When it comes to building gaming PC’s, we have to admit that CPU coolers aren’t as sexy as processors or video graphics cards. Nonetheless, it’s critical to your gaming PC rig to prevent overheating, random shutdowns, freezing, restarts, and CPU throttling which could lead to game choppiness.
So, how well will the Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler protect you against overheating when you’re running your full-size gaming rig to the max or overclocking your CPU?
If you’re looking for ultimate cooling and a quiet “ghost whisper” operation, look no further than the NH-D15. Plus, for the price and performance of the NH-D15, you get the best overall value.
Noctua NH-D15 Packaging
Noctua builds high-quality products hands down. It’s even evident in the Noctua packaging, from their tight packaging design, down to the cardboard they use. Unpacking the NH-D15 gives you a sense of quality and that your money was well spent.
Inside the big box, you’ll find smaller boxes that house the main cooler unit with one fan attached, a second fan, Intel bracket, AMD bracket, and a box with a screwdriver, screws, thermal paste, Y-cable, and two low-noise adapters.
The bracket socket compatibility is as follows:
Intel = LGA1150/1151/1155/1156, LGA2011-0 and LGA2011-3
AMD = AM2/AM2+, AM3/AM3+, FM1 and FM2/FM2+
Noctua NH-D15 Build Quality
The D15 is based on the widely-acclaimed D14. To this day, the D14 still remains one of the favorites (if not the favorite) among hardcore PC gamers and enthusiasts.
As with the D14, all the parts on the D15 are high-quality and superior to most CPU coolers, even today.
In terms of size, the D15 cooler unit is not small by any means but it’s actually pretty lightweight. Don’t let that fool you because every part of the D15 is solid and well-made.
The materials for the main cooling components are as follows (on top of the nickel plating found on this unit):
Heat Pipes and Base = Copper
Cooling Fins = Aluminum
The design is with maximum cooling in mind, as the NH-D15 is a dual-tower design. Mainly, this increases the overall surface area to dissipate heat, but it also helps to evenly distribute the heat, and increase airflow across the cooling fins.
Simple Performance Test and CPU Configuration
The Noctua NH-D15 cooler was tested against the stock Intel CPU fan and cooler for comparison, and configured as follows:
CPU = i5-4690K 3.5 GHz
CPU Voltage = Default (3.5 GHz)
Room Temperature = Ambient (25C)
Core Temp was used to measure temperature performance overall, while Prime95 was used to stress the CPU in order to get a temperature reading under a simulated real-life load.
The simple test performance results are as follows:
Noctua NH-D15 Performance
Idle Temperature = 22 to 26C
Prime95 Temperature = 65C
Intel Stock CPU Fan and Cooler Performance
Idle Temperature = 34C
Prime95 Temperature = 100+C
Even with a simple straightforward test utilizing Core Temp and Prime95, the difference in the cooling performance of the NH-D15 is quite noticeable.
At idle, the NH-D15 cooled things down about 8 to 12C lower than the stock Intel CPU fan and cooler.
Under CPU stress/load, the difference was considerable as the NH-D15 managed to cool things down 35+C as compared to the stock Intel CPU fan and cooler. Most importantly, the NH-D15 never even got close to 70C.
The NH-D15 is a clear winner (as expected) but it highlights the importance of having a high-quality CPU cooler, as it will extend the overall life of your gaming rig and allow you to get the performance that you need out of your gaming PC.
Overclock Performance Test and CPU Configuration
Overclocking may or may not be for you but this much is true.
If you want to maximize performance and squeeze every little bit of juice out of your gaming PC without paying more, overclocking may be of interest to you. Hardcore gamers will always look for an advantage and overclocking is one of the go-to levers to do just that.
Overclocking is one major reason why a CPU cooler like the Noctua NH-D15 not only makes sense but is truly necessary. Overclocking your rig with a stock CPU fan and cooler is asking for trouble, if not outright dangerous.
For this test, we turned up the clock speed in the BIOS to about 4.3 GHz and left some room since the i5-4690K can support up to 4.5 GHz on all cores.
The same tests were run as before (except for the Intel stock CPU fan and cooler since we didn’t want to burn down our rig . . . ) using Core Temp and Prime95.
Noctua NH-D15 Performance
In the overclocking test, it’s pretty clear that the Noctua NH-D15 runs as cold as ice in order to keep your gaming rig temps regulated. The idle temperature was even a little bit lower than the stock Intel CPU fan and cooler at normal loads. Even at the stress loads applied by Prime95, it didn’t faze the NH-D15 as it kept temps below the 80C mark, which is extremely important.
The full results are as follows:
Idle Temperature = 32C
Prime95 Temperature = 78C
The D15 cooler impressed us, as it held its own and proved to be a worthy successor to the D14, the older brother.
In the end, we highly recommend Noctua’s NH-D15 CPU cooler for your high-performance rig. But, this CPU cooler is not for everyone. If you’re just a beginner and you’re building an entry-level gaming rig, then this cooler is probably a bit much. This is also true if you’re building a gaming PC with a small case because this CPU cooler unfortunately will not fit.
On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore PC gamer with a mid-level to extreme PC build, especially if you like to overclock your CPU and run your rig to its breaking point, the NH-D15 is an absolute must-have.
If this fits your description, you can check out the D15 and D14 below: