Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler Review – Still the Temperature King?

Introduction

Noctua as a brand has become very well-known in the industry, and they are often touted as the best of the best. Their innovation and their quality speaks for itself, and many enthusiasts flock towards their products based on those reasons. Today is the day that we get the chance to look at their newest top-end cooler, one that is an improved version of their already award-winning product, which you may remember as the D14. Instead, we now have the D15 with its improved fins, bigger and better fans, and hopefully a performance improvement to match. That’s what we are aiming to find out…

Noctua Logo

The D15 is no small cooler, by any stretch of the imagination, and you would be a little foolish to think otherwise. You’ll see what I mean later on.  Anyway, it comes with two 150mm fans, dual fin stacks, a total of six heat pipes that flow through both stacks in a U configuration, and much more. It also comes with their SecuMount2 mounting system, which is the easiest one to install out of any manufacturer I’ve ever come across. It’s genius design also carries over to pretty much every other Noctua cooler, so you don’t need to worry about using different brackets for different coolers – they all work together in perfect harmony.

Specifications

Cooler Specification
Socket compatibility
Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required), AM4 with NM-AM4
Height (without fan)
160 mm
Width (without fan)
150 mm
Depth (without fan)
135 mm
Height (with fan)
165 mm
Width (with fan)
150 mm
Depth (with fan)
161 mm
Weight (without fan)
980 g
Weight (with fan/s)
1320 g
Material
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Max. TDP
see TDP guide
Fan compatibility
140x150x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 140x140x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 120x120x25
Scope of delivery
2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
Y-cable
NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty
6 Years

Noctua NH-D15 - Dimensions

FAN Specification
Model
2x Noctua NF-A15 PWM
Bearing
SSO2
Max. Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)
1500 RPM
Max. Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
1200 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM, +/-20%)
300 RPM
Max. Airflow
140,2 m³/h
Max. Airflow with L.N.A.
115,5 m³/h
Max. Acoustical Noise
24,6 dB(A)
Max. Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.
19,2 dB(A)
Voltage Range
12 V
MTTF
> 150.000 h

Packaging & First Look

Getting your hands on a D15 is something else – the packaging is much larger than you might have thought. It isn’t all too surprising, though. This cooler is a monster in terms of its size, and is easily one of the biggest around. When fitting two 150mm fans to it, you can understand why. In typical Noctua fashion, we can see their colors and a very descriptive box that covers the basics in many different languages.

Noctua NH-D15 - Packaging

Just in case you were unsure how big this box actually is, here’s the box next to a standard-sized Intel cooler from SilverStone. I told ya, it’s no small beast!

Noctua NH-D15 - Box vs Stock Cooler

Inside said box you will find a further three containers, which house the cooler, the accessories and the additional fan required to make it into a cooling monster.

Noctua NH-D15 - Inside The Box

Within the accessories box, you’ll find everything you need  to mount the cooler, with the exception of the AM4 bracket as this version didn’t come with it included. There’s a reason for that, and that reason is purely because there is an AM4 specific one that you’d need to purchase instead of the regular one. It’s not the best way to go, but that’s how Noctua decided to do it. Make sure you pick the correct one, otherwise you’re stuck buying an additional bracket. Noctua is generally awesome about this, though, and might even offer to send you one for free if you decide down the road that you’d like one.

Noctua NH-D15 - Memory Clearance

You will, of course, find another NH-A15 in the package as well. Isn’t it pretty…?

Noctua NH-D15 - NF-A15 Fan

This is what will remain when you’ve taken all of the goodies out of the box. The packaging is an excellent example of how you should receive a product. Not only that, you’ve got multiple layers of cardboard for even more protection.

Noctua NH-D15 - Internal Foam

So, here is the D15 in all of her glory. It’s a monster, and as you can see, it even makes the 150mm fan that sits in the middle look small.

NH-D15 The First Look

Noctua NH-D15 - Overview

When the D15 is laying on its side, you can clearly see all six of the heat pipes that aid the heat dissipation into the enormous fin stack. From this angle, we can also see how much the 150mm fan sticks out at the bottom of the cooler, which moves a considerable amount of air over your motherboard VRM circuitry. The result of this should be reduced temperatures that allow for better power delivery to your CPU. For those of you that don’t know, your VRM can throttle, just like a CPU; and when it does, your CPU clock speeds drop off in order to reduce the load on your VRM.

Noctua NH-D15 - Side Overview

Installation

Noctua make the installation of their coolers so easy due to the fact that they all use the exact same mounting principles. Once you’ve mounted one, you’ve mounted them all. It’s great, and definitely something I wish that other vendors would deploy. N’awh well, one can dream. Anyway, on to the mounting of this behemoth cooler.

Installation is straightforward. You need to remove the stock AMD brackets by unscrewing four screws. The Noctua engineers used the same threading on their screws, which allows you to use the stock back plate. That’s not a bad thing, as some vendors have glued them down. I know that ASUS does this. It’s not a strong glue as it is only holding the plate in place for easier installation, but it is still something to remember. Once those stock brackets are removed, you can proceed to install the Noctua brackets. You have two choices, as you might have spotted above, with regards to their length. The short brackets are required for vertical mounting; and the longer brackets are used for horizontal mounting. I prefer not to suck warm air from my GPU, though some prefer to do it that way. Whatever works, right?

Noctua NH-D15 - Mount Installation

The Beast is Installed!

After that, you need to mount the cooler. Remove the center fan, and torque the two screws down. That’s it. Reinstall the fan, and you’re almost there!

Noctua NH-D15 - Installed

As far as memory clearance goes, you can see that the cutout on the NH-D15 comes in very useful. You are able to use pretty much any memory module that is presently on the market without any worry. Taller RAM may limit you as to where you can place the secondary fan. Alternatively, leave the fan off and just run the cooler with one – it doesn’t make much difference to your temperatures. We used both fans for our testing.

Noctua NH-D15 - Memory Clearance

If you happened to purchase the non-AMD version by mistake or happened to purchase it before deciding what platform you were going with, you can always grab yourselves an upgrade kit such as this one, which Noctua makes available for all.

Noctua NH-D15 - AM4 Mount

Let’s find out how well it performs, and whether or not it still reigns supreme.

Test Bed & Methodology

Hardware

Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B350-F GAMING
CPU: AMD Ryzen R7 1700 @ 3.8 GHz (+0.2v offset = approx 1.4v)
RAM: G.SKILL Trident Z RGB 2×8 GB @ 3200 MHz C14
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA G3 850w 80+ Gold

The thermal compound for all coolers is ARCTIC’s MX-4 to keep the comparison as fair as possible.

Software
Temp monitoring: CPUID HWMonitor v1.35 – Package Node & TMPIN2 (VRM) Temperatures
CPU loader: AIDA64 – both CPU and FPU stress tests

The Key Testing Points
In all cooler review articles, we are looking for a few key factors. Most notably would of course be the CPU temperature, but we are also going to be keeping track of the surrounding motherboard temperatures, as the VRM efficiency does depend on thermals too. Our tests are all conducted in the same manner.

Methodology

Two different measurements are taken, one when the CPU is idling and the other when the CPU is under full load. On top of this, we also take note of the motherboard temperatures when under both idle and loaded conditions.

We find our idle and load temperatures by conducting a series of tests. Firstly, we boot the system and load nothing more than HWiNFO to monitor the temperatures. Following that, we proceed to launch AIDA64 to stress the CPU using both the CPU and FPU stress tests as this allows for maximum heat generation.

As soon as the temperature hits 95°C, the stress test is stopped immediately to avoid damaging the chip. The maximum temperature you can allow the processor to hit before throttling ensues is 95°C. If the cooler reaches this threshold, the test is immediately stopped. Each cooler review from hereon will contain the notes for clarity.

In order to ensure complete fairness in our testing, I do not rely on the “pea-sized blob” method to spread the thermal paste sufficiently. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the amount of thermal paste makes no difference to the overall results.

CPU Temperatures

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Temp Normal

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Temp 100

Notes:
The Noctua NH-L9A-AM4 hit the thermal limit.

Motherboard Temperatures

Noctua NH-D15 VRM Temp Normal

Noctua NH-D15 VRM Temp 100

Performance Analysis

There was one question in mind when this review began, and I believe that we have our answer. The Noctua NH-D15 is indeed still the king, and it performs well in multiple aspects. Well, it turns out to be that way in our current set of results. It may well change in the future, but as far as our results go, the king is still Noctua.

Let’s discuss the acoustic properties of the NH-D15 for a second. While we were testing the standard fan profile, it was capable of keeping the CPU at a mere sixty-degrees. The impressive part of this is the fact that the fans didn’t even hit 900 RPM. At this level, they are very difficult to hear over any other ambient noise in the test environment. Noise levels could be even better in a closed chassis, which just adds to the list of things that Noctua is great at. They continue to impress, based on the few coolers that have passed through here already. I’ve had the NH-D14 in the past, and the D15 is a great successor in the noise arena.

As far as the temperatures go, it blows everything else away. Given that this is one of the most expensive coolers we’ve tested to date, it comes with a certain expectation. Not only did the D15 hit those expectations, it blew them out of the water by giving us great temperatures and awesome noise levels too. We are well aware that the temperature doesn’t tell the entire story, which is why the noise levels are very important to us.

Conclusion

We’ve successfully answered the leading question in our review, and can confirm that the NH-D15 is still the air cooling king. Let’s be real, it does come at a pretty hefty price compared to some of the other options on the market. One thing to remember is that the quality is a key factor to keep in mind, as well as the six-year warranty that you receive with all Noctua products.

If you are in the market for the top-end air cooler on the market, you cannot go wrong with the Noctua NH-D15. You can also customize the appearance of your cooler with the custom covers that Noctua recently released. For all of the reasons mentioned above, it is only fitting that I give it our highest award. It’s a cooler that I am very proud to have in my arsenal, and will cherish it for a long time.

Special thanks go to Noctua for sending it over for us to check out. Also, don’t forget to check out the video review of Noctua’s new fan blade design on the NF-A12x25 design.

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Noctua NH-D15

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