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 new NH-L9a-AM4 compact, low profile cooler for the review. This is a revision of their NH-L9a cooler specifically for the AM4 based CPUs with recommended use inside the HTPC and SFF builds. It has a height of mere 37mm including fan making it ideal for the small form factor builds with narrow space. Its relatively small size makes it ideal when it comes to the clearance from RAM and PCIe slots. We will be testing this cooler on Ryzen 1700 chip.

  • Product: NH-L9a-AM4
  • Manufacturer: Noctua
  • Price: $36 [At the time of the review]

Specifications

Packaging and Unboxing

The cooler comes inside a relatively compact size packaging box made of cardboard box. It has a typical Noctua branding on it. The top side has cooler’s model no and salient features printed on it. There is a rounded silver color sticker pasted on it with the text “New Revision for socket AM4”. Noctua brand name and logo are printed on the bottom side. The bottom side of the box has features of the cooler printed in 8 languages with top one being in the English. Dimensions of the cooler are printed on the right side under the AMD text. The left side of the box has specifications printed on it. The right side highlights the salient features on it. The backside of the box has UP and EAN label stickers printed. Opening the box shows the excellent presentation of the package. Noctua has our praise on such an eye pleasuring presentation. The opening side has user manual tucked inside the cut-outs. There is a black color Styrofoam padding covering the cooler from its borders. Noctua’s metal badge is placed on the top of the cooler. NT-H1 is placed on the right side. 4x screws are tucked inside the Styrofoam. The left most item is the LNA. On the center we can see the fan of the cooler. Removing the Styrofoam padding would show the cooler nicely placed inside the white color cardboard packing. There is another set of screws on its left side.

Contents

Contents of the package are: –
1x NM-ABP4 backplate
2x NM-AFB6 fastening brackets
4x NM-ABT1 mounting-screw
1x NA-RC7 LN Adapter
User Guide

Closer Look

Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 is a new revision of their NH-L9a CPU Cooler. This revision is made specifically for AMD Ryzen platform. This is low profile cooler coming with just 37mm of height with the fan making it suitable for the Ryzen based SFF and HTPC builds to counter the space constraint yet being able to provide adequate cooling at comfortable sound levels. Here is what the Noctua has to say about it, “The NH-L9a-AM4 is the latest, AM4-specific revision of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9a low-profile CPU cooler for AMD Ryzen-based HTPCs and Small Form Factor (SFF) systems. At a height of only 37mm, the NH-L9a is ideal for extremely slim cases and, due to its small footprint, it provides 100% RAM and PCIe compatibility as well as easy access to near-socket connectors even on tightly packed mini-ITX motherboards. The custom-designed SecuFirm2™ mounting system for the AM4 socket makes installation child’s play and, thanks to the highly optimised NF-A9x14 92mm fan that supports fully automatic speed control via PWM, the NH-L9a-AM4 runs remarkably quietly. Topped off with Noctua’s renowned NT-H1 thermal compound, the NH-L9a-AM4 combines everything users have come to expect from Noctua’s larger coolers into a super-compact, premium-quality package for ITX and HTPC builds with Ryzen CPUs or APUs.”

The cooler comes pre-assembled with the fan and the NM-AFB6 fastening brackets. The dimension of the cooler is 92x114x37mm (DxWxH) including the fan. The dimension of the heatsink only is 92x114x23mm (DxWxH). This cooler is compatible with AMD’s AM4 bracket only. For non Ryzen based sockets, get NH-L9a cooler. Cooler has 64 aluminum fins on it. This is a dense pack fitting for such a size hence we would need a fan with adequate static pressure and high airflow for optimal cooling performance. Without the fan, we can clearly see the heat pipes and the bottom mounted fastening brackets in X shape. The top and the bottom side of the finstack are identical. The left and right sides of the heatsink are identical and this is where the fins are jointed together. This cooler has two 6mm copper base heatpipes in nickel coating. Both pipes are in U shape implementation and are placed in series inside the heatsink. The heatsink weighs 390gm without the fan. There are two aluminum made plates on the front and the rear side of the heatsink. The front of these plates has Noctua brand name and logo carved on their face in the middle. From the front side we can see the heat pipes coming out of the heatsink and terminating in tip pointy shape. The rear side plate has two rounded holes. We can see the heat pipes through these holes. Probably, this is for the aesthetic purpose to create symmetry in design and for more airflow through the heatsink. These plates are screwed from the center to the bottom mounted aluminum plate which is a part of the cooler’s base. These plates have extended arms on the top side of the cooler with hole on each arm. This is where the fan is mounted on the cooler. On the bottom side of the heatsink, we can see the 2x NM-AFB6 fastening brackets preinstalled on the cooler using two screws per bracket. Noctua has taken care of the hassle that a user could face and made the installation procedure easier by doing the cooler’s preparation task in the factory. We have a copper base in nickel coating. It is not polished, mirror like finish.

Now that we have taken a look at the heatsink, let’s take a look at the fan. Noctua has bundled NF-A9X14 pwm fan with the cooler. This fan has the dimension of 92x92x14mm where 14mm is the height of the fan. A 92x92x25mm fan can also be mounted on this cooler and Noctua has provided 4x long screws in the box for this purpose. Their attention to detail is amazing with preference for user convenience. This fan has SSo2 bearings which are Noctua’s own design and hallmark of their technological pinnacle. The fan has a maximum speed of the 2500 ±10% RPM. The fan’s speed is 1800 ±10% RPM with LNA. The maximum static pressure is 2.11 mmH₂O which is 1.06 mmH₂O using the LNA. The fan has an input power of 2.52W at 12V DC. The maximum airflow rating is 33.86 CFM which is 24.03 CFM using LNA. The maximum sound level is 23.6 dBA which is 14.8 dBA using the LNA. The fan has a 4 pin PWM connector with cable length of 210mm 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. There is a sticker pasted on the backside with Noctua brand name and logo on the top. Company’s website address is printed as well as the country of design information. Fan takes 0.21Amps. The cooler is designed to work only in push or pull configuration. Two fans are not possible.

Installation

We have used Colorful Battle Flag C.X370 X5 V14 motherboard with Ryzen 1700 chip. In order to install this cooler, user must have to first remove the stock backplate on the AMD motherboard. Once, the stock backplate is taken off, place the provided backplate with the cooler on the backside of the motherboard. Do it such as the insulation side of the backplate faces the motherboard. Apply the thermal paste on the CPU after cleaning the surface of the IHS. Now carefully, place the cooler on the CPU by aligning the holes on the fastening brackets with the holes on the socket zone. Now, place the NM-ABT1 screws from backside of the motherboard through the backplate and pass them through the mounting holes on the NM-AFB6 fastening brackets. This is a bit tricky part as our motherboard was not inside a chassis and we had to put the motherboard with backside facing up. Screw the NB-ABT1 in cross diagonal pattern for even pressure. The last step would be to plug the 4-pin power connector of the fan on the CPU fan header.

Compatibility and the Clearance

The Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 is a compact cooler with the dimension of 92x114x37mm (DxWxH) with the fan making it to have a superb clearance with respect to the DIMM Slots, first PCIe slot and socket zone. It has no clearance issue with respect to RAM of any height. There is enough clearance for the first PCIe slot to install any graphics card on it. Mostly ITX boards are tightly packed which makes the large size heatsinks to cover the socket zone making it inconvenient or impossible to access the near socket components but this cooler, thanks to its size, has no such limitation and near socket components are accessible even after its installation.

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 5.4°C delta. The under load temperature was 25.9°C delta. The temperature was in 50s during the stress testing.

The idle temperature was 7.4°C on 3700MHz. Under stress test it was 51.4°C. These are delta temperatures.

Maximum noise level on the NF-A9x14 at the full speed is 28 dBA under full load. It was 14 dBA when idling.

Conclusion

The Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 is a new revision of their famous NH-L9a CPU Cooler for AMD sockets. This revision is specifically made for the AM4 socket hence making this cooler compatible with the AM4 only. This is a compact, low profile cooler with 37mm of height with the fan. This cooler is specifically designed to meet the needs of space constrained builds based on Ryzen platform. The SFF (Small Form Factor) and HTPC builds featuring AMD Ryzen are a prime candidate to host this cooler. This cooler is designed to provide ample 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 92x114x37mm (DxWxH) with the fan. Without fan the dimension is 92x114x23mm (DxWxH). This small footprint brings in many advantages which are 100% clearance for RAM of any height, 100% clearance for the first PCIe slot, and last but not the least, clearance for near socket components on the mini-ITX motherboards. Don’t even think for a second that cooler of this much small footprint would not be adequate for the cooling requirements as this cooler has performed well from noise-to-performance ratio. It packs 64 aluminum fins forming a dense heatsink. It has two 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 provided a NF-A9x14 PWM fan with this cooler. This fan has the dimension of 92x92x14mm where 14mm is the height of the fan. A 92x92x25mm fan can also be mounted on this cooler and Noctua has provided 4x long screws in the box for this purpose. Their attention to detail is amazing with preference for user convenience. This fan has SSo2 bearings which are Noctua’s own design and hallmark of their technological pinnacle. The fan has a maximum speed of the 2500 ±10% RPM. The fan’s speed is 1800 ±10% RPM with LNA. The maximum static pressure is 2.11 mmH₂O which is 1.06 mmH₂O using the LNA. The fan has an input power of 2.52W at 12V DC. The maximum airflow rating is 33.86 CFM which is 24.03 CFM using LNA. The maximum sound level is 23.6 dBA which is 14.8 dBA using the LNA. The fan has a 4 pin PWM connector with cable length of 210mm 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 0.21Amps. The cooler is designed to work only in push or pull configuration. Two fans are not possible.

The cooler is rated at $36 at the time of the review. A bit costly given its size but if you are not overclocking then this is probably a better solution over the stock coolers on non-X chips. The cooler has performed well on our test build. For chassis fitted motherboards, the installation process is easier than installing it on the motherboard not installed. This is our own only complaint (miner) with this cooler. Noctua is providing their legendary 6 years warranty on this cooler which is showing their confidence in this product. We are thankful to the Noctua for giving us the opportunity to review their NH-L9a-AM4 Low Profile CPU Cooler.

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