Somewhere along the line, heatsink manufacturers decided to toss volumetric size restrictions out the window. Consumers now frequently fawn over utterly gigantic CPU coolers that are quiet and cool extremely well, but don't really fit inside anything less than an E-ATX case. The other half of the problem with big heatsinks is that motherboard makers only have so much wiggle room with respect to where they can locate the CPU socket and memory slots. Sooner or later, these three volumetric spaces overlap and the headaches start... I'm sure many of you have faced the situation where a new heatsink forces you to sacrifice half the memory slots or downgrade to IGP graphics just to get the computer up and running!
Noctua has responded to the siren call for a more compact CPU cooler with its NH-U9S heatsink. It claims this mid-size cooler has "100% RAM compatibility" and "100% compatibility with PCIe cards on miniITX" motherboards. That's relatively easy to accomplish by sticking to the Intel/AMD thermal design guidelines, but how much thermal performance is sacrificed?
Noctua's NH-U9S heatsink is an upgraded version of the NH-U9B, incorporating more heatpipes, a completely revamped fin geometry and a higher airflow Noctua NF-A9 fan. Noctua's NH-U9S mid-size heatsink is rated to heat loads of 140W TDP and installs onto AMD socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2 and Intel LGA2011-0/LGA2011-3/115x processors. The NH-U9S is covered by a 6-year warranty and the fan is rated to 150K hours MTBF. The Noctua NH-U9S retails for about $75USD/CDN at NCIX.com .
The cooler ships with a single 92mm NF-A9 fan that spins at 2000RPM and moves 78.9cubic meters per hour of air, at 2.28mmH2O static pressure, according to manufacturer specs. All eight corners of the fan are protected with rubber vibration pads so the heatsink can be mounted to any surface without increasing the chance of errant noises.
Also included is a NA-RC7 wire fan speed reducer (a 51Ohms resistor on the 12V+ PWM wire) that drops fan speed to 1500RPM, for situations where much quieter operation is desired.
For this review Frostytech will also be testing the Noctua Nh-U9S heatsink with a second rear-mounted NF-A9 fan (not included). Adding a second fan increases the length of the heatsink body from 95mm to 122mm.
Heatsink Mounting Hardware
Noctua's NH-U9S heatsink is compatible with Intel socket LGA2011-0/2011-3/115x and AMD socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2 processors. Small metal tabs are attached to the heatsink base, a backplate positioned behind the motherboard, then everything fixed in place with two spring-tensioned screws. The installation process is straight forward, but you may have to remove the motherboard from the computer case.
A multi-language manual is provided along with two extra fan clips, a screwdriver, Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound and NA-RC7 wire fan speed reducer.
FrostyTech's Test Methodologies are outlined in detail here if you care to know what equipment is used, and the parameters under which the tests are conducted. Now let's move forward and take a closer look at this heatsink, its acoustic characteristics, and of course its performance in the thermal tests!
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