Noctua NH-U12S Keeps My Overclocked Photo Editing Rig Cool

My photo editing rig uses Asus ROG Maximus V Gene motherboard with Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz RAM modules installed in all four available slots. These modules feature aluminium heat spreaders and they take up precious space making it impossible to mount a larger more effective CPU cooler. Preferring not to swap out the memory modules with low profile ones, I found that Noctua makes a cooler — the NH-U12S —  that’s 100% compatible even when fitted with a second fan. If all this fits your profile and you’ve been uncertain about this, you’ve come to the right page.This isn’t a review but a testimony of how well the Noctua cooler works under full load.

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Download screenshots of my stable overclocked BIOS setup for reference if you have the same or similar ASUS ROG motherboard.

Noctua coolers are among the priciest in the market for good reasons (highly effective radiator coupled with one or two exceptionally quiet, high flow fans). Being pricey means you won’t find them in local stores. In fact, you won’t find them in Singapore stores either as I painfully discovered — contacting countless stores via email, Facebook even enlisting help of friends in Singapore to phone them, to no avail. I had no choice but to get one from an online store in the US.

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A Noctua NH-U12S fitted with two Focused Flow NF-F12 120mm fans for maximum air flow.

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From Noctua: “The NH-U12S is composed of a single aluminum-finned radiator with five nickel-plated copper heat pipes seamlessly integrated into the copper base plate.” While not clearly visible in this picture there is ample clearance between the slim profiled radiator and the Corsair Vengeance RAM modules to fit two 120mm fans.

The motherboard is mounted vertically inside a sexy and elegant SilverStone Fortress FT03 chassis so the picture you see below is in its actual orientation. The back of the board where USB ports, DVI and audio connectors including a high flow Cooler Master exhaust fan are located is pointed upwards to take advantage of hot air’s natural tendency to rise, according to its designer. Here’s a picture of the FT03 chassis next to the DELL U2711 LCD which also means I’m seated within earshot of any fan noises that might drive me up the wall.

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ASUS Fan Xpert 2 is as the name suggests a brilliant fan controller app. I had the entire suite removed for over a year because I didn’t understand how incredibly useful it is at configuring and controlling the CPU and chassis fans to work the way you want them to. Looking at the screenshot below you can control up to five fans independently on this motherboard — if this isn’t cool and empowering I don’t know what is, says the geek writing this post! :)

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Screenshot of Noctua cooler custom profile. NF-F12 refers to the Focused Flow fans mounted on the radiator.

CONCLUSION: All that’s been said and done, it all boils down to keeping the notoriously hot Intel Core i7 3770K @ 4.4GHz 1.20 volts processor cool when it’s crunching full throttle. At 100% CPU load on all four cores, I’m seeing an amazing 20 degrees Celsius lower across all cores compared to the stock cooler. I have had to down clock to 4.0GHz and lowered voltage to 1.15 volts with the stock cooler in order to keep temperatures manageable at full throttle.

I do not run standard overclocking stress tests to ensure system stability. Instead, BIOS settings are tested under real world conditions using Canon Digital Photo Professional, Corel Paint Shop Pro X6, Photoshop CS6, Perfect Photo Suite 8, Autopano Giga. Of these, the CPU gets pushed to 100% load when I’m uprezzing images many times its original size with Perfect Photo Suite 8 or when stitching large number of images using Autopano Giga.

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Adobe Lightroom ‘Parallel Processing’ Speeds Up JPEG Export by 50%

It should be noted that I use Canon Digital Photo Professional as my RAW batch processor. I have dabbled with Lightroom more than once or twice but never found the encouragement to switch especially when I had been computing on under powered hardware that would only make the whole experience excruciatingly painful. To  cut a long story short, I got a new custom-built Windows 7 64-bit PC last December moving up from two generation old 32-bit processing platform — a project that began with me nearly committing to an Alienware Aurora gaming rig but something else much better persuaded me otherwise!

Machine Specs: ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus V GENE, unlocked Intel Core i7-3770K 4.6GHz liquid cooled by Corsair H80 cooler, Corsair Vengeance™ DDR3 OC Edition 1866MHz 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB, Crucial M4 128GB + 256GB SSDs housed in a SilverStone Fortress FT03 chassis.

ASUSROG_STUDIO_FBMy photo-editing studio: Asus Maximus V Gene with dual Dell 27″ and 24″ UltraSharp monitors

Curious and better equipped than ever before I installed a trial copy of Lightroom 4.3 64-bit and imported 1,634 5D Mark II/III RAW files from the 2013 Lexus Golf Classic shoot. I first learnt of Lightroom’s parallel processing capability from ScottKelby.com who got the info from  MacPerformanceGuide.com and that was enough of a push to see how my investment fared. What happened next blew my mind, and I quote from the observation I posted on Facebook. I also shared this post on DPreview.com and Flickr.com

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In the interest of benchmarking, I exported 1,634 Large RAW files to JPEG (Quality: 100) in batches of 400 images per operation in 4 operations (pictured above) and timed how long it would take to complete. Note that this is purely an export with no adjustments made to the images. Estimating the time it took me to separate 4 batches of 400 images each to be 1 minute in total, the entire export processes completed in under 15 minutes – impressive! Batching the same number of images in a single process took twice as long. — Facebook, January 21 2013

ASUSROG_SPECS_FBI ran the tests several times and on one occasion I had Canon Digital Photo Professional export 296 images from the same batch of RAW files with Lightroom this time running  not 4 but 5 parallel processes. The result was nothing short of amazing!

One hot weekend of Lexus Golf Classic shoot, 3 thousand images, several shades darker and 2 itchy sand fly bites later, this morning I decided there’s no better time to push the ASUS ROG 4.7GHz to export Cyril‘s 1600 RAW files in Lightroom and DPP simultaneously. The setup: Lightroom to handle 1600 files in 5 parallel operations and DPP exporting just 296 of the same RAW files (parallel tasking of DPP not tested here). The result is nothing short of mind blowing – my quick CPU tweak to 4.7GHz remained stable, LR finished exporting 1600 RAW to JPEGs in times I’ve never seen before (see top left image “5 operations in progress”. — Facebook, January 21, 2013