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Noctua NH-S12L & NH-L9a-AM4 Low Profile CPU Cooler Review

Posted November 14, 2017 by Brendan van Varik in Cooling


Price at time of Review: $49.99 $ $39.99 Respectively


Solid Cooling Performance for the Size, Excellent quality, Good Value for SFF


As always, Noctua offers an excellent option for cooling, especially in the SFF market.
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by Brendan van Varik
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Packaging & First Look

As you already saw in the intro, I gave you a sneak peek of the outer packaging for both coolers. Now it’s time to get them opened up properly, and to show you some of the thoughtfulness that goes behind packaging a Noctua cooler. You pay for premium quality in the product, but their packaging is no exception either. The NH-L12S has more packaging to it, so let’s begin with that one and then I shall move on to the teeny tiny NH-L9a-AM4.

The outer box gives you an overview of the cooler and its features, but it is what the inside looks like that intrigues us the most. I mean, that is where the cooler sits after all. Within the box, you’ll find an accessories box and the protective cardboard shell that sits around the cooler itself. There is another bit which separates the two, but I left it out as I thought it was better to show you the clamshell rather than a standard bit of cardboard with a cut out for the base plate.

As this cooler can be used on such a variety of sockets, ranging from LGA 115* to 20**, AM* and FM* sockets, you get all of the mounting kit provided in the accessories box. We will of course only be using the AMD mounting kit today, but it is nice to see the options regardless if we use them or not. You’ll also find a low-noise adapter (LNA), some NT-H1 thermal paste (which is superb!) and the various mounting kits, along with the manual dependent on which socket you’re installing the cooler on. Oh, they also provide you with a screw driver (seen on the left) which is a nice extra touch and a case badge too for those of you that are into those things. Most of us have the required tooling, but in case you don’t, at least Noctua have you covered in that respect.

Now… now is when we start to get to the good stuff. Here we begin to see the NH-L12S in its miniature-ish glory. You can see that the packaging will ensure that your cooler arrives with no damage – they even protect the fan with an additional piece of cardboard. Talk about going overboard, right…? That’s exactly what I am talking about and now you can see what I mean.

Now that all of the cardboard is out of the way, we can see the cooler fully for the first time. Note that this is how you will receive the cooler, with the fan located underneath the heatsink and pushing the air through it. I will test a few different scenarios later on… I’ve got you covered!

As previously mentioned, the fan orientation will push the air through the heatsink and out into the chassis rather than sucking it through the fins and dispersing the air over your motherboard. There are a couple of added benefits to this direction of airflow. The main benefit is that it draws air from surrounding components and aids in the cooling of those, as well as keeping your CPU cooler with thanks to the PCB surrounding it being cooler too.

That’s enough of big-mini, time to look at mini-mini! This is the really small one that I am really looking forward to seeing how it does in the temperature tests later on. For now, though, let’s take a quick look at the interior packaging of the NH-L9a-AM4 and find out what we have on our hands.

Initially, you’ll see just the fan poking out of the foam insert, coupled with the NT-H1 thermal paste, four screws to secure the cooler, a case badge, and the low-noise adapter (LNA). I feel like this is a lot of repetition, but it is what comes with all Noctua coolers. Due to the fact that the L9a-AM4 does not use the traditional AM4 mounting mechanism, you also receive one more suited to this cooler from Noctua in the bottom of the box.

Here’s our first look at this tiny, 37mm high cooler. That height includes the fan, by the way. For anyone wondering how on Earth this thing will keep an 8 core, 16 thread CPU cool… you’re not alone. I too wonder how it will do.

Attention to detail is key when selling high-end products, which is why there is this gorgeous cover over the fin array, and can be found on either end. They do unscrew, for what purpose I am unsure, but you can most likely customize them if you’re so inclined. I am not, as I lack every form of artistic skill imaginable.

Let’s check out the test bed and hardware, before storming on to the results. Forward, Capt’n!


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