Should You Get It?
The Noctua NH-L12S is an excellent low-profile CPU cooler for SFF or HTPC builds with limited space. Its compact design, quiet fan, and RAM compatibility of up to 48mm make it ideal for quiet, compact builds. The NH-L12S balances performance and quiet operation but has limitations for overclocking and RAM compatibility.
Performance - 9/10
Value - 9/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Features - 8/10
- Efficient Cooling Performance
- Quiet Operation
- Low Profile Design
- Quality Construction
- Versatile Fan Mounting Options
Chosen by noise-conscious gamers, system integrators, and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class-leading quiet cooling performance. Today, they sent us their NH-L12S low-profile CPU Cooler for review. This cooler is a revision of their ever-popular NH-L12 but has bettered the former in terms of flexibility and more performance with new fans. We have also tested the Noctua NH-L9i chromax.black – another solid low-profile cooling option. Anyways, let’s begin!
- The cooler is good for SFF/HTPC builds with space constraints, providing optimal cooling with an easy installation.
- This cooler is not for users looking to overclock or use chips with higher than 95W TDP, as it’s specifically designed for low-profile, space-constrained setups.
- Stand-out features of the cooler include a low profile design, a bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan with SSO2 bearings, and compatibility with RAM up to 48mm with 100% clearance.
Here is a peek at the cooler specifications.
The cooler is shipped inside a cardboard box with Noctua’s typical branding.
Let’s see what accessories we get with the cooler.
Let’s take a closer look at the cooler.
We’ll start with the heatsink.
The cooler, shaped like an L, utilizes heatpipes connecting its parts. Its top side has a heatsink made of 59 aluminum fins. The fan is preinstalled using two metal clips. On the heatsink’s top side, four jointed assembly parts sit above the heat pipes running through the finstack.
Installing the cooler with the pre-installed fan might require rotating the blades to make space for the bundled screwdriver to access the screws. The finstack is less dense compared to what we’ve seen on the NH-L9a-AM4 cpu cooler.
The backside of the heatsink is almost identical to the top side except on the border part where there are steps across the length of the border. This is to form a channel in which the fan is slided inside this part while installing it on the heatsink. This cooler has 4x copper heat pipes in nickel coating. They are soldered inside the base.
Three cutouts are present just below the mid-section of the finstack. The left and rightmost cutouts facilitate access to the spring-loaded screws, while the middle cutout allows access to the screw securing the mounting bar onto the base.
You can place the fan either under or above the heatsink. If you mount it above, the cooler’s height will reach 85mm. This would be a concern in compact spaces. Both sides of the heatsink look the same, featuring grooves or indents from the center, allowing easy attachment of the metal clips.
The cooler’s front proudly displays the Noctua brand name and logo at the center. Four heat pipes extend from the finstack and terminate here. On the rear side, these heat pipes evenly enter the heatsink. Cutouts above where the heat pipes meet the heatsink direct them downward towards the base area.
The copper base, coated in nickel, boasts a sleek mirror finish. It’s a crucial part of the larger block, housing the top-mounted mounting. Securing the cooler with the Secu-Firm2 mounting hardware requires using two spring-loaded screws on the bar. The base comes protected by a plastic box, and you’ll find the mounting bar labeled as NM-IFB4.
Noctua has bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan with the cooler which features Noctua’s own SSO2 bearings. The cooler has a provision for mounting regular 25mm fan on the top side of the heatsink to enhance the cooling performance.
The fan has 7 blades in dark brown color. There are anti-vibration pads on the mounting corners on both sides. The back side has a sticker on the motor hub. There is a Noctua brand name and logo printed on its upper half. The lower half has power rating of the fan and its model printed on it.
The fan has a 4 pin PWM power connect. The length of the cable is approximately 200mm. There are additional metal clips provided with the cooler. In case you are thinking of push/pull setup, consider buying one set in advance.
Here are the fan specifications:
|Maximum speed / with bundled LNA
|1850 RPM (±10%) / 1400 RPM (±10%)
|450 RPM (±20%)
|Maximum airflow / with bundled LNA
|94.2 m³/h / 70.8 m³/h
|Maximum noise / with bundled LNA
|23.9 dBA(A) / 16.8 dB(A)
|1.56W / 0.13A
Installation (AMD AM4)
We have tested the cooler on the AMD’s AM4 platform. User is required to remove the stock retention brackets of the AMD motherboard but keep the stock backplate intact. Then, follow these steps:
- Take out the gray color spacers as they are designed for the AM4 socket. Place them on the raised bars of the stock backplate.
- Noctua has bundled two types of the mounting bars. If you are mounting the cooler opposite to the RAM slots, then use the NM-AMB10 otherwise use NM-AMB11. Each hole on these mounting bars has number printed near to it.
- Use 4 typed hole for the AM4 socket. We have installed the cooler in parallel with the RAM slots. Place the NM-AMB11 on the gray color spacers such that curved side is pointing outside. Use the supplied screws to secure the mounting bars to the stock backplate.
- Apply the thermal paste and place the heatsink on the mounting bars by aligning the spring loaded screws with the standoffs on the mounting bars. Use the supplied screw driver and secure the cooler to the mounting bars.
- Last step is to connect the fan’s power cable to the CPU fan header.
Clearance and Compatibility
Let’s take a quick look at the clearance issues if any with this cooler. Thanks to the footprint, the cooler is suitable for the majority of the SFF/HTPC chassis in the market. Deciding the orientation of the cooler is important with respect to the RAM slots.
In our installed direction only the two outermost DIMM slots were accessible to be mounted which is due to high profile of the Corsair Vengeance DDR4 Red LED with height of 54mm. As this cooler is compatible with the 48mm height RAMs, you should take a note of it. Mounting the cooler in 180° may come in contact with the space tight mini-ITX IO side and may also hinder the DDR4 slots. On the Colorful Battle Flag C.X370 X5 V14 motherboard there was enough clearance from the first PCIe x16 slot.
Let’s put this cooler to the test. The following test bench was used to test the cooler:
- AMD Ryzen 7 1700
- Colorful Battle Flag C.X370 X5 V14
- Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance Red LED 2666MHz DDR4
- HyperX 120GB SSD
- Thermaltake Smart SE 730W PSU
AIDA64 was used for the stress test and the temperature monitoring. The Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste was used to test the cooler. AMD Ryzen Master was used to control the frequency and the voltages as the BIOS was not helpful in this regard.
The 1700 was set to run at 3000MHz at 1.00V. A stress test of 30 minutes was run using the AIDA 64. Maximum CPU temperature was noted and delta temperature was calculated by subtracting the ambient temperature from the maximum CPU temperature.
Then the 1700 was set to run at 3700MHz on all 8 cores at 1.200V. Unfortunately, this motherboard was not helpful in proper overclocking the chip hence we resorted to the 3700MHz. Stress test was run for 30 minutes and temperatures were observed using the AIDA64. Delta temperature was calculated in the same way as described above.
The idle temperatures were 4.1°C delta. The under load temperature was 22.9°C delta. The temperature never crossed 51°C during the stress testing.
The idle temperature was 5.9°C on 3700MHz. Under stress test it was 42.9°C. These are delta temperatures. Under load, the temps were in 70s.
We also tested the noise output from the cooler.
Maximum noise level on the NF-A9x14 at the full speed is 25 dBA under full load. It was 12 dBA when idling.
Should You Buy It?
With the details out of the way, let’s look at who should or shouldn’t buy this cooler.
Buy It If:
You have a Space-Constrained Build: This low-profile Noctua NH-L12S cooler is ideal for Small Form Factor (SFF) and Home Theater PC (HTPC) builds with limited space.
You Need Optimal Cooling for up to 95W TDP: If your CPU has a thermal design power (TDP) of 95W or lower and you prioritize efficient cooling over overclocking, this cooler is a suitable choice.
You Prefer a Quiet Cooling Solution: With the bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan featuring Noctua’s SSO2 bearings and Low-Noise Adaptor (LNA), this cooler offers effective cooling with minimal noise.
Don’t Buy It If:
You Plan to Overclock or Use High-Wattage CPUs: This cooler is not recommended for overclocking or CPUs with a TDP higher than 95W, making it unsuitable for users seeking extreme performance.
You Require Compatibility with Tall RAM Modules: If your RAM modules are taller than 48mm, you may face clearance issues with this cooler. Consider other options if you have higher-profile RAM.
You Are Looking for a Mirror-Like Finish on the Cooler Base: The Noctua NH-L12S features a base without a polished, mirror-like finish. If aesthetics are a priority, especially for visible components, this may not be the ideal choice.
The Noctua NH-L12S, a revision of the NH-L12 CPU Cooler, surpasses its predecessor in catering to space-constrained builds like SFF/HTPC configurations. Standing at 70mm in height, it offers low-profile cooling, extending to 85mm when the fan is mounted on top. Users have the option to install a 120x120x25mm fan on the top side, increasing the cooler’s height to 95mm—take note of clearance considerations.
The cooler efficiently handles chips with up to a 95W TDP. Not recommended for higher wattage chips or overclocking, it excels within its designated limits. Measuring 146x120x70mm (DxWxH), it features 59 aluminum fins, 4x 6mm copper heat pipes, and a nickel-coated copper base—though lacking a polished finish. Noctua includes their NF-A12x15 PWM fan, with the option to mount a standard 25mm fan on the top side for enhanced cooling. The fan features Noctua’s signature brown color finish.
Clearance issues should be considered in the build, with RAM support up to 48mm and a cautionary note regarding cooler direction beyond that height.
We are thankful to the Noctua for giving us the opportunity to review their NH-L12S Low Profile CPU Cooler.
Next Up: Best Low Profile CPU Coolers in 2023
- November 11, 2023: Few text changes to improve readability. Also added image galleries.
Sajjad Hussain is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tech4Gamers.com. Apart from the Tech and Gaming scene, Sajjad is a Seasonal banker who has delivered multi-million dollar projects as an IT Project Manager and works as a freelancer to provide professional services to corporate giants and emerging startups in the IT space.
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