Overall and Final Verdict
While I currently the trend has been to go with water cooling, most people don’t seem to believe that air cooling can compete. This obviously isn’t true, a lot of great heatsinks will still out perform the 120mm water cooling kits that most people are picking up. Even when you step up to 240mm kits the biggest heatsinks like the NH-D15 tested today are still out performing them in most situations. It really isn’t until you get into custom water cooling loops that you really see performance that isn’t possible in air cooling. The NH-D15 proved that today in all of our testing. On top of that I found it to be deceptively quiet and easy to install. There really isn’t anyone else who makes the installation as simple as what Noctua does with their heatsinks. This is also why their haven’t changed their mount design in years now, it just works. Beyond all of that there was one other thing that I hadn’t really considered in the past with Noctua heatsinks. With all of their heatsinks they include a full stick of thermal paste. This might seem small in comparison to the price of the D15, but it really does add value to all of their heatsinks and it is something that almost no other manufacture does.
The NH-D15 isn’t perfect. Its large size does mean that it isn’t going to work in every case. This is especially true in small form factor builds, but even in our test bench it stuck out over the top of the main frame. Lucky for us the top panel for the Cooler Master HAF XB has a big budge in it, so the D15 fit. But before you pick one up make sure it’s going to work for you. Assuming it still fits I really don’t think you can get a better heatsink if air cooling is your preference. Not to mention you are getting Noctua quality!