The Noctua NH-D15 is a double tower cooler in a class of its own. The cooling performance test category convinced us all along the line – stable in all stress tests and lower temperature values ​​than our AiO NZXT water cooling. There is really nothing to complain about, and this excellent performance makes the NH-D15 perfect for overclockers. 

There are slight deductions during the installation because the part is then huge, and you quickly get space problems with RAM with heat spreaders. We are completely convinced of the processing: Selected, high-quality materials and excellent manufacturing make the NH-D15 a top choice. Noctua’s 6-year guarantee confirms this even more. There is nothing to complain about the packaging. There are only deductions for the staid design and the high price.

Note: This article is part of our large CPU cooler review. There are other (cheaper) alternatives to the Noctua NH-D15.

Noctua NH-D15

Height (with fan) 165mm
Width (with fan) 150mm
Depth (with fan) 161mm
Weight (with fan) 1320g
Material Copper (base and heat pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), nickel-plated
Guarantee 6 years

Noctua NH-D15 test result

  • Cooling performance – 10/10
  • Installation – 8/10
  • Processing – 10/10
  • Packaging, design & price – 8/10

The Noctua NH-D15 is a double tower cooler in a class of its own. The cooling performance test category convinced us all along the line – stable in all stress tests and lower temperature values ​​than our AiO NZXT water cooling. There is really nothing to complain about, and this excellent performance makes the NH-D15 perfect for overclockers. 

There are slight deductions during the installation because the part is then huge, and you quickly get space problems with RAM with heat spreaders. We are completely convinced of the processing: Selected, high-quality materials and excellent manufacturing make the NH-D15 a top choice. Noctua’s 6-year guarantee confirms this even more. There is nothing to complain about the packaging. There are only deductions for the staid design and the high price.

Note: This article is part of our large CPU cooler review. There are other (cheaper) alternatives to the Noctua NH-D15.

If you don’t feel like reading our Noctua NH-D15 review, you can also get a first overview in the video from colleague Monty:


PACKAGING, DESIGN, PROCESSING & KEY DATA


We don’t want to write novels about packaging, but one thing has to be said: Thoughts have been given here. Instead of throwing everything into one box, Noctua has nicely organized everything here. You will find the cooler itself, including a pre-installed fan, in the largest box. The second fan – should you need it – can also be found separately packed. The last third package contains everything you might otherwise need for the installation: thermal paste, fixings for the respective CPU types, operating instructions, etc.

The packaging of the Noctua NH-D15 already suggests – And that’s all in the package

The design will probably not be for everyone, we understand. But you are also buying an air cooler here that will take up most of your case. In any case, the focus here is more on low-noise cooling performance and not on aesthetic beauty. You have to set priorities somewhere.

Nevertheless, the NH-D15 does not necessarily have to hide. The fans come in Noctua-typical brownish colors – the cooler itself is 100% silver, although only the cooling fins are made of aluminum. But a little more about the material: The heat pipes and the base plate are made of copper, but Noctua was free and nickel-plated the entire heat sink (including fins) to protect the NH-D15 against corrosion.

The materials’ craft is first class and in the usual Noctua quality – no wobbling, and everything is excellent. The Noctua NH-D15 makes a very stable impression before and after installation.

The fans come in the familiar Noctua brown – the SSo2 bearings (self-stabilizing oil pressure bearings) ensure smooth running and a long service life

The picture shows how carefully and high quality the cooler is processed – absolutely massive.

INSTALLATION


The size is what matters!

Noctua has made installing the NH-D15 as easy as it gets. Sure, you are installing an oolyte weighing over a kilogram here, which also takes up a lot of housing space. That one or the other will run into problems is pre-programmed, so measure the space in your housing properly beforehand.

Our case, for example, is an NZXT-H440 midi tower with a built-in ATX mainboard. So it would help if you thought everything is standard. However, since we already provided the graphics card (a GTX 970Ti) with a custom air cooler (Arctic Cooling Accellero Xtreme IV), there was already no space to install the NH-D15 for horizontal airflow.

You still don’t believe us that the NH-D15 is big? Even the pineapple got a little scared of the thing. Provides enough space in the housing!

Variable attachment

Fortunately, Noctua thought this through and gave us the option to turn the cooler by 90 °. This is not ideal, as we now suck in the warm air from the graphics card, but that did not lead to any problems in practice, even under full load.\ Also, find out before the installation whether your case has a cutout behind the mainboard. If not, you will be forced to completely remove your mainboard because you have to attach a backplate behind the CPU. Fortunately, our case had such a cutout, and installation was a breeze.

The instructions are written in English, but you can find a German version on the Noctua website. Also, the most important things can be clearly seen in the illustrations. So if you have already had experience with IKEA or LEGO, you will find your way around here too.

During assembly it can quickly become tight if the housing is too small

Low-noise adapter

Last but not least, Noctua has included two “low-noise adapters.” You can switch these between the fan and the mainboard and thus further minimize the fans’ background noise. However, you are, of course, foregoing performance. So if you are looking for the highest possible cooling performance, you should leave it in the packaging.

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COOLING CAPACITY 


Maximum cooling?

What shall we say? The NH-D15 is a beast, and our hands-on test confirmed that again. Despite the limited space and the resulting somewhat reduced airflow, it still performed better in a direct comparison with the previously installed water cooling from NZXT.

While the latter already after 10 minutes Prime had 95 difficulties keeping our moderately overclocked i7 4790K at 90 ° C, the CPU was the NH-D15 even at cool 80 ° C.

And thanks to the in-house 140mm NF-A15 fan, the background noise was also much quieter than with the AiO water cooling. These only switches to the maximum speed of 1500 revolutions per minute from a temperature of> 80 ° C, which was also noticed during the Prime 95 run: As soon as this threshold value was reached, it briefly became a little louder, and the temperature was immediately back fallen off.

Or minimal noise pollution?

Mind you, all of this without the “low-noise” adapter, which minimizes the fans’ speed and the cooler naturally achieves significantly poorer results. So if you are more interested in maximum performance, then definitely leave it out. In turn, fans of quiet cooling will like them because the fans run much quieter, especially in idle mode.

It is also striking how the NF-A15 fans sound. While other fans tend to emit a low-frequency “hum” under full load, you can hear a higher-frequency “hissing” or “hum” with the Noctua fans. This is not necessarily more pleasant in direct comparison, but it has the advantage that well-insulated housings can better keep this noise inside. It is well known that high frequencies are easier to contain and are not distributed over the rest of the case like low frequencies.

Precisely, fans from Noctua are also considered the non plus ultra among enthusiasts, which Noctua is also affordable. Here, however, you get two 140mm fans included, which should make up for the slightly higher total price. Quality also has its price. And if you can only use one of the two fans, you can install it elsewhere in the case.


TEST & TOOLS


We carried out the test of the cooling performance of the Noctua NH-D15 using various software. Since our test system had previously installed an AiO water cooling from NZXT (Kraken X61), we also used the monitoring and setting program from NZXT – the CAM software – for monitoring the temperatures.

Our test results in CPU-Z, Core Temp and Prime 95 

Also, “ Core Temp” and “CPU-Z” were used, which are now considered good CPU tests. We used the “ Prime 95 ” program in the test to increase the temperature generation properly. Here you can run the so-called “torture tests” that make every CPU, no matter how strong, work up a sweat.

In “Prime 95,” we used the “In-Place large FFTs” test, as this increased the heat most consistently and thus provided a good comparison within 15 minutes. We had reached 100 ° C after 16 minutes on our system, which meant that a direct comparison was no longer possible, as our CPU had clear problems here and could not keep up even with nitrogen cooling.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget that Prime 95 doesn’t depict everyday life. The performance that any other program cannot achieve the program demands from the CPU in comparison. We only use this here to get and compare the relative values ​​between the cooling systems.

The cooling performance with the included “low-noise” adapters is – as was to be expected – much worse. We are talking about 5 ° C in idle and 10 ° C under full load, which are on the CPU. The background noise was of course much quieter. Here you have to decide what is more important to you.

Pros
  • Perfect cooling performance across the board
  • Low volume, especially with adapters
  • easy installation
  • Rotatable
Cons
  • Huge size
  • Either best performance or minimum volume
  • Visually not for everyone
  • Very expensive