that U12S if you plan to do a little swagger tweaking :) So yes, today's winner is the NH-U14S TR4/SP3, it offers just the right balance of performance and noise levels.  The looks and aesthetics, well you either love or hate the Noctua colors I guess, there is nothing in-between it. So there you have it, 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 TR4/SP3. All products can be found in the stores as we speak and are covered by a 6-year carry-in warranty. 

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