Noctua NH-L12 Low Profile Cooler

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Noctua NH-L12 Low Profile Cooler

April 29, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Noctua NH-L12
CPU Cooler
Street Price

As third party CPU heatsink sales are generally driven by enthusiasts with high power, overclocked rigs, the market is somewhat skewed, biased in favor of larger coolers. Obviously, the bigger the heatsink, the better it performs, with today's coolers having reached monstrous dimensions that we wouldn't have dreamed of a few years ago. They seem to grow with every iteration, acquiring more heatpipes, fins, and overall mass.

The funny thing is, a big hulking tower and massive heatsink isn't necessary any more, even if you want to keep things quiet. Advances in CPU energy efficiency has reduced cooling requirements, contributing to the proliferation of smaller form factors and cases. Interestingly, a smaller case means the components are packed into cramped quarters with less extra airflow from case fans, producing an inherently more challenging environment. This coupled with size limitations makes cooling efficiency key, and yet the current crop of quality low profile coolers is almost laughable.

The box, packaging.

Sensing opportunity, premium heatsink manufacturer Noctua recently released the NH-L12, their first low profile heatsink. It's an interesting turn as the rest of their limited catalogue consists of large coolers like the NH-D14 and NH-C14 which sport 14 cm fans and weigh around 1 kg. In essence, the new model is a miniature version of the down-blowing NH-C14, about two thirds the size and equipped with 12 cm and 9 cm fans rather than 14 cm models. While considerably smaller, the NH-L12 still exhibits all usual qualities Noctua is known for: Excellent build quality, quiet fans, and the easy, secure installation that's been common to all the Noctua coolers for some years. It also carries a high sticker price: At US$70, the NH-L12 costs the same as its bigger brother.

Package contents.

The package is basically the same as previous Noctua heatsinks. The components are well padded, a variety of accessories are provided, and the mounting hardware is separated for convenience. In its stock configuration, the NH-L12 is actually not that small, measuring 93 mm tall. However, like the NH-C14, the larger top fan can be removed, taking the height down to 66 mm, close to the limit for many desktop-style cases. If there's enough room underneath, the smaller fan can be replaced with the larger one to increase its cooling capacity.


Aside from the obligatory instructions, mounting hardware, and thermal interface material, Noctua provides a few other extras: Low noise adapters, a dual head fan adapter to connect both fans to the same fan header, a fan extension cable (the fans' cables are only 20 cm long), fan isolators and screws to mount the fan(s) elsewhere in the case if preferred, and a nice metallic case badge.

Noctua NH-L12: Key Features
(from the product web page)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
120/92mm dual fan design
Thanks to its exquisite dual fan setup consisting of Noctua’s highly optimised NF-F12 (120mm) and NF-B9 (92mm) premium fans, the NH-L12 pushes the bar in terms of low-profile quiet cooling performance.
Two fans obviously provide better cooling than one, but using two different sizes/models may create undesirable acoustics.
NH-L12 Extra-low profile in 92mm single-fan mode
The NH-L12 can be used with the NF-B9 92mm fan only in order to reduce the overall height to 66mm. This way, the cooler is suitable for many typical µATX or Mini-ITX enclosures and ideal for whisper-quiet HTPC systems.
The 92mm fan can be used alone, underneath the main heatsink body to fit into smaller cases. The 120mm model might work as well depending on the components around the CPU socket.
NH-L12 PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptors
The NH-L12’s NF-F12 and NF-B9 fans support PWM for convenient automatic speed control. In addition, the maximum fan speed can be reduced to 1200/1300rpm using the supplied Low-Noise Adaptors for even quieter operation.
Including low noise adapters are par for the course for Noctua heatsinks.
NH-L12 SecuFirm2™ mounting system
Noctua’s enthusiast grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting provides broad socket compatibility (LGA 2011, LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1) and meets the highest demands in safety, performance and ease-of-use.
Noctua boasts one of the best heatsink mounting systems. It's compatible with all modern desktop sockets.
NH-L12 Mini-ITX mounting without backplate
Some Intel based Mini-ITX mainboards don’t allow for the installation of backplates. The NH-L12 thus comes with an extra set of Intel mounting bolts which make it possible to install the cooler without using the SecuFirm2™ backplate.
We've never encountered this problem, but Noctua has planned for this scenario as well.
NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua's much-acclaimed NT-H1 is a well proven pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease-of-use and outstanding reliability.
We can't comment on the quality of Noctua's thermal compound as we use our own as a control. Most TIMs perform within a few degrees of each other.

Noctua NH-L12: Specifications
(from the product web page)
Socket compatibility Intel LGA2011, LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1 (backplate required)
Dimensions 93 x 128 x 150 mm (H x W x D)
66 x 128 x 150 mm (H x W x D) without fan
Weight 680 g
415 g without fan
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 120x120x25mm & 92x92x25mm
Scope of Delivery 1x NF-F12 PWM premium fan
1x NF-B9 PWM premium fan
2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
Y-Split Cable
NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
Mini-ITX Mounting-Kit
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty 6 Years
Fan Specifications
Model Noctua NF-F12 PWM & Noctua NF-B9 PWM
Bearing SSO-Bearing
Max. Speed (+/- 10%) 1500 / 1600 RPM
Max. Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 1200 / 1300 RPM
Min. Speed (PWM) 300 / 300 RPM
Max. Airflow 93,4 / 64,3 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 74,3 / 52,6 m³/h
Max. Noise 22,4 / 17,6 dB(A)
Max. 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

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