Small form factor (SFF) PCs, as I mentioned, are becoming more and more popular, which means that every manufacturer needs to cater for the market. Noctua presented us with the NH-L12S and NH-L9a-AM4 which we are now going to conclude and figure out whether or not it is something you aught to buy for your new SFF rig.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of both these coolers. Even though the NH-L9a-AM4 was unable to tame a 3.7 GHz overclock, I did not expect it to be able to hold it at all. The fact that it didn’t immediately throttle – it took over three minutes – was pretty epic. The NH-L12S did fare a lot better, and was able to keep the chip cool in both the stock and OC circumstances.
Both coolers represent Noctua at their finest. I’ve never known a fan or cooler from Noctua to be underwhelming in terms of performance or their overall design. As we all know, their color scheme is one which you’ll either love or you’ll hate, but I do value them as a company for sticking to their roots and letting the performance speak for itself. Anyhow, both coolers are perfectly capable of styling up your rig whilst making minimal noise. Both the NH-L12S and NH-L9a-AM4 remained next to whisper quiet throughout the testing that I put them through, even under 100% load.
Small factor PCs often come with a high price tag attached due to them being more of a niche product, but in my humble opinion, these two coolers represent great value for money. They’re roughly $40 and $50 for the NH-L9a-AM4 and NH-S12L respectively, dependent on where you shop, but they aren’t totally out of the realms of reality.
If you need an ultra-small 37mm high cooler, the NH-L9a-AM4 will not disappoint you. It can handle an 8 core with a very mild overclock as long as you don’t crank the voltage up very much at all. On the other hand, if you can spare a little more room and can install a 95mm high cooler, then the NH-S12L should also be a contender for you. It can handle a moderate overclock without breaking too much of a sweat.