February 15th, 2011

Noctua NC-U6

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

Introduction

After chatting with the Noctua rep at Channel Expo, we managed to get our hands on the Noctua NC-U6; a rather excessive chipset cooler. With 29 aluminium fins, and 2 dual heatpipes, this should give you a nice drop in temperature, and being passive, a drop in noise too.

About Noctua

Noctua aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance “Designed in Austria” through paying attention to the users needs in a market burdened with all kinds of frills and furbelows and providing sound-optimised premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.

Specs

The NC-U6 implements a miniature-version of the well proven design of Noctua’s award winning NH-U coolers to cool mainboard chipsets. Sporting 2 Dual-Heatpipes, 29 aluminium fins and soldered joints for optimal heat-transfer, the NC-U6 is the ultimate solution when it comes to silently cooling today’s high-end chipsets

Height

85mm

Width

70mm

Depth (cooling fins)

23.5mm

Depth (socket)

33mm

Weight

130g

Material

Copper (base and heatpipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints

Mounting system

Push pins and hooks

Contents

NC-U6
Mounting parts
Thermal paste
Installation manual

Warranty

6 years

More heatpipes the better

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler
Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

The heatsink comes packaged is a cardboard backed plastic box. The heatsink is on show, and on the back you’ll find a random red haired smiling woman.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

Included in the box, you’ll find a press mount bracket, a clip mount bracket, the cooler itself, a spacing foam sticker, thermal paste and an installation manual.

The spacing foam is used if your chipset doesn’t have an integrated heatspreader. This stops the edges of the chipset silicon being chipped and damaged. Nice to see that Noctua are supporting both varieties of chips.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

There are two standard ways of installing a heatsink on a chipset. The first is to have 4 holes around the chip and use screws or push clip mounts that hold the HSF in place. The other method is to have loops on the board in similar positions which the HSF hooks underneath. Some motherboards don’t have either or only have 2 loops or holes. If you have a motherboard with neither of the two mounting options, you won’t be able to use the NC-U6.

The cooler is well made, and everything is finished well, and you can see the thought that has gone into it, and the quality of manufacturing.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

The bottom of the heatsink is shiny, but there are obvious machine marks. As the chipset is far from the hottest part of your PC, the machine marks shouldn’t be a huge issue. The bottom of the NC-U6 is smooth to the touch however.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

Recently, heatpipes have been the de facto standard for a good cooler, and Noctua have put these thermal carrying pathways into their chipset cooler. Often times, even a seasoned gamer and overclocker will leave the stock heatsink onto their chipset, which often limits the max overclock that you can acquire.

Installation

There are many motherboards out there, and most of them – unfortunately – won’t be able to accommodate this cooler. Of the 4 motherboards that we tried to install this cooler on, they all ran into problems. Whether it is interfering surface components, or an all-in-one heatpipe solution already installed, most can’t use this cooler.

The only motherboard that we found that can install this cooler, was an older motherboard. This board is running a 3.2Ghz Pentium 4 with a 478 socket. Oddly, this is a useful scenario. Anyone who can’t afford to upgrade their PC to the latest processor etc. will overclock, and this product facilitates this need.

UPDATE: My comment regarding ‘most motherboards’ refers to people who don’t want to remove their existing all-in-one (Northbridge, Southbridge and PWM) cooler (due to difficulting in removal, warranty issues, or not having replacement heatsinks for the Southbridge or PWM), if their motherboard doesn’t have mounting holes or loops or if they have CPU cooler conflict (most people prefer their CPU cool rather than chipset). Also, larger VGA cards may cause a few problems if the chipset is sited behind them. If you have watercooling, that doesn’t extend to your chipset, then this cooler will be perfect. nVidia chipsets are a key concern as they run notoriously hot and don’t usually have an all-in-one cooler installed. Noctua would also like to point out that there will be no problems if you use an LGA board with their NH-U12F heatsink, which although huge won’t conflict with the NC-U6.

As the motherboard that I was using to test with – Gigabyte GA-8IPE1000-G – only has two mounting holes, I ran into a problem.

The way that the mounting arms work, is to articulate around the three screws. It consists of three parts. The two arms can rotate off the middle piece which is screwed onto the cooler itself.

This allows you to shorten or lengthen the arms to a certain degree, allowing for wider compatibility. However, the heatpipes that channel Celsius to the fins get in the way if the holes are in a certain position (too far away). Typically, this motherboard is one of them.

Below shows how the cooler should be mounted but can’t as the bracket conflicts with the heatpipes.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler
Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

This is how the cooler had to be mounted as a result. In real life, the cooler is larger and can conflict with your graphics card, or CPU HSF. However, I’m sure that most motherboards that can support this cooler will mount it correctly.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

To install, it’s a simple process. If you have a stock heatsink that’s mounted with push pins, you’ll have to take your motherboard out to pop them out. Then all you have to do is push the pins (hence the name) of the Noctua bracket in and you’re done.

If you have a hook type board, you can forgo the motherboard removal step and just unhook the existing cooler and hook the NC-U6 on.

With either bracket, you have to screw it onto the cooler with a screw and use a screwdriver from the top of the NC-U6.

Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler

A better method would for Noctua to supply a sticky pad instead. This would completely remove the mounting issues and would support every board out there. It might not be quite as secure, but it would remove a lot of headaches.

UPDATE: After speaking with our Noctua rep, this method is unacceptable as the heatsink has the possibility of falling off. If you move your PC around a lot (i.e. LANer), its more than likely that the cooler would fall off due to its weight and height. Their choice of mounting brackets is a sound one, and whilst it may reduce compatibility in some situations, it means that customers won’t end up with a fried board.

Testing

As chipsets don’t have an integrated temperature diode, and simply taking the temperature of the heatsink only shows how much it conducts, I had to rely on maximum overclock possible.

Previously, 3.5GHZ (220 FSB from 200) with memory running in ratio with processor (DDR4000) would be slightly unstable and things would start to crash after using the computer for a while. The RAM couldn’t be the problem as it was running at DDR3200 speeds, the CPU was less than 35C permanently.

After installing the NH-U6 from the previous tiny passive heatsink, 3.6GHZ was possible; fully stable. Considering as this board is budget and aging, this is no mean feat.

Even after continuous play of Battlefield 2142 for a good few hours, not a single thing crashed and the temperature of the NC-U6 was warm to the touch, but far from hot.

That said, I do have a side case fan blowing directly onto the cooler. However, the NC-U6 itself is itself passive and noise-less which could be a viable upgrade for someone with a whiny 40mm fan on their chipset.

Conclusion

For ~£14 ($27.99) this is expensive. The cooler is damn good, and manages to cool while making no noise whatsoever, but you do pay a premium for this performance.

Stock chipset coolers will be fine for the normal user, but will make noise; the NC-U6 will appeal to silent PC users. Overclockers will also love the high FSB possible and zero noise; if you’re paranoid about noise or temperatures, buy a Noctua NC-U6.

Pros Cons
100% noise-less (passive) Installation issues
Cools suprisingly well Price

I’d like to thank Noctua for providing us with the cooler.

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