Introduction

Noctua originates from a collaboration between the Austrian Rascom Computer distribution Ges.m.b.H. and the Taiwanese cooling specialist Kolink International Corporation, pooling more than thirty years of experience in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of high-end cooling components. Established in 2005, Noctua took international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise-conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service, and class-leading quiet cooling performance.

About the time that Noctua has finally released their all-black color scheme versions of award-winning air coolers. They have released chromax.black edition of NH-L9i, NH-U12S, and NH-D15. The peculiar thing about these coolers is that everything from mounting hardware to fan clips to heatsinks to fans are black. Why it took them so long to finally produce something which has been requested over and over again? Let us answer this question. Noctua has been soldering the fins to the heat pipes for consistent performance over a longer period of time. This presented to them a challenge on finding the optimal material which can be coated on the soldered components that does not impede the performance yet provides the same consistency over a longer period of time as without coating. The production process was difficult to combine with the coating. It took a lot of time and engineering work to find an appropriate coating material and production process that gave Noctua satisfactory thermal performance and consistent visual appearance. Finally, it is done.

The new NH-L9i chromax.black is identical to the regular model except for the color: Featuring black coated heatsink, black fan with black anti-vibration-pads, black fan clips or fan screws and black mounting parts, they are literally black from head to toe. Coming from thoroughgoing optimizations of the coating material and process, the chromax.black models provide the same, renowned quiet cooling performance as their regular, non-coated counterparts. Noctua has sent us their all-black edition of the coolers for the review and today we will take a spin on their NH-L9i chromax.black edition cooler. The Noctua NH-L9i has a small footprint as it is designed for the SFF/HTPC builds and rightly so. It is recommended for CPUs having 65W TDP and Noctua specifically has mentioned on their website about the recommended TDP and CPU compatibility listing. They are not recommending this cooler for overclocking purposes.

Item:                        NH-L9i chromax.black

Manufacturer:        Noctua

Price:                     $49.95 on Amazon

                               £45.99 on Amazon UK

Specifications

Packaging and Unboxing

Noctua has changed the color scheme and design of their all-black coolers. This is as expected since they have been using a different color scheme for their chromax series of the products and accessories. The main packing box is made of cardboard box and it is in black color background.

The cooler model is printed on the top left. Noctua brand logo is printed on the far right. There is a picture of the cooler as well. CHROMAX by Noctua is printed at the bottom right. The cooler has 37mm height making it a slim profile cooler and it has 100% compatibility for the RAM and PCIe slots making it an ideal cooler for your SFF/HTPC builds.

The opening cover of the main packing box has CHROMAX printed in the middle.

The model of the cooler is printed on the left side. The UPC and EAN labels are printed on the right side.

The specifications of the heatsink and the fan are printed on the left side. The cooler is made in Taiwan and comes with 6 years of Noctua warranty.

Noctua L9i chromax.black is based on their award-winning NH-L9i. It is using the same design and footprint as is the original design. It has SecuFirm2 low-profile mounting hardware and comes with NT-H1 as well as has 6 years of warranty. The dimensions are printed at the bottom.

the model of the cooler is printed in vertical layout on the left side. Salient features are highlighted. A serial no sticker is pasted on the rightmost side.

Noctua has maintained the same presentation as is on the Non Chromax version and I admire this presentation. The user guide is tucked in the upper cover. There is a thick black color Styrofoam encapsulating the cooler itself. The Noctua metal badge, the screws with washers, NT-H1 and LNA are all placed inside this Styrofoam.

Accessories

Following is provided in the box: –

  • NF-A9x14 PWM premium fan
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
  • Screws for 92x92x25mm fans
  • Noctua Metal Case-Badge

Closer Look

Let’s start with what Noctua has to say about their cooler. “The NH-L9i chromax.black is an all-black version of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9i low-profile quiet CPU cooler for HTPCs and Small Form Factor (SFF) builds. Thanks to the same proven heatsink design and NF-A9x14 PWM fan, it stays true to the NH-L9i’s successful formula of fusing a height of only 37mm with strong performance and excellent quietness of operation, as well as 100% RAM and PCIe compatibility. At the same time, the chromax.black version with its black fan and black coated heatsink combines these assets with a sleek stealth look. Topped off with the renowned SecuFirm2™ low-profile mounting system for Intel LGA115x, Noctua’s enthusiast-grade NT-H1 thermal compound and a full 6-year manufacturer’s warranty, the NH-L9i chromax.black is a premium choice for customers who seek an ultra-compact heatsink that looks just as great as it cools.”

The Noctua NH-L9i is a Low-Profile CPU Cooler. It has a total height of just 37mm including the fan. This small footprint makes it an ideal cooler for your HTPC and SFF builds with CPUs rated for up to 65W TDP. Overclocking is not in the books for this cooler and Noctua has specifically mentioned this on their website. The supplied fan is NF-A9x14 chromax.black where 14mm is the height of the fan. The heatsink has two copper-based heat pipes which are black coated and nickel-plated. The copper base is nickel coated. The mounting bars come pre-installed on the cooler. Let’s take a closer look at the cooler.

The dimension of the heatsink is 23x95x95mm (HxWxD). The 23mm is the total height of the heatsink which goes to show the true low profile design of the cooler. The dimension of the cooler is 37x95x95mm (HxWxD). 37mm is the total height of the assembled cooler (heatsink and fan). The weight of the heatsink alone is 345 gm whereas it is 385 gm with the fan. This version of the cooler is compatible with Intel LGA-115X only as signified by the letter i in the model (NH-L9i).

The heatsink consists of 55 black coated aluminum fins which are stacked together to form a dense stack. The fins are soldered to the heat pipes and the complete assembly is nickel plated. Taking a look at the main heatsink, there are grooves and raised edges giving more surface area. The fan is not mounted using metal clips but screws for which two plates are installed on the front and rear sides of the heatsink. These plates have mounting holes on to which the fan is installed.

The displacement of the two 6mm heat pipes inside the fin stack can be seen clearly. The middle portion is appearing darker which is due to the reason that the base side of the heatsink has stepped design with a copper base and pre-installed mounting bars. The heat pipes are in U shape.

The copper base is nickel coated with mirror polished with 40x40mm size approximately. Our sample has a scrubbed surface to my surprise and the mirror finish is not that perfect as on the Noctua NH-U12S chromax.black and NH-D15 chromax.black. The Intel mounting bars are pre-installed using 4x screws in total. Each bar has offset raised mounting corner. Each corner has a tapped hole so that the provided screws can thread in easily.

The left and right sides of the cooler are identical in layout. The fins have joined assembly on these sides. This angle is giving a better idea of the stepped heatsink design and offsets mounting corners of the mounting bars.

The front side of the heatsink is showing the Noctua brand name and logo embossed on the top plate. The plate can be removed by removing a single screw in the middle. There are two holes on the left and right sides to form symmetry with the overall design as similar holes are there on the opposite side from where the terminating tips of the heat pipes are coming out. There are arrow symbols on the fan frame. These are there to provide a visual aid to the user in determining the direction of airflow and blades’ spin direction.

This side has an identical layout as we have seen on the opposite side. The only difference is the tips of the heat pipes are visible here.

Noctua has supplied their premium NF-A9x14 chromax.black fan with this cooler. This fan has the dimensions of the 92x92x14mm. The user can also mount 92x92x25mm fan on this heatsink. This fan is using Noctua’s legendary SSO2 bearing. There are 9 blades heptaperf impeller. The anti-vibration pads are in black color as well. The frame of the fan is in black color as well and is following the same stepped inlet design with the same inner surface microstructures.

Here are the specifications of the fan:

Dimension (mm)92x92x14
Speed (RPM)600 ± 20% ~ 2500 ± 10%
Airflow (m³/h)57.5
Noise [dB(A)]23.6
Speed with LNA (RPM)1800 ± 10%
Airflow with LNA (m³/h)40.8
Noise with LNA [dB(A)]14.8
Voltage (V)12
Current (A)0.21A
Power (W)2.52W
MTTF> 150,000 hrs

There is a 4-arm assembly on the backside holding the motor hub and connecting it with the mainframe. There is a sticker on the backside of the fan. It has a Noctua brand name and the logo printed on it. The fan is connected using 4 screws. There is no push/pull option with this cooler. There are catchers on one of the arms to form a passage for the wires.

The cable’s length is approximately 210mm and it is using a 4-pin PWM connector.

Here is a picture showing both versions.

Installation

The cooler was tested on the Intel LGA-1151 socket using Intel i7 8700k on the Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming motherboard. The installation of the cooler is straight forward.

  • Apply the thermal paste on the CPU’s IHS.
  • Place the cooler on the CPU such that the holes on the mounting bars align with the mounting holes in the socket area.
  • Use the NM-IBT4 screws by placing them from behind the motherboard and screw them in going diagonally at a time.
  • Connect the 4-pin power cable of the fan on the CPU fan header or any other header of your desire.

This would complete the installation.

Clearance

This cooler is intended for the SFF or HTPC form factor builds though not limited to them only. This cooler has a height of 37mm and bears a slim design which makes it 100% compatible with the RAM and PCIe slots.

Testing Methodology

Testbed configuration is:

  • Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming
  • Intel i7 8700k
  • CORSAIR Vengeance 2x8GB @ 2666MHz
  • HyperX 120GB SSD
  • Thermaltake TP RGB 750W PSU

Following software was used for testing and monitoring.

  • AIDA64 Extreme

The cooler was tested in two settings. One was the stock settings with everything on Auto and the other was with 4.3GHz on all cores using 1.16V. Our Intel i7 8700k is delidded. For the purpose of comparison, we have tested the non-chromax edition of NH-L9i as well.

We are using Noctua NT-H1 on our test benches for all the coolers testing. This will ensure the standardization and mitigate any performance benefit that may come using the supplied thermal paste. The testing is done on an open-air bench system. Once inside the chassis, the temperatures are expected to rise and would largely depend upon the optimal airflow inside the chassis. The ambient temperature was 21°C during the testing. The fan was set to run at 100% speed during the test.

Not every run of the stress test may yield the same result. This could well be due to many factors like mounting pressure, thermal paste application, varying ambient temperature. Not to mention the silicon differences even among the same category of the chips. Hence, it is pertinent to mention the testing methodology along with the specifics.

Let’s take a look at the results.

Results

There is a difference of 1.17°C between the Noctua NH-L9i and NH-Li9 chromax.black.

There is a difference of 1.5°C between the Noctua NH-L9i and NH-L9i chromax.black.

Here is what Noctua has mentioned on their website. “The NH-L9i is a highly-compact low-profile quiet cooler designed for use in small form factor cases and HTPC environments. While it provides first-rate performance in its class, it is not suitable for overclocking and should be used with care on CPUs with more than 65W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Please consult our CPU compatibility list and TDP guidelines to find out whether the NH-L9i is recommended for your CPU.”

I overclocked the CPU to 4.7GHz all cores at 1.254V (manual). After 10 minutes 4 cores were in 90s (92°C, 91°C, 92°C, and 91°C) and two cores were in 80s (89°C, 87°C). After 20 minutes all cores were in the 90s (95°C, 93°C, 93°C, 91°C, 92°C, and 91°C). Seeing no point in continuing the stress test any further, it was stopped.

Noise

The sound meter was showing the noise level of the Noctua NF-A9x14 PWM chromax.black to be 40 dB(A) with ambient sound level of 36 dB(A).

 

Conclusion

Noctua has released the all-black chromax edition of their award-winning CPU coolers i.e NH-L9i, NH-U12S, and NH-D15. Since Noctua is soldering the copper heat pipes with the fins, they were on the lookout for the coating material that will not impede the thermal performance over the longer period of time as well as the new production process for this coating. The chromax edition of these coolers is identical to the original coolers with one exception which is the all-black color. All-Black here refers to literally every component/accessory being in the black color be it the heatsink or the fans or the mounting hardware. These coolers from head-to-toe are black.

In our last content of all-black coolers from Noctua, we have taken a look at their low profile cooler aka NH-L9i chromax.black. The cooler has exactly the same footprint as the non-chromax version except the color which is obviously the black one. The Noctua NH-L9i is a Low-Profile CPU Cooler. It has a total height of just 37mm including the fan which has a height of 14mm. This small footprint makes it an ideal cooler for your HTPC and SFF builds with CPUs rated for up to 65W TDP. Overclocking is not in the books for this cooler and Noctua has specifically mentioned this on their website. The supplied fan is NF-A9x14 chromax.black. The heatsink has two copper heat pipes which are black coated. The copper base is nickel coated. The mounting bars come pre-installed on the cooler.

The dimension of the heatsink is 23x95x95mm (HxWxD). The 23mm is the total height of the heatsink which goes to show the true low profile design of the cooler. The dimension of the cooler is 37x95x95mm (HxWxD). 37mm is the total height of the assembled cooler (heatsink and fan). The weight of the heatsink alone is 345 gm whereas it is 385 gm with the fan. This version of the cooler is compatible with Intel LGA-115X only as signified by the letter i in the model (NH-L9i). The Noctua NH-L9i chromax.black comes with 6 years warranty. The aluminum fins are black coated and soldered with the heat pipes. The complete assembly is nickel plated as well. The heatsink has stepped design at the bottom giving more surface area for effective heat dissipation.

The fan has a maximum speed of the 2500 ±10% RPM. With LNA, this speed is 1800 ±10% RPM. Minimum rotational speed is 600 ±20% RPM. Fan takes input power of the 2.52W at 0.21Awith the 12V DC. The maximum airflow is 57.5m³/h. With LNA it is 40.8 m³/h. The maximum acoustical noise is 23.6 dBA. With LNA it is 14.8 dBA. The fan has a 4 pin PWM connector. The cable’s length is approximately 205mm. Use the LNA only if there is a plenty of airflow inside the chassis and you are using 65W TDP chip.

The price of the Noctua L9i chromax.black at the time of this review is $49.95/£45.99. The Noctua NH-L9i is listed on Amazon at $39.95. With just $10 above the user can get a cooler with same footprint and similar thermal performance but with better aesthetics and neutral color that can be used in any themed build. This cooler can’t handle the overclocking as it is designed for 65W TDP chips. In our testing, on stock/Auto settings on Intel i7 8700k the average temperature was 79.67°C where one core hit 85°C. This CPU is in the incompatible list on Noctua’s website for this cooler. This cooler for sure can handle the HTPC/SFF builds requirements with supported chips.

We are thankful to the Noctua for giving us the opportunity to review their NH-L9i chromax.black CPU air cooler.