Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler Review

Product: Noctua NH-L12
Company: Noctua
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: September 6th, 2012


Noctua recently released the NH-L12, a low profile C-shape heatpipe cooler targeting the HTPC and quiet application environment. Currently offered at an MSRP of $59.90, the NH-L12 features dual fans and four heatpipes. The two fans are asymmetrical, with the upper fan an NF-F12 and the lower fan an NF-B9. As can be inferred from their names, the NF-F12 is a 120mm fan (read our review here) and the NF-B9 is a 92mm fan.

Noctua is becoming renowned for their socket compatibility and easy installation. The NH-L12 continues that tradition with it's use of Secu-firm 2 mounting hardware, identical to all their other coolers but also with a special adapter kit for Intel ITX form factors that preclude backplate mounting kits. If there is a socket that this cooler doesn't fit on, it's so old it's probably not worth bothering with. The Noctua Secu-firm 2 mounting system supports LGA 2011, LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA775, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, and FM1 sockets.

In the box, which does an admirable job of containing the accessories and heatsink safely and compactly, you will find Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound and PWM fan splitter, and low noise adapters. The splitter allows both fans to be driven from the mainboard's CPU PWM fan header, and the low noise adapters allow the fans to be fan-speed capped while retaining PWM capability. By themselves the fans show their low noise high cooling chops, with the 92mm NF-B9 operating from a mere 300rpm upto 1200rpm which pushes about 55CFM at 23dBA. The NF-F12 runs from 300rpm to 1500rpm, at which speed it also pushes about 55CFM at 23dBA.

The whole unit weighs in at 680g, approximately 1lb 8oz in old money. Standing 93mm tall, 128mm wide and 150mm thick it is designed for slimline or HTPC use, and without the top fan it is a mere 66mm; around double the height of a mainboard's backplane. The quality of manufacture appears of high standard, a solid and well engineered product in hand. The fan clips are a little cumbersome on the fingertips, but are very secure in holding the fans in place.

Installation of the Noctua NH-L12 either requires a case with CPU socket backplane cut out or removal of the mainboard from the case. If you've installed a Noctua heatsink recently you'll be an old hand at this as it's a simple and smooth process to get the Secu-firm 2 mounting hardware in place. Once that's done the cooler simply and easily screws down in place with spring loaded screws, making CPU swaps or paste reapplication a simple process.

Editor's Note: Noctua contacted us with updated pricing, which we've reflected in our review.