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 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.

Instead of standard overclocking stress tests to ensure system stability BIOS tweaks 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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As an experiment, I had a panoramic image that measures 10543 x 3750 pixels uprezzed to 27000 x 9000 pixels (90 x 30 inches). The process had the machine throttle CPU load between 85% and 100% for 7 minutes to produce a 1.80 GB 16-bit TIFF file — processor temps stayed below 70 deg C.

Click on image to view full screenshot

3 thoughts on “Noctua NH-U12S Keeps My Overclocked Photo Editing Rig Cool

  1. Great cooler! I have the U12S in two of my PCs working and I don’t know any better air cooler on the market (that is so compact). Running an i7 4790K @ 4,4Ghz and an i5 655K @ 4,5GHz and temperatures are well below 80°C for both CPUs at nearly silent operation.

    One question concerning the U12S in the FT03: Does the fan bracket underneath the U12S still fit with a standard 120mm fan attached to it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave! If you’re referring to the middle fan bracket, yeah that had to be removed to make room for the U12S. I find the Silverstone stock fans rather weak and since removing the middle fan meant that there’s no longer any “stack effect cooling” the way the FT03 was designed for, I replaced the top fan with a 2200 rpm Cooler Master XtraFlo to help draw more air out of the chassis.

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