Noctua NC-U6Dec 29th, 2006 | By Archive
: 12/29/06 – 01:25:07 AM
Page 1 : Index
$26.95 MSRP / $22.43 USD (NCIX.com) / $25.80 CND (NCIX.com)
The Noctua brand has an interesting background. Noctua isn't really a single company, rather a group of specialized companies that are banded together with one goal in mind. That goal is to create "sound-optimized components" that rely on quality and performance instead of a slick marketing campaign to sell. The Noctua brand is comprised of a partnership of Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H of Austrian decent and Kolink International Corporation which originates in Taiwan. This partnership is also integrated with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology also known in their native language as ÖIWV.
All three groups in this partnership provide an integral aspect to the business as a whole. Kolink International is responsible for manufacturing the high quality and extremely advanced products while Rascom Computerdistribution takes care of distribution and ensuring that users are satisfied in their needs. The ÖIWV steps in by providing technical know-how and instrumentation that allows development of these extraordinarily components. To say this is a unique group effort is a slight understatement.
The Noctua brand is home to a number of efficient products aimed at noise-minded consumers. The Noctua NC-U6 is another example of one of these products. The passively cooled chipset heatsink is obviously silent in operation and is manufactured to provide effective and efficient cooling without adding noise to the system. The NC-U6 isn't the largest of passive designs out there but the heritage it comes from is huge so I expect big things from this little cooler.
Page 2 : Package
The Noctua NC-U6 isn't a large or expensive item and the need for big fancy packaging isn't really there. It is good to see Noctua keep the package to a minimum and the cost down.
The plastic mold is backed with a cardboard insert and if you look just above the heatsink and to the outside of the left sided mounting hardware, there are staples to keep the insert in place. There are actually staples on all four sides of the package that keep the cardboard backing taunt to the plastic front and all pieces where they belong.
The design of the cardboard insert is very mature and the model number is clear to read for everyone. Based on the packaging, it is clear that Noctua is targeting the adults in the crowd and not the kids with their products.
Noctua has also provided their web site address right on the front of the package with the slogan "sound-optimized premium components". If you have a minute, I would highly recommend stopping by their web site, it is one of the better ones that I have seen in a while.
The rear of the package carries that pleasing esthetic from the front and added a whole pile of information. You can also see that the plastic molded front piece wraps around all four edges of the cardboard insert. This package would be plenty secure even without the staples.
Not only is there a brief features list in six different languages printed here on the back, but a complete diagram with measurements and weight of the cooler. All the information that anyone would want when shopping for a chipset cooler is here, Noctua has done quite well with this package in my opinion.
It took me a few minutes getting the package apart, for just a piece of cardboard and plastic it sure is secure. We will now go over the specifications that can be found on the rear of this package or at the Noctua web site.
Page 3 : Specifications
When I am doing the specifications section for a product review, I like to comment on the manufacturers web site in its presentation of the product in question. There honestly isn't a thing I would change from the Noctua web site as far as information about the products or the company goes and the layout and design is impeccable. Please take the time to visit their site so you know what should be expected from computer hardware manufacturers because the Noctua site is near perfect. I pulled this short quote from their site that briefly explains the features of the Noctua NC-U6:
The size specifications indicate a fairly small footprint and the fact that the base, along with the heatpipes, are copper with soldered joints should lead to very good cooling ability. I am quite interested to see how the Noctua NC-U6 matches up to the other chipset coolers I will be comparing it to.
The last thing I would like to mention here is that Noctua has a downloadable PDF of the instructions for all of their products. A chipset heatsink isn't going to be difficult to install but have a very clean and concise set of instructions as found on the web site is a very nice feature for those that will be doing this for the first time.
Page 4 : Package Contents
Now that we know what this chipset cooler is all about, we can take a good look at it.
I have laid out the complete contents of the package. There are two mounting brackets, one for the push-pin type and one for the hook type found on some Intel chipsets. Noctua also provides a small packet of thermal paste and a small square piece of foam to act as a support for the underside of the heatsink. There is the single screw for securing the mounting bracket and a sheet which is the instruction manual, the same as we can download from the Noctua web site.
The Noctua NC-U6 is an impressive piece of hardware. It is a very simple design with a pair of U-shaped heatpipes that pass through a copper and aluminum base. The heatpipes are then covered head to toe in aluminum fins.
As I mentioned, the heatpipes are sandwiched between the copper base and a small aluminum piece which acts as the bracket mount. This joint is soldered and the heatpipes cross the heatsink directly over the center of the copper base.
We can see the screw hole here in the middle of the aluminum piece that will be used for securing the mounting bracket. The gap between the heatpipes should provide optimal thermal transfer from the copper base to the heatpipes where that heat can be carried away.
The heat travels up these heatpipes and that heat is then transferred to the aluminum fins where the ambient air will then absorb that energy. The aluminum fins are meticulously placed along the heatpipes and the manufacturing process Noctua uses is very good because this heatsink is near flawless.
As we climb to the top of this heatsink, we see where the heatpipes stick out of the aluminum fins. If you look closely at the bottom left and top right heatpipe, you can see a small bit of thermal paste squeezing out. This is indicative of a thermal material being in-between the heatpipes and the aluminum fins from top to bottom which is not commonly found on heatsinks but certainly a welcome site.
The hole in the center of the aluminum fins is where we will need to slide a screwdriver through for securing the mounting bracket by way of a screw at the base of the cooler.
Speaking of bases, here is the base of the Noctua NC-U6 with the protective sticker removed. The base is very flat and should provide an excellent surface for contact on the chipset. Some people will frown at the lack of a mirrored finish but in reality, a slightly rough surface is almost better for thermal conductivity when a thermal paste is going to be used.
Page 5 : Installation
We have looked at the specifications, seen the cooler up close and personal, and now it is time to install the Noctua NC-U6.
The first step is to place the small pad on the base of the cooler which will help protect the core of the exposed chipset. If the chipset you are cooing isn't an exposed core, then this piece isn't necessary. There are no alignment marks so you have to do it by eye but getting it in the center isn't that tough.
This is where things got a bit tricky for the installation. To secure the mounting bracket to the base we have to use the screw seen here. Unfortunately the screw doesn't fit in the cooling fins hole so you can't just place the screw on the end of a screwdriver and turn the cooler upside down then slide it into place. Instead, I have to slide the bracket in place with the screw standing upright in the brackets hole. This can be done without needle nose pliers but is much easier with a small set as there is very little room under the aluminum cooling fins.
Once I had the bracket in place and the screw balanced over the center hole, it was then just a matter of securing the screw to the base with a screw driver that fit the hole in the fins. This may be another small hiccup in the installation for some people as you will need a screwdriver with a shaft long enough to reach the screw through the fins. Many multi-purpose screwdrivers will not be able to accomplish this.
The way the cooler mounts requires slight adjustments depending on the mounting holes on the motherboard and orientation you may want the cooler to face. With the arms completely extended, you can see that the push pins don't line up with the holes on the motherboard. That is why both arms on the mounting bracket have hinges, so we can adjust this.
After a few minutes of fiddling and lining things up, I found an acceptable mounting position for the bracket arms and for the cooler to sit. It was then just a matter of popping the push-pins through the motherboard and the cooler was mounted.
This angle shows how I have adjusted the arms on the cooler and with this type of adjustment, it is possible for pretty much any orientation to be accomplished. I could have easily mounted the cooler to be perpendicular to the bottom edge of the motherboard as well.
I chose to mount it on an angle like this to show that even with the extra size of this cooler, I could easily mount a 7300GT, 7600GS, 7600GT, or the like in the second X16 PCI-E slot. Any longer a card would likely not fit as the cooler would get in the way no matter how you mounted it. SLI users will want to double check for this if your motherboard is laid out in a similar fashion.
Page 6 : Performance & Testing
To do the thermal testing of the Noctua NC-U6, I will be relying on my standard AM2 test bench. I choose the AM2 setup because the ITE sensor chip gives what seems to be an accurate temperature reading of the chipset. The P5B-Dlx on my Intel test bench only provides a motherboard reading as far as I can tell and doesn't accurately portray the chipset temperature. Here is the complete list of hardware used for the testing:
CPU Cooling: Asetek WaterChill KT12A-12VX
MB: DFI LanParty NF590 SLI-M2R/G
RAM: Buffalo FireStix PC6400 @ DDR1200 5-5-5-8
GPU: Albatron 7300GT 256MB DDRII
PSU: SilverStone Element 500W (Short Cable Edition)
HD: Seagate SATAII 80GB 8MB NCQ
OS: Windows XP SP2 (with all updates)
Ambient Temperature: 22-23C
Stock Copper Heatsink/Fan
I would have liked to mount a thermal probe on the underside of the heatsinks right near the actual die of the chipset but the gap between the heatsink and the wafer would not allow it so our only readings will be coming from the onboard ITE sensor. Let's see how the Noctua performed:
It is evident that the class of the camp is the Noctua NC-U6 as it held the chipset temp a solid 5C lower than the HR-05 SLI and almost a whole 10C lower than the stock active cooling at 3000RPM. Keep in mind that I have upped the voltage on this chipset far past what it needs. Stock is 1.2v and I have it pegged at the BIOS max of 1.5v. This helps simulate a higher heatload and it is clear that the Noctua heatsink can handle quite the load. Here is a screenshot of the Noctua NC-U6 at the end of the four hour testing period.
Page 7 : Conclusion
With silent operation becoming more and more of a factor in computer purchasing decisions, it is essential that every component in a computer can be cooled passively. This list of components includes motherboards because many chipsets come with active cooling solutions from the manufacturer, like the DFI NF590 SLI-M2R/G that we saw in testing. Fan control can only go so far and no fan can match silent, passive operation. This is where the Noctua NC-U6 can step in and provide that soothing sound of silence.
The Noctua NC-U6 can provide ample cooling with minimal to no airflow like we saw in the testing on a highly overclocked and overvolted setup. Using the Noctua NC-U6 in a system that won't see life stressed to the maximum will be a walk in the park for this cooler. It obviously stands much taller than the stock heatsinks that come with most chipsets but on many motherboards, especially Intel based setups, the extra height won't play much of a factor.
I was impressed with the performance and despite a slightly awkward installation process, the Noctua NC-U6 is easily my favorite chipset cooler that I have looked at thus far. The Noctua NC-U6 cools incredibly well without the use of a fan, mounts extremely securely to the chipset, has a relatively small footprint for the its abilities, and is very well priced to boot. Anyone looking to improve cooling and/or eliminate noise from their system should keep the Noctua NC-U6 near the top of their shopping list.
Excellent passive performance
Smaller than other heatpipe chipset coolers
Excellent price tag in US and acceptable price tag in Canada
Installation takes a bit of patience and coordination
Like all heatpipe chipset coolers, size will factor in on some motherboards
Overclockers Online would like to thank Noctua for providing this sample for review.