Noctua NH-D15 Review

Noctua NH-D15 Linux Review

Noctua NH-D15

Noctua CPU coolers have earned a reputation amongst enthusiasts as being the upper echelon of air coolers, despite the tan and beige colour scheme of years past.

The Noctua NH-D15 is an all-black version of Noctua’s award-winning flagship model, but is it capable of taming the Ryzen 7 5800X which is notoriously known for running hot.

Let's take deeper a look at what this CPU cooler has to offer.

Currently the Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler is available at online retailers for $109.95 USD — marginally priced higher than the original NH-D15 model.

Packaging for the retail box ensures your heatsink arrives undamaged. Encased in polyethylene foam, each component is individually boxed with clear illustrations & wording.

Contents includes a NH-D15 heatsink, two NF-A15 HS-PWM fans, two Low-Noise Adapters (LNA), a 4-pin PWM Y-cable, black SecuFirm2 mounting kit, Noctua metal case-badge, spare fan clips, multi-language manuals and a tube of NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound.

Aesthetically the Noctua NH-D15 features a matte black colour coated heatsink, black fans with black rubber anti-vibration-pads, black fan clips and all black mounting kit. As you can see the theme here is all black everything.

According to Noctua, when asked if the black coating of the coolers affect performance their answer was "Thanks to thoroughgoing optimizations of the coating material and process, the models provide the same, renowned quiet cooling performance as their regular, non-coated counterparts."

Looking directly at composition of the heatsink, both the base and heat-pipes are made of copper with nickel plating, alongside aluminum cooling fins & soldered joints to to guarantee a superior thermal interface.

The SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system eases installation and eliminates risk associated with over tighten the mounting screws. Excessive pressure can damaging the CPU socket, so coil springs are used to assure correct contact pressure.

Fastening brackets provide socket compatibility for Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1200, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required) and AM4.

Included are two NF-A15 round-frame 140mm fans. These 1500 RPM fans feature rubber bumpers on the frame for vibration cancelling, along with Noctua's Self-Stabilizing Oil-pressure bearing version 2 (SSO2) internally to provide better longevity than conventional ball, sleeve or hydrodynamic bearings. SSO2 bearings are rated more than 150,000 hours Mean Time To Failure (MTTF) and backed by 6-year manufacturer warranty.

The NH-D15 heatsink is a dual tower design that supports up to three fan configurations on the fin-stack — front, center and rear.

Overall dimensions with the two included fans installed measures 6.4"H x 5.9"W x 6.3"D and weighs a total of 2.9 pounds.



Instruction manuals are well documented and provide clear illustrations for all platforms. For this NH-D15 review I installed on an AMD AM4 socket.

Please read the manual prior to any installation, here is a summary of the process for AM4. Affix the correct mounting bracket and spacers to the motherboard backplate. Apply a pea sized drop of NT-H1 thermal paste on the center of the CPU. Remove both the middle fan and protective plastic tray cover from the heatsink. Seat the NH-D15 into place over the mounting brackets and secure by alternating between both screws until tight. Remember, the coil-spring screws will prevent over-tightening and stop turning once secure. With your GPU removed, position the center fan into place, clipping each side down onto the fin-stack. Next do the same with the front fan, making sure there is enough clearance above your memory modules. All that's left is plug into the CPU fan headers either individually (recommended) or using the dual fan splitter.

If your motherboard doesn't have enough headers use the NA-YC1 y-splitter, take note that one of the connectors has only 3 pins instead of 4, this is because the 3 pin will not read RPM output over a single header. So be sure to connect the fan you want to monitor to the 4 pin input or connect the fans to individual headers to monitor both. Noctua has also taken that extra step of labeling each cable with an identification tag if you're not sure which cable is which.

During installation steps I mentioned clearance of the memory modules. Another benefit of fan clips is that you can position the NF-A15 fans to accommodate most DIMM modules.

While we're still on the topic of clearance, I should also reiterate that the NF-A15 is a large heatsink. Once installed, you will not be able to reach the retention clip on the top PCIe x16 slot with your hand to release your GPU. Instead, carefully use a long, but blunt screw driver to push down the release.

Personally this isn't a deal breaker for me, however if this a concern of yours, Noctua has another heatsink model NH-D15S that is off-set towards the upper edge of the motherboard when installed in standard orientation and uses only one fan. I'd still recommend going with the Noctua NH-D15


NH-D15 vs. Noctua NH-D15

As I've mentioned earlier the NH-D15 is an all-black version of Noctua’s less visually appealing flagship model NH-D15 CPU cooler.

Noctua NH-D15 launched back in 2014, a time where perhaps a beige and tan colour scheme was more desirable. But as the mantra goes, never judge a book by it's cover, the NH-D15 offers an identical heatsink, mounting system and cooling performance — with the exception of a $10 price premium for the model.

I've included several photos to the gallery below for visual comparison.



Performance testing was done under Ubuntu Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS (Focal Fossa) using an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU which is notorious for running hot and has a 90°C Max Temps rating.

Test System

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Eight-Core @ 3.80GHz (8 Cores / 16 Threads)
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX X570-F GAMING
  • BIOS: 3603 with stock settings, including Precision Boost Overdrive 2 (PBO2).
  • Memory: 64GB DDR4-3600
  • OS: Ubuntu 20.04
  • Kernel: 5.11.15-generic (x86_64)
  • PC Case: Fractal Design Define C

CPU Cooling Test Results

Our lab had an ambient temperature of 20°C. Prior to testing, with no applications running I recorded Idle CPU Frequency Average at 2199.3 MHz with a CPU Core Temperature of 26.5°C.

For general real-world testing I ran an uninterrupted gaming session in Steam for 3+ hours, with Firefox, Chrome, ThunderBird and Discord all in use, the average CPU Core Temperature was 55.6°C.

Next, stress testing sustained a high workload maxing out all 16 Cores for a duration of 30 minutes at which I recorded CPU Frequency Average at 4483.5 MHz with a CPU Core Temperature of 84.4°C.



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Noctua NH-D15 vs NH-D15
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The Good - Pros
  • Air cooling performance on par or better than liquid cooling
  • SecuFirm2 mounting system prevents over-tightening
  • Installation is simple and compatible with a variety of sockets
  • Labels are clearly stamped on fastening brackets
  • Acoustical noise from a dual fan configuration is inaudible
  • Heatsink allows for triple fan configurations
  • Tube of NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound included
  • Fans have 150,000 hours Mean Time To Failure (MTTF)
  • offers a modern aesthetic
  • 6-year manufacturer warranty

The Bad - Cons
  • Large heatsink size may cause clearance issues for PCIe, DIMM or case

The Ugly - Issues
  • N/A

The Verdict - Opinion

The Noctua NH-D15 air cooling performance is on par or better than All-In-One (AIO) liquid cooling, along with added advantages such as ease of installation, silent operation and more importantly zero risk of leaking.

Linux Compatibility:
Cost & Value: