Scythe Samurai CPU Cooler Review


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.

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