Test System Configuration
In order to give the Noctua NH-D15 a good work out, we built up a system with the following components.
- Processor 1: Intel Core i7-4790K Devil’s Canyon
- Motherboard 1: ASUS Z97 Sabertooth
- Memory 1: Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB 1866 MHz DDR3
- Processor 2: Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell Extreme
- Motherboard 2: GIGABYTE GA-X99-UD4H
- Memory 2: Corsair LPX Vengeance 16GB 2800 MHz DDR3
- Graphics: ASUS GeForce STRIX GTX 750 Ti OC Edition
- Power: bequiet! Dark Rock Pro 850W 80Plus Gold
- OS: Windows 7 Pro (Fully Patched)
The cooler will be pitted against a field of worthy contenders including the NZXT HAVIK 140, Noctua NH-D14, and the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3. We also put it up against some of the most price competitive all in one liquid coolers including the Corsair H100, Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate, and NZXT X60.
Noctua includes excellent installation directions for both AMD and Intel. The diagrams are very clear and precise as all installation guides should be. Installing in a standing enclosure even with CPU cooler cutout access is not advisable unless you’re very meticulous and have good hand dexterity. There is a large danger of the cooler falling, and damaging your GPU, plus other components.
A back plate, four stand off bolts through the motherboard PCB, four spacers, two final chrome mounting brackets and four thumb nuts create the base SecuFirm2 assembly. Next, apply a small amount of NT-H1 thermal paste. Two small dots of paste half inch apart work well on the quad-core processors. Five small dots about 3/4 inch apart seem to spread the best on six and eight core processors. When the cooler is centered over the CPU, alternately tighten the two spring mounted screws to the base brackets.
Total mounting time was 20 minutes since we’ve installed a lot of coolers. Less experienced users can expect a little longer. Just take your time and be patient. Double check placement and tighten parts evenly for best results.
After 60 minutes of full load time with the Devil’s Canyon and Haswell Extreme, the Noctua NH-D15 achieved a slight improvement over the NH-D14. While the idle temps of both coolers on both CPUs is similar, it’s the load temps where we see just about 3 C shaved off. That’s impressive given the size reduction of the aluminum fins and heat pipe placement.
Noise is almost a moot point in default configuration as the fans are very quiet. The lab sound meter was just able to detect the Noctua NF-A15 cooling fans up close. That means you simply won’t hear the NH-D15 in any computer enclosure. Using the Ultra Low Noise PWM adapters really quiet things down even further creating an extremely silent system which is great for professional audio creators. However, that means reducing noise even further will sacrifice about 8 degrees. The NH-D15 is great quiet even without the ULN adapters.
Noctua did quite a good job with revamping their flagship dual radiator CPU cooler and creating the NH-D15. Noctua revised the height of the fins, width of the CPU cooler It’s, spread of the heat pipes and changed the fans which improves cooling performance just a bit more than their award winning NH-D14. It’s great that the cooler allows for taller higher performance memory to be installed alongside it. Given the size of the cooler, it’s efficiency is impressive, even when on top of hot overclocked CPUs.
The only issue we’ve noticed is the less than appealing “natural” fan colors. Granted, they’re better than the previous NH-D14’s earthy brown fans. Enthusiasts tend to be more passionate about their systems and like a bit of flash. All black, all white, or two toned black with white fans would rock. Still, they’re great cooling fans and unfortunate that they don’t quite say enthusiast. However, Noctua does make black fans if you want to pick them up as an optional accessory.
As for technical concerns, that 2-point top securing plate won’t win over some system integrators mainly due to the physical stress that shipping can put on a system. However, for us regular enthusiasts that don’t haul our systems around or drag them behind the vehicles, the SecuFirm2 system is plenty strong enough to last. Plus, they’ll even ship you a new one when you upgrade to the next generation processors if needed.
In terms of pricing, that high performance natural colored theme will cost you about $100 US, which makes it the same as some 240 mm all in one liquid cooling systems. However, keep in mind, the Noctua NH-D15 will manage any stock and overclocked processor quietly. It’s definitely one of the best air coolers on the market, and you’ll definitely pay for that privilege to own it.
- Best in class air cooling performance
- High quality materials and fabrication
- Convex nickle platted base ensures very good transference
- Includes high performance Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste
- Free upgrade mounting kit for next gen processors
- Ultra Low Noise (ULN) adapters make it an extremely silent cooler
- Smaller and more efficient design over predecssor
- Fan colors won’t impress enthusiasts
- Requires care in installation
- Price comparable to 240mm liquid cooling solutions
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
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