One of the questions new PC builders often ask themselves is what type of CPU cooler they should buy. There’s a lot of options, everything from tiny low profile coolers to big 360mm all-in-ones for liquid cooling. I’ve tried several different kinds but I was recently given the chance to try out the Scythe Big Shuriken 3, my first low profile cooler. This isn’t a review, but an exploration of curiosity: how exactly do these tiny air coolers perform. Join me as I tried to find out.
- Product: Big Shuriken 3
- Model Number: SCBSK-3000
- Price: $46.95 USD on Newegg
- Intel LGA 775 / 115x / 1366 / 2011(V3) / 2066
- AMD AM2(+) / AM3(+) / AM4 / FM1 / FM2(+)
- Dimensions: 122mm (W) x 122mm (L) x 69mm (H)
- Fan Size: 120mm x 120mm x 15mm (Upgradable to 25mm fan)
- Heatpipes: 06mm x 5
- Fan Speed: 300±200 ~ 1800 rpm±10%
- Air Flow: 8.28~50.79 CFM
- Statics: 0.23~1.35 mmH2O / 2.26~13.24 Pa
- Noise: 2.7~30.4 dBA
- Weight(Fan Included): 475g
- Product: MasterLiquid 240
- Model Number: MLX-D24M-A20PW-R1
- LGA2066 / LGA2011-v3 / LGA2011 / LGA1366 / LGA1151 / LGA 1150 / LGA 1156 / LGA 1155 / LGA 775 / AM4 / AM3(+) / AM3 / AM2(+) / AM2 / FM2(+) / FM2 / FM1
- Radiator Material: Aluminum
- Radiator Dimensions: 277mm (W) x 119.6mm (L) x 27mm (H)
- Fan Speed: 650-2000 RPM (PWM) ± 10%
- Fan Airflow: 66.7 CFM (Max)
- Fan Air Pressure: 2.34 mmH2O ± 10% (Max)
- Fan MTTF: 160,000 Hours
- Fan L-10 Life: 22,800 Hours
- Fan Rated Voltage: 12V DC
- Fan Quantity: 2 PCS
- Pump Dimensions: 85.6mm (W) x 70 (L) x 49mm (H)
- Pump Noise Level: 15 dBA (Max)
- Pump MTTF: 70,000 Hours
- Pump L-10 Life: 20,000 Hours
- Pump Rated Voltage: 12 VDC
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Cooler Type: Liquid Cooler
Background to the Exploration
The debate of air versus liquid cooling is one that used to puzzle me until I used a liquid cooler for the first time. My eyes were opened to the possibilities that liquid cooling offers to someone trying to keep their PC temperatures down as low as possible. Still, there’s something to be said for the reliability of air and, if worked well, the quietness offered by a cooler like the Scythe Big Shuriken 3.
No matter what kind of PC you’re using, you’re going to need a cooler for your CPU but one but the Big Shuriken 3 has some pretty specific use cases in mind. Home theater PCs, mini-PCs, custom builds – PCs where space is at a premium and you can’t fit or don’t want a full-size cooler. In cases like these, liquid cooling is completely out. Likewise, most of these builds rely on having the absolute quietest systems possible. No one wants their movie interrupted by a fan kicking into high gear.
Before we go too far, Scythe is a company that originated in Tokyo Japan, in the Akihabara Electric Town. It began its life in 2002 as a distributor and manufacturer of low-noise PC parts. Scythe now has its R&D in Taiwan, with production and quality control in China and customer service spread between the United States and in Europe. They have been adamant about 100% customer satisfaction and finding ways to make PC parts better. As a result, they’ve gained a respectable foothold in the CPU cooling market with a number of air coolers large and small.
This Isn’t a Review
So, it is obvious that I have a bigger case, and the requirement for a smaller, low-profile cooler is non-existent. Likewise, I’m comparing against what I’m using now, my Cooler Master MasterLiquid 240. I know, it’s not fair but this isn’t a review. Consider the other numbers context because, well, I collected the data, so why not share it? You shouldn’t expect a low profile cooler to ever compete with a 240mm AIO but, hey, performance deltas are interesting, so I’m sharing.
Here is my test system:
- Ryzen 2700x CPU
- Aorus X470 Gaming WiFi 7 Motherboard
- G.Skill TridentZ 32GB 3200MHz Memory
- 550 Watt Power Supply
- Rosewill Culinan V600 Case
- 4x Lian Li 120MM BR Digital Fans
- Gigabyte Geforce RTX 2080 Windforce 8G
With that said, let’s get into how easy it was to install and whether or not this should be the air cooler you consider for your next micro-ATX build.
Installation and Testing
Installing the Big Shuriken 3 was straight forward. The fan was pre-installed, so it was a matter of mounting the backplate and then securing the heatsink with spring-loaded screws. That step was a little more challenging but I was up and running without much issues. Let’s look at how it did in AIDA 64.
After a 15-minute run of the test, you can tell that the Scythe got toasty. Even if you’re running a small micro-ATX build, you’re going to need decent airflow. Still, this synthetic isn’t the same as a real world test and, as we know, gaming performance is a much better metric for what you’ll see in day to day use, especially in a micro-ATX PC.
At rest, the cooler keeps the processor at around 47 to 53 degrees Celsius, and while it is being used for gaming it gets to around 80 to 90 degrees Celsius. These are both warm temperatures, and it’s clearly not up to the task of keeping your high core count CPU chilly even while gaming. That said, that’s hardly the intention for this cooler, so it’s hard to knock it too much for that. For less intensive tasks, like streaming and playing retro games, temperatures stayed at much more acceptable levels.
The Big Shuriken 3 is also as quiet as can be. Sitting right by the PC, I could barely hear it even under load, so it is a good fit there.
Likewise, I’m also impressed at how small it is. Given its tiny footprint and vertical heat flow, it should fit in a wide array of different systems. It looks positively miniscule in a full blown ATX build like my own but the design should allow it to fit easily even in very compressed spaces.
So, if you’re building a small form factor PC, this might be a good fit for you, assuming you’re not going to be doing any hardcore gaming or processing intensive tasks. Lower core-count CPUs are also likely to achieve even better results. For the most practical applications you would build a micro-ATX machine for, this is going to be a good fit.
As an exploration, I found this to be very interesting. Obviously, you’d never want to use one of these in a full-size system unless it was only going to be used for similarly low-intensity tasks. So, I won’t be switching from my AIO anytime soon. Still, seeing the performance difference is certainly enlightening and something I’ll take with me into future builds.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.