< BackFeb 23, 2022
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Noctua NH-L12S Review

Introduction

For anybody building a real small form factor PC, Noctuas NH-L12S should not be forgotten. Being only 70mm high, it is one of the smallest coolers out there. Let's find out if it can also perform!

 

 

Positive

  • Noise
  • Surprisingly good performance considering the size
  • Build Quality

Neutral

  • Low Noise Adapter included

Negative

  • Ram Clearance

 

 

What's in the Box?

noctua-nh-l12s-box

 

Noctua's NH-L12S comes in the same Noctua-style packaging as we're used to. Once the box is opened up we will find the cooler neatly embedded in a couple of carton sheets and a separate carton box containing all of the installation hardware and goodies.

 

Once everything is unboxed, we will find the following items:

  • NH-L12S Heatsink
  • 1x NF-A12x15 Fans
  • Low Noise Adapter
  • Thermal Paste
  • Installation Hardware AMD/Intel
  • Screwdriver

Below we also summarized the most important specs:

Name Noctua NH-L12S
Dimensions 128x146x70mm or 128x146x85mm (WxH,D)
Fan Noctua NF-A12x15
Fan Connection PWM
Fan Airflow 55CFM
Fan Speed 1850RPM
Fan Noise 23.9db
Fan Air Pressure 1.53mm/H2O

Compatibility

noctua-nh-l12s-compat

 

By using Noctua's well-known SecuFirm2 mounting System, Noctua made sure that their NH-L12S is compatible with as many CPU sockets as possible. Down below you will find the full compatibility list:

 

AMD Intel
AM4 LGA 1200
AM3+ LGA 1156
AM3 LGA 1155
AM2+ LGA 1151
AM2 LGA 1150
FM2+ LGA 2011-0
FM2 LGA 2011-3
FM1 LGA 2066
  LGA 1700

* Please note that LGA 1700 Socket mounting hardware will only be included for NH-L12S coolers produced while and after Q4 of 2021. If you were unlucky enough to get an older model without the brackets, make sure to contact Noctua via mail, they will help you with that.

 

For Ram compatibility, see the FAN subsection.

Individual Components

Heatsink

noctua-nh-l12s-heatsink

 

The heatsink used on Noctua's NH-L12S is a silver-colored fin stack bend in a C-Style with the heatsink positioned above the copper nickel-plated base.

For heat transfer, Noctua used 4 copper heat pipes.

Fan

noctua-nh-l12s-fan

 

The Fans used on the L12S are Noctua's NF-A12x15's.  These only 15mm thick fans are spinning at 1850RPM while pushing 55CFM at 1.53mm/H2O.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-fan-position1

 

Thanks to the C-Style bend, Noctua is able to squeeze the fan in between the base and heatsink creating a 70mm high cooler. 

However, this, as Low-Profile described mode, also severely limits the maximum RAM height 35mm, which does not allow for any RAM heatsink at all.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-position2

 

In order to slightly improve on this, the L12S allows the fan to be repositioned on top of the heatsink. Doing so creates more space underneath the heatsink, creating a total of 48mm clearance for your precious RGB Ram.

Appearance

noctua-nh-l12s-design

 

Due to how Noctua's NH-L12S is built, by default, the only thing that you are going to see from above is the silver heatsink.  Thankfully (or not), the Fin array is dense enough to hide the Noctua-colored fan behind it. 

 

noctua-nh-l12s-design2

 

Therefore, the appearance of the NH-L12A is basically limited to: do you like heat sinks?

Hopefully, you do.

Benchmark

In order to determine if being a small form factor cooler made the product unusable, we tried it using our usual benchmark.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-benchmark1

 

Letting the Fan spin at 100% allowed the 3900x to stay at 63°C above ambient. 
Although this positions the cooler at the very bottom of the list, we wanted to remind you that the L12S is a bit shorter than AMD's stock Wraith Prism and that a cooler like the NH-L9i was not able to complete the benchmark.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-benchmark2

 

Furthermore, especially compared to the Wraith Prism, the Noise to Performance is where it stands out.

Noise Normalizing our results showed that as soon as the Target Temperature was equal, the L12S was quieter at every step of the way.

 

This Noise Normalized test really showed the potential of Noctua's L12S. Although you should never use a cooler that small in combination with something 3900x, the cooler becomes absolutely appropriate for cooler devices such as a 5600x or 12600k.

Conclusion

noctua-nh-l12s-design4

 

Using a small form factor cooler such as the NH-L12S comes with a lot of challenges. Not only is it supposed to be as small as possible, but it should try to avoid hurting the performance as much as possible while maintaining high ram compatibility. As you might have guessed, not everything from that list can be accomplished on the same model without sacrificing other aspects.

 

Noctua's NH-L12S clearly sets its priorities on overall cooler height. With 70mm with the Fan installed underneath the Heatsink, or 85mm with the Fan on top, the L12S is one of the smallest coolers we have ever seen.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-design4

 

Of course, there will be other, smaller coolers, like Noctua's L9i, but considering its size, the L12S performs surprisingly well, even managing to tame our 3900x beast.

 

noctua-nh-l12s-design7

 

At this point, we would also like to add that within our video review at the top of this site, we tried to "tune" the L12S with a Noctua NF-A12x25. Surprisingly, this significantly improved the L12S's performance, making it outperform a huge amount of normal single tower coolers.

 

Considering all of the positive aspects of the L12S, we believe that it is one of the best sub-100mm high coolers available right now. Therefore, we can only recommend it for anybody who is looking for a cooler in that height category.

 

strumace
Introduction
What's in the Box?
Compatibility
Individual Components
Appearance
Benchmark
Conclusion
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