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Roundup: 15 affordable coolers
by Marc Prieur
Published on July 11, 2011

Noctua NH-UB9 SE2

Like the Intel box cooler, we’ve included the Noctua NH-UB9 in the report for reference purposes as it’s a good deal more expensive than the others chosen for comparison. In spite of this, Noctua “only” has a model for 92mm fans, of which there are two in the special edition currently on sale. The NH-UB9 comes with a guide as well as a tube of thermal paste and two fan-slowing resistors for the 92mm fans (not PMW). The first, the LNA, gives a voltage of 8.5V from the 12V setting, while the second, the ULNA, turns the 12V into a 6.6V. Apart from these resistors, you need to make sure your motherboard can regulate a DC fan or go for a rheobus.

Installation
Whether on the AMD or Intel platform, the cooler is mounted using a plate at the back of the motherboard, which can require you to remove the motherboard before you put the plate into place depending on your casing. After this you screw the system to the radiator before assembling all the elements. The fans are then mounted on simple metal bars but Noctua supplies an anti-vibration system that you place between these bars and the radiator.

Optimal orientation of the cooler meant we couldn’t use memory bars with large radiators on the first two slots on our test LGA 1155 motherboard. On the AM3 motherboard, only the first DIMM was affected.
Results

There are no fewer than six possible configurations as Noctua supplies two fans that can be set up in three different ways (standard, LNA, ULNA).

The LNA and ULNA fan-slowing resistors are not worth bothering with if you have a motherboard or a rheobus that allows you to control the fans corectly as at 5V in standard mode the cooler is already silent, with no motor noise. It will cool the Core i7-2600K in load at this speed, whereas with the LNA the CPU is only sufficiently cooled at 9V and with the ULNA only at 12V. It can only cool the processor sufficiently at the 4.5 GHz overclocking at 12V without the fan-slowing resistor but it is then very noisy.

Using a second fan improves this state of affairs as you can then use the cooler in standard mode at 9V. The CPU then heats up to 70.8°C at 33.1 dBA, compared to 74.5°C at 38.1 dBA with one fan at 12V, which is considerably better!
Assessment
There’s a high price to pay for the sort of high quality manufacture and support you get on the Noctua. In pure cooling terms the NH-UB9 is outdone by solutions that are up to twice as cheap. It can nevertheless cool the i7-2600K in load in silence, with an inaudible fan motor and the Noctua after sales service which has got into the habit of supplying free mounting kits when new sockets come out.

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