Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler Review
A month or two ago, we were in the market for a decent after-market CPU cooler that will fit inside our fairly small chassis, yet powerful enough to keep my system from getting too toasty. And after thoughtful consideration, we’ve went with the Noctua NH-L12 and we thought it’ll be nice to share our experience with it.
What’s in the box?
Aluminum Heat Sink with four (4) heat pipes
1x Noctua NF-F12 120mm PWM CPU Fan
1x Noctua NF-B9 92mm PWM CPU Fan
2x Low-Noise adaptor,
1x Extension Cable and Y-Cable (Splitter)
2x SecuFirm 2 Mounting Kit for:
Mini-ITX mounting kit
4x Silicon Mounting Screws
2x Fan Mounting Clips
1x Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound
1x L-Shaped (fairly-long) Metal Screwdriver
1x Noctua Case Badge
Manuals and Instruction Guide
Design and Construction
The NH-L12 comprises of three key components, the C-shaped heatsink, the NF-12 that attaches on top of it, and the NF-B9 which sits in between the heatsink and copper base plate. We’ll take a closer look at the heatsink and provide you more details on the two well-designed fans later on.
The heatsink features four (4) identically-shaped copper heat pipes which pass through mid-sized aluminum fins and terminates to the NH-L12’s polished base plate. Just like the heat pipe, the slightly-convex base plate is also made of copper which, along with the other parts of the heatsink, are then coated in corrosion-resistant nickel finish which gives it a clean and industrial look to it.
By itself, or with only the 92mm fan mounted at the bottom, the NH-L12 only measures 66mm in height, making it an ideal cooling solution for cases with tight spaces and HTPCs. Attaching the NF-F12 at the top adds another 27mm to the overall height (93mm) which is still relatively low-profile compared to vertically-oriented coolers.
On to the fans then. As mentioned earlier, the NH-L12 comes with two fans; the Noctua NF-F12 and NF-B9 which has Noctua’s signature two-tone Beige and Maroon color schemes (Love it or Hate it!).
The larger of the two seven-bladed fans is equipped with a set of anti-vibration silicon pads on each corner which dampen the sound generated by the vibrations when the fans are on. These PWM-controlled fans are also equipped with SSO (Self-Stabilizing Oil-pressure) bearing which is both durable and allows for a near-silent operation even at full speed.
As it is, the two fans run fairly quietly with little to no compromise on heat dissipation. However, the overall fan noise can be tuned down even further (without fiddling with software-based tweaks) with the help of the pre-bundled Low-Noise Adapters (LNA).
These two fans are attached to the heatsink with the help of metal mounting bracket. Each end of the goes inside the screw hole of the fans, while the angled portion of the bracket goes in to the tiny spaces in between the heatsinks fins which secures the fan in place.
By default, the fans are setup in push-pull configuration, though you can easily alter the fan setup according to your liking.
If you need more information about these fans, you can check out the two links below:
Mounting and RAM clearance
Noctua’s extensive, not to mention very elaborate, installation guide will certainly come in handy when mounting the NH-L12 to your rig. The company even went beyond the extra mile to provide a separate guide for Intel and AMD rigs, something that we don’t see often on some coolers.
As mentioned above, users have everything that they can possibly need at their disposal to install the cooler – it even comes with its own L-shaped screw driver and a mounting kit for users who are using a mini-ITX board.
The only tricky part when installing the cooler is lining up the two non-removable screws to the metal stand-offs that are attached to the back plate (for ATX and mATX boards).
Reason for that is that you won’t have a clear view of the actual screw and the screw hole when viewed up top, so it takes some patience and precision in order to attach the NH-L12 to your system. Therefore, it’s advisable to mount the cooler before you place the motherboard to your case.
Being a low-profile after-market CPU cooler, we initially thought that there won’t be enough room for a fancy memory module like the G.Skill Ripjaws X. But despite the memory modules’ 40mm height, it sits nicely under the NH-L12.
The caveat though is that you need to disassemble the CPU cooler if you need to take out the RAM, which is something that most users won’t mind oftentimes.
Small as it may be, the Noctua NH-L12 is very capable of keeping your processor cool even under load, and without generating a lot of fan noise in the process.
Intel Core i7-4790 (Haswell Refresh) 3.7GHz quad-core processor
ASUS H97-Pro Gamer Motherboard
16GB (4x 4GB) ADATA XPG V2 1600MHz dual-channel DDR3 RAM
ASUS GTX 770 DirectCU II GPU
ADATA Premiere Pro SP910 256GB SSD
Antec HCP-1200 80Plus Gold Certified 1200W PSU
Core Temp 1.0 RC6 (Temperature Monitoring)
Prime95 (Stress Test for Full Load)
AIDA64 (Stress Test for Medium Load)
Both pre-bundled fans (NF-F12 & NF-B9) were attached and running throughout the test.
Idle temperatures are taken 30 minutes after the system booted to Windows.
Medium load temperatures are taken while running AIDA64 CPU test.
Full load temperatures are taken 30 minutes while running Prime95’s in-place large FFT test.
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With a local price tag of Php2,590 one can easily make the argument that the Noctua NH-L12 is more of a luxury item than a reasonably priced after-market CPU cooler. In fact, for the same price (or may be even less) one can simply opt for a decent all-in-one liquid cooler or, better yet, go for a significantly cheaper air cooler and spend the remainder of one’s budget for other PC components.
While we can’t help buy shout a resounding yes to all of those notions, we also can’t discredit the fact that the Noctua really did a hell of a job in making sure that consumers get their money’s worth on the NH-L12.
Noctua NH-L12 specs:
4x Copper heat pipes
Copper base plate
Aluminum fins with Nickel Plating
NF-F12 PWM / NF-B9 PWM:
300RPM min rotational speed
1600RPM max rotational speed
93,4 / 64,3 m³/h max airflow (without LNA)
22,4 / 17,6 dB(A) max acoustical noise (without LNA)
AMD Motherboards (AM3/AM3+, FM1 and FM2/FM2+)
Intel Motherboards (LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA2011, LGA2011-3 & LGA775)
Dimension: 150 x 128 x 93 mm (with top fans installed)
Weight: 680g (with two fans installed)
The mounting versatility and wide compatibility was a huge plus for us and, unlike other companies, Noctua delivered on their promise of near-silent performance which can be further tweaked thanks to the pre-bundled LNA.
At the end of the day, it really just boils down to your personal preference. If you have a spacious PC case, then there’s really no point of going for a low-profile cooler like this one. On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of room in your case and you don’t want to worry about loud whirring noise coming from your CPU cooler’s fan, then the Noctua NH-L12 should be on the top of your list.
What we liked about it:
What we didn’t like about it: