Eight Low-Profile CPU Coolers For Your Compact PC, Reviewed

Noctua NH-L12

Designed for semi-slim cases, Noctua’s NH-L12 could become a truly slim cooler by removing its 120 mm top fan. A second option for reduced profile would be to replace its 92 mm bottom fan with the top fan, though doing so would significantly diminish motherboard component and DRAM clearance. Noctua only recommends the first two options (both fans or one 92 mm fan).

In addition to mounting hardware, the NH-L12 includes a fan splitter and two speed-reducing resistor wires. While we prefer to let our motherboards manage fan speed, we’ll entertain ourselves with both high-speed and low-speed mode tests.

Noctua machines its copper base plate to an ultra-fine surface before plating the entire NH-L12 in corrosion-resistant nickel. Spring-loaded cap nuts with Phillips-head tops are also factory installed.

Some processor interfaces have built-in support plates; others don’t. Noctua still supports LGA 775-based motherboards by extending foam support material across most of its cross bracket, and it supports newer Intel platforms by making that center section removable. AMD and LGA 2011 owners have the benefit of direct-mounting Noctua’s brackets to the motherboard's original support mechanisms.

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  • LePhuronn
    Zalman CNPS2X conspicuous by its absence - 28mm tall cooler that claims to be able to shift 120W?
  • Sayken
  • tiu_sergiu
    There must be 2 winners
    Nocturna NH-L12 is best quality (Don't forgot about 6 ears of warranty)
    and Zalman CNPS8900 Quiet Smart Buy
  • Haravikk
    I'm a bit surprised by the Noctua offering, as they do have a much smaller only (37mm tall) but then I expect they wanted to use as much space as possible to ensure a good score.

    Also the NH-L12 I believe is compatible with Noctua's NF-A15 which is a 150mm PWM fan with 120mm mounting holes. In my perfect small form factor case I'd swap one of those as the top fan and just use a 150mm side vent as the only exhaust for the case, with other vents as intakes over the major components, or maybe leave off the top fan in favour of fitting an 200mm fan if space allows. That being for a high performance small case anyway, anything more modest I'd probably just go for the 37mm option.

    Another favourite option is Prolimatech's Samuel 17 cool (45mm) plus one of their 140mm x 15mm Ultra Sleek Vortex fans for a total height of ~60mm, which still tops out under 2.5"