Noctua NH-D15 Intel and AMD CPU Air Cooler Review

The Noctua NH-D15 is firmly footed in the excellent performance of the NH-D14 model. The NH-D15 is not a "new" air cooling technology but rather an evolution of the old. The new claim to fame with this heatsink unit is that it has an expanded heatpipe layout, plus some other bells and whistles that Noctua hopes make it king of the hill.

Introduction

Today we are reviewing a cooler from Noctua that isn't completely revolutionary, breaks new ground or any other marketing clichأ© you're likely to hear. But it is an important CPU cooler nonetheless. It is a cooler that shows us Noctua actually listens when you call for change. The NH-D15 is successor to the NH-D14 which was a massive cooler that performed well but had a glaring oversight. The NH-D14 was so big it prevented you from using enthusiast class RAM. What good is an enthusiast class cooler for your enthusiast class CPU if you can’t use RAM with enthusiast class heat spreaders? Noctua went back to the drawing board and found out a way to engineer the cooler in such a way that allows clearance for large RAM heat spreaders without sacrificing performance. And so we have the Noctua NH-D15.

Article Image

System Setup

Today's review takes place on our fourth generation [H]ard platform. The test bed consists of the ASUS Z87-Deluxe motherboard, eight gigabytes of Corsair 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM and the Intel Core i7 4770K.

Article Image

Test Methods

CPU

The biggest change you will notice is the removal of hardware testing. In recent years, Intel has shifted their methods of testing to software based and so we find it acceptable to do the same.

GPU

Once again we have an integrated GPU in our processor which alleviates the need for a discrete one. With the removal of a discrete GPU comes the advantage of not having an additional variable to account for.

The iGPU will not create any anomalies in our testing as long as we practice consistent testing methods.

Case

Corsair was kind enough to provide us with their Carbide series chassis. It provides excellent airflow and interior space and is a good reflection on current case design.

Thermal Paste

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. There is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones.

Temperatures

Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.

Idle

Idle temperatures will be recorded after a twenty minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Load

Load temperatures will be recorded after a twenty minute period for air cooled systems, and thirty minutes for liquid cooled systems, at 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using AIDA64 Extreme Edition v3.00.2500. This places an even greater load on the CPU than before and includes some benefits. Because the load is so extreme we see the temperature vary wildly from 72C to 86C in some instances. To get an accurate reading we will utilize AIDA64’s ability to average the temperature over time. Given twenty/thirty minutes at 100% load we arrive at a temperature that accurately represents our heatsink’s performance.

Sound

Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.