Noctua is back with today’s review, and they have graciously sent over their new NH-D12L dual tower 120mm fan CPU cooler for us to take a look at, along with an additional NF-A12x25r fan just to see if it helps or not. Let’s see if it’s the cooler 4U!

Noctua NH-D12L: Specifications

Product page: HERE

Noctua NH-D12L: Unboxing and Closer Look

A quick look around the box. Noctua has used its traditional white box with black and brown highlights to show the model name and specifications, which looks excellent as usual.
We’re greeted with the accessory box when we first open the cooler package.

Opening it up, we can see the mounting options covering the ever-growing list of Intel and AMD sockets, as seen in the specifications above. This includes the popular Secufirm 2 mounting kit.

In total:

  • 2x NM-AMB11 Mounting Bars
  • 4x NM-APS4 Plastic Spacer for AM4
  • 4x NM-APS5 Plastic Spacer for AMD
  • 4x NM-ALS1 Screws
  • 4x Plastic Spacers NM-IPS1 [Black colour for Intel LGA 115X/1200 sockets]
  • 4x Plastic Spacers NM-IPS3 [Blue colour for Intel LGA 1700 socket]
  • 4x NM-IBT5 Bolts [LGA 115X/1200/1700]
  • 4x NM-IBT2 Bolts [LGA 20xx]
  • 4x NM-ITS1 Thumbscrews
  • 4x Long Screws
  • 6x NM-ICS1 clip-on Spacers
  • 1x NT-H1 Thermal paste
  • 1x Screw Driver
  • 2x NA-RC14 LN Adapter
  • 1x NA-YC1 Y Cable
  • 1x Metal Noctua Case Badge

The cooler arrived encapsulated in this cardboard box, which looks like it could survive being kicked around by unscrupulous courier companies.

The heatsink is a dual tower design with the NF-A12x25r PWM fan in the centre. This view of the front shows that the front tower is smaller than the second, this is to ensure better RAM compatibility/clearance.

The NH-D12L has a shorter stature of just 145mm and bridges the gap between the 120mm and 92mm models on offer from Noctua. This makes the NH-D12L a good option for ITX installs, as well as 4U server case installations, offering me the punny intro above.

As it’s shorter, Noctua has opted for 38 aluminium fins per tower, which is a fair few less than normal. For instance, the NH-A12S we took a look at recently has 50 fins. We’ll have to see how this affects performance in the testing below.

Noctua has used five 6mm copper heatpipes that are nickel plated as usual. These heatpipes are soldered to the cooler’s base for maximum heat dissipation.

The mounting plate is removable and is held in place with a central screw. Two spring-loaded screws are on either end to secure the cooler to the Secufirm 2 mounting kit.

The base is nickel-plated copper with a slight mirror finish. This photo shows the milling which is adequate. The base measures approx. 38mm squared.

Noctua includes the NF-A12x25r PWM fan with the NH-D12L heatsink. Essentially it’s an NF-A12 fan with a different housing, it’s a bit wider instead of traditionally square. This enables the clips to be positioned on the side with the rubber grommets to fit into the D12L heatsinks, because the D12L is shorter than most 120mm heatsinks and as such is only compatible with fans of this design. Expect to see them on future low-profile coolers too.

The fan itself uses Noctua’s SSO2 bearing design and terminates with a 4-pin header. It has an rpm range of 450-2000, but remember Noctua includes the NA-RC14 low-noise adapter if you wanted to keep things quieter at 1700rpm. Finally, the fan pushes approx. 60CFM at 2000rpm.

So how does the NH-D12L stack up against other 120mm coolers in the Noctua lineup? Here’s what Noctua had to say about it…

Noctua NH-D12L: Installation

The long screws are installed into the backplate and held in place with the clip-on spacers. This is then installed through the back of the motherboard.

The correct spacers for the socket are selected, in this case, the black NM-IPS1 are needed for socket LGA115X/1200.

The mounting brackets are then installed over top of the spacers and secured with the thumb screws.

The heatsink easily attaches to the Secufirm 2 mounting kit using the 2 spring-loaded screws attached to the base of the cooler. In typical Noctua fashion, it takes no time at all from start to finish.

It’s now clear why Noctua made the decision to reduce the size of the front tower to offer universal RAM clearance. Very nice!

For review and testing purposes, Noctua graciously sent over an additional A12x25r fan. Installing this on the front of the heatsink means it has to sit on top of the first 2 RAM slots. If doing this make sure there is enough clearance in the case you intend to install it in.

Noctua NH-D12L: Thermal Performance

We have decided to update the testing method accordingly for better and more consistent results. It isn’t ideal running Prime95 for a prolonged period of time and if you get called away to do something, it could be left running for much longer than needed. Our new methodology involves running a multi-threaded performance benchmark called Cinebench R23.

It should also be noted that the reason we omit acoustic/noise testing is due to an inaccuracy within the readings and method. To provide truly accurate readings, you need a lab setting with the same ambient noise on an hour-by-hour, day-by-day and week-by-week basis. As ambient noise can increase at different times of the day, we believe that it’s pointless providing noise testing if we can’t measure consistent and accurate data due to our office being a busy setting.

Test Setup

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-10700k– 3.8GHz (1.1v) & 5GHz (1.3v)
  • Motherboard – Aorus Z590 Ultra
  • GPU – Sapphire RADEON RX570 NITRO+ 8GB
  • RAM – Corsair Dominator Platinum 32GB (2x16GB) DD4 3600MHz
  • PSU – Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 850w
  • Case – Thermaltake Divider 300 TG Air Snow Mid-Tower
  • OS – Windows 11 Pro 64-bit

In addition to keeping our test setup consistent for all CPU cooling tests, we also always use the same thermal paste rather than any that comes supplied or pre-applied. Our thermal paste of choice is NT-H2 from Noctua.

Idle Testing Methodology

To test each cooler at idle, the minimum temperature is taken after leaving the PC with only start-up programs being allowed to run for 5 minutes. The mean of three tests is recorded. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.

Load Testing Methodology

To test each cooler under load, we run Cinebench R23 for 60 minutes using the multicore CPU test. The mean of three tests is recorded. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.


Noctua NH-D12L: The Verdict

Anyone who has ever heard of Noctua will expect the NH-D12L to perform well and it did! It offers excellent cooling performance out of the box, and is better, as expected, with the second fan attached. It sits firmly between the U12A and the U14S which both have bigger heatsinks. Though, we’d recommend using it as it comes out of the box without adding a second fan as the cooling performance wasn’t all that more with an additional NH-A12x25r fan attached, especially when the load/thermal output was increased.

As mentioned before, the presentation of the product itself is premium, and that quality is evident throughout. From the outer packaging to the unit itself, every single inch of the NH-D12L is constructed to the highest of standards, and it uses the Secufirm 2 mounting kit which is regarded as one of the best there is.

Noctua is synonymous with the, for lack of a better word, “traditional” beige/brown colour scheme, and its popularity, or lack thereof and the D12L is just that. It’s either a colour scheme you’ll like or not, but it’s instantly recognisable in any system.

The small size of the NH-D12L will make it popular for smaller-sized cases, like ITX, and in the 4U server race space, where cooling performance is a must, and for the performance it offers the NH-D12L should certainly make it onto your shortlist.

Especially when you consider the £79.99 asking price at Scan UK which sits this firmly between Noctua’s own line of coolers like the U12S, U14S and U12A. It really is a gold-tier product!

What’s hot:

  • Thermal performance is great.
  • Build quality & finish are excellent.
  • It’s priced in the middle of Noctua’s other products, where it matches their performance.

What’s not:

  • (Arguably) Noctua’s traditional beige/brown colour scheme.

Thanks to Noctua for sending over the NH-D12L for today’s review.

Related Reading:

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noctua-nh-d12l-reviewAnyone who has ever heard of Noctua will expect the NH-D12L to perform well and it did! It offers excellent cooling performance out of the box, and is better, as expected, with the second fan attached. It sits firmly between the U12A and the U14S which both have bigger heatsinks.

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