Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler for Intel - Test Setup and Testing

Article Index
Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler for Intel
Features and Specifications
Closer Look and Installation
Test Setup and Testing
Final Thoughts and Conclusion


Test Setup:

For this cooler we had to pull out a different system altogether as it is only rated for a maximum of 65w and our other cooling rig can generate as much as 130w under load.  For this review we used a new Ivy Bridge Core i3 3220 CPU that is clocked up at 3.3GHz.  This cooler is for specific low-heat applications as it has such a low profile.  After comparing this cooler to the stock cooler, I think you'll agree that it is certainly a step up from stock cooling, but it certainly won't work for every processor.

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 this test, I installed the motherboard in a case, but left the side off to best simulate the results we see with our other cooling reviews on the Highspeed PC Top Deck Tech Station.  There was no other cooling used in our testing.  All temperatures are recorded in a controlled environment that is set to 23 degrees Celcius (73.4 Fahrenheit) to provide fair results between coolers.

In this test, I used the Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste that came in the package for both the stock cooler as well as the Noctua cooler to keep everything fair between the two.

Intel Low TDP Test System:


For our testing of the Noctua NH-L9i, we only had the stock cooler to compare it to.  We ran the fan on the main motherboard connector, but entered into a manual fan control mode so that we could directly control the speed of the fan to keep everything equal.  We ran the stock cooler at maximum RPM (~2040 rpm) and then at the slowest speed we could select (~1045 rpm).

The Noctua cooler required similar settings, but it's maximum speed topped out around 2650 rpm with the lowest motherboard selection weighing in at 1730 rpm.  We also used the low-noise adapter included with this HSF to further slow things down to 950 rpm.  We have all the results below.

Performance Chart

As you can see, at the absolute lowest settings on both coolers, the Noctua cooler still comes in 3.5°C cooler than the stock cooler, but when they are allowed to run on a more standard setting, Noctua talks away with a 7.5°C performance lead.  This perhaps is nothing to jump up and down about with excitement, but it is nice to see some good performance gains - without any addition noise gains.

Both of these coolers are virtually silent throughout testing and while the Noctua spins up a bit faster at maximum speed, the overall design of the cooler and fan keep the noise level to a minimum.  I was impressed to see the Noctua keep a Core i3-3220 running Prime95 at a mere 48°C.  This cooler does have some room to run.

Overall for the price, I'd say the Noctua NH-L9i is pushing the value line pretty thin. Yes, it's cooling performance is better than the "free" included stock cooler, but it does cost $50 at time of publication.  That being said, if you are running into thermal issues in your ITX case, it probably will be a life saver.

In the next section we'll go over our final thoughts and give the NH-L9i a final score.