Noctua NH-L12 Low Profile CPU Cooler - Testing

Article Index
Noctua NH-L12 Low Profile CPU Cooler
Final Thoughts


Noctua NH-L12 - Testing:

Test Setup:

For Intel (LGA1336) testing we will be using the Intel Core i7 920 CPU, which produces 130 Watts of heat. This could be considered a mid-range processor, and while most Dual-Core processors produce ~50-80 Watts of heat, this should give you a pretty accurate estimate of what type of temperatures a cooler will provide you with.

For both AMD and Intel testing, we have taken all temperatures using CoreTemp v.0.99.4. CoreTemp takes a temperature from the CPU core, and allows for much more uniform results across different motherboard and CPU platforms. These temperatures may seem higher than other temperature recordings; because chances are they are taking temperature recordings using the diode underneath the CPU, which isn't able to be as accurate, and can really fluctuate between different brands of motherboards.

For all tests we are using the Highspeed PC Top Deck Tech Station , and we are using no additional cooling in our testing. All temperatures are recorded in a controlled environment that is set to 23 degrees Celsius (73.4 Fahrenheit) to provide fair results between coolers.

For all tests we use Arctic Cooling MX-2 High-Performance Thermal Compound (Paste), We use the same thermal paste in all our testing so that we can keep our results consistent. If a cooler is shipped with thermal paste pre-applied, it will be removed and we will re-apply it with Arctic Cooling MX-2 to provide fair results.


Intel Test System:


Test #1 - Fans on low speed setting

To start things off we will give the NH-L12 a run with the fans turned down low (~700 RPM)


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Ok, so after testing the fans on low we can see that the performance isn't going to set any records when compared to some of the much larger coolers we've tested in the past. Overall though for a cooler as small as the NH-L12 is, and with the fans turned down that low, I must say the results are quite decent. While running the fans at this low of a level you would probably be unable to detect any noise from them over other system noise.

Let's turn the fans up a bit and see what happens in the next section.


Test #2 - Fans on high speed setting

For this test we are going to run the fans at their highest speeds (~1500 RPM)


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Once the fans are turned up to their highest settings we see a pretty good performance increase. When compared to other coolers we've tested in the past these results are actually pretty good (you can see the full chart at the bottom of this page). While they didn't set any records they did reduce our stock temperatures by 11 degrees and was able to keep up with some coolers we've tested that are much larger.

The end results of this test actually left me pleasantly surprised. Normally when a cooler claims to be "low-profile" that is a pretty good sign that the performance is going to be terrible, but in the NH-L12's case that was not true at all.


Test #3 - Only one fan (92mm Bottom Fan) Installed

For this test we have removed the 120mm fan off the top and let the lower 92mm fan do all the work.


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Ok, so for this test we really weren't expecting much, and as you can see in the chart above, the performance wasn't great. To be fair trying to have a 92mm fan cool a 130 Watt CPU is a pretty tough task and the fact that it was able to do it at all was a nice surprise. If you need to remove the top fan and run it using only the lower fan we would definitely recommend using a lower wattage CPU.

We didn't include these results in the next chart that puts this cooler up against all the others we've tested over the last couple years.


Test #4 - Comparison Chart


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So there we go, we've seen what the NH-L12 can do performance-wise, let's move onto the final section of this review where we provide our final thoughts and award a final score.