AMD may not be as excited as it used to be, but the company's APU line of products is still just the thing for home theater systems. That's why I recently didn't hesitate to buy one for a new compact media streaming box. Unfortunately, while the chip was a relatively powerful yet affordable solution for playing 1080p content, it was surprisingly loud – we're talking about enough noise that I thought something was wrong with my power supply. When inspected, it wasn't the power supply and there was nothing wrong with it. The stock AMD cooler was just gross, especially for a living room setup.
I thought I could get away with slowing down the CPU fan in the BIOS, but that caused a drastic increase in temperature and made me look for a more sophisticated solution. It turned out to be relatively simple: the Xigmatek Janus, a small combination of heat sink and fan for mini-ITX systems.
Oddly enough, I had another problem with the CPU cooler the same day I was building a Sandy Bridge E-Rig with my friend. After purchasing all of the parts, we found that the Core i7-3820 processor didn't have a cooler. Instead, Intel sells its heat sink / fan separately for $ 30. Even though I knew he would need a cooler, I wasn't ready to answer my friend's question when he asked which model to buy.
It has been years since our last CPU cooler roundup, so my knowledge was a bit out of date.
With the recent arrival of Ivy Bridge-E (see our Core i7-4960X review), I felt it was a good time to check out the latest aftermarket coolers. The new chip is fully compatible with the LGA2011 socket from Sandy Bridge-E / EP. We contacted all the major players and received 10 heat sinks to test, including units from Noctua, Thermalright, Xigmatek, Silverstone and Thermaltake.
Noctua NH-U14S and NH-U12S
The Noctua NH-U14S and NH-U12S were among the most recently released coolers in this roundup. While the NH-U12S is equipped with the well-known 120 mm NF-F12 fan and replaces the popular NH-U12P SE2, the NH-U14S is the first 140 mm model in the series and uses the new 140 mm fan NF-A15.
Both models have a new slim design that ensures easy RAM access and maximum compatibility with large modules. They have PWM fans for convenient automatic speed control from the motherboard. However, you can also reduce the maximum fan speed from 1500 to 1200 rpm with a supplied low-noise adapter.
With a slat depth of only 45 mm, the NH-U12S does not protrude beyond the DIMM slots and would not even work with two fans installed. The slim profile offers full access to the memory on motherboards with all modern processor sockets and guarantees full compatibility with large heat spreaders or optional memory fans.
Without a fan, the heat sink measures 158H x 125W x 45D mm. With a 120 mm fan attached, the cooler is 71 mm deep and weighs 755 grams. The heat sink is nickel-plated and has a copper base with five double heat pipes that extend into a series of aluminum fins.
Along with a heat sink, the package contains a Noctua NF-F12 PWM fan that uses SSO2 (self-stabilizing oil pressure bearing) bearing technology. If you are not familiar with this feature, it combines oil-based hydrodynamic bearings with an additional magnet to help self-stabilize the rotor axis.
With a stabilized axis, SSO fans last longer than ball, sleeve or hydrodynamic solutions. SSO2 is of course the second generation of the technology. Thanks to metal bearing shells and new injection molding techniques, the magnet is moved closer to the axis for even more stabilization and durability.
The fan is designed to run between 300 and 1500 RPM, while the aforementioned low-noise adapter can limit the maximum speed to 1200 RPM.
The Noctua NH-U12S is supplied with the SecuFirm2 mounting kit, which enables installation on the Intel LGA2011, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1150 and AMD AM2, AM2 +, AM3, AM3 +, FM1, FM2 platforms (backplate required). At $ 70, the NH-U12S isn't exactly cheap, but premium parts are rare.
The NH-U14S is the big brother of the NH-U12S, which has a very similar design, only on a larger scale. The larger model has a 52mm design (15% larger than the NH-U12S) that is specifically tailored for the LGA2011 platform. As a result, the DIMM slots on this platform will not be affected.
At 165H x 150W, it is also larger in other directions and weighs 770 g alone – more than the NH-U12S with the fan mounted. With the NF-A15 PWM fan installed, the cooler is 78 mm deep and 935 g in weight.
Like its little brother, the NH-U14S heat sink has a copper base, nickel plating and soldering points, but has six instead of five double heat pipes. The NF-A15 PWM fan has the same SSO2 technology as above, and a noise adapter identical to the NH-U12S is also included.
Both the NH-U12S and NH-U14S come with a six-year warranty designed to ensure that they will last for the life of the platform on which they are installed. Speaking of which, the NH-U14S also offers the same platform support as the smaller NH-U12S and, as far as we can tell, costs just slightly more at $ 75.