Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler Review

By on July 15, 2012
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Low profile supremacy.

Good: The cooler can sit as low as 66mm in height with just one fan, one of the most silent heatsinks tested under load thanks to Low Noise Adapters and has decent airflow to keep temperatures generally cool.
Bad: Not designed for high-end CPUs or high overclocking.
Price: AED 280
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Noctua has quickly risen to the top of every PC enthusiasts list when it comes to cooling solution for their processors, and for good reasons too. Their carefully developed products, whether it’s uniquely designed system chassis fan for targeted airflow, or the varied designs of heatsinks for different types of chassis, along with incredible level of compatibility with CPU sockets, have earned them the reputation as one of the most proactive cooling solutions firm in the world.

The NH-L12 Low Profile Cooler

Of course, cooling products being their primary focus, one would expect nothing less from them. And so today I’ll be looking at the latest entry from the Austrian/Taiwanese firm, the Noctua NH-L12. Based on the similar concept of the NH-C14, the NH-L12 has a horizontal heatsink, with fans on the top and bottom. Measuring just 93 x 150 x 128mm, the Noctua NH-L12’s height can be brought down to just 66mm with just the bottom fan attached.


Intended specifically for HTPCs and those systems based on mini and micro-ATX sized motherboards, the Noctua NH-L12 was designed to fit in tight spaces. The NF-F12 (120mm) and NF-B9 (92mm) fans have PWM compatibility that allows you to control the fan speeds via the BIOS. While both the 120mm and 92mm fans run at a 1500RPM and 1600RPM max, respectively, the supplied Low Noise Adapters help bring down seeds to a whisper quiet 1200RPM and 1300RPM respectively. The 92mm fan attaches to the underside of the heatsink, while the 120mm fan sits nicely on top.

Inside The Box

Open up the neatly packaged cooler, inside we’ll find both the fans attached to the heatsink along with another box of accessories to help fit everything. First we have the Intel set (compatible with sockets LGA2011, LGA1366, LGA1155/6, and LGA775) and the AMD set (compatible with sockets AM2+, AM3+ and FM1). There are 4x mini-ITX mounting bolts along with 4x screws in case you want setup one of the fans on the case. The two Low Noise Adapters for each of the fans are also included, as well as an extension cable and a Y-splitter cable to connect both fans onto one onboard CPU cooler connector.

Last, but not least, are the NT-H1 thermal compound, L-shaped Philips screwdriver, the instruction manuals and the metal Noctua case badge.

The Testbed

Connecting the Noctua NH-L12 took just under 5 minutes on our resident testbed, whose specs you can see below.


Now that everything is setup, let’s see how it performs. I’ve included both the stock temperature readings of the NH-L12 as well as those with the L.N.A cables attached which resulted in the fans barely being heard. For reference, at stock settings the maximum recorded speed was 1700RPM, but with the L.N.A attached maximum recorded speed was 1160RPM.

But before I go ahead, let me just mention that apart from testing the Core i7-2600K at default speeds of 3.4GHz, it was also tested at overclocked speeds of 4.7GHz @ 1.45v which is considerably high voltage generating a fairly higher amount of heat than stock settings. The regular suite of Cinebench R11.5 and 7-Zip (ran four times) and Prime95 (running for 30 minutes) was used.


While the numbers are admittedly not as impressive, our test CPU is one of the highest-end CPUs on the market, and the 1.45v overclock (for 4.7GHz) is very high. For HTPCs and smaller chassis, such a processor simply shouldn’t be used. Neither would you be overclocking an HTPC, and as such only the stock figures, with and without the Low Noise Adapter should be considered.

This obviously changes the picture somewhat, and in this new light the performance figures are not too shabby, considering how small the NH-L12 really is. And let’s not forget the complete silence (with the L.N.A) with which this heatsink operates in. The Noctua NH-L12 may have slightly higher than average temperatures, but it’s also easily twice as small and much, much quieter than the bigger, performance oriented heatsinks.


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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