The Noctua NH-U12S Redux Cooler Review: Bringing Noctua's Best To a Lower Priceby E. Fylladitakis on August 25, 2021 8:00 AM EST
While basic coolers have long been a common pack-in item with most retail CPUs, there's no getting past the fact that many of these coolers are just that: basic. These coolers are sufficient for running a CPU at stock frequencies out of the box, but few stock coolers are built large enough to above and beyond the basics, to deliver impressive thermal and/or acoustic performance. As a result, it's still pretty typical for power users and enthusiasts to go hunting for a more advanced solution – and there's a sizable market of coolers waiting to be found. From compact fansinks to all-in-one liquid coolers that can fill a case, there's a cooler out there for virtually every budget, configuration, and cooling need.
And if by some chance there isn't, then it's only a matter of time until someone builds it. Which is very much the case for the CPU cooler in today's review, Noctua's budget-friendly NH-U12S Redux. Already renowned for their high-quality, high-end cooling products, Noctua is working to broaden their market by making their products a bit more accessible to budget buyers, and they're doing so through products like the Redux.
At a high level, the NH-U12S Redux is a cost-reduced version of the company's very popular NH-U12S cooler. With fewer heatpipes and a different fan, the NH-U12S Redux is intended to bring the quality and cooling performance of its predecessor down to a cheaper, more wallet-friendly price of $50. Which also means that Noctua is more directly facing-off with the other major cooler manufacturers in the highly competitive mainstream market segment.
Packaging & Bundle
The first thing that we noticed about the NH-U12S Redux is the simple, streamlined packaging, which is unlike any packaging of the company that we have previously seen. The artwork on the packaging is pretty much gone, with only basic information regarding the cooler printed on the sides and rear of the box.
Except for the cooler itself, inside the box we found a basic bundle consisting mainly of the mounting hardware required to install the cooler onto a CPU. There also is an illustrated leaflet with mounting instructions. The NH-U12S Redux, much like its siblings, cannot be mounted on Ryzen Threadripper processors. We did not find a syringe with thermal paste inside the packaging – Noctua is instead using pre-applied paste – which is one of the changes Noctua made in order to reduce the retail price of the cooler.
The Noctua NH-U12S Redux CPU Cooler
The Noctua NH-U12S Redux is very similar to the normal NH-U12S, with the exception of a heatpipe and the different cooling fan. Overall, the NH-U12S Redux has one heatpipe less than the NH-U12S and three heatpipes less than the NH-U12A. But perhaps more importantly, the fins on the Redux are also not welded onto the heatpipes. Due to its size and shape, the NH-U12S Redux is compatible with most commercial CPU sockets and it will not block the installation of (regularly sized) RAM modules.
Splitting Image: NH-12S Redux vs. NH-12S
Once the cooler is out of the box, most experienced users will focus their attention on the new cooling fan. And not because of any feature that really stands out, but because this is one of the very rare occasions where Noctua has ditched their iconic brown/beige color theme. Other than that, the NH-U12S Redux has a relatively simple design, being a tower cooler with a small base and heatpipes transferring the thermal energy away from the CPU and to the fins. Although this is the least expensive cooler of the U12 series, the NH-U12S Redux is certainly not a compact cooler; though at 160mm tall, it should fit inside most ATX cases without any compatibility issues. The width of the cooler though may limit the installation of RAM modules higher than 42 mm into some of the RAM slots.
The body of the NH-U12S Redux is beautifully designed and made, with the perfectly arranged fins and heatpipes creating a work of art. There are four heatpipes extending to both sides of the array, which are definitely made out of copper but are further nickel-plated, both to protect them from corrosion and for aesthetic reasons.
The fin array is not too dense, allowing the NH-U12S Redux to perform well with a single 120 mm cooling fan. However, for those seeking an extra performance boost, the company offers a kit containing a second 120 mm fan. We should also add that these fans are not the same as the ones used on the NH-U12S and NH-U12A. The NF-P12 fans used by the NH-U12S Redux are faster and noisier.
The base of the cooler that makes contact with the processor is split into two parts. The bottom half of the base is made out of nickel-plated copper, maximizing the heat transfer rate from the CPU to the heatpipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The top half serves only as a mechanical support and is made out of aluminum, while the mounting bracket is nickel-plated steel. We see that there is thermal paste pre-applied here, a rare thing to see on Noctua’s products.
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A5 - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - linkTheir redux fans are a bit cheaper and louder than the ones they normally pack with the coolers.
Oxford Guy - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - link‘beautifully designed and made, with the perfectly arranged fins and heatpipes creating a work of art.’
I’ll call the Louvre.
DanNeely - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - linkOr maybe just call it the Louver. 🙄
AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - linkLove the Thermal Resistance vs Sound graph.
I've been using the NH-U14S for 6 years. I love Noctua quality and honestly don't care what it costs, it's worth it.
vegemeister - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - linkIt's a pity that that y'all don't have the historical data to put other coolers on the R_th vs SPL chart. Every remotely modern fan has PWM control now, and for the ones that don't, motherboards have variable-voltage drive of 3-pin fans. Nobody is bridging their fans between the 12V and 5V supplies anymore.
meacupla - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - linkI get the feeling that, if you are looking to buy an aftermarket heatsink, you should buy the best one.
You can reuse the heatsink when you upgrade, and a really good one will handle higher wattages just fine.
Wrs - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - linkThough there is no best, I mostly agree, provided the manufacturer is stable and provides long-term support for new sockets. An air cooler should last decades. Stock CPU coolers should go the way of in-box charging bricks; they waste money.
damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - linkSo... lower cost unit usually means that the higher priced items become more expensive. Top, middle and bottom etc. Nice move, Noctua.
ZolaIII - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - linkMeh Noctua isn't really competitive in this segment and probably never will be. My recommendation if you need a plane 4 heat pipe tower cooler (mainstream as it can get) is Artic Freezer 34 CO for some 38$ no cut corners there regarding mont brickets or thermal paste and a blower just a tad worser that best Noctua Industrial (server) ones. On the other hand regular Freezer 34 with standard PO fan (still better than Redux one's) is just 30$.
Spunjji - Friday, August 27, 2021 - linkThat does look like a bargain, and I've always had good experiences with their products. Cheers for the tip!