June 2, 2014

REVIEW: Noctua NH-D15

Noctua has updated their extremely popular NH-D14 cooler with a newer, more powerful NH-D15. The newer one shares many traits with its predecessor as well as the other updated heatsinks, but it aims to achieve the same performance as liquid AIO coolers. This is aimed towards users who want the performance of an liquid cooler, but with the reliability of an air cooler. The NH-D15 also uses Noctua's class leading NF-A15 FocusFlow™ fans with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) for fully automatic control as well as the ultimate quiet cooling experience. The heatsink is also designed for 100% compatibility with tall RAM modules, even on socket LGA 2011 with RAM on both the left and right sides. The NH-D15 uses Noctua's SecuFirm2 mounting system, unfortunately dropping support for the LGA 775 and LGA 1366 sockets. The heatsink is still compatible with current sockets including Haswell's LGA 1150.


On the front of the box, we find a brief description of the fan and a silver badge addressing its award winning design. On the side, we find specifications for both the fans and heatsink, as well as the scope of delivery and a 2D image of the heatsink. On the back, there is an explanation of what this design offers and why they chose to design this type of cooler, available in eight different languages.

Once the largest box is opened up, we find three nicely labelled and organized boxes that makes installation a breeze, while also being very visually appealing. There is one box containing the mounting system for Intel CPUs and another box for the AMD processors. A third box contains the miscellaneous accessories such as extra fan mounts and thermal compound.

Included in the accessory box are mounting clips for the additional fan, Noctua's NT-H1 thermal compound, four extra silicon fan corners, a Phillips screwdriver, a low noise adapter for the fan, anti-vibration strips which can be used with non-Noctua fans to reduce vibration, a fan splitter, extra anti-vibration mounts if you choose to use the extra fan as a case fan, standard fan screws, and an extremely thick metal Noctua case badge.

Noctua goes above and beyond the call of duty, having included literally everything you need to install the heatsink. Noctua is the only company I have seen so far to include a screwdriver with their products, allowing installation of the heatsink right out of the box.

The cooler itself is nested in thick foam padding which will protect the cooler from drops or punctures that may happen during shipment. The foam is a departure from Noctua’s recyclable cardboard padding but its good to see Noctua wants to ensure your package arrives in one piece even if the courier decides to throw it over your fence.

The cooler

The NF-A15 PWM fans are a great match for this heatsink. The design of the fan allows a larger fan to be installed with a smaller mounting system. By using the round frame instead of a traditional square one, less space is taken up by the mounts allowing the usage of a larger fan in the same amount of space. The design on the fins also ensures that the fan is able to cool all fins on the heatsink.The cooler is 165mm tall, 150mm wide, and 161mm deep with both fans installed.

From the side profile, you’ll notice that there are two corners cut off from the heatsink. This allows better compatability with tall RAM heatsinks. It uses the standard toolless fan mounting system that uses notches on the side of the fin array that allow the metal clips on the fan to latch onto. The mounting system allows for easy toolless installation and removal which makes cleaning it very easy.

Taking a look from the back, you can take a better look at the grooves and teeth on the edge of the fin array help break up air to reduce noise. The heatsink comes with mounting hardware for only two fans, but it you manage to find a third mounting clip (such as from a NH-U14S) it is possible to mount 3 fans. You will run into size issues when you put it into a case though. 

The cooler is mounted by screwing down the hold down plate on the heat sink to the two included brackets that are secured to the motherboard. The six heatpipes are soldered between two copper plates making up the base. The base of the NH-D15 is milled and has arched grooves across the entire surface. The base of the heatsink is completely flat with no deformation at the edges, ensuring uniform contact with the entire CPU. There are staggered heatpipes to carry the heat away to different areas of the fin array.


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 toolless 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 i5 3570K

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 21 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

With stock frequencies the NH-D15 runs extremely cool on idle, with temperatures hovering close to room temperature. On load, the heatsink runs at 50 degrees, with a 5 degree decrease when an additional fan is added.

When overclocked, the heatsink enter all-in-one liquid cooler territory with a temperature of 63 degrees on full load, and a decrease of 3 degrees with the additional fan.


The Noctua NH-D15 is $99.99 at our local retailer, NCIX, so the heatsink does come at a high price. The NH-D15 is also a high performance cooler so the parts and build quality are held to high standards, while performance reaches liquid cooling territory. The heatsink offers great cooling without sacrificing silence. The NH-D15 is also compatible with tall RAM modules even on socket LGA 2011 so it is a great choice for first time system builders who are afraid of running into compatibility issues or putting liquids in their computer, but want the same performance.

Noctua has put a lot of thought into designing the NH-D15 and it shows in the final product. They have thought of ways to make life easier for the end user by using metal clips to secure the fans. A simple convenience such as using a single wire instead of fiddling with plastic inserts makes installation simple and the inclusion of a screwdriver means the end-user doesn't have to find one, or buy one if they don't own one.

Noctua has also tried to make installation of the cooler and backplate easier by reducing the amount of things you need to hold in place. They split the installation into small easy steps so there are no headaches or broken parts due to installation. Since they dropped support for LGA 775 and 1366, they can simplify the backplate, removing the need to reposition the screws to line up with the holes.

Noctua shows that they do care a lot about customers while designing their CPU coolers. With such a large heatsink like the NH-D15, you would think there would be a lot of compatibility issues, especially with LGA 2011 having RAM on the both sides of the socket. Noctua knows this is an issue and has eliminated that problem with the NH-D15. If you are in the market for a high performance CPU cooler, make sure you take a look at the Noctua NH-D15.

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.