Noctua NH-D15: Update to an Icon

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HEATSINK COMPARISON TABLE

°C Rise Comparison: CPU Coolers with Single Stock Fan (Any Size)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Noctua NH-D15 (dual fan)
38
   
39
   
40
   
Scythe Kotetsu
        38  
41
  42  
Thermalright Archon SB-E
39
         
40
   
43
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
 
39
     
40
41
 
43
 
Scythe Mugen 4
       
40
   
42
 
45
Noctua NH-U14S
 
38
 
40
   
43
   
be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim
 
40
   
41
 
42
   
Noctua NH-D15
39
   
41
   
44
   
Scythe Yasya
   
40
       
43
   
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
     
41
 
43
 
46
 
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
       
42
 
47
 
Scythe Ashura
 
42
     
44
     
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
   
41
       
44
54
 
Silverstone Argon AR03
   
43
         
48
Scythe Ninja 3
   
44
       
46
   
SilverStone Argon AR01
   
44
         
50

The D15 compares favorably to competing coolers that ship with just a single stock fan, but only when both fans are utilized, and even then the margin is a slim one. With only the center fan, it slips down to seventh place.

°C Rise Comparison:
CPU Coolers with Dual 140 mm Reference Fans
Heatsink
Fan Voltage / SPL*
8V
(~20 dBA)
7V
(~16 dBA)
6V
(~13 dBA)
Prolimatech Genesis
36
37
39
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
36
37
40
Thermalright HR-22
37
38
39
Noctua NH-D15
38
39
40
Noctua NH-C14
37
39
41
Thermalright Silver Arrow
37
39
41
Noctua NH-U14S
39
39
40
Noctua NH-D14
38
40
42
Scythe Mugen 4
39
40
42
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
39
41
43
NZXT Havik 140
39
40
43
Scythe Ashura
40
41
43
SilverStone Heligon HE02
43
44
46
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

As a dual fan 140 mm fan cooler, the D15 rises near to the top, eclipsing the D14 as well as the Thermalright Silver Arrow and Phanteks PH-TC14PE, two coolers that also share a similar design. The Prolimatech Genesis remains the champion however, followed by the last two behemoths from Thermalright, the HR-22 and HR-02, but it's a close race with only a degree or two separating the top six.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Noctua NH-D15 is the rare successor to a popular product that actually improves over every aspect of the original. It's only a slightly better cooler than the D14, but has superior acoustics even though Noctua's newer fan models aren't as smooth sounding. This is due to having two fans of the same model rather than the D14's odd 140+120 mm fan mix which never really made any sense to begin with. While it uses the essentially the same excellent heatsink mounting mechanism as its predecessor, the system of hooking the fan clips onto tiny plastic eyelets inserted into the fans' mounting holes has been gleefully abandoned for a more traditional and simple method.

In the grand scheme of things however, the D15 does little to distinguish itself from its competitors. Similarly monstrous offerings from Prolimatech and Thermalright deliver equivalent or better dual fan performance. The D14 was the cream of the crop when it was released but dual tower heatsinks have since been eclipsed by thicker single tower designs. Noctua's own older/smaller/cheaper heatsinks have held up fairly well, with the C14 being every bit the D15's equal, and the sleek U14S doesn't trail far behind either. The D15 is certainly better than the D14, but the rest of the field has improved as well. There are even a few much smaller coolers that stack of very favorably.

The Noctua NH-D15 is currently selling for US$90, which seems to be the standard rate these days for a flagship cooler. Given Noctua's reputation and overall package, we don't see them having a problem commanding this kind of premium, just as they have in the past. That being said, like many oversized coolers, you'll need to look elsewhere if you want some semblance of value. If you can source a Scythe heatsink, the Mugen 4, and the Kotetsu in particular, offer much of the same performance for US$50 and less, even though they are armed just a single 120 mm fan. If you prefer the complete Noctua package, the older NH-C14 is a viable alternative as well, especially as it can be had for US$20~$30 less.

Our thanks to Noctua for the NH-D15 CPU cooler sample.


Noctua NH-D15 is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Scythe Kotetsu CPU Cooler: A Compact King
be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim CPU Cooler
Thermalright HR-22 CPU Heatsink
Noctua NH-U14S Slim 140mm Tower Cooler
Scythe Ashura CPU Cooler
SilverStone Tundra TD03 Liquid CPU Cooler

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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