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Noctua is not a stranger to us as we have been reviewing their products frequently especially their CPU coolers and cooling fans. Noctua's products have gained pretty good reputation in IT industry with its well design, high quality and outstanding performance. Today we are going to review their one of their latest CPU coolers; NH-L12 which is a low profile CPU cooler; ideal for small form factor and HTPC cases.
Noctua arises from a cooperation between the Austrian Rascom Computerdistribution Ges.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation and entertains a development partnership with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology (Österreichisches Institut für Wärmeübertragung und Ventilatorentechnik, ÖIWV).
Rascom's long, customer-oriented experience in developing and distributing sound-optimised high-end products ensures a clear focus on the users' needs. The use of Kolink's advanced manufacturing technology and ultra-modern production plants allows us to efficiently implement our technical edge and provide solutions of the highest standard in quality and performance.
Package & Contents
Noctua NH-L12 cooler comes with a standard Noctua square packaging box in brown theme. The packaging box is quite ECO friendly as no foam has been used except paper and it is pretty huge too in order to ensure everything inside is being kept safely. As usual product features and specifications are written on the packaging in detail.
Here are all the bundled accessories of Noctua NH-L12 cooler which are packed in several bags for better segregation like mounting kits for Intel and AMD sockets. There are three user manuals provided; two for Intel and one for AMD; we believe the LGA2011 user manual should be the last minute submission for Noctua NH-L12 cooler.
Mounting kit for AMD sockets are much simpler than Intel sockets but everything is well explained in the user manual so installation should not be an issue. Besides that couple of noise adapter cables are included as well which reduce the fan speed to make it even quieter if necessary. NT-H1 high performance thermal paste is included as well.
A Closer Look on Noctua NH-L12
The main objective of Noctua NH-L12 is to target low profile CPU cooler market which is ideal to be used in small form factor and HTPC cases. However the interesting part of Noctua NH-L12 is its great flexibility as it can support a single fan in low profile mode (66mm) or dual-fan setup (93mm); slightly taller but if the case allows then why not.
Just like other universal CPU coolers, Noctua NH-L12 is able to support most of the available AMD and Intel sockets in the market such as LGA2011, 1366, 1156, 1155, 775 and AM2, 2+, 3, 3+, FM1 and etc. Noctua NH-L12 is not meant for overclocking and it is suggested to be used for processor with less than 95W TDP (thermal design power).
The (H x W x D) dimensions of Noctua NH-L12 cooler without fan and with fan are 66 x 128 x 150 mm and 93 x 128 x 150mm. In term of weight then it will be 415 and 680 grams without and with the fan. Noctua NH-L12 has no difference with other low profile coolers except it comes with additional heat-pipe to boost up its performance.
The C-shaped heat-pipe is used instead of U-shaped heat-pipe as the latter one is not suitable for low profile CPU cooler. Copper is used for the base and heat-pipes, aluminum for the cooling fins, solder joints and nickel plating; best combination for performance and cost. The cooler base has flat and smooth finishing for better conductivity.
The Noctua NH-L12 looks neat and solid which is just like other Noctua CPU coolers; quality assurance from Noctua. There are two small holes in between the aluminum block which are used to secure the Noctua NH-L12 on the motherboard with the provided L-shaped screw driver; fans must be removed prior the installation.
Four pairs of 6mm heat-pipes are integrated in Noctua NH-L12 which are playing important role to transfer the heat from CPU to the aluminum fins effectively for better heat dissipation. Since Noctua NH-L12 is a C-shaped CPU cooler, extra care must be taken when handling it as the heat-pipe could be broken easily with wrong handling.
Two rubber sticks are placed at the bottom surface of the aluminum block to protect the aluminum fins as well as reducing the fan operating noise. Noctua NH-L12 is also using the same fan clip like other Noctua coolers which is very user friendly and can be operated without any additional tool; we sincerely like it very much.
NF-F12 and NF-B9 PWM fans are bundled with Noctua NH-L12; decent performance yet quiet. Both of these fans can give about 93 and 64 CFM while keeping the noise at 22 and 18 dBA at max speeds. NF-F12 comes with rubber edges on the fan itself while NF-B9 uses the rubber strips on the heat sink to reduce fan vibration noise.
Installation, Testing & Performance
Installation for Noctua NH-L12 is very straightforward, just like other Noctua CPU coolers. The first step is to secure the mounting bars on the motherboard together with the back plate (at the bottom of the motherboard) and bolts. Plastic spacer must be added in between the motherboard and the mounting bar to protect the motherboard.
Next step will be mounting the heat sink on the motherboard with the provided L-shaped screw driver. The heat sink could be either in north-south or east-west direction which depend its compatibility with other components. However both of the fans must be removed out from the Noctua NH-L12 in order to proceed with this step.
If everything has been done smoothly then the last step will be mounting back the fans on Noctua NH-L12. Dual-fan setup will be much better if the condition allows due to stronger airflow to cool down the heat sink. Anyway the 92mm fan should be installed first prior the 120mm fan but both of the fans can be installed easily with the provided fan clips.
Above installation guides are pretty similar for most of the Intel sockets including latest socket LGA2011 and other AMD sockets. For best cooling performance, the last installation method should be avoided if the case is placed in tower form factor as it will affect the heat pipe's fluid circulation; harder to flow to aluminum heat sink block.
If low-noise adapter is required then here is the right connection where the Y-split cable should be plugged to the motherboard and low-noise adapter should be connected in between the cooling fans and the Y-split cable. Never use a single low-noise adapter and connect it to both fans. Y-split cable is not necessary for single fan mode setup.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8300 @ 2.83GHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3/Gigabyte G31M-ES2L
Heatsink: Noctua NH-L12
Memory: Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR2 8500
Hard Drive: 250GB 7200RPM 8MB Seagate
Graphic Card: Galaxy GeForce GTX260+
PCIe: Aten IC320U USB 3.0
Casing: BitFenix Colossus Venom
HDD Cage: Icy Dock MB994SP-4S
PSU: OCZ ZX 850W
Optical Drive: HLDS DVD RW +/-
Controller: Aerocool Touch 2000
Monitor: Dell 22" Wide Screen LCD
Speaker: Edifier R501
Mouse: SteelSeries Ikari Laser
Mouse Pad: SteelSeries QcK+
HeadSet: SteelSeries 3H
Router: TRENDnet TEW-639GR
Operating System: Window XP Pro SP2/Win 7 HP
Ambient Temperature: 27 Degree Celsius
Here are the cooling performance results of Noctua NH-L12 and other popular CPU coolers in the market. Obviously Noctua NH-L12 is not the best performance CPU cooler but with its size and performance, we will say it delivers pretty decent performance especially without scarifying the quietness and simple installation methodology which are Noctua's key unique selling points. Noctua NH-L12 performs quite quietly although low-noise adapter is not being used but if the system is pretty entry level then this low-noise adapter could be used to even further lower down the noise since Noctua NH-L12 should be good enough to handle most of the entry to mid range processor without being turned on its full capability. Noctua NH-L12 is running pretty quietly with single NF-B9 at low speed; almost the quietest cooler we have tested; moderate noise at single NF-B9 high speed or both fans at low speed and slightly noise when both fans are in high speed. Overall we didn't encounter any major or compatible issues with the Noctua NH-L12.
Once again Noctua has proven its ability to deliver an ideal CPU cooler with plenty of advantages yet decent performance. Unlike other Noctua CPU coolers, the main purpose of Noctua NH-L12 is to target small form factor and HTPC cases where this sector is not really being focused by most of the CPU cooler vendors due to lower demand in the market. However this will be changed due to the demand of such small form factor and HTPC systems have been increasing lately and Noctua made a wise choice to spend their R&D to produce this decent low profile CPU cooler. If you are still struggling where to get a decent performance low profile CPU cooler then you may really consider Noctua NH-L12; a true ideal low profile CPU cooler. Price for Noctua NH-L12 is pretty similar with other Noctua's CPU coolers but since it is targeting small form factor or HTPC then it should be more affordable in order to compete with its competitors; other that this then Noctua NH-L12 is just perfect.
+ Low profile C-shaped heat pipe cooler (66mm)
+ Decent cooling performance in such sector
+ Dual fan or single fan setups
+ Quiet operating
+ Rubber edges & strips
+ Simple installation method
+ Tool-less fan clip design
+ Universal CPU cooler
+ Complete accessories kits
- Could be more affordable
- Careful with the fragile heat pipe
Thanks to Noctua for providing this sample for us to review.
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