SPCR's Updated 2012 Small CPU Heatsink Test Platform

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TEST RESULTS

Noctua NH-L12 (Street Price: US$60)


The Noctua NH-L12.

The Noctua NH-L12 is our previous small heatsink champion. Being essentially a compact version of the Noctua NH-C14, the six-heatpipe NH-L12 utilizes the same exemplary backplate mounting system and delivers some serious performance. Equipped with a both a 92 mm and 120 mm fan, it is the heaviest heatsink in our roundup at 680 grams and also the tallest at 93 mm. However, it only needed the single 120 mm model mounted underneath the fin-stack (for a total height of 66 mm) to earn top spot on our old small heatsink test platform.

Noctua NH-L12
Fan Voltage
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
°C Rise above Ambient
CPU
VRM
RAM
Both Stock Fans
12V
1680 / 1420 RPM
28~29 dBA
31
14
15
9V
1320 / 1080 RPM
20 dBA
33
17
16
8V
1200 / 960 RPM
17 dBA
34
19
18
7V
1060 / 840 RPM
14~15 dBA
35
21
20
6V
920 / 720 RPM
12 dBA
36
23
21
Stock 92mm Fan (bottom mounted)
12V
1680 RPM
23 dBA
39
23
21
10V
1450 RPM
19~20 dBA
42
28
23
9V
1320 RPM
17 dBA
44
31
24
8V
1200 RPM
15 dBA
47
33
26
7V
1060 RPM
13 dBA
51
38
30
6V
920 RPM
11~12 dBA
57
43
32
Stock 120mm Fan (bottom mounted)
12V
1420 RPM
26 dBA
34
20
19
10V
1190 RPM
20~21 dBA
36
23
19
9V
1080 RPM
18 dBA
37
24
20
8V
960 RPM
15 dBA
38
26
21
7V
840 RPM
13 dBA
39
27
22
6V
720 RPM
11~12 dBA
42
32
24
Reference 120mm Fan (bottom mounted)
12V
1080 RPM
14~15 dBA
34
20
15
9V
880 RPM
12 dBA
37
25
23

The NH-L12 performed superbly once again, particularly in its dual fan configuration 93 mm tall configuration where only 5°C separated 12V and 6V operation. The stock 92 mm model on its own doesn't do the heatsink justice, performing substantially worse than bigger fan. As the fan speed and noise is reduced, the difference grows ever larger, with the bigger fan achieving a 15°C advantage at 6V. Even more astonishing is our single reference Nexus fan giving the dual stock fan configuration a run for its money.

Scythe Big Shuriken (Street Price: US$35 for updated version)


The Scythe Big Shuriken.

Of all the coolers in our roundup, the Big Shuriken is arguably the most popular as it offers decent performance despite its reasonable price and low height and weight (58 mm, 410 grams). For its size, it is great, but installing it on Intel motherboards is a serious pain. As its fin-stack sits quite low, there's barely enough room for an index finger to slip in and depress the pushpins. [Editor's Note: We can both recall many instances of cursing at nicked finger while grappling the Big Shuriken... which might explain why the BS2 came to be.]

Note: the following results are for the original Big Shuriken which has been discontinued. An improved replacement, the Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B will be reviewed in the near future.

Scythe Big Shuriken
Fan Voltage
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
°C Rise above Ambient
CPU
VRM
RAM
Stock 120mm Fan
12V
1770 RPM
27 dBA
39
23
15
9V
1380 RPM
19~20 dBA
43
28
19
8V
1110 RPM
14 dBA
46
30
21
7V
820 RPM
11~12 dBA
61
47
31
Reference 120mm Fan
12V
1080 RPM
14~15 dBA
41
25
14
9V
880 RPM
11~12 dBA
43
29
19

The Shuriken produced fairly good performance, at least until the fan speed dropped past the 1000 RPM mark. Going from 8V to 7V, there was a 2~3 dB reduction in noise but the CPU temperature shot up by 15°C and VRM cooling suffered to the tune of 17°C. Our reference Nexus 120 mm fan fared much better, particularly at the 11~12 dBA level. To be fair, the Nexus has a standard thickness of 25 mm while the stock fan is only 12 mm. The thinner fan cannot push as much pressure, which has a big bearing on cooling effectiveness.



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