Noctua NH-D15 air cooler review

Overview & Specs

The D15 sports some impressive specs and several awards. Many PC enthusiasts agree that Noctua makes the best air cooling solutions on the market. The D15 sports a dual heatpipe design with six pipes on each tower. The unit comes with two 140mm fans that have won awards for their performance and their ability to remain as quiet as possible, even under the most taxing loads. Both fans are PWM-controlled, which helps you customize your setup. The tower has better RAM compatibility versus the D14. The unit comes with the SecuFirm2 mounting system for both Intel and AMD sockets, a low-noise adapter for the fans, a Y-cable for the fans, and the Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound. Furthermore, the unit comes with a six-year warranty, which is pretty impressive.

Unboxing

The unit comes in very detailed packaging, which gives you an overview of the above specs. It is very clean and well organized. Upon opening the box, we find all of our components seperately pacakged and labeled. I was very impressed with how the unit was packaged and protected. While unboxing you will find that the AMD and Intel SecuFirm2 mounting hardware are seperately packaged, the second fan is packaged separately, the unit itself with one fan installed, and an accessories box. Big thumbs up to Noctua for putting time into appropriate packaging for their product.

Installation

As you can see in the video, installation was fairly easy. I first removed the Corsair H105 from my Intel Core i7-4770k, removed the fans from the top, and my radiator. I cleaned off the thermal compound from the CPU using my Arctic Silver kit. I then removed the mounting hardware for the H105 and we were ready to go! The SecuFirm2 mounting hardware was extremely easy to install. You have to put on the backplate, install the screws, and the mounting bars for your socket type. That’s it! After installing the mounting hardware, I applied the Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound to the CPU. Next, I installed the dual-tower cooler by placing the tower directly onto the CPU and using the included screwdriver to bind it to the mounting hardware. Again, this was very easy to do. Finally, I hooked up both fans to the tower and the PWM connectors. The unit took roughly 5 minutes to install (after all the pausing and restarting of my camera). I was very pleased with everything during the installation.

There are two items to note. First, if you are using both fans (which I suggest for better performance), and you do not have low-profile RAM, the fan on the first tower will stick out a bit. Make sure you have a case that can fit this beast. As you can see from the video, I had no problem installing this in my Cooler Master Storm Trooper but your mileage will vary. Additionally, I learned that I should have installed the PWM Y-adapter FIRST instead of trying to hook it up after the tower was installed. This is because the tower blocked my CPU and CPU_OPT fan headers. It was a bit of a pain to squeeze the adapter in there and hook it up.

Performance

In the video, you will see that I compared the NH-D15 to my Corsair H105 liquid cooler and the Cooler Master Hyper212+ Evo (which was installed prior to the Corsair). The results were rather pleasing. The video has some pretty graphs, if you are a visual person, but I’ll share the results here as well:

  • Idle – Fans at 50% (average temp of all cores, max reading) using RealTemp
    • NH-D15: 27C
    • H105: 29C
    • Hyper212: 30C
  • Prime95 – Blend test with 8 workers, CPU fans at 100% (average temp of all cores, max reading) using RealTemp
    • NH-D15: 84C
    • H105: 90C
    • Hyper212: 100C
  • Prime95 – LargeFFT test with 8 workers, CPU fans at 100% (average temp of all cores, max reading) using RealTemp
    • NH-D15: 89C
    • H105: 91C
    • Hyper212: 100C
  • Prime95 – SmallFFT test with 8 workers, CPU fans at 100% (average temp of all cores, max reading) using RealTemp
    • NH-D15: 90C
    • H105: 95C
    • Hyper212: 100C

As you can see, the Noctua outperformed my previous air cooler and the Corsair AIO. I was very impressed with that. What impressed me more was the noise level of the Noctua fans. Yes, at 100% you can hear them, but they are not anywhere close to the loudness of the Corsair fans. In fact, even when the fans are around 60-75% load, I can barely hear them. This was extremely impressive. I will say that I am convinced that I lost the chip lottery with my i7, as many reputable sites out there are getting better temps out of both the Nocuta and the H105. I think my chip just runs hot. But that’s ok. Prime95 is designed to stress the CPU and typical operation under load, such as FPS games and video rendering, shows temperatures in the 50’s.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Noctua NH-D15 is a very impressive air cooler. I can totally understand why it has won multiple awards and why it is so highly-regarded in the community. Both my tests and the tests of others in the community have shown that Noctua can keep up with most AIO’s out there and sometimes even beat their thermal performance. Not only is the thermal performance impressive, but the low noise level and ease of installation make this an “instant buy” for anyone out there looking to improve their temps. Sure, you can probably get better temps out of some AIO’s and custom loops, but if you are looking for an easy “plug and play” cooler, you cannot go wrong with Noctua.

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