Noctua NH-U14S, NH-U12S and NH-U9 TR4-SP3 Coolers Tested

If you are looking at building an AMD TR4/SP3 platform for either a Ryzen Threadripper or Epyc processor you'll likely find yourself looking for a CPU cooler. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-core processor has a default TDP of 180 Watts and a maximum temperature of 68C for proper precision boost operation and 95C before thermal shutdown. One wouldn't expect there to be many coolers that can hand that, but there are now over 20 all-in-one water cooling solutions and at least five air cooler options that are able to handle a Ryzen Threadripper processor at stock clock speeds. When we overclocked the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X in our launch day review on that CPU we hit over 300 Watts on the CPU package at 4.1GHz with 1.375V. Overclockers looking to get the most out of a Ryzen Threadripper 1950X will likely want to use an All-In-One (AIO) liquid cooler or a custom water loop. Those that don't want to use water cooling and aren't looking to overclock should be able to get away with an air cooler. AMD Threadripper AIO Liquid and Air Coolers Noctua asked us if we could take a quick look at their three air cooler options for Threadripper, so we figured we'd give them a quick look. Well, not really that quick as we have to look at CPU temperatures, VRM temperatures, noise levels, overall system power consumption and performance benchmark results for each cooler. The good news is that these TR4-SP3 air coolers are basically the same as previously made models with a larger baseplate for AMD's new platforms. Noctua Ryzen Threadripper CPU Air Coolers The three AMD TR4-SP3 air coolers by Noctua are the following models: Noctua Ryzen Threadripper CPU Air Coolers All of these single tower coolers have been designed specifcally for use with AMD's TR4/SP3 platform (Ryzen Threadripper / EPYC Processors) and feature a large 70x56mm baseplate to make full contact with these processors. This design allows for optimal heat transfer from these high-core parts. They all utilize Noctua's SecuFirm2 mounting systems and have PWM support with anti-vibration pads and fan clips and are backed by an impressive 6-year warranty.The build quality on these coolers was superb, so https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb61pC0B7e0 Noctua already has an installation video for their SecuFirm2 AMD TR4/SP3 air coolers, so we'll skip the installation bits as it is super simple. Since these are basically an update of existing models for AMD TR4/SP3 we'll get straight to it!

Threadripper 1950X 16-Core Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro Version 1703 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Intel X399 platform that we used for testing consisted of the ASUS X399 Zenith Extreme motherboard, G.Skill 32GB 3200MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3333MHz with 14-14-14-34 1T memory timings. We used an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition video card. We also used the Corsair AX860i digital power supply, Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 360 TT Premium water cooler and Samsung SSD 960 M.2 PCIe SSD. Each CPU Cooler was plugged into the CPU Fan 4-pin power header on the motherboard and the fan profile was left to default settings in the UEFI. Prolimatech PK-3 Nano Aluminum Thermal Compound ($14.97 shipped) was used for all the coolers and applied the same way for each cooler. Here is a closer look at the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X in the AMD TR4 socket (also known as Socket SPR3r2).  There are 4,094 contact pads on the bottom of the processor and this is the largest desktop processor that we have tested in the 15 years that we have been around. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X Installed You can also check out a CPU-Z screen shot of the 1950X below. Threadripper 1950X CPU-Z AMD X399 Test System Part List
AMD X399 Threadripper Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Motherboard

ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme Click Here

Memory

32GB TridentZ RGB 3200MHz DDR4 Click Here

Video Card

GeForce GTX 1080 FE Click Here

Hard Drive

Samsung SSD 960 Pro 512GB Click Here

Cooling

Various Click Here

Keyboard

Corsair K70 RGB Click Here

Mouse

Corsair M65 Pro Click Here

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i Click Here

Monitor

ASUS VE278Q 27" Click Here

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit Click Here
Let's move onto the benchmarks!

Noctua TR4-SP3 CPU Cooler Benchmark Results

A number of sites and YouTube personalities have already reviewed this group of coolers, so we thought we'd try something a little different. Rather than running a stress test like AIDA64 or Prime95 we thought we'd look at CPU cooler performance with real world applications. For the first benchmark test we used Handbrake v1.0.7 and used the Fast 1080p30 option to shrink down a Big Buck Bunny, Sunflower version 4K 60fps movie clip (download it here). This is a fun test as it's a real world workload and something we often use. This application uses all 16-cores, but doesn't put each core to full use. That means we end up with around 50-70% CPU usage on the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X in stock form. The CPU Package Power was around 178 Watts, so this looks like a good test for a 180W TDP processor. The results from this benchmark were rather shocking as the Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 TT Premium Edition ($199.99 shipped) AIO CPU liquid cooler didn't blow the Noctua coolers out of the water. The Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 had the lowest idle temperature by 1C, but the load temps were nearly 2C higher than the Noctua NH-U14S. These Noctua air coolers do a pretty good job! Keep in mind that the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X processor is rated at 180W and 68C is the maximum temperate for precision boost to operate and if 95C is reached it will trigger a thermal shutdown to prevent the CPU from being damaged. We are well below the max temperature, but we are hitting the max temp where precision boost will operate. When you look at performance over time you can see that the temperatures are all over the place, but the Noctua NH-U14S and Thermaltake Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 are typically lower than the rest. It's fun to look at peak temperatures, but this is what the CPU temperatures really look like when you are running Handbrake on all 16-cores. This Handbrake test takes only about six minutes, but you can see the CPU temperatures are pretty consistent. We also didn't notice any throttling or clock clock differences between the four coolers, so it wasn't a shock when the project's all completed within 0.5 FPS of one another. When it comes to noise levels the dual 92mm fan setup on the Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 was the loudest at load at 45.1 dB with the fans hitting 1900 RPM. The Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3 and it's single 120mm fan spinning at up to 1500 RPM came in at 41.2 dB and then the larger 140mm fan on the Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 produced 41.5dB. Not bad noise levels in a room with an ambient noise level of 37.1dB. At load the Thermaltake Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 was the quietest of the bunch, but that is because the VRM tempearture was below 60C. Once the VRM fan kicks on at 60C on the ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme X399 motherboard ($499.99 shipped) we found the noise levels would approach 50 dB, so at really heavy loads that put the VRM over 60C none of these CPU coolers will be the loudest thing in your system. If you look at VRM temperatures on our open air test system you'll see that with the Thermaltake Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 the VRM temps are the worst as there are no fans to blow air over any of the components. The Noctua NH-U14S keeps the VRM temps the coolest, but we dropped the graphics card down a PCIe x16 slot in the board to fit the cooler and that needs to be taken into consideration. The Noctua NH-U9 has a dual 92mm fan setup that appears to have cooled better than the single 120mm fan setup on the NH-U12S. Lastly, there is overall system power draw that one needs to be concerned about as energy efficiency is an important thing to remember. It shouldn't be too shocking, but the Thermaltake Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360 came in with the highest idle and load power draws. This makes sense as it has three fans, a water pump and RGB lighting over the one or two fans on the Noctua air coolers. Let's look at a different workload and wrap this up!

Final Benchmark and Conclusion

We wanted a real world benchmark that would put the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-core, 32-thread processor at full load, so we turned to Keyshot: 3D Rendering and Animation software. We ran Keyshot 7.1 with the built-in camera benchmark and found that the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X was again at 178W for the CPU Package Power and this time around the CPU was at 100% load on all 16-cores and 32-threads. CPU Tdie temperatures were much lower on Keyshot 7.1 despite the higher CPU load levels, so that was interesting. Here we found the Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 to top out at 55.5C and that was slightly higher than the 55.0C on the Thermaltake Thermaltake Floe Triple Riing RGB 360. The Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 came in at 59C and then the Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3 finished slightly better at 58C. Not a huge difference between these four coolers considering they range in price from $70 all the way up to $200 and there is just a 4C difference on a benchmark like this. Why would the temperature be lower in a test where there is 100% CPU load versus one that has only around 50% CPU load? Let's dive deeper into some of the numbers on the Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3 cooler test logs. Taking look at CPU Core #0 we can see that the cores are running at 3692MHz for nearly the entire benchmark run on Handbrake whereas on Keyshot they spike up to 4166MHz when the application is open, but drop down to around 3440MHz once the render begins. When it comes to voltages on CPU Core #0 we found that Keyshot with each core at 100% load stabilized out to around 3440MHz and the voltage was right around 1.08V the entire run. Handbrake on the other hand was running higher at around 3692MHz the entire run with the voltage bouncing around 1.2 to 1.44V over the course of the workload. Handbrake might not have the cores at full load, but they are being run at a higher clock speed and voltage as a result. noctua tr4_sp3 coolers Final Thoughts: It is shocking how well these three high-end heatsinks from Noctua handle AMD's TR4 and SP3 sockets for their latest Ryzen Threadripper (X399) and EPYC platforms. The new TR4-SP3 versions of the award-winning NH-U14S, NH-U12S and NH-U9 coolers perform so well thanks in part to the larger contact surface. Noctua more than doubled the size of the 'base plate' on the new TR4-SP3 coolers and they make full contact with the processor! The Noctua SecuFirm2 mounting system for TR4/SP3 was simple to use as all we needed to do was take the Noctua cooler out of the box, apply the thermal compound and tighten the bolts with the included allen wrench. Each cooler comes with either the NF-A15, NF-F12 or NF-A9 premium fans, so you get solid cooling performance with the quietness of their latest generation fans. One of the other nice features of these fans is that the SecuFirm2 mounting solution for TR4/SP3 platforms makes it possible to offset the cooler by 3 or 6mm towards the upper edge of the motherboard, thereby increasing clearance of the top PCIe slot. This is needed for some X399 boards as the massive NH-U14S TR4-SP3 CPU cooler could block the first PCIe slot if you don't offset the mount as seen in the image above. The first slot on the ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme X399 was blocked no matter the offset, so be prepared to lose a slot on some boards. What Noctua CPU cooler is right for your Ryzen Threadripper or EPYC platform? At the end of the day it all comes down to space. The Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 ($69.90 shipped) has push/pull dual 92mm fan configuration that gives is solid cooling performance in a pretty compact size. Its height of only 125mm allows it to fit smaller cases and most 4U size rack-mount enclosures. The only downside to this is the fact that it is the loudest of the bunch since there are two fans and they are spinning at nearly 2,000 RPM. The larger  Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 and NH-U12S TR4-SP3 are supplied with one of Noctua’s premium-grade NF-A15 PWM and NF-F12 PWM fans and cool better than their compact sibling. Just make sure you measure your chassis to ensure that they fit in your enclosure. If you plan on building an AMD Ryzen Threadripper or EPYC platform and don't plan on going crazy with an overclock the Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3, NH-U12S TR4-SP3 and NH-U9 TR4-SP3 all provide outstanding performance and cost under $80. They also come with NT-H1 thermal compound, a 6-year warranty and the peace of mind that comes from never having to worry about a water leak. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: Noctua came up with some great air cooling solutions for Ryzen Threadripper and EPYC platforms that hold up well against more expensive water cooling solutions at stock settings.