Noctua NH-L9i Reviewccokeman - January 23, 2013
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Noctua NH-L9i Closer Look:
Measuring 95 x 95 x 37mm the NH-L9i is a small solution, for use in small form factor cases with Mini-ITX form factor Intel based motherboards, where space for a cooling solution is at a premium. Small in size the NH-L9i has some mass to it at 420g installed. This mass comes by way of the nickel plated copper base and dual heat pipes. The joints between the aluminum fins are soldered for both a more secure connection and to improve the transfer of the thermal load between the base and fin array. Removing the NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan drops the installed height to just 23mm. The small overall footprint ensures that there are no compatibility issues with even the largest DRAM modules and video cards.
Looking through the aluminum fin array, you get a look at the U shaped heat pipe configuration and can see just how much area the pair of heat pipes covers, which contributes to the efficiency of the cooler. The bottom of the NH-L9i illustrates how the SecuFirm2 mounting solution connects the cooler to the board. The base comes covered with a vinyl cover to eliminate any scarring to the contact plate. The base on this cooler was smooth to the touch with very fine machining marks, fine enough that they cant be felt when running a fingernail across the base.
Noctuas NF-A9x14 PWM fan is used to provide the airflow needed to shed the 65w load this cooler is designed to handle. This fan is what makes the the cooler work. It is 92x92x14mm thick and uses all of the technology at Noctuas disposal. Rated for operation between 300 and 2200RPM, Noctua uses a custom designed PWM IC that uses "Smooth Commutation Drive" technology for a no noise solution at lower fan speeds. An AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) frame is used to house the fan. This frame features integrated vibration dampeners on all four corners, has a stepped inlet design to induce turbulence into the fan reducing noise and improving intake flow, and uses micro structures to reduce flow separation from the blades, again improving the flow and noise characteristics of the fan. The blade assembly uses a self-stabilizing oil-pressure bearing (SSO-Bearing) to keep noise imparted by the bearing assembly to a minimum, by using a large magnet to stabilize the assembly. Flow acceleration channels are used on each blade to minimize suction side airflow separation by speeding up the airflow along the outer edges of the AAO frame. The wiring is encased in a rubberized sleeve that not only looks good, but features excellent longevity. All of this gets you a fan with airflow ratings of 30 C.F.M. at 23.6 dBA with a static pressure of 1.64 mm H2O. A MTBF rating of greater than 150,000 hours is well beyond the 6 year warranty period for that extra piece of mind.
Installation of the NH-L9i is about as simple as it gets, but does need both hands to get it installed. If your chassis has an open access port, you can install it with the motherboard already secured in the chassis, but if not it will require the board to be out on the bench. Either way, apply the NT-H1 thermal compound and hold the cooler in position against the CPU. Then put the back plate in place and start all four of the SecuFirm2 screws. Continue tightening the screws in an X pattern until seated. Once seated, plug the 4 pin power connector onto the CPU fan header on the motherboard and it's off to the races. As you can see there is nothing on the NH-L9i that will cause a space concern with the DRAM or any device used in the top PCIe slot.
Noctuas NH-L9i is a well built cooler that makes the most of the design and technology behind it. Rated at only 65w lets see how it handles the 95w TDP Core i7 2600K .