Introduction:

Noctua originates from the collaboration between the Austrian Rascom Computer distribution Ges.m.b.H. and the Taiwanese cooling specialist Kolink International Corporation, pooling more than thirty years of experience in the development, manufacturing and marketing of high-end cooling components. Established in 2005, Noctua took international silent enthusiasts’ hearts by storm and quickly developed into one of the most acclaimed suppliers of premium quality quiet cooling products. Today, Noctua is present in more than 30 countries across the globe and working with several hundred sales partners. Chosen by noise-conscious PC users, system integrators and industry clients alike, Noctua has become synonymous with impeccable quality, excellent customer service and class-leading quiet cooling performance.

Today, we will we taking an in depth look at the bigger brother of the U12S we reviewed previously, the NH-D15 SE-AM4 dual tower heatsink.

Specifications: 

Let’s take a look at the technical specs.

Cooler Specification
Height (without fan)
160 mm
Width (without fan)
150 mm
Depth (without fan)
135 mm
Height (with fan)
165 mm
Width (with fan)
150 mm
Depth (with fan)
161 mm
Weight (without fan)
980 g
Weight (with fan/s)
1320 g
Material
Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Max. TDP
Fan compatibility
140x150x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 140x140x25 (with 120mm mounting holes), 120x120x25
Scope of delivery
  • 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
  • 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-pin PWM y-cable
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ AM4 mounting-kit
  • Noctua metal case-badge
Warranty
6 Years

 

And the specs of the included fans.

FAN Specification
Model
2x Noctua NF-A15 PWM
Bearing
Max. rotational speed (+/- 10%)
1500 RPM
Max. rotational speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)
1200 RPM
Min. rotational speed (PWM, +/-20%)
300 RPM
Max. acoustical noise
24,6 dB(A)
Max. acoustical noise with L.N.A.
19,2 dB(A)
Input power
1,56 W
Voltage range
12 V

Packaging and Unboxing

The Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4 comes in a box similar in design to the U12S we previously reviewed.

Thick and heavy cardboard box in the usual white and brown color scheme of the brand. Salient features of the cooler are printed under the model no. A silver stamped sticker is pasted on the right side mentioning that it is a special edition for AMD AM4 socket. The cooler’s model is printed on the left side in vertical layout. Noctua brand name and logo are printed on the bottom right side. The left side of the packing box highlights the salient features along with the diagrams on the main section. The cooler comes with the Noctua’s premium thermal paste NT-H1 and features the legendary mounting mechanism i.e SecuFirm2.  The right side of the packing box has the specifications of the cooler and the fan printed on it. Two diagrams are printed on the bottom right side, highlighting the dimensions of the cooler. The backside of the packing box has the cooler’s highlights printed in the 8 different languages. The EAN and the UPC labels are printed on the bottom left side.

Opening the box up we are greeted with the accessories box and the heatsink, separated by a thick soft styrofoam block. The 2nd fan is packaged separately next to the heatsink.

The heatsink itself is very well protected and packed in a separate cardboard box. One fan is preinstalled between the 2 towers and an additional piece of cardboard is inserted between the fan and 1 tower for extra softening. Noctua gets high marks for shipping their products with so much cushioning.

Accessories

The usual set of accessories are included with the cooler.

  • 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
  • 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
  • 4-pin PWM y-cable
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ AM4 mounting-kit
  • Noctua metal case-badge

 

The cooler includes a long screwdriver for easy installation. Noctua’s mounting system is very simple and utilizes the backplate that is included with your motherboard.

Pretty fleshed out accessories. I would say it leaves nothing to be desired for any use case. You can choose between the 2 LNA adaptors if silence is what you need even under load, although the fans are barely audible even without them.

Closer Look

The Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4 uses a dual tower design with a dense fin array optimized for cooling and silence. There are slight changes over its predecessor, the D14, such as the fin array having slightly more spacing to allow for much more even distribution of air.

The fan uses the SSO2 bearing which is Noctua’s own design. The self-stabilizing oil-pressure bearing (SSO-Bearing) system has always been at the heart of Noctua’s award-winning premium fans. SSO combines the proven concept of oil-based hydrodynamic bearings with an additional magnet that supports the self-stabilization of the rotor axis. Due to the axis being stabilized by the magnetic field, Noctua’s SSO Bearing achieves higher precision and better longevity than conventional ball-, sleeve- or hydrodynamic bearings. SSO2 is the further optimized second generation of SSO. Made possible by the use of metal bearing shells and new injection moulding techniques, the magnet is now placed closer to the rotor axis and thus exerts higher magnetic force to it. This results in even better stabilization, precision and durability.

The fan has a maximum speed of the 1500 ±10% RPM. With a LNA, this speed is 1200 ±10% RPM. Minimum rotational speed is 300 ±20% RPM. Maximum static pressure is 2.11 mmH₂O. With LNA the static pressure is 0.89 mmH₂O. The fan takes the input power of the 1.56W at 0.05Awith the 12V DC. The maximum airflow is 140 CFM. With LNA it is 115.5 CFM. Maximum acoustical noise is 24.6 dBA. With LNA it is 19.2 dBA. The fan has a 4 pin PWM connector. It comes in typical brown color scheme. There are rubber mounts on the mounting holes to prevent the vibration noise.

The D15 is a behemoth, coming in at a height of 160mm without fans and 165mm with fans installed. This means you’ll have to make sure your case has enough clearance between the heatsink and the side panel. Noctua has also incorporated cutouts at the bottom of the towers to prevent clashing with most RAM kits. But the fans may need to be mounted higher if you’ll be using 140mm fans. 120mm fans should pose no problem.

The tops of the heatsink show the 12 termiantions of the 6 copper heatpipes that run the heights of the towers.

The base is made of nickel-plated copper with a glossy finish.

The only detracting factor is the aesthetics. The dual tower itself is impressive but the trademark brown and beige fans pull away from the overall look. Some may actually prefer the color scheme but for most they will clash with rest of the build. Luckily, Noctua has introduced black fans and colored fan accessories under their Chromax branding to cater to the color matching crowd in PC building.

Overall, the build and design is what one could expect of Noctua’s high standards. The heatsink is packed with lots of protection and you get a very robust accessories pack with everything you could need for installing the cooler. Speaking of which, lets see how the cooler is actually installed.

Installation

The method is pretty much the same as the U12S we reviewed earlier, the SecuFirm 2 system is used to mount the cooler on the CPU socket.

Firstly, remove the legacy AMD heatsink retention arms but keep the backplate in place. Place the 4 spacers onto the threads of the backplate around the socket. Next, you have to select the appropriate bars to hold the heatsink. This depends on whether you want to mount the heatsink horizontally or vertically and on the type of heatsink (the mounting method is the for all of Noctua’s offerings for the AM4 socket). We went with the short arms to mount the dual towers in the conventional horizontal orientation, pushing the air through and exhausting from the rear fan.

Then, place the screws through the threads of the bars and make sure they are in line with the threads of the backplate. Screw in the 4 provided screws. Apply a pea sized grain of the provided thermal paste on your CPU. Now take the heatsink and align the screw points with the protruding points and tighten them down, making sure not to over torque and potentially damaging your CPU. Finally, mount your provided fans with the clips onto the heatsink and plug it into the fan connector. 120 mm fans can also be used but those may require different mounting clips due to the different mounting holes in the fans. The D15 comes with 2 pairs of clips to mount the 2 included 140 mm fans.

And that’s it. A very simple mounting method that doesn’t require specialized tools and such. Noctua definitely gets props for implementing such an easy system for mounting a heatsink.

Testing

The test system is setup as follows

  • AMD Ryzen R7 1700
  • Asus Prime B350 Plus
  • Corsair Vengeance LED Red 2X8GB 3200MHz
  • Sapphire Nitro RX 480 8GB
  • WD Caviar Green 500GB
  • Toshiba 1TB
  • EVGA Supernova G2 1000W
  • NZXT S340 Elite

The CPU is at stock clocks and voltages. The ambient room temperature was 25c. The system was stressed using the ASUS Realbench utility, tortured tested for 10 minutes with 4GB RAM. HW Monitor was used for observing the temperatures. The 3.7 overclock was achieved by manually changing the CPU core multiplier from 30x to 37x in the BIOS, that gives us 3.7 GHz. Additional voltage was not needed for the overclock. Temperatures are recorded within 2C of margin.

First up are the stock clock temperatures.

 

The D15 maintains a very close delta of 4c to 6c over the 3 preset fan curves for idle. On load, the temperatures go up by a delta of 20c for the standard and silent profiles and a mere 16c for the max RPM profile.

It should be mentioned that the fans are barely audible at idle and a very acoustically sharp ear would be able to pick up a sound at load, which makes these an excellent option for silence oriented builds.

 

Moving onto overclocked temperatures, we see more of the same at idle. The silent fan curve has the highest delta at idle of 10c resulting in 35c, which is still very acceptable in terms of thermals.

At load, the delta spread is still very tight with a spread of 3c between the fan curves. The highest temperature attained is on the silent profile with a delta of 27c, getting a max temperature of 52c. You have a lot of head room to overclock with the amount of thermal dissipation you’re getting with the D15 and even more so if you optimize your fan curves and the airflow in your case.

So far the D15 has certainly given a very convincing performance. You won’t go wrong with an established brand like Noctua and the D15 puts up top of the line cooling. If you have a chassis that can accomodate large dual heatsinks, then this is the one to go for.

Conclusion

The market is saturated with a large variety of air coolers and AIOs made by an equally large pool of companies with different features, aesthetics and price brackets. Noctua can comfortably claim to be at the top tier for enthusiast air cooling. The D15 has dominated the dual tower heatsink space even in it’s previous iterations. Today it does the same with support for the Ryzen platform.

The few downfalls are those intrinsic to big tower heatsinks and Noctua’s stubborn choice of brown and beige fans ruining the aesthetic aspect for some buyers. Regardless, the Noctua NH D15 SE-AM4 delivers amazing performance at a very reasonable price point and is given the Tech4Gamers’ Editors Choice award.

Special thanks to Noctua for sending over this absolute unit of a cooler for review.

 

Tech4Gamers Editor's Choice Award