Size / Clearance
The thing about this cooler is that it’s footprint is only a square 95mm and it’s height is just 37mm. With something that small, it’s not going to foul your RAM or discrete graphics card. The clearance with the capacitors around the CPU socket was a little close for our liking on the ASUS P8Z68 -V Pro Gen 3 motherboard but it did fit.
In the interest of being thorough, we ran a Blu-ray on the test system using the 2500K with the integrated GPU for the length of the movie (Star Wars – Episode 3). This is typical of how the NH-L9i would be used in real life. In the real world test, the delta temperature did not exceed 27 degrees over ambient for the entire movie. While running the movie, we did not have the speakers turned on and still could not hear the CPU fan over the ambient room noise – in fact, the loudest component in the test system was the active hard drive. At full speed, the NH-L9i registered about 20dB(A) on our sound level meter but it was noticeable over the other ambient noise in the room with an open case. The fan only ever hit 100% when running Prime95, not during normal use.
Our testing was done in the standard way that we test all of our other heat sinks and the results were great for a product with a 95mmx95mm footprint standing only 37mm tall including the fan. Although the torture test results were on the higher side, they were still perfectly safe. The cooler passed the thermal torture test on stock volts and easily handled standard Blu-ray playback without making a peep.
At $55, it’s on par with most of the other low profile coolers. It was easy to install, of excellent build quality and doesn’t influence any of your RAM selection.
The NH-L12 was our first choice for a HTPC in January but the title now goes to the NH-L9i. We would still recommend the NH-L12 for small form factor gaming rigs or other low profile applications with 95W TDP CPU requirements but we couldn’t go past the NH-L9i for a HTPC after testing it out. It would be fair to say that we didn’t have high expectations of the NH-L9i when it came to keeping our 95W 2500K CPU cool, even at stock volts. So it would also be fair to say that we really under-estimated this product.
If we were building a HTPC tomorrow using an 1155 chipset, the NH-L9i would be considered an essential component and one of the last things we would compromise on.