Noctua NH-D15 CPU Dual-Tower Heatsink Cooler Review

Hassan Mujtaba
Posted Sep 13, 2014
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Introduction

The Austrian based cooler manufacturing company, Noctua, is a name renowned by several enthusiasts and overclockers in the PC industry. Emerged back in 2005, Noctua has become one of the most respected cooling product manufacturer in the industry with their legacy products such as the highly acclaimed Noctua NH-D14. Released back in 2009, the NH-D14 hit the market like a wild fire offering superb cooling performance on the most high-end Intel and AMD processors with its dual heatsink stack design which several cooling product makers have followed since.

Noctua, at their core are a desktop-centric manufacturer aiming to deliver specialized coolers with incredible cooling performance and low noise output that has won the hearts of many enthusiasts since 2005. Looking at the current state of the desktop PC market, the OEM shipments are constantly declining while there is still a boom in the DIY market which Noctua aims to deliver high-end products for. This decline in the PC market has been due to the emergence of compact and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets which don’t require a high-end cooling solution nor do casual users need to overclock. So one asks, why is there a need for high-end coolers when all they want to do is browse the internet and watch movies. The only thing such bulky coolers will do is output more noise which would be a let down for the product itself.

Trends in Desktop PC Cooling Market

Aside from the decline in desktops, several manufacturer’s who were once renowned for their high-end air coolers have left the market and now investing in all-in-one closed loop liquid coolers. The closed loop liquid coolers while somewhat expensive due offer more cooling and run silently without taking as much space as a high-end and bulky air cooler. Several manufacturer’s are using this design including OEMs and GPU makers including AMD who recently left the traditional air cooling shroud on their Volcanic Islands GPUs in favor of a closed loop AIO solution which was featured on their flagship Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card which currently holds the throne of the world’s fastest graphics card. This shows that the hybrid air/liquid cooling design is a better investment then air cooling which aren’t offering much in terms of innovation and keeping the same bulky design scheme generation over generation.

The market is definitely shifting and while Noctua currently has no plans to hop abroad the liquid cooling bandwagon, they do have a second surprise for the overclocking and enthusiast community in the form of the Noctua NH-D15, Noctua’s most high-performance and monstrous cooler to date.

Noctua NH-D15 – The Mighty Just Got Mightier

Over the last year, Noctua introduced several high-end and mainstream coolers such as the Noctua NH-U14S and Noctua NH-U12S which we will be comparing in today’s review but when it comes to high-end cooling, there’s nothing best then to update one of your mightiest cooler to the next generation and that is what Noctua has done exactly with their Noctua NH-D15. The took the core design scheme of the Noctua NH-D15 and rebuilt it for the next generation of processors offering more cooling performance. Take it as a remastered game for an example, you take a game that was released a few years back, re-imagine it with new enhancements and then launch it as a completely new product keeping the design and legacy of the old one feel alive and fresh.NOCTUA NH-D15_Render_official_1

Noctua NH-D15 – Specifications

Built on the basis of the legendary NH-D14 and carrying on its quest for ultimate quiet cooling performance, Noctua’s flagship model NH-D15 is an elite-class dual tower cooler for the highest demands. Its expanded heatpipe layout and two premium grade NF-A15 140mm fans with PWM support for automatic speed control allow it to further improve the NH-D14’s award-winning efficiency. Topped off with the trusted, pro-grade SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system, Noctua’s proven NT-H1 thermal compound and full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty, the NH-D15 forms a complete premium quality solution that represents a deluxe choice for overclockers and silent-enthusiasts alike.NOCTUA NH-D15_Render_official_3

Socket compatibility Intel LGA2011 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required)
Height (without fan) 165 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) 1000 g
Weight (with fan) 1320 g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
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
Fan specifications
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)
Input Power 1,56 W
Voltage Range 12 V
MTBF > 150.000 h

Noctua NH-D15 – Features

Based on the award-winning NH-D14

Noctua’s NH-D14 has received more than 350 awards and recommendations from leading international hardware websites and magazines, making it one of the most successful premium heatsinks ever built. With its expanded layout and dual NF-A15 fans, the NH-D15 further improves the D14’s much acclaimed quiet cooling performance.

Six heatpipe dual tower design

As compared to conventional single tower heatsinks, the NH-D15’s fine-tuned six heatpipe dual tower design provides more surface area, better heat-distribution and superior airflow efficiency in dual fan mode.

Widened fin stack and expanded heatpipe layout

Compared to the NH-D14, the NH-D15’s fin-stack has been widened from 140 to 150mm and its heatpipes are now spaced further apart, which allows for a more uniform heat distribution over a larger surface area and thus contributes to the NH-D15’s superior efficiency.

High RAM compatibility in single fan mode

Thanks to its recessed lower fins, the NH-D15 provides 64mm clearance for tall memory heatsinks in single fan mode, making it compatible with most high end RAM modules on the market. In dual fan mode, the NH-D15 should be used with standard height RAM (up to 32mm). Please note: In chassis with more than 165mm CPU cooler clearance, the front fan can be moved upwards to make room for memory modules taller than 32mm.

Dual NF-A15 140mm fans

The NH-D15 features two of Noctua’s premium class NF-A15 140mm fans. Complying with Noctua’s AAO standard and featuring sophisticated aerodynamic design measures such as Flow Acceleration Channels, the NF-A15 has quickly built up a reputation as one of the best 140mm fans on the market.

PWM support and Low-Noise Adaptor

The NF-A15 premium fans supplied with the NH-D15 support PWM for convenient automatic speed control through the mainboard. In addition, the maximum fan speed can be reduced from 1500 to 1200rpm using the supplied Low-Noise Adaptor for even quieter operation.

Excellent component cooling

Extending below the fin-stacks, the large NF-A15 fans not only contribute to the NH-D15’s superb CPU cooling capabilities but also provide massive airflow over surrounding motherboard components and heatsinks, thus ensuring excellent component cooling performance.

SecuFirm2 mounting system

Noctua’s SecuFirm2 mounting systems have become synonymous with quality, safety and ease of use. Supporting Intel LGA115x (LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156), LGA2011 and AMD (AM3(+), AM2(+), FM1, FM2(+)), the SecuFirm2 mounting included with the NH-D15 guarantees perfect contact pressure and maximum convenience on all current sockets.

Compatibility with past and future sockets

Complying with the open SecuFirm standard, the NH-D15 can be made compatible with the older LGA1366 and LGA775 sockets using the optional NM-I3 mounting kit, which is provided by Noctua free of charge. If technically possible, Noctua will also provide upgrade kits for future sockets.

NT-H1 thermal compound

Having received more than 100 awards and recommendations from hardware journalists around the world, Noctua’s NT-H1 is a proven professional grade TIM solution that provides minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease of use and outstanding reliability.

Features six year warranty

Noctua products are renowned for their impeccable quality and outstanding longevity. Like all Noctua fans, the supplied NF-A15’s feature an MTBF rating of more than 150.000 hours and the entire NH-D15 package comes with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.

Noctua NH-D15 – Unboxing

The packaging of Noctua’s products is some of the best in the industry. The Noctua NH-D15 ships inside a large box package with their classic brown, white and black color scheme. The box is bigger compared to the NH-D14 but adds extra protection to the cardboard packaging so that the cooler isn’t damaged while shipping or during transport.Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _Box Front

The front section of the box has large “NH-D15: labels and is categorized as a D-Type cooler. D-Type stands for the dual-tower heatsink type coolers which currently include the NH-D14 and NH-D15 in Noctua’s stack. The other two dual-tower heatsinks we will be comparing include the Phantek’s PH-TC14PE and DeepCool’s Lucifer which are gigantic CPU coolers in their own rights. The cooler is mentioned to be based on the award winning NH-D14 which is something which we mentioned earlier in this review since it is based on the DNA of its older predecessor.Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _Box Back

The back and sides of the box list down several features and specifications of the NH-D15 regarding it as a new design of the NH-D14 and compatibility with a wide range of AMD and Intel platforms though this has already been detailed in the specifications sheet which can be find above. Following are the components shipped within the package:Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _Accessories

  • 4x Rubber fan mounts
  • 4x Fan screws
  • 4x LGA2011 mounting screws
  • 4x AMD mounting screws
  • 4x AMD spacers (white)
  • 4x Intel spacers (black)
  • 4x Thumb screws
  • 4x Fan clips
  • 2x AMD mounting arms
  • 2x Intel mounting arms
  • 1x 140 mm x 150 mm x 25 mm NF-A15 fan
  • 2x L.N.A adapters
  • 1x Intel backplate
  • 1x Tube of NT-H1 thermal paste
  • 1x Phillips screwdriver
  • 1x Metal Noctua badge
  • 1x PWM Y-cable

 Noctua NF-A15 Heatsink Fan – Closer Look

The package is supplied with a single Noctua NF-A15 fan which is a premium quality 140mm fan that delivers wider airflow and quiet operation. The fan uses Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) standard and features a sophisticated aerodynamic design which impacts air flow. Before going in to details, we want you to see the specifications of the NF-A15 fan in the table provided below:Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _NF-A15 PWM Fan

Size 140x150x25 mm
Connector 4-pin PWM
Bearing SSO2
Blade Geometry A-Series with Flow Acceleration Channels
Frame Technology AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation)
Rotational Speed (+/- 10%) 1200 RPM
Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%) 900 RPM
Min. Rotational Speed (PWM, +/-20%) 300 RPM
Airflow 115,5 m³/h
Airflow with L.N.A. 88,7 m³/h
Acoustical Noise 19,2 dB(A)
Acoustical Noise with L.N.A. 13,8 dB(A)
Static Pressure 1,51 mm H2O
Static Pressure with L.N.A. 0,89 mm H2O
Max. Input Power 0,96 W
Max. Input Current 0,08 A
Voltage 12 V
MTBF > 150.000 h
Scope of Delivery
  • Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws
Warranty 6 years

A first look at the fans show off the traditional brown color scheme which Noctua has been using on their fans since they emerged. The fan measures at 150mm. You can noticed the four rubber pads on the edges of the fan which dampen the amount of vibrations produced under operation keeping the cooling process silent, efficient and cooler.

 

The back of the fan has the ID label and the frame is visible from this side. Four 120mm mounting screws are located which allow you to equip the fan with the heatsink or casing. The fan ships with anti-vibration bolts which can be replaced with standard screws to further tone down vibration while connectors include a low noise adapter and a range of 3-Pin to 4-Pin molex and connector cables.

 

 

The Noctua NF-A15 might not please some users for its looks but I have always been fond of Noctua’s color scheme. Noctua recently introduced silver and black colored fans at Computex 2014 which give users the option to move away from the brown color but that’s entirely user dependent. Noctua has also introduced several new innovations in terms of fan and blade designs which can be seen below:

SSO2Noctua SSO

The self-stabilising oil-pressure bearing (SSO-Bearing) system has always been at the heart of Noctua’s award-winning premium fans. Silent enthusiasts and industry clients alike swear by its proven, time-tested quality. SSO combines the proven concept of oil-based hydrodynamic bearings with an additional magnet that supports the self-stabilisation of the rotor axis. Due to the axis being stabilised by the magnetic field, Noctua’s SSO Bearing achieves higher precision and better longevity than conventional ball-, sleeve- or hydrodynamic bearings.

Flow Acceleration ChanelsNoctua Flow Acceleration Channel

Boundary layer separation from the suction side of the fan blades leads to increased vortex noise and lower airflow efficiency. In order to suppress this phenomenon, the Noctua’s A-Series impellers feature suction side Flow Acceleration Channels. These channels alter the flow distribution on the suction side of the blades and speed up the airflow at the crucial outer blade regions. As flow separation is more likely to occur when the speed of the fluid relative to the fan blade is low, the increase in speed achieved through the Flow Acceleration Channels leads to significantly reduced flow separation, which permits lower vortex noise and higher airflow efficiency.

AAO FrameNoctua AAO Frame

Noctua’s AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimisation) frames feature integrated anti-vibration pads as well as Noctua’s proprietary Stepped Inlet Design and Inner Surface Microstructures, both of which further refine the fan’s performance/noise efficiency.

Noctua NH-D15 – Closer Look

The Noctua NH-D15 is a massive U-Type tower dual heatsink cooler. The two blocks of aluminum heatsinks are interconnected to a base plate via several heatpipes which dissipate heat from the processor. The NH-D15 has the same design and fin layout as the NH-U14S so its easy to say that Noctua slapped two of the NH-U14S heat sink blocks on the NH-D15 and connected them with a set of heatpipes.

 

One major improvement over the NH-D14 is that the NH-D15 has a stack of fins cut off at the bottom to support memory with higher heatsinks. Corsair, Kingston, G.Skill are renowned for their memory heatsink solutions which sometimes are massive enough that they end up being incompatible with the cooler due to denser fins. With a portion of the fins cut out, Noctua managed to make room for those memory sticks and since the design is incorporated on both sides, users on Intel’s HEDT platform such as the X99 and X79 can also use high-performance memory sticks without worrying about incompatibility and space issues.

 

The Noctua NH-D15 cooler has a single NF-A15 fan etched in the center. This is by reference and users can adjust the fan to either of both sides. The Noctua NH-D15 can support a total of three fans like many high-end air coolers out in the market today but even with just one fan, you can expect great performance from the NH-D15.

The total number of fins on the Noctua NH-D15 have been increased to 44 as compared to 42 on the NH-D14. More fins provide increased heat dissipation and the fan does a well job to blow off the heat with its adjustable and enhanced air flow design scheme.

 

The fins on the side have been etched inwards to avoid any sort of bending. Although the fins are durable, it’s good that Noctua has offered more protection to the fins by implementing this design.Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _CoverThe top picture shows a clear shot of the fin cut-out on the NH-D15 which gives a a 64mm spacing between the memory heatsink and the NH-D15 cooler.Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _HeatpipesNoctua has equipped the NH-D15 with six 6mm heatpipes which transfer heat from the base to the dual heatsink in an orderly arrangement. The long heatpipes are even in order and can dissipate large amount of heats to both sides without any issue under massive loads.

 

The heatsink features a nickle plated copper base with a reflective surface. It’s not a perfect mirror finish but at the end of the day, that doesn’t affect performance at all. The heatsink is mounted by the SecurFirm II that is a part of the NH-D15.

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler _Noctua LabelNow we head on towards the performance benchmarks of the Noctua NH-D15 against several other coolers to see whether it can hold the throne of the best performing air cooler in the market once again.

Test Setup

Processor
  •  Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard:
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC w/ Core i7-4770K
Power Supply: Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt
Hard Disk: Kingston HyperX 3K 90 GB (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12
Memory: 4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 2400 MHz
10th Anniversary Edition Memory Kit
Case: Cooler Master HAF 932
Video Cards: EVGA GeForce GTX 770 ACX
Cooling Solutions:
  • Noctua NH-D15
  • Noctua NH-D14
  • Noctua NH-U14S
  • Noctua NH-U12S
  • Phantek PH-TC14PE Triple Fan
  • DeepCool Gamer Storm Lucifer
  • DeepCool Gamer Storm Gabriel
  • Corsair H80i
  • Corsair H60
OS: Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit

Overclocking With Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC Force

We pushed our Core i7-4770K a little over 100 MHz then our previous highest clock obtained on the Z87 MPower Max which did 4.7 GHz. With the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC Force, we were able to push the Core i7-4770K to 4.8 GHz which is a great clock speed for the flagship Haswell chip.

We pushed the multiplier to x48 with a BCLK of 100 MHz at 1.38V max voltage and achieved an overclocked of 4.8 GHz which is pretty good for a Haswell chip considering how they overclocked. We also enabled XMP 1.3 profile for our memory clocking it to 2400 MHz at 1.65V on all four DDR3 modules. You can find the CPU-z screenshot below:

*(The overclock was stressed for 1 hour which is enough to tell whether it was stable or not for testing).

Noctua NH-D15 Cooling Performance

For performance testing, we booted up our PC in stock and overclocked configurations and ran the PC in 100% to evaluate the maximum temperatures obtained in idle and load scenarios. The Noctua NH-D15 was tested in two configurations, a single fan mode where we used the reference middle fan placement and dual fan mode in which we used two NF-A15 fans. You can see the results below in all three scenarios (Note: The first two tests are based entirely on stock CPU configuration which is 3.5 GHz / 3.9 GHz for the Core i7-4770K while the last configuration featured an overclocked 4.8 GHz Core i7-4770K processor).

Noctua NH-D15 Stock “Idle” Performance:

Noctua NH-D15 Stock “Load” Performance:

Noctua NH-D15 OC “Load” Performance:

You can tell by all tests that Noctua’s NH-D15 leads in both single fan and dual fan configuration in air cooling performance. We didn’t include a third fan but from the results, another fan might just push it ahead of the Phantek’s PH-TC14PE.

Conclusion

The Noctua NH-D15 is a replacement of one of the most renowned and highly acclaimed air cooler ever built, the Noctua NH-D14. The Noctua NH-D14 launched almost five years ago and back at that time, we gave it a 8.8 score, solely based on its performance since it was the best air cooler in the market at that time. But five years is a long time and the industry has moved its focus towards AIO and liquid cooling solutions which offer more cooling and add to the aesthetics of PCs. The only thing air coolers have done over this period is become large and bulky thus limiting the amount of upgrades and compatibility inside the desktop PC.

While there are some high-end air coolers in the market today which can easily outperform some of the best liquid cooling solutions, they don’t offer as much upgrade options in cases and compatibility with memory. It took Noctua a development process of three years to tackle these issues and today, we have the NH-D15. A beast in design that keeps compatibility and performance a large factor of its unique layout. Before NH-D15 came the NH-U14S and that is essentially the DNA that Noctua followed with the NH-D15. With six heatpipes, 44 dense aluminum fins and a design that allows compatibility for high-performance memory, Noctua has made an elegant heatsink once again but its design is just part I.

Part II is the performance and Noctua has shown that the NH-D15 still has the muscles to not only best its successor but fly past some of the best air and liquid cooling solutions in the market. The Noctua NH-D15 was able to stack up well against the Corsair H80i and the Phantek’s PH-TC14PE. While it still is a few degrees higher than a triple fan design that the Phanteks cooling solution adopt, the design of the PH-TC14PE is a bit more bulkier and there is no room for longer heatsinks memory compatibility. Since I personally own a PH-TC14PE, I had to use a low profile heatsink memory such as the G.Skill ARES/Fury series otherwise, I have to remove a fan from the side limiting it to two fans where the NH-D15 takes the crown. The Noctua NH-D15 retails for $99 US and is the perfect choice for enthusisats and desktop PC users who want the high performance in the air cooling market.

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler

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