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.

The Logisys (DeepCool) Gamer Storm Assassin The Phanteks PH-TC14PE
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  • mrvco - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I agree. It would be helpful to know how the 212 compares both with regards to cooling and quietness. I typically prefer "quieter" so I'd be curious to know how much better the "Dark Rock Pro 3" is than the 212... is it $40+ better? Reply
  • Eidigean - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I actually bought the 212 and added a second fan to it, not because it was cheap, but because it would fit between the 2x2 banks of memory on my Rampage IV Formula perfectly (with 1 mm of space on either side) allowing the tall memory heatsinks to rise up, and inconsequentially get a breeze from the fans. The CPU runs nice and cool (and quiet) with a modest overclock.

    I'd get the offset Noctua NH-D15S if I ever upgrade from a 4 core 3820 to a 6 core 4930K.
    Reply
  • effortless - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Exactly my thoughts. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO needs to be included in this test, to show exactly what 90% who buys CPU coolers are missing out on, or eventually not missing out on. Reply
  • randomlinh - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I'm confused about your complaint. What's wrong w/ the 212? What's wrong w/ saving $10 for 1 deg celcius difference?

    I genuinely don't know, I have a 212 from almost 4 yrs ago? It works. It's quiet (for the time). The only complaint is if I try to go super small form factor, it won't work.
    Reply
  • icrf - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    If it were only $10 I might agree with you, but when it's half the price, and sometimes a whole lot less, it makes a lot of sense. I looked at the Noctua when I built my 5820 last fall, and couldn't justify the 2.5x price. For $35, the 212 EVO is a great cooler. As good as the Noctua is, it's not two and a half times as good. That's why the 212 is so popular. It's in the proverbial sweet spot. Reply
  • andrewaggb - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I agree. I've bought several 212 EVO's and I've been very happy with them. I was mostly looking for something that would run quiet under load (without overclocking) and I think they've been great. I've used some less expensive coolers and they were much worse - so in my opinion it's the cheapest cooler that met my needs. Reply
  • Araemo - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Obsession is pretty harsh given the facts... I went and looked up a comparison over on frostytech, and it looks like the Hyper 212 evo is only 2C hotter than the Noctua chosen as the realistic 'best choice'.. for 1/3 the price. Given that my ambient temps change by more than that 2C over the course of a year, 2C is never the stability margin I use on my overclocks. Reply
  • Nfarce - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Except that the 212 is not a "premium" cooler. When you start getting into extreme overclocks like I have (i5 4690k @4.8GHz, or a 23% overclock) and into water cooling needs territory, the 212 falls well more than a 2C behind which is where it is on lower level overclocks (5-15%) on my chip. Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Who cares whether if the 212 isn't a "premium" cooler when I can simply buy the 4790K at stock 4.4GHz instead of premium cooling to barely OC a 4690K past a 4790K. You overclockers STILL think there is tremendous value to be had with OCing when the 2500K ship have long sailed. Reply
  • Nfarce - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    According to my benchmark tests in games and applications like Sony Vegas Studio, my overclock to 4.8GHz yields quite a bit of performance increase over the stock turbo of 3.9GHz. Oh and since I was on a budget and game about 80% of the time on that 4690K rig, I justified saving the extra $100 over a 4790K and put it towards a better GPU solution.

    And yes, I still have a 2500K build as well (not sure what that has to do with the price of ketchup), which used to be overclocked to 4.6GHz on that NH-D14 cooler (it is now relegated to backup duties and running at stock speeds on a Zalman 9700LED cooler). Which, incidentally, roughly equals the performance of my Devil's Canyon chip running at 4.2GHz.
    Reply

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