When it comes to airflow cooling for PC cases and CPUs, few can compete with the quality, performance, and reliability of Noctua products. This Austrian brand is known for its incredibly quiet, high-performance case fans and CPU coolers that are devoid of any RGB fluff; as they focus solely on achieving the best performance possible. That isn’t to say that their fans, or coolers, are not stylish, as they do have a distinct charm that is only amplified with their Chromax series: allowing you to customize their exterior with added heatsink covers, colored rubber pads, or all black CPU coolers.
Another included element that makes Noctua’s coolers even more efficient in maintaining low CPU temperatures, is their hybrid thermal compounds: The NT-H1 and second-generation NT-H2.
Now, you may be wondering, which Noctua CPU cooler is the best for your specific build, as they do have several models to choose from. In this article, we will compare two of their most popular coolers, and give you a rundown of how they differ in everything from cooling performance, durability, dimensions, and, of course, price to value ratio.
The two coolers we speak of are the high-end NH-D15, and its single fan variant: the NH-D15S.
Specifications & Benchmarks
|Model||Noctua NH-D15||Noctua NH-D15S|
|Fan Model||NF-A15 PWM 140 mm||NF-A15 PWM 140 mm|
|Number of Heatpipes||6||6|
|Number of Fans||2||1|
|Airflow||140.2 m³/h (82.52 CFM)||140.2 m³/h (82.52 CFM)|
|Static Pressure||1.51 mmH2O||1.51 mmH2O|
|Bearings||SSO2 Magnetic Levitation||SSO2 Magnetic Levitation|
|Benchmarked1 CPU Temp.||69.33 Celsius||70.25 Celsius|
|Benchmarked2 Noise Levels||33 dB||35 dB|
|Dimensions||165 mm (H) x 150 mm (W) x 161 mm (D)||160 mm (H) x 150 mm (W) x 135 mm (D)|
|MTTF||150,000 Hours||150,000 Hours|
|Warranty||6 years||6 years|
|Price (As of Writing)||$89||$79|
The most obvious difference between the two CPU coolers, if of course that the NH-D15S is missing one of the two NF-A15 140 mm fans. However, there are other more subtle differences, like the fact that the NH-D15S is five millimeters shorter than the NH-D15, which makes it suitable for many mini-ITX cases, like, for example, the Fractal Design Define Nano S. It is also of course much thinner, but this is due to the missing fan, which can be added at a later time.
In terms of benchmarks, the two CPU coolers perform almost equally, with a difference of only one degree Celsius during high-load overclocking, according to TweakTown’s testing. The NH-D15S ultimately trades this slightly increased temperature for two less decibels of noise output; which is measured when 12 volts of electricity are supplied. That being said, both coolers perform remarkably well, and are virtually silent from a foot away. Additionally, they have excellent durability, with a mean time to failure of 150,000 hours – backed by Noctua’s 6-year warranty.
Price wise, there’s only a small difference between these two CPU coolers, the NH-D15S costing $10 less than the NH-D15.
The performance of both NH-D15 variants is excellent, so much so that adding an extra fan does little in terms of lowering temperatures. The NH-D15 seems to provide more value than the NH-D15S, given that a single NF-A15 fan can be found for around $20, and the price difference between the two is only $10. Still, the first rule of PC building states that it is unwise to buy components you do not need, and most users will not need that extra fan.
Given also that the NH-D15S can fit inside micro-ATX or mini ITX cases, because of its shorter height, it seems like a safer bet for most setups. If you do end up needing an extra 140 mm fan later down the line, you can always just purchase an additional NF-A15 as well.