Pushing Quiet to the Limit - Noctua NH-P1 Tested!

1 Feb 2022

Noctua has been an industry leader of PC cooling hardware for many years, with a focus on premium products that deliver outstanding performance with minimal noise. Computer hardware has come a long way, but processors and graphics cards are still the biggest heat-generating components in a modern PC with higher and higher power draw becoming a trend over the last few years.

As some of you may have noticed, Noctua has recently released the NH-P1 passive cooler for CPUs, as well as a collaboration graphics card with ASUS using an RTX 3070. Here at CL we thought it would be interesting to see how passive cooling technology has progressed over the past few years and build a test system to try out different CPU configurations.

Following Noctua’s guidance, we picked the Fractal Design Meshify 2 case as our chassis - we already know from experience that it is a fantastic case with plenty of ventilation. For our power supply we went with a Fractal Design Ion 660P 80+ Platinum Semi-Passive power supply. Even under full load we this is an exceptionally quiet unit with enough power for any CPU we would want to test. The other components common to the different configurations is an Intel 660P NVMe SSD, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 memory and of course the NH-P1 cooler and RTX 3070 Noctua Edition.

Although Noctua notes that running any processor under a constant maximum power draw load on the CPU will pretty much guarantee thermal throttling, we decided to do some testing to confirm this. We started off with the Intel Core i5-12600K paired with a Z690-P WiFi D4 motherboard and as expected the chip throttled almost immediately, hitting 100C and dropping clock speeds down. From previous testing we already know that the 12th Gen Intel processors are tough to properly cool, so we switched platforms to Intel 10/11th Gen with a Z590 UD AC and a few different i5 and i7 CPUs.

We tested the Core i7-10700F, Core i5-11600K, Core i5-10600K and all of them hit thermal limits with a short burn-in test. We ran all of these tests completely passive, and re-tested again with all fans running but still hit thermal limits after a short duration.

From here we switched to some AMD CPUs with the Ryzen 7 5800X and Ryzen 5 5600X with a ASUS Prime B550M-A board. The 5800X was the same story as the Intel chips, hitting thermal limits in a short period of time, but we were surprised by the 5600X as it peaked at just over 90C but maintained it’s clock speed without throttling. The 5600X is an exceptionally efficient CPU in terms of power consumption, so we decided to continue testing with the case fans and NF-F12 set to a low RPM.

With the CPU running Prime95 on the blend preset as well as the GPU running FurMark at 1440p with the highest preset and auto fan curve the CPU reached 82C, and the GPU peaked at 66C. Even while the tests were running, the system was extremely quiet - pretty much the quietest system we have recently tested.

After running the synthetic tests we decided to run a more realistic load on the system - gaming at 1440p max settings. For this we disconnected all the fans again, and tested a few different games for a range of possible scenarios - GTA V, CS:GO, Monster Hunter World, Control and Destiny 2. Under gaming load, we typically saw the CPU sit at around the mid-high 70s with the more CPU demanding games pushing it to the high 80s. The GPU still ran at a very respectable 70C with the fan speed reaching about 70%, but again the system was deadly quiet even with the dual NF-A12 fans on the GPU running.

Overall the NH-P1 performs pretty well if you have the right expectations and know what kind of system that you are looking to build. After going through with the testing, here is what we would recommend processor wise if you know you want to put together a system with the NH-P1:

  • Intel K-Series chips are out of the question in terms of workstation and heavy gaming use. Even with quiet fans installed in the system, the NH-P1 will be overwhelmed by the heat load and will throttle clock speeds.
  • If you are purchasing a non-K Intel chip, under full or heavy load you will likely still run the CPU quite hot, and most likely will not reach the maximum boost clock of the chip. If you are fine with running at close to base speeds and just need a high core count processor then the NH-P1 may be suitable, otherwise an NH-D15 or NH-U12A will be a better option.
  • For AMD processors, the 5600X is right around the limit of what the NH-P12 can handle. Running a 5800X, 5900X or 5950X will result in lower than maximum boost clock speeds similar to the Intel chips.
  • A 65W chip like the 5600X can run at maximum boost speed without throttling if you are using a case with good airflow and have some quiet fans installed, e.g. Noctua NF-F12 or NF-A12x25 fans for additional thermal headroom.

There are some scenarios where the NH-P1 can be a good selection, the cases we can think of are:

  • A home theatre system where the CPU will be used for video playback and some other light tasks.
  • A home office system which needs to be both quiet and reliable. If you run the system in full passive mode, because the NH-P1 has no moving parts it means that you can have a low maintenance build.
  • A gaming build like we have done with the RTX 3070 Noctua Edition - this can also be used as a very quiet workstation system with some low-noise fans installed.

That pretty much wraps up our thoughts on the NH-P1, if you are thinking about putting together a passive or semi-passive system have any other questions about the Noctua’s cooling gear then get in contact with one of our friendly sales team! Also check out the CL Ready To Ship Newtro Silent Noctua Gaming Build!


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