Noctua AMD Threadripper Air Cooler Roundup

We take all three Noctua air coolers built for AMD Threadripper CPUs and put these to the test on both the 2950X and 2990WX. We run the NH-U14S, NH-U12S, and NH-U9 through the paces with both Precision Boost 2 and Precision Boost Overdrive using multiple fan configurations and compare these to the Silver Arrow and Wraith Ripper too.


2950X Precision Boost 2 Results

Wow, that's a lot of numbers. But bear with us. We will make it through it. Using Precision Boost 2 and Precision Boost Overdrive truly requires that we dig this deep to actually find out what is going on. And sure, we could just give you a temperature here, but I think that many of you will use PB2 and PBO, and want to get the best clocks you can with your cooler, or at least know what you are leaving on the table if you are not ponying up for true water cooling. Conversely, all this data might also likely show you that you can save a few bucks on cooling and be perfectly happy where you end up clock-wise.

You will notice we have "100% bars" outlined in yellow. For our non-100% bars, we are using the MEG X399 Creation's stock fan curve. For the 100% bars, we ditched the fan curve and ran the fans at 100% RPM.

We have also included data from our Threadripper Air Coolers-Silver Arrow TR4 vs. Wraith Ripper review and added the 100% fan RPM for those as well. (We also updated the original review.)

On this page we have the Threadripper 2950X running at its stock clocks using Precision Boost 2.

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You will quickly note exactly why temperature data is somewhat worthless. Using PB2 our 2950X will not allow our CPU Tdie temperature to get above ~68C. Our standouts however on this chart are out Thermalright Silver Arrow and our XSPC water cooling loop. Even our Cooler Master Wraith Ripper takes a couple of clicks off the temperature when we run the fan at 100%.

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What we have done here is taken our average sustained clocks across all cores under a heat-loaded Prime95 workload. For all intents and purposes, we are not seeing a dramatic spread. In total we have a delta of ~375MHz. Of course that is across 16 cores and 32 threads, so depending on what you are doing, that might add up to be a fairly big performance delta even though the raw MHz is less than 10% of our clock speed.

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Our CPU Package Power in watts is extremely telling in what is actually going on with our coolers, and gives us a lot more insight into our clock speeds. Let's first turn our attention to the bars that are all at ~180 watts. Our Threadripper 2950X has a TDP rating of 180W. Using Precision Boost 2, our 2950X will not boost its clock speeds so that it breaks out of the specified TDP. So if our CPU Package Power is at ~180W, that tells us that PB2 is actually "holding back" our CPU, at least in an overclocking or enthusiast aspect.

The NH-U14S skirts the 180W line here. With 100% fan speed we make the TDP, but with our stock fan curve it does not. If our cooler is not able to support Precision Boost 2 at 180 watts, it certainly will NOT benefit us to use that cooler with Precision Boost Overdrive turned on. The NH-U12S and the NH-U9 do not make the cut here. Even with PB2, we are leaving MHz on the table. That said, not by "a lot," so these coolers have hardly failed as both allowed our Threadripper 2950X to function well under PB2 keeping our processor in a safe temperature range. We will discuss this a bit more later.

The standout wattage on this chart is the NH-U9. Its clock is higher than the NH-U12S, but its wattage is lower. That certainly does not make sense, right? Oh, but yes it does! I have the CPU running in dual channel RAM mode, since the DIMMs would not fit under the cooler. This is obviously not how you would run a Threadripper, nor would you even want to. I felt moving the fans would greatly impact our cooling and would not be fair to the results, but it also came with a tradeoff. If nothing else, we see just how much wattage is use to fuel those RAM channels on the CPU.

Onward to 2950X Precision Boost Overdrive! And no, not all coolers made the cut, so at least there will be less data on the chart.