August 18, 2015

Review: Noctua NH-D15S

One of the flaws from the extremely large and powerful cooler is that it's size would block the first expansion slot on certain motherboards. On some, it was a 1x pci-e slot which was not in use, for others it was a 16x pci-e which blocked off a slot for a graphics card. For micro-itx boards, it blocked off the only expansion slot. With Noctua's revision of the very popular and iconic NH-D15, the NH-D15S, it addresses some of those issues.


The cooler comes in the same typical Noctua packing with key features and specifications listed on the box. On the side you find a 2D model of the cooler as well as the scope of delivery. The heatsink is well packaged and will withstand any complications it may face during shipping, such as the deliveryman throwing it over your fence.

Inside is the accessory box which includes everything you need to get started as well as the cooler itself, protected in it's eco friendly packaging. The accessory box includes Noctua's SecuriFirm2 mounting system for both Intel 115x/2011x and AMD systems, a low noise adapter, a metal Noctua badge, a tube of Noctua's NT-H1 thermal interface material, a screw driver, and illustrated instruction manuals.

The Cooler

From afar the two coolers might look the same, but the main difference with the NH-D15S is it's asymmetrical design. This design moves the cooler more to one side allowing more clearance on the bottom, freeing up the expansion slot that was previously blocked by the older NH-D15.

The cooler has two fin stacks and a Noctua NF-A15 sandwiched in between. Even though there were cut outs on the side of the fin stacks to allow for RAM with taller heat spreaders to be installed, the two fans on the NH-D15 limited some RAM compatibility with the heatsink so with the new NH-D15S, it was designed to be used with a single fan without impacting performance significantly. The cooler still includes extra fan clips if you still decide to go with two fans. It is possible to install three fans if you have extra mounting hardware but that increases the footprint of the cooler significantly while not dramatically increasing performance. The fan clips which hold the fan in place is easy to remove and will have to be removed to install the cooler.

The baseplate is nickel plated and has the six heatpipes attached to it. The base is extremely flat which will the help with heat dissipation and improving contact with the CPU.

With one fan, the cooler measures in at 165x150x135mm which is not small at all. With the slight changes Noctua has made, it shares many similarities with the NH-D15 so we expected it to perform the same.


The SecuFirm2 system makes installation very simple. For Intel systems, simply align the extremely thick backplate with the three holes on the back of the socket and it should smoothly slide into the motherboard. for Socket LGA 2011, simple screw in the included risers into the built in backplate on the motherboard. Once the backplate is installed, flip the motherboard over and place the black risers onto the screws jutting out and screw in the top brackets with the curves facing away from the centre. All that's left is to screw it all down with the four thumb screws and you're left with an extremely secure platform to mount the heatsink onto. With the SecuFirm2's extremely thick backplate, there will be little-to-no flex on the motherboard when the cooler is installed.

You will need to remove the fans to install the heat sink onto the brackets, but Noctua makes that easy with their tool less clips. Use the included screwdriver, or your own, to screw the two screws on the cooler to the brackets. The included screwdriver clears the top of the heat sink nicely and gives you a nifty tool to throw into your tool bag if you ever need it. The black springs ensure that the correct pressure is placed onto the CPU, so just simply keep screwing it in until it stops.


Test Configuration:

Motherboard : MSI Z77A-UD65

CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K (OC @ 4.6GHz)

Memory: Intel Extreme Masters 2x4GB 1866MHz

GPU: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 2GB

PSU: Corsair CX600

Software: Intel Burn Test v2.53, CPU-Z Version 1.60, RealTemp 3.60

*Temperatures were measured using RealTemp with an ambient room temperature of 27 degrees Celcius and the system was left to idle or run on full load for 10 min before temperatures were taken.

** Noctua's ND-H1 thermal paste was used for all testing

The NH-D15S is only a revision of the NH-D15 so it only makes sense that it shares similar performance.


Nocuta is known to have some of the best air coolers on the market. The NH-D15 has been out of reach to many enthusiasts due to it's enormous size and price tag. While Noctua has partially resolved one of those issues, the NH-D15S should allow more people to consider it due to it no longer blocking one of the expansion slots. 

Performance wise it performs on par with the Corsair H80 watercooler which is amazing for an air cooler. On lower performance CPUs, I was also able to get away with using it as a passive heatsink, although the cpu wasn't at a very happy temperature. I only happened to learn that after I questioned why the test bench was so quiet and realized I forgot to plug in the fan.

Those who love the beige/brown colour of the heatsink will like that Noctua has stuck with their traditional colour scheme. Those who dont like the colour can swap out the fans for Noctua's Industrial PPC or Redux line of fans. The NH-D15S looks the same as the old NH-D15 and similar to the NH-D14 so it remains looking great.

While Noctua fixed the compatibility issue, the cooler still comes in at $79.90 USD. For the price you get a massive high performance cooler that is backed by Noctua's six-year warranty as well as new mounting brackets as new cpus are released. Although it has a high price tag, it is a great value for what you get, very few coolers give you this level of performance and who else includes a screw driver for installing a heatsink. Like with all Noctua coolers, we highly recommend you check it out if you have been looking for a new heatsink.

Rating 10/10

Martin Tam is an editor and the Director of Video Production at [blank]’s Universe. He is also a technology enthusiast that particularly enjoys computers and photography. He enjoys breaking things and sleeping in his spare time.