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.



Noctua Noise or Lack Thereof

Since low, or no sound profile is Noctua's claim to fame, let's start with where these coolers shine. I do have four 1600 RPM fans running on our water cooler under the desk and the XSPC pump system as well. I do not turn these off when testing air coolers. The fans are audible, but have a very tolerant profile in that the sound those makes does not bother me at all. The system powered on runs about ~45dB.

Even on an open test bench, none of the Noctua coolers were ever apparent in our testing environment with the stock fan curve. You can hear those if you listen, but it does not add any volume. Trying to get a differential decibel rating is not possible with the meter I have and not having an isolated test booth. I imagine that we would all call these fans silent in a case. Spooling the Noctua fans up to 100% profile still did not make those apparent in our testing environment. Overall I could possibly show +1dB with all our setups, except for the U14S with two fans at 100%. Even then our decibel reading was about 4.5. Most of us know Noctua and it simply does not make loud fans, and the fans on the U14S are no exception.

The Cooler Master Wraith Ripper also almost shows not discernible sound profile increase when we ramp it up to 100%. Like the Noctua fans, you have to listen for it, and it is there, but it is not prominent. I honestly did not expect to see the increases we did with the Wraith Ripper. If you own one of those or are planning to buy day...I would suggest surely making sure your fan curve ramps up to 100% under load. It is like getting free performance.

The Thermal Silver Arrow TR4 ramped up to 100% sounds like a damn tornado. I recorded decibel values up to 53dB. That said, it also gave us performance bumps that smoked our other air coolers, but it did come at a cost. The fan is not old Delta crazy or Vantec Tornado loud, but when it ramps up to 100%, you will undoubtedly know it. I wish Thermalright would have shipped us a second matching fan to test with. I would have liked to have seen how well the Silver Arrow would have done in a push/pull at the stock fan setting, which is about 47dB, and extremely tolerable, even though it does have a bit higher pitched profile. I think it would be just fine and not bothersome in a case at all. I did not find it bothersome outside the case, but I am probably a bit more forgiving as I hear this stuff all the time.

Noctua Size

The largest cooler, the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 is pictured below next to the Cooler Master Wrath Ripper. As you can see the U14S is not bigger than the Wraith Ripper. Even with a second fan installed, the U14S is still thinner front to back. So as size goes, as long as your case can handle the height of the cooler, you should be good to go, as the U14S footprint is smaller than the Wraith Ripper that was designed to work with the socket TR4 layout.

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The fans on the U14S are of course adjustable as to how far those sit above the PCB. If you have taller DIMMs, those can surely cause you to raise the fans a couple of fins, but I do not see this being a cooling issue. Also, I love the fan clips that Noctua uses. These are easy to work with and not a total PITA like the ones on the Thermalright Silver Arrow. I am sure one day someone will show me how to use those in the dark with one hand, but I can't figure it out.

Noctua Installation

All of the Noctua TR4 coolers install fairly easily and everything is very straightforward. Lay down your TIM how we have taught you, sit the cooler down, and screw it into the TR4 socket with a crossways pattern. I would highly suggest installing these coolers with the motherboard laying flat. Trying to install these while the motherboard is vertical is not going to be a fun time and if the cooler gets loose from you, it is likely going to break something. As noted previously, you do have remove the fans to install the U12S and U14S, so keep that in mind if you are bumping up next to your video card as you need room to fasten the fan clips. The only thing I do not like about the Noctua TR4 mounting system is that the screws wiggle a lot side to side. This makes it hard to line up right sometimes and can be a bit frustrating, but this is nitpicking. Just take your time and everything will work out. Worth mentioning is that once these coolers are locked down onto your TR4 socket, these are NOT coming loose by accident.

Noctua Value

The Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 sells for $80 with Prime Shipping. An additional NF-A15 PWM fan will cost you $21, and brings our total cooler price as tested successfully across both the 2950X and 2990WX in PB2 and PBO to $101.

The NH-U12S TR4-SP3 sells for $70 with Prime Shipping. An additional NF-F12 PWM fan will cost you $20, bringing our total cost to $90, albeit we did not test this model with two fans.

The NH-U9 TR4-SP3 sells for $70 with Prime Shipping and has no room for additional fans.

Looking at all the Noctua TR4 coolers compared to each other, and the performance exhibited by each, the obvious cooler for an enthusiast to get is the U14S with an extra fan. Given the slight price differential, the only reason to purchase the U12S or the U9 would be because you had space considerations. It really is that simple in our eyes.

Noctua vs Thermalright vs Cooler Master

All of these Threadripper cooler combos address different use profiles.

The Thermalright Silver Arrow TR4 has an MSRP of $80, is not yet for sale in North America, but is promised this month. It exhibits excellent performance across the board, and should you wish to run up the fan RPMs, you can get incredible cooling out of of it, if you are willing to give up your ear drums. You know who you are, and like the U14S, you can slapp an extra fan on the Silver Arrow for $20 and get incredible Threadripper performance if you are looking for edge of the envelope air cooling. Actually the Silver Arrow comes with kit that will let you run three fans. (I just mailed Thermalright to ask for two more fans.) If you take the time to do a little fan profile management you can get it quiet, but not as quiet as the Noctua units.

The Cooler Master Wraith Ripper has an MSRP of $120, and is also promised to be available this month. Its performance truly surprised me overall, but it does have limitations. Namely, it is the way it is and will only have one fan unless you get into some ghetto modding, and we honestly do not see you doing that to this Wraith Ripper. One of the reasons you are going to buy this cooler is because of how damn good it looks even with its Frag Harder Disco Lights, which happen to be well appointed. The Wraith Ripper can easily be a showpiece in a windowed case.

The Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 is even a bit different animal than the other two. It is terribly bland compared to the Wraith Ripper and even the garish Silver Arrow. We don't think anyone ever bought a Noctua cooler because of aesthetics unless you were building a beige retro box. But what the U14S lacks in looks and just a bit of performance, it makes up in sound profile. If silence is golden to you, and you want expandability on the fan front, all while still being silent, the U14S has your name on it.

The Bottom Line

Noctua has always been known for good performance with minimalist sound profiles and the NH-U14S TR4-SP3 is no different. It very much offers Threadripper owners what they will not find elsewhere, and that is a very good Threadripper Precision Boost Overdrive experience even when used with the 2990WX that can chew through the wattage. The U14S very much impressed us and it is highly likely that if this Threadripper air cooler interests you, you will very likely be very happy with giving it a home in your new Threadripper system.

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Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 Threadripper Air Cooler