Best Premium Air CPU Cooler

We have all been there. You start playing a game or work on some project that requires some CPU power, and things start going wrong. Selecting the best premium CPU cooler will help prevent situations like that and set your mind at ease that your computer will be ready to go at all times and under all conditions.

My recommended cooler is the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black. Not only will it serve to be the best premium air CPU cooler, but it will also be perfect for those of you that want to run overclocking and not be concerned that you lack in the cooling department of your build.

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I feel confident in recommending this cooler because I have recently purchased one for my own gaming rig.

I’ll get down to sharing my system specs with you, and all of my cooling figures. But first, let me explain why I chose this specific cooler.

With my previous computer getting a little older and not keeping up with the latest AAA gaming titles I wanted it to, I decided it was time for a new computer, built from the ground up, with no comprises when choosing each component.

I have previously had been running a system with water cooling and felt that it was time to experience something different. So I chose to go with the best air cooling CPU I could get my hands on.

So far, I haven’t felt any disappointment since crossing over from water cooling. In part, it is the fact that I’m no extreme overclocker.

After choosing a reasonably sized computer case, I felt that I wouldn’t have any size restriction from the CPU cooler. So purchasing the larger-sized CPU cooler wouldn’t have any chance to stop me from closing the lid of my case.

noctua nh-d15 chromax.black cpu cooler installed into system.

Keeping the CPU cool is very important. A CPU that runs too hot and an inadequate CPU heatsink can cause the computer’s internal temperature to go up.

So that’s another reason to purchase a top of the line CPU cooler like the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black.

I also wanted to buy one of the best CPUs for gaming money can buy at the moment. So I settled for an AMD Ryzen 3950X (only 1,249.99$ on amazon!). Keeping this processor cool when playing the latest games and working on some 3D renderings was the highest priority.

So now you have an idea of where I was going with the whole thing. I was even crazy enough to add an NVidia RTX3090 graphics card with a 1600 Watt power supply (available now on amazon for 3,499.99$)

After spending all the money on this system, I couldn’t install any CPU cooler that I didn’t think was up to the task, even if I wanted to do some overclocking later.

So now that you know why I chose this cooler, let’s move onto some of the figures shall we?

Firstly, let us compare some specifications between some of the top air CPU coolers.

Noctua NH-D15 chromax.blackGamerstorm Deep Cool Assassin IIICorsair A500Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Max. Noise24.6dB(A)29.5 dB(A)36dB(A)36dB(A)
Max. Number of Fans2222
Full Dimensions150 x 135 x 165 mm / 5.9 x 5.3 x 6.5 inch161 x 140 x 165 mm / 6.3 x 5.5 x 6.5 inch96 x 136 x 159 mm / 3.7 x 5.3 x 6.2 inch120 x 80 x 159 mm / 4.7 x 3.1 x 6.3 inch
Fan BearingSSO2Fluid Dynamic BearingMagnetic Levitation BearingSleeve Bearing
Max. Rotational Fan Speed1500 RPM1400 RPM2400 RPM2000 RPM
Max. Airflow82.4 CFM90.37 CFM75CFM82.9CFM
Total Weight with Fan1320g (2.9lb)1464g(3.2lb)1460g(3.2lb)569g (1.2lb)
Supported SocketsIntel LGA2066, LGA2011-0 & LGA2011-3 (Square ILM), LGA1200, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2, FM2+ (backplate required), AM4Intel LGA2066/2011-v3/2011/LGA1200/1151/1150/1155/1366 & AMD AM4/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2/FM2+/FM2/FM1 Intel 1200, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 &
AMD AM4, AM3, AM2
Intel LGA2066, LGA2011-v3, LGA2011, LGA1200, LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150, LGA775 & AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1

As you can see from the comparison table, the NH-D15 cooler is one of the quietest you will find on the market today. It also supports a wide range of CPU sockets which means you won’t be as limited to the CPU you can attach it to.

Good airflow while keeping things quiet

It’s one of the major factors that drew me to this specific cooler. Being able to offer a good airflow rate while keeping everything running as quietly as possible takes some investment into the initial design and refinement.

It’s not the easiest thing to try and strike a balance in and Noctua most certainly has paid attention to it.

So what does this mean for you? Essentially, having a good airflow rate means that enough air is passing through the fan, and the heatsink sections provide you with better cooling in one aspect of air CPU coolers.

There are other designs and material factors that come into play that can reduce the efficiency of the cooler. By that, I mean how good the CPU cooler is at dissipating the heat away from the CPU itself and transferring it to the essential areas that get cooled by the fan itself. This is a big and technical topic and requires its own article to cover the subject properly.

But the amount of air is a very important factor for cooling down a heatsink. So, if the cooling is sufficient and quiet, you are getting the best of both worlds.

Some temperature readings from my personal computer

I have installed the NH-D15 chromax.black using Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound. This thermal compound has yielded some of the best results compared with many other transfer pastes I’ve tried on the market.

Just for some extra reference, I have used the ever-reliable Corsair iCUE 5000X RGB mid-tower case (get it now for the bargain price of just 205$). I had to purchase an extra RGB fan for the rear as I felt that the three front fans it came with were lacking. It definitely needed at least one exhaust fan.

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Temperature at Idle
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Temperature During Cinebench Test
Average CPU Temperature at IdleAverage CPU Temperature During Cinebench Test
107 Degrees Fahrenheit (42 Degrees Celcius)158 Degrees Fahrenheit (70 Degrees Celcius)
The room temperature was around 70 Degrees Fahrenheit (21 Degrees Celsius)

As this is a new build, I haven’t started any form of overclocking or changing memory profiles or voltages. It is currently set up with a standard preset CPU fan profile in the BIOS.

So the values you are seeing are from an untampered system and pretty much what you can expect when using proper airflow optimization in the case and a good quality thermal compound with this specific CPU.

Assembly

I have used this cooler on an Intel CPU as well as AMD in the past. I have always found that Noctua provides everything I needed to get the installation done without a hitch.

The heatsink assembly

In general, I didn’t have any difficulty assembling the heatsink and mounting it to my motherboard. I used the original mounting plate provided with the motherboard, and it worked effortlessly with the mounting hardware provided in the package.

Important: I want to clarify that if you are going to use an AMD CPU, you must make sure that you have the standard mounting backplate that goes under the motherboard and contains two mounting threads. It is the only thing that isn’t provided with the standard Noctua NH-D15 cooler kit.

Most motherboards include it, and it’s simply a matter of removing the plastic mounts on the top of the motherboard before you start the assembly procedure.

tighten the noctua nh-d15 cpu cooler's screws with enough tension without straining the motherboard.
Tighten the Screws to Allow for Good Contact and Low Motherboard Strain

I noticed that the assembly instructions mentioned that you should tighten the mounting screws until they stop. I have to disagree and recommend that you only tighten the screws about four turns each. The mounting screws fit through the inside of a coil spring, so you won’t have to worry about the screws coming loose from small vibrations.

This will prevent the motherboard from being flexed too much under the tension of the cooler assembly. This could save you from causing open circuit copper tracks or other mechanical mischiefs.

The cooling fans

The fans are easy to remove or install with the handy spring mechanism that clips into the fan and hooks onto the fin assembly.

The position of the fan can be easily adjusted by unclipping the two wire springs and shifted where you want. Lock the fan back in place by hooking the springs onto the heatsink again.

You have the option to install one fan if you have little cooling requirements, and a second fan to meet more demanding criteria. It’s nice to have this option especially when the second fan is included in the package.

A few mentions about the operation

As you probably know, keeping your CPU cooler’s airflow direction relevant to your computer’s internal airflow configuration is paramount. In most situations, keeping the air drawn in from the front side and exhausting toward the rear of your case is desirable.

Its rare that you would see anyone straying from that configuration. So check that the arrows on the fan’s casing are showing in the proper direction.

When I play a game, an increase in fan noise occurs, but that should be expected. And I’m sure you would be just as impressed as I was when I first took note of the noise factor while playing one of my favorite titles.

Even during the most strenuous gaming session, the fan stays at an acceptable noise level, and I mean, it’s quiet! There is a supplied cable that gives you the option to make it even quieter. But I have found in my own experience that it isn’t required.

Connectivity

There are two ways that you can connect the cooler’s fans to the motherboard. Obviously, this won’t matter if you only use one fan, but when you are using two, you can connect each one individually to the motherboard, or you can use the supplies Y cable that joins the two up, which allows both to be controlled like one fan.

It’s easier to connect the Y cable to the two fans and use one connector from the motherboard. This will mean that your fans will spin at the same speed at all times. It’s not normally all that useful to set up individual fan profile speeds for each respective fan. Having both fans act as one, means that you only deal with the one fan speed profile for both fans.

This will allow for a bit more of an easier and simplistic set up process, which is most often the way to go.

Conclusion

I tried to keep the testing and installation as simple and as straight forward as possible so I could give you the most reliable information I could.

You will find installation of this CPU cooler easy, whether you are using an Intel or AMD CPU and you definitely will enjoy the cooling performance it offers. It’s the perfect choice for everyone wanting a small amount of overclocking to get most of your money’s worth out of your hardware, but it’s most certainly not going to give you cooling performance that a water cooled cooler can.

It’s all about the type of system you want for yourself and what you want to get out of it. Me personally, some overclocking is fine, but there is only so much I’d want to do with my daily driver type of computer.

If money isn’t an object, a second build with all kinds of hardware experimentation would lead to a water cooling solution as a must-have.

But for now, this CPU air cooler is doing great and I’m really happy with the overall performance and low maintenance. If that’s what you want too, then I cannot recommend enough that you get the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black.

Enjoy improving your system, whether it be old or new.