Noctua NH-D15 dual tower CPU cooler review —The “Sandwich” cooler

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Although AIO CPU cooler are increasingly common in PC builds, tower CPU coolers are still recommended for most builds. One of the most legendary CPU cooler, the Noctua NH-D14, also known as the “Sandwich”, is a good example of conventional CPU coolers which are still relevant for high performance processor. Today I have the successor of the sandwich cooler, the Noctua NH-D15, which is itself a sandwich as well, and let’s see if the tower CPU coolers are still worth it nowadays.

Unboxing

Noctua NH-D15 is not a new CPU cooler in the market. Introduced in 2014, the Noctua NH-D15 improves upon the earlier Noctua NH-D14. The retail box for this cooler is big, necessary to protect the cooler when shipping. On the front, there are a few highlights of the Noctua NH-D15 listed.

At the back, we have detailed specifications printed on the box. There are two versions for this cooler, the Noctua NH-D15 which comes with two fans and the Noctua NH-D15S which only comes with a single fan.  From the specifications, we know that this cooler comes with a 6-year warranty (that’s really long!) and support for Low Noise adapter.

On one side of the box we have specification tables for the cooler and the fans, with Noctua’s company introduction in multiple languages on the other side.

Unboxing experience for this cooler is very straight forward. This is the new packaging design which sees all the accessories and mounting systems packed into one box unlike before where they will be found in three separated boxes. We have a total of three boxes within the external box, each holding the cooler itself, accessories and mounting system as well as the second NF-A15 PWM fan.

In the accessories box, we have the Secufirm 2 mounting kit for AMD and Intel LGA 115X sockets. We also have installation guides for every socket, a L-shape screw driver and a plastic bag labelled “common parts”.

Inside the common parts bag, we have two Low Noise fan adapters, a Y-splitter, fan mounting wires, Noctua’s high end NT-H1 thermal paste and also a exclusive Noctua badge.

The second fan is included in a separate box. Same like the primary one, this is a Noctua NF-A15 PWM fan.

Inside the cooler box, we have the Noctua NH-D15 itself with its pre-mounted fan sandwiched between the two banks of fins.

Appearance

The Noctua NH-D15 is still a dual tower CPU cooler like its predecessor, but it has grown in size. As it is wider, the distance between each heatpipe is also wider. The older Noctua NH-D14’s width is only at 140mm while the new Noctua NH-D15 measures in at 150mm.

From the side view we can see that Noctua solves RAM clearance issues with a cut out of seven fins. This allows for high profile memory modules with 65mm of clearance. Noctua did the cut out on both sides, ensuring compatibility with the Intel LGA 2011 socket and quad channel memory too.

The Noctua NH-D15 contacts the CPU with its copper base, which transfer the heat to the six 6mm heatpipes. To improve the aesthetics, the baseplate is plated with nickel plating. For the mounting, Noctua’s SecureFirm 2 supports most AMD and Intel sockets except for LGA 775 and LGA 1366 that require you to purchase different mount kit. For the upcoming AM4 socket, Noctua offers a free upgrade kit.

Noctua includes two Noctua NF-A15 PWM fans. with the NH-D15 These Noctua premium fans are claimed to be better than the NH-D14’s fans. These new fans come with Noctua’s SSO2 bearings which uses metal bearing shells and new injection molding techniques. Also, the magnet is now placed closer to the rotor axis and thus exerts higher magnetic force to it. This results in even better stabilization, precision and durability. However, the two-tone color scheme is still maintained.

Installation

The Noctua NH-D15 is going to be tasked with cooling the Intel Core i7 5820K in our bench rig. The installation with Noctua’s SecureFirm 2 kit is very easy despite the daunting size of the Noctua NH-D14.

As the ASUS X99 Deluxe uses a square Independent Loading Mechanism (ILM), mounting the cooler here is very easy. Skipping the backplate here, all I needed to do was install the bolts on every edge of the LGA 2011 socket frame.

Then install the mounting bar and secure with the thumbscrews. Make sure that the mounting bar faces outward. Apply the Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste before mounting and secure the Noctua NH-D15 with the provided L shape screw driver.

This is what it looks like after the cooler is successfully mounted. Here we can see how precise Noctua’s measurements are by looking at the minimal gap between the cooler and GPU.

Specification

Cooler Specification

Fan Specifications

Test Machine

Hardware

Processor Intel Core i7-5820K
Motherboard ASUS X99-Deluxe
Memory Avexir Blitz 16GB DDR4
Storage Sandisk Ultra II 256GB
Power Supply Cooler Master V850

Software

OS Windows 10 64bit Annivesary
Utilities LinX, OCCT, Intel XTU, RealTemp, CPU-Z, HWMonitor

Test Methodology

We are testing the Noctua NH-D15 on our official Pokde’s rig. With an Intel Core i7 5820K with a 140W TDP, it could be a challenge for any cooler to tame the heat output when all the cores are under load. The CPU will be running stock@1.2V and also overclocked to 4.1 GHz@1.1V. Turbo Boost is disabled and SpeedStep enabled in both BIOS and operating system. For the testing phase, I will also be using three different tools to stress the CPU cores to the max: LinX, Intel XTU and OCCT. The tests are run for an hour each.

Our target is to monitor how high the temperatures can rise during the test. We also monitor closely during the test to check if any thermal throttling happens when the temperature hit the CPU’s Tjmax of 103°C. If it is just a spike there will be no thermal throttling unless it stays at the temperature for a certain period of time. This is just to see the maximum potential of the cooling performance of any CPU cooler. The fan speed settings are left at default. The system runs in an open test bench, with ambient temperatures of 25°C.

Noctua said that the NT-H1 doesn’t need any cure time, but I believe that it can get better after some thermal cycling. So after applying new thermal paste, I ran a stress test for 1 hour before letting it sit for more than 12 hours. After the idle period I stressed it again for 1 hour before shutting down the computer completely for more than 6 hours before I start recording the temperatures.

Performance

You might be surprise with the results, especially in the LinX stress test. This is why LinX is my favorite tool for CPU stress testing as it can really push the CPU to the limit. From the results, it clearly states that the Noctua NH-D15 has no problem at all handling the heat output of the Intel Core i7 5820K. During the stress test, there is no thermal throttling detected as the highest reading is at 92°C.

Stock clock

Overclock

Comparing the results between the Cooler Master MasterAir 4 and Raijintek Triton, the Noctua NH-D15 sit between these two coolers. The real differences between Noctua NH-D15 and these two coolers are the acoustic levels. Noctua NH-D15 fan are surprisingly quiet. I was truly impressed as I could barely hear the fans even during the stress tests. Meanwhile, the MasterAir Pro 4 and Raijintek were rather noisy as the fans ran full tilt to keep the temperature down.

Recommended CPU:

Intel : LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 2011 processors

AMD: AM3+, AM4, FM2+ processor

Recommended form factor:

Mini-ATX, ATX, E-ATX

Conclusion

Noctua has done everything very well, starting from the packaging to the cooling performance. The improvements over the older Noctua NH-D14 are noticeable such as better cooling fans and fixed RAM clearance. Noctua claims this cooler as their premium product is also undeniable. With the silent fan operation during load and its solid design, Noctua’s effort for more than three years is worth it. For me the Low Noise adapters are rather redundant as the fans are very silent to begin with.

Some people might be put off by Noctua’s color scheme for the fans, but it didn’t bother me at all. Another one thing that I love about the product is that Noctua threw in their very good NT-H1 thermal paste along with the NH-D15, and a decent amount of it too. With the same amount as the Noctua NT-H1 sold in retail, I managed to reapply up to four times on the rather large LGA 2011 socket processor. I believed it can be used for more than six times or even more if used on the smaller Intel LGA 115X or AMD AM3+ processors.

With one of the best unboxing experiences I ever had, easy installation, great cooling performance along with the very low noise level even when under load, the Noctua NH-D15 deserves our Gold Pokdeward. Noctua NH-D15 is not new in the market, it has been around since 2014, which means that Noctua may blow our minds pretty soon with a even better performing cooler. If you interested and want to test the cooler itself, you can get it from retail shops for RM415. It is worthy for the money? For me, if you are using CPU with a lower TDP, or not planning on doing overclocking, the Noctua NH-D15S would be better value at RM379. Let’s not forget that the Noctua NH-D15 is backed by a very long 6-year warranty.

Thank you Noctua for providing us the Noctua NH-D15 to review!

We would like to thank our sponsors for our very own benchmarking rig – The PokdeRig. These companies believe in us and put their trust into what we do. They deserve all the love in the world!

Asus X99-Deluxe

Asus X99-Deluxe

Intel Core i7-5820K

Intel Core i7-5820K

CM MasterAir Pro 4

CM MasterAir Pro 4

CM V850

CM V850 PSU

Sandisk Ultra II

Sandisk Ultra II

Avexir Blitz 16GB DDR4

Avexir Blitz 16GB DDR4