Final Thoughts about the Noctua NH-D15S CPU Cooler
Just like the change from the NH-D14 to the NH-D15 seemed minor physically, closer inspection and testing revealed bigger changes than what can be observed by merely unboxing. It feels like Deja Vu with the NH-D15S but the improvements are surprisingly even more profound. In terms of performance, the NH-D15 and NH-D15S are pretty much identical with the exception of having one fan. This is important because in most scenarios, the single middle fan can handle most of the work and even when pushed to higher OC where all other heatsinks throttle, the single fan NH-D15 was very close. Most would think that to get more always means adding things but Noctua stepped back and evaluated that the value to the consumer is much greater if the second NF-A15 fan was removed. Aside from being known for their quality and silent coolers, Noctua is also known for very high priced products and thus is out of reach for many consumers. Since each of these Noctua NF-A15 fans cost $25-30 when purchased in retail, removing one from the NH-D15 bundle lowers the price to a much more affordable $74.90 (MSRP) which makes the NH-D15S very competitive against many other high-end coolers value-wise.
The shift of the heatpipe balance also fixed the single nagging clearance issue that the original NH-D15 had and that is mini-ITX and micro-ATX compatibility. With the PCI-E x16 slot sitting close to the CPU socket keep-out zone, the large NH-D15 prevented graphics card installation on many motherboards but the NH-D15 has no such problem (unless the user is an idiot and did not read the manual, resulting in an opposite installation). This also gave additional RAM module clearance on the first DIMM slot which was obstructed by the outermost heatpipe when the NH-D15 was positioned in north-south airflow orientation. Users can now use all four DIMM slots on the NH-D15S when mounted this way.
As expected of Noctua, the quality is just as high as the original NH-D15 and they did not skimp on the accessory kit. The full-size tube of NT-H1 thermal compound is still there as well as the screw driver so the NH-D15S is ready to be installed right out of the box. Also bundled is the Noctua NF-A15 fan which remains impressively capable with a noise profile that is lower than most. Plus, extra fan clips are included so users can turn the NH-D15S to a full-fledged NH-D15 anytime (although it would be probably have to be called an NH-D15+ because of the improvements). Overall, with the minor (yet significant) improvements Noctua has made on the NH-D15S, it deserves the award an Editor’s Choice award for fixing what was lacking in the NH-D15 that only made it earn our ‘Must Have’ award last year, which is namely the component clearance and the price.