When Ryzen was first debuted worldwide, AMD sent out a set of hardware for many reviewers – which includes a Ryzen 7 CPU, Corsair LPX RAM kit, an X370 motherboard, and most importantly, a special edition Noctua NH-U12S that’s made for AMD’s AM4 socket only. But again, you can get the basic edition Noctua NH-U12S and get the AM4 mounting plate separately for free. But then again – how does it really perform?

In many ways, the Noctua NH-U12S is similar to its sibling, the NH-U9S. Let’s find it out here.

Unboxing

Again, Noctua’s packaging quality, design, and overall aesthetic are consistent throughout its entire product line. I’m absolutely loving its quality and embossing.

Noctua NH-U12S box

Actually, the Noctua NH-U12S’s box isn’t much bigger or shaped differently compared to the NH-U9S’s box. That’s something that caught my attention when I laid my eyes and hands on it.

As usual, the box has two separate compartments – one for the accessory box and another one for the cooler itself. The accessory box is nicely built and labeled – as always – and packs in a few other extras inside.

Noctua NH-U12S unboxing

It comes as a standard that Noctua coolers come with an AMD mounting kit (AM4 not included for this one), an Intel mounting kit that supports from LGA115X to LGA2011v3.

Noctua NH-U12S accessories

There’s also an extra set of thicker anti-vibration pads to be installed at the corners of the second NF-F12 fan that’s not included with the Noctua NH-U12S itself. Also, there are two strips of rubber-like material included in the accessory kit. More on these later.

Noctua NH-U12S second fan mounting accessories
These are for the second 120mm fan – be it a Noctua NF-F12 or a non-Noctua fan.

However, even with all these extras, Noctua didn’t include a 4-pin Y-cable splitter.

The cooler itself comes in this folded cardboard that creates an impressive amount of padding to prevent damage on the cooler itself. It’s very similar to the NH-U9S.

Design

The Noctua NH-U12S takes on a conventional tower-type CPU cooler design but is actually similar to its smaller sibling, the NH-U9S in many ways.

Noctua NH-U12S pose
It’s much more rectangular than its smaller U9S sibling.

The first similarity is its total mass. The Noctua NH-U12S weighs in at 563 grams without the fan, whereas the U9S weighs in at 515 grams without the fan too. However, their dimensions are vastly different as the U9S takes on a square block shape and the U12S has a tall and slim rectangular stature.

It still has the dual-fan push-pull configuration available as Noctua included another set of mounting clips for the second fan, and Noctua included a pair of rubberized strips to adhere to the cooler itself so you can mount fans other than Noctua’s fans. They even cut out the slot for you to indicate where you should stick these strips at.

Noctua NH-U12S fin stack
That small little slot at the edge is where you should adhere the rubber strips.

Of course, if you want to use another NF-F12 for the dual-fan push-pull configuration, you can. Noctua included a set of thicker rubber pads for the 4 corners to be installed on the second NF-F12 to “improve acoustics”. If two NF-F12s are used, the Noctua NH-U12S is actually symmetrical.

Noctua NH-U12S anti-vibration pads
Left: Stock NF-F12 anti-vibration pad.
Right: The thicker anti-vibration pad that’s included with the Noctua NH-U12S.

Just like the NH-U9S, Noctua is claiming that the NH-U12S has a 100% RAM compatibility, but of course, since this is indeed a way taller and wider cooler, it’s not meant for mini-ITX builds.

Noctua NH-U12S heat pipes
Those heat pipes are seriously curvy and sexy!

Installation

Surprisingly, the Noctua NH-U12S uses the exact same bracket and the installation steps are the same as before. Follow the manual, and you’ll be done in no time.

Since the U12S is a little wider than the U9S, it’s much closer to the graphics card than before, but I still didn’t need to remove the graphics card before installing this cooler with everything seated in the Sharkoon BW9000-W. Yes, it’s that convenient.

You’ll have to take note on which orientation you want the cooler to be seated in because it depends on how the two side anchors are positioned.

Noctua NH-U12S installation
Barely touching the RAM!

Again, I have no RAM compatibility issues and it works just fine as expected. Everything is fine and dandy after I screwed in the U12S and clipped on an NF-F12 fan on it. Just like the U9S, I’m not going to test it with a second fan because of its added cost of about $19.95 at Amazon or about RM98 at Lazada. However, you can still opt for a second NF-F12, use the 4-pin Y-cable splitter and both the low-noise adapters to make the entire setup even more silent setup.

Again, your choice.

Performance

As of now, I’m using the Noctua NH-U12S in its single-fan stock configuration. Here’s the rig used to test the NH-U12S and everyone is fitted in the Sharkoon BW9000-W case.

Testing hardware configuration
CPU Intel i5-6400 @ 4.0GHz
Motherboard ASRock Z170 Pro4
GPU MSI GEFORCE GTX 1060 3GT OC
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 4GBx4
Power supply FSP Hexa+ 550W

Again at about 29℃ ambient temperature, the Noctua NH-U12S did perform better than its smaller and squarer sibling. Here are the results with the fan on PWM mode.

NH-U12S (℃)
CPU GPU
Idle 35 31
CPU Only 48 31
GPU Only 52 73
CPU + GPU 50 74

Now, these temperatures are explainable. As the fan and heatsink are wider, there is essentially a larger surface area in contact with airflow as compared to the NH-U9S, even though their weight isn’t that much different. With that said, that means the fans on the Noctua NH-U12S doesn’t need to be tuned to such a high RPM to achieve the same cooling performance – which means an even more silent operation. That’s exactly what I get from my test too.

fans on the Noctua NH-U12S doesn’t need to be tuned to such a high RPM to achieve the same cooling performance

While the Noctua NH-U12S is already silent, you can make it even quieter by including a second NF-F12, swapping out the included rubber corner pieces with the one included in the NH-U12S, L.N.A. on each of the two NF-F12 fans, and a single 4-pin Y-cable splitter.

That’ll give you the best quiet PC ever. Even more so when you consider the fact that with a lower RPM, you’ll pull in much less dust – which is a big boon for me.

Wrapping up the Noctua NH-U12S review

I have to say that the Noctua NH-U12S is probably the best balance between accessibility to the PC itself, compatibility, performance, noise level, and most importantly, price. Sure, the NH-D15 has the best performance throughout all the tests, but you have to really consider the fragility it incurs on your motherboard, case compatibility – which can only be marginally fitted on a mid-tower case – and accessibility to the motherboard, graphics card, and even the first PCI slot.

Noctua NH-U12S logo through fin stack

The Noctua NH-U12S is an easy recommendation for me for anyone who’s looking to step up their game in cooling while opting for a quieter PC. However, the second NF-F12 is up to your own choice.

Now, for the price. The Noctua NH-U12S costs about $60 USD at Amazon, and about RM305 at Lazada. As for the NF-F12 however, it costs about $19.95 USD at Amazon and about RM98 at Lazada. The second fan, however, is of course up to your own preference. You can add it in later.

And hey – Noctua includes that great 6-year warranty too!