Noctua NH-L9x65 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware; Installation

According to Noctua, the NH-L9x65 is a "taller, performance-enhanced version of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9 low-profile coolers." Hence, when a comparison is done between the two, there is little difference aside from the size of the heatsinks. Both the older and younger siblings utilize the same type of low profile singular heatsink design. What is interesting is the NH-L9 series coolers are marketed as the NH-L9i and NH-L9a, for Intel and AMD based systems, respectively. Noctua has since combined the two into the NH-L9x65, which is compatible with both Intel and AMD CPUs. In terms of dimensions, the NH-L9x65 is only 65mm tall, which is the same height as low profile expansion cards, but retains the same 95x95mm in length and width. Aside from this, Noctua has also decided to keep the same NF-A9x14 PWM fan on the NH-L9x65. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Taking a look at the NH-L9x65 from the top, we can see Noctua has continued its trend for mixing the colors tan, burgundy, and silver. The heatsink itself is a dull silver, because of the nickel plating around the entire unit. The fans are tan and burgundy. While this may cause a clashing of colors for users who prefer bright LED lights of blue, red, and green, Noctua has established its brand so well that many users can already recognize the brand by its use of non-conventional colors. The logo of the owl is also seen engraved beside its Noctua brand name.

At a total mass of 340g without a fan, and 413g with a fan, the Noctua NH-L9x65 is one of the lightest CPU coolers we have reviewed here at APH Networks. In fact, what impressed me the most was the ability of Noctua to keep the technology in the NH-L9 series, and implement it into its successor with a reduction in its weight. According to Noctua, the original NH-L9i weighs in at 420g, and the NH-L9a is a slightly heftier 465g. The fact they were able to shave off seven grams of weight, while adding a larger heatsink was a real shocker to me. Typically when a manufacturer adds to the dimensions of their products, there is a sacrifice of a heavier weight. However, Noctua had managed to break this trend and keep the weight of the NH-L9x65 to a minimum. Perhaps Noctua took a look at what Technical Editor Aaron Lai said in his NH-U9S review about Noctua heatsinks being heavy in general, and decided it was time to improve in this area, haha. Looking its specifications, the weight of the NF-A9x14 is 11g lighter than the NF-A9, which was used in the NH-U9S. This, of course, is understandable considering the fan is thinner in dimensions. In terms of the weight of the heatsink and the fan, this is a compact, low profile heatsink, and it weighs accordingly.

Like many heatsinks from Noctua, the fans on the NH-L9x65 is very easy to remove from the heatsink. The wire clips are very sturdy on the side of the fans, as it utilizes a system found in previous Noctua coolers. The clips on both sides of the fans sit into the fins of the heatsink. In addition, like many previous fans designed by Noctua, the wire clips are detachable, in case users want to switch the direction of airflow. In the case of the NH-L9x65, it only allows a single fan configuration, so we do not have to worry about this.

As mentioned above, the NH-L9x65 came pre-attached with the lower-profile NF-A9x14 PWM fan. This is the same fan used in its predecessor, the NH-L9. The 92mm fan has a Noctua specified rotational speed range of 600-2500 RPM, an airflow rating of 57.5 cubic meters per hour, and a static pressure of 1.64 mmH2O. These numbers may seem low when compared to larger fans, however this fan is only 92mm in diameter and 14mm in depth, compared to 25mm on the NF-A9 PWM. It also comes with a low noise adapter, which reduces all of the numbers I have stated above in order to keep the output noise low. Rated mean time before failure is approximately 150000 hours, which is just over seventeen years. While there are fans from other manufacturers that could be used for this heatsink, the NF-A9x14 PWM has impressed me quite a bit, and I cannot find a real reason to replace them.

Taking a look at the Noctua NH-L9x65, the heatsink itself is very small. With dimensions measuring at 51mm in height, 95mm in width, and 95mm in depth, Noctua has kept the length and width to be the same as the award-winning NH-L9 series. The only measurement larger than the previous model is the height of the heatsink, which has more than doubled in size. A major upgrade with the NH-L9x65 is the addition of two extra heatpipes on sides of the heatsink. According to Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan, the heatpipes are supposed to efficiently lead the heat away from its source due to the low heat of vaporization, or phase change energy, of alcohol. The heatpipes are aligned in an alternating manner to spread out the heat in the single array of radiating fins. Using the surface area formatting and accounting for both sides of the fins, the surface area came out to 0.28 square meters. It is not a lot, but again, this is a low profile cooler.

Like the Noctua NH-C14 reviewed by Senior Technical Editor Preston Yuen, the NH-L9x65 stands straight up from the motherboard with the fan configuration on the top. However, with the NH-L9 series design, it does not add a significant height, even when the larger fan is attached to the heatsink. This allows for users to fit it in the tightest of cases.

Here is a shot of the bottom of the Noctua NH-L9x65 CPU heatsink. This photo above shows the configuration of the heatpipes more clearly in relation to the base leading into the horizontal fin array. Noctua has doubled the amount of heatpipes on the NH-L9x65 to four from the NH-L9 series with only two heatpipes. As you can see, the base is very flat, which means practically the entire base of the heatsink should rest evenly on top of your processor. The base was covered with a plastic sticker out of the box, and revealed a lustrous finish when it was removed. Be sure to remove this protection before placing the heatsink on, unless you want to have an accident, haha.

The following sections have been borrowed from Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan's Noctua NH-D15 review. As with all Noctua heatsinks we have reviewed in the past, the NH-L9x65 is a copper/aluminum hybrid heatsink electroplated with nickel. The base and heatpipes are built using copper for best heat transfer ability with a thermal conductivity of 401 W/mK. The heatsink fins utilize aluminum, as it is quite a bit lighter in comparison to copper. This keeps the NH-L9x65 as light as possible to reduce stress on the motherboard from the weight. Aluminum has a thermal conductivity of 237 W/mK, which is not as optimal for heat transfer as it retains more thermal energy, but the compromise is understandable.

Visually speaking, the NH-L9x65 from Noctua has none of the copper color with its copper heatpipes and base. According to the specifications, the Noctua NH-L9x65 is electroplated with nickel on top of its copper -- which has a thermal conductivity of only 90.9 W/mK. While nickel has a lower thermal conductivity than copper, which may limit heat transfer, the electroplated layer is very thin, and should not directly affect performance to a significant degree -- but it is likely related to the corrosion allowance factor. Nickel and nickel-base alloys generally have desirable properties that can withstand corrosive environments and high temperatures -- which are especially beneficial for a heat dissipation device. The contact base in the Noctua NH-L9x65 has a generally clean and flat finish for optimal performance, as you can see in our photo above.

The reason why nickel has such a property is because of nickel's ductility and toughness all the way up to the melting point of 1455°c, measured at non-standard pressure. Nickel's face-centered cube crystal structure is virtually unaltered all the way up to that temperature. Nickel, like titanium, is highly resistant to corrosion therefore corroded material won't build up on the surface in the long run. It is surely a good sign, because the NH-L9x65 will be less prone to losing its cooling performance over time, as juxtaposed to a corroded copper surface.

Additionally, all the joints are cleanly soldered at the base, as well as the fact the heatpipes are soldered to the fins, so it will not lose contact over time. Lower quality heatsinks offer high initial performance, but degrades over time as contact between metals decreases due to thermal expansion and contraption. Overall, the Noctua NH-L9x65 appears to be built very solidly. Reliability should also be excellent as we here at APH Networks swears by them for their long endurance and retaining performance over time. If you are not convinced, the NH-L9x65 also comes with a six year warranty backed by Noctua.

If you have read in our other Noctua reviews, installation is pretty much the same across the board. The same system used with the NH-L9 series and larger heatsinks like the NH-C14 is found here, which Noctua calls the SecuFirm2 system. This makes it all the easier to swap between different models from Noctua if you so choose to. The metal back plate is displayed above, with “Rev. 2” engraved on the back, and part number NM-IBP2. The model we have today came with pre-attached bolts for easier installation of the entire unit. I have installed units from different manufacturers where the backplate and bolts were separate. While it is not hard to fit four bolts through four pre-drilled holes, it was a nice gesture to see it done for you already. Following the installation manual step by step proved to be easy, but even after installing a Noctua once previously, I barely had to use the manual for the NH-L9x65. But since you can never be too sure, I made sure to go back and forth in my installation to make sure everything was going according to how it was meant to be. Make sure to line up the bolts with the pre-drilled holes on the motherboard, and you are ready to move on.

Flipping it over to the other side, there are two mounting bars included to attach the heatsink of the motherboard. Once the backplate is pushed through the motherboard, place the four plastic spacers onto their bolts. The two mounting bars can be placed in a horizontal or vertical configuration, depending on what the user chooses for their installation orientation. A note to make here is while installing the two mounting bars, be sure the curved sides of the bars are pointing outwards. The two mounting bars included here are the NM-IMB3, which are the same mounting bars found on with the NH-C14. From the photo above, I have placed the bars in order to get a vertical orientation, as you will see soon enough. Once you have tightened the four thumbscrews, you can get to the installation of the heatsink itself.

Before you install the heatsink, be sure to put a bit of the thermal paste provided by Noctua between the processor and the heatsink. Noctua advises to put a small dot measuring 4 to 5mm in diameter directly onto the processor. Next, remove the fans from the NH-L9x65, and place the heatsink over the two protruding screws on the mounting bars. At this point, it would be beneficial to use the screwdriver provided, as the room to access the screws is very limited. I will be using the method Senior Technical Editor Preston Yuen taught me as I installed my very first CPU cooler. With the screwdriver, tighten the screws, alternating between them to evenly fix the heatsink to the motherboard. Finally, attach the NF-A9x14 to the heatsink. Do make sure to look at which direction the fan is pointing towards to avoid making the rookie mistake I have made when I attached the fan the wrong way on my first try.

After installation, the NH-L9x65 did not interfere with any of the other parts in my system, especially the RAM next to it. Since the NH-L9x65 is a low profile heatsink as mentioned before, there is only enough space for one fan to be attached to the heatsink. Even with the vertical installation preference, the fans did not exceed past the halfway mark on my standard sized graphics card. With the physical inspection and installation, we can see Noctua has kept a good balance in the build quality and design in the NH-L9x65. But now comes to the real test for any CPU cooler, will it perform well like its award-winning predecessor, the NH-L9 series, or will it be the younger sibling who is often overshadowed? Let us read on to find out!

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware; Installation
3. Test Results
4. Conclusion