By – John Williamson

Noctua Fans Review

The advent of efficient, ITX compliant Graphics Cards with enough horsepower to run intensive games has increased the allure of HTPC cases. It’s still far from ideal as the selection of supported components is extremely slim but I expect this market to increase exponentially in a couple of years. In regards to CPU cooling, heat dissipation is bound by heatsink size and slimline form-factors struggle to offer any overclocking headroom. Intel’s bundled cooler is proficient at stock voltages but ramps up the fan curve and becomes obnoxiously loud in warmer climates. One excellent alternative is the Noctua NH-L9i which achieved reasonable temperatures at exceptionally low audible levels. However, our review did outline that the cooling performance was limited by the total surface area. Noctua are perfectionists and took advice from critics to create a slighter larger version measuring in at W65xH62mm and utilizes 2 additional heatpipes.

Noctua’s packaging is nothing short of sublime and takes a proactive approach to avoid cosmetic damage during transit. The NH-L9x65 comes in a surprisingly large box approximately three times the size of the NH-L9i. On the exterior, is a glossy coating outlining key specifications, features and dimensions. The inside section consists of a dedicated cardboard box with all the accessories neatly categorized into re-sealable, labelled bags. Included is a angled metal screwdriver, case badge, SecuFirm2 mounting system for AMD/Intel, low-noise adapter, NH-T1 thermal compound and beautifully designed instructions. From the outset, you can see how much attention-to-detail Noctua invests into every product they design.

The cooler itself is protected by reinforced hardened cardboard and four flaps. This imaginative arrangement is unbelievably strong and keeps the heatsink perfectly aligned. Even though this might seem unnecessary, the fan clips are quite delicate and it’s vital to hold them in position. Removing the unit is a rudimentary task and involves lifting the four flaps and protective plastic on the heatsink base. I am thrilled with Noctua as the NH-Lx65 employs thicker and more resilient packaging materials than its smaller brother.

Interestingly, the installation process now revolves around Noctua’s infamous Secufirm2 mounting system instead of four basic screws through the CPU socket. Perhaps Nocua felt that the light nature of the NH-L9i rescinded any need for heavy mounting apparatus. However, the NH-L9x65 has a larger footprint and probably requires better hardware to maintain a flush, stable finish with the CPU. The following instructions applies to Intel’s 115x socket and illustrates how simple the process is.

Noctua NH L9x65 Review 1

 

Firstly, feed the backplate through your motherboard’s CPU socket and position four plastic spacers. Then attach the mounting bars over these spacers ensuring they face in an outwards direction. To affix the spacers, simply tighten four thumbscrews on the top portion and be careful not to apply too much pressure. Next, use a 4-5mm diameter of thermal paste and remember less is always more. Covering the CPU with thermal interface material will reduce in poor conductivity and woeful temperatures. Once this step is complete, you can attach the heatsink via two screws and feed the screwdriver through gaps between the fan blades and structure.

I understand why Noctua has implemented this concept to speed up the installation process but I would strongly recommend unclipping the fan to access the entire heatsink. Throughout the testing procedure, I noticed it was actually quicker to remove the fan and as the documented method was slightly awkward.. Similarly, I also have some reservations about user damage and feel certain consumers could accidentally press against the fins and damage them during installation.

From an aesthetic standpoint, any Noctua product is always going to cause heated discussion. However, I would expect the majority of consumers to be using such a small cooler in enclosed thin cases without any side panel so the Noctua colour scheme shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Even in larger chassis, the heatsink adopts a classy, professional look and I particularly enjoyed the side grooves and subtle Noctua branding.

The usual CPU testing procedure involves an i7 4770K @ 1.1v, 1.3v and extreme stress tests via OCCT. However, the previous performance numbers on the NH-L9i were recorded using an Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition. The reasoning behind this was to gauge how much overclocking headroom there was on a budget chip to coincide with reasonably priced CPU heatsinks. To accurately compare these two models, the same G3258 CPU was tested at an identical 21C delta temperature.

Noctua NH L9x65 Review 1

When the CPU was manually set to a vcore of 1.1v, the NH-L9x65 reported an an average idle temperature of 23 C, minimum of 21 C and maximum of 25 C. Under extreme strain, the stock clocks attained an average of 43 C, minimum of 41 C and maximum of 44 C. Please note that the NF-A9x14 PWM fan operated at 2500 RPM with an maximum airflow of 57.5 m3/h. Despite the high revolutions, the audible levels were still fairly low at 23.6dB/A. Attaching the Low Noise Adapter reduces the RPM to 1800, airflow to 40.8 m3/h and acoustical noise to 14.8 dB/A. The impact of these changes is an increase of 6C to average load temperatures and 1C to idle results.

Comparing these figures to the NH-L9i shows a huge margin of 22C under heavy computational stress. Overclocking potential on the NH-L9i was virtually non-existent and the majority of tests failed when adding even small increments of voltage. However, the NH-L9x65 fares noticeably better due to the 65mm total height and 51mm heatsink size. I set a moderate voltage limit of 1.21v and managed to eke out a 4.1GHz overclock under a suitable 24/7 temperature threshold. Of course, the silicon lottery means your mileage may vary and my CPU isn’t the best overclocker and requires 1.3v to attain clock speeds beyond 4.4GHz.

The actual recorded temperatures were an average of 28 C on idle with a maximum of 32 C and minimum of 27 C. Under OCCT, the statistics rose to an average of 78 C, minimum of 74 C and maximum of 81 C. In theory, you could attempt a similar overclock with the low-noise adapter but I wouldn’t recommend it and you would probably struggle to attain a moderate overclock. Analysing the performance numbers shows that the NH-L9x65 is a capable cooler and can achieve a small-mid range overclocking boost.
There are a number of other benefits to the NH-L9x65 including 100% RAM compatibility on Intel platforms, ample room to work around the cooler, 6 year warranty, hardware upgrades for future CPU sockets and comprehensive support of PCI-E Graphics Cards on M-ITX motherboards.

Noctua NH L9x65 Review 1

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Noctua has always been at the forefront of cooling prowess and engineering new methods to enhance the size to performance ratio. While the NH-L9x65 is larger and less versatile, there’s no denying the impeccable advancements in heat dissipation. The performance numbers are stunning and it’s crystal clear that the NH-L9x65 is a pioneering product and the best cooler I’ve encountered for use in exceptionally small cases.

Noctua NH-L9x65 CPU Cooler Summary:

TPG Hardware

  • Time Used – 6 Days
  • Software Used – OCCT, HWMonitor, CoreTemp, CPU-Z
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • Availability – Official Site
  • System Specs – Intel I7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980
  • Warranty – 6 Years
  • Compatibility – Intel LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required)

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  • MDCCLXXVII

    Thanks for the comparison between the L9i and this! I’m also using G3258, so these reviews were especially useful!

    • John Williamson

      You’re welcome! I’m really glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the information, I’ll look into that for sure!