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Noctua NH-L9a CPU Cooler

[Noctua NH-L9a CPU Cooler Review]

[4 Star Rating] (4.0 star rating)
Written by: Kirk Jones

Testing Setup

Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Case: Ultra Black MicroFly Aluminum MicroATX
CPU: AMD PhenomII X4 945 3.0Ghz (Deneb, 95W)
Previous Heatsink (baseline): Stock / PhenomII X6 1100T Black Edition Stock
Memory: 8GB GSkill DDR3
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P MicroATX
Graphics: OnBoard (Radeon 3000 series)
Power Supply: CoolMax 500W
Hard Drives: Western Digital Blue 2.5” 320GB

Performance Testing
In the specifications, I noted that Noctua does not recommend the NH-L9a for CPU's with more than 65W TDP. I will point out that this detail is absent from the packaging, and only found on the website. However, in the interest of science, I'm willing to risk my warranty to see how this cooler really performs.

Temperature measurements were aquired by the Open Hardware Monitor software package. Idle temperatures were taken after the computer was left unattended for at least an hour. Load temperatures were taken by running Prime95's In-place large FFTs for approximately 30 minutes. At all times, the history graph of the temperatures were monitored to ensure stable temperatures had been reached prior to recording. Temperature measurements were recorded in degrees Celsius.

For comparison purposes, I tested the stock cooler that is included with the retail packaged AMD Phenom II X4 945. I also tested the same chip with the stock cooler included with the retail packaged AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition. The second cooler is slightly larger with heat pipes.

[Noctua NH-L9a CPU Cooler - Temperature Measurements]


The Noctua NH-L9a did quite well. At full speed without the L.N.A., the Noctua cooler was still audible, and outside of the case not significantly quieter than the stock cooler. The larger fan of the Noctua cooler produces a lower pitch though, which does not seem to penetrate the case as readily. The lower pitch also blends in better with the ambient sound of my home HVAC system. With the L.N.A. inline, the sound is noticeably reduced and performance did not seem to be significantly altered. The stock cooler for the X6 performed the best, however the sound was comparable to the stock X4 cooler. At idle, all three of these coolers were quiet and satisfactory. I do not expect this system to ever experience significant load, but it's nice to know it can if needed without driving me mad while watching Revolution.

Noctua NH-L9a CPU Cooler

Overall the Noctua NH-L9a perfomed quite well. I wish Noctua had placed the 65W limitation on the package, but it is good to see that it's clearly stated on their product page. AMD lists the maximum temperature of this CPU to be 71C, which was never approached. After testing with a 95W CPU, it's also clear that Noctua did not oversell the capabilities of this cooler. The Noctua NH-L9a is available for about $49. At this price, it's probably competing with the prices of the CPU and motherboard in most systems of its target environment. With that said, if it meets the need of your environment, you should be happy with the results.

Pros: Performance surpasses promise; Quieter than stock options at load; Elegant looks.

Cons: Price is not inexpensive; TDP limit of 65W (according to Noctua product page).

Rating: 4.0 out of 5