Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile CPU Cooler Review

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Noctua NH-L12S feature

Introduction & Closer Look

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When it comes to low profile CPU air coolers, few attained as many awards and accolades as the NH-L12 from Noctua. Not content with resting on it’s laurels, Noctua have launched it’s successor… the NH-L12S.

Noctua NH-L12S box

One thing that always strikes me about any product from Noctua, is that you really do feel that you have a premium product in your hands, and that extends to the packaging also. Even the accessories come packaged in their own little box, nicely printed with all the contents.

Noctua NH-L12S accessories

The low profile design of the NH-L12S extends to the fan, as well as the fin stack. Here we have the 120mm NF-A12x15 pre-installed in the low-profile mode, whereby it’s fitted below the fin stack, directing air up and away from the CPU. This PWM fan has a maximum RPM of 1850, but that can be limited to 1400 RPM if you use the included low noise adaptor cable.

Noctua NH-L12S fan

The low profile fin stack itself is a work of art, with tightly packed aluminium fins providing the largest surface area possible for it’s relatively small dimensions. Affixing the cooler to the motherboard is achieved by screwing down through the stack itself, hence the gaps between the fins shown in the picture below.

Noctua NH-L12S fins

Four substantial copper heat pipes connect the fin stack to the base itself, all finished off beautifully in nickel plate. Attention to detail is of the highest quality, right down to the solder points at the base of each pipe.

Noctua NH-L12S heatpipes

The NH-L12S features Noctua’s SecuFirm2 mounting system, and supports the following sockets:

Intel

LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150

AMD

AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required)

Specifications

Cooler

  • Height (without fan) 70 mm
  • Width (without fan) 128 mm
  • Depth (without fan) 146 mm
  • Height (with fan) 70 mm
  • Width (with fan) 128 mm
  • Depth (with fan) 146 mm
  • Weight (without fan) 390 g
  • Weight (with fan/s) 520 g
  • Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating

Fan

  • Model 1x Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM
  • Bearing SSO2
  • Rotational Speed (+/- 10%) 1850 RPM
  • Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 1400 RPM
  • Rotational Speed (PWM, +/-20%) 450 RPM
  • Airflow 94,2 m³/h
  • Airflow with L.N.A. 70,8 m³/h
  • Acoustical Noise 23,9 dB(A)
  • Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 16,8 dB(A)
  • Input Power 1,56 W
  • Voltage Range 12 V
  • MTTF > 150.000 h

Thermal Performance

Since our previous cooling reviews prior to November 2016, we have decided to update the method accordingly for better and 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 very stressful multi-threaded performance benchmark called ROG RealBench.

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

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-H1 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 on Windows 10 being allowed to run for 5 minutes. After this, the minimum temperature with the core temperature being offset against the room temperature; thus achieving delta.

Load Testing Methodology

To load test, we run RealBench while selecting the heavy multitasking benchmark only. We run this a maximum of 3 times concurrently and the maximum temperature recorded is taken. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.

Results

Noctua NH-L12S 4.2Ghz idle

Noctua NH-L12S 4.2Ghz load

Noctua NH-L12S 4.5Ghz idle

Noctua NH-L12S 4.5Ghz load

Conclusion

Performance

The NH-L12S was never going to trouble the big hitters at the top of our charts. For starters it’s an air cooler, and its low profile dimensions are designed for small form factor builds. However, it certainly didn’t embarrass itself… quite the contrary, under stock settings it was only bested by one other air cooler we have previously tested, the Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi. It slipped down the charts a couple of places during overclocked tests, but this really isn’t where this cooler is supposed to be operating anyway.

Design

Noctua’s infamous brown & cream colourway for their fans always splits opnion. What cannot be denied, is that this is one beautifully engineered piece of equipment. Build quality & materials are superb.

The ability to mount the fan either above, or below the fin stack is also a great addition. With our Crucial Ballistix RAM fitted to our test bench, I was forced to use the NH-L12S in high clearance mode as shown below.

Noctua NH-L12S ram clearance

Value

At the time of writing, the NH-L12S can be purchased for £45 in the UK. For this level of performance, engineering and design, that is fantastic value for money. To top it all off, you even get a good amount of Noctua’s NT-H1 thermal paste included too, which is a firm favourite here at Play3r.

Final Thoughts

As an air cooler alone, the NH-L12S is a fantastic buy for anyone. The fact that it’s designed for small form factor builds, means that if this is the kind of cooler you need, you would be mad not to seriously consider it. It will come as no surprise that Noctua’s latest offering gets the Play3r Platinum award.

Platinum Award - Play3r

Huge thanks to Noctua for sending the NH-L12S in for review

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

Pros:

- Superb design & build quality
- Top notch performance for an air cooler
- Flexibility to mount fan above or below fin stack
- NT-H1 thermal paste included

Cons:

- Brown & cream fan colour will still divide opinion

4.7

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