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Tom’s Hardware Tests Noctua Low Profile Coolers in SFF Case Against Intel i9-13900K

 

 

Tom’s Hardware’s reviewer Albert Thomas  has put together a project I’ve wanted to do for quite some time by testing the Intel i9-13900K against Noctua’s line-up of five low profile coolers. This includes the renowned Noctua L9i-17xx, and the very popular L-12 Ghost and L-12S. All testing was done in a Sugo 14 SFF case by SilverStone. The results are very informative.

CLICK HERE to see the article.

For those that haven’t bought a new CPU in many, many years, the Intel i9-13900K will run hot on almost any size cooler. Because modern CPU performance for both Intel and AMD has become a balancing act of power, noise, and cooling capacity far more so than previous generations of CPUs, performance for a given processor isn’t guaranteed. The Intel 13900K will run at 100C on all of the test coolers if left to its own devices, but will dynamically adjust its power usage to maintain the maximum performance for a given cooling solution. In essence, it’s a form of throttling but more akin to GPUs than past generation of CPUs. AMD does this with their newer 7000 series Ryzen processor where they run at 95C almost all the time. Unfortunately, one of the drawback to this is that your CPU fan is almost always at 100% speed when loads are introduced.

For example: In the Tom’s Hardware testing, the 13900K runs at the same load temperature on the Noctua  L9i and the larger D9L. However, at full load, the L9i-cooled 13900K runs at 119 watts, whereas the D9L runs at near 200 watts. Lowering the wattage will lower the clock frequency of the chip. This will lead to a nearly 5,000 to 6,000 point difference in Cinebench R23 between the two coolers, and a nearly 10,000 to 11,000 point difference compared to running the 13900K with unlimited power.

How much this effects your workload, will very substantially. Current games use far less power and loose far less performance then tasks such as video editing that can push CPUs to their maximum on all of their cores. To draw from my own experience, my personal Ryzen 5950X powered SFF rig uses a Noctua L12S for CPU cooling. While gaming, I consistently see the maximum all-core boost clock of the CPU. While doing large encodes, the core frequency lowers by approximately 500MHz under the maximum all-core boost clock. This is the trade-off of running a massively powerful CPU on small cooler. Additionally, I’ve had to hand tune the CPU by undervolting it, and setting my own fan curve to combat noise. To me it was worth it to have a sub-7L system that can do everything I want at the speed I need.

This is a CCD MI-6 Case that torture my Ryzen 5950X in.

 

Moving back to Albert Thomas’ testing, we see an answer to the question of “can I run a 13900K on a tiny cooler?”. The answer is of course you can, but you will have to give up performance. Running on the L9i will allow you to put the 13900K is a absolutely tiny case, but the overall performance in all-core workloads will be closer to a 12700K or 12900K than a 13900K. Considering that performance level isn’t too far off from the far less expensive 13600K, you might want to see if that’s a viable solution instead, and save the money. Gaming performance will depend on the game itself as many don’t pull more than 100 watts while actually playing, though newer games are beginning to change that.

 


 
 
Tom’s Hardware’s reviewer Albert Thomas  has put together a project I’ve wanted to do for quite some time by testing the Intel i9-13900K against Noctua’s line-up of five low profile coolers. This includes the renowned Noctua L9i-17xx, and the very popular L-12 Ghost and L-12S. All testing was done in a Sugo 14 SFF case by SilverStone. The results are very informative.
CLICK HERE to see the article.
For those that haven’t bought a new CPU in many, many years, the Intel i9-13900K will run hot on almost any size cooler. Because modern CPU performance for both Intel and AMD has become a balancing act of power, noise, and cooling capacity far more so than...

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ignsvn

By Toutatis!
SFFn Staff
Apr 4, 2016
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Interesting.. The NH-L12S vs NH-L12 Ghost comparison shows the difference between 120mm fans VS the 92mm fans. I wonder what the numbers will be if the same 120mm fans is also used for the NH-L12 Ghost.

 

Revenant

Christopher Moine - Senior Editor SFF.N
Original poster
Revenant Tech
SFFn Staff
Apr 21, 2017
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Interesting.. The NH-L12S vs NH-L12 Ghost comparison shows the difference between 120mm fans VS the 92mm fans. I wonder what the numbers will be if the same 120mm fans is also used for the NH-L12 Ghost.



The additional fan definitely helps. I have the L12 Ghost in a RAW S1 and adding the 120mm fan was the difference between overheating and running well.
 
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ignsvn

By Toutatis!
SFFn Staff
Apr 4, 2016
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The additional fan definitely helps. I have the L12 Ghost in a RAW S1 and adding the 120mm fan was the difference between overheating and running well.

... and the weird thing is that the NH-L9x65 somehow managed to rank in-between both L12 coolers
 

Revenant

Christopher Moine - Senior Editor SFF.N
Original poster
Revenant Tech
SFFn Staff
Apr 21, 2017
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... and the weird thing is that the NH-L9x65 somehow managed to rank in-between both L12 coolers
Which was the complete opposite of what I saw in the RAW S1. The L9-65 performed poorly once the case was closed up.
 

Mark13

Cable-Tie Ninja
Sep 5, 2020
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A few points to Tom’s Hardware Noctua SFF Cooler Round Up:

The Noctua L9x65 along with the L12S and L12 Ghost Edition each include 2 sets of mounting bars for AMD sockets to allow the CPU cooler to be rotated in 90 degree increments to ensure the cooler heat pipes are not mounted with the “U” of the heat pipes facing downwards on vertically mounted motherboards as per Noctua installation guidelines.

The L9x65 cooler is cleverly designed so that the single pair of fan clips can affix either the A9x14 or A9x25 fan to the CPU cooler – the A9x25 fan raising the cooler height to 76mm. The A9x25 fan has a maximum 2000 RPM and has no noticeable whine that can be noted compared to that of the 2500 RPM A9x14 fan.

The Noctua L12 Ghost Edition (GE) cooler is equipped with the older lower performance 1600 RPM B9x25 fan. Replacing the B9 fan with the 2000 RPM A9x25 will significantly improve its cooling performance with no change in cooler height of 66mm. Strangely however, Noctua includes their higher performance NTH-2 thermal paste instead of the NTH-1 included with all of the other coolers. I believe the article is wrong regarding the heat pipe length of this cooler. The L12GE is 4mm lower in height than the L12S, but the heat pipes on the L12GE extend 4mm further out from the rear of the cooler. The L12GE is also 20 grams heavier than the L12S. Not much, but more mass is more mass. Noctua will also provide fan clips for a 120x25mm top mounted fan at no charge with proof of purchase of the L12GE.

My suggestion is if you intend to use the A12x15 fan, purchase the L12S – you have everthing you need at either 70mm or 85mm in cooler height.

If you intend to use an A12x25 fan, purchase the L12GE, order the free fan clips, pay for an additional 120x25mm fan with a cooler height of 91mm. As to using the L12GE in a dual fan configuration, I would not bother as I replaced the B9 fan with an A9x25 and mounted an A12x25 top fan in dual downdraft mode with both fans having a matching maximum 2000 RPM. After considerable testing, the addition of the lower A9x25 fan at most reduced the temperature by 1C at the cost of additional higher pitched noise than that caused by the 120mm fan.

I think both the D9L and the L9x65 coolers are best suited to slightly larger cases with at least one additional case fan for cooling motherboard components.

For extremely small cases with no space for a case fan, I believe most builds will be better served by a 120mm downdraft cooler providing airflow to other motherboard components. With all of the downdraft coolers, remember to have enough space above the cooler/fan to eliminate fan intake noise and not smother the airflow to the CPU.

As to competitive coolers, I would look at the Thermalright AXP120-67 for a smaller downdraft cooler https://smallformfactor.net/forum/t...right-axp120-x67-noctua-l12-ge-coolers.17908/,
or for larger, the Thermalright SI-100
 
Last edited:

Revenant

Christopher Moine - Senior Editor SFF.N
Original poster
Revenant Tech
SFFn Staff
Apr 21, 2017
1,656
2,668
A few points to Tom’s Hardware Noctua SFF Cooler Round Up:

The Noctua L9x65 along with the L12S and L12 Ghost Edition each include 2 sets of mounting bars for AMD sockets to allow the CPU cooler to be rotated in 90 degree increments to ensure the cooler heat pipes are not mounted with the “U” of the heat pipes facing downwards on vertically mounted motherboards as per Noctua installation guidelines.

The L9x65 cooler is cleverly designed so that the single pair of fan clips can affix either the A9x14 or A9x25 fan to the CPU cooler – the A9x25 fan raising the cooler height to 76mm. The A9x25 fan has a maximum 2000 RPM and has no noticeable whine that can be noted compared to that of the 2500 RPM A9x14 fan.

The Noctua L12 Ghost Edition (GE) cooler is equipped with the older lower performance 1600 RPM B9x25 fan. Replacing the B9 fan with the 2000 RPM A9x25 will significantly improve its cooling performance with no change in cooler height of 66mm. Strangely however, Noctua includes their higher performance NTH-2 thermal paste instead of the NTH-1 included with all of the other coolers. I believe the article is wrong regarding the heat pipe length of this cooler. The L12GE is 4mm lower in height than the L12S, but the heat pipes on the L12GE extend 4mm further out from the rear of the cooler. The L12GE is also 20 grams heavier than the L12S. Not much, but more mass is more mass. Noctua will also provide fan clips for a 120x25mm top mounted fan at no charge with proof of purchase of the L12GE.

My suggestion is if you intend to use the A12x15 fan, purchase the L12S – you have everthing you need at either 70mm or 85mm in cooler height.

If you intend to use an A12x25 fan, purchase the L12GE, order the free fan clips, pay for an additional 120x25mm fan with a cooler height of 91mm. As to using the L12GE in a dual fan configuration, I would not bother as I replaced the B9 fan with an A9x25 and mounted an A12x25 top fan in dual downdraft mode with both fans having a matching maximum 2000 RPM. After considerable testing, the addition of the lower A9x25 fan at most reduced the temperature by 1C at the cost of additional higher pitched noise than that caused by the 120mm fan.

I think both the D9L and the L9x65 coolers are best suited to slightly larger cases with at least one additional case fan for cooling motherboard components.

For extremely small cases with no space for a case fan, I believe most builds will be better served by a 120mm downdraft cooler providing airflow to other motherboard components. With all of the downdraft coolers, remember to have enough space above the cooler/fan to eliminate fan intake noise and not smother the airflow to the CPU.

As to competitive coolers, I would look at the Thermalright AXP120-67 for a smaller downdraft cooler https://smallformfactor.net/forum/t...right-axp120-x67-noctua-l12-ge-coolers.17908/,
or for larger, the Thermalright SI-100

Fantastic work Mark! We need to turn this into an main page article.

Quick question as I may have missed it in the post. When you tested the L12GE with the A9x25 in or out of a case? In my own testing I've found that the secondary fans help more with a restrictive cases.
 

Mark13

Cable-Tie Ninja
Sep 5, 2020
167
215
Fantastic work Mark! We need to turn this into an main page article.

Quick question as I may have missed it in the post. When you tested the L12GE with the A9x25 in or out of a case? In my own testing I've found that the secondary fans help more with a restrictive cases.
Tested the cooler both in and out of cases initially with two fans. Let me review my records for exact details - I can run some additional comparisons both on my open test chassis and in a case.
 

ignsvn

By Toutatis!
SFFn Staff
Apr 4, 2016
1,699
1,637
I own both NH-L12 (the original edition, 66 mm tall), as well as the NH-L9x65, and I can confirm the performance insight as what @Mark13 said.

I really wish that Noctua's latest 92mm slim fan goes up to, say 2500 RPM instead of just 2200. Or heck why not allow up to 3000 RPM, and then let each user decide the max RPM they want considering the noise.
 
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