When I think about performance oriented cooling solutions, Noctua is one if not, the best name that pops up on my mind. The Austrian company truly deserve the praise due to their performance oriented mantra.

Now what we have here is the Noctua NH-L12S. A low profile, high performance CPU cooler built for compact systems. This is by no means a cheap alternative to your stock cooler; perfectly capturing the premium vibe of Noctua’s line-up.

Technical Specifications

Cooler
Socket Compatibility Intel LGA 2066, 2011-0, 2011-3, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 / AMD AM2, AM3, FM1, AM4
Height 70mm
Width 128mm
Depth 146mm
Weight 390g
Heatsink Material Copper, Nickel, Aluminum
TDP 140W
Fan Compatibility 2x 120mm mount fans
Fan
Model Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM
Speed 450-1800RPM
Noise 16.8-23.9dBA
Airflow 70.8-94.2CFM

Packaging and Accessories

When you see this color scheme along with tons of information to gawk at, you’d know immediately that it is indeed a Noctua product. This is the company’s design for years and it just works; like a premium wine on a shelf.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (1)

Inside, you’ll find three paper works for each popular sockets, a slew of mounting options and accessories neatly tucked within a separate internal packaging. In true Noctua fashion, we also got the NT-H1 TIM, a case badge, a screw driver and the low noise adapter.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (3)

Design, Build and Connectivity

The NH-L12S is the update from the tried and tested NH-L12 with more emphasis on SFF compatibility. That said, while the NH-L12 comes with a 120mm and a 80mm; the NH-L12S comes with a slim 120mm fan.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (4)

Dimensions are exactly 70 x 128 x 146mm. Memory kits with clearance below 35mm should fit in nicely without any trouble using the low profile mode. A maximum clearance of 48mm could be achieved via the high profile mode.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (5)

The copper base is not mirror finished but it is nickel plated together with the heat-pipes.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (7)

There are four soldered heat-pipes stretching out to the last heat fin. Overall cooler design is symmetrical with an impressive emphasis to build quality.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (8)

Again, Noctua had the NH-L12S bundled with their own NF-A12x15 PWM fan. It is a 15mm slim spinner with a rated noise level of 16.8-23.9dBA. This fan also features Noctua’s patented Flow Acceleration Channels. Those are the serrated designs on each fan blades that truly serves a purpose. MTBF is around 150, 000 Hours. That should be enough for the cooler’s lifespan.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (10)

The NF-A12x15 PWM also houses dampeners to minimize vibrations and noise. Should you require lower operating speeds to further enhance the acoustics, the Noctua LNA will get the job done.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (9)

The Noctua NH-L12 comes with the SecuFirm2 mounting kit. This is a tried and tested mounting solution built from the ground up by Noctua. It is easy to work with and the build quality is just excellent.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (11)

A few screws, spacers and brackets here and there requires seconds to install. Noctua recommends a force of 0.6Nm though for the cooler to sit perfectly in place.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (12)

The NH-L12S could be mounted with four positions, with a top and bottom mounting options for the fans. Noctua suggests a top mounted fan for maximum performance.

Noctua NH-L12S Low Profile Cooler (13)

The Noctua NH-L12S should fit most SFF systems even with the NF-A12x15 PWM fan above it. I have tested this on my ITX boards both for Intel and AMD and it slots in just fine. Make sure to plan ahead prior to installation.

Test Setup

Coolers are far from the hardest components to test, but it doesn’t mean they are easy enough to deal with since there are multiple factors to take into account while benchmarking. Factors includes the ambient noise, ambient temperature, the enclosure, and the test system’s overall configuration.

The AIDA64 Extreme Edition System Stability Test is used to stress our Intel Core i5 6600K. The CPU, FPU, Cache and Memory are selected at the options. AIDA64 has been chosen due to its inclusion of AVX, AVX2 and FMA – 3 important instructions that will help us push our CPU to its limits.

  • Ambient Temperature – 27°C (±1°C)
  • Ambient Sound Level – 34dBA (±1dBA)
  • Stock Profile – 3.9GHz (1.088v)
  • Overclocked Profile – 4.4GHz (1.248v)

Temperature

Temperatures are tested with attainable CPU clock speed configurations that should resemble common systems. To measure the cooler’s capabilities, the CPU temperature is logged with HWiNFO64 and is cross referenced with AIDA64.

Cooler Review Redux 2019 (3)

The Noctua NH-L12S is not the best cooler when it comes to sheer cooling performance. Although to be fair, the stock results are not even bad at all with an average of 50.3°C at load with the fan at the top. Bottom fan configuration gave us a result of 51.2°C. Not that far off from the recommended setup.

Cooler Review Redux 2019 (4)

With our CPU overclocked at 4.4GHz, the Noctua NH-L12S gave us decent results for both the top and bottom fan setups. Nothing breathtaking here but remember that this is a cooler geared for both acoustic and cooling performance.

Noise

Noise levels are tested on a variety of fan duty cycle settings available thru our motherboard. To measure the levels, a sound level meter is secured on a tripod with a foot of distance away from the cooler.

Cooler Review Redux 2019 (1)

The Noctua NH-L12S with the NF-A12x15 PWM fan at 50% is the quietest we’ve seen so far. We cannot even measure its acoustic performance to the fullest due to the ambient noise levels.

Cooler Review Redux 2019 (2)

The NF-A12x15 PWM fan’s performance holds true even at 100% fan speed. Nothing to dislike here.

Final Thoughts

The Noctua NH-L12S is a well thought-out low profile CPU cooler for the small form factor crowd. It comes with a balanced set of features catering both the acoustic and cooling requirements of the end users without much compromise. That’s something Noctua should be proud of when designing this cooler.

Build quality, presentation and everything else just screams premium. That even holds true to the bundled NF-A12x15 PWM fan. The slim fan is a true value added change over the dual fan based NH-L12 predecessor.

The Noctua NH-L12S is a hard to beat low profile premium cooler. That’s with a warranty of 6 years and an SRP of $50 USD to boot. Easily one of the few acoustic and cooling performance oriented products made for the SFF enthusiasts.

Noctua NH-L12S Cooler
8/10

Summary

The Noctua NH-L12S with the NF-A12x15 PWM fan is a fine example of what a premium CPU cooler should be. A $50 USD value product with a good cooling performance cherry topped with amazing acoustics and build quality.

One Response

  1. Acan
    May 17, 2020

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