Noctua NH-D15 - Review


Introduction

This impressive CPU heatsink presents itself, as shown in the photos I attach, with a double lamellar tower and 6 heatpipes per tower, clearly visible both on the base of the heatsink and on the top of the heatsink, for a total of 12 heatpipes. This heat sink was born to be assisted by at least one fan, placed between the two towers, or by two fans, the first placed between the two towers, the second placed at one end of one of the two towers, usually on the side closest to the RAM modules. The use of a third fan is possible, but Noctua itself discourages to use, since it only provides marginal improvements in cooling but significantly increases the overall noise - also for this reason Noctua does not provide the third fan in the package, it only provides two fans.
This sink is compatible with most Intel and AMD CPU sockets currently on the market, even with the latest one, AMD's AM4 socket. Noctua provides the kit, called NM-AM4, free for owners of this heatsink, as long as the owners of this heatsink should provide the documentation of purchase of the heatsink and the purchase documentation of either the processor or the motherboard. To find out more about this additional kit, look for the phrase "Noctua NM-AM4 mounting kit" on the Internet. The above-mentioned kit can also be purchased separately.
This sink, in order to be mounted, may require the use of the original backplate, i.e. the one supplied with the motherboard - this is the case, for example, of the AMD socket. If you bought this heatsink to replace another heatsink that bundled a custom backplate instead of the original one, then you will have to recover the original backplate. If you have lost it, you can ask Noctua technical support to get one for you. Or you can buy one on your own.
This heatsink is impressive, it may not be compatible with some motherboards, especially those that have the first PCI-Express slot very close to the CPU socket. Make sure, through the Noctua website, that your motherboard is compatible with this heatsink. Noctua also sells a variant of this heatsink, called NH-D15S, with the lamellar groups slightly offset in such a way that it can also be mounted on motherboards with the socket cpu very close to the first PCI-Express slot.
Keep in mind that because of the enormous size and weight of this heat sink, and because of the enormous mechanical stress that normally this sink could cause to the motherboard, Noctua itself strongly suggests to remove it from the motherboard if the computer must go through a transport or shipment.


The package

The package includes:

  • two NF-A15 fans, with a maximum speed of 1500 rpms, with a 4-pin PWM connector. Please take note that these two fans are designed specifically for this heatsink as the NF-A15 fans on the market have a maximum speed of 1200 rpms;
  • two LNA (Low Noise Adapter) adapter cables to reduce the maximum fan speed to 1200 rpms. The above-mentioned adapter cables can also be purchased separately using the Noctua NA-SRC7 kit;
  • one Y cable to connect the two fans of this heatsink to a single PWM connector of the motherboard. This cable can also be purchased separately using the Noctua NA-SYC1 kit;
  • one tube of Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste, which can also be purchased separately;
  • one L-shaped screwdriver to be used to mount the Noctua SecuFirm2 kit;
  • the Noctua SecuFirm2 mounting kit for AMD sockets (AM2, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+). The kit for the AM4 socket (called NM-AM4) can be requested at Noctua or purchased separately. The AMD mounting kit requires the original backplate supplied with each AMD socket motherboard, this backplate is usually secured with 4 screws to the motherboard through a retention module;
  • the Noctua SecuFirm2 mounting kit for Intel sockets (LGA115x, LGA2011). Owners of the LGA1366 and LGA775 sockets can request the NM-I3 kit from Noctua, or purchase it separately. The kit for the LGA115x socket is also sold separately, the kit is called NM-i115x. The kit for the LGA2011 socket is also sold separately, the kit is called NM-I2011;
  • documentation for the assembly of the above-mentioned two SecuFirm2 kits for Intel and AMD;
  • a metal plate with the Noctua logo.


Assembly

For assembly, please carefully follow the instructions included in the package. I suggest you to download the manual from the Noctua website even before purchasing this heatsink in order to understand how long it will take to mount it and what difficulties you might face during assembly.
These are my tips:

  1. I recommend the use of latex gloves not only to avoid scratches or even serious injuries (the lamellar groups are quite sharp), but also to avoid leaving fingerprints on the two lamellar towers;
  2. I suggest to firstly install the kit for your socket; then mount the heatsink on the support plate without the thermal paste, so to practice on the overall dimensions, in order to center the two screws to be screwed after on the support plate - this operation is not always so simple;
  3. I highly suggest to mount the heatsink with the disassembled motherboard, this simplifies the insertion of the heatsink on the support plate. To avoid removing the motherboard from the case, I used two mirrors on the sides of the support plate so to center the two screws to be screwed onto the support plate (for AMD socket), an operation that would otherwise be impossible even with big cases (my case is a Corsair Obsidian 750d);
  4. Once the heatsink is inserted on the support plate with the thermal paste, as per instructions of the manual, make sure that the whole heatsink is stable. Then you can insert the first fan, between the two towers of the heatsink, and start making the first tests with the computer turned on. Once all the tests have been carried out, the second fan can be inserted, next to RAM modules. If the RAM modules are more than 32 mm high, the second fan should be moved and almost touch the panel of the case. In this case make sure you have plenty of space available, over 165 mm normally is required by the heatsink. If the second fan can not enter because there is not enough space, you can mount a 120 mm fan, for example a Noctua NF-F12 PWM, instead of the one supplied with the heatsink.


Performance

I mounted this heatsink as my previous heatsink, a Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo, did not allow the overclocking of my AMD FX-8320e 4.5 Ghz CPU, on Asus Sabertooth 990FX r2.0 motherboard; the maximum I could get was 4.2 ghz, beyond this value the heatsink had serious difficulty to dissipate the excessive heat generated by the above-mentioned CPU.
With this Noctua heatsink, my CPU can finally run smoothly at 4.5 ghz, and running a test with Prime95 (SmallFFT test) for half an hour, I get temperatures not higher than 52 degrees (motherboard at 32 degrees and environment temperature at 22 degrees), obviously using the two fans included in the package, which, during the above-mentioned test, run at a maximum speed of 1361 rpms.
These tests were performed using a single fan mounted on the back of my case (Corsair Obsidian 750d Airflow Edition), which is a Noctua NF-A14, at the same speed of the two fans of the heatsink, 1361 rpms. When the CPU is idle, the three fans run under 450 rpms, making the environment very quiet.
The appearance of my above-mentioned case allows an excellent cooling of internal components, so theoretically you could force the CPU over 4.5 ghz, but the problem is not only to dissipate the very high temperature of the CPU, but mainly having to handle an abnormal consumption of power, that already during the above-mentioned test reaches a maximum of 270 watts (of course the consumption refers to the whole computer), that does not include the graphics card’s consumption - Prime95 tests are dedicated to the CPU, and does not have to do with the graphics card.


Conclusions

Noctua, even with this sink, has done a good job. It is up to me to declare this sink the best one on the market, it is only the second sink that I have got, I can only say that the main problems I had with the previous heat sink were finally solved with this sink, now the computer is silent, cool and it does not give troubles to me anymore even with the most performing and heavy applications.
I recommend this sink, without hesitation, for me it is a good choice. It is silent enough, efficient, suitable for the most powerful overclockings, it is a good choice for high-energy consumption CPUs.
You just have to consider the enormous size of this sink and its weight before purchasing it, you also need to understand in advance if you need to install the second fan next to the sink and the various problems that this may create, such as a possible conflict with the RAM banks.


Pros / Cons

PROS
Silent, efficient heatsink, suitable for powered overclocking, suitable for powerful CPUs

CONS
Bulky, Heavy, the second fan could interfere with RAM banks


Links

Photo Gallery
Noctua NH-D15 - Product Page