Low Profile Coolers for Cases with Limited Height

2/7/2013 11:32:31 AM

Need to reduce the noise of your HTPC we round up three coolers from Arctic, Phanteks and Noctua, for cases with limited height

Arctic Freezer 11 LP

How much?

·         Price: $24

·         Model number: CACO-P2000000-BL

In detail

·         Compatibility Intel: LGA775, LGA1156, LGA1155

·         Weight: 400g

·         Size: [mm] 109 x 106 x 53 [W x D x H]

·         Fan: 1 x 92mm

·         Stated noise: 0.3sone

Arctic Freezer 11 LP

With its Freezer i30 cooler currently occupying our Elite, we were keen to see if any of Arctic’s other new CPU coolers were just as great. At just $24, the Freezer 11LP is certainly exceptionally cheap. In fact, it’s half the price of Noctua’s NH-L9i, which is also in this month’s round-up. It uses a single 92 mm fan, which blows down onto an aluminum heat-sink that’s speared by two 6mm heat-pipes.

The total height is 53mm – the tallest of the three CPU coolers on test and it’s also the most bulky. This due to the large, black plastic casing that also acts as securing mount. Four long screws pass through the casing and secure to clips that fix to the motherboard, similarly to push-pins.

It’s relatively easy to install, but the bulky mounting mechanism and protruding heat-pipes meant that, while our full sized test system motherboard posed no problems, the cooler obstructed the first DIMM slot on our mini-ITX motherboard, so we could only install the cooler in a particular orientation. Socket support is fairly limited too. There are different versions of the Noctua NH-L9i for Intel and AMD sockets, but the Freezer 11 LP only supports LGA 1155, LGA1156 and LGA775.

Phanteks PH-TC 90LS

How much?

·         Price: $38

·         Manufacturer: www.phanteks.com

·         Model number: PH-TC90LS

In detail

·         Compatibility Intel: LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA2011

·         Weight: 273g

·         Size: [mm] 95x 95 x 43 [W x D x H]

·         Fan: 1 x 92mm

·         Stated noise: 19-26dBA

Phanteks PH-TC 90LS

The award for the most basic-looking cooler on test goes to the Phanteks PH-TC90LS, which retails for $38. However, it boasts a few hidden features that may help it to beat the heat. It has three 6mm heat-pipes hidden inside, while the painting method employed during manufacturing ensures the metal is free from oxidation and impurities.

It also includes a 9mm PWM-controlled fan, but if you need to replace it, you’ll have to use an 80mm fan due to the proprietary fan mount. The fan itself was quite fiddly to install, though, with small wires attaching to the fan and then clipping to the heat-sink.

Thankfully, the rest of the installation was very easy indeed, with four sprung screws securing the cooler by passing through the one-piece mounting plate and contact plate, and then attaching to a back-plate.

The huge aluminum contact plate initially looked large enough to potentially cause compatibility issues with smaller motherboards, but thankfully it wasn’t quite as bulky as the Arctic Freezer 11 LP, and even had room to spare on our mini-ITX motherboard.

Noctua NH-L9i

How much?

·         Price: $48

·         Supplier: www..com

·         Model number: NF-A9x14 PWM

In detail

·         Compatibility Intel: LGA1156, LGA1155

·         Weight: 420g

·         Size: [mm] 95x 95 x 37 [W x D x H]

·         Fan: 1 x 92mm

·         Stated noise: Up to 24dBA

Noctua NH-L9i

Austria-based company Noctua traditionally makes large tower coolers large tower coolers, but has just released its first true low-profile cooler in the form of the NH-L9i. It’s also made top-down cooling products before, but they’ve been much larger. There are two models, both of which are equipped with a fan-speed reduction cable and cost around $48. The NH-L9i supports LGA1155, while the NH-L9i supports LGA 1155, while the NH-L9i offers compatibility with AMD Socket AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+ and Socket FM1 and FM2.

The NH-L9i is also the smallest cooler on test, rising just 37mm with the fan installed – barely any taller than a standard stick of RAM. Its other dimensions are equally dinky, and they only protrude a millimeter or two outwards from the 92mm PWM fan’s extremities.

The fan itself has a low profile too, with a depth of just 14mm. The heat-sink is raised slightly above the contact plate, meaning that compatibility shouldn’t be an issue either, even on the smallest and most cramped of motherboards. Whichever way we mounted it on our mini-ITX motherboard, there was plenty of clearance for the DIMM slots, meaning that you could orientate it to suit your case’s cooling. Installing the NH-L9i is a doddle too – there’s no need for a back-plate, with four mounting screws securing to the cooler from the rear of the motherboard.


We tested each cooler in our usual Intel LGA1155 cooler test rig. This meant they had to deal with our overclocked Core i7-2600K, but as the Intel reference cooler could deal with it, we thought this would make for an interesting comparison, given the noise and generally poor cooling from the reference cooler.

The best-performing cooler was the Phanteks PH-TC90LS, which managed a delta T of 580C. This was a massive 150C cooler than the reference cooler.

Meanwhile, both the Arctic Freezer 11 LP and the Noctua NH-L9i managed a delta T of 610C, which was still a sizeable 120C cooler than the reference cooler. Using the NH-L9i’s fan-speed reduction cable saw the delta T rise to 660C- still 70C lower than the reference cooler could achieve.

Clearly, a tower cooler is your best bet for cooling ability, but you can still get a surprising amount of cooling power from a low-profile cooler too.

The reference cooler also produces a shocking level of noise under load. The Phanteks PH-TC90LS was noticeably quieter, with the Arctic Freezer 11LP proving to be even quieter. The star of the show, though, was the Noctua NH-L9i, which just made a light noise at full load with its fan at full speed, but was inaudible above the rest of the hardware in our test system when using its fan-speed reduction cable.


If now noise is a must then Noctua’s NH-L9i is the leader of the pack. While it costs $23 more than the Arctic, it’s quieter, smaller and less likely to present compatibility issues. We also consider it to be the best option for Mini-ITX boards.

However, for those on a tight budget with larger motherboards, the Arctic is the best option, as it’s quieter and cheaper than the Phanteks PH-TC90LS.

Scores: Noctua NH-L9i

§  Cooling: 31/40

§  Design: 28/30

§  Value: 22/30

§  Fitting: Good

Scores: Arctic Freezer

§  Cooling: 31/40

§  Design: 21/30

§  Value: 27/30

§  Fitting: Good

Scores: Phanteks

§  Cooling: 32/40

§  Design: 22/30

§  Value: 24/30

§  Fitting: Good


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