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Noctua NH-D15S Review

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Noctua NH-D15S Closer Look:

The Noctua NH-D15S is a dual-tower-style cooler and is structurally similar to the D14 and even more closely matches the D15. The NH-D15S includes one NF-A15 140mm PWM fan, which comes installed to the cooler as shipped. The cooler measures 165x150x135mm and weighs 1150g with a single NF-A15 140mm PWM fan attached. The design of this cooler incorporates some improvements for memory and PCIe slot compatibility. This allows adequate space for memory modules that use taller heat sinks and allows for access to the first PCIe slot. We will see how well this works shortly.

Let's talk about what separates the D15S from the D15. When the D15S first showed up, I wondered why there would be what appeared to be essentially a single fan version of the D15. What was the difference? So I pulled the D15 that I had reviewed last year out of the box and placed it next to the new D15S. From the side view, the two coolers are virtually identical. You can't tell which is which, but I will tell you that the D15 is on the left and the D15S is on the right. Actually for the next four pictures the D15 will be on the left and the D15S will be on the right. Now looking head on, they still look very similar until you look toward the bottom where the heat pipes exit the base and bend upward into the fin stack. Can you see it? The base on the D15 on the left appears to be centered (left to right), but the base of the D15S on the right looks to be shifted a little off center to the left.



Again, looking at the bases, the offset is more obvious. As Noctua states, "Thanks to its asymmetrical design, the NH-D15S clears the top PCIe slot on most µATX and ATX motherboards." So what it boils down to is that we have a modified / updated D15 that won't interfere with your top PCIe slot or RAM slots. We still retain the same side notches in the fin stack for RAM clearance. The fit and finish of the fin stack is top-notch and the base and heat pipes are nickel-plated.



Here we have a closer look at the D15S with the fan installed. You can see that there is a nice gap behind the fan. On the D14 there is no gap and the fan is rather snug and can be a little tough to remove during the install. The gap is present on the D15 and D15S, and makes fan removal quick and painless. The fan on the D14 would tend to snag on the cooling fins as you pulled it out of the fin stack. Also the fins on the D15S (and D15) are closed on the sides and this helps to control and focus the air flow through the fin stack. The wide spacing of the heat pipes combined with the fact that they all have unobstructed exposure to the airflow ensures maximum heat transfer.



The top view of the tower shows the termination points for the six nickel-plated copper heat pipes. Noctua's logo and name are embossed on top of the fins. This adds a nice visual touch, especially if you have a side window on your case.



The unit comes with one NF-A15 fan installed and clips are included if you want to add a second fan. Noctua's NF-A15 premium quality quiet fan (140mm PWM) complies with Noctua's AAO (Advanced Acoustic Optimization) standard and features sophisticated aerodynamic design measures, such as Flow Acceleration Channels. Measuring 140x150x25mm, the NF-A15 uses the second generation SSO2 full metal bearing, which is machined from solid brass for a longer lifespan and improved fan blade stabilization. The motor magnet is placed closer to the axis of the fan blade shaft; again, for improved stabilization in combination with the new metal shell. The NF-A15 PWM has removable rubber vibration dampers to keep vibrations to a minimum. The back side of the motor contains Noctua's custom designed PWM IC, which incorporates SCD (Smooth Commutation Drive) technology to reduce noise at very low fan speeds, as the NF-A15 fan can run as low as 300 RPM. The fan clips are easy to use and firmly secure the fan to the fin stack. The fan cable is covered in a flexible rubber sleeve.



From this view, you can see see the notches cut into the bottom of the fin stacks for your RAM modules. The offset of the base is easy to see. Looking at the nickel-plated copper base, we have six large 6mm diameter heat pipes that twist their way up to the fin stack to transfer the thermal load away from your CPU. Each fin in the stack is soldered to the heat pipes and this ensures a more direct path for the heat to travel from the pipes to the fins.



During the installation, you will have to remove the fan for access to the two mounting screws on the base. These screws are retained to the base and I really like this feature. No more chasing screws around. Since the base is offset, you will want to make sure that you have the cooler oriented properly before you attach it to the motherboard.



As usual with Noctua, the accessories are individually packaged. The SecuFirm2™ mounting kit makes the installation a happy experience. The AMD brackets are each used specifically for AMD solutions and support all the latest sockets. The Intel SecuFirm2™ bracket kit includes a robust backplate that is designed specifically for Socket 115X usage. Each of the bracket kits have a specific instruction set that is thorough and easy to follow. The common parts kit includes a screwdriver, low noise adapter, fan mounting hardware for another NF-A15 PWM fan (for a push / pull configuration), and Noctua's own NT-H1 thermal compound.



On the backing plate, you see the designation 115X. This means that Intel socket compatibility using the back plate is going to be limited to Intel Socket 115X motherboards. Mounting to an Intel LGA 2011 or AMD socket does not require the use of the back plate and is slightly different in that the installation utilizes parts of the existing socket mounting package.

The NH-D15S installs easily thanks to Noctua's SecuFirm2 mounting system. Most cases today have a chassis with an opening in the motherboard tray behind the socket so you don't have to remove the motherboard for installation. Push the back plate through the four heat sink mounting holes around the socket, place the spacers on the studs, and place the brackets over the studs. Next, thread on the retaining nuts, and then tighten in an alternating sequence until the nuts bottom out on the spacers. Now apply the NT-H1 thermal paste to the top cover of your CPU and use the supplied screwdriver to tighten the NH-D15S onto the mounting brackets. Mount the included NF-A15 fan and you are ready to power your system up.



Now we can see what the D15S brings to the compatibility party. Of course we have the RAM clearance thanks to the notches at the base of the fin stack. In fact, you have 65mm of clearance under the notched part of the fin stack, which makes the D15S compatible with most high end RAM modules that have tall heat spreaders. And you can see how the asymmetrical offset of the base provides clearance for the first PCIe slot.



So now we have everything installed and the fan is plugged into the CPU fan header and powered up. The next step is to let the system run for a little while and get all the system temperatures to normalize, and then begin the thermal testing. It will be interesting to see how the D15S performs compared to the D15, given the similarities in design. I suspect that we will see comparable performance.

  1. Noctua NH-D15S: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Noctua NH-D15S: Closer Look (Continued)
  3. Noctua NH-D15S: Specifications & Features
  4. Noctua NH-D15S: Testing Setup & Results
  5. Noctua NH-D15S: Conclusion
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