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[OCN Labs]Noctua NH-D15 Review

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[OCN Labs]Noctua NH-D15 Review

Noctua is a company that designs premium cooling components and is well known around the globe. Designed in Austria, Noctua offers both fan and heatsinks for the PC enthusiast. If you're curious about the owl, Athene noctua is the symbol of the Greek goddess Athene. Athene represents wisdom, science, and strategy. This goddess uses mere intelligence over brute force and symbolizes prudence. It most certainly characterizes Noctua as a company. Today we will be focusing on the NH-D15 and how an air cooler of this magnitude can stand up against a crowded market of AIO (ALL IN ONE) coolers.

Liquid cooling has since become an industry desideratum. Each CPU release brings higher overclocking but also with the cost of higher temperatures. Liquid cooling has become very popular even among common system builders but What has come of air cooling over the years? If you're going to overclock you will almost always hear "go liquid cooling" or at the very least "get a cheap AIO liquid cooler". Air cooling is where I started and some air coolers have even proven to beat some AIO units in temperature tests. Let's take a look at what the NH-D15 has to offer and how it was designed as a dual tower to become an enviable choice for air cooling.

The specifications are as follows:

Cooler Specification

  • Socket compatibility- Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required), AM4 with NM-AM4
  • Height (without fan)- 160 mm
  • Width (without fan)- 150 mm
  • Depth (without fan)- 135 mm
  • Height (with fan)- 165 mm
  • Width (with fan)- 150 mm
  • Depth (with fan)- 161 mm
  • Weight (without fan)- 980 g
  • Weight (with fan/s)- 1320 g
  • Material- Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminum (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
  • Max. TDP see TDP guide
  • Fan compatibility- 140x150x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 140x140x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 120x120x25
  • 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
  • 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • Y-cable
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
  • Noctua Metal Case-Badge
  • Warranty 6 Years

FAN Specification

  • Model- 2x Noctua NF-A15 PWM
  • Bearing- SSO2
  • Max. Rotational Speed- (+/- 10%) 1500 RPM
  • Max. Rotational Speed with L.N.A.- (+/- 10%) 1200 RPM
  • Min. Rotational Speed- (PWM, +/-20%) 300 RPM
  • Max. Airflow- 140,2 m³/h
  • Max. Airflow with L.N.A.- 115,5 m³/h
  • Max. Acoustical Noise- 24,6 dB(A)
  • Max. Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.- 19,2 dB(A)
  • Voltage Range- 12 V
  • MTTF- 150.000 h

Why choose Noctua NH-D15?

The NH-D15 was built to carry the weight of the infamous NH-D14. It continues the quiet and cooling performance of the NH-D14 but offers an expanded heat pipe design. The NH-D15 has dual heatsinks and two premium NF-A15 150mm fans with PWM support. It also has the pro-grade SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system, Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste, and a full 6-year warranty. This cooler is beefy and represents a deluxe choice for any enthusiast or overclocker. The only real issue will be with compatibility due to the massive size of this cooler and its dual heatsink design.

The product is shipped in a very large box and is geared towards simplicity but is labeled as a premium cooler. I actually prefer the simplistic feel without any major flashy gimmicks. This makes NH-D15 feel classy and not overwhelming.

The kit comes with everything you need to get started.

The accessories included are:

  • 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
  • 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • Y-cable
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit
  • Noctua Metal Case-Badge

Design & Setup

The Noctua NH-D15 can be a challenge to install. I was fortunate to be using an open-air test bench but your mileage may vary. When you get a cooler of this magnitude you need to be certain it fits with your case dimensions and doesn't interfere with your RAM. Fortunately, Noctua has a sizing chart where you can compare clearance here. They do offer better RAM compatibility in single fan mode in case it does become an issue.

The best features of the NH-D15:

  • Based on the award-winning design of the NH-D14
  • 6 heat pipe design with dual heatsinks
  • Widened fin stack for expanded distribution
  • High ram compatibility in single fan mode
  • Dual NF-A15 150mm fans
  • PWM support and low-noise adaptor
  • SecuFirm2 mounting system
  • 6-year manufacturer's warranty

To set up the cooler you first need to find the appropriate mounting accessories for your hardware. I will be installing this using socket 115x for an Intel CPU.

So following the instructions, the first thing is to mount the backplate. You need to find the screws that push through the backplate to the front of the motherboard. The instructions also ask you to install the spacers needed for the mounting bracket.

Once you have the spacers correctly in place you can install the Intel mounting bracket. There are 3 different holes to pay attention to, so follow the instructions. The middle holes line up properly for 115x and are the correct position. Once you have it aligned properly you need to take out your retention screws and screw down the brackets to the backplate screws. For even pressure, I go from corner to corner screwed down until its tight enough. Don't overtighten the screws because you could damage your motherboard. Tighten them just enough that there is no wiggling of the brackets. Before you install the cooler you also need to apply the thermal paste for proper heat transfer.

Before you mount the cooler you need to arrange your fans for the airflow direction and apply TIM. The NH-D15 comes with a tube of Noctua's pro-grade NT-H1 thermal compound. This TIM(Thermal Interface Material) offers minimum thermal resistance, reliability and easy application. I always apply a small pea-s sized amount to the center of the CPU. I found this application method to be the best in my experience. I won't get into a battle here but there are arguments to have on how to apply TIM to your CPU. You can read more about it here. If you're interested in learning more about the NT-H1 look here.

The NH-D15 includes 2x NF-A15 fans and offers Noctua's sophisticated aerodynamic design such as Flow Acceleration technology. These fans top out at 1500 RPM, deliver 140.2 cubic meters per hour of air flow, and are rated at a noise level of 24.6 dB(A). Considering these new fans have about a 30% increase over the performance of the NH-D14 fans, this is certainly a worthy successor.

Before you lock your fans into place you need to mount the cooler to the mounting brackets. The retention screws are built right into the heatsink so its very easy to lock the cooler into place. Simply screw each side until the cooler is secure. There are springs under the screw to prevent you from torquing too tight and damaging your CPU or motherboard. Be sure to think about your mounting orientation before locking down the cooler.

When you have decided your mounting orientations, it's time to install the fan or fans. Depending on your setup you will either be using both fans or one fan for single fan mode. I will be installing both for optimum airflow and cooling performance. Single fan mode is for better RAM compatibility. The fans are very easy to install and use metal clips to lock them to the heatsink for proper tension. One fan will go in the middle of the dual towers and the other on either side depending on your airflow direction.

If you are using both fans like me you will want to use the included y-splitter that allows for dual fan operation. The splitter also offers PWM support over both fans for controlling your fan speeds and curves.


To test the performance of the NH-D15 I will be testing cooling and noise. I will be running Aida64 Extreme for load performance, and for idle just sitting on my desktop with no application load. The load performance will consist of max RPM of fans, and idle represent lowest RPM setting for fans. I will also compare this Cooler to the Corsair H100i AIO which should show how capable the NH-D15 is. Please, know that testing can vary from setup to setup and so don't expect the same results. Even similar hardware ran here could show variable differences.

For noise testing, I used a high gain microphone. I want to explain a few things about noise testing, and this unit in particular.

First: Testing noise levels can be difficult. First, don't expect the same levels even with similar hardware. There are too many differences and variables that go into sound testing. You have to account for background noise and other sounds in the environment.

Second: I am one reviewer, and am not a professional sound studio. I am not testing these items in perfect conditions. I do not have an anechoic sound chamber in my test studio.

For temperature testing, I will be using two tools. The first tool is an IRT207 infrared thermometer and the second is a very special tool called the FLIRONE PRO! This tool is fantastic because it will allow tech enthusiasts and reviewers to show visual results for thermal testing. It is a next generation thermal camera that works with iOS and Android devices. If you want to buy one, look at the link above.

I will also use Real Temp to compare CPU temperatures for idle and load states. The FLIR and IRT207 are really just for comparison and the FLIR isn't always as accurate as even Real Temp can be. However, the FLIR will allow us to see what the surface temperature is on the CPU heatsink and mounting block. We can get a realistic idea of how hot the area is getting around the CPU. The FLIR also allows us a visual representation of hot spots and what areas are actually heating up and are the warmest.

My test bench is as follows:

  • ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
  • Motherboard- ASRock Z370 Extreme 4
  • CPU: Intel Core I7 8700K
  • Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 USB
  • Cooler- Lepa NEOllusion RGB CPU cooler
  • Memory- 16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3200Mhz
  • Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1080
  • Storage- My Digital BP5e SSD
  • Power Supply- LEPA N500 500W PSU
  • OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
  • Headphones- Logitech G533
  • Peripherals- Logitech PowerPlay / G703 Gaming Mouse

The CPU was overclocked to 4.7 GHz for benchmark purposes, and my memory was set to its XMP profile. This should really heat up the NH-D15 showing it's potential.

I'm not surprised with the temperatures above. The NH-D15 offers two heatsinks and easily competes with the H100iV2 Extreme from Corsair. At 77°C during stress testing, this is an excellent temperature considering the 8700K runs extremely hot. Remember, the 8700k has to account for extra cores which contributes to the higher temps. The 77°C temperature is easily within the margin of error when compared to the lower 74°C of the H100i. I would say the NH-D15 is going to be your best choice for air cooling if your looking for the best performance and should perform about as well as any AIO cooler.

You can see above a real-world example of how well the NH-D15 fans are doing. The FLIRONE PRO does a fantastic job measuring surface area and how hot each component gets. The white spots are considered the hottest points while coolest sections are the darker colors like purple. You can see the warmest section around the CPU block on load measured 54.7°C. This isn't 100% accurate and not a perfect indication of what the CPU temperature actually is but we can see where the warmest areas are. It’s evident the NH-D15 heatsink and fans keep the CPU nice and cool during heavy workloads.

The noise levels recorded were on average with the level of a normal conversation. The NH-D15 sounds similar to the H100iv2 but can be quieter if you use the included low noise adapter. It's hard also to get a lower dB level as the noise from other fans, my environment, and other factors contribute to the lowest level recorded. I can say at idle the fan is barely audible, and on high is definitely not that loud if you use fan curves. You can tell when the NH-D15 fans are at 100% but it isn't distracting while gaming and it doesn't sound like a jet engine is taking off.

With the low noise adapter, I am very impressed with how inaudible the cooler is even at load. When you’re normally gaming, or doing basic work within your operating systems, I can’t even notice the fans are on.


The Noctua NH-D15 definitely fills a gap for those desiring extreme performance. With its dual tower design and Dual NF-A15 150mm fans it's no wonder performance is on par with most AIOs. The NH-D15 is one the more expensive air coolers on the market but is well worth it if your looking for the lowest temperatures. Air coolers are still widely adopted and the NH-D15 sits at the top of this category. I highly recommend this cooler for any enthusiasts who still loves air cooling but beware this comes at the cost of the giant size of the NH-D15. The biggest thing you will need to worry about is sizing restrictions but Noctua has you covered with its sizing chart here. You can buy the Noctua NH-D15 right now for $90.00 on Amazon.

Pros: Performance / Noise Levels

Cons: Size can cause restrictions with case or memory

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Jeffrey M Edson

Last edited by Jedson3614; 05-12-2018 at 06:54 PM.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 01:06 AM
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Just to note: there is a version NH-D15S, which is offset maybe 7mm so as not to interfere with a GPU in the first PCI connector. I'll have one tomorrow for a 2066 board (Asrock OC Formula). Also, the 15 can be adapted for ram taller than 32mm by either moving that fan upward if the case allows, or using a 120mm fan instead. The clips will accommodate either.

I have also been using a U14S, which fits my MX Hero board with no ram or GPU problem, but is tall enough that I had to research cases, choosing a Rosewill GungfirX.
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