Noctua NH-D15S D-Style CPU Cooler Review

Chad reviews Noctua's NH-D15S, which is the third most efficient CPU air cooler we have tested, and it doesn't generate much noise either.

@chad_sebring
Published Wed, Aug 19 2015 9:19 PM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 98%Manufacturer: Noctua

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

VIEW GALLERY - 31 IMAGES

While Noctua already seemed to have had their hands full enough making the refresh of the NH-L9i and the NH-C14, they didn't just stop there. It seems that even their flagship cooler, the mighty NH-D15, was not above having another go at the design as well. It is very easy to take a quick look at this newer version and say that they just removed a fan and re-boxed the D15, but there is more to this revamp than initially meets the eyes.

That other thing that may not have come to mind upon first glance is that while they decided to remove the fan for clearance, size, and accessibility reasons, the entire cooler has been shifted as well. By this, we mean that where the heat pipes were laid out in an even pattern through the fin stack of the D15, this time around there is also a distinct shift upwards on the motherboard, doing away with a second issue to the original. This move allows the fins and the fan clips to stay well away from the top PCI-e slot, allowing users to now populate it without fear of metal bits shorting out electronic parts.

Where many will say that this is just a stripped down NH-D15, what Noctua did to the new NH-D15S seems to be well worth the effort. Coming from the beast that is the NH-D14, that set the whole trend to dual-tower designs, it was a great performer in its day, but it also came with a few issues that users found over the years. When it came to the NH-D15, they removed some of the fins to allow for memory clearance, but depending on the sticks used, it tended to push the fan upwards making the overall height larger than what a lot of cases could take. Now with the release of the NH-D15S, we see the front fan eliminated, so there are no issues with memory anymore at all. We find that they have shifted the cooler upwards to completely free room for video cards used in the first slot, which is a huge plus to a lot of users. With that going for it already, now all it has to do is perform well in thermal testing and Noctua can breathe easy knowing they did the right thing in the evolution of this design.

Since the NH-D15S comes with SecuFirm2 mounting hardware, it will easily install upon anything AMD as far back and including AM2. As for Intel sockets, LGA2011 is covered, as is LGA115X sockets. The size has not changed of the tower itself, as it still stands 165mm in height including the fan. The depth is slightly less without the front fan at 135mm, but we see the 150mm width is kept as well. Without that second fan though, the NH-D15s does shed a bit of weight as it weighs only 1150 grams now. As to the construction, the base and six 6mm diameter heat pipes are made from copper and nickel plated once assembled. While the pipes get soldered to the base of the cooler, each fin in the stack of aluminum is also soldered into place to get the best thermal transfer between components as possible.

The NH-D15S will take on any 140mm fan or 120mm fan as long as it is 15mm thick, using the provided wire fan clips, but as it is sold, it comes paired with the NF-A15 PWM fan. This fan is capable of speeds from 300 to 1500 RPM, while delivering 140.2 cubic meters of air flow, all while keeping at or under the quiet 24.6dB(A) rating shown. As do all the Noctua coolers we have seen lately, the NH-D15S also comes with a six-year warranty should anything go wrong with this cooler.

All of the latest trio of coolers are very new to the market, and as such are not very easy to locate at all of the usual locations. However, we were able to find one location that is selling the NH-D15S currently. As with the others, this can be found at Amazon with Noctua listed as the seller, and this cooler will cost you $99.69 right now with free shipping. While the D15 is a tad cheaper currently, many reviews will point out the little issues with that cooler, and if you want the most accessibility with the largest cooler Noctua makes, the NH-D15S is definitely that cooler, even with its premium price point.

Packaging

Along with a QR Code, we find the NH-D15S naming off to the left, and again repeated at the top of the right side, and we see this is a D-Type Premium Cooler. The sticker to the right tells us this is based off the NH-D15, and over a close up look at the fins, we see a list of eight features found in this design.

With naming again at the top and off to the right side, we find that the specifications chart in the larger section and the pair of dimensional renderings at the bottom right corner are much more worth mentioning.

The back of the box is then used for 11 features along with some iconography to help point out what they are all on about. This covers things from compatibility, included fan and potential for more cooling, on through the hardware included bits, and ends noting the six-year warranty.

This last panel is where we find out that this new cooler is based on the award winning NH-D15 design, and that this version has been custom tailored to provide superior RAM and PCI-e compatibility.

Opening the box, we are greeted with a thick layer of dense foam that we needed to remove. Under it, we find a hardware box slid down the left side, and the body of the cooler and the fan inside of the larger box to the right. We also like that dense foam is used all around the packaging, and even with the crushed corner on the box, the cooler inside arrived to us in perfect condition.

Noctua NH-D15S CPU Cooler

While going by the fan direction, this would be the front, and we see that the fin count and shape is the same as in the D-15. However, when you look below the fins, you can see that the pipes are offset allowing more of the cooler to be shifted away from the PCI-e slot.

While we will eventually flip the fan from its stock location, we do see that the fan is supported with wire fan clips that lock in just before the fin supports are found on each tower. Also, since the fan now offers rubber corner pads, the Teflon strips are no longer used.

Technically this would be a front view of the cooler once it is installed properly on a motherboard, and it is much easier to see how the offset of the pipes running through the tower moves the D15S much further away from video cards.

On this side, we see more of the fin supports closing off the sides, and of course the fan is hanging there too. What we wanted to point out is that the 165mm is a hard minimum height with the fan, as we have it against the mounting screw now, and ours stands 166mm in height.

Looking at the top of the cooler, comparing this side by side to the D15, this new D15S keeps the same exact fin shape, and with the Noctua name readably oriented inside of the chassis, it is easy to tell the fan would be blowing the wrong way.

At the other end of the cooler, we take a look at the gentle sweeping curves used in these six heat pipes. Of course, it has all been nickel plated, but as each fin is placed on the stack it is soldered, visible remains can be seen at the base, and in the fin holes.

As for the base of this monster, Noctua sticks with what they do best, and that is offering a cooler with visible milling marks left in the base, as they believe that the more surface area you create, the more heat can be transferred out of the IHS; and believe it or not, it has worked for them for many years.

Accessories and Documentation

The Intel bits of the SecuFirm2 is the same as we would expect. There is the LGA115x back plate in the middle with the spacer's brackets and nuts on both sides of it, leaving us with the LGA2011 socket screws at the bottom.

The AMD gear is all present and accounted for as well. There are the pair of brackets in the middle that rest atop the white spaces on either side of them. It is then the screws at the bottom go through the holes and secures this to the motherboard via the stock AMD backplate.

The rest of the bits that come in the hardware box is what we see now. There is the 90 degree screwdriver to mount the cooler, a pair of extra fan mounting clips, some NT-H1, a Low Noise Adapter, and the shiny metal case badge.

No matter which of the three manuals you need to use, you will find the same level of detail given to each socket type. Each will show you the hardware needed to get started, and through a few steps of illustrations and text descriptions, it takes only a matter of minutes to get the NH-D15S installed onto any motherboard.

Just to verify we have the right fan included with our cooler, we see that this is the NF-A15 PWM. Realistically, we had to pull the fan to attend to its directional issue, as well as needing it out of the way for the installation process, so we figured why not.

Installation and Finished Product

With white washers on the other side to keep the metal from touching the back of the motherboard, make sure the socket screws are lined up with the holes in the backplate, and drop it through the holes in the motherboard.

Flip the board over, and set it on the table. Since the studs stick up and the plate keeps them from spinning, you set the spacers on, then the brackets, and tighten it all down with the knurled nuts at each corner.

With the NH-D15S now on the motherboard, all we see behind the memory is a large wall of aluminum fins. You do have the option to use a fan here like the D15 offered, but the single fan in the middle has plenty of power to draw through the front tower as well.

Without a large fan on the front of the fins, there is no conflict with a fan and the top of the memory. Also, keeping the same seven fin cutout the D15 had, the NH-D15S also offers plenty of clearance for all four slots, on both sides of the socket too for LGA2011 users.

Seeing so many compact cooler designs as of late, it makes this NH-D15S seem huge, but then memory kicks in and we remember back to when we had the D15 and what room it took with three fans on it. In all honestly, this is all you really need when it comes to a dual tower cooler, not some monstrosity.

While our fan is shifted a bit lower than it should be, we see that the fin stacks of the cooler are completely clear of the first PCI-e slot. Access to memory is doable, but we did find that getting the top center motherboard screw in was tricky, but doable as well.

Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results

Test System Setup

I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Patriot and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with.

To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for that information.

Thermal Results

For the stock run, we do limit the fan speed on all coolers and take the PWM curve out of the mix. Here we found the NH-D15S performed identical to the NH-D15 with a 49.5 degree result. Considering that it takes a TEC assist or some sort of water cooling to better that result for some products, we can all agree that is really good.

When the overclock is then applied, we see the NH-D15S falter, but just ever so slightly. Of course, more fans on the cooler should improve on thermal results, but coming in less than a degree away from the D15 at 70.25 degrees is again very good for a dual tower cooler with only a single fan to cool it.

Noise Level Results

While controlling the voltage for the stock run, we found the NF-A15 PWM to be spinning at 1020RPM, and at this time we found it inaudible, but the meter was showing us 24dB. Here there is no way to take away from chart topping performance.

It's not quite the best when it comes to fan noise with it spinning at 12 volts. Here we saw a maximum speed of 1520RPM, and from a foot away from the back of the cooler, we were reading 33dB at this time. It's slightly better than the original, but remember there is one less fan chopping the air as well.

Final Thoughts

What is there really left to say? Noctua took what was already an award winning and well liked flagship cooler, and made it that much more user friendly. Of course, not everyone will appreciate this sort of cooler, but as an Intel X99 user, trying to populate the first slot with the GPU, it takes something offset like this product to work well in that instance. Most other offerings either are much smaller and not as efficient, or they just don't care and they go ahead and block things off.

While Noctua took care of most of the memory issues the D14 had with the D15, without a front fan on the NH-D15S, there is nothing on the front of the cooler to need to sit lower to fit into a certain chassis, and since the fan sits in the middle, and can go down to rest on the mounting screws of the cooler, the heat is always the same, no matter what components are used.

This isn't a stroke of genius when it comes to cooler technology, but it sure proves that Noctua isn't one of those companies to sit on something and milk it till it is dead and too late to recover from it. They took the bull by the horns, and revamped it to be a much better cooler with compatibility first and foremost in the design. While performance isn't thrown to the wayside, in fact the NH-D15S does really well for a single fan cooler dual tower, and the lack of noise while doing so is also greatly appreciated, but this is one of those coolers that you can't really appreciate until you actually have issues and are looking for a cooler with these features. When you do have said issues though, knowing Noctua has your back and is obviously always looking to offer their customers the best of all worlds, it is then that you will fully appreciate all that the NH-D15S is.

Of course, there is also the group of readers out there that will ask why they should by this over the slightly cheaper NH-D15, but if you have to ask that, you really have not been paying attention, have you? However, for those in the know - builders, extremists, and even users sitting editing hours of video - and you are desiring silence, really good performance from an air cooler, and don't want to be bothered with compatibility options or which slots on your motherboard will be blocked, it is then that you will want to step up and find that the near on $100 price that Noctua wants for the NH-D15S is worth it.

Performance

97%

Quality including Design and Build

99%

General Features

99%

Value for Money

95%

Overall

98%

The Bottom Line

Offering complete compatibility with the memory, motherboard, and video cards, the NH-D15S is the third most efficient air cooler we have tested and does so with virtually no noise! While it is a bit expensive, we have no issues recommending it.

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.