Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler for Intel


Product: Noctua NH-L9i LGA 115X CPU Cooler
Provided By: Noctua
Price: ~$49.99 Online


It has been a long time since I took a look at a Nocta product and today I've got the Noctua NH-L9i low-profile cooler on the bench.  This cooler is not the typical high-end unit that we've all come to expect from Noctua.  This little cooler is designed for mid-range and entry-level platforms that generate a maximum of 65W of heat.  Noctua doesn't skimp on accessories or quality though.  This cooler comes ready to rock in a nice box that has Noctua's professional presentation.

Cooling companies have really stepped things up in terms of overall presentation and consumers - even enthusiasts have come to expect more than the traditional brown-box that make Thermalright famous back in the 2000's.

Box Front
Box Front

Box Back
Box Back


Just as with every cooler that we review, we will install this on test bench and then keep  everything fair and equal between the coolers.  As we are building a new low-power platform for this cooler, we won't have any major comparisons with other coolers.  We will have only the stock cooler at this point to compare with, but that is a good place to start right?

Box Open


First Impressions:

Right off the bat, the Noctua NH-L9i is impressive.  It comes in a very attractive box with the classic Noctua colors and once you open the box, it gets even more slick.  Everything is laid out in such a way that it feels like you are opening a nobel prize worthy product.  Everything is clearly laid out and securely held in place by the closed cell foam.  As I mentioned before, it's been quite a while since I opened a Noctua product and they are certainly setting a standard and raising the bar.

Box Open Closeup

Once we get everything pulled out of the box, the bundle doesn't look quite as impressive, but there is still everything you need to mount this cooler on an Intel 115x system.  The mounting system is nice and simple, and hopefully you have a case with a open motherboard tray that will allow you to do the installation without motherboard removal.


The overall appearance of the Noctua NH-L9i is pretty impressive.  This cooler is pretty hefty, but it is a lot shorter than I thought it would be.  There are many situations where Intel 115x processors are being used in HTPC and ITX systems and the stock cooling may not be adequate, so Noctua has attempted to fill the gap with this cooler.  In terms of size, it certainly fits the gap.

Top  Profile
Top Profile

Lower Profile
Lower Profile


So there we go.  That is our first impressions of the Noctua NH-L9i.  On the next page we'll cover a few more details about this cooler.

Noctua NH-L9i Features:

As always, we go to the product page for the features and specifications and pull a few of the interesting details to share with you here.  If you want all the details, make sure you head on over to the manufacturer's site to get it all.  Other than that, this should get you started.

The NH-L9i is a premium quality quiet CPU cooler for Intel LGA115x based HTPCs and Small Form Factor systems. At a super-low profile of only 37mm, the NH-L9i is ideal for extremely slim cases and due to its 95x95mm footprint, it provides full compatibility with tall RAM modules and VGA cards on mini-ITX mainboards. The custom designed SecuFirm2™ mounting system for LGA115x makes installation a child’s play and thanks to the highly optimised NF-A9x14 premium fan that supports fully automatic speed control via PWM, the NH-L9i runs remarkably quiet. Topped off with Noctua’s renowned NT-H1 thermal compound, the NH-L9i fuses everything users have come to expect from Noctua’s larger coolers into a super-compact package for slim HTPC systems.

Caution: The NH-L9i is a highly-compact low-profile quiet cooler designed for use in small form factor cases and HTPC environments. While it provides first rate performance in its class, it is not suitable for overclocking and should be used with care on CPUs with more than 65W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Please consult our TDP guidelines to find out whether the NH-L9i is recommended for your CPU.


37mm low profile
Due to the slim 23mm heatsink and the NF-A9x14 low profile fan that measures only 14mm in thickness, the NH-L9 stands a mere 37mm tall, which makes it ideal for use in compact HTPCs or Small Form Factor cases that offer minimum clearance for CPU coolers.
100% RAM compatibility
The NH-L9i has a 95x95mm footprint that complies exactly to the Intel LGA115x socket keep-out zone. This means that it won’t cause issues with chipset coolers and doesn’t overhang the RAM slots, so it’s fully compatible with tall memory modules.
100% compatibility with PCIe cards on mini-ITX 
Most Intel LGA115x based mini-ITX mainboards have the PCIe slot sitting right next to the 95x95mm socket zone. While larger coolers that exceed this zone are likely to block the PCIe slot, the 95x95xmm sized NH-L9i provides full compatibility with PCIe cards.
NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan
The highly optimised NF-A9x14 premium fan features Noctua’s proprietary AAO frame as well as sophisticated aerodynamic design measures. Supporting PWM for fully automatic speed control, the NF-A9x14 allows the NH-L9i to stay remarkably quiet.
Low-Noise Adaptor
Allowing to reduce the maximum speed of the NF-A9x14 fan from 2500 to 1800rpm, the included Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) makes it possible to achieve near-silent setups using CPUs with less than 65W TDP.
Custom-designed SecuFirm2™ mounting for LGA115x
The NH-L9i bundles a custom-designed, backplate-less SecuFirm2™ mounting system for LGA115x that offers extended compatibility with mini-ITX boards and makes installation easier than ever, all while maintaining the trusted SecuFirm2™ quality.
NT-H1 thermal compound
Noctua’s much-acclaimed NT-H1 is a well proven pro-grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease-of-use and outstanding reliability. 
6 years manufacturer’s warranty
Noctua products are renowned for their impeccable quality and outstanding longevity. Like all Noctua fans, the supplied NF-A9x14 features an MTBF rating of more than 150.000 hours and the entire NH-L9i package comes with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.




On the next page we'll take a closer look before we drop this cooler onto a CPU for some testing.

Closer Look:

We have to take a few minutes to take a closer look at this little cooler.  It is one of the most compact, stout and well-built coolers I've seen for a long long time and that's why I want to take you a little closer look at what makes this tick.

As you can see in the images below, the top and bottom views of this cooler are pretty much perfectly square and the cooler matches the size of the fan.  Noctua states they use a premium fan, and while it does spin up to a "speedy" 2500rpm, I never noticed that it made much noise at all.  At the screw holes, it has shock absorbing dampeners to help keep things quiet.  It works.

Top View
Top View

Bottom View
Bottom View

No fins where bent and everything looked top notch as we continue our look around this heatsink.  You really can't get the idea of how low this cooler is until you get down on it's level and look it in the eye.

Low Profile
Low Profile

Side Profile
Side Profile


The only part of the cooler that really doesn't impress me as much as it could is the actual bottom surface of the cooler.  The machining finish on the cooler is actually not very smooth and while good thermal paste fills in these marks and helps heat transfer better, the cooler would perform better if it had a flatter, smoother surface that made better contact with the surface of the CPU.

Machining Marks
Machining Marks


Before we install this cooler, I took one last picture of it lined up with the stock cooler and a large Thermaltake cooler for a size reference.

Size Reference


Installation of the Noctua NH-L9i is very simple thanks to the SecuFirm2 mounting system.  There are no washers, inserts or other bits and pieces to line up with your motherboard.  All you simply do is put a drop of your thermal compound on the CPU and then line up the screw holes on the bottom of the cooler with the holes in the motherboard.  Once this is done, take the four included screws in the package and fasten them on the backside of your motherboard.

Mounting Back
Mounting Back

These screws have think non-conductive washers built-in so there is nothing to drop or lose and you don't have to worry about scratching or marring your board.  They are also designed to "bottom out", so keep tightening them in turn until they are snug.  It's that simple.

Top Down - Installed
Top Down Installed

Low Profile Installed
Low Profile Installed


That's about it for installation.  Now it is all ready to go.  Let's go see what it's capable of in the next section.


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.


Final Thoughts:

It has been a long time since I've looked at a traditional HSF.  My last few cooling reviews have been of high-end liquid cooling solutions so the change was quite dramatic going with the Noctua NH-L9i.  Let's make one thing perfect clear - the quality of this cooler is stellar.  What I'm talking about with the big change is the size and performance capability of the product - the Noctua is not in the same class of course.  It can, however, fit in places where these other coolers can not.

I do have a couple of complaints with this cooler.  One of them has to do with the finish on the base.  It is pretty rough.  I'm sure it's actually flat enough, but it is far from smooth.  Back in the days of watercooling and overclocking, I would lapp the base of any heatsink or waterblock and would see quite a few degrees improvement.  I'm sure that Noctua could do the same thing here.

The other drawback I see to this cooler is the price.  For $50, the performance gains over stock cooling aren't that impressive, but then again in certain situations, you don't have other alternatives.  The price point is the hardest thing to nail down.

Installation is a breeze and an absolute pleasure though.  It's rare that an aftermarket Intel cooler is so simple to install.  There are no small pieces to lose and it fits securely and firmly on your CPU with only four screws.  It's great.

At the end of the day the Noctua NH-L9i is a winner.  It is pretty amazing how much performance, silence and simplicity they can pack into such a small, attractive, organized package.  The whole experience of this cooler is pretty well done.  Because of the $50 price tag, it does take a few notches back in terms of value, but if you need a good cooling solution and only have a small place to use it, this cooler doesn't really even have a lot of competition and it is probably the best cooler you can buy for that application.


  • Good performance
  • Very low profile
  • Easy installation
  • Quiet
  • High quality construction



  • Base finish is a little rough
  • Price is a tad high for the performance




I'd like to thank Noctua for sending us the NH-L9i Cooler.  If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please post it at the think below.