Noctua NH-L12 Review

Today we will be making the review of the Noctua NH-L12, a recently released low-profile CPU cooler aimed to achieve maximum performance despite its size.

 

 

Noctua was founded in 2005 and their headquarters are located in Austria. They specialize in silent PC cooling products and until now they have successfully combined great performance with reduced noise levels.

Let’s take a quick look at NH-L12’s specs and features, taken directly from Noctua’s website:

Package and Accessories

The Noctua NH-L12 comes in a smaller than usual Noctua coolers cardbox, following the typical color combinations that are used in the Noctua product range. At each side of the box we can find various bits of information regarding the cooler. At the top cover it is stated that the cooler’s fans support PWM mode and that it has an extra-low profile. Anyhow, this is the target group of the Noctua NH-L12, users who want a low profile cooler for their desktop system or HTPC.

Upon opening the box, we find that the upper part that is used as a top cover actually serves as a content box where all the accessories are stored. The coolers is securely packaged and not exposed to possible damage.

Inside the package we can find, as usual, everything needed to mount the cooler: two separate bags for AMD and Intel platforms, a screwdriver, the user’s manual, the low noise adaptors, a y-split cable, a piece of NT-H1 high-end thermal paste and even extra screws for mini-ITX boards. The manual is neatly placed in a small booklet, divided into two parts in each side, one for AMD and one for Intel sets. Well-organised stuff. As always, instructions are easy to understand and divided into steps.

 

A Closer Look – The Noctua NH-L12

The Noctua NH-L12 has a solid build quality, with the crafting standards that the rest Noctua products follow. As you can see, it has a small L-shaped size, in order to fit in low-profile setups. The fans utilised are a NF-F12 focused flow 120mm fan and the NF-B9 92mm fan, in which PWM function is supported. That means the fans’ RPM are auto adjusted according to system performance.

At the top there is a nice Noctua logo encraved, and we can also see the four copper 6mm heatpipes going through the heatsink’s body.

The Noctua NH-L12 comes assembled in the package, however you will have to remove the top fan to install it. Note that you can use the cooler in single fan mode, but we would not recommend it when using it on a modern desktop PC as the 120mm fan provides a significant airflow advantage.

As usual, the nickel coated base of the heatsink is flawlessly manufactured and designed to dissipate heat away as quickly as possible. The fins are not too far away from each other to keep the dimensions as low as possible. Noctua has even placed a rubber piece between the second fan and the heatsink to avoid any possible bending of the cooler during shipping.

The heatpipes do not come in direct contact with the processor, instead a nickel base plate is utilised as mentioned.

 

Installation, test setup and procedures
The machine’s specs on which we tested the cooler are:

Processor: Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard: Asus P6T SE
RAM: Transcend 2GB x 3
VGA: Gigabyte GTX480 1536MB
HDD: Velocity Raptor 150GB
PSU: High Power P5550 Pro
Case: Antec One
Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit

We ran temperature tests in two system states and with our i7 920 overclocked to 4GHz at 1.3v voltage, since overclocking is one of the main reasons users purchase an aftermarket cooler.

So, we ran tests at the following system states:

 

  • Idle, i7 920 overclocked to 4GHz
  • Load, i7 920 overclocked to 4GHz


Afterwards, we measured the noise produced (dB) in full load.

We tested the Noctua NH-L12 against:

 

  • Noctua NH-D14
  • Intel Stock Cooler


For getting the CPU to maximum temperatures, we had Prime95 running for one hour.

All the tests were made in a room temperature of 24 degrees celsius.

 

Mounting the cooler on our system was very easy thanks to the Secufirm2 system. After installing the backplate at the back of the motherboard and placing the mounting brackets, all you have to do is screw the cooler through the small holes that are visible only when the top fan is removed.

As you can see, the cooler is compact and there was plenty of space between the heatsink and our first ram module.

 

Test Results

 

As we can see from the test results, the cooler delivered average performance as far as airflow is concerned. However, if we consider its size it is definitely years ahead Intel’s stock solution and manages to keep the system in logical temperatures under overclocking conditions.

We admit that it is a little bit unfair to compare such a small cooler against the Noctua’s giant, NH-D14 but we were very curious to see how it would perform against bigger coolers.

During out tests it managed to keep noise levels down during operation, something in which Noctua has become an expert during these years.

 

Verdict
The Noctua NH-L12 is a flawlessly crafted cooler, mainly targeted to users who want an aftermarket for their HTPC or mini-ITX PC’s. Despite its size, it managed to keep our overclocked i7 920 down to logical temperature levels, while keeping noise levels low. A big plus is that both fans are included in the bundle.

When used in a full desktop system, its performance will surely not disappoint, but there are definitely other alternatives when it comes to pure air cooling performance.

Costing around 45.00EUR across Europe, the NH-L12 is the cooler to get for your small factor PC.

Pros

(+) Small, ideal for small factor PC’s
(+) Good performance
(+) Quiet
(+) Easy installation
(+) 2 fans in bundle

Cons

(-) Users looking for max performance may look elsewhere

 


Thus, we can surely give the Noctua NH-L12 our Editor’s Choice award, as a well built cooler targeted at HTPC’s!

 

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