A Closer Look
Being that it was designed to be used inside the cramped confines of Home Theater PCs, it's not surprising that the Noctua NH-L9i is the smallest cooler we have ever tested. At 95 x 95mm and only 37 mm tall, is an extremely compact little unit that should fit inside even the tightest of HTPC chassis. The NF-A9x14 PWM fan sporting Noctua's signature brown and tan color scheme is mounted to pull air into the recesses of the neatly designed heat sink. The fan is absolutely whisper quiet at and advertised 23.6 dB(A) out of the box, and I had to disconnect all of the droning case fans in my tower before I could get a feel for how much noise was being generated just by the cooler itself. With the included low-noise adapter cable attached, I can see how this unit could reside inside a living room HTPC without being noticed. The fan also comes equipped with rubber spacers to keep vibration to a minimum. The 4-pin fan connector cable is covered by a textured rubberized sleeve, giving it a braided look to match your braided PSU cables.
The heat sink design is decidedly minimalist. The aluminum fins are tightly arranged and two copper heat pipes loop through the interior to form an M. Noctua's logo is etched on one end and aside from a few notches, the fins have very little flair in their design. Not that it matters, as the entire heat sink is obscured by the fan when the unit is mated to the motherboard. The 95 x 95 mm footprint has been designed exactly to the keep-out zone of Intel's LG1155x socket, so as to maximize room around the cooler for additional components such as memory and PCIe cards on mini-ITX boards. A copper base ensures good heat transfer from the CPU, especially when combined with Noctua's excellent NT-H1 thermal compound.