Noctua NH-D14 Vs Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler Comparison

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In this article we compared the CPU Cooler Noctua NH-D14 versus the Noctua NH-D15 and created a Ranking of the two, including the general infos about the CPU Coolers. Also below, you will find the in-depth tests of each CPU Cooler.

Winner
Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler with 2X NF-A15 PWM 140mm Fans (Brown)
Best Price
Noctua NH-D14, Premium CPU Cooler with Dual NF-P14 PWM and NF-P12 PWM Fans (Brown)
Model
NH-D15
NH-D14
Test Result
Test Result 9.6/10 Excellent April 2020
Test Result 9.1/10 Very Good April 2020
Manufacturer
Noctua
Noctua
Fans
2x NF-A15 PWM 140mm Fans
Dual NF-P14 PWM and NF-P12 PWM Fans
Design
State-of-the-art dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and 2 fans
Classic dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and 2 fans
Size
160x150x135x mm
160x140x130 mm
Cooling Performance
Value for money
Weight with fans
2,91 lbs
2,73 lbs
Pros
  • Best Cooling Performance
  • Great extra Equipment included
  • Awesome Quality
  • Still very Good Cooling Performance
  • Cheaper Price
  • Also great Equipment
Cons
  • Just slightly more expensive than Noctua NH-D14
  • Cooling not as good as NH-D15
Winner
Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler with 2X NF-A15 PWM 140mm Fans (Brown)
Model
NH-D15
Test Result
Test Result 9.6/10 Excellent April 2020
Manufacturer
Noctua
Fans
2x NF-A15 PWM 140mm Fans
Design
State-of-the-art dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and 2 fans
Size
160x150x135x mm
Cooling Performance
Value for money
Weight with fans
2,91 lbs
Pros
  • Best Cooling Performance
  • Great extra Equipment included
  • Awesome Quality
Cons
  • Just slightly more expensive than Noctua NH-D14
Best Price
Noctua NH-D14, Premium CPU Cooler with Dual NF-P14 PWM and NF-P12 PWM Fans (Brown)
Model
NH-D14
Test Result
Test Result 9.1/10 Very Good April 2020
Manufacturer
Noctua
Fans
Dual NF-P14 PWM and NF-P12 PWM Fans
Design
Classic dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and 2 fans
Size
160x140x130 mm
Cooling Performance
Value for money
Weight with fans
2,73 lbs
Pros
  • Still very Good Cooling Performance
  • Cheaper Price
  • Also great Equipment
Cons
  • Cooling not as good as NH-D15

Ranking First: Noctua NH-D15

Noctua NH-D15 review

Pros

  • Best Cooling Performance
  • Great extra Equipment included
  • Awesome Quality

Cons

  • Just slightly more expensive than Noctua NH-D14

With the NH-D15, Noctua launched the successor of a true legend and one of the most famous and popular air coolers, the NH-D14, in April this year. Where exactly the improvements are to be found and whether the successor can actually outshine its glorious predecessor, we’ll examine in detail in our test lab.

The philosophy behind Noctua’s new flagship model has remained unchanged since its predecessor, the NH-D14: “ultimate cooling performance with maximum running smoothness”. According to the Austrian cooling specialist, a full three years of development work went into the NH-D15. Through this long development time, Noctua wants to ensure that the NH-D15 can truly live up to the high expectations placed on the successor of such a popular cooler as the NH-D14.

The NH-D15’s biggest and probably most obvious innovation are the two new series production fans, two Noctua NF-A15 PWM, which at 140x150mm are even slightly larger than conventional 140mm fans. However, in addition to the new and larger series fans, the heat sink widened from 140 to 150mm as well as the increased distance between the heatpipes should also provide even higher cooling performance.

Furthermore, Noctua hasn’t forgotten the often underestimated, but for many buyers and users still very important issue of compatibility. The bottommost external cooling fins have been moved back to ensure that the NH-D15 can be mounted together with up to 64mm high memory bars, at least in combination with a single fan.

For mounting, Noctua continues to rely on the SecuFirm2 system, which can be used on AMD’s AM3+, AM2+, FM1, FM2 and FM2+ sockets as well as Intel’s LGA 1150, 1155, 1156 and 2011 sockets. With the optionally available NM-I3 mounting set, it can also be used on sockets LGA 775 and LGA 1366. Future sockets should also be supported if possible.

The NH-D15’s direct competition consists mainly of well-known air coolers and classics such as the Noctua NH-D14 SE2011, Phantek’s PH-TC14PE and the EKL Alpenföhn K2 – as well as several all-in-one water-cooling systems. Other coolers in the comparison database are normal tower coolers such as the Akasa Venom, the Prolimatech Megahalems, the Arctic Cooling Freezer i30 or the Alpine Foehn Brocken 2.

It should also be mentioned that our test database has grown steadily since the relaunch of the CPU cooler tests and the test system has now found its place in the new and large NZXT Phantom 820. The new test system thus offers space for all kinds of coolers, including larger AiO water coolers up to 280 mm, and is thus much more future-proof.

Scope of Delivery

Noctua NH-D15 cooler

The NH-D15’s direct competition consists mainly of well-known air coolers and classics such as the Noctua NH-D14 SE2011, Phantek’s PH-TC14PE and the EKL Alpenföhn K2 – as well as several all-in-one water-cooling systems. Other coolers in the comparison database are normal tower coolers such as the Akasa Venom, the Prolimatech Megahalems, the Arctic Cooling Freezer i30 or the Alpine Foehn Brocken 2.

It should also be mentioned that our test database has grown steadily since the relaunch of the CPU cooler tests and the test system has now found its place in the new and large NZXT Phantom 820. The new test system thus offers space for all kinds of coolers, including larger AiO water coolers up to 280 mm, and is thus much more future-proof.

In terms of unique selling points, inheriting one of the most popular and usually excellent air coolers is of course not easy to order. Noctua chooses the apparently right way and tries to improve the predecessor’s performance within the bounds of what’s reasonable, without losing sight of the issue of compatibility. Aside from improving performance and efficiency, however, as usual with Noctua, operation at maximum smoothness is still one of the paradigms behind Noctua’s philosophy.

As standard fans, Noctua includes two 150×140 mm fans from its own Noctua NF-A15 series with PWM connection. The fans have thus been increased in width from 140 mm to 150 mm and, according to the manufacturer, run at up to 1500 rpm (our models managed up to 1560 rpm), generating an airflow of up to 140.2 m³/h at a noise level of up to 24.6 dB(A). The two series fans are fixed with four enclosed mounting brackets with 105 mm hole spacing – this is usually used by 120 mm fans, therefore other 120 mm models or 140 mm fans with 105 mm hole spacing can be used analogously.

Also included in the scope of delivery is Noctua’s well-known SecuFirm2 mounting kit for mounting on Intel and AMD systems, two low-noise adapters, a Y-cable that allows the two fans to be controlled together, said clips for mounting the fan as well as a small tube of Noctua’s well-known heat-conducting paste Noctua NT-H1. However, in order to ensure the comparability of all coolers, our reference thermal compound – see test system – is of course used in this test.

Details

Noctua NH-D15 review

The Noctua NH-D15 is a twin-tower cooler that has been widened by 10 mm compared to its predecessor to offer even more cooling surface. With a size of 15.0 cm (W) x 16.5 cm (H) x 16.1 cm (D), both mounted fans will definitely collide with any protruding RAM heatsinks. But more about that later. The height of 16.5 centimeters isn’t overly protruding, though, and shouldn’t lead to compatibility problems with average-sized towers. As is so often the case, it should be very helpful to measure up beforehand or to be clear about the spatial conditions in your own tower.

The base plate of the cooler, i.e. the contact surface to the CPU, was cleanly nickel-plated and has a flat – and not convex – shape. Convex base plates are often controversially discussed and allow a higher contact pressure on the CPU, which under certain circumstances allows a better cooling performance (depending on the shape and variant of the heatspreader of the specific CPU).

Like its predecessor, the NH-D15 has six symmetrically arranged six-millimetre heat pipes that run through the entire radiator surface of the cooler. In contrast to its predecessor, however, these heatpipes are much further apart, which should increase the much-awarded efficiency of its predecessor even further.

All heatpipes are neatly integrated into the bottom of the cooler – as with the predecessor, there is no reason for criticism here. The bottom of the cooler has also been cleanly nickel-plated and no dirt or unevenness can be detected.

The radiator itself consists of 45 (or 44 without the top finish) aluminium fins with 2 mm internal spacing. This relatively narrow fin spacing already gives a first indication that the heat sink has been optimized for operation with high-efficiency fans and can probably only develop its strengths with such fans. Of these 45 fins, the seven lowermost fins are clearly indented to the rear in order to allow some upward clearance for Ram kits with larger coolers and thus massively increase compatibility with various OC kits. Of course, the Noctua NH-D15 can only be operated with one fan and the front fan is left out.

Furthermore, the heatsink has four notches in each of which the clips for mounting the fans can snap into, allowing for a firm and easy mounting of the fans.

The heatsink’s fins have been cleanly deburred throughout and no excessively sharp edges or corners were found in the test where the user could possibly injure himself. The NH-D14, the predecessor, was occasionally criticised for its sharp edges. We couldn’t find any manufacturing faults in our sample and the manufacturing quality of the cooler is on an excellent level.

The installation of the cooler is almost identical to that of its predecessor, can be done in a few minutes by trained hands and is very convenient overall. We managed to mount the cooler without having to remove the mainboard from the case beforehand. It should also be possible to mount the cooler on other Intel or AMD systems without removing the mainboard, if the case has a correspondingly large recess on the back of the mainboard tray.

At first the four provided bolts are screwed to the threads of the socket, then the two mounting bridges are placed on them depending on the desired mounting direction and fixed with two large thumbscrews. Then the cooler itself is lifted into the case from above and placed in such a way that it “docks” on these mounting bridges.

After that, it is easily screwed from above through the gap of the missing 140 mm fan (which can only be fastened afterwards). Especially praiseworthy is the fact that the cross brace, which is screwed to the mounting bridges, is firmly attached to the heat sink and thus cannot slip – which makes mounting much easier and more comfortable. The competition should be happy to take this as an example.

Even changing the CPU is easily possible in a few minutes thanks to the simple mounting. All in all, the NH-D15, just like its predecessor, leaves an absolutely round first impression.

Noise levels

As usual, this is followed by our subjective loudness impression before we finally go into the actual measurement results of the sound level.

The Noctua NH-D15’s serial fans, the two Noctua NF-A15 PWM, leave a very positive first impression. They really please both in the test scenario with 600 rpm as well as in the test scenario with 1000 rpm and only stand out in the latter with a slight, but not disturbing noise. Although the operation at full speed, which was about 1560 rpm in our samples, is a good deal louder, the noise characteristic at these speeds was just about acceptable.

Both the operation at 600 revolutions per minute, as well as the operation at 1000 revolutions per minute, are therefore also suitable for very noise sensitive users. Merely in the test scenario with maximum rpm, the background noise could already be described as unpleasant and disturb the immersion into the gaming world without sealed off headphones.

However, since we don’t want to rely purely on the subjective impression, the actual noise level was also measured with the help of a VOLTCRAFT SL-200 sound level meter, at a distance of 30 cm from the side wall of the closed case, behind which said CPU cooler is installed:

With a measured noise level of 34.8 dB(A), the Noctua NH-D15 also lands in one of the top positions on the test field in the results of our VOLTCRAFT SL-200 sound level meter.

The measurement results at 1000 rpm seem to confirm our subjective hearing impressions. The NH-D15 lands, now somewhat audible but not yet disturbing, on a place in the midfield.

At maximum fan speed (1560 rpm in our samples), the NH-D15 goes to work and once again ends up in the midfield. However, this placement can be seen as quite positive in view of the two fans and quite high speeds.

Testing

Noctua NH-D15 test

The case fans run at 100% in all following tests, i.e. at full 12V, so that the cooling performance of the CPU coolers is not slowed down by a heat accumulation in the case. This is of course essential, especially for the passive tests.

In passive mode, i.e. without active fans on the cooler, the Noctua NH-D15 achieves a very good result in absolute terms at 64°C, but still has to admit defeat to its predecessor. The minimally smaller fin spacing seems to have a slightly negative effect on the (semi-)passive cooling performance of the heatsink.

Nevertheless, the Noctua NH-D15 is still easily capable of providing sufficient cooling for more demanding CPUs like our Xeon processor without the need for an active fan on the heatsink.

In the next test we examined the performance of the coolers with the series fan(s) at 600 and 1000 rpm and full power. The processor was not yet overclocked.

In our first test scenario with 600 rpm, the Noctua NH-D15 finished equal to or just behind its predecessor in a still very good fourth place.

Thus, the heat sink optimisations only seem to take effect at higher rpm and the result confirms our observations during the (semi-)passive test.

In the test scenario with 1000 revolutions per minute, the NH-D15 can for the first time, again within the limits of the measuring accuracy, very narrowly overtake its predecessor and lands again in a very good third place of the test field with average temperatures of 44.75 °C.

At full power, i.e. maximum fan speed, the NH-D15’s standard fans ran at up to 1560 revolutions per minute. In this test scenario, the NH-D15 overtakes the entire competition and even leaves behind some compact water-cooling units – and with excellent average temperatures of 42.75 °C, it lands in second place on the test field.

Next, let’s take a look at how our test subject performs when the CPU is additionally overclocked and thus generates a lot more heat that has to be dissipated.

Our Intel Xeon E5 2687W has now been overclocked from 3.1 to 3.6 Ghz and additionally fired with 1.25V to produce additional heat and supply the coolers with enough waste heat so that they have to perform better.

With our overclocked Intel Xeon E5 2687W, the NH-D15 already manages to leave its predecessor just behind in the test scenario with 600 revolutions per minute and lands on third place in the test field with a sovereign 66.25°C average core temperature.

In the test scenario with 1000 rpm, the Noctua NH-D15 places itself similarly superior, this time even coming in second place of the test field with average core temperatures of 58°C.

In the test scenario with the fans running at full speed, in this case only up to 1560 rpm, the NH-D15 has to concede defeat to some competitors with even faster rotating fans – but still ends up in an excellent fourth place on the test field and ahead of some compact all-in-one water-cooling units.

Verdict

For just under $110, the Noctua NH-D15 is the worthy but somewhat more expensive successor to one of the most popular and well-known air coolers, the Noctua NH-D14.

Instead of throwing its predecessor’s successful concept completely overboard, the NH-D15 features many small detail improvements and changes in favour of better compatibility, in keeping with the motto “evolution instead of revolution”. For example, the radiator’s lowest seven cooling fins have been shortened or moved to the rear to ensure a very high level of compatibility with high-height ram kits when operating without the front fan.

Furthermore, the heatsink was widened by 10 millimeters, presumably to compensate for the missing cooling surface. In addition, the distance between the heatpipes has also been slightly increased, so that the heat can be dissipated even more efficiently to the radiator.

There have been major changes for this, in the truest sense of the word, in the series fans. With the two NF-A15 PWM fans, which at 150×140 mm are even slightly oversized, Noctua’s NH-D15 is the first to include two powerful and powerful series fans in the package. As our tests with reference fans have shown, the heatsink and series fans were perfectly matched – in operation with our reference fans the performance dropped slightly compared to the predecessor. However, this can hardly be seen as a point of criticism, as very few buyers will want to replace the included series fans with smaller and less powerful fans.

Further points of criticism did not come to light in the test, both the heat sink itself and the extensive accessories are excellently manufactured and never gave cause for criticism.

In our various test scenarios, the NH-D15 was usually able to place itself at the top of the test field, leaving most of its direct competitors – often even some water-cooling systems with smaller radiators – behind. Only in the (semi-)passive test scenarios and the test scenario with slowly rotating fans did the NH-D15 not manage to place itself completely in the limelight – even though it still managed to position itself well in the upper part of the test field.

The NH-D15 can therefore be recommended without hesitation to all buyers looking for an uncompromising premium cooler that is not only very powerful, but also has silent quality.

Due to its well-rounded package, extensive accessories as well as excellent cooling performance at very low noise levels, the Noctua NH-D15 deservedly receives our first rank.

Ranking Second: Noctua NH-D14

Noctua NH-D14 review

Pros

  • Still very Good Cooling Performance
  • Cheaper Price
  • Also great Equipment

Cons

  • Cooling not as good as NH-D15

After we changed the test procedure for air coolers to a practice-oriented closed system, the Noctua NH-U12P established itself as the reference in the then roundup of six silent CPU coolers and remained so for a long period of time. Now – after 49 coolers have been tested – we’d like to put its successor NH-D14 to the test. The dimensions of the test person already indicate that one wants to compete for a top position.

Currently, the performance of the air coolers of the top field hardly differ from each other, no less than 18 coolers with a maximum temperature difference of five Kelvin are at the top of the list.

On the one hand, this clearly shows the high level of the crème de la crème among CPU coolers and the limits of what is technically possible. On the other hand the potential buyers are educated to pay more attention to other points than the pure cooling performance. Thus, a trend of the last few months – to select hardware components according to design and a colour concept – is also becoming more and more popular for CPU coolers. Two years ago, black nickel-plated heatsinks were a novelty that Zalman could claim for himself. Today, there are considerably more variants in a black dress on the market.

Furthermore, the workmanship, but also the assembly must be right. Add-ons like a suitable fan, on the other hand, meet with divided opinions in the community, since the models can’t always convince with a very good running smoothness. In addition, the individual preferences of the buyer play a big role and the market offers an unmanageable selection of alternatives, so that one would not like to buy an unsuitable fan.

Nonetheless, Noctua, as a supplier of high-quality cooling solutions, sees itself as a successful all-in-one package. The CPU coolers come with everything you need, from thermal compound to the right screwdriver. The latest addition – the NH-D14 – is no less impressive.

But first a look inside the box and the included accessories. The two fans have already been attached to the heat sink with one pair of fan clips each.

The other accessories are plentiful: the well-known ultra-low noise adapters to adjust the fans to 7 volts, a Y-adapter for the fans, the NT-H1 thermal compound, a Noctua case badge, the manual as well as the SecuFirm2 mounting system including screwdriver. A nice gimmick are the included decouplers and fan screws. If the NH-D14 is not to be used with two fans, the second fan can be used as a case fan.

Details

Noctua NH-D14 review kit

The creation by Noctua’s engineers is based on a twin-tower design – also known as sandwich design – which has already caused a sensation in the past, including the Thermaltake Sonic Tower 4-in-1, the Scythe Mine and the Thermalright IFX-14, with the NH-D14 appearing even more expansive than the latter due to its 140 mm wide and 51 mm deep cooling fins. Furthermore, a total of 84 fins provide an immense cooling surface.

Six heatpipes – embedded in the solid base – are responsible for the rapid removal of the absorbed heat energy. The 6 mm thick, nickel-plated copper tubes run through the aluminium fins over their full width, optimal for good heat distribution. The almost 2 mm distance between the fins paves the way for the NH-D14 to shine in silent scenarios.

The sandwich design is named after the fan located in the middle. The distance between the two cooling towers is sufficient for the classic 25 mm deep fans, although the manufacturer also takes 140 mm fans into account and supplies the in-house NF-P14. The second fan – an NF-P12 model – is mounted on the front cooling tower. Although it would be possible to mount a third fan on the second heatsink, the third pair of fan clamps is not included and would also collide with the middle fan. Furthermore, the third, rear fan would work very close in front of the rear fan, so that its positive effect would almost vanish.

Design

Noctua NH-D14 review

In terms of design, the latest model follows in the footsteps of its predecessors. This is due to the high quality of the material, the stamped company logo on the uppermost cooling lamella and the nickel-plated, matt appearance. Furthermore, Noctua sharpened the notches introduced by the original NH-U12 model to form sharp-edged serrations on the edges of the fins. However, there’s no danger of injury. Additionally, recesses for the silicone strips have been incorporated on the sides for fan decoupling purposes.

In terms of quality, the radiator manufacturer meets the premium standards it has set itself. The heatsink is free of machining marks, defects in the nickel alloy and cut edges. The cooling fins are hooked into each other at six points, which ensures an absolutely stable hold on the heatpipes. The already mentioned base plate is cleanly processed and absolutely flat.

The choice of fan is a bit unusual, as Noctua doesn’t plan on having two of the same type, but two different ones. The fan on the cooling tower – located at the front in the airflow – is the proven NF-P12. The NF-P14 – a 140mm fan – is placed between the two heat sinks. The fan clamps are guided laterally through the eyelets of black plastic nipples.

This ensures that the clamps always remain on the fan and guarantees quick disassembly. On the other hand, models such as the Noiseblocker Multiframe are excluded by their integrated end-to-end decouplers. But even fans with a reinforced frame like the Scyhte S-Flex can only be mounted with difficulty.

As usual, the fans are decoupled from the heat sink by silicone strips. The NH-D14, on the other hand, is larger than the NH-U12P. The NF-P12 fan is clearly audible at 12 Volts and reports a whirring noise from the motor and increased fan noise due to the design of the rotor blades. At 7 volts and 854 rpm it is still clearly audible. If the voltage is reduced to just under 5 volts, the background noise stops completely and the fan offers sufficient power even at 600 rpm.

The 140 mm counterpart NF-P14 with the typical mounting holes like 120 mm fans produces a similar sound image at 12 Volt and 1210 rpm, characterised by motor hum and air noise. With reduced voltage and 720 rpm at 7 volts, the ambient noise decreases but can still be heard. Below 5 volts and 515 rpm it is still perceptible. Both fan models shine with a very good running smoothness.

The giant is mounted – as expected – screwed to the mainboard. The SecuFirm-2 mounting system already proved itself in the previous models. On the front side, mounting brackets are fixed with the backside backplate. The spring screws attached to the cooler allow for quick installation of the NH-D14s on the processor with the help of the included extended screwdriver and equally easy deinstallation.

The asymmetric design of the cooler allows the use of RAM bars with a high heatspreader as long as the shortened side faces the RAM banks. The fan attached to this cooler can be moved a little higher if necessary. Otherwise, one of the two fans can be used as case fan.

Appropriate screws as well as soft decouplers are included with the cooler. Incompatibilities due to the dimensions arise especially with AMD boards, because the RAM slots are very close to the processor socket. However, Noctua maintains an extensive compatibility list on their website with some notes.

The cooler alone weighs 900 grams. Together with the two fans, 2.42 lbs is already hanging on the base, so that the NH-D14 should be better disassembled for larger transport actions.

Test result / Verdict

Noctua shows that it’s possible to achieve new best values and relegates the Prolimatech cooler to second place. The manufacturer relies on a twin-tower design, sweeping dimensions and a weight beyond the magic two lbs. The excellent cooling performance goes hand in hand with outstanding workmanship and a comprehensive scope of delivery. The different fan models convince with their good running smoothness, are unchoked but clearly audible.

Provided the NH-D14 fits the selected motherboard, the latest Noctua offspring is the current reference in the field of air cooling, bundled as an all-in-one worry-free package. The price of $70 seems low and in view of what’s on offer, it’s our best price deal. That’s why we can recommend buying the NH-D14 if you are on a budget.


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