We were huge fans of the original NH-D14 (no pun intended there), but it was once a huge stepping stone in air cooling for the masses of users looking to take an overclock to the next level; without the intrusion of noise that a Sans Ace or Delta fan is known for to break out of that thermal saturation of smaller coolers at the time. Many of our readers are not quite ready to let the D-14 go into the halls of history as an innovator that had been passed up by designs that others simply built upon Noctua's original design. However, and I'm sorry to say it, as the D-14 still has a soft spot in a lot of hearts, but that ship has sailed, and the NH-D15 steps in to take the new air cooling crown.
We did run into one obvious issue with this design, and that is the increased fan size that may limit where this cooler can be installed. Even with low-profile memory in the motherboard, the fan will still stand proud of that 165mm height that most cases are designed to allow. While this could be remedied by grabbing a 120mm fan, or even a 140mm fan, for the front of the cooler, thermal results may not be as good as what we have seen here. Of course, there is the suggested option of running only the middle fan, but when we did our runs without the additional fan we lost four degrees of cooling potential.
Outside of that basic issue, we loved the notching provided for the memory, and it will allow for a lot of the various heat spreaders that are out there today, and even for the removal without the need to pull the cooler. So, while we do make a couple of steps forward, the front fan could be a deal breaker for a lot of installations.
Overall, there is little to complain about. Noctua offers some of the simplest to use, but structurally some of the best mounting hardware in the cooling game. Noctua offers a cooler that feels like a tank, but there is that certain feeling of "yeah, this is a monster capable of handling what I am about to put this CPU through."
When considering it competes with dual radiator AIOs, even some of the custom cooling isn't that far away, and it can do all of this with some of the best audio results of any manufacturer. As long as your case is wide, or you run some form of an open air system, there is no reason to deny your desire to want one of the NH-D15s for your very own. For those in mid-tower cases, even those in smaller full-tower cases, plan ahead and measure with sure diligence, otherwise you may end up spending near $100 and having to deal with some disappointment, or at the very least, the need to buy a smaller front fan to make this cooler fit your needs.
Noctua sort of comes out of nowhere after almost five years, and delivers such a knockout blow that is hard not to gasp when you see it coming. Building from what was the world's first of its kind, surpassing all of the mimics on the market, and doing it with much needed improvements in clearance and performance, is yet another reason why we always recommend Noctua coolers. It's also why most of the staff here currently have them or have had them in the past. They are just that good, and the NH-D15 proves that Noctua is still on top of the game, even if they have been pretty quiet lately!