Scythe Musashi Review

The Smith - 2009-01-02 16:46:19 in VGA Cooling
Category: VGA Cooling
Reviewed by: The Smith   
Reviewed on: January 26, 2009
Price: $49.80

Introduction:

Apart from the use the Grim Reaper makes of it and the one in video games such as Diablo II, a scythe is normally used to cut crops, such as wheat. Five years ago the company Scythe was born, giving a whole new meaning to the word scythe. Instead of cutting wheat, some of Scythe's products, such as heatsinks and fans, are used to cut...wheat!

This Japanese company is well known in the DIY world mainly because of its CPU heatsinks. Everyone knows the popular "Ninja" series, well-performing and silent coolers. But a while ago, a new product was launched, the Musashi, which is Scythe's first foray into the VGA cooler market. This thin cooler features two 100mm slim fans that can be controlled via two small knobs. The base is connected to the aluminum fins using copper heatpipes, and a wide set of aluminum heatsinks for various chips is also provided with it. However, why call it the Musashi? A quick Google search showed me that Musashi is a province of Japan. A warrior named Musashi was also known for his legendary swordsmanship, and a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy was also named the same. So let's see if Scythe's first try in the VGA cooler market is a success or an epic fail.

 

Closer look:

A picture of the Scythe Musashi is displayed on the front  of the box, along with its name. These two elements occupy most of the space on the front. On the gold shape at the top, it is emphasized that the Musashi is compatible with various graphics cards. This is where I first noticed that all the information present on the box is also written in a foreign language. This illustrates very well the beginnings of Scythe in Japan, where the company seems to have a lot of customers. Next, lower in the middle, a red sticker says that the cooler is now compatible with the ATI Radeon HD4800 series. Because of the keyword "Now," my first guess is that there were maybe some coolers made at first that were not compatible. Under the name of the cooler, there is a paragraph labeled "Caution!" It says that removing the stock cooler and making any modifications to the graphics card will void its warranty. On the side of the box, the fact that it is equipped with dual 100x100x12mm fans is mentioned. By using such fans, the cooler remains very thin and at the same time maximizes the cooling performance. At the back of the box is where you can find the specifications. They are written in six different languages, in a table at the top. Then, in a picture right under this table, all included parts and accessories are shown, as well as the fan controller and the cooler base. Finally, the most important part, the graphics card compatibility table. It is located in the middle, at the left. The list is pretty wide, however there is no sign of the latest from nVidia, the GTX260 and GTX280. How deceiving, I would have liked to test it on one of those. One last thing, the ATI HD4800 series cards are not in the list, another hint saying that these coolers were not made for them at first. So you really need to trust the added sticker on the front.

 

 

So now let's open the box. In it, you will find the installation manual, which is in the form of two large sheets. Common instructions for all graphics cards are there, as well as specific instructions for particular cards. In the second picture, you can see the thermal paste included, which looks like Arctic Silver 5, but not as thick. There are also four thumb screws and a backplate to hang the cooler right in place. The small rubber cushion puts all the pressure on the GPU so that there is none on the PCB. The small copper plate is there if you ever have a graphics card on which the frame of the GPU is higher than the core. In this case, putting this small plate in between would allow contact with the cooler. Finally, you can see the generous package of chip heatsinks provided. There are 16 heatsinks approximately the size of a RAM chip, four longer but narrower ones, and three other custom ones. I say custom because they are made for particular graphics cards. In the instructions, they say to use the longest one on the 9800GTX and the smallest one on the 8800GTS G92. The one with the plastic clips is for the HSI chip of the 8800GTX. So with all these heatsinks, there are more than enough to get all chips on your graphics card covered. One interesting thing is that Scythe decided to simply use glue to stick these heatsinks on the chips, instead of the thicker thermal interface used by other companies. That layer of glue is provided by the company 3M. Considering it is much thinner than other interfaces I saw on other heatsinks, I don't think it will perform any less.

 

 

Finally, let's look at the cooler.

 

Closer Look:

I like the look it has with the two black fans. On the second picture, we clearly see the two copper heatpipes that allow heat transfer from the base to the fins. On the third and fourth picture, we can see the fan retention system, which is two simple wires, one on each side. It's almost impossible to remove and replace the fans without bending some fins. They are very fragile, especially on the side where the heatpipe is not completely at the end of the fins. Most heatsinks have on each fin a 90° folded part at the end, which ensures that the fins remain at a constant distance, preventing them to bend. Well, it would have been great to see this also on the Musashi. Furthermore, the cooler is very thin. It takes only two slots, however there is only a couple of millimeters left between the cooler and the next PCI card. So this one cannot have anything exceeding on its back, or else it will block the fans. If this is the case, one fan can be removed and the other one repositioned to accomodate the other card.The last picture is a close-up on the base. Strangely enough, the sticker left a fade imprint on it, which the camera was able to catch. However, I could not see it myself. The mirror finish of the base is nice. It also seems to be flat, as it is matching with my small jeweler's ruler. So there is no lapping needed. Also, on that same picture, you can see on the left that the fins are not tightly packed, some can slide along the heatpipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fan controller installed on a PCI bracket is connected to each fan, using black wires. It can happen that the knobs are too big to pass through the PCI slot opening. If so, you just have to pull them out of the bracket, and reinstall them once the bracket is in place. As you can see on the last picture, the wires lead directly to the fan and there is no way to disconnect them. So even if you don't use the fan controller, you will need to leave it in your case. The fans are powered by 3-pin connectors, but a Molex to two 3-pin is provided. The fans are rated at 0.15A -12V, so that means a power consumption of 1.8W. They are said to spin from 800 to 2000RPM (±10%), depending on the fan controller adjustment. They will produce 12.5 to 29.22 dBA, for 11.45 to 27.60 CFM. So with two of them, you get 55 CFM worth of air displacement.

 

 

What a sexy card now that I have installed the Scythe Musashi on it! This is the HD4850 on which I will test the cooling performance. As you can see, the cooler is longer than the card, so make sure it will fit in your case before buying it.

 

Let's reinstall the card in the test system and figure out what kind of performance the Scythe Musashi can deliver.

Specifications:

Model Name
MUSASHI VGA Cooler
Model Number
SCVMS-1000
Manufacturer
Scythe Co., Ltd. Japan
 
Overall
Dimension (W x D x Thickness)

104 x 250 x 35 mm  /  4.09 x 9.84 x 1.38 in

Weight
375 g  /  12.1 oz
 
Heatsink
Dimension (W x D x Thickness)
104 x 250 x 35 mm / 4.09 x 9.84 x 1.38 in
Weight
251 g / 8.8 oz
 
Fan
Dimension (W x D x Thickness)
100 x 100 x 12 mm / 3.94 x 3.94 x 0.47 in
Speed
800 ~ 2000 rpm
Noise
12.50 ~ 29.22dBA
Flow
11.45 ~ 27.60CFM
Bearing Type
Sleeve Bearing
 
Compatibility

Radeon 9xxx

Radeon Xxxx
Radeon X1300
Radeon X1600
Radeon X1650
Radeon X1800
Radeon X1900
Radeon X1950

Radeon HD2600
Radeon HD2900XT

Radeon HD3650
Radeon HD3850
Radeon HD3870

Radeon HD4850
Radeon HD4870

* Not compatible with ATi RADEON 9550/9600

GeForce FX5900

GeForce 6600
GeForce 6800

GeForce 7300
GeForce 7600
GeForce 7800
GeForce 7900

GeForce 8500
GeForce 8600
GeForce 8800GT
GeForce 8800GTS

GeForce 9600
GeForce 9800GTX

* Not compatible with nVIDIA GeForce 6600 AGP

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Scythe @ http://www.scythe-usa.com/product/vga/002/scvms1000_detail.html

Testing:

I will test the Scythe Musashi by recording the GPU temperatures of the HD4850 at idle and load. They will be provided by the GPU-z 0.30 Utility. I will run ATI Tool Scan for artifacts function to load the GPU. Each temperature is measured thirty minutes after beginning the test, at idle and load. Also, I will use the thermal paste provided with the cooler, since the stock thermal interface is still in place on the stock cooler, which will be the comparison cooler. I will first run that reference design cooler at default speed, which is 35% duty cycle, and finally, for testing purposes, at 100%. However, I'm pretty sure nobody would want to run it at that speed for normal use, because it's so noisy, and as annoying as a crying baby. For the Musashi, I will run the test at the lowest speed the fan controller can provide me, and another time at the highest speed.

 

Testing Setup:

 

 

 

 

I'm very impressed with the temperatures the Scythe Musashi can provide. So here I repeat, on an HD4850 overclocked, the temperatures did not exceed 43C, at full fan speed. At idle, it went as low as 30C. There was almost no difference between the stock and overclocked temperatures. That's amazing. I was a little scared by the 100C and higher temperatures the stock cooler gave, but with the Musashi, your graphics card is in good hands. I would not even hesitate at all to install it on a voltmodded card.

One last thing I have to say is that I also connected both Scythe fans to the motherboard headers to be able to monitor their speed. If you remember, I said earlier that they were supposed to vary from 800 to 2000RPM. Well, one was not able to go lower than 1000RPM. That's more than twice the error margin of 10% written in the specifications. However, the other one was right on the specifications. They were also very silent at low speeds. The noise was easily masked by other fans in the testing setup.

 

Conclusion:

I was very impressed with the cooling performance of the Scythe Musashi. Furthermore, by using the fan controller, the right fan speeds can be set to match performance with silent operation. However, if you want to use another fan controller or you simply do not want to use one at all, you will still need to leave the provided controller in the case, as it can't be disconnected from the fans. Due to the wide range of graphics cards it is compatible with, most PC users will be able to install it on their cards. The cooler is compatible with the ATI HD4800 series, though the GTX260 and the GTX280 from nVidia are not. To attach the heatsink, a backplate is provided, which has a small rubber cushion right in the middle, so the pressure is really put on the GPU and not on the PCB. The thumb screws are easy to use, as well as the chip heatsinks. By simply peeling off the small sticker, you can stick them on any chip. There are many of different sizes to allow covering of every possible chip. The temperature reduction the Scythe Musashi delivered when mounted to the test video card is nothing short of amazing. A decrease in load temperatures of 50+ degrees Celsius is just huge. Especially when you consider the fact that this is a low noise cooling solution. The 50 dollar price of ownership for this cooler seems a bit high initially until you see the performance improvement over the stock cooling solution.

As for the GPU heatsink itself, it has a nice polished and flat base - no need for lapping. One thing I have to admit though is that the fins of the Musashi are not tightly packed; they can slide along the heatpipes because there is a bit of room left. Since there is not a 90° bend at the end of each fin to lock the fins together they can be accidentally bent out of shape quite easily. Although I'm not sure that it would impact performance in a significant way.

Overall, I would highly recommend Scythe's first foray into the VGA cooler market, which I consider is a great success. For the benchmarker, it offers great cooling performance, and for the normal user, it offers a very silent cooling solution. Congratulations Scythe!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: