The Noctua NH-D15

Noctua is one of the world's most renowned cooler manufacturers. The company is especially well known for their high end and specialty products, aimed to those seeking extreme performance and or very low noise solutions. The cooler that the company provided us for this review is no other than the NH-D15, a behemoth based on the highly popular NH-D14.

The NH-D15 is supplied in a large cardboard box with a minimalistic, elegant design. Highlighting the main features of the cooler is the primary focus of the entire artwork. Inside the main box, we found the bundle packed into separate cardboard boxes and the cooler protected within a polyethylene foam construct. The bundle consists of the hardware necessary for the mounting of the cooler, an L type Philips PH2 screwdriver, a fan power cable splitter, two fan speed reducers, a tube of NT-H1 thermal grease, a metallic case badge, four rubber fan mounts and four wire clips for the two cooling fans.

  

Many people erroneously think that the NH-D15 is just a little larger version of the very popular NH-D14. The NH-D15 is a reverse-symmetric dual tower design based on the NH-D14, but there are numerous improvements. Noctua technically merged the core design of the NH-D14 with the fin design of the NH-U14S, which has the first seven fins of each tower shortened. This way, the NH-D15 can offer much wider compatibility with RAM modules if only the center fan is installed.

The rest of the fins are symmetric, meaning that both their sides are identical, which is mostly straight with a single small triangular notch at the center and a few more similar notches near the sides. In order to install/remove the NH-D15, the center fan needs to be removed. Another interesting point is that the fans can be moved upwards, several centimeters if needed be. Moving the front fan upward can allow the installation of tall RAM modules for a small impact on performance but it also requires a very wide case to do so.

Noctua provides two of their own NF-A15 140 mm fans alongside the NH-D15. Their brown/beige color is Noctua's trademark and unique to Noctua's products (or copies of them). These are very high quality fans, with SSO2 bearings (advanced liquid lubricated metallic bearings with magnetic stabilizers), rubber anti-vibration pads and ridged blades for airflow manipulation. For those that do not want to install the second fan on the cooler, because either they need to retain compatibility with certain RAM modules or they are simply satisfied with the performance of a single fan, Noctua provides rubber mounts for the installation of one NF-A15 as a case fan.

The base of the NH-D15 is relatively small in comparison to that of other coolers, yet obviously large enough to cover the entire surface of current CPUs. Most of the base is made out of copper, with steel parts used for retention, all nickel plated, along with the copper heatpipes as well. There are "only" six 6 mm heatpipes, the same number and size as with the older NH-D14, as Noctua clearly does not believe that enlarging the base and adding more heatpipes would make a notable performance difference. The contact surface is smooth and fairly well polished but not machined down to a perfect mirror finish.

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  • Narcissist - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    I fully agree with the Oxford Guy. I've got a NoFan CR-95C cooling my non-OC i7 4790K. This in conjuction with a couple of M.2 SSD-units, a passively cooled PSU and a passively cooled graphics card makes for a 100% quiet and rather powerful computer. To be on the safe side I've added a Noctua D14 which is configured to force air across all components when the motherboard temperature gets over 50 degC. I is almost never active, though. I've run the Prime95 "Torture Test" for prolonged periods but the CPU-temp consistently stays below 70 degC. In my opinion the NoFan unit is doing a splendid job, although at a price. Reply
  • Sivar - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    Listen to Oxford Guy. I've used three NoFan models and they all work amazingly well...as long as your CPU's power consumption stays under 100W. If you use a 6- or 8- core i7, or if you overclock enough to hit the 100W envelope, fanless is not for you.
    Note that NoFan coolers benefit only slightly when a fan is used. They are truly built as fanless coolers from the ground up.
    Reply
  • lagittaja - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    My HTPC has a G2120 with NH-U12P, HD5670 with Accelero S1r2, 64GB Samsung 830 + 1TB WD Black along with 80+ Plat 400W fanless PSU. Inside Lian Li A05N.
    Only fans being filtered intake Gentle Typhoon @~600rpm and exhaust Slip Stream ~400rpm.

    Pretty overkill cooling wise. Could drop the fan speeds even further..
    To answer your question, yes it can easily handle it provided there's a teeny weeny bit of airflow in the case.

    Work rig has a HR-02 Macho with 800rpm Slip Stream cooling a 3770K@4.7Ghz/1.336V. Could run it fanless if I'd drop the clocks to say 4.3/1.1 or so..
    Reply
  • Cvengr - Friday, December 25, 2015 - link

    It would simply be the ratio of surface area of the fins to the surface area of the top of the CPU making contact with the heat collector. The fans merely dissipate the heat more quickly over the same area.

    The advantage of the fans are to transfer the heat by convection to the outer environment more quickly than allowing the heat to build up closer to other components in the system.

    If designed for heat transfer, the other components are likely to have been designed assuming an ambient temperature at a particular max level, say 100-130degF. As the delta Temp between the environment and the part generating the heat will increase, so will the heat flow by conduction.

    Intent is to draw the heat as far away from the components as possible.

    One problem in these designs is to get the heat away from the CPU, as well as the Motherboard components, as well as other components in the case, so the interior case temperatures don't approach the environmental max design temps of those components.

    A disadvantage in building by components, is that the component manufacturers are likely to only design for their particular component or one they support.

    A common problem in Data Centers is how to remove all the heat from the racks and equipment within them. ANSI/TIA 942 stds go a long way to coordinate between disciplines and trades to effect proper HVAC in the server areas, but even within the racks and cabinets, too many designs limit themselves to providing a temperature set point at different areas in the room, but fail to flow adequate air over the equipment to transfer the heat away from the local electronics environments.

    Computer Room Air Conditioners (CRAC) units are notorious for being installed to remove heat, but fail to provide adequate ventilation (air movement) within the computer rooms.

    Since most of the CRAC units use split systems (condensate lines in 1/2" copper tubing running through the wall to a condenser outside the building), The natural trend would be to incorporate a small heat exchanger using a CPU water cooling fluid as the secondary, and the chilled water from the condensate of a HVAC system as the primary chilled water to remove the heat.

    I haven't shopped the Enterprise level systems. I wonder if such systems are commodities.
    Reply
  • sjakti - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Interesting article, thank you! I especially appreciate the "Quick Conclusions", that's a great table. Reply
  • Shadow7037932 - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I wish you guys had included the Hyper 212+/EVO in the review as the base comparison. Reply
  • zodiacfml - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    True. It should be the default heatsink to compare with. Now that majority of Intel's CPUs become low power and efficient, these dual tower designs seem overkill except for the unlocked multiplier overclocker or fanless PCs. Reply
  • Achaios - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Obsession with CM Hyper 212 EVO "Hypertwohundredtwelvetitis" is a disease also prevalent in Overclock.net. People go berserk over the 212, almost as if they have been mass brainwashed or mass hypnotized. To my best understanding, this mass hysteria is due to the fact that cheap "enthusiasts" may save up to the hugely important sum of $9.99 if they go with the 212 compared to other coolers for the wondrous performance gain of 0.8 Celsius. In other words, the mass hysteria with the 212 is because if you go with the 212, you will save enough money in the end to buy a pack of cigarettes and a can of beer. Reply
  • Nagorak - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Well every little bit counts, and to be honest I can understand why people would not want to spend $70-$80 on a heatsink. Getting a decent heatsink for $30-$40 makes sense for a lot of people. However, if you consider wasting money buying cigarettes to be reasonable, I can understand why you wouldn't put much stock in saving a few bucks. Reply
  • Achaios - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Given how many overclockers and enthusiasts actually use the CM Hyper Evo 212 in their rigs (as eveidenced at Overclock.net) I think that Zodiacfml's suggestion of the CM hyper Evo 212 being used as a baseline cooler is a good one and I recommend the OP to take it. Reply

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