There are things that need no introduction for fans of computer hardware. One of them is the processor coolers of the Austrian company Noctua, which have earned fame for their exceptional technology, quality, durability, and extended support. For example, if a new socket is released, the company will provide the corresponding mounting brackets for free even if the significant 6-year warranty period has long expired.
Noctua products have not yet been presented on the Root-Nation website, so are going to fix this misunderstanding here and there. And let’s start with the ‘top gun’, a true legend of air cooling systems, capable of competing with the best liquid systems, the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black.
Noctua NH-D15 is a representative of the so-called ‘supercooler’ class. In general, by unspoken standards, a supercooler is considered to have the mass combined with fans that is more than 1000 g. The NH-D15 is an outstanding representative, because with a pair of fans it weighs as much as 1320 g. Actually, this is one of the heaviest air coolers, but it can boast not only the amount of ‘filling’. What else? Let’s read on.
Market positioning and price
Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black is an update of the original NH-D15. Not everyone likes the signature beige-brown color, so the company released a number of coolers of the chromax.black family, which are completely black.
Just as a black iPhone is more expensive than a white one, black Noctuas are more expensive than ‘regular’ ones. If the classic NH-D15 has a recommended price tag of $100, then the black version is already $110.
In any case, Noctua is very high-quality and technologically advanced, but expensive. The flagship NH-D15 is particularly expensive. NH-D15 chromax.black is, without exaggeration, the most expensive air-type cooler in history (for ‘common’ platforms). On the other hand, you pay once, and the issue with processor cooling is closed forever.
Delivery set and package
The Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black box impresses with its size. This is a huge box that perfectly protects the contents during transportation.
Features are shown on the side faces…
…as well as the delivery set, detailed specifications of the radiator and included fans. I note that this is an updated version with native support for the LGA1700 socket.
Inside, a radiator with a fan, an extra ‘Carlson’ and equipment are packed in additional cardboard boxes. Of course, there is joy from unpacking.
The cooler delivery set includes:
- Intel and AMD Socket installation manuals
- Fastening sets
- 2x Low-Noise Adaptor (resistors that reduce the fan speed)
- Y-shaped splitter
- A tube of proprietary thermal paste Noctua NT-H1
- Brackets for mounting an additional fan
- Noctua NF-A15 HS-PWM chromax.black 140mm optional fan
- L-shaped screwdriver with a long blade for a cross slot
- Metal Noctua logo
The set is simply splendid. The 3.5-gram tube of branded thermal paste is especially pleasing. Such a tube costs $17 by itself. It is somewhat surprising that Noctua includes the NT-H1 instead of the NT-H2, which is ~a degree better, in the flagship kit. The NT-H2 remains the prerogative of the unique passive NH-P1 model.
A screwdriver will also be useful. Not everyone has a screwdriver with a ~150-mm tip, and a thin one in the household.
Design and fans
The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the most powerful processor coolers in absolute terms, if you exclude the 2000s freaks like Scythe Susanoo, Cooler Master Gemin II and Silentmaxx TwinBlock. It has dimensions of 161×150×165 mm (L×W×H) and weighs 1320 g, including the propellers. Without them, the depth is reduced to 126 mm, and the weight to 980 g.
It is important to note that not every computer case will accommodate a 165 mm cooler. Basically, the cases of the popular Mid-Tower format are declared to have about as much, but this is way too close, and there is often a limit of 161-163 mm. Make sure before buying.
Here it is worth taking a step back and talking about the coating, about the ‘blackness’. Many cooler manufacturers claim that their coating is great, that it improves heat dissipation. In fact, this is weak marketing gibberish, any color coating of metal only makes it worse. The struggle to reduce this effect continues here, and there is no other way. According to Jakob Dellinger of Noctua, the black coolers were released for so long because the company selected the composition to minimize the negative impact of the coating. As a result, the chromax.black version is only 1/10th of a degree inferior to the regular version.
In terms of design, we have a classic two-section tower on heat pipes. Lamellae are strung and soldered on 6 x 6 mm U-shaped heat pipes, which are evenly distributed in the body of the radiator stack. Each section consists of 45 lamellae with an inter-rib distance of 2 mm. 2 mm between the ribs can be called the golden mean. The cooler will be effective both at low fan revolutions and at high ones. By the way, the total estimated dissipation area is about 12,600 cm².
The radiator stack is not displaced relative to the base. 7 lower ribs are truncated for compatibility with RAM modules. Modules with a height of up to 66 mm are allowed without a front fan, and with it the height is reduced to 32 mm. Higher modules are possible, but in this case the front ‘Carlson’ is also installed higher, the height increases, the appearance is affected, and the efficiency decreases somewhat.
There is aerodynamic optimization of the radiator profile. It is represented by several teeth and a bevel closer to the middle of the radiator. Both radiator sections are completely identical and symmetrical.
There is no additional mini radiator in the corresponding part of the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black base.
The basis is a copper heat distribution plate covered with a layer of nickel. This is the only black element of the cooler. As for the quality of the base, the flatness along one axis is just perfect…
…and along the other axis there is a bump. I’m not sure this is a production flaw. The bump is also present in Be Quiet!, Thermalright, Cryorig products, and there is an opinion that this is ‘not a bug, but a feature.’ For instance, it might be providing the best pressure in the center of the processor, where the crystal is located, and contributing to the correct distribution of thermal paste. It is difficult to answer unequivocally here, but still, can the top cooler manufacturers all be screwing up together for 15 years in a row?
The polishing quality is very good, but there are radial circles from the cutter (cannot be felt with a fingernail). Again, the opinions of enthusiasts differ on this. Some say it’s bad. Others, which is good (allegedly, it also helps to distribute the thermal paste). Noctua coolers have had such circles for some… not some, but ALL years. All their models have had them . Therefore, it is difficult to answer clearly whether it is ‘treason’ or ‘victory’.
The Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black is blown by one/two Noctua NF-A15 PWM fans with an impeller diameter of 140 mm. They are based on the proprietary SSO2 bearing with a claimed life of 150,000 hours (over 17 years). In essence, this is a hydrodynamic bearing with an additional magnet to stabilize the shaft.
The ‘Carlsons’ are characterized by a rotation speed of 400-1500 rpm, a productivity of up to 140 m³/h and a noise level of up to 24.6 dBA. When connecting the LNA adapter, these indicators decrease to 300-1200 revolutions, to 115.5 m³/h and to 19.2 dBA. A pair of Low-Noise Adapters are included, but thanks to the Y-splitter, one would be enough. However, such a thing will definitely not be superfluous in the household.
Noctua NF-A15 PWM chromax.black are technologically advanced propellers whose features can be discussed for a long time. From the obvious, I will note the complete absence of squealing both at low revolutions and in the process of changing the delay of the PWM signal, as well as the presence of anti-vibration dampeners at the corners.
At the end of the chapter, I will add that the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black can boast of the presence of soldering between the tubes and ribs, as well as between the tubes and the plates in the base (not hot-melt, namely soldering). This is a huge plus, inherent only to really high-quality models. Edge processing is present, thanks to which there are not only fewer parasitic vortices, but also the cooler simply does not cut hands. Finally, the black finish is very durable. For several propeller installations, it did not come off neither from the radiator nor from the fan mounting brackets.
Testing Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black
The cooler is compatible with all AMD and Intel current and not so current sockets. Including the new LGA1700 and HEDT platform of the ‘blue’ chipmaker, but not the ‘red’ one. For AMD Threadripper chips, there is enough power, but the base is too small.
The installation process for different sockets is well illustrated in the paper manual, in the electronic manual, and you can also watch the video here. I would like to note that the fastening is convenient, the pressure is strong, no metal elements scratch the board. In the case of Intel platforms, a solid reinforcement plate is used for the rear side of the board, in the case of AMD, a ‘native’ plate from the motherboard is used.
Unlike other cooler manufacturers, Noctua does not directly indicate in watts how powerful a processor the cooler can handle. Instead, the Noctua Standardized Performance Rating (NSPR) classification and processor compatibility tables (Intel, AMD) have been introduced. The NH-D15 is rated at 183 local points and is recommended for any processor at all, even with an attempt at overclocking.
Testing was performed both with one fan installed between the radiator sections, which ensures good compatibility with RAM modules, and with two propellers.
The temperatures of the hottest core were entered into the graphs. During the tests, the ambient temperature was 22 degrees.
For me, it was a big discovery that at low revolutions the results of the version with one fan turned out to be even better than with two. To be honest, it is difficult for me to answer how it happened.
At 800 revolutions or less, the cooler can be called quiet, at 1000 revolutions or more, it is noticeably noisy.
Conclusions on Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black
Without further ado, let’s immediately talk about the key shortcomings. Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black has only a couple of them: price and dimensions. No matter what, $110 for an air processor cooler is a lot of money. For this amount, you can buy a very decent ‘water tank’ with a 360 mm radiator, which may be better in terms of operating temperatures, however, in terms of the temperature/noise ratio, it will most likely be inferior. In addition, in terms of reliability and support, it will be a clear loser. You can often see ‘it’s Noctua’ among the pros in reviews of Noctua products. The company is famous for its loyal attitude to customers, advanced technical support for users. Let’s not forget about the 6-year warranty period.
As for the dimensions, well, what did you expect? Any supercooler is big and massive. NH-D15 will not fit mini-ITX format compact boards, as its width will cover the slot for the video card. Second: when installing the front propeller, the height of the memory modules is limited to 32 mm. Without it, it is already 66 mm, but the cooling efficiency decreases by by a couple of degrees.
Both of these nuances have been corrected in the NH-D15s model. It is priced cheaper ($90 recommended), a little more modest in size and does not include a second propeller.
Some relative cons include excessive noise at maximum revolutions. Still, the 140-mm impeller makes quite a lot of noise at 1,500 rpm. But let me remind you that there are plenty of LNA adapters in the kit, which limit the revolutions to a more acceptable 1200, and your impeller is unlikely to spin up to the maximum revolutions.
Otherwise, the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black is the perfect air processor cooler, just perfect. A computer hardware lover’s dream. A chic kit with 3.5 grams of thermal paste, the presence of fins soldered to the tubes, top-quality and very reliable propellers, competent design and the highest overall quality of workmanship – this is what makes the NH-D15 a legend. In the case of the ‘afro’ version, a durable black coating can be added to this list.
Where to but