Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler

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Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler

November 22, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Noctua NH-L9i
LGA1155/1156
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Noctua
Street Price
US$45~US$50

Designing a small CPU cooler is a difficult task in this day and age. Height is the main issue as there is no universally accepted heatsink clearance limit for small form factor cases, not that SFF is a standard in itself either. Taller heatsinks offer better performance at the cost of compatibility, while smaller, less capable models have to employ higher fan speeds to make up the difference. Complicating matters is the popularity of Intel mini-ITX motherboards for LGA1155/1156, most of which are laid out with the PCI Express 16x slot very close to the CPU socket, making heatsink length and width an issue as well.

Noctua dipped their toe into the small cooler market with the NH-L12, a miniaturized version of the NH-C14. For its size, it delivered exceptional performance in both its two fan (93 mm tall) and one fan (66 mm tall) configurations. Unfortunately it suffers from the size issues we just mentioned, being too tall for smaller enclosures and having a large footprint causing PCI Express slot interference in many mini-ITX boards. Noctua's second entry, the NH-L9i, takes a very different approach, focusing on compatibility above all else.


The NH-L9i.

The NH-L9i, is essentially, the lowest common denominator of small CPU heatsinks. It's length and width are 95 mm, strictly within the specified area Intel allows for OEM coolers, meaning it does not interfere with memory slots, VRM heatsinks, or anything else. It's also incredibly slim, only 37 mm tall, which means it actually sits lower on the board that a typical set of DDR3 DIMMs with heatspreaders, so it's effectively compatible with any case that can take standard desktop mini-ITX mainboard.

It's a fairly simply heatsink design with a pair of copper heatpipes entwined in a dense array of aluminum fins. Sitting atop the fin mass is a new style of Noctua fan, a slim 92 mm model with shallow ridges on the top edge of each fan blade. The fan is also screwed on rather than utilizing clips which would have increased its physical dimensions.


The NH-L9i box and contents.

The NH-L9i is designed for LGA1155/1156 only so there isn't much mounting gear included, just a set of thumbscrews for installing the heatsink and a set of longer bolts if you want to swap out the 14 mm thick fan with a standard 25 mm model. Noctua also offers an AMD version of the heatsink, the NH-L9a, which is actually physically longer as it conforms to AMD's rectangular socket shape. The accessories include a low noise fan adapter, a metallic case badge, and a tube of thermal compound.

Noctua NH-L9i: Key Features
(from the product web page)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
37mm low profile
Due to the slim 23mm heatsink and the NF-A9x14 low profile fan that measures only 14mm in thickness, the NH-L9 stands a mere 37mm tall, which makes it ideal for use in compact HTPCs or Small Form Factor cases that offer minimum clearance for CPU coolers.
There is no clear definition of "low profile" but at 37 mm, it should fit in most consumer SFF cases that described as such.
100% RAM compatibility
The NH-L9i has a 95x95mm footprint that complies exactly to the Intel LGA115x socket keep-out zone. This means that it won’t cause issues with chipset coolers and doesn’t overhang the RAM slots, so it’s fully compatible with tall memory modules.
To be fair, most heatsinks that extend over the memory slots don't interfere with standard height DIMMs.
100% compatibility with PCIe cards on mini-ITX
Most Intel LGA115x based mini-ITX mainboards have the PCIe slot sitting right next to the 95x95mm socket zone. While larger coolers that exceed this zone are likely to block the PCIe slot, the 95x95xmm sized NH-L9i provides full compatibility with PCIe cards.
Most Sandy/Ivy Bridge mini-ITX boards have the PCI-E 16x slot so close to the socket that most aftermarket coolers won't fit with a graphics card installed.
NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan
The highly optimised NF-A9x14 premium fan features Noctua’s proprietary AAO frame as well as sophisticated aerodynamic design measures. Supporting PWM for fully automatic speed control, the NF-A9x14 allows the NH-L9i to stay remarkably quiet.
After sticking with the same basic fan design for several years, we were surprised they changed it up the fan on the NH-L12 heatsink. Now they've done it again on the NH-L9i's fan, a thin 92 mm model.
Low-Noise Adaptor
Allowing to reduce the maximum speed of the NF-A9x14 fan from 2500 to 1800rpm, the included Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) makes it possible to achieve near-silent setups using CPUs with less than 65W TDP.
In the olden days, Noctua included both a 7V and 9V adapter for those without motherboard fan control. With PWM control being so universal, an adapter is purely an accessory.
Custom-designed SecuFirm2™ mounting for LGA115x
The NH-L9i bundles a custom-designed, backplate-less SecuFirm2™ mounting system for LGA115x that offers extended compatibility with mini-ITX boards and makes installation easier than ever, all while maintaining the trusted SecuFirm2™ quality.
Though it carries the same name, the NH-L9i's mounting system doesn't resemble the SecuFirm2 kit of their larger coolers.

Noctua NH-L9i: Specifications
(from the product web page)
Socket compatibility LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156
Height (without fan) 37 mm (23 mm)
Width 95 mm
Depth 95 mm
Weight (without fan) 420 g (345 g)
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 92x92x14mm, 92x92x25mm
Scope of Delivery * NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan
* Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
* NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
* SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
* Screws for 92x92x25mm fans
* Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty 6 Years
Fan Specifications
Model Noctua NF-A9x14 PWM
Bearing SSO2
Max. Rotational Speed 2500 RPM
Max. Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 1800 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM) 300 RPM
Max. Airflow 57,5 m³/h
Max. Airflow with L.N.A. 40,8 m³/h
Max. Acoustical Noise 23,6 dB(A)
Max. Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 14,8 dB(A)
Input Power 2,52 W
Voltage Range 12 V
MTBF > 150.000 h


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