Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler Review

Author: Roger Cantwell
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, July 16th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/noctua_nh_l12/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Today we will be looking at Noctua’s NH-L12 cooler. Noctua is well known for their cooling products like the NH-C14. With an eye for superior performance and craftsmanship along with Noctua’s well-earned reputation, one would not be amiss in expecting the very best from the manufacturer.

The NH-L12 comes loaded with features and includes a 120/92mm dual fan design, PWM support and low-noise adapter, SecuFirm 2 mounting system, Mini-ITX mounting without a back-plate, and Noctua's NT-H1 High-end thermal compound along with a case badge (because we all love case badges).

Primarily designed as a low profile cooler for use in HTPC/ITX builds, the NH-L12 can easily handle Intel's 130W maximum TDP (Thermal Design Power) specifications with the dual fan configuration, although I would recommend using care when overclocking with the NH-L12.

The front of the packaging lists the features described above. The right side lists the technical specifications of the NH-L12 as well as the contents of the box. On the left side of the box is a description the NH-L12 in multiple languages, while the back highlights the individual features in detail.

Specifications:

Socket compatibility
Intel LGA2011 (Square ILM), LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155,
LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1 (backplate required)
Height (without fan)
66 mm
Width (without fan)
128 mm
Depth (without fan)
150 mm
Height (with fan)
93 mm
Width (with fan)    
128 mm
Depth (with fan)
150 mm
Weight (without fan)
415 g
Weight (with fan)
680 g
Material
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility
120x120x25mm & 92x92x25mm
Warranty
6 Years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fan Specifications:

Model
Noctua NF-F12 PWM & Noctua NF-B9 PWM
Bearing
SSO-Bearing
Max. Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1500 / 1600 RPM
Max. Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
1200 / 1300 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)
300 / 300 RPM
Max. Airflow         
93,4 / 64,3 m³/h
Max. Airflow with L.N.A.
74,3 / 52,6 m³/h
Max. Acoustical Noise
22,4 / 17,6 dB(A)
Max. Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.
18,6 / 13,1 dB(A)
Input Power
0,6 / 0,96 W
Voltage Range
12 V
MTBF
> 150.000 h

The NH-L12 is a versatile little cooler, capable of cooling a variety of setups. With its ability to handle the 130W TDP specifications of Intel's 3960X processor, it will be interesting to see how cool it keeps our core i7 2600k at 4.4GHz.

For Intel, Noctual recommends 95W or less in a single fan configuration (NF-B9), or a maximum of 130W in a dual fan configuration (NF-F12 & NF-B9). A maximum of 65W in a single fan configuration (NF-B9) or up to a 125W TDP In a dual fan configuration (NF-F12 & NF-B9) meanwhile is suggested in the case of AMD. For both Intel's 130W and AMD's 125W TDP specifications, Noctua suggests a case with adequate ventilation.

When you open the box, the accessories package sits on top with the cooler itself which is packed neatly underneath. The included accessories will allow you to mount the NH-L12 cooler on any of the following sockets: Intel LGA2011 (Square ILM), LGA 1366, 1156, 1155, 775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+ and the FM1 (back plate required).

With the fans already attached, installation is a breeze. Simply choose your socket hardware packet (Intel or AMD) and follow the instructions.

By removing the 120mm top fan you can reduce the overall height of the NH-L12 to 66mm as seen in the comparison photos.

Looking down on the cooler you can see the four heat pipes running through the cooling fins. The fins are made from aluminum while the base and heat pipes are copper with nickle plating.

The base of the cooler has been well polished as you can see from the reflection of my overhead lighting.

Noctua's NH-L12 cooler comes equipped with its fans in a push/pull configuration straight out of the box, thanks to the 120/92mm dual fan design.  The 120mm NF-F12 and the 92mm NF-B9 fans have a maximum rotational speed of 1500~1600rpm. With the use of the optional L.N.A. (Low Noise Adapters), both the NF-F12 and the NF-B9 have a maximum rotational speed of 1200~1300.

The included accessory packages are labeled by CPU manufacturer (Intel/AMD) along with a package containing the L.N.A. adapters and extension cables, and thermal compound. On the right are the low noise adapter, rubber mounting pins, extension cables, Y adapter cable and the Noctua case badge outside of their packaging.

The following photos show the front and back side of the 120 and 92 mm (NF-F12 and the NF-B9) fans, along with the attached retention clips.

Overall installation wasn't too complicated and was completed in than five minutes, although it required the removal of the motherboard. With the retention clips installed, it was a simply matter of dropping the cooler on and tightening the screws down.

 However, you will need to use DIMMs with a very low profile in order to fit memory under the NH-L12, as the cooler partially blocks the number one DIMM slot due to the retention clip.  This also occured with the NF-B9 in the case on my test setup, the ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard.

Noctua's NH-L12 did extremely well during testing and kept our Intel Core i7 2600k (overclocked to 4.4GHz) tempuratures below 70 Celsius during operation. With its optional dual fan design, the NH-L12 is the perfect solution for anyone looking for a low profile cooler regardless of the case used be it full tower, HTPC or ITX.

The included fans are whisper quiet with a noise rating of 22.4dB(A) for the 120mm and 17.6dB(A) for the 92mm options, and that is without the LNA.  With the LNA installed, the 120mm and 92mm fans have a rated noise level of 18.6dB(A) and 13.1dB(A), respectively.

Installation was a breeze, thanks to the SecuFirm2 mounting system.  Simply select the appropriate package for your Intel or AMD CPU, follow a few simple steps and you will have the NH-L12 up and running.

Noctua's supplied NT-H1 high performance thermal compound is one of the best manufacturer supplied compounds I have used yet.  It spreads evenly and has a recommended peak operating temperature from -50°C to +110°C.

The NH-L12 cost around $62.99, which in my opinion is a little pricey for a cooler targeted at the HTPC/MiniITX consumer.

Pros:

Cons:

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