Noctua NH-C12P and Noctua NH-C12P SE14 CPU Cooler Review

Cooling/CPU Cooling by jmke @ 2011-02-09

Noctua has a go at top down CPU cooler, the NH-C12P comes with a 120mm fan while the SE14 adds a massive 140mm fan to this unit. Does it stand a chance against popular tower coolers for sale today? Let's find out.

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Test Setup and Results

Our S775 test setup has been laid to rest as we move along with our times. Although the majority of PCs in the world are still S775 based, we realize that those people who buy and install 3rd party heatsinks, will not use outdated hardware. To give an idea of how the tested heatsinks perform a variety of heat outputs we performed our tests with the CPU overclocked (and overvolted) at 3 settings. The test setup consisted of the following gear:

- Intel Core i7 920
- MSI X58 Motherboard
- Geforce 7900 GT with Zalman VF900 @ 5v
- 3x1 Gb DDR3 RAM
- Laptop 5400rpm HDD
- Coolermaster HAF922 (Default fan config, 200mm Front and Top, 120mm in the back, all at 12v)

Windows XP was installed and LinX 0.6.4 used for creating 100% CPU load. When comparing different software tools, we measured the total system draw at the wall socket, with the Core i7 920 at stock speeds:

- Prime95 (8 thread): 155W
- K7Burn (8 instances): 167W
- LinX: 200W !

Than we overclocked/overvolted the CPU to 3.4 and 3.7Ghz, to create these three profiles:

1) 2.67ghz - 133Mhz - default vcore - 200W
2) 3.41Ghz - 170Mhz - +0.05v vcore - 250W
3) 3.71Ghz - 185Mhz -
+0.2v vcore - 362W

The last is brutal and only the high end CPU coolers can survive this test, hitting 100°C CPU temp caused the thermal throttling to kick in and so if you see a heatsink with CPU temp results of 100°C = FAILURE.

The ambient room temperature was 22°C during testing. Noise readings of the CPU coolers and fans was done outside the system, with the dBA meter placed diagonally at approximately 20cm. Ambient noise recorded was 32dBA.


Intel's stock cooler you receive with Intel Core i7 920 CPU.


We test each heatsink with its default fan, and if we can fit a reference fan we will use the following depending on the fan size:

- Vantec Tornado 92mm (4800rpm)
- Titan 120mm (2900rpm)
- Delta 120mm (3200rpm)
- GlobalWin NCB (1300rpm)

Performance Results



We start of with the CPU running at stock speed, the Noctua with it's 120mm fan offers a decent performance/noise ratio here, better than expected to be honest, the 140mm version doesn't add anything to the table here, the fan is at full blast a tiny bit noisier even. When we use our reference fans we can compare the results head to head with a tower cooler we recently tested, the Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus. The outcome with the rather silent GlobalWin NCB fan is very promising, when swapping the silent fan for one of the faster ones the difference remains minimal. At the CPU's stock speeds this cooler does deliver the numbers, compared to an entry level tower cooler. Compared to a more expensive tower cooler (Megahalems) the difference is bigger, but still nothing too shocking.



First step of our system overclock adds 50W to the total system wattage, here the NH-C12P puts up a good fight again, trailing Coolermaster's 212 Plus only when using slower fans. With high performance fans the NH-C12P is pretty good. How will it cope with an extra 110W?



That the NH-C12P would overheat with the slower 120/140mm fans was to be expected, but even with a Delta 3200rpm screamer the CPU went over 100°C quickly, we have pushed past the thermal performance of this heatsink with our third test. For extreme overclocking on air a tower cooler will give you a bit more headroom.

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