Scythe is a specialist CPU cooler manufacturer based in Japan that has a reputation for producing some very unusual designs, and the Samurai is no exception from the rule. It doesn’t look quite as remarkable as some of Scythe’s earlier products, but looks aren’t everything.
One advantage of the Samurai is that it can fit several different platforms, as it comes with mounting brackets for Socket-370/Socket-A, Socket-478 and Socket-754/939/940. This means that it can be used with any CPU from an old Pentium 3 all the way to the latest Athlon 64s. This is also convenient if you’re thinking about upgrading your PC to a different platform, but want to keep the same CPU cooler.
Apart from coming with universal mounts, the fan used on the Samurai is different from those that you normally get with heatsinks. It is a fairly large cooler, as it sports an 80mm fan, but what makes it special is that it sucks the hot air away from the heatsink rather than blowing cool air across it. This has been tried before by other manufacturers, but has never been that successful.
Scythe has however, managed to make it work very well and this seems to be one of the factors that keeps the noise level so low. Unfortunately it’s not the easiest of coolers to install, as it comes with a lot of wires. It draws its power from a standard four-pin Molex connector; although you don’t need a spare connector from your power supply as it has a pass-through that allows the other end to be plugged into something else.
Then there is a connector which can be used with a motherboard fan header, in case your motherboard features a sensor that won’t allow you to power on the PC unless you have a fan connected. Finally there is the fan controller, which you have to fit in a spare slot at the back of the PC. It’s a shame that Scythe hasn’t followed the lead of CoolerMaster and Gigabyte here and supplied a second blanking plate for a 3.5in drive bay so the fan controller could have been mounted at the front of the case.
The problem is that when you want to change the speed of the fan, you have to reach round the back of your PC, which isn’t exactly ideal. The Samurai can more than happily cool an Athlon 64 3200+ at its lowest speed setting, which is 1,300rpm, in Windows, but you will have to crank it up to about half speed for it to offer enough cooling performance when the CPU is under heavy load.
Although the top speed of the fan is stated at a mere 3,400rpm, this review sample never rose over 3300rpm, but it still managed to cool the CPU as efficiently as a 6,000rpm AMD retail cooler. This is very impressive and shows that a quality low noise cooler can compete with an ordinary high speed model.
Some of the secret to why the Samurai works so well might lay in the specially designed heatsink, which is using what Scythe calls wave stacked fins. The special design of the fins is meant to dissipate the heat quicker into the air. The copper fins are welded to a solid copper base. This makes the Samurai quite heavy and at 605g you’ll want to be careful if you move your PC around a lot.
The cooler is surrounded by a protective metal shroud that prevents any damage to the fins, while still leaving two sides open to allow for good airflow. The mounting mechanism is built into this metal shroud and has four screw holes in it. This has been done so it can work with the different retention brackets.
This is where the problems began during testing. We first used the Scythe Samurai in a system with a Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition, in which it worked superbly. The problem was when I later tested it on one of our standard test rigs – the heatsink is screwed onto the brackets using small Philips screws and there is no way of telling how tight you are supposed to screw these in. So, while fitting it to our Pentium 4 test machine, one of the hooks that attach it to the heatsink bracket broke off. On top of this, when the cooler was removed, the bracket had gained some very sharp burrs around the screw holes, that I of course, managed to cut my finger on.
In the end I decided to test the cooler on an Athlon 64 3200+ machine instead – the mounting seemed to be easier, as you don’t use the mounting brackets, but rather two long screws and a couple of springs. This seemed easy enough to use, but again, there is no way of telling how far you’re meant to screw it in. In the end the springs got a bit damaged, but the heatsink is now firmly attached to the processor.
I would be very cautious to recommend this CPU cooler to anyone using an Athlon XP processor, as if you’re not extremely careful you could damage the bare die. But it’s not all bad – it is a very quiet and efficient cooler and as long as you can get past the installation issues, you’re going to realise that you’ve got yourself a very good product. One last thing before we move on to some test results, the cooler is very tall, so make sure you’ve got enough space in your case to fit it.
To give you an idea of how good the Scythe Samurai performs against a stock cooler I decided to use a standard AMD retail fan for comparison. At idle the CPU produced an average temperature of around 44-45 degrees C. To load the CPU and to produce as much heat as possible I used CPU Burn, which puts a 100% load on the CPU. CPU Burn was run until the temperature stopped rising.
The AMD stock cooler running at around 6,000rpm stopped at 54 degrees C, which is a pretty reasonable result. The Samurai on the other hand reached exactly the same temperature at full speed (3,300rpm), although it is quoted to produce some 37dBa at this speed. At about half speed (2,200rpm) the temperature peaked at 57 degrees C, while at it slowest setting (1,300rpm) it hit 59 degrees C.
But what impressed more than the cooling capabilities was the low noise level, as I could hardly believe how much quieter the PC became after replacing the AMD stock cooler with the Samurai. Even at full speed it seemed to produce less than half the noise of the AMD cooler.
This doesn’t take into account heat produced by other components in your PC and the case that was used had two 120mm case fans as well as a 120mm fan in the PSU, which would create a low ambient temperature. I would expect these temperatures to increase by a few degrees when playing games as the graphics card would generate more heat and the ambient temperature would rise.
With good test results there is only one factor left to take in to account and that is the asking price. The Samurai will set you back £29.38 from QuietPC, which specialises in low noise PC solutions. This makes it a fairly cheap CPU cooler considering how quiet it is.
The Scythe Samurai produced some excellent results both in terms of heat dissipation and noise, but the retention mechanism could do with a redesign – it must be one of the hardest coolers I’ve ever installed. But if you get past the installation, you’ll have a great bit of kit covering your processor.
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