While basic coolers have long been a common pack-in item with most retail CPUs, there's no getting past the fact that many of these coolers are just that: basic. These coolers are sufficient for running a CPU at stock frequencies out of the box, but few stock coolers are built large enough to above and beyond the basics, to deliver impressive thermal and/or acoustic performance. As a result, it's still pretty typical for power users and enthusiasts to go hunting for a more advanced solution – and there's a sizable market of coolers waiting to be found. From compact fansinks to all-in-one liquid coolers that can fill a case, there's a cooler out there for virtually every budget, configuration, and cooling need.

And if by some chance there isn't, then it's only a matter of time until someone builds it. Which is very much the case for the CPU cooler in today's review, Noctua's budget-friendly NH-U12S Redux. Already renowned for their high-quality, high-end cooling products, Noctua is working to broaden their market by making their products a bit more accessible to budget buyers, and they're doing so through products like the Redux.

At a high level, the NH-U12S Redux is a cost-reduced version of the company's very popular NH-U12S cooler. With fewer heatpipes and a different fan, the NH-U12S Redux is intended to bring the quality and cooling performance of its predecessor down to a cheaper, more wallet-friendly price of $50. Which also means that Noctua is more directly facing-off with the other major cooler manufacturers in the highly competitive mainstream market segment.


Packaging & Bundle

The first thing that we noticed about the NH-U12S Redux is the simple, streamlined packaging, which is unlike any packaging of the company that we have previously seen. The artwork on the packaging is pretty much gone, with only basic information regarding the cooler printed on the sides and rear of the box.

Except for the cooler itself, inside the box we found a basic bundle consisting mainly of the mounting hardware required to install the cooler onto a CPU. There also is an illustrated leaflet with mounting instructions. The NH-U12S Redux, much like its siblings, cannot be mounted on Ryzen Threadripper processors. We did not find a syringe with thermal paste inside the packaging – Noctua is instead using pre-applied paste – which is one of the changes Noctua made in order to reduce the retail price of the cooler.

The Noctua NH-U12S Redux CPU Cooler

The Noctua NH-U12S Redux is very similar to the normal NH-U12S, with the exception of a heatpipe and the different cooling fan. Overall, the NH-U12S Redux has one heatpipe less than the NH-U12S and three heatpipes less than the NH-U12A. But perhaps more importantly, the fins on the Redux are also not welded onto the heatpipes. Due to its size and shape, the NH-U12S Redux is compatible with most commercial CPU sockets and it will not block the installation of (regularly sized) RAM modules.

Splitting Image: NH-12S Redux vs. NH-12S

Once the cooler is out of the box, most experienced users will focus their attention on the new cooling fan. And not because of any feature that really stands out, but because this is one of the very rare occasions where Noctua has ditched their iconic brown/beige color theme. Other than that, the NH-U12S Redux has a relatively simple design, being a tower cooler with a small base and heatpipes transferring the thermal energy away from the CPU and to the fins. Although this is the least expensive cooler of the U12 series, the NH-U12S Redux is certainly not a compact cooler; though at 160mm tall, it should fit inside most ATX cases without any compatibility issues. The width of the cooler though may limit the installation of RAM modules higher than 42 mm into some of the RAM slots.

The body of the NH-U12S Redux is beautifully designed and made, with the perfectly arranged fins and heatpipes creating a work of art. There are four heatpipes extending to both sides of the array, which are definitely made out of copper but are further nickel-plated, both to protect them from corrosion and for aesthetic reasons.

The fin array is not too dense, allowing the NH-U12S Redux to perform well with a single 120 mm cooling fan. However, for those seeking an extra performance boost, the company offers a kit containing a second 120 mm fan. We should also add that these fans are not the same as the ones used on the NH-U12S and NH-U12A. The NF-P12 fans used by the NH-U12S Redux are faster and noisier.

The base of the cooler that makes contact with the processor is split into two parts. The bottom half of the base is made out of nickel-plated copper, maximizing the heat transfer rate from the CPU to the heatpipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The top half serves only as a mechanical support and is made out of aluminum, while the mounting bracket is nickel-plated steel. We see that there is thermal paste pre-applied here, a rare thing to see on Noctua’s products.

Testing Methodology
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  • jordanclock - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - link

    I've always wondered why CPU cooler reviews don't include stock coolers.
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - link

  • jordanclock - Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - link

    It would be nice to have at least a couple of those in this reviews graphs, but jumping between them shows that pretty much every cooler in this review performs much better than a stock cooler, and the worst cooler here is slightly better than the AMD Wraith cooler. I'm guessing the Wraith Prism would be a bit better than that for cooling but everything I found elsewhere suggests that the Prism is not much of an improvement over the (regular?) Wraith.
  • sonny73n - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - link

    I spent extra $10 for that stupid over-hyped Wraith Spire. After 2 days putting up with its poor heat dissipation I got the NH-U12S Chromemax Black. Cost me $70 but it's well worth.

    Does anyone want the useless Wraith? I'm giving it away or it'll go to the trash soon.
  • Sivar - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - link

    I used a Wraith while I waited my NH-D15 socket adapter to arrive.
    It performed pretty well. The Noctua only gave me a few degrees C.
    One difference is that I used aftermarket head sink paste. Perhaps stock paste or overly thick paste is the issue?
  • MDD1963 - Sunday, August 29, 2021 - link

    If an NH-D15 only netted a loss of a few degrees C , you must have had one hot running and/or overvolted CPU...(some 5000 series Ryzens run a tad warm, to be sure, although this seems semi-normal)
  • Spunjji - Friday, August 27, 2021 - link

    Any extra context on that? Which CPU were you using it with, was it stock paste, and was it the noise that bothered you or the temperatures?
  • sonny73n - Saturday, August 28, 2021 - link

    I've never used stock pastes. It took me more than 15 minutes to clean it off. I've tried both Arctic Silver 5 and MX-4 but they didn't help much with the stock cooler on my non-overclocked 3600x. The NH-U12S took about 10C down with MX-4 paste and it's quieter on high speed.

    Wraith Spire
    Prime 95 max at 84C. Gaming max at 76C.

    Prime95 max at 77C. Gaming max at 65C.
  • Tams80 - Saturday, August 28, 2021 - link

    Something sounds wrong there.

    But anyway, you paid an extra $60. Of course you got a better cooler.
  • AntonErtl - Thursday, August 26, 2021 - link

    We use the Wraith Prism with a 3900X, and it performs surprisingly well. The board apparently does not power-limit the CPU, and putting load in the CPU resulted in 190W above idle power, which the Prism managed to cool. We have temperature-limited the CPU to 70C, now power is only 135W over idle after some time. Cooling this much to such a low temperature is impressive; elsewhere I always read about high temps on the 7nm Ryzens. But the Prism makes a lot of noise for this performance, so I would not use it for a deskside machine.

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