Low profile heatsink = high temp? Testing top-flow Noctua coolers

Conclusion and rating

Current PC hardware is already very energy efficient. Each new generation usually promises higher performance, lower power draw with corresponding cooling requirements. This trend is leading to the growing popularity of compact PC builds. However, these rigs face little space for coolers. How big trade-offs need to be made with CPU cooling in these builds? Does a small cooler necessarily mean high temperatures and noise?

Conclusion and rating

So what is the result of today’s triple test? That it is difficult to evaluate and compare specialized coolers designed for small cases. But I’ll follow the order. NH-C14S did not surprise me, but did not disappoint either. Given the size of its heatsink and the fan used, I would be struck if it could not reasonably and quietly cool the i7-5820K @ 4200 MHz used in the tests. However, it can be seen that a classic tower architecture is an overall more efficient cooler design. The results of the NH-C14S are very similar to those of the smaller, quieter and significantly cheaper Pure Rock 2 cooler from BeQuiet! Nowadays, a horizontally placed set of fins is rather a specialty these days, intended for smaller cases that do not have enough space for high tower coolers. The biggest negative of the NH-C14S is its higher price.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the NH-L12S. I did not expect that such a small cooler will solidly cope with a stress test, for which it is not even technically built, as it exceeds its TDP rating by about 50%. But I was even more struck by the dramatic difference between the NH-L12S and the NH-L12 Ghost S1 Edition. The heatsinks of these coolers are very similar. The big difference, of course, is in the fan used. Even so, it struck me that the NH-L12 turned out so much worse. I decided to reassembly and test it again, but the result was the same as in the first test. We are talking about 15–20 °C higher temperatures which is really a big difference. Again, this is a stress test that exceeds by about 50% the TDP rating of the NH-L12 Ghost S1 Edition cooler. It can be expected that a compact case such as the Louqe Ghost S1 Mark III will be equipped with a less power-thirsty processor with a TDP of around 65 W and not an overclocked HEDT processor with high power draw.

The bottom line, however, is that the NH-L12 Ghost S1 Edition is a cooler suitable for virtually only one specific case. Anywhere else I will recommend the NH-L12S more, of course, if it fits the size of the case. All three coolers share a six-year warranty traditional for Noctua, excellent build quality, but unfortunately also a higher price tag.

English translation and edit by Lukáš Terényi

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