Noctua NH-U12S Redux CPU Cooler Review
Noctua‘s first take on entry-level cooling came this year with the NH-U12S redux CPU cooler. With an MSRP of $59.95, the Noctua NH-U12S redux delivers efficient silent cooling at a more accessible price. This cooler is unlike any other CPU cooler from Noctua to date. It is marketed towards the general mainstream PC user, those that use their PC for work, productivity, and light gaming. For the type of builders that doesn’t really go with high-end components and want something that works without much noise.
The Noctua NH-U12S redux uses a single 120mm fan, the Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM, which features a more neutral gray color. It is a streamlined product, as per Noctua, removing some of the extras to push it towards more competitive pricing while carrying the brand’s signature silent performance. The NH-U12S redux can only support a single 120mm fan. To support a secondary fan for a push-pull configuration, you need to purchase the Noctua NA-FK1 redux kit.
NH-U12S Redux Features
- Based on the award-winning NH-U12S
- Streamlined redux edition
- Classic 120mm tower size for excellent case and PCIe compatibility
- 100% RAM compatibility
- Proven NF-P12 fan with PWM
- Optional dual-fan kit (NA-FK1 Redux Kit)
- Precision-machined copper base for optimal contact and heat distribution
- Noctua SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system
- Free mounting upgrade policy
- Pre-applied NT-H1 thermal compound
- 6-year manufacturer’s warranty
NA-FK1 Redux Kit Features
- Enhanced cooling performance
- Lower noise levels and acoustic fine-tuning
- NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM
- 6-year manufacturer’s warranty
NH-U12S Redux Specifications
|Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1200, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM4
|Height (without fan)
|Width (without fan)
|Depth (without fan)
|Height (with fan)
|Width (with fan)
|Depth (with fan)
|Weight (with fan)
|Nickel plated Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins)
|120 x 120 x 25 mm
|NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM
|Max. rotational speed (+/- 10%)
|Min. rotational speed (PWM, +/-20%)
|Max. acoustical noise
|> 150,000 h
The Noctua NH-U12S redux appears similar to the NH-U12S cooler other than the gray colors. There are a few key differences between the two which will identify the redux version as the budget option.
The first very noticeable difference is the use of pre-applied thermal paste on the redux version. Noctua had the NT-H1 thermal compound pre-applied on the cooler’s base which guarantees 100% coverage to the CPU IHS.
The Noctua NH-U12S redux cooler only has four heat pipes while the NH-U12S has five. Also, you can notice the visible screws on the top plate of the cooler. The top plate is actually removable when all the screws are removed. The locations of the heat pipes are also totally different from the NH-U12S. The NH-U12S redux cooler is not compatible with the Chromax cooler covers, something I tried during this review. Nevertheless, the NH-U12S redux isn’t intended to be upgraded with such accessories provided that this product is designed for budget-oriented builds.
What you see in the photo above is everything included in the NH-U12S redux CPU cooler except for the AM4 backplate which comes from the motherboard. Noctua removed the Noctua logo case badge, screwdriver, tube of NT-H1 thermal paste, extra fan clips to support secondary fan, and reduced the three installation guides into one paper. Even the anti-vibration rubber pads are reduced to four, covering only the four corners that touch the CPU cooler.
Everything you need to support a secondary fan on the NH-U12S redux is on the Noctua NA-FK1 Redux Kit. The kit includes a Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM fan, a pair of fan clips, four anti-vibration pads, a 2-way splitter cable, and a pair of low-noise adapters.
Testing and Performance
I’m still using the same setup that I used to test the Noctua NH-U9S chromax.black with a minor change, a different graphics card, which should have no impact on CPU usage when stress testing using AIDA 64.
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
- Motherboard: ASRock X470 Taichi Ultimate
- Cooler(s): Noctua NH-U12S redux (single fan and dual fan)
- Memory: HyperX Predator DDR4-2666
- GPU: GALAX GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
- PSU: SilverStone SX750 SFX 80PLUS Platinum
- Storage: Transcend 256GB SSD
- Operating System: Windows 10
I made two series of tests, one with the NH-U12S redux cooler’s pre-applied thermal paste and the other with a fresh application of Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste. I did this to see if there are any differences in the performance between using the pre-applied NT-H1 to using a fresh application of the NT-H1.
Removing the NH-U12S redux cooler from the socket reveals excellent thermal compound coverage. It also has the same viscosity, as far as I can tell, with the thermal paste coming from the tube. Hence, there will be two sets of results below for single-fan and dual-fan configurations, one set using the pre-applied thermal paste and one set for using a fresh application of NT-H1 thermal compound.
I used AIDA64‘s CPU stress test feature to test the load temperatures of the processor after a 10 minute period. The average temperature will be taken, the room temperature is around 20~21°C. I’m using an open testbench to remove airflow restrictions present in cases. This setup gives the coolers the best-case scenario of having no airflow restrictions.
The NH-U12S redux with dual fans appears to have a similar performance to the NH-U9S. Still, the NH-U9S shows slight superiority over the U12S redux. This behavior could be explained by the number of heat pipes the cooler has. The NH-U9S has five heat pipes while the NH-U12S redux only has four. Later this month, I will be able to test the NH-U12A chromax.black which is the premium single-tower model using the 120mm form-factor and has seven heat pipes so stay tuned!
Moving forward, using a fresh application of NT-H1 thermal paste appears to have some performance differences which appear more evident on idle loads. The dual-fan setup performs a 1.8°C cooler while the single-fan setup performs a 2.4°C cooler with a fresh application of NT-H1. For load temperatures, the difference is more or less than 1°C which appears insignificant. The difference in performance for both idle and loads is arguably insignificant overall. Hence, I could say the pre-applied paste works just like putting on a fresh paste. Even if this proves there is some slight improvement, buying a tube of Noctua NT-H1 defeats the purpose of buying the NH-U12S redux cooler.
Watch the YouTube video below which includes the installation guides and acoustic testing and result.
The Noctua NH-U12S redux offers a specific set of features that makes it ideal for the mainstream PC user. It is ideal for PCs built for work, productivity, education, and even light gaming. Noctua’s Redux Series is all about the streamlined versions of their premium products, carrying the same signature silent operation without the extras at a more affordable price.
The Noctua brown colors aren’t present with the redux line which is a plus for some PC builders. Nevertheless, the average PC user doesn’t really care about color matching and aesthetics. But if it does matter, you can swap a 120mm RGB fan into this cooler without losing much value. Let me sum up my thoughts about this cooler in a few key segments below.
The Noctua NH-U12S redux is probably the least performing model in Noctua’s lineup of 120mm form-factor CPU coolers having only four heat pipes. Nevertheless, it should still be able to support mid-tier and high-end processors but with limited overclocking headroom.
The NH-U12S redux brings a new color to the table which would be considered better-looking than the signature Noctua browns but still no RGB lighting.
NH-U12S redux noise @ idle/low loads (12-inch distance) NH-U12S redux noise @ 100% RPM (12-inch distance)
Noctua’s cooling fans are some of the quietest fans available in the market and even the Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 PWM performs very well. On idle and low loads, I only get around 43dBA of noise in an open bench setup (average room noise 40dBA). The NH-U12S redux occasionally spins at 100% RPM during gaming which reads around 61dBA but drops after a few seconds as it cools down. This behavior would still boil down to the processor TDP. The Ryzen 7 1800X I used for this test has a TDP rating of 95W, using a 65W CPU should encounter this behavior less. You can check out Noctua’s CPU compatibility list for the NH-U12S redux here.
Ease of Use (Excellent)
Noctua’s SecuFirm 2 mounting mechanism is simple and straightforward. Furthermore, Noctua provides detailed instructions on paper and on video that you can watch on YouTube.
Being a value-oriented CPU cooler option from Noctua, it does what it is intended to do very well. If you don’t plan to upgrade the CPU or motherboard anytime soon, you can get the best out of the pre-applied thermal paste.
Like I said in the video, the Noctua NH-U12S redux is ideal for the average mainstream PCs. Noctua did a very good job delivering its signature silent cooling to a more budget-oriented package. Getting the NH-U12S redux cooler alone and using the default single-fan configuration is good for entry-level to mid-tier builds. The Noctua NA-FK1 redux kit is also a good option if you want to improve cooling performance later on.