I’ve been wanting to pick up a Noctua cooler for many years now, with the NH-D15’s 2014 release and subsequent positive reviews almost pulling me in. However, concerns about not being able to fit the behemoth of a cooler into my case, and my non-low profile RAM potentially causing compatibility issues, ultimately turned me off. Following the D15 launch, however, Noctua heard the concerns of potential buyers and responded with the NH-D15S. Thanks to this compatibility buff, I can now bring you our NH-D15S review.
Noctua NH-D15S Review | Easy application
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Noctua’s premium cooling solutions come in an impressively large box, complete with all of the accessories required to get the CPU installed and functioning correctly. In addition to the dual-tower and single fan, buyers get a tube of high-performance NT-H1 thermal paste (which I used), an optional Low Noise Adapter for slowing down the fan speed in favor of lower noise (I didn’t find this to be necessary), the expected brackets and fan clips, a screwdriver, and a manual. Noctua has gone above and beyond with the packaging here.
Despite the box coming chock-full of supplies, they won’t all be getting used in that single installation. The manual makes it easy to tell which components you’ll require, allowing you to set aside the rest for a future build.
When it comes to installing the cooler, it really is simple, with the manual making things very clear. It’s not as easy as the standard Intel push-and-your-done cooler, but the added five minutes of screwing in are easily worth the buff in cooling performance, as well as noise reduction.
Noctua NH-D15S Review | Top-tier cooling
As soon as you start getting serious about overclocking your CPU, it’s time to look at third-party cooling solutions. While the standard Intel and AMD coolers have gotten better in recent years (assuming you actually get one included in the box!), you usually have to make a choice between either low noise or good cooling, but you often can’t have both. Noctua solves this issue, without needing to implement the sometimes temperamental element of water.
Seeing the temperatures of my overclocked Ryzen 7 1700 idling at 26 degrees, and peaking at 68 degrees when stress testing, was great. The unbelievably quiet fan noise added to the pleasant surprise, living up to my high expectations of what Noctua is known for. The entire experience, from setting up to the testing phase, has been a joy. Noctua has knocked it out of the park here, with a product that performs brilliantly well on all levels.
It’s honestly astounding to witness an air cooler, albeit a massive one, going toe to toe with big-name watercoolers. Sure, it might not look as elegant, as the NH-D15S is a chunky boy and a stark contrast to the slimline puck of H2O equivalents, but I feel safer with the D15S’s use of air, especially when it’s backed up by a six-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Noctua NH-D15S Review | You can have any color, as long as it’s brown
Available for $80, the NH-D15S is well-priced for an endgame solution. This is all the cooling power you will need for most applications. Buy it, set it, and then forget it. Easy!
A potential downside, however, is the color. This is probably the most controversial aspect of Noctua’s cooler, as their default cooler is a kind of brown and beige, which doesn’t really compliment any kind of PC theme. In my system, for example, it just sits there amidst the red lighting. Thankfully, the single fan between the two metal towers is difficult to see, but turn off the lighting and it’s much more noticeable.
If the color is a dealbreaker for you, as I know aesthetics are now much more important in this “RGB Revolution,” you’ll be happy to hear that Noctua has finally succumbed to the presumably overwhelming demand for completely blacked-out variants, as the “Chromax Black” versions of the NH-D15, NH-U12S, and NH-L9i have just been announced. These look damn glorious, and I hope that we’ll see the NH-D15S get the same treatment soon.
Noctua NH-D15S Review | Another win for Noctua
If Noctua is able to make the NH-D15S available in Chromax Black, with the same performance and at a reasonable price, then I wouldn’t hesitate to give it an Editors’ Choice award. For now, though, with the limited color option, buyers must compromise on aesthetic in order to enjoy the incredible cooling performance.
With all of that said, if you don’t mind the brown and beige combo, or you have strong enough case lighting to make it a non-issue, then absolutely go for the NH-D15S as your next air cooler. The enhanced compatibility for taller memory modules (up to 65 mm in height), the asymmetrical design which no longer impedes the first PCIe slot, and the easier fit into many cases, all without sacrificing cooling performance, make the “S” variant a fantastic choice.
It’s also quickly worth noting that there is a new NH-D15S scheduled to launch in the first half of 2020. It will have an additional heat pipe and 10% more surface area. With that said, if you’re looking to buy sooner, rather than later, the current version is still a very good purchase.
Noctua NH-D15S review unit was provided by Noctua.
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