This is the air cooler to rule them all. Before the D15 appeared, we had its first variant, the NH-D14 which was released in 2009. The main design hasn’t changed much besides the obvious chromax.black treatment and some upgrades regarding better compatibility with RAM height. A decade later the main formula is still very successful – maximum heat dissipation divided by two heatsinks and two big 140 mm fans. This thing is so successful that it will give 240 mm AIOs a headache! So let’s have a look at the most powerful air cooler that we have ever tested !
First about Noctua
Established in 2005, Noctua took international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise-conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class-leading quiet cooling performance.
Designed in Austria, Noctua’s premium cooling components are internationally renowned for their superb quietness, exceptional performance and thoroughgoing quality. Having received more than 6000 awards and recommendations from leading hardware websites and magazines, Noctua’s fans and heatsinks are serving hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers around the globe.
Prices and Availability
We all know that Noctua products are never cheap but you always get what you pay for. At $100 / £90 / €100, yes, it is a lot to pay if you just want to have the black paint job over the classic color scheme, especially if you already own the regular D15 (which is $10 cheaper). However, as a new buyer, you can’t go wrong with either but for just $10 extra the new chromax.black D15 looks like an absolute unit!
*26.04.2020 Update – The Video Review is live as well!
Presentation and Specification
* Courtesy of their website.
Despite its massive size and specs, it is actually not that heavy. To point out that with both fans attached, you need standard height RAM (32 mm tall) but with one fan, you have up to 64 mm free since the heatsink has a part of the fins recessed. With 6 years warranty, 2x 140 PWM premium fans and epic build quality, this is as good as it gets on paper.
The Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black comes shipped in one of the biggest boxes I have seen for air coolers. As previously seen in the U12S and L9i/a chromax.black, we have an identical box design and presentation.
The front has a visual depiction of the actual heatsink with bold branding.
On the back we have an in-depth presentation of the main selling points of the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black.
Then the specs for the heatsink and fans are printed on one of the sides.
The accessory box greets us with a very helpful list of its contents.
Here is the complete list:
2x NF-A15 HS-PWM chromax.black premium fan (one is pre-attached to the heatsink, one in a separate box)
2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
1x 4-pin PWM Y-cable
1x NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
1x Black SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kit (Intel & AMD)
2x Fan-clips for a second NF-A15 HS-PWM chromax.black
1x Noctua Metal Case-Badge
1x Custom long Philips screwdriver
3x Booklets which cover all of the installation instructions
After removing the first box, we have two more boxes underneath. One has the second 140 mm fan and the other has the NH-D15’s heatsink, thus the product is perfectly safe from every side. Remember when I mentioned that with Noctua you get what you pay for? Just take a look at the attention that the packaging receives and bear in mind that we haven’t even got to the product itself.
The NF-A15 HS-PWM chromax.black fans have 120 mm mounting holes and are rated up to 1500 RPM, developing 140,2 m³/h of airflow and have a maximum noise output of 24,6 dB(A). They even have removable anti-vibration pads which you can choose your own color from their chromax range.
Here is the beast out of its cage.
For a size perspective, when compared to the U12S (a single tower 120 mm heatsink) we can see almost 3 times the size in depth in favor of the NH-D15.
The heatsink stands 160mm tall, 150mm wide and 135mm long while weighing 980g alone and 1150g with one of the two NF-A15 chromax.black fans mounted. In this configuration – single-fan mode – you have the maximum RAM height clearance, since the bottom 7/45 aluminum fins per tower, are reduced in height.
In ‘beast’ mode (both fans attached) the NH-D15 chromax.black is now 165mm tall, 150mm wide and 161mm long with a weight of 1320g.
Both fin towers share these six big 6mm thick heatpipes which form a nice solid welded nickel plated copper base.
Things are almost identical with the NH-U12S in terms of the installation process. This time we have the AMD AM4 socket to tackle but everything is straightforward. We need to reuse the stock AM4 backplate that comes with any AMD motherboard. Then attach these plastic grey spacers.
Make sure you screw down the AMD brackets in the nr.’4′ spacing written on them.
Apply the thermal paste and remove the middle fan from the heatsink since you will need a clear path to secure the D15 to the brackets.
As you can see it’s very easy to install this monster cooler even while the motherboard is in the case.
Now let’s check for any clearance issues. I specifically chose this older generation GPU because it has this really thick and tall back plate. As you can see even in the first PCI-E slot, there is no touching the NH-D15 chromax.black.
Around the socket area, there is no problem at all from the VRM heatsinks.
The only issue might arrive from memory modules that have a taller heat-spreader than 32 mm if you use both fans on the D15. My RAM kit is 44 mm tall and because the case has plenty of clearance, I just mounted the second fan like so.
- The AMD Ryzen 7 2700 CPU will be tested at stock values and then overclocked to 4.0 GHz at 1.300v
- As the main torture test, we will employ the AIDA64 and then some 3D benchmarks as well
- Room temperature was recorded at ~ 18°C
- For the noise testing, we used our Pyle PSPL01 placed 30 cm away from the setup – all other fans will will be off or set at minimum RPM
- Thermal paste used – Noctua NH-H1
- We will compare the results to other CPU air coolers
- All CPU fans and AIO pump will be left on the ‘standard’ auto % rpm curve to simulate real life usage patterns
- Any results over 90° C in any condition are considered a fail
Competition CPU Coolers:
– Cooler Master Hyper Black Edition 212 RGB – 120 mm
– Noctua NH-D15S – 140 mm
– BeQuiet! Dark Rock Slim – 120 mm
– Noctua NH-U12S – 120 mm
– BeQuiet! Dark Rock TF – 2×135 mm
– NZXT Kraken X52 240 mm AIO – 2×120 mm
– CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700 AM4 – 8c/16t
– Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero X370 E-ATX
– RAM: 32GB DDR4 G.Skill Trident Z Royal Silver RGB 3000 MHz
– Boot M.2 SSD: XPG SX6000 Pro 512GB NVMe
– PSU: Seasonic S12II 620W ATX
– Case: Sahara P35 Tempered Glass Mid Tower PC Gaming Case
– GPU: KFA2 GeForce GTX 480 Anarchy OC 1538MB DDR5 Accelero EXTREME Plus
– Case fans 140 mm: Noiseblocker eLoop X-Series ARGB Black PWM – B14X-P 1500 RPM
– Case fans 120 mm: Noiseblocker eLoop X-Series ARGB Black PWM – B12X-P-BL 2000 RPM
– OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Version 1909
– CPU-Z v1.91 – To verify the CPU’s and RAM’s statistics
– Aida64 Extreme v6.20 – Memory analysis and Benchmark suite
– Cinebench R15 – Popular CPU benchmark
– Cinebnech R20 – The new revised version optimized for the newer multi-core CPUs
– 3D/Game(s) – Rise Of The Tomb Raider is set at FHD, with everything at Medium quality settings, DX12, no V-Sync, no AA
– NVIDIA Drivers – 445.39
Testing, Results and Analysis
Let’s start in order of CPU load difficulty. First up is the Cinebench R15 test. On the left is the CPU in stock form while on the right we have the results for the overclocked scenario. AMD recommends don’t go higher than 1.375v for daily safe use the 2nd generation Ryzen CPUs. We managed to get 4.0 GHz for 1.300 flat. You can go higher for like 4.1-4.2 GHz but these would need close to 1.4v which means I would always go for lower voltages if the increase in frequency isn’t that big. Straight off the bat, the NH-D15 chromax.black beats even the 240 mm AIO and becomes our top dog in the charts!
The Cinebench R20 is a more modern up to date multi core benchmark suite. So naturally we will see a bigger load and thus a larger temperature figure than the R15.
In AIDA64 we isolated the stress test just for the CPU and thus we should get the highest stress scenario for the CPU. Mind you the R20 proves to be almost as demanding as the stress test so the numbers are very close.
The easiest test today is a benchmark run in Rise of The Tomb Raider which only makes the CPU use barely 25 to 40% of it’s total computing power ensuring here the results will be very good across the board.
Now let’s inspect the noise levels. Noctua and BeQuiet! are the best in class regarding noise output so naturally they will dominate here as well.
Well this will be a very easy analysis since the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black delivers on all fronts. It beats everything that we had to test it against and was even quieter (and cheaper) than a 240 mm AIO. It’s not as heavy as I expected given its colossus presence.
The only heads up comes from the first tower that will interfere with taller RAM (>32 mm) in which you can either use the second fan raised like I did or remove it altogether. Then you will have the same performance as a regular D15S which again is no problem at all. On the opposite spectrum, if you want to go all in, you can even add a 3rd fan.
The build quality is fantastic, ease of installation and the attention to details is outstanding from the packaging to the presentation and accessories. You know where this is going, that it will get our maximum mark. Finally it looks just amazing in that all black coating !
It’s seems repetitive that every time we test a Noctua product, to use terms like best in class, top tier, nr. 1 etc. Those statements are a must since they are 100% accurate – they build one of the best, maybe the best air cooling products out there. The NH-D15 in the new chromax.black paint job is the best performing air cooler to date. End of discussion. It beats a more expensive 240 mm AIO while being quieter. When you overclock your CPU, this cooler should be your first choice for air cooling.
+ Overbuilt quality
+ Our nr. 1 most performing air cooler ever
+ Beats more expensive 240 mm AIOs
+ Perfect noise/performance ratio
+ Inaudible operation
+ 6 years warranty
+ Ability to add a 3rd fan
– Extra large size
– Some RAM height interference if you have tall heatspreaders for the first tower