Noctua NH-P1 passive CPU cooler review: Silent Giant
Even before the first Pentium era of the early 1990s, PC processors were already powerful enough to require significant cooling configurations and were able to control their temperatures. While there were setups that could get away with passive cooling, most PCs already relied on active cooling solutions. A few years later, active cooling not only became a de facto requirement, but the high thermal loads generated by the processors required the heatsinks to be equipped with powerful and noisy fans. The decline of this increasingly noisy computing age has, in turn, spurred the modern market for high-end passive coolers for use in low-noise (but still high-performance) PCs.
The history of passive high-performance PC coolers isn’t very rich – heatsink physics is a well-understood area – but, occasionally, we’d see some companies make a valiant effort to produce a passive cooler that would be viable in the world. ‘outdoors. Marlet. There have even been cases where manufacturers have tried to passively cool the entire PC, as Zalman did 20 years ago with the chunky TTN-500AF case. Nonetheless, neither solution lasted long, primarily because ever-increasing power (and cooling) needs were rapidly overwhelming the capabilities of the passive coolers of the time.
But now in 2022, maybe the world is ready for a change? To answer that question, in today’s review we take a look at the NH-P1, a surprising passive CPU cooler released by one of the most reputable active PC cooler manufacturers, Noctua.
Having already established their name (and more) with active low-noise coolers, Noctua turned to the latest frontier of low-noise cooling: passive CPU coolers. And to do this, Noctua has built a pure radiator. A very, very large pure heatsink that is suitable for CPUs.
Throughout its history, Noctua has never made a purely passive cooler, which makes the NH-P1 a standout product from the company. The company has significant cooling experience with its traditional active-cooling products, but suffice it to say that moving a lot of heat without the aid of forced airflow is a much bigger challenge – and we look forward to seeing a company like Noctua take action. So, is the sheer size of the NH-P1 alone capable of withstanding the intense thermal loads of modern processors? Let’s find out.
|Noctua NH-P1 CPU Cooler Specifications|
|Supported sockets||Intel: LGA1700, LGA1200, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150, LGA2066, LGA2011-0 and LGA2011-3 (square ILM)
AMD: AM4, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required)
Packing and package
The NH-P1 comes in a well-designed cardboard box, following the same simple artwork that Noctua uses for almost all of its products. It’s a sleek design, focused on providing as much information as possible rather than striking colors to grab attention. The sheer size of the package suggests that the NH-P1 is nothing like any air cooler we’ve seen before. Inside the box, we found the cooler very well protected under overlapping layers of thick cardboard packaging. The supplied mounting hardware and additional items are in a smaller, compartmentalized cardboard box.
Besides the typical mounting hardware needed to mount the NH-P1 on a CPU socket, Noctua also provides a nice screwdriver, a tube of NT-H2 thermal grease and a metal case badge. And, while perhaps sacrilegious to what is supposed to be an all-passive cooler, there are also two wire mounts for installing a fan, should the user ever wish to do so.
The Noctua NH-P1 CPU Cooler
One glance at the Noctua NH-P1 is enough for anyone to realize that this is no ordinary CPU cooler. For starters, the proportions of NH-P1 are huge beyond comparison. At 15.8cm x 15.4cm x 15.2cm (essentially a 6.5-inch cube), the NH-P1 dwarfs typical tower coolers – which are already quite large – taking in around three times the volume of a a fully assembled NH-U12S. And its 1.18 kg weight makes it heavier than some laptops.
Considering both the size and the nature of the NH-P1, it is linked to compatibility issues with systems and cases, as well as limited compatibility with processors. For this, Noctua provides detailed compatibility charts including both system parts and PC casesto help buyers get a better idea in advance of where the plus-size passive cooler might fit.
Case compatibility aside, the NH-P1 supports nearly all modern CPU sockets, including Intel’s LGA-11xx/1200 socket and the latest LGA-1700 socket, as well as AMD’s AM4 socket. . However, Threadripper is left out, as it wouldn’t be possible for the NH-P1 to handle the extreme thermal demands of a high-end CPU.
Despite its massive proportions, the NH-P1 has only thirteen fins. The fin spacing is nearly ten times that of a typical air cooler, and each fin is perforated with 33 rectangular holes to optimize passive airflow. This configuration would make typical cooling fins too thin and fragile, so Noctua has also increased the thickness of each fin considerably. Finally, the fins are also not plated on the heat pipes but welded, ensuring the long-term mechanical strength of the cooler.
Six heat pipes are responsible for transferring most of the thermal energy generated by the CPU to the cooler fins. The heat pipes start from the base of the cooler, positioned exactly parallel to each other, and run from just one side of the base to the top half of the fins in a symmetrical fan pattern. They are made of copper but are fully nickel plated to prevent surface corrosion.
The base of the NH-P1 is almost typical of any modern heat pipe cooler, except that six of the fins extend out and are attached directly to the base itself. This is primarily to increase the mechanical strength of the NH-P1, as the colossal fin array could not be reliably supported by the heat pipes alone. Yet it can also play a small part in the thermal performance of the cooler by allowing some thermal energy to transfer directly from the base to the fins.
The bottom half of the base is nickel-plated copper, maximizing the rate of heat transfer from the processor to the heat pipes. It is extremely well machined, perfectly flat and smooth. The rest of the base serves only as a mechanical support and is mainly made of aluminum, with the exception of the fixing support which is made of nickel-plated steel.