Introduction

Noctua originates from collaboration between the Austrian Rascom Computer distribution Ges.m.b.H. and the Taiwanese cooling specialist Kolink International Corporation, pooling more than thirty years of experience in the development, manufacturing and marketing of high-end cooling components. Established in 2005, Noctua took international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise-conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class-leading quiet cooling performance.

Noctua has sent us their NH-L12S low profile CPU Cooler for the 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 fan. When the fan is installed under the heatsink, the height of this cooler is 70mm making it ideal for the Small Form Factor / HTPC builds where space constraints limit the use of regular cooler. Coming from Noctua, this cooler is not only suitable for these builds but with optimal cooling performance.

  • Item: NH-L12S
  • Manufacturer: Noctua
  • Price: $49.90 at the time of the review

Specifications

Packaging and Contents

The cooler is shipped inside a cardboard box with Noctua’s typical branding. The front side of the box has the model of the cooler printed on the top side. There is a silver sticker pasted with the text, successor to the award winning NH-L12. Salient features are printed under the model. Noctua brand name and logo are printed on the bottom. Backside of the box has cooler’s features printed in 8 languages. The left side has the specifications printed on it. The right side has features of the cooler printed on it. The top side has cooler’s model no printed on the left side with features printed on the right side. Noctua’s brand name and logo are printed on the bottom. Opening the main box would show the accessories box in typical brown color. Removing it will show the cooler nicely and securely packed inside the cardboard box. Contents of the accessory box are printed on the top side of the box.

Contents

These include:
Noctua Metal Badge
1x Screwdriver
1x NT-H1 Thermal Compound
1x LNA NA-RC7
2x AMD Mounting Bars NM-AMB11
4x NM-ALS1 Screws for AMD
4x NM-APS4 plastic spacers for the AM4
4x NM-APS5 plastic spacers for the AM2+/AM3+/FM1/FM2+
4x NM-APS1 Plastic Spacers
1x NM-IBP2 Backplate for Intel LGA non 2011
4x NM-IPS1 spacers for Intel
4x NM-ITS1 Thumbscrews
4x NM-IBT2 Bolts for LGA 2011
2x NM-IMB3 Mounting Bars

Closer look

The Noctua NH-L12S is a low profile CPU Cooler ideal for the space constrained chassis particularly in SFF/HTPC builds. It is a revision of their NH-L12 with betterment coming from featured 120mm fan as compared to the 92mm fan in the NH-L12 along with the better flexibility, clearance and the functionality. Here is what the Noctua has to say about this cooler, “Successor to the award-winning NH-L12, the NH-L12S is a compact low-profile CPU cooler that combines excellent compatibility, surprising efficiency and remarkable flexibility. Thanks to its NF-A12x15 PWM, slim 120mm fan, the NH-L12S provides even better quiet cooling performance than the previous model with its 92mm fan. At the same time, the NH-L12S is highly versatile: with the fan installed on top of the fins, the cooler is compatible with RAM modules of up to 48mm in height. With the fan installed underneath the fins, the total height of the cooler is only 70mm, making it suitable for use in many HTPC and Small Form Factor cases. Topped off with the trusted, pro-grade SecuFirm2™ multi-socket mounting system, Noctua’s proven NT-H1 thermal compound and a full 6-year manufacturer’s warranty, the NH-L12S is a premium-quality low-profile solution for the highest demands.”

Let’s dig this cooler and see what it has to offer. The cooler is in L shape design with the two parts interconnected using the heatpipes. The top side is the heatsink with 59 aluminum fins. The dimension of the cooler is 146x128x70mm (DxWxH) with/without the fan. The fan is preinstalled using two metal clips. The top side of the heatsink has four fin jointed assembly parts which are directly above the heat pipes going through the finstack. There are 3 cutouts right below the mid-section of the finstack. The left and right most cutouts are to access the spring loaded screws. The middle cutout is to access the screw securing the mounting bar on to the base. You can install the cooler with the fan pre-installed in which case you would have rotate the blades to make space so that bundled screw driver could make it to the screws. This finstack is less dense as compared to what we saw on the NH-L9a-AM4 cpu cooler. Fan can be mounted on the underside or above the heatsink. Mounting the fan above the heatsink would increase the height of the cooler to the 85mm. Keep in mind this for space constraint builds. The left and the right sides of the heatsink are identical. They are grooved or indented from the middle. This is the design time consideration to mount the metal clips to the heatsink. The front of the cooler has Noctua brand name and logo carved in the middle. Four heat pipes are coming out of the finstack and terminating here. The rear side of the heatsink shows the 4 heat pipes going inside the heatsink at regular distances. There are cutouts right above the place where heatpipes make contact with the heatsink. They are bending down making their way to the base area. 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. The base is also made of copper finished in nickel coating. It is not a polish, mirror finish like. The base is a part of the larger block housing the mounting on its top. The mounting bar has two spring loaded screws which are used to secure the cooler on the Secu-Firm2 mounting hardware. The base is covered with a protective plastic box. The mounting bar has a code of NM-IFB4.

Noctua has bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan with the cooler. This fan has a dimension of 120x120x15mm. This cooler has a provision for mounting regular 25mm fan on the top side of the heatsink to enhance the cooling performance. The fan is featuring the Noctua’s own SSO2 bearings. The fan is rated at maximum speed of 1850 RPM (±10%). Using bundled LNA, the speed rating is 1400 (±10%). The minimum speed rating is 450 RPM (±20%). Maximum airflow rating is 94.2 m³/h. Using the bundled LNA, the maximum airflow rating is 70.8 m³/h. Maximum sound level rating is 23.9 dBA(A) which can be further reduced to 16.8 dB(A) using the supplied LNA. The fan takes input power of 1.56W with 0.13A. MTTF rating is ˃150,000.

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.

Installation

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. Next, 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. One is the short length ones with the code NM-AMB10 and the other is a set of two long NM-AMB11. Refer to the manual to determine which one is to be used for what direction of cooler’s mounting. 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 gay 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.

Test Bench

The following test bench was used to test the cooler:

  • AMD Ryzen 1700
  • Colorful Battle Flag C.X370 X5 V14
  • Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance Red LED 2666MHz DDR4
  • HyperX 120GB SSD
  • Thermaltake Smart SE 730W PSU [Thanks to the PakDukaan]

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.

Testing Methodology

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.

Results

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.

Maximum noise level on the NF-A9x14 at the full speed is 25 dBA under full load. It was 12 dBA when idling.

Conclusion

The Noctua NH-L12S is a revision of their famous NH-L12 CPU Cooler. NH-L12 has been Noctua’s premium cooling solution for SFF/HTPC builds which has been overtaken by the new NH-L12S. This is a low profile cooler with 70mm of height with the fan installed under the heatsink. Its height will be further increased if the fan is installed on the top of the heatsink in which case it would be 85mm. As user can also mount 120x120x25mm fan on the top side only of the heatsink, the overall height of the cooler would be 95mm. Make a note on the clearance if going that route. This cooler is specifically designed to meet the needs of space constrained builds. The SFF (Small Form Factor) and HTPC builds are a prime candidate to host this cooler. This cooler is designed to provide optimal cooling for chip up to 95W TDP. Noctua is not recommending to use this cooler for any higher Watts chips and even not suitable for the overclocking. From this perspective only, this cooler has performed well on our test build.
This cooler has dimension of 146x120x70mm (DxWxH) with/without the fan (when the fan is installed under the heatsink). It packs 59 aluminum fins. It has 4x 6mm copper heat pipes in nickel coating. The base is made of copper and finished in nickel coating. The base does not have a polish, mirror like finish. Noctua has bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan with the cooler. This fan has a dimension of 120x120x15mm. This cooler has a provision for mounting regular 25mm fan on the top side of the heatsink to enhance the cooling performance. The fan is featuring the Noctua’s own SSO2 bearings. The fan is rated at maximum speed of 1850 RPM (±10%). Using bundled LNA, the speed rating is 1400 (±10%). The minimum speed rating is 450 RPM (±20%). Maximum airflow rating is 94.2 m³/h. Using the bundled LNA, the maximum airflow rating is 70.8 m³/h. Maximum sound level rating is 23.9 dBA(A) which can be further reduced to 16.8 dB(A) using the supplied LNA. The fan takes input power of 1.56W with 0.13A. MTTF rating is ˃150,000. The fan has a 4 pin PWM connector with cable length of 200mm approximately. The fan is in typical Noctua brown color format. There are 4 anti-vibration paddings on each of the mounting corner of the fan on both sides. Fan takes 0.13Amps.

The cooler is rated at $49.90 at the time of the review. A bit costly given its size but it has performed very well on our test build. Noctua is providing their legendary 6 years warranty on this cooler which is showing their confidence in this product. There are certain clearance and compatibility issues which should be kept in mind when planning the build. Cooler supports RAM up to 48mm with 100% clearance. Above that you would need to be careful with the direction of the cooler. We are thankful to the Noctua for giving us the opportunity to review their NH-L12S Low Profile CPU Cooler.

 

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