[SFF Network] The Noctua NH-L9a - Luxury in uSFF

confusis

John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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In the world of CPU coolers, one name stands out as the 'premium' brand in the minds of most PC enthusiasts - Noctua. Today, then, we'll be looking at one of their SFF-orientated coolers, the NH-L9a.

The L9a is designed exclusively for AMD sockets (and thus compliments the NH-L9i, designed for Intel platforms), and the 37mm-high profile of the unit is claimed to be compatible with essentially any motherboard layout that has the supported sockets. For a SFF builder, this is good news, since finding a compatible cooler with the right performance characteristics can be among the most challenging parts of designing a build.

Read more here.
 
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Phuncz

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Excellent ! I love that Noctua caters from the tiniest to the largest (excluding extremes) of heatsinks and that they perform well consistently. The amount of extras you get with the larger coolers like Low Noise Adapters and PWM splitter cables along with different fan mounting options are very welcome features for high-end heatsinks.
 

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John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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Indeed. Slowly working on completing the requested cooler reviews that the community posted in the Cryorig C7 thread.. only the NH-L9x65 and Prolimatech Samuel 17 to go ;)
 
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Phuncz

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Looking forward to both !
 

iFreilicht

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I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the NH-L9 mounting system with just four screws and not backplate. Sure, it's simple, but you can bend the board so easily it could easily break, and if you stop once that starts to happen, the screws feel so loose, I often doubt it even applies enough pressure for the TC to spread properly. Distributing the pressure between the four screws isn't a safe deal either.

Not that I'd expect them to completely change everything, but just a simple backplate for the cooler would be nice to have.

BTW, the NH-L9 will fit in absolutely every case that has a cutout for the motherboard I/O plate, because it is just as high as the I/O shield you get with your board. You can't design a right-angled box that fits one but not the other, which is rather nice.
 

confusis

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I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the NH-L9 mounting system with just four screws and not backplate. Sure, it's simple, but you can bend the board so easily it could easily break, and if you stop once that starts to happen, the screws feel so loose, I often doubt it even applies enough pressure for the TC to spread properly. Distributing the pressure between the four screws isn't a safe deal either.

Not that I'd expect them to completely change everything, but just a simple backplate for the cooler would be nice to have.

BTW, the NH-L9 will fit in absolutely every case that has a cutout for the motherboard I/O plate, because it is just as high as the I/O shield you get with your board. You can't design a right-angled box that fits one but not the other, which is rather nice.
The cooler does have a backplate (for the L9A anyways) - there is even a photo of it in the article! I'm assuming that the L9i (intel) version doesn't have a backplate?

I trial fitted the L9A on the dummy test board with just the screws (the included accessory kit allows for this) and there was nowhere near enough flex caused by the cooler to break the board.
 
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Redivulpis

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I can confirm that the L9i does not include a back plate. I've installed and used a few of them over the last few years and have never had a problem with them. That said, I can definitely see where the design could cause a motherboard to bend. On one of my previous builds I think I did get a little flexion after a while, but it never adversely effected the system. I don't remember the L9a having a backplate either, but it's been a few years since my last AMD build.
 

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John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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L9a accessory kit (from the article) :)
 

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John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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I can confirm that the L9i does not include a back plate. I've installed and used a few of them over the last few years and have never had a problem with them. That said, I can definitely see where the design could cause a motherboard to bend. On one of my previous builds I think I did get a little flexion after a while, but it never adversely effected the system. I don't remember the L9a having a backplate either, but it's been a few years since my last AMD build.
Good to know with the L9i variant.
 

Redivulpis

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L9a accessory kit (from the article) :)
Yep, that's a backplate! It does sort of refresh my memory (again, it's been a few years). Looking at the design, it probably wouldn't be that difficult to make a backplate for the L9i. Probably get away with cutting a metal plate about the thickness of the included washers, leaving a similar relief hole in the middle for the backside components.
 
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iFreilicht

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The cooler does have a backplate (for the L9A anyways) - there is even a photo of it in the article! I'm assuming that the L9i (intel) version doesn't have a backplate?

I trial fitted the L9A on the dummy test board with just the screws (the included accessory kit allows for this) and there was nowhere near enough flex caused by the cooler to break the board.


L9a accessory kit (from the article) :)
Sorry, I just glanced over the article. That's actually really strange.
Never said it would break the board, but it doesn't seem like a good idea either.
 

confusis

John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the NH-L9 mounting system with just four screws and not backplate. Sure, it's simple, but you can bend the board so easily it could easily break, and if you stop once that starts to happen, the screws feel so loose, I often doubt it even applies enough pressure for the TC to spread properly. Distributing the pressure between the four screws isn't a safe deal either.
I wonder if Noctua has decided that the square Intel mounting pattern spreads the load better than the rectangular AMD pattern and thus it doesn't need a backplate.
 

Phuncz

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I think the main reason is that al Socket 115x boards have a sturdy metal socket clamp that also strengthens the PCB for a small part, while at a certain point, AMD just had the bare FRP (or what the material is) socket like in the Pentium 3 and AMD Athlon XP era.
 

jØrd

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whilst i prefer everything inside the box i think their old box design was better.
 

iFreilicht

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I wonder if Noctua has decided that the square Intel mounting pattern spreads the load better than the rectangular AMD pattern and thus it doesn't need a backplate.
Whoops, should've checked my comment better before submitting it.

Maybe you could try to reach them for a statement on this?
 

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John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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I have approached Noctua for comment re: the backplate, as well as the differences in the NH-A9x14 fan from the standalone product (fan speed)
 

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John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
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From Noctua's Jakob:

"All Intel LGA115x motherboards have a stock backplate on the rear side of the socket that prevents the motherboard from bending beyond a problematic point as long as the heatsink is not too heavy and doesn't exceed the standard mounting pressure. With the NH-L9i, neither is the case, so it is entirely safe to use without a backplate. With tens of thousands of units sold, we have not had a single issue in this regard. With AMD, on the other hand, there is only the stock backplate that is also used to hold the retention module in place. Since we have to remove this one in order to install the NH-L9a (as we do with our other coolers), we have to include an alternative backplate in order to make sure that the motherboard doesn't bend too much."

I have also added a comment regarding the difference in fan specs to the bottom of the article.
 

iFreilicht

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Thank you very much, that is very interesting.

"All Intel LGA115x motherboards have a stock backplate on the rear side of the socket that prevents the motherboard from bending beyond a problematic point as long as the heatsink is not too heavy and doesn't exceed the standard mounting pressure.
I believe that is the important point. You don't know the standard mounting pressure or when it is reached. As they didn't have any issues with that, I guess you can trust customers to be sane and just stop twisting the screws once the motherboard starts to bend.
 

jØrd

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its been some time since ive installed a noctua heatsink but iirc there is a limit on how far you can tighten the retention screws to prevent over tightening / over pressure. confusis?