March 29, 2015

Review: Noctua NH-D9L

Noctua’s NH-U9L cpu cooler has a small footprint designed for micro-atx and mini-itx boards. Its small size does not equal poor and loud performance though. If you’ve have heard of Noctua, they are known for their quiet high performance coolers and this is no exception. Unlike the NH-U9S which could be seen as the brother to the NH-D9L, the NH-U9S has 3U compatibility to ensure that it will fit in your HTPC or small form factor PC.


The Cooler comes in the standard brown and white box that we have become accustomed to. On the front we find a list of features as well as a badge saying “3U compliance”. On one side we find the fan and cooler specifications and on the other we find a list of technology featured in the fan.

Inside is the accessory box which includes everything you need to get started as well as the cooler itself protected in it’ eco friendly packaging. The accessories box includes Noctua’s SecuriFirm2 mounting system for both Intel 115x/2011x and AMD systems, a low-noise adapter, a metal Noctua badge, an extra pair of fan clips for adding an extra 92mm fan, a tube of Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound, a screw driver, and illustrated instruction manuals.

The cooler

The NH-D9L features a dual tower design with four heatpipes going to both fin arrays. Unlike the NH-U9S, this cooler is symmetrical. The fins start fairly high up the cooler to allow for better RAM compatibility. It uses the standard tool-less fan mounting system that uses notches on the side of the fin array that allow the metal clips on the fan to latch onto. The mounting system allows for easy tool-less installation and removal which makes cleaning it very easy.

The NH-D9L sizes in at 110mm high, 95mm wide, and 95mm deep. The center fan does have to be removed to allow access to the two mounting screws at the bottom of the heatsink.

Looking at the cooler from the top you can see the shape of the fins that allow for better cooling performance as well as quieter performance. The Noctua brand is also stamped on both tops of the fin arrays. An additional fan can be added with the included fan mounts and provides additional performance but increases it's size as well.

The cooler is mounted by screwing down the hold down plate on the heat sink to the two included brackets that are secured to the motherboard. The four heatpipes are soldered between two copper plates making up the base. The base of the NH-D9L is milled and has arched grooves across the entire surface. The base of the heatsink is completely flat with no deformation at the edges, ensuring uniform contact with the entire CPU. There are staggered heatpipes to carry the heat away to different areas of the fin array. The cooler is compatible with any LGA 115x, and both 2011 sockets as well as AM2(+), AM3(+), FM1(+), and FM2(+).


The SecuFirm2 system makes installation very simple. For Intel systems, simply align the extremely thick backplate with the three holes on the back of the socket and it should smoothly slide into the motherboard. for Socket LGA 2011, simple screw in the included risers into the built in backplate on the motherboard. Once the backplate is installed, flip the motherboard over and place the black risers onto the screws jutting out and screw in the top brackets with the curves facing away from the centre. All that's left is to screw it all down with the four thumb screws and you're left with an extremely secure platform to mount the heatsink onto. With the SecuFirm2's extremely thick backplate, there will be little-to-no flex on the motherboard when the cooler is installed.

You will need to remove the fans to install the heat sink onto the brackets, but Noctua makes that easy with their tool less clips. Use the included screwdriver, or your own, to screw the two screws on the cooler to the brackets. The included screwdriver clears the top of the heat sink nicely and gives you a nifty tool to throw into your tool bag if you ever need it. The black springs ensure that the correct pressure is placed onto the CPU, so just simply keep screwing it in until it stops.


Test Configuration:

Motherboard : MSI Z77A-UD65

CPU: Intel Core i5 3570K (OC @ 4.7GHz)

Memory: Intel Extreme Masters 2x4GB 1866MHz

GPU: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 2GB

PSU: Corsair CX600

Software: Intel Burn Test v2.53, CPU-Z Version 1.60, RealTemp 3.60

*Temperatures were measured using RealTemp with an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celcius and the system was left to idle or run on full load for 10 min before temperatures were taken.

** Noctua's ND-H1 thermal paste was used for all testing

From the tests you can see that the cooler is no slouch. It offers a slight performance increase over the NH-U9S for a small price but the extra fan is not worth the extra cost and size.


For a small form factor cooler, it does it’s job well. Even without being intended to cool an overclocked CPU, it still manages to perform well under conditions it was not designed for. It might operate at a slightly high temperature than other coolers, but it does so extremely quietly. Being used to a loud Corsair H80 in my normal system, I was confused to whether I turned on the computer or not. While you’re not going to be getting super high overclocks with low temperatures, the NH-D9L performs extremely well taking into consideration its intended use and product segment.We have yet to test a product from Noctua we didn’t like and it should be no different with the NH-D9L.

Although the Noctua colour scheme we are accustomed to seeing may not appeal to some people, you do have the option of pick up their Industrial PPC or Redux line of fans for a different look but as it stands, I like the beige and brown as its easily identifiable as a Noctua product.
It’s design takes into consideration the clearances created from smaller motherboards and taller ram heatsinks so it’s asymmetrical design does not inhibit the use of larger sticks of ram which is nice as it does not limit the selection of parts when building a computer. With most itx builds, it may be a tight fit and may not even fit with a second fan but seeing the difference with the extra fan, it won’t make a huge difference.

With all things Noctua, the cooler doesn’t cheap, it retails for $59.99 USD which is a few more than the NH-D9L. With that price though, you do get an exceptional 6-year warranty from Noctua as well as free upgrade kits for when new sockets come out that weren’t originally supported with the cooler. There is even a screwdriver included with the cooler so you won’t have to look for anything when you’re installing the cooler. Noctua’s Securifirm system is also one of the sturdiest mounting systems I have encountered. The NH-D9L is a tad bit shorter than the NH-U9S so it is more fitting for a itx build. Like with all Noctua coolers, we highly recommend you check them out.

Martin Tam is an editor and the Director of Video Production at [blank]’s Universe. He is also a technology enthusiast that particularly enjoys computers and photography. He enjoys breaking things and sleeping in his spare time.