Scythe remains a household name in the air cooling segment of PC hardware due to its well-received heatsinks and fans over the years. Today, we have Scythe’s Big Shuriken 3 which is a low profile cooler aimed at small form factor (SFF) builds and touts a “zero interference” claim for motherboard and RAM. Let’s see how well it holds up against a testbed full of tower heatsinks and all-in-one liquid coolers.
Specifications & Features
(Courtesy of Scythe)
|Scythe Big Shuriken 3 Specifications|
|Dimensions||122 x 122 x 69 mm (including fan)|
|Weight||475 g (including fans)|
|Socket Compatibility||Intel: LGA 775/115x/1366/2011/2011-v3/2066|
|Baseplate/Heatpipe Material||Nickel-plated copper|
|Heatpipes||6 x 6 mm|
|Model||Kaze Flex 120 Slim PWM|
|Fan Dimensions||120 x 120 x 17 mm|
|Fan Speed||~300-1800 RPM (PWM controlled)|
|Noise Level||~2.7-30.4 dBA|
|Air Flow||~8.28-50.79 CFM / ~14-86.29 m3/h|
|Static Pressure||~2.26-13.24 Pa / ~0.23-1.35 mmH2O|
|Bearing Type||Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB)|
|Input Power||2.16 W|
Packaging & Accessories
Scythe always makes an excellent first impression with their packaging by making sure there is a ton of information about the product on their boxes. We get to see a couple of decent pictures of the heatsink on the front and top of the box as well. The product name “Big Shuriken 3”, socket compatibility, and Scythe’s logo are all displayed on the front of the box. On the sides, we have the warranty information, product description, and some details on the slim Kaze Flex fan. The back of the box has a full schematic drawing with dimensions and a specifications table in multiple languages. With all this information, the consumer can quickly determine exactly what they would be buying and if the heatsink meets all the requirements for their PC.
Opening the box reveals the Big Shuriken 3 with its fan pre-installed and the box of included accessories. A couple of things to note is that there isn’t any protective padding for the heatsink and there is a missing screw for mounting the slim Kaze Flex fan. The heatsink arrived safely for me, but that could be different depending on how rough the shipping service is with their packages.
The accessory box includes the installation manual, a tube of thermal paste, backplate, AMD/Intel mounting hardware, press-fit spacers, and screws. It’s worth noting that Scythe included mounting screws for both standard 25 mm thick fans and the included 17 mm thick Kaze Flex fan.
Scythe Big Shuriken 3
One thing that stands out here is the matte black aluminum shroud around the fin stack. Scythe products I’ve dealt with in the past haven’t had this mostly cosmetic feature. I say “mostly” because it appears that it could also help direct airflow and prevent some air from escaping out of the sides of the fin stack. Whether the shroud affects performance in any way or not, it does give the Big Shuriken 3 a very nice aesthetic appearance and makes Scythe’s logo stand out against the black.
The Big Shuriken 3 has a rather dense fin stack coming in at around 18 fins per inch with a total of 68 fins.
Scythe included a slim version of their Kaze Flex fan that comes in at 17 mm thick and runs at a max of 1,800 RPM. Like their other Kaze Flex fans, this one also has the rubber corners for isolation to prevent any noise from vibration while in operation.
With the next two pictures, we can see the offset design and notched areas of the fin stack to allow for the best possible compatibility among motherboards and RAM.
The base of the Big Shuriken 3 is relatively smooth and an almost mirror-like finish.
Looking closely at the fin stack, we can see the two gaps above the mounting screws to give easy access for mounting with a screwdriver.
Installing the backplate is rather easy by lining up the shafts with the mounting holes, putting the backplate in place behind the motherboard, then sliding the press-fit spacers down each shaft around the socket. This holds the backplate in place nicely without having to fumble with thumbscrews in a tight space.
Once the spacers are in place, the cross braces can be secured with the included thumbscrews.
The next step is to apply thermal paste to the CPU, and Scythe kindly includes a tube of paste for those who may not have any. I use the “dot” method of applying thermal paste by using a blob of paste the size of a small pea or so to the center of the CPU and let the pressure of the heatsink spread the paste across the CPU. Once the paste is applied, we can mount the Big Shuriken 3 by using a screwdriver and alternating between screws on the crossbar every few turns to apply pressure as evenly as possible until the heatsink is securely mounted.
That’s it. Now the Big Shuriken 3 should be mounted and ready for testing!
Test Setup & Methodology
|CPU||Intel i7 8700K @ 4.7 GHz, 1.125+ V|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming|
|RAM||2 x 8 GB G.Skill TridentZ DDR4-3200 15-15-15-35|
|GPU||EVGA RTX 2060 XC ULTRA|
|Storage||Intel SSD 660p Series 1 TB M.2 NVMe|
|PSU||Seasonic X-750 Gold|
|Heatsinks||Alphacool Eisbaer Extreme 280 (Stock)
Enermax Aquafusion 240 (Stock)
Scythe Fuma Rev. B (Stock)
Scythe Mugen 5 Rev. B (Stock)
EVGA CLC 240 (Stock)
Noctua NH-D14 (Stock)
Be quiet! Dark Rock 3 (Stock)
Thermalright Venomous X (1x Gentle Typhoon AP-15 w/ 25 mm shroud)
|Fluke 52 II Dual Input Thermometer|
|Tenma Sound Level Meter|
All testing was performed on an open test bench, which minimizes ambient temperature and gives a “worst case” scenario for sound level.
Cooling performance was tested as follows:
- Disabled all BIOS settings that cause the CPU clock speed and/or Vcore to fluctuate (although there was still some Vcore fluctuation under load).
- Ambient temperature was measured with a Fluke 52 II at ~1 inch from the intake fan(s). Then, subtracted from the recorded temperatures to get ΔT.
- Varied Vcore (in BIOS) from 1.125 V to 1.375 V in 0.050 V increments to increase heat. Stopped increasing Vcore once a core reached ~100 °C.
- 20-pass 2048 MB RAM LinX runs at each Vcore interval were used to load the CPU.
- CoreTemp was used to record minimum and maximum core temperatures.
The sound level in dBA was measured 10 cm from the intake fan with the fan speed set to 100%. Then, the sound level was estimated for other distances using the following formula:
L2 = L1 – 20 * log10(r2/r1)
- L2 = dBA @ desired distance
- L1 = dBA @ reference distance
- r1 = reference distance
- r2 = desired distance
Why estimate sound level instead of measuring at further distances? It’s because the meter I’m using is most accurate between 40-130 dBA, so I needed to measure really close to the source to make sure my readings were within that range to get the most accurate measurements.
The first thing to keep in mind when looking at the Big Shuriken 3 results is that it’s a low profile heatsink and much smaller than the rest of the coolers tested (no other low profile coolers are included). So, my expectation before testing the Big Shuriken 3 was that it would most likely be the worst-performing heatsink in my lot, and I wish I had more low profile coolers on hand for comparison. Realistically, if you are in the market specifically for a low profile cooler, then you won’t care how well it performs versus tower heatsinks and large AIO units since those wouldn’t fit your needs anyway.
After plotting the data, I was honestly surprised by how well it performed compared to the other heatsinks. Temperatures are only slightly hotter or even on par in the 1.13-1.275 V range. However, unlike the other heatsinks, the Big Shuriken 3 cannot handle the voltage increase much past 1.275 V without the CPU hitting the TJmax, which would lead to throttling. So, the Big Shuriken 3 performed well in the low to mid heat range, but can’t keep up with the larger heatsinks during high heat loads.
After testing the default push configuration, I tried flipping the fan so that it pulls air through the Big Shuriken 3 and away from the motherboard instead. In my test runs, this did help shave a degree or two, and I believe I know why. Since I’m using a horizontal test bench, the default push setup would push air through the Big Shuriken 3, then that heated air would rise above the heatsink and get recycled by the fan. However, in the pull setup, air wouldn’t get recycled, so ambient temperature ended up being a little lower.
The noise of the Big Shuriken 3 paired with the slim Kaze Flex fan wasn’t the best and was basically identical to the Fuma with a standard Kaze Flex fan. The Big Shuriken 3 is a relatively dense heatsink and it’s paired with a higher RPM fan, so more noise is expected. However, these readings were done on an open test bench with the fans at max speed, so this is the worst-case scenario. So, having a typical enclosed PC at an average distance away would result in almost all the heatsinks in the chart below being reasonable, even at max fan speed. Nothing out of the ordinary to cause alarm about the noise levels here.
The Big Shuriken 3 is a great looking cooler with its matte black shroud and black/gray Kaze Flex Slim fan; it will definitely blend in with almost any build theme. I can appreciate the Kaze Flex Slim being pre-installed out-of-the-box and the inclusion of longer screws for mounting a thicker 120 x 25 mm fan.
Performance is surprisingly good in low-mid heat situations, but temps start to become an issue if much more heat is added into the mix. So, the Big Shuriken 3 isn’t what you’d want to try to max out a CPU’s overclock, but should work wonderfully in an SFF environment where overclocking isn’t needed or desired.
One downside of the Big Shuriken 3 is that it’s marketed as a great cooler for HTPC and SFF builds, but its height renders it incompatible with some popular SFF cases. So, make sure you aren’t planning to use one of the following cases for your SFF build:
- Silverstone Raven RVZ02
- Case-by-Case Design MI-6
- Loque Ghost S1
- DAN Cases A4-SFX
- Silverstone SG13
- NFC Skyreach 4 Mini
- Inwin Chopin
- Fractal Design Node 202
A downside of my specific sample is that it was missing a mounting screw for the slim fan. Realistically, it doesn’t affect anything other than aesthetics, but all the parts should be included and verified by QC before packing them up. Hopefully, the missing screw on my sample doesn’t translate to heatsinks on the shelves waiting to be bought.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)