Despite having some of the best performance in the market, Noctua’s CPU coolers are criticized to have less than ideal styles and looks with the silver and brown colors. Finally, Noctua released the long-awaited chromax.black coolers in October 2019, with all-black appearances.
The new black, grey and brown color scheme on the packaging is the easiest difference to spot between the regular and chromax.black versions. Gone is the descriptions in multiple languages on the cardboard box. You can now see a few photos of the cooler with highlighted features, like RAM and PCIe slot compatibility. The specification lists for the heatsink and cooling fans can still be found.
You can check out our other Noctua coolers’ reviews here.
The cooler and accessories are packed into two separate cardboard boxes, which served to prevent damages during shipping.
Both the NH-L9i, NH-U12S and NH-D15 chromax.black edition will receive the same amount of accessories. The only dissimilarity is the color. Normally, Noctua will include standard screws, mounting brackets and fan clips in silver. But for the chromax.black coolers, Noctua takes the effort to paint them black, which I appreciate the attention of details very much.
Noctua chromax.black CPU Coolers
All three chromax.black coolers have the identical physical dimensions as the regular versions. Below are their respective height, width and depth without the included fan(s).
- NH-U12S chromax.black: 158 mm x 125 mm x 45 mm
- NH-D15 chromax.black: 160 mm x 150 mm x 135 mm
- NH-L9i chromax.black: 23 mm x 95 mm x 95 mm
Every single aluminium fin and heatpipe on the heatsink is covered with the heat dissipation-optimized black coating, which Noctua claims the additional coating and manufacturing process will not hinder the cooling capability. From my experience, the coating seems to be relatively durable against minor scratches, but handling the coolers with care is still recommended.
The only thing that remains shinny is the polished nickel-plated CPU contact base on the cooler. The retention plate and screws of the mounting system are also coated in black.
Noctua provides the three chromax.black coolers with their chromax.black.swap NF-A9x14, NF-F12 and NF-A15 PWM fans. The fans come with black anti-vibration pads on each corner on both sides. We have done a review about the chromax.black.swap fans in 2017.
The NF-A9x14 spins from 600 RPM to 2500 RPM; NF-F12 from 300 RPM to 1500 RPM; NF-A15 from 300 RPM to 1500 RPM. The speed can be controlled via a 4-pin PWM connector. All the fans are rated to last at least 150,000 hours (MTBF).
We have updated our CPU cooler tests to more reflect real-world cooling performance of coolers.
To find out how the cooler performs, a total of three benchmarks are included. AIDA64 is used to run a CPU stress test. CPU, FPU and system cache are all stressed to create as much heat output as possible. Also, Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R20 are used to simulate real-world CPU load (like video-editing or rendering). It will be run continuously for three times. The highest CPU package temperatures are recorded. Ambient temperature is around 24 to 26°C.
Results will be taken at a 50% fan speed and 100% speed, controlled via the motherboard CPU PWM fan header. Both single-fan and dual-fan configuration of the cooler will be tested.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X @ 3.80 GHz @ 1.425 V (95W TDP)
- Motherboard: MSI B350M GAMING PRO (its review here)
- Thermal Compound: Noctua NT-H1
Please note that the NH-L9i and NH-L9i chromax.black (with the NM-AM4-L9aL9i mounting kit) are tested with a non-overclocked Ryzen 5 1600X CPU at 3.6 GHz, because they are not designed and advertised to work with an overclocked processor. Their results are not comparable with other coolers.
With the included fan(s) set at 50% PWM speed, the NH-U12S was able to keep the CPU package temperature in AIDA64 at around 75°C, while the larger dual-tower NH-D15 did 10°C better. Respective improvements of 9°C and 3°C were observed for the coolers at full fan speed.
The NH-L9i handled the non-overclocked R5 1600X pretty well at both situations, with temperatures at 75°C and 72°C.
In Cinebench R15, we saw similar changes from different fan speeds. The NH-U12S had the same 9°C decrease, and the NH-D15 had a smaller 2°C difference. The NH-L9i dropped 5°C when the fan was at full speed.
The CPU temperature increased to 64°C, 69°C and 74°C for each cooler, due to the higher heat output from Cinebench R20.
To verify the claim from Noctua, we put both the chromax.black and regular versions of the three coolers to the tests. The largest difference we could record is only about 2.1°C from the NH-L9i cooler. Most of the results are within 2°C of difference between the two versions, which is well inside the margin of error in our measurements, tools and the manufacturing tolerances. The chromax.black coolers have virtually identical cooling performance as their regular “brothers”.
The Noctua chromax.black coolers fix that one problem the PC community has requested for quite some time. The all-black exterior will enable the coolers to fit in more PC build styles. The matte black finish on the heatsink somehow make the coolers feel more premium and modern. I believe Noctua did not want to compromise on cooling performance for aesthetic, unless they find a way to optimize the coating. And the new coolers have practically equal cooling capability than the regular versions, according to our benchmarks. The SecuFrim 2 mounting system allows for quick and simple installation as always.
The included chromax.black.swap fans match the looks of the coolers very well. You can also get extra anti-vibration pads in 7 different colors (or 8 if you count the signature brown) (NA-SAVP1 for the NF-F12 and NA-SAVP3 for the NF-A15).
The chromax.black editions of NH-L9i, NH-U12S and NH-D15 cost $49.90 USD, $69.90 USD and $99.90 USD (MSRP) severally. All of them are provided with a usual 6-year warranty. They are priced around $5 USD to $10 USD more expensive than the regular versions, depending on the stores and ongoing promotions. If you take the aesthetic of your computer seriously, I would definitely recommend the chromax.black coolers. They hold the same high standard from Noctua with the beautiful black coating, but without impacting the cooling performance.
For more information, you can visit the Noctua product pages of the NH-L9i, NH-U12S and NH-D15 chromax.black coolers. You can purchase the coolers from your local/online resellers or the links below from Amazon and Newegg.
- Amazon US: Noctua NH-L9i chromax.black CPU Cooler
- Amazon US: Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 chromax.black CPU Cooler
- Amazon US: Noctua NH-U12S chromax.black CPU Cooler
- Amazon US: Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black CPU Cooler
- Newegg US: Noctua chromax.black CPU Coolers
Thanks Noctua for providing us the coolers for review. (Review Sample)
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